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Anti-Catholicism is an institutional, ideological or emotional bias against the Roman Catholic Church and its followers. The term also applies to the religious persecution of Roman Catholics.

In the Early Modern period the Catholic Church struggled to maintain its role in the face of rising secular power in Europe. As a result of these struggles, there arose a hostile attitude towards the power of the Pope and the Roman Catholic clergy. This hostility is referred to as "anti-clericalism". To this was added the epochal crisis over its spiritual authority represented by the Protestant Reformation giving rise to sectarian conflict.


[edit] Protestant Anti-Catholicism

Beginning with Martin Luther Protestants attacked the Pope as representing the power of the Anti-Christ and the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon prophesised in the Book of Revelations. The identification of the Papacy as the Anti-Christ was an article of faith for many Protestant denominations:

Westminster Confession of Faith:
25.6. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.
The London Baptist Confession of 1689:
26.4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ.

[edit] In England

Anti-Catholicism in England has its origins with the English Reformation under Henry VIII. According to the Act of Supremacy of 1534 he was declared 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England' in place of the Pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treason. It was under this act that Thomas More was executed.

Though this Act was repealed in 1554 by Henry's daughter, Queen Mary I, who was a staunch Roman Catholic, it was reestablished in 1559 under Elizabeth I.

Anyone who took public or church office was forced to take the Oath of Supremacy, and there were penalties for violating that oath. Attendance at Anglican services was also made obligatory. Those that refused were fined as Recusants.

In the time of Elizabeth the persecution of the Protestants in the time of her half-sister Queen Mary I was used to effective anti-Catholic propagandist effect in the hugely influential Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The Convocation of the English Church ordered in 1571 that copies of the "Book of Martyrs" should be kept for public inspection in all cathedrals and in the houses of church dignitaries. The book was also exposed in many parish churches alongside the Holy Bible. The passionate intensity of the style and the vivid and picturesque dialogues made it very popular among Puritan and Low Church families down to the nineteenth century. The fantastically partisan church history of the earlier portion of the book, with its grotesque stories of popes and monks contributed much to anti-Catholic prejudices in England as did the story of the sufferings of those Protestants burnt at the stake by Mary and the notorious Bishop Bonner.

In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Elizabeth with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared her a heretic and purported to release her Roman Catholic subjects from allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church politically suspect.

The failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada has been cited as an attempt by Philip II of Spain to put into effect the Pope's decree, and to enforce a claim to the throne of England he held as a result of being the widower of Mary I of England.

Elizabeth's persecution of Roman Catholic Jesuit missionaries led to many executions at Tyburn. Those priests who suffered there are accounted martyrs by the Catholic church and more recently a convent has been established nearby to pray for their souls.

Later episodes that deepened anti-Catholicism in England include the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and other Roman Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up the English Parliament while it was in session. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was blamed on the Roman Catholics and an inscription ascribing it to 'Popish frenzy' was engraved on the Monument to the Great Fire of London, which marked the location where the fire started (this inscription was only removed in 1831). Later, the "Popish Plot" involving Titus Oates further exacerbated Anglican-Catholic relations.

The beliefs that underlie the sort of strong anti-Catholicism once seen in the United Kingdom were summarized by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England:

As to papists, what has been said of the Protestant dissenters would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them; provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments, their purgatory, and auricular confession; their worship of relics and images; nay even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects.
— Bl. Comm. IV, c.4 ss. iii.2, p. *54

The gravamen of this charge, then, is that Roman Catholics constitute an imperium in imperio, a sort of fifth column of persons who owe a greater allegiance to the Pope than they do to the civil government, a charge very similar to that repeatedly leveled against Jews. Accordingly, a large body of British laws, collectively known as the penal laws, imposed various civil disabilities and legal penalties on recusant Roman Catholics. These laws were gradually repealed over the course of the nineteenth century with laws such as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

Even now, however, the King or Queen of England is not allowed to be, become, or marry a Catholic.

[edit] Ireland

Native Catholicism has been subject to persecution in Ireland from the time of the Reformation under Henry VIII. This intensified when the country was completely conquered by the English under Elizabeth I. Under the impact of the Penal Laws and the Plantations of the 17th century, a Protestant Ascendancy was established of British (mostly English) Protestant landowners. Political and land-owning rights were denied to native Catholics. Sectarian organisations such as the Orange Order helped to enforce Protestant dominance. Although the Protestant Ascendency was overturned in the Irish Free State which later became the Republic Of Ireland when this State was created in 1921, it persisted in Northern Ireland, resulting in the present day sectarian conflict between Protestant and Catholic manifested in The Troubles.

