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Chapter 16 The Catholic Church
in the United States of America
FR. ROBERT J. FOX
This chapter explores the early
days of the English colonies, when the rights of Catholics were not
respected, to the end of the nineteenth century.
1. Did Catholics find freedom of religion in the English colonies in
the early years of settlement?
No. The English colonies were founded at the same time
the Church was persecuted in England. Virginia colonists were members
of the English Church; in New England the colonists were Calvinists.
Catholics were not permitted in these colonies. Catholics were
excluded from the Dutch colony in New York and the Swedish settlement
of Delaware also.
In 1683 James II appointed Thomas Dongan governor of New
York and religious liberty was granted to all. The Jesuits built a
Catholic chapel in New York City, and established a Latin school there
in 1685. By 1700, laws against Catholics were again put into place.
Catholics of New York had to travel to Philadelphia as late as the
Revolutionary War to participate in Mass and receive the sacraments.
2. Was religious freedom
permitted in Maryland?
Yes. A Catholic colony was settled in Maryland by Cecil
Calvert in 1634. A church and school were built as Catholic settlers
arrived, accompanied by Jesuit priests. They permitted religious
freedom to others and, as a result, Protestants obtained control of the
colony. The English Church was then established and Catholics were
denied their right to vote. The religious freedom of Catholics in
Maryland was then restricted until after the Revolutionary War.
3. Were Catholics given freedom
Yes. Under William Penn, the Quakers in Pennsylvania
permitted Catholics to practice their faith. In 1730 the Church was
given greater security when a Jesuit, Fr. Joseph Greaton, settled in
Philadelphia and had St. Joseph's Church built. When Catholic emigrants
came from Germany, they too built churches. By the end of the French
and Indian War there were only 7,000 Catholics in the English colonies.
Most of them lived in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
4. Summarize the development of
Catholicism in other parts of the New World.
The Capuchins built a chapel in New Orleans in 1721,
just three years after the city was founded. They opened a school for
boys. The French king gave the Ursuline sisters permission to settle in
New Orleans and they opened the first convent in the United States.
They built a hospital, an orphanage, and a school for girls.
Fr. Pierre Gibault left the seminary at Quebec, Canada,
and came to labor for the Church in Vincennes, Makinac, Detroit, and
Peoria. The priest blessed the first church in St. Louis in 1770. He
made it possible for George Rogers Clark to gain possession of the
great Northwest for the United States, which included what is now
Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Attempts to colonize Florida failed at first because of
the hostility of the Indians. Early missionaries did not succeed, even
though as early as 1528 Fr. Juan Juarez, a Spanish Franciscan, was
appointed bishop of Florida. He disappeared mysteriously. In 1549 a
group of missionaries landed near Tampa Bay and within a few days all
were savagely killed by the Indians.
Philip II in 1565 sent Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles,
a leading naval leader of the Spanish Empire, to establish a colony in
Florida. Twelve Franciscans and four Jesuits went with him to convert
the Indians. Sailing along the Florida coast on August 28, 1565,
Admiral Menendez saw an ideal peninsula and ordered the boats to drop
anchor. On September 8 he proclaimed the founding of St. Augustine
because the peninsula was found on the saint's feast day. missionaries
spread out from St. Augustine to convert the Indians, with many priests
losing their lives as the new, advancing civilization was resisted by
Missionaries were determined to bring Christianity to
Florida and so the priests who lost their lives were always replaced,
and gradually St. Augustine developed and the new colony grew. The
countryside became peaceful as missions and monasteries were founded
throughout Florida and most of the Indians north of the Gulf of Mexico
and east of the Mississippi River converted to the Catholic Church.
The French Huguenots then appeared and raided Spanish
Catholic Indian settlements. Missionaries and the faithful were put to
death with extreme cruelty. The British, who had been colonizing in the
north, also began to destroy Spanish gains.
Governor Moore of South Carolina in 1704 directed a raid
of the Apalachee Mission, valuable for food supplies. Franciscan
missionaries were put to death; 1,400 Indians were taken into slavery
by the English governor and 800 Catholic Indians were killed.
