Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Old is New Again: Anti-Catholicism in England and the U.S.A.

Again, I was listening to a podcast from a wonderful interview series on BBC 4, "Beyond Belief": three experts join the host, Ernie Rea, to discuss a religious issue. They do so reasonably, without ad hominem attacks, and with conviction--at the least the episodes I've listened to. They don't talk over each other and there's a good give and take without shouting or anger. On this episode from 2010, Father Marcus Holden, Sister Gemma Simmonds, and Francis Davis discussed the upcoming papal visit and the history of English Catholicism. The three guests agree and disagree, but the latter without much acrimony. Each episode also includes a brief interview offering another perspective, and the choice in this episode was to talk to a Catholic convert. One of the questions for the convert was, you do know that you're out of step with much of current society if you really believe what the Church teaches about marriage and family life? Thus implying that the goal of life is to be in step with current culture; the host also noted that if there is any anti-Catholicism it is because of what Catholics believe about marriage and family life (and of course the sexual abuse crisis).

In the same vein, David Carlin writes for The Catholic Thing about "The Old Charge Resurfaces: Catholics Are Un-American", noting that for some, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic, especially if he or she is a politician or public figure:

In other words, political liberals have no objection to Catholic politicians if the Catholic politicians in question deviate from the Catholic faith in a politically liberal direction. Their membership in the Catholic Church can be overlooked as long as the Catholic politicians are supporters of such splendid liberal causes as abortion rights and same-sex marriage and gender-neutral bathrooms. Thus former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is okay, and so is Vice President Joe Biden.

In fact they are more than just okay. They are positively desirable from a liberal point of view. For by approving of Pelosi, Biden, and their ilk, liberals are able to deny the charge that they are anti-Catholic. They are tolerant. And pluralistic. And open-minded.

But let a genuine Catholic come along (Rick Santorum is a prime recent instance), and liberals show their true colors. The thing they despise about such politicians is that they actually believe in the doctrines, in particular the moral doctrines, of the Catholic Church. They believe that abortion is homicide; that homosexual behavior is unnatural; that same-sex marriage is absurd; and that sex outside of marriage is wrong.

Therefore they are not merely in error, but are despicable from the liberal/progressive point of view, for these Catholic beliefs contradict fundamental articles of the liberal faith. But what political liberals despise is not so much the individual politicians as the religion they represent. In the final accounting, they despise that obnoxious thing, Catholicism.

According to the liberal definition of Americanism, Catholics – that is, Catholics who actually believe in their religion – are not, and cannot be, good Americans. This used to be a charge made openly, but is now made in more indirect fashion. For to be a good American, in the current liberal dispensation, you have to be a believer in moral relativism and sexual freedom.

When Anti-Catholicism was based upon religious beliefs, Protestants objected to Catholic worship, the sacraments, and doctrine--and the fear of disloyalty reinforced by the legacy of the Gunpowder Plot. David Carlin also discusses the history of anti-Catholicism in England and then in the British Colonies and the United States of America in his article. Thus, he concludes: "The old Protestant consensus is gone, and with it the old reflexive anti-Catholicism. But once again, after a lapse of less than a century, and now on shifting grounds, Catholicism is charged with being an un-American religion."

Illustration: one of Thomas Nast's anti-Catholic cartoons, attacking Catholic influence in education. Please note that Nast had been baptized Catholic!

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