American freedom of religion condones indifference to heretical and theologically erroneous influences.

Hosted free by

Americanitis : materialist indifferentism
Philadlephia Anti Irish Animosity
anti-Irish riots, 1844
Philadelphia Nativist Riots (also known as the Bible Riots) took place in May and again in July 1844 - 1 dead, 23 injured

by  Robert Shepherd

Work in Progress
America is, like Jacobin France, almost the only republic ever founded on a basis of anti-Catholic principles. The Declaration of Independence and the [godless] Constitution brought into being the world's first SECULAR democracy, something which was deeply unsettling to all established authority in Old Europe, which by and large followed the time-honored pattern of State-Churchism, the archetype of which is the Church of Rome.

Oh, we are weary pilgrims; to this wilderness we bring.
A church without a bishop, a state without a King.
[anonymous poem, 1844]

The Catholic Church from at least the time of Constantine has both symbolized and embodied the principle of Authority.

As such, it has also been the handiest target for the wrath of any critic of authority. Rightly or wrongly, a vast range of criticisms have been directed at the Catholic Church through medieval and modern times. Humorists like Giovanni Boccaccio, the Italian poet, shot their barbs at abuses then prevalent within the Church. Prophets like Savonarola raged against the decadence of greedy and corrupt churchmen, who of all people "knew better."

Reformers like Saint Francis thought it better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, concentrating his efforts on what little good he could do within his own realm, than attempting to overhaul an entire, sprawling corporate institution.

The American arena - the populist nativism of Protestant north America built on the same paranoia vis-a-vis eltist authority and absolutism which constantly dogged the kings and prelates of Old Europe. The only thing new was that now the criticism came from "outside" the Church, rather than from within the great family of faith. Protestantism was the first successful break-away group -- "ex-Catholics" so to speak, and Protestant America reacted with sharply mixed feelings toward the desperately poor Irish Catholics flocking to new world shores in the 1840s.

Anti-Irish racism in 19th century United States included the stereotyping of Catholic Irish as alcoholics, as wild or boisterous, gregarious, unkempt and convivial, uneducated, ready to pick a fight or resort to fisticuffs, and generally of low moral character. Wikipedia refers to a familiar anti-Irish epithet -- "white niggers" or "just a nigger turned inside out." Throughout the U.S., newspaper illustrations by Thomas Nast and others, as well as Nast's hand drawings depicted a primordial "ape-like image" of Irish faces to bolster evolutionary racist claims that the Irish people were an "inferior race" as compared to Anglo-Saxons.

Victorian Britain was, if anything, even worse than their American cousins, in anti-Irish bigotry. In Descent of Man, Darwin used the Irish as an example of "reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society," commenting on their tendency to over-breed, and reproduce at alarming rates. He quotes Greg and Galton as supporting his thesis, citing Greg to the effect that: "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits."

Similar to other immigrant populations in America, the Irish were sometimes accused of cronyism and subjected to misrepresentations of their religious and cultural beliefs. The Irish were labelled as practising Pagans and in that time (19th century), anyone not being a "Christian" in a traditional British sense was deemed "immoral" and "little better than savages" or "brutes." The new wave of Irish (Catholics) were particularly singled out, and indigenous folkloric and mythological beliefs and customs were ridiculed.

Attacks on Mother Church

Just a sampling (through the ages) of broadsides aimed at the Church of Rome (not in order). Then, afterward, I will attempt a response.

A Response

Without trying to satisfy every single attack ever thrown upon Christianity or the Catholic Church, I want to point out a few "mitigating" thoughts.

The Catholic Church is NOT a dead page of history. It's lifespan, in the history books, literally covers some two millenia, give or take. As such it represents an ongoing, living, growing, dynamic, creative, organic entity. It is a collectivity. It is far from monolithic, and ever has been. The metaphor of the "Body" of Christ is apt. A body grows and changes and incorporates a range of functions (which may seem contradictory).