Weakened, the Spanish signed the Treaty of Paris with
England in 1763m ceding Florida to the British. The Catholic faith in
Florida was then even more suppressed. At the end of the American
Revolution, however, the United States government returned Florida to
Spanish control. In 1821 Florida was purchased as part of the United
in 1598 Don Juan de Onate led an expedition to establish
a colony in New Mexico. It consisted of 400 soldiers, 10 missionaries,
83 supply wagons and carts, and 7,000 head of stock. Onate went as far
as Wichita, Kansas, and California. Onate's expeditions to New Mexico
became an economic drain and the victory of New Spain assigned Pedro de
Peralta to build a new capital and to colonize. This was done. He named
a site, Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis, known today as
Sante Fe (Holy Faith). Santa Fe was founded in 1609 and became the
headquarters for future missions in New Mexico. By 1625 there were
forty-three missions and 34, 000 Christian Indians.
A Jesuit priest, Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino, labored in
the Upper Pima country, which is now the Mexican state of Sonora and
southern Arizona. Fr. Kino has been called "the most picturesque
missionary pioneer of all North America — explorer, astronomer,
cartographer, mission builder, ranchman, cattle king, and defender of
the frontier." His maps were the most accurate of the time, winning
fame in Europe.
Fr. Kino's mission of San Xavier del Bac, not far from
what is Tucson, Arizona, is now a national monument, while still the
parish church for the Pima Indians. It is the finest example of Spanish
Renaissance architecture in the United States.
Fr. Kino traveled thousands of miles on horse, ever
anxious to convert souls. Some of this trails became roads, and he kept
journals of his extensive travels. His papers were preserved in the
Huntington Library in San Marino, California. While Fr. Kino won the
faith of the Pima Indians for Jesus Christ, he was always sad that he
did not succeed in converting the Apache Indians.
Fr. Kino died on March 15, 1711, in poverty, as he had
lived. He is venerated as a great American pioneer.
The cause for canonization of Fr. Antonio Margil, who
developed missions in Texas, has been introduced. One of the missions
he founded near San Antonio (San Antonio de Bexar Mission) is still
used as a parish church and has been declared a National Historic Site
by both the state and nation. Margil is compared to Kino and Serra as
among the greatest of Spanish missionaries.
The Spanish came to Texas first but met competition from
the French, who came down the Mississippi River from Canada. La Salle
built Fort Prudhomme in Tipton County and Fort St. Louis in Victoria
Besides San Antonio, the Spanish built the missions of
San Saba, San Luis, and San Francisco de los Tejas (now a lost site).
The Spanish built their missions not simply as churches for worshipers
but to become self-sufficient communities with farms, cattle and
ranches, and homes for Indians who worked at the mission — also homes
for teachers, nurses, and guards. They built hospitals, schools, and
guard posts as protection from Apache and Comanche Indians.
The Spanish crown withdrew support and in 1793 the
mission of San José de Aguayo was suppressed by the Mexican
government. The Franciscans had to leave when the new Mexican
government took over the missions in 1824, and with the passing of
years the mission was neglected. San José, which had earned the
name Queen of the Missions, began to be restored to its former beauty
in 1912 when the archdiocese of San Antonio began a restoration
program. In 1941 arrangements began whereby it was named a National
Fr. Junipero Serra, the great missionary of California,
has been named to the Statuary Hall of our nation's capitol for the
state of California. Fr. Serrra arrived in the harbor of Veracruz,
Mexico, on December 6, 1749, with a group of Franciscan missionaries
assigned to evangelize the Indians of northern Mexico.
The Franciscans were welcomed in the New World missions.
They avoided politicizing. The viceroy of Peru wrote to King Philip II:
"They are the ones who preach the doctrine with the greatest care and
example, and the least avarice." This was especially true of Fr.
Fr. Junipero was known for his great oratory, and his
keen philosophical mind gave him a reputation among scholars.
Nonetheless, he requested an assignment as a missioner. He said: "I
have wanted to carry the Gospel teachings to those who have never heard
of God and the kingdom He has prepared for them."
His real missionary work did not begin until he was 56
years old, after he spent nine years among the Toltec Indians in Serra
Gord and seven years as an itinerant preacher from San Fernando College
in Mexico City.
