The Catholic Thing
HOME        ARCHIVES        IN THE NEWS        COMMENTARY        NOTABLE        DONATE
“Dagger John” against the nativists Print E-mail
By William J. Stern   
Monday, 10 September 2012

The “nativists,” as the highly organized anti-Catholics were called, included Protestant fundamentalists who saw the Catholic Church as the handiwork of Satan and superstition, intellectuals who considered Catholicism incompatible with democracy, ethnocentric cultural purists who believed the United States should be a land for Anglo-Saxons, and pragmatic citizens who thought it not worth the trouble to integrate so many culturally different immigrants. The nativists counted among their number many of America’s elite, including John Jay, John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, Stephen Douglas, and P. T. Barnum, all of whom spoke publicly against the Catholic Church and the threat to liberty that allowing Catholics into the country would create. In Boston a mob led by Congregationalist minister Lyman Beecher, the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, burned a convent to the ground; church burnings were common. Samuel Morse tapped out rumors of Catholic conspiracies against liberty on his Atlantic cable long before such trash circulated on the Internet. Books depicting concupiscence in convents and sex in seminaries were everywhere.
 
[Archbishop John Joseph] Hughes was outraged. He didn’t want Catholics to be second-class citizens in America as they had been in Ireland, and he thought he had a duty not to repeat the mistakes of the clergy in Ireland, who in his view had been remiss in not speaking out more forcefully against English oppression. Resistance was imperative. He began a letter-writing campaign to the newspapers, decrying what he saw as a tendency toward chauvinistic nationalism in his new country. In 1829, for instance, outraged by an editorial in a Protestant religious newspaper about “traitorous popery,” he fired off a missive to its editorial board of Protestant ministers, calling them “the clerical scum of the Country.” During the 1834 cholera epidemic in Philadelphia, which nativists blamed on Irish immigrants, Hughes worked tirelessly among the sick and dying, while many Protestant ministers fled the city to escape infection. After the disease subsided, Hughes wrote the U.S. Gazette that Protestant ministers were “remarkable for their pastoral solicitude, so long as the flock is healthy, the pastures pleasant, and the fleece lubricant, abandoning their post when disease begins to spread dissolution in the fold.” He pointed to the work of the Catholic Sisters of Charity, who had cared for cholera victims without regard for their own safety, and wondered where all the people who spoke about perversion in the convents had gone during the epidemic.

 
CONTACT US FOR ADVERTISERS ABOUT US
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner