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America’s Catholic Colony [Ecumenical] ^ | september 2009 | Matthew E. Bunson

Posted on 07/07/2012 7:46:27 PM PDT by Salvation

America’s Catholic Colony

The history of Colonial England in America is one of great irony: The same Protestant groups who fled England in pursuit of toleration and religious liberty brought with them an utter hatred for the Church. They installed laws and customs that excluded Catholics from all aspects of public life for over a century and a half.

This reality makes the story of Catholics in the first days of Maryland all the more remarkable. From its founding, Maryland was intended to be a place where Catholics were welcomed and permitted to share in the dream of a new life which brought so many others to America. What happened to the Catholics who pursued that dream is a reminder that the freedoms we take for granted today were hard-won by those who came before us.

A Haven for Catholics

As children used to learn in American schools, the first permanent English settlement was made in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia. Other colonies soon followed along the Atlantic seaboard. In 1620, a group of Pilgrims—ardent Puritans who rejected what they considered Roman influences in the Church of England—left England to escape religious conformity. They sailed from England on the famed Mayflower, arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and set about to forge a place for themselves. These two groups, in Virginia and Massachusetts, proved the vanguard of what became the 13 colonies.

The religious toleration that was a hallmark of most of the colonies did not extend to Catholics. Most of the inhabitants of the colonies had grown up in a world filled with animosity for the Church of Rome and were conditioned to fear and despise the Catholic Church by Elizabethan propaganda and England’s struggle against the Catholic powers of Europe. Not surprisingly, then, anti-Catholic laws, disabilities, and hatred permeated almost all of the English colonies. One remarkable exception was Maryland.

Maryland is rightly honored as the one place in the colonies where Catholics could live in comparative religious freedom in America. But even there the freedoms enjoyed by Catholics proved fleeting.

Credit for the Catholic colony belongs to one man: George Calvert, First Lord Baltimore. A talented English business leader and a friend to Kings James I and Charles I, Calvert in 1624 converted to Catholicism. The decision cost him his seat in Parliament and his state office, but he resigned them willingly because he believed so firmly in the truths of the Church. His winning personality also helped him retain favor at the royal court. This proved crucial, as Calvert soon felt the harsh penal laws against Catholics and he committed himself to aiding his fellow believers. One of those ways was through a colony in the New World.

While historians are of differing opinions as to whether Calvert was concerned first and foremost with a commercial enterprise or with a sanctuary for Catholics, the idea of a colony for Catholics soon took shape. The first chosen site was in Newfoundland, but this proved financially impractical (and the winter utterly intolerable). Ironically, too, the fledgling colony was attacked by the nearby Catholic French. Virginia was the next possibility, but the furious resistance of the Protestants blocked the scheme. Undaunted, Calvert petitioned for a charter to start a colony north of Virginia, but he died in April 1632. A few months later, on June 20, 1632, a charter for the Maryland Colony was granted to his son, Caecilius (or Cecil) Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore. The colony was named in honor of Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria.

On March 25, 1634, two small ships, the Ark and the Dove, landed at St. Clement’s Island in southern Maryland. On board were the colony’s first settlers, led by Leonard Calvert, Cecil Calvert’s younger brother. The group consisted of 17 gentlemen, their wives, and their households. Most of the servants were Protestants. The first Catholic Mass in the colonies was said by Jesuit Fr. Andrew White; other Jesuits in the group included Fr. John Altham and Br. Thomas Gervase.

Freedom of Religion

But Maryland was not exclusively for Catholics. Calvert was a realist, and he knew that the long-term chances of the colony were better if it observed genuine religious liberty. Calvert was also not stupid. He was aware that from the start the Catholics—even in a Catholic colony—would be outnumbered by Protestants. This meant that that toleration of Catholics would always be precarious, even in a colony founded by them. Prior to their departure to America, then, the first colonists for Maryland were cautioned by Lord Cecil about how they should behave. He declared:

His lord requires his said governor and commissioners that in their voyage to Mary Land they be very careful to preserve unity and peace amongst all the passengers on ship-board, and that they suffer no scandal nor offense to be given to any of the Protestants . . . and that for that end, they cause all acts of Roman Catholic religion to be done as privately as may be, and that they instruct all the Roman Catholics to be silent upon all occasions of discourse concerning matters of religion and that the said governor and commissioners treat the Protestants with as much mildness as justice will permit.

To help insure religious peace, the decree of Calvert was used as the basic modus vivendi in the early years. In effect, before Roger Williams had even fled the intolerant atmosphere of Massachusetts and set up Rhode Island as a haven from the Puritans, Calvert had established Maryland as a place where people of all faiths were welcome.

After five years, a more formal document proved desirable, so in 1639, the Maryland Assembly decreed that "Holy churches within this province shall have all their rights and liberties." The decree was a timely one: In England the political and religious situation was fast deteriorating. Relations between King Charles I and Parliament, always strained, erupted in 1642 in bloody civil war. The grim conflict raged until 1649 when the king was deposed and beheaded, after which the rabid anti-Catholic Oliver Cromwell emerged as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658.

The colonies in America were themselves convulsed by the upheaval in England, and Calvert’s support of King Charles put Maryland at risk of attack by its Protestant neighbors. The assault came in 1645, led by a Protestant trader and tobacco dealer named Richard Ingle. After his dealings with the Catholic leaders of Maryland soured, he fled the colony and secured support from nearby Protestants and returned with a small anti-Catholic army and the less-than-subtly-named ship Reformation. Ingle attacked St. Mary’s City in 1645 and caused nearly two years of utter chaos. Jesuit priests were seized and sent in chains to England, and Catholic property was plundered and burned. Hated by Catholic and Protestant Marylanders alike, Ingle was given the title of "that ungrateful Villagine." Most Marylanders considered him nothing less than a pirate. At last, Calvert returned with an army in 1646 and restored some semblance of order.

A Diminishing Toleration

To ease the religious situation and encourage settlers to invest in rebuilding the devastated colony, in 1649 the Maryland Assembly passed the "Acts Concerning Religion," generally called the Act of Toleration. Its goal was to prevent religious strife from destroying Maryland. Its terms were fairly simple but still striking. It prohibited the molestation of anyone who professed belief in Jesus Christ and it guaranteed freedom to worship. Written in plain legal language, the decree nevertheless anticipated the principles of religious toleration that became the bedrock of the United States’ approach to religion.

Sadly, the situation in England and the colonies only grew worse in the years after the beheading of King Charles I. The Commonwealth of England that existed from 1649 to 1660 was marked by a return to severe anti-Catholicism, and the same spirit was encouraged in the colonies. In 1654, Protestants overthrew the proprietary government of Maryland. The new regime outlawed the Catholic faith and repealed the Act of Toleration of 1649. Only in 1658 was the Calvert family able to regain control and re-institute the Toleration Act. During the Restoration period and the reign of King Charles II (1661-1685), the Calverts remained in fragile control of the colony. With the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-1689 and the overthrow of the Catholic King James II, however, the Calverts’ days were numbered. Within two years, Maryland had been seized and declared a royal colony. In 1692 Anglicanism was decreed the official religion of state.

In 1704, the Assembly passed "An Act to Prevent the Growth of Popery within this Province" targeting the Jesuits in Maryland. It forbade any "Popish Bishop, Priest, or Jesuite" from proselytizing, baptizing any person other than those with "Popish Parents," or saying Mass. By another statute in 1704, Mass could be said only in private homes. Additional laws prohibited Catholics from practicing law and from teaching children. Severe taxes were imposed on hiring Irish "Papist" servants as a move to discourage Irish immigration. In 1718, Catholics were stripped of their right to vote as all voters were required to take various test oaths that included deliberately anti-Catholic declarations.

Cradle of Faith

The great Maryland experiment was at an end, and it wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century that Catholics were permitted to practice their faith openly. Still, the courage of the Maryland Catholics had planted the faith permanently in English America. In 1708, there were 2,974 Catholics in Maryland out of a total population of 40,000. By 1785, there were 15,800 Catholics, making them the largest group of Catholics anywhere in the colonies. Out of this cradle of faith emerged some of the most important and revered figures in American Catholic history, including John Carroll, the Father of the American Church and the first bishop and archbishop of Baltimore. But Catholic Maryland also pointed the way to America’s future and the legacy of religious tolerance and pluralism. John Tracy Ellis, the famed historian of American Catholicism, wrote:

For the first time in history there was a real prospect for a duly constituted government under which all Christians would possess equal rights, where all churches would be tolerated, and where none would be the agent of the government . . . to the "land of sanctuary" came Puritans fleeing persecution in Virginia and Anglicans escaping from the same threat in Massachusetts. This policy of religious tolerance has rightly been characterized as "the imperishable glory of Lord Baltimore and of the State." (American Catholicism, 24)

Matthew E. Bunson is a former contributing editor to This Rock and the author of more than 30 books. He is a consultant for USA Today on Catholic matters, a moderator of EWTN’s online Church history forum, and the editor of The Catholic Answer.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: america; catholic; colonies
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In 1708, there were 2,974 Catholics in Maryland out of a total population of 40,000. By 1785, there were 15,800 Catholics, making them the largest group of Catholics anywhere in the colonies.
1 posted on 07/07/2012 7:46:39 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Adding to the history of Catholicims in early America.

2 posted on 07/07/2012 7:49:49 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All; Religion Moderator
This is a Ecumenical thread.

Please follow the Guidelines of the Religion Moderator when posting on this thread.

Basically it means no antagonism.

3 posted on 07/07/2012 7:51:31 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
America’s Catholic Colony [Ecumenical]
The Catholic Church in the United States of America [Ecumenical]
Catholic Founding Fathers - The Carroll Family [Ecumenical]
Charles Carroll, founding father and "an exemplar of Catholic and republican virtue" [Ecumenical]

4 posted on 07/07/2012 7:59:13 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Just to the north, William Penn’s “holy experiment” of toleration combined with disestablishment placed all faiths on an equal footing, to the relief of some and to the chagrin of others.

5 posted on 07/07/2012 8:04:58 PM PDT by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini--nevertheless, Vote Santorum!)
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To: lightman

Yes, I think that was mentioned in the thread that refers to the United States of America in the title.

Also has all the missions founded by Father Junipero Serra in California.

PS. Don’t tell them that their cities in California have Catholic names. LOL!

6 posted on 07/07/2012 8:14:39 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
What you have to do first is read through the Treaty of London (1604).

That's where the Roman Catholic King of North America (and a bunch of other stuff) divided the continent among various parties for settlement.

He, not the English, set aside a rather drought ridden, desolate, almost abandoned piece of territory called Virginia, to Protestants!

Catholics got the rest of the place ~ at the time he carved out Acadia for Scotland he had hopes for a Catholic King.

Even today it's not exactly clear how the English came to think of Virginia as THEIRS ~ so you'll have to read a lot more of that treaty.

BTW, the TREATY was crammed down the other powers throats. It was called Treaty of London since that is where the King of Spain thought a good place to meet to decide such matters ~ there were cartographers, expert explorers, etc.

The King of Spain specifically prohibited the Dutch from benefitting from all of this and set rules of reciprocal religious toleration for both Catholics and Protestants.

ANYWAY, history always marches on so by 1624, just before the blow up known as the Thirty Years War, there was a Protestant Dutch colony at New York, a Catholic Dutch colony at New Jersey (which seems to have started out long before the Spanish evacuated the region). The English had several settlements in diverse place. By 1638 there was also a Swedish colony in SE PA and Central Maryland.(relocated from Delaware)

All through the period of early settlement ~ for about a century and a half, King Philippe III's rules prevailed in both Catholic and Protestant territories in the Americas. IN Europe the final settlement of the 30 years war led to a different sort of toleration. But, America was huge, wild and wonderful so much of this really didn't matter.

To a degree the Spanish decree that all of North America be Catholic except that part set aside for Virginia prevailed right down to the very end when their own colonies sought independence. Still, when Mexico succeeded Spain, they kept that rule on Texas ~ you had to be Catholic to live in Texas ~ else you had the 3 month visitation rule.

Now, think of the problem the English, Swedish, Dutch and others had with the situation in America. The whole place was Catholic except a very small part reserved for them by the King of Spain. Worse, they held it under the stipulations established by the king ~ and that included a period of reciprocity due Catholic merchants, etc. Anyone else was excluded according to the rule set by the KIng of Spain.

Which means that the English, et al, probably didn't think all that much about it! Nor did the Catholics consider it all that terribly important either. They were free to go to zones set aside by the kIng of spain ~ e.g. to Canada, to Acadia, to New Spain ~ ...... ~ it's all in that Treaty the King of Spain imposed on America when he carved it up to facilitate development.

7 posted on 07/07/2012 8:16:32 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: lightman

Still, PA still required that you be a member of a Quaker congregation to run for elective office ~ hence that obscure phrase in the US Constitution about “no religious test’ ~ that is aimed directly at PA and no other place.

8 posted on 07/07/2012 8:18:29 PM PDT by muawiyah
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9 posted on 07/07/2012 8:19:22 PM PDT by TxBec (Keep all 14 of the victims at Fort Hood in your prayers.)
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To: muawiyah

** Roman Catholic King of North America **

I’ve never heard of that term before. Source, please.

10 posted on 07/07/2012 8:19:22 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: muawiyah

who pray tell is this “Roman Catholic King of North America”?

11 posted on 07/07/2012 8:20:11 PM PDT by yldstrk ( My heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: muawiyah

That really only lasted until the German immigration began in earnest in the 1740’s.

Tensions rose between Quaker Philadelphia and the rest of the colony which have never really resolved.

