Is America anti-Catholic? Well, the precedent set at its founding and beyond sure say so. Father Steve Grunow explores the history of anti-Catholic sentiments in the U.S. and where it leaves us today, on the Word on Fire blog.
In a February 24th article in the Huffington Post, professional provocateur Larry Doyle alleged that the Catholic faith of presidential aspirant Rick Santorum was a cannibalistic Jesus-eating cult and tactical arm of NAMBLA. Further, Santorum, like all Catholics, “takes orders from the pope” and as such if he was to win the presidential election “our real president will be Benedict XVI.”
Doyle’s strategic move to garner attention for himself and the Huffington Post worked quite well, as a firestorm of controversy was almost immediately sparked. He later responded to outraged readers with a chastening correction for all those who had, it seemed, made the mistake of taking his words literally. The piece had been intended as a satire. The anti-Catholic tropes that Doyle had employed should have been interpreted as the equivalent of Jonathon Swift's essay on the proper approach of the British Empire to the Irish Famine of 1729. I guess that interpreted as a satire, Doyle's commentary was actually intended as calling out the anti-Catholicism of Santorum's detractors. Go figure!
How could the Church’s supporters have been so dim to not understand Doyle’s intentions when they read into his screed the associations used for centuries by the Church’s detractors to marginalize and impugn the Catholic Faith? Maybe they were just numb after years of enduring the real experience of anti-Catholicism and could very well identify expressions of the longstanding ambivalence of American culture in regards to the Catholic Church. They weren't as dim as some might have thought, and had good reason to be concerned.
The history of anti-Catholicism in relation to the American experience is one of the most under-examined cultural dynamics in the United States. Perhaps the worst case scenario in this regard happened across two days in August of 1834. An Ursuline Convent in Charlestown Massachusetts was placed under siege, and then sacked and burned to the ground in what was remembered by some as one of the most egregious examples of anti-Catholicism in our country's history...