Saturday, June 16, 2018

Catholicism in the Thirteen Colonies


EWTN, the late Mother Angelica's Catholic media empire, has now conquered book publishing--along with social media outreach, a tremendous website, a cable television station in the US and around the world, broadcast radio, and newspaper publishing--and in this case, EWTN has published a book by one of the priests who has presented many programs on EWTN on Church History. I presume this book could be adapted for a series of programs for EWTN television. Father Charles Connor celebrated his silver jubilee of ordination in the Diocese of Scranton in 2015.

Sophia Institute Press publishes and distributes the book, which I purchased at Eighth Day Books here in Wichita, Kansas. The publisher's book description:

In this comprehensive history, Fr. Charles Connor details the life of Catholics in the American Colonies. It’s a tale that begins with the flight of English Catholics to religious freedom in Maryland in 1634, and continues through the post-Revolutionary period, by which time the constitutions of all but four of the first 13 states contained harsh anti-Catholic provisions.

Catholic readers will be proud to learn from that despite almost two centuries of ever-more-intense religious persecutions and even harsher legal prohibitions, American Catholics in the colonies simply refused to abandon the Catholic Faith.

This is an indispensable reading for souls interested in the deep roots of Catholicism in America, and in the holy courage of scores of Catholics who kept remorseless forces from driving Catholicism out of America. Among other things, you’ll learn:

  • The tale of The Ark and The Dove that carried the first settlers to Maryland
  • The surprisingly harsh anti-Catholic sentiments of most of the Founding Fathers
  • The Quaker/Catholic alliance that promoted both religions
  • The role of persecuted Catholics in the Revolutionary War
  • Why, in that War, many Catholics favored the anti-Catholic British
  • The French Jesuits who evangelized New York and its frontier areas, and the saints who were martyred there
  • The years in which, throughout the colonies, Catholics became an endangered species

Father Connor's survey emphasizes Maryland. After three chapters offering background on the Protestant Reformation on the Continent of Europe, the Tudor Reformation in England, and the status of Catholics in England during Elizabeth's I reign and the Stuart Dynasty, four chapters of six dedicated to Catholics in the colonial era are devoted to describing Lord Baltimore's colonial enterprise, his vision for it, his sons' implementation of that vision, and its vicissitudes. His narrative style is smooth and detailed, using substantial quotations from other secondary sources. 

Unfortunately, there's no index, which does reduce the usefulness of the book as a resource. From the table of contents in the book, you would not know that he covers Rhode Island, Connecticut, etc., however briefly, as is their due. To reach its potential as a historical resource, the book should also have a map and perhaps a few portraits. The bibliography is comprehensive and up-to-date. Good, solid and insightful historical writing. 

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