Semper Reformanda

Above all, the Catholic Church has always been in the forefront of Self-Criticism. Has it always heeded the warnings of its own reformers? Of course not. No institution does. History usually focuses on one Reformation -- "THE" Reformation of Martin Luther et al. In reality there have been countless reformations small and large. John Stuart Mill pointed out:
To speak only of religious opinions: the Reformation broke out at least twenty times before Luther, and was put down. Arnold of Brescia was put down. Fra Dolcino was put down. Savonarola was put down. The Albigeois were put down. The Vaudois were put down. The Lollards were put down. The Hussites were put down. Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted in, it was successful. In Spain, Italy, Flanders, the Austrian empire, Protestantism was rooted out; and, most likely, would have been so in England, had Queen Mary lived, or Queen Elizabeth died. Persecution has always succeeded, save where the heretics were too strong a party to be effectually persecuted. No reasonable person can doubt that Christianity might have been extirpated in the Roman Empire. It spread, and became predominant, because the persecutions were only occasional, lasting but a short time, and separated by long intervals of almost undisturbed propagandism.
Self-criticism - perhaps the most indispensable character of a living organism is its self-corrective, self-purgative inner ability. The Body of Christ must have this quality, and has repeatedly shown it. Like the Hebrew prophets of the Jewish nation, its primary critics have always been its own anointed sons, calling it to ongoing self-correction and reform. "stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye"

The point is, the Church has always had its critics. The Church has always had its prophets of self-purgation and reform. The Church has always had its self-reformations. Many (very many) took root, and were implemented, either on a small scale or a large. Most have gone (by and large) unnoticed by history. Almost all of them occurred within the Church itself, even within the structure (hierarchical though it is). Often times outside influences have been important, even pivotal, as in the Marco Polo expedition, the Judeo-Moorish impact via Spain, (and Provence and Sicily, and the Mediterranean) -- and then the contacts with non-Europeans during the Age of Discovery.

In more modern times, Erasmus put into words much of the later criticism his friend Luther was to echo. Erasmus, however, was more tactful, and employed more humor than did Luther, with his stridency and rage. Where Erasmus used wit and diplomacy, Luther's language became a sledge hammer, allowing no face-saving by his ecclesiastic opponents.

Power Corrupts

The Englishman Lord Acton, a lifelong Catholic yet also a supporter of Erasmian doctrines of inquiry and learning for the common people, put his finger on an illness that so often has afflicted the Church (and State as well). Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In finger pointing papal excess, Lord Acton was giving vent to his own concerns and fears of the power of the Church he loved. In defense of (Catholic) institutional Christianity through history, be it remembered that for much of European history, the masses of the populace were illiterate, barbarous, and little better than their tribal forbears of a primordial past not all that long ago. The Church's role was indeed absolutist, as indeed it had to be. But that role was a beneficent one -- to lift the populace of Europe up from their own condition of Darkness and poverty and ignorance.

No Bishop No King - monarchs of Europe have often recognized the natural alliance between the Altar and the Throne. All authority is from God, the scripture told them. King James of England saw the dangerous democratic premises underlying the puritan movement with its theory of scriptural interpretation for the populace. Erasmus had not seen such a danger, but had welcomed the spread of scripture, literacy, and education -- among all classes of people.

Fighting Erasmus and Democracy
One habit which seems to have dominated Curial thinking in modern times has been a paranoia of democracy. Considering the long history of the Papal States in Italy, this official Catholic reaction is hardly surprising. The Italians have long been a thorn in the side of the Vatican, and Italy seems to have had an animus against Papal right to rule them, politically. Time and again and again, the Church (ie, the Popes) have been compelled to turn to its friends beyond the Alps for assistance.

First of course, it was the Franks, beginning with the Carolingians Pepin and Charlemagne -- and their sons. The Italians never gave the Popes any peace.

Is it any wonder the Popes have had such a nervousness regarding democracy? Napoleon wreaked havoc with the Church, imposing reforms and ethics from outside the Church -- and diminishing the temporal domain of the Popes in Italy. Then Garibaldi and "VERDI" (Victor Emmanuel) appeared on the scene and inspired the radicalism of the common people of Italy -- against Papal power.