[edit] United States

Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with connivance of Irish Catholic politicians

John Highham described Anti-Catholic bigotry as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history".<ref>Jenkins, Philip (1 April 2003). The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice. Oxford University Press, p. 23. ISBN 0-19-515480-0.</ref> The bigotry which was prominent in the United Kingdom was exported to the United States. Two types of anti-Catholic rhetoric existed in colonial society. The first, derived from the heritage of the Protestant Reformation and the religious wars of the sixteenth century, consisted of the "Anti-Christ" and the "Whore of Babylon" variety and dominated anti-Catholic thought until the late seventeenth century. The second was a more secular variety which focused on the supposed intrigue of the Catholics intent on extending medieval despotism worldwide.<ref>Mannard, Joseph G. (1981). American Anti-Catholicism and its Literature.</ref>

John Jay in 1788 promoted the New York legislature to require officeholders to renounce foreign authorities "in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil." [1].

Anti-Catholic animus in the United States reached a peak in the nineteenth century when the Protestant population became alarmed by the influx of Catholics immigrants. The tensions were partialy due to the animosity that is often found among native citizens against foreign immigrants. The resulting "nativist" movement, which achieved prominence in the 1840s, was whipped into a frenzy of anti-Catholicism that led to mob violence, the burning of Catholic property, and the killing of Catholics. The nativist movement found expression in a national political movement called the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s, which (unsuccessfully) ran former president Millard Fillmore as its presidential candidate in 1856. Similar sentiment was also manifested in the Ku Klux Klan. The case of the murder of Father James Coyle, although also movtivated by ethnic bigotry, was a prime example of anti-Catholic violence in the US.

As the ninteenth century wore on animosity waned, as Protestant Americans realized that Catholics were not trying to seize control of the government. Nonethless, fears continued into the twentieth century that there too much "Catholic influence" on the government, and presidents who met with the pope were criticized.

During the 20th century, suspicion of the political aims and agenda of the Roman Catholic Church have been revived several times. In 1949, Paul Blanshard's book American Freedom and Catholic Power portrayed the Roman Catholic Church as an anti-democratic force hostile to freedom of speech and religion, eager to impose itself on the United States by boycott and subterfuge.

During the 1960 election, the fact that John F. Kennedy was a Catholic sparked much debate regarding his ability to remain independent of the Roman Catholic Church.

In more recent years, these accusations continue to garner support among certain individuals because of the Roman Catholic hierarchy's alliance with the right to life groups and threats to withhold Eucharist from Roman Catholics who vote in favour of actions deemed opposed to Church teaching, such as abortion, assisted suicide or same-sex marriage.

It bears mention that this is not precisely excommunication. Few formal excommunications of political figures have occurred in modern times [2]. The confirmed cases of excommunicated Roman Catholic politicians were primarily Communists or military dictators. Added to that according to Catholic teaching those in a state of mortal sin should not receive the Eucharist, which Roman Catholicism considers a biblical rule that is not specific to any occupation.

A May 12, 2006, Gallup states that 30% of Americans have an unfavourable view of the Roman Catholic faith with 57% having a favourable view. This is a higher unfavourability rate than in 2000, but considerably better than in 2002. Those who are not Christian or irreligious had a majority with an unfavorable view, but in part this represented a negative view toward all Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church's doctrines, the priest sex abuse scandal, and "idolising saints" were top issues for those who disapproved. On the other hand greed, Roman Catholicism's view on homosexuality, and the celibate priesthood were low on the list of grievances for those who held an unfavourable view of Roman Catholicism.[3] That stated a more recent Gallup Poll indicated only 4% of Americans have a "very negative" view of Roman Catholics. [4]

[edit] Anti-clericalism in Roman Catholic countries

France's Third Republic was cemented by anti-clericalism, the desire to secularise the State and social life, faithful to the French Revolution.<ref>Foster, J. R., Jean Marie Mayeur, Madeleine Rebérioux (1 February 1988). The Third Republic from Its Origins to the Great War, 1871-1914. Cambridge University Press, p. 84. ISBN 0-521-35857-4.</ref>

Mexico's Cristero War of 1926-1929 stemmed from Plutarco Elías Calles's denial of priests rights and martyred many Saints of the Cristero War. Events relating to this were famously portrayed in the novel The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.

François and Jean-Claude Duvalier's family dictatorship of Haiti wanted to weaken or control the Roman Catholic Church by bringing Vodou "openly into the political process", according to Michel S. LaGuerre in Voodoo and Politics in Haiti.

[edit] Anti-Catholicism In Israel

In Israel several villages with majority Catholic populations, such as Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit, were forcibly depopulated by the Israel Defense Forces. Over 100 Catholic priests have been expelled from the country, and dozens of churches have been occupied, closed or forceably sold since 1948.

