Category: History Essay

Although the U.S. has for several years praised itself for its separation of the state and church as well as its tradition for religious practices and freedom, the country has suffered from different types of religious bigotry such as anti-Catholicism. Various forms of intolerance related to religion such as anti-Catholicism, nativism, and anti-Semitism were inherited from the United Kingdom. They flourished as a result of several years of war between the U.S., Spain, and France. As a result, Catholics who resided in most, if not all, colonies controlled by the U.S., became the victims of discriminatory laws. Generally, they were excluded from the universal suffrage (voting). Catholics were also denied the right to hold political office. This document critically analyzes various aspects of Anti-Catholicism in North America.

Historical Background

The age of Reformation is considered as the first roots of anti-Catholicism in North America. It is due to the fact that one of the main aims of Reformation was to correct the alleged excesses and errors of the Catholic Church. Proponents of anti-Catholicism established strong positions aimed at opposing the stand and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, the Papacy, in particular, and the general clerical hierarchy of the Catholic Church was opposed. Protestant leaders in the North American colonies were at the forefront in spreading sentiments against the Catholic Church. Some of the greatest critics were the Anglican, Calvinist, and Lutheran traditions. In addition, both Scottish and English identities were to a huge extent opposed to the ideologies presented by Catholicism. Historians wrote that most English speaking people were anti-Catholics. Since, to be English, and individual in the colonies was expected to be against Catholicism.

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It is also important to note that most of the colonists from Britain such as Congregationalists and Puritans came to America in order to avoid persecution meted by the Church of England. The modes of worship and the doctrines of the Catholic Church were rooted deeply in the Roman Church. As a result of this, most of the religious culture that had arrived early in North America portrayed some of the most extreme and harshest form of anti-Catholicism bias. Most negative attitudes against the Catholics were mostly spread by the Protestant denominations. An anti-Catholics bias that was applied universally was composed by John Tracy Ellis and taken to Jamestown in 1607. It was cultivated vigorously in all the American colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts. Colonial laws and charters that were made up of huge amounts of specific instructions against Catholicism had immense political powers.

Scholars are of the opinion that the common and general hatred against Catholicism could influence the Puritan and Anglican clergy and laity to come together and share a common ground despite several disagreements between them. The law that prohibited Catholic settlers was passed in the Colony of Virginia in 1642. The Massachusetts Bay Colony also enacted a similar statute five years later. The Act of Toleration was enacted in 1649, which made blasphemy and the use of other offensive religious languages and names punishable offenses. In 1654, the law was repealed. It once again outlawed Catholicism. In 1692, the former government of Catholic Maryland was overthrown; and the officials established the Church of England as a legal institution. It then went ahead to enact heavy taxes that forced the Catholics to support the financing of the church. Catholics were prohibited from participating in politics and other laws; and regulations were implemented to ban Church’s Sacrament, Mass, and Catholic schools. In the Rhode Islands, civic restrictions were imposed on Catholics in 1719.

Catholics in Maryland had to flee their homes and become refugees. The only place that they could get a safe haven was in Pennsylvania. William Penn was a Quaker who had previously been harassed due to his religious affiliations. It prompted him to implement broad grants of civil rights that tolerated people who had different denomination and religious beliefs. Therefore, people who believed in God irrespectively of their denominations could reside there peacefully without persecution. There were increased risks that France and England were about to go to war. It ren