Learning of California and the needs of its Indians
moved him. He then received permission to begin mission work there. His
motto was "Always forward, never back."
Fr. Serra walked whenever possible, in spite of poor
health. He carried on a most heroic conquest of America for Christ from
1750 until his death in 1784, with no other weapon than a crucifix and
the love of God. He converted the solitudes of California into an
earthly paradise — where formerly fierce Indian tribes attempted to
annihilate each other in cannibalistic battles.
Fr. Serra founded nine important missions in California.
His successors founded twelve more. The cities of California grew
around these missions. San Diego, Carmel, San Gabriel, Santa Clara, San
Luis Obispo, Ventura, Capistrano, San Francisco — became centers of
colonization and development in California.
Fr. Junipero Serra was always on the move, back and
forth between his missions, urging all to greater charity and zeal and
encouraging new converts. Not satisfied with simple conversion to the
Catholic faith, this great Franciscan priest and missionary taught the
Indians a better life by teaching them how to sow and harvest. He led
in the development of farmlands and wine presses and helped build, with
his own hands, forges, mills, and slaughter houses.
Fr. Serra once walked 2,400 miles to Mexico City to get
retribution from the viceroy when a commandant of the Spanish military
practiced cruelty to the Indians. His death at Carmel Mission, on
August 28, 1784, marked the end of Spanish extension in the United
States in the pioneer missionary era.
5. Did religion continue strong
in the hearts of people after the early pioneer days?
To some extent it did, but once the hardships of the
pioneer days were over and the descendants grew wealthy from trade and
agriculture, the old religious spirit weakened among Protestants. The
spirit of the Enlightenment overtook them and Rationalism dominated in
too many cases, as many depended more on themselves than on God.
Thomas Paine, a leader of the revolutionary spirit,
resembled in some respects the infidelity of Voltaire. Thoms Jefferson,
who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a deist who sympathized
with the Freethinkers of France.
Catholics were blessed with heroic and saintly
missionaries. Their faith continued to spread. There were three
Catholics among those who signed the Declaration of Independence and
the Articles of Confederation: Thomas Fitzsimmons, Daniel Carroll, and
Charles Carroll of Carrolton.
The Carroll family of Maryland played a great role in
the foundation of our American nation. One of the great Carroll family
became a priest, namely John, who was born in Maryland on January 8,
1735. On July 1, 1784, Fr. John Carroll was appointed superior of the
Catholic clergy in America. In 1789 Monsignor Carroll was appointed
bishop, and was consecrated bishop of the United States in 1790, with
his see at Baltimore.
When Bishop Carroll returned from England (where he was
consecrated), he took a survey of his vast church. The first national
census showed that in 1790 there were approximately 30,000 Catholics in
a population of 3, 200,000. There were fewer than thirty priests for
the widely scattered Catholic population. More than half the Catholics,
about 16,000, lived in Maryland; 7,000 lived in Pennsylvania; 3,000
around Detroit and Vincennes, and 2,500 in Illinois.
6. How did the first bishop of
the United States prosper in ruling the Church?
Bishop John Carroll was later named archbishop and he
directed the Catholic Church in America for twenty-five years. He
called the first Synod of Baltimore, which set up rules and regulations
that had governed the Church until the present day. He founded
Georgetown University, and when the Jesuit Order was restored in 1801,
he asked the Jesuits to take over Georgetown.
Bishop Carroll influenced the Sulpicians to come to
Baltimore and open the first seminary in the United States, which was
named after the Blessed Virgin Mary. He invited Augustinians,
Dominicans, Carmelites, Visitation nuns, and the Sisters of Charity to
come to America to work.
Catholics began to emigrate to the United States by
1807. There were 14,000 Catholics in New York, compared with less than
100 seventeen years previously. The French Revolution drove many
priests from France and they came to the United States and assisted
In 1808 the Holy See elevated Baltimore to an
archdiocese and created four new dioceses: Boston, New York, Bardstown,
When Archbishop Carroll died in 1808 at the age of 81,
there were 200,000 Catholics in the United States and the Church showed
signs of growing stability. Archbishop Carroll is attributed with being the spiritual
leader and founder of the Catholic Church in the United States.