[edit] Russian Orthodoxy

In the former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was persecuted just for its religious role in the community, but at other times the Russian Orthodox Church was manipulated to combat Roman Catholics on the grounds that this was a more "Russian" body.

[edit] Anti-Catholicism in literature and popular media

Anti-Catholic stereotypes are a long-standing feature of Anglo-Saxon literary, sub-literary and even pornographic traditions. Gothic fiction is particulary rich in this regard with the figure of the lustful priest, the cruel abbess, the immured nun and the sadistic inquisitor appearing in such works as The Italian by Anne Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe.

Such Gothic fiction may have inspired Rebecca Reed's Six Months in a Convent which describes her alleged captivity by an Ursuline order near Boston in 1832. Her claims inspired an angry mob to burn down the convent, and her narrative, released three years later as the rioters were tried, famously sold 200,000 copies in one month. In another bestselling fraudulent exposé, Awful Disclosures of the Hotel-Dieu Nunnery, Maria Monk claimed that the convent served as a harem for Roman Catholic priests, and that any resulting children were murdered after baptism. Col. William Stone, a New York city newspaper editor, along with a team of Protestant investigators, made inquiry into the claims of Monk, inspecting the convent in the process. Col. Stone's investigation concluded there was no evidence that Maria Monk "had ever been within the walls of the cloister".

In a chapter of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov called The Grand Inquisitor, the Church convicts a resurrected Jesus Christ of heresy and is portrayed as a servant of Satan. (Interestingly the book is said to be well-liked by Pope Benedict XVI) In Notes from Underground the main character thinks about making the world a better place by eliminating or overthrowing the Pope. Even many of those characters who defend Roman Catholics believe in Jesuit conspiracies.

As well as standard Protestant polemics which likened Catholicism to the Anti-Christ and the Whore of Babylon other themes of 19th and 20th century anti-Catholic controversialists included accusations of paganism, idolatory and conspiracy theories which accused the church of seeking world domination.

Amerian evangelical author John Dowling in his best-selling The History of Romanism accused the Catholic church of being 'the bitterest foe of all true churches of Christ--that she possesses no claim to be called a Christian church--but, with the long line of corrupt and wicked men who have worn her triple crown, that she is ANTI-CHRIST' (John Dowling, The History of Romanism 2nd edition, 1852, pp. 646-47).

Original cover of Hislop's Anti-Catholic The Two Babylons

Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons (1858) asserted that the Church originated from a Babylonian mystery religion and characterized its practices as pagan.

The renegade priest Charles Chiniquy's 50 Years In The Church of Rome and The Priest, the Woman and the Confessional (1885) also depicted Roman Catholicism as pagan.

[edit] Contemporary anti-Catholicism

Avro Manhattan's books, The Vatican's Holocaust (1986), The Vatican Billions (1983) and Vatican Moscow Alliance (1982), much like Protocols of the Elders of Zion does with Jews, advance the view that the Church engineers wars for world domination.

Hislop's and Chiniquy's nineteenth century polemics and Avro Manhattan's work form part of the basis of a series of tracts by noted modern anti-Catholic and comic book evangelist Jack Chick who also accuses the papacy of supporting Communism, of using the Jesuits to incite revolutions, and of masterminding the Holocaust. According to Chick, the Catholic Church is the "Whore of Babylon" referred to in the Book of Revelation, and will bring about a Satanic New World Order before it is destroyed by Jesus Christ. Drawing on the preposterous claims of Alberto Rivera, Chick claims that the Catholic Church helped to mold Islam as a tool to lure people away from Christianity, that it infiltrates and attempts to destroy or corrupt all other religions and churches, and that it uses various means including seduction, framing, and murder to silence its critics.

Dan Brown's best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code depicts the Roman Catholic Church as determined to hide the truth about Jesus Christ. An article in an April 2004 issue of National Catholic Register maintains that the "The Da Vinci Code claims that Catholicism is a big, bloody, woman-hating lie created out of pagan cloth by the manipulative Emperor of Rome". An earlier book by Brown Angels and Demons, depicts the Church as involved in an elemental battle with Freemasonry.

On a Brazilian holiday for Our Lady of Aparecida, in an episode known as the "Kicking of the Saint", a bishop of the Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God repeatedly beat a statue of said patron saint. 884K QuickTime Movie

Philip Jenkins, an Episcopalian historian, in The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 0-19-515480-0) maintains that some people who otherwise avoid offending members of racial, religious, ethnic or gender groups have no reservations about venting their hatred of Catholics. Earlier in the twentieth century, Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. characterized prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church as "the deepest bias in the history of the American people" and Yale professor Peter Viereck once commented that "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals."