12 posted on 07/07/2012 8:23:24 PM PDT by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini--nevertheless, Vote Santorum!)
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To: Salvation
Another error in the article consists of failure of the writer to recognize the boundary between Acadia and Virginia. That is roughly the current NY state line extended into New England along the 42nd parallel to the point of Cape Cod. Everything to the North was Acadia. Everything to the South was Virginia until you get to the Virginia/North Carolina border. Virginia ended in the West at an invisible line drawn from point to point from the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains.

There were actual boundary markers placed on the mountains and in other places. As late as 1618 the Spanish were still at work drawing the Acadia line ~ see reports on a place called Spanish Hill PA ~

That Acadia line is very important because most of what we call Massachusetts was part of Acadia, but the future Plymouth Plantation was South of the line.

Thanks to war, subtrefuge, money ~ etc. England was able to extend its range of settlement North of the Acadia line and South of the North Carolina line.

13 posted on 07/07/2012 8:29:18 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: yldstrk
Spain discovered America. The King of Spain was given title to half the globe. He and his successors were KIngs of North America. One rather famous fellow named Philippe I/II of Spain was actually King of England for a while. His son Philippe II/III of Spain mandated the Treaty of London (1604)

America, in its entirity, was a Catholic Colony of Spain for well over a century. Then a small enclave was carved out for Protestants. Although Philippe III didn't become less Catholic, he became more realistic than his father ~ and thought Peace worth more than controlling how Protestants said their prayers ~ in fact, he had more than the Dutch to worry about since the Hapsburg empire encompassed more than few Protestant areas.

I think the two things Catholics should beware of is discounting the influence of Catholicism in the settlement of America. And, in discounting the influence of Protestant theories of religious tolerance in making it possible for Catholics to live inside the King of Spain's Protestant zone of control.

Today religious tolerance is expected throughout the Americas ~ it existed in only one small place in 1604.

14 posted on 07/07/2012 8:38:13 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: lightman
The German immigration was tightly controlled. On the other hand the Quaker immigration didn't begin until 1700 ~ and by 1701 all the Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Suomi and Sa'ami had relocated from Eastern PA to York county and New York to escape the Quakers.

The Shenandoah Valley in Virginia was opened up for settlement by disquieted Germans from Pennsylvania

15 posted on 07/07/2012 8:40:34 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Salvation
The Americas were held by Spain. The King was Catholic. Not only was he Catholic, the King of Spain organized the Catholic League that drove the Moslems from the Mediterranean.

He was actually quite popular in a strange sort of way, and certainly well respected.

For a period he was King of England.

His son, however, sought to eliminate disputes and carved up North America among his favorites, and others.

The Protestant Reformation in Spain was stopped in its tracks when The King of Spain allowed ALL the priestly orders to conduct missions in the Americas. In Spain you had all the noble families (Which was where the priests came from) leading the Protestant Reformation ~

16 posted on 07/07/2012 8:47:59 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Salvation

Bump for Sunday reading!

17 posted on 07/07/2012 8:54:37 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Salvation
In 1645, an English tobacco trader by the name of Richard Ingle, enraged by the seizure of one of his ships by the Palatinate Of Maryland, sailed from England with a force of men aboard the ship Reformation to the capital, St. Mary's City. He laid siege upon it, succeeded in forcing Proprietary Governor Leonard Calvert to flee for safety into Virginia. Calvert was Royalist and Catholic. Ingle was Parliamentarian and Protestant.

Ingle, with one ship and his men, completely took over the government of the Palatinate Of Maryland for over a year. He confiscated property and assets from numerous wealthy Royalist Catholic settlers in order to pay for the loss of his ship and its cargo. He captured two Jesuit priests and took them in chains back to London.

Just a little semi-obscure Maryland history for you. My paternal line came to Maryland in the mid-1600's. I know the history quite well. Mr. ingle's attack was not the only one, there was also something of an inter-colonial war with Rhode Island, again going back to Royalist and Parliamentarian strife. In many ways, the English Civil War was played out upon these shores as well.

To paint the conflicts of the era as strictly religious in nature may play well to modern ears, but it is not entirely accurate. It was political through and through. That the two sides were Catholic and Protestant was secondary.

Furthermore, there would never have even been a Palatinate of Maryland without the sympathies of a Protestant. Perhaps he merely wanted them out of England as some cynics have claimed, or perhaps this was a budding sign of the religious tolerance and freedom of religion to come, upon which this nation was founded.

It's also entirely possible that both were true.

18 posted on 07/07/2012 8:58:14 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Salvation; Sirius Lee; lilycicero; MaryLou1; glock rocks; JPG; Monkey Face; RIghtwardHo; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

19 posted on 07/07/2012 9:09:55 PM PDT by narses
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To: Salvation

Very interesting. Thank you for posting it.

20 posted on 07/08/2012 3:38:07 AM PDT by sneakers (Go Sheriff Joe!)
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