Skip to comments.ANTI-CATHOLICISM IN AMERICA: THE LAST ACCEPTABLE PREJUDICE IN AMERICA
Posted on 02/08/2004 9:06:57 AM PST by sinkspur
ANTI-CATHOLICISM IN AMERICA:
THE LAST ACCEPTABLE PREJUDICE
By Mark S. Massa, S.J.
Crossroad, 245 pages, $24.95
Catholics remain outsiders in America
Bias against Catholicism continues and is a paradoxical sign of strength
Reviewed by KATHLEEN SPROWS CUMMINGS
Invoking the nickname of a virulently anti-Catholic political party of the 1850s, Jesuit Fr. Mark Massa wryly observes that most American Catholics know nothing about the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States. For that reason alone, his thoughtful and often witty analysis of the subject is worthwhile. Along with the Know-Nothings, he surveys most of the 19th-century enemies of the church, including the Rev. Lyman Beecher, Maria Monk, the ruffians who in 1834 burned the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Mass., American imperialist Josiah Strong, and Henry Bowers, the founder of the American Protective Association. Massa also describes the 20th-century manifestations of anti-Catholicism in the reinvigorated Ku Klux Klan, in the presidential campaign of Al Smith, in Paul Blanshards American Freedom and Catholic Power, a 1949 bestselling exposé of Catholic attempts to violate the separation of church and state, and in the presidential election of 1960.
Many American Catholics might expect a story about anti-Catholicism in America to end there, assuming that Kennedys election banished any remaining doubts that the church was compatible with American democracy. But Massa is only just warming to his topic. The election of 1960 does mark a decisive point in the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States, but not because it signaled its disappearance. The Fordham University theology professor argues that Kennedys establishment of a wall of separation between private faith and public action may have indeed won him the election, but it initiated a privatization of religious belief that has, ironically, accentuated the bias against Catholics in American culture.
Massa argues that Kennedy emerged from the presidential campaign as less than compelling as the spokesman for the two-millennia-old Roman Catholic conversation about the duties of Catholics in politics, and that this conversation has suffered ever since. As a result of Kennedys secularization of the Oval Office, contemporary Catholic politicians are categorized either as hypocritical opportunists who deny the obvious social implications of their faith or unthinking slaves of the hierarchy who uncritically accept church teaching on sexual and reproductive issues. In a society that demands the privatization of religion, the American Catholic church has refused to cede its public authority, repeatedly taking ethical stands on controversial issues. As a result, it is often perceived as fair game by the media and cultural commentators.
Although he discusses a variety of sociological, cultural and intellectual explanations for Catholic otherness in America, Massa relies on David Tracys distinction between the analogical and dialogical imagination to argue that Catholics and Protestants see the world differently. Catholics understand God and the world according to an analogical tradition that accepts that Gods real presence in history and in the sacraments, which nourishes a fundamental trust in the goodness of humanity and institutions. Protestants, on the other hand, use dialectical language to emphasize the differences between God and humanity, and this conceptual language affirms private judgment and fosters a distrust of authority. American society has been shaped by the Puritan and evangelical Protestant values that assume individuals need protection from the oppressions of community. Because Catholics take a much more optimistic view of community and stress unity over individuals, they do not completely fit into what Thomas Jefferson called the lively experiment that is the United States.
The heart of the book focuses on anti-Catholic commentators such as Norman Vincent Peale, Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Chick, the author of the infamous Death Cookie cartoons. Massa analyzes elements of the dialogical imagination, including their acceptance of the pervasiveness of sin, their assumption that an individual stands alone before an angry God, and their view of grace as the ability to pass through a narrow gate to where they can gaze on an immense, faceless Redeemer -- an Other too different from humanity to see even in the afterlife.
Unlike other commentators on anti-Catholicism in America, such as the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights and Philip Jenkins (the author of another recent book on the subject), Massa is neither hypersensitive nor whiny. He cautions that Catholics should by no means interpret antipathy toward their religious tradition as nourishment for a sense of victimhood. Catholics are nowhere near as marginalized in contemporary America as members of other racial and ethnic groups are, and violence against Catholic Americans on the basis of religion is virtually nonexistent. Given the frequency of hate crimes based on race or sexual orientation, overstating Catholics outsider status is seriously misguided.
At the same time, Massa does not minimize the disjuncture that has always existed -- and, he hopes, always will exist -- between Catholicism and American culture. He observes, It is disingenuous for Catholics to feign surprise, anger or grief to learn that they are not in the mainstream of their culture, or that they are perceived as such by a number of their fellow citizens. Catholic otherness is a good thing for America. While critics view the churchs persistent attempts to exert public authority as a threat to religious liberty, Massa argues convincingly that the opposite is true. To insist that the church be silent and powerless would deny the freedom extended to all religious groups by the First Amendment.
If Catholic otherness is good news for American culture, it is also good news for the church. In the last section of the book, Massa uses the sex-abuse scandal to show why the ongoing tension between Catholicism and American democracy can provide hope for the contemporary church. The Be-trayal in Boston (and elsewhere) occurred largely because of unchecked Catholic loyalties and blind trust in the institution. It is time for American Catholics, he suggests, to balance their analogical imagination with the dialogical tendencies exhibited by their Protestant compatriots and demand more accountability from the hierarchy.