Jumping Forward to America
The ordinary American hinterland was steeped in a kind of fear of "Papism" with all sorts of bugbears spooking their imagination. Beyond the old complaints of Absolutism, Inquisitions, and the burning of heretics and witches at the stake, many of the nightmares afflicting the evangelical imagination seemed to center on Catholic sexuality. Somewhat similar to the medieval rumors about lecherous Jews who sacrificed gentile children, or the American tales of hyper-sexual Negroes with their prodigious lusts and mythically monstrous phallic powers, Catholics were seen as sexually dangerous, perverted, corrupt. [See America's obsession with the Negro "stud".] Catholics became similar objects of over-active imagination. The best-selling novel in the 19th century after Uncle Tom's Cabin was Hotel Dieu Nunnery: Awful Disclosures by Maria Monk. Lurid and fictional tale of a woman's escape from a Montreal convent, the publication of which stirred anti-Catholic sentiment and discrimination against immigrants in then Protestant Anglo North America. See The Awful Disclosures

Along the lines of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery ("Maria Monk") is the equally fanatical anti-papist screed titled, "The Devil in Robes, or the Sin of Priests : the gory hand of Catholicism stayed. The prayers of protestants heard." It's author was one Robert Seth McCallen. The preface was written by J. Scott Carr. Published by "Menac Publishing" of Aurora MO. This book was originally published prior to 1923. And goes on in an intensely anti-Catholic vein for some 484 pages.

What these bigoted "natives" (already here) forgot was the principle of projection. When you point one finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at yourself. The fault we find in others is often a reflection of a fault in ourselves. If there is a moral here for us today, it might be that we in the West ought to look well within ourselves when we see a gut "reaction" (ie bigotry) against those in our world who are4 "different" -- and in our imagination dangerous -- such as the Arabs, or the Taliban, or such like. 'Dangerous' Islam

Anglo-American anti-Papism
In the twentieth century, a major hinge-point historically was (what Studs Terkel called) The Good War. The defeat of the Nazi evil of Adolph Hitler was seen as a heroic crusade of almost biblical significance. But Vatican enthusiasm for the English and American alliance was never so naive. In fact, from the time of Queen Elizabeth and the naming of Anglo North America after her (Virginia), the empire of the Pope saw itself under continual attack from this novus ordo seclorum.

If we try to look at history from a Papal point of view, it is easy to see the concerns affecting the Vatican. Look at a map of Europe. Hitler represented the last bulwark north of Italy standing in the way of the expansion of internationalist Bolshevik Communism. The Catholic Church simply could not remain neutral. In the United States Father Charles Edward Coughlin spoke out boldly against the "communistic Jews." In 1938, Father Coughlin wrote, "Almost without exception, the intellectual leaders of Marxist atheism in Germany were Jews." [Sword of Constantine, p438]

Kreuz und Adler
In the Vatican itself, the "tilt" of Pope Pius XII toward Hitler was defended, for example, by Father Peter Gumpel of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Father Gumpel declared that: "Eighty percent of the initial Soviet regime was Jewish, so Jews were the managers of Communism." [Not confirmed.] American Catholic writer James Carroll notes that, indeed, no Catholic-born Nazi -- not Goebbels, Himmler or Bormann; not even Adolf Hitler, who died with his name still on the rolls of the Catholic Church, and for whom the Catholic primate of Germany ordered the Requiem mass sung after his suicide -- was ever excommunicated for being a Nazi. [Sword of Constantine. p437]

Immediately after the war, the Vatican did an about face on the Anglo-Americans. It scoured the records for any Catholic resistance to Hitler, while pushing its anti-Communism even further. Indeed, there had been Catholic heroes in the fight against Hitler, but Father Kolbe was less-so than Oskar Schindler. Karol Wojtyla was less-so than Angel Joseph Roncalli. Some Catholic martyrs were truly notable, including the Berlin Brovost Bernard Lichtenberg and Father Alfred Delp. But their example was a rare one, and Catholic heroes on behalf of Jews were few and far between.