7. Did the early Catholics of
the United States prove themselves loyal Americans?
Yes. When the Revolutionary war came they rallied to the
cause of the patriots. At the time of the American Revolution,
Catholics were only about 1 percent of the population of the colonies
but they made great contributions.
Some Catholics rose to high positions, such as Commodore
John Barry, who became Father of the American Navy. Many Catholics
enlisted in the Continental army and the navy and a regiment of
Catholic Indians came down from Maine. Catholic generals even came from
Europe to help the War for Independence.
General Washington wrote to Monsignor John Carroll that
he recognized the important aid given by Catholics and "a nation
professing the Roman Catholic Faith" in the establishment of our
The loyalty of Catholics to their country, America, has
been in evidence from the very early days and during its more than 200
years of history.
8. Did Catholics in the early
years of the United States labor to establish schools?
Yes. From the beginning, Bishop Carroll and other
bishops of the country labored to provide schools for Catholic
children. The bishops met in Baltimore in 1829 and held the First
Provincial Council. They declared: "We judge it absolutely necessary
that schools should be established in which the young may be taught the
principles of faith and morality while being instructed in letters."
Priests who escaped France during its revolution and
came to the United States established missions, opening Catholic
schools wherever possible.
9. Who was the Apostle of the
Prince Demetrius Gallitzin was ordained in 1795 by
Bishop John Carroll. His father was the Russian ambassador to Holland
and he was born in the Hague in 1770. Demetrius had been prepared for a
military career by his father, who scoffed at religion as he was an
admirer of Voltaire. The elder Gallitzin kept religion from his son and
even destroyed his wife's faith. In danger of death, the mother of
Demetrius, when he was only 16, repented, called for a priest, and was
reconverted. Upon her recovery she prayed to St. Monica, who in her own
time had prayed for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine.
Amazed at his mother reconversion, when he had been
taught to ridicule religion and revelation, Demetrius told how his
curiosity was stimulated: "I soon felt convinced of the necessity of
investigating the different religious systems, in order to find the
true one...My choice fell upon the Catholic Church, and at the age of
seventeen, I became a member of that Church."
After his conversion Demetrius continued his interest in
military pursuits. Circumstances led him to come to America to offer
his service to the infant army, but instead he became aware of the
shortage of priests and offered himself to Bishop John Carroll to study
for the priesthood. He entered the seminary at Baltimore.
After his ordination to the priesthood, he traveled
westward and settled in the Allegheny Mountains. He labored among the
people of western Pennsylvania for forty-one years. He labored for the
Church both by the spoken and written word in the cause of truth. He
defended the Church by writing, while all the while concealing the fact
that he was a Russian prince.
Fr. Gallitzin built a mission center at Loretto,
Pennsylvania, which grew to ten churches and three monasteries. His
work covered the present dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg,
Greensburg, and Erie.
10. Relate the founding of
seminaries in Kentucky and Missouri.
The first bishop of Bardstown was a Sulpician, Bishop
Flaget. In 1811 he and another Sulpician, Fr. John David, founded a
seminary in Kentucky which consisted of a couple of log cabins, with
the bishop living in one and the seminarians in the other. Later they
made bricks and cut wood to build a church and seminary building.
In 1817 the Vincentian fathers started a log-cabin
seminary in similar manner west of the Mississippi in Missouri. It
became Kenrick Theological Seminary of St. Louis.
11. What were other significant
establishments for the early Church in America?
The diocese of Cincinnati originally included Ohio,
Michigan, and the Northwest Territory. Its first bishop was Edward
Fenwick, a Dominican who was appointed bishop in 1822. He established
Athenaeum Seminary, which later became known as Mt. St. Mary's Seminary
of the West.
Fr. Sorin and six lay brothers of the Congregation of
the Holy Cross came to northern Indiana in 1841. They founded a college
which was dedicated to Our Lady, and is still known as Notre Dame du
In 1792 the Poor Clares came from France to open a
monastery at Frederick, Maryland. In 1801 they opened an academy at
Georgetown, which later was taken charge of by the Pious Ladies, a
religious order founded in the United States in 1799. This society
later became part of the Visitation Order.