On behalf of right thinking "slaves of the papacy", it is my privilege to say: Nothing to see here. Move along now.
I agree with the author of this article wholeheartedly, introspection is what is sorely needed. Second-guessing good authority is not really the Catholic way (especially when it comes to our clergy and leadership) but there's a time for everything and we're left with no other choice at this point.
That is unless we consider walking away from Him as a choice. Which is actually happening in certain circles.
Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the author seem to be saying that our goal should be to re-invigorate a more devout form of Catholicism in our society and our Worship structure? Also to demand more accountability from certain leaders within society and our culture?
It sounds reasonable. What am I missing?
You don't have to write me a novel, but I'm interested in your opinion as I often defer to your judgement on stuff like this.
2. That last paragraph of the review urges that lay Catholics hold the hierarchy responsible. I think we can agree that the Roman Catholic Church is not and ought never to become a democracy.
3. The reviewer notes that Massa is neither hypersensitive or whiny. Both of those terms are National antiCatholic Reporter newspeak for Catholic. They just want to get along with secularized society in service to the left. It is just more of "Open the Church windows and let the pollution come cascading in." NCR usually ignores the fact that Catholics, actual Catholics, are merely IN the world and not OF it.
4. If you believe that any member of the Fordham University theology faculty is advocating more devout forms of Catholic worship (or Catholicism in society) as recognizable by thee or me, there is this bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan and for enough greenbacks, I can get you a quit claim deed wholesale.
5. Demanding, as Catholics, accountability from the pezzanovanti who presume to seek leadership of society while bleating about their Catholicism on the one hand and massacring Catholic belief and practice on the other, is our job as citizens and also the job of duly constituted hierarchy like Archbishop Burke of St. Louis who is spearheading the move to deny the sacraments to pro-abort politicos. The other bishops will be judged against the example shown by Archbishop Burke.
6. The likes of Jack Chick ought to be beneath our notice. It is good, however to locate the source of mass cultural apostasy in the Paul Blanshards on the one hand and, most particularly, on John Fitzgerald Kennedy exactly as described in the review. That these would be noticed in NCR is an astonisher. JFK was more of a spokesman for sexual omnivorousness and narcotics abuse, but never mind, we won't convince the public.
7. Charitably speaking, whatever David Tracy or Massa may think, Catholicism does NOT view man as essentially good, but rather as fallen man capable, through baptism and the grace of God, of rising to good (most easily by persistent attendance at Mass and receipt of the sacraments and their attached graces).
As requested, the novel will be saved for another day.
It's hard to believe that Massa would make blanket statements like those found above.
OTOH, maybe the reviewer drew those conclusions.
In any case, that 'graph is like the Dimowit party platform: 16 sentences, each 1/2 true, with one depending on the other.
Thank you for that. Your argument is enhanced by the fact that you're able to glean some reasonably debatable points from the article while understandably mistrusting the source.
I would like to ask another question, but I'm afraid to as you put so much time and careful thought into answering them that I'm made to feel as if I'm asking for very much.
Thank you and God bless.
As to brevity, Ninenot has a great advantage of never having practiced law. Old lawyers are used to never using a single term when a dozen are possible (i.e., leave in lawyer lingo becomes "leave, bequeath, devise," etc., etc.). Everyone else is linguistically a normal human being and some quite outstanding.
That last paragraph of the review urges that lay Catholics hold the hierarchy responsible. I think we can agree that the Roman Catholic Church is not and ought never to become a democracy.
You often take the postition of obedience to the heirarchy and seem to indicate that we shouldn't hold them accountable (I'd severely beat many of them with a rubbber bat before putting them out to run a bath house, but that's not the issue).
You made a point about some "Catholics" opening "the Church windows and let the pollution come cascading in", which is exactly what some of out Bishops have done. Some are even ourright enemies of the church ... even to the point of being masonic or paganistic....evil even.
What should we do with this "hierarchy" if not hold them accountable? Now that I think of it, I've found myself cheering you on at times for breaking out your own rubber bat.
I'll be back a bit later.
However orthodox the actual Vatican II documents, the outrages that trouble you and others and me as well were perpetrated by termites like Annibale Bugnini and Rembert Weakland and Bernadin and...and...and... Well, you know.
Those whom my rubber bat bashes and that your rubber bat bashes as well might well run bath houses if fired. Just limit the rubber bat activity to errant bishops. Popes are, by definition, not errant. They may make prudential errors but not doctrinal ones.
My new truckload of rubber bats has just arrived. Raj McPhony and Cruiser Hubbard are in for it and they are not alone.
OTOH: Do you REALLY think Howard Dean believes in God? Or Barbara Boxer or Ted the Swimmer or the Hildebeast or the Arkansas Antichrist
It's funny that when one really takes a look at how we all (the Catholics in here) feel, none of us are all that far apart in how we view the world. This is dynamic is highlighted when one of our "seperated brethren" comes to one of these threads feeling his wheaties. We all sound like the same poster.
Most of us really do have a very similar set of values, we just differ slightly on solutions and how we handle issues.
Strange that we're all pretty much cut from the same cloth, yet in all my years on the net and on FR, this is literally the roughest forum I've been in ever.
I've got scars up and down my ass for cryin' out loud.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.