Catholic attitudes in Germany and Austria strongly favored Hitler. Guenter Lewy declares that resistance to Hitler "was not only discouraged by the Church but condemned. Catholics who actively fought against the Hitler regime were rebels not only against the State, but against their ecclesiastical authorities as well." [Constantine's Sword. p531]

The democratic tendencies of the Erasmian heresies

The great "insights" of the monk Martin Luther almost wholly belong, properly speaking, not to the German Luther, but to his elder scholar, the learned Dutchman Erasmus of Rotterdam. The holy simplicity (sancta simplicitas) which Saint Francis enshrined for his mendicant brotherhood, Erasmus did for Christian theology. He sifted out the abstruse and superfluous, and crystalized Christian teaching into its essence, its vital basics. Then he insisted the overriding concern was simple, Christ-like, love of one's fellow man. Truly, sancta simplicitas. The impact of such a heresy would be to throw open the gospel to the common man -- in other words, authentic (and democratic) humanism. Emmanuel (God is with us), via the Holy Spirit, our mother and teacher. God is with us (Christ in you the hope of glory). Erasmus had to be silenced, and indeed he and his humanism were stopped -- with the Council of Trent. [See If only both sides had listened]

Error has no rights
After the American ideas of democracy and freedom of religion began to infect other nations (France, Italy) Pope Gregory XVI had to fight back. He declared (1832) that "It is false and absurd and rather mad ... that we must secure and guarantee to each one liberty of conscience; this is one of the most contagious of errors .... To this is attached liberty of the press, the most dangerous liberty, an execrable liberty, which can never inspire sufficient horror." [Catholic writer James Carroll, in Constantine's Sword. p441]

But the Americanist heresy continued to spread, along with Erasmian "indifferentism" and the idea of Christian toleration, once again declared heretical. Napoleon clipped to Pope's wings in the political sphere, and the Garibaldi movement was sweeping Italy, despite repeated threats and warnings from Pope Pius IX. The Italians wanted a voice, and simply (yet respectfully) passed over the Papal threats and intimidations. Finally, they were told that the Pope (and all popes) were infallible -- God himself was speaking through the Mother Church -- the Pope! But the democratic movement seemed to press onward, slowly to be sure, but surely none the less.

Why Catholics Are Right
(as Michael Coren says)

Self-honesty shines (sure beats trading brickbats)

RECOMMENDED READING: Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History -- by James Carroll

Christianity's legacy of antisemitism is undeniable. Christianity's legacy of suppression of dissent and unorthodox ideas is also undeniable. What is interesting, however, are the ways in which both of these legacies are related and dependent upon each other. Ranging over the entire history of Christianity and the Catholic Church, James Carroll describes how power has been preserved through the suppression of both internal (unorthodox) and external (Jewish) dissent.

See Review in Catholic League

Some Related Links

In deciding to remain Catholic even in the wake of the papal infallibility doctrine of Vatican I, John Henry Newman said, "Let us have a little faith in her [Mother Church], I say. Pope Pius IX is not the last pope. The fourth Council modified the third, the fifth the fourth ... Let us be patient, let us have faith, and a new Pope, and a reassembled Council, may trim the boat."
Catholic writer James Carroll in his magnum opus, Constantine's Sword. p556

Anti-Semitism and the Gift of the Jews
'It is against their own insoluble problem of being human that the dull and base in humanity are in revolt in anti-Semitism. Judaism, nevertheless, together with Hellenism and Christianity, is an inalien-able component of our Christian Western civilization, the eternal "call to Sinai" against which humanity again and again rebels.'

Herman Rauschning, The Beast From the Abyss, pp. 155-56

President John F. Kennedy exhorts: We cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.

we need our values

Mother Teresa

Eingedi: where one finds TRUE diversity in unity (cf Ezekiel 47: 9-10)

Robert Shepherd
friend me (facebook)
Site creator Robert Shepherd

last save= 04/19/12