[edit] Sexuality

Some Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists have had a stormy relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1989 members of ACT UP and WHAM! disrupted a Sunday Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to protest the Church’s position on homosexuality, safer sex education and the use of condoms. 111 protestors were arrested outside the Cathedral, and at least one protestor inside threw used condoms at a Church altar and desecrated the Eucharist during Mass<ref>300 Fault O'Connor Role On AIDS Commission</ref>. Robert Hilfrety's related video on this is called Stop the Church.

[edit] Anti-Catholic Humour

The Roman Catholic Church has been satirized by humourists such as Dave Allen and in comedy shows such as Father Ted. Here is an example from a lecture delivered to a Catholic girl's school by the renowned Monsignor Ronald Knox, which, if nothing else, proves that Catholics can laugh at themselves:

'There's a story of some visitor who went to see the Catholic chaplain at Sing-Sing, which is the big state prison in the United States. And this chaplain was saying what unscrupulous stories Protestants were always inventing to discredit the Church. "For instance," he said, "you'll often be told that all the prisoners who are executed here are Catholics. Well, there are five prisoners now waiting for the electric chair, and one of them's a Jew.' (quoted from R. Knox (1949) The Creed in Slow Motion: 165)

Traditional fears about the Roman Catholic Church in general and the Spanish Inquisition in particular were burlesqued by Monty Python in their Spanish Inquistion sketch.

[edit] See also

[edit] Additional reading

  • Anbinder; Tyler Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's 1992
  • Bennett; David H. The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History University of North Carolina Press, 1988
  • Billingon, Ray. The Protestant Crisade, 1830-1860 (1938)
  • Blanshard; Paul.American Freedom and Catholic Power Beacon Press, 1949
  • Thomas M. Brown, "The Image of the Beast: Anti-Papal Rhetoric in Colonial America," in Richard O. Curry and Thomas M. Brown, eds., Conspiracy: The Fear of Subversion in American History (1972), 1-20.
  • Steve Bruce, No Pope of Rome: Anti-Catholicism in Modern Scotland (Edinburgh, 1985).
  • Robin Clifton, "Popular Fear of Catholics during the English Revolution," Past and Present, 52 ( 1971), 23-55.
  • Cogliano; Francis D. No King, No Popery: Anti-Catholicism in Revolutionary New England Greenwood Press, 1995
  • David Brion Davis, "Some Themes of Counter-subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic and Anti-Mormon Literature," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 47 (1960), 205-224.
  • Andrew M. Greeley, An Ugly Little Secret: Anti-Catholicism in North America 1977.
  • Henry, David. "Senator John F. Kennedy Encounters the Religious Question: I Am Not the Catholic Candidate for President." Contemporary American Public Discourse. Ed. H. R. Ryan. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 1992. 177-193.
  • Higham; John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 1955
  • Hinckley, Ted C. "American Anti-catholicism During the Mexican War" Pacific Historical Review 1962 31(2): 121-137. ISSN 0030-8684
  • Hostetler; Michael J. "Gov. Al Smith Confronts the Catholic Question: The Rhetorical Legacy of the 1928 Campaign" Communication Quarterly. Volume: 46. Issue: 1. 1998. Page Number: 12+.
  • Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (Oxford University Press, New ed. 2004). ISBN 0-19-517604-9
  • Jensen, Richard. The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 (1971)
  • Jensen, Richard. "'No Irish Need Apply': A Myth of Victimization," Journal of Social History 36.2 (2002) 405-429, with illustrations
  • Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism — The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" (Ignatius Press, 1988). ISBN 0-89870-177-5
  • Kenny; Stephen. "Prejudice That Rarely Utters Its Name: A Historiographical and Historical Reflection upon North American Anti-Catholicism." American Review of Canadian Studies. Volume: 32. Issue: 4. 2002. pp : 639+.
  • McGreevy, John T. "Thinking on One's Own: Catholicism in the American Intellectual Imagination, 1928-1960." The Journal of American History, 84 (1997): 97-131.
  • J.R. Miller, "Anti-Catholic Thought in Victorian Canada" in Canadian Historical Review 65, no.4. (December 1985), p. 474+
  • Moore; Edmund A. A Catholic Runs for President 1956.
  • Moore; Leonard J. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928 University of North Carolina Press, 1991
  • E. R. Norman, Anti-Catholicism in Victorian England (1968).
  • D. G. Paz, "Popular Anti-Catholicism in England, 1850-1851," Albion 11 (1979), 331-359.
  • Thiemann, Ronald F. Religion in Public Life Georgetown University Press, 1996.
  • Carol Z. Wiener, "The Beleaguered Isle. A Study of Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Anti-Catholicism," Past and Present, 51 (1971), 27-62.
  • Wills, Garry. Under God 1990.
  • White, Theodore H. The Making of the President 1960 1961.

[edit] References


[edit] External links

[edit] Anti-Catholic websites

[edit] Catholic responses


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