12. What made the great growth
of the Catholic school system in the United States possible?
The self-sacrifice of good Catholic parents and
religious brothers and sisters who labored for little, under a vow of
poverty, made the Catholic school system possible. The early American
Catholics desired to provide education for their children, whether from
rich or poor families. Laws were passed by American churchmen
commanding parents to send their children to Catholic schools whenever
possible, and schools were established in all the states.
Many in the public school system were affected by the
false spirit of the Enlightenment in Europe and they did not want the
churches to have any influence in the public school system. Catholics
came to the support of their bishops and built schools of their own,
building one of the greatest Catholic school systems in the entire
world. The sacrifice was great because most Catholic parents were poor
and they received no help from the state. Instead, they had to help
support, through taxes, the public school system.
Young men and women, dedicated to Christ and reared by
good Catholic parents, left the world to join religious orders. These
people became the backbone for the education of future Catholics in the
United States Catholic school system.
The Christian Brothers, the Brothers of Mary, the
Marists, the Xaverian Brothers, and the Brothers of the Holy Cross
worked for the Catholic education of boys. Communities of nuns
multiplied for the education of girls, and in many cases labored for
the Catholic education of boys and girls.
Largely, it was a strong Catholic school system which
assisted the Catholic Church in the United States to grow strong, with
millions of devout Catholics.
13. Was the Catholic press an
important organ for spreading the true faith in the early years of our
There were some earlier attempts, short-lived and
without much success, but the first strictly Catholic newspaper in the
United States was founded by Bishop John England of Charleston. In 1823
he founded the United States Catholic Miscellany. Thereafter
other papers appeared under Catholic sponsorship. The oldest
still-existing Catholic publication in the United States is The
In 1833 Fr. John Martin Henni of Cincinnati, who later
became the first archbishop of Milwaukee, founded a German weekly. A
convert to the Church, Orestes A. Brownson became a great defender of
Catholic truth when in 1844 he began publishing Brownson's Review
every three months. The Catholic World, a magazine, began
publication in 1865 under the Paulist fathers, founded by Fr. Isaac T.
Hecker in New York City in 1858. Also in 1865, Fr. Sorin began to
publish Ave Maria at Notre Dame. Although not strictly under
official Church auspices, Der Wanderer was founded by the
German Matt family in 1867 and has continued as an English edition
since 1931, The Wanderer.
In more modern times, Monsignor Matthew Smith founded
the Denver Catholic Register, later called The Register
and currently called The National Catholic Register. The
national edition of The Register began in 1924, although this
paper had already existed for many years. Under Monsignor Smith it grew
to a circulation of about 1 million, with the powerful pen of the
monsignor campaigning for fair treatment of migrant workers, battling
the bigoted Ku Klux Klan, promoting the rights of Mexican minorities,
and promoting the Christian reunion movement. Monsignor Smith defended
Catholic truth with his straightforward presentations in Catholic
Another crusading Catholic journalist was John F. Noll,
born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1875. Ordained June 4, 1898, Fr. Noll
from the beginning was interested in helping Protestants to better
understand Catholicism. He felt that, if truth was known, bigotry would
disappear. He began by publishing the Parish Monthly, which
grew into a magazine. The little magazine grew to include neighboring
When Bishop Noll became aware of new and growing
anti-Catholic forces against the Church (from publications such as The
Menace, The Peril, and The American Defender)
and that socialism, with its materialism, was gaining political
strength, he attempted to gain the support of the laboring class, to
which Catholics largely belonged. Fr. Noll enlarged his paper and named
it Our Sunday Visitor. In less than a year it had a weekly
circulation of 200,000 and eventually 1 million.
The Catholic press in the United States, like the
Catholic school system, grew to be the best in the world and had great
influence on not only the defense but also the growth of authentic
14. Did the Catholic Church in
the United States show interest in the Indians and black people?
The abuse of the Indians by the white man mars the pages
of American history, as does the abuse of black people as slaves. While
the new American civilization was in many ways an enemy to the Indians'
nomadic manner of life, the Church befriended the Indian tribes from
the very beginning. Many historical accounts could be given of
"Blackrobes" helping the Indians, and significant examples are the
The Cheyenne were sent to reservations chosen by the
white conquerors. Massacres took place. Wherever the Cheyenne went,
priests were there to administer to their spiritual needs and seek
justice for them. These included the Jesuits, the Edmundites, and the
The Navajos, who roamed the Southwest, were a talented
tribe who learned the Spanish language as they were Christianized by
the first Spanish missionaries ; Franciscans first preached to them.
Fr. Bernard Haile O.F.M. made the first alphabet for the Navajo. His
dictionary and anthropological works are still chief sources for
knowledge about these people. The government tried unsuccessfully to
remove these people to reservations in Oklahoma.
In Indiana, the Potawatomi Indians were under pressure
of the government to be removed to Kansas. When Chief Menominee
refused, the Indiana governor ordered them removed by force. The attack
came on a Sunday morning, while the Indians, converted to Catholicism,
were at Mass.
In South and North Dakota the Benedictines have labored
long for the Indian people, as have other missionaries . The
Benedictines still labor in the Dakotas, from their chief monastery,
Blue Cloud Abbey, at Marvin, South Dakota.
In 1824 the Jesuits opened a school for Indian boys at
Florissant, Missouri, while the Ladies of the Sacred Heart opened a
school for Indian girls there. Later the Vincentian fathers took charge
of the Indian missions on the Mississippi River. The Jesuits took
charge of those on the Missouri. In 1840, Fr. John de Smet established
missions among the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1842, in New Orleans, Bishop Blanc founded the
Sisters of the Holy Family to take care of black people, especially
orphans and the aged.
In 1866 the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore met,
with the bishops urging priests "as far as they can to consecrate their
thoughts, their time and themselves, wholly and entirely if possible,
to the service of the colored people."
A large congregation of Negro Catholics formed St.
Francis Xavier's Church in Baltimore, when in 1871 four young priests
who had studied for the missions in England were put in charge. This
marked the beginning of St. Joseph's Society for Colored Catholics —
the Josephite Fathers. As the society grew, missions for black people
spread throughout the South.
Mother Catherine Drexel founded a new order of nuns in
1889. They called themselves the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and
devoted themselves to spreading the Catholic faith to the blacks and
Indians of the United States.
To the present day there are Catholic missions among the
colored people and the Indians. The Commission for Catholic Missions
reported in the 1970s that missions are located in twenty-five states:
157 in the Southwest, 63 in the Northwest, 60 in the Dakotas, 45 in
Alaska, 36 in the Great Lakes area, and 40 in other states.
15. Has the Catholic Church
admitted black people to the hierarchy in the United States?
The first black bishop in United States Catholic history
was Bishop James A. Healy
. He headed the diocese of Portland, Maine, from 1875 to
1900, and suffered much because of his mixed ancestry. Born in Macon,
Georgia, on April 6, 1830, Bishop Healy was the son of an Irish
immigrant plantation owner and a mother who was a slave. The bishop's
brother was Jesuit Fr. Patrick F. Healy, who became the twenty-ninth
president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Another brother
was Monsignor Sherood Healy, who became rector of Boston's Holy Cross
Cathedral. Two sisters of the Healy family (of ten children) became
Bishop Healy studied for the priesthood in Sulpician
seminaries in Montreal and Paris, and was ordained in Paris in 1854. In
his diary for the year 1863, commenting on the Emancipation
Proclamation, which ended slavery in the rebel states, Fr. Healy noted
"there were going to be terrible problems for all the freedmen to make
In 1977 Pope Paul VI established a new diocese of
Biloxi, Mississippi, and named Bishop Joseph L. Howze the first black
bishop to head a diocese-appointed in the twentieth century in the
United States. Bishop Howze had been auxiliary bishop of Natchez —
Jackson in 1972 but in 1977 was named head of the Biloxi diocese,
formed from the diocese of Natchez — Jackson which had included all of
Mississippi. In 1972 he was only the third black person to become a
Catholic bishop in the United States. In 1975 the Holy See named
Josephite Fr. Eugene A. Marino, auxiliary bishop of Washington and the
fourth black bishop in United States history.
By the 1970s the number of black Catholics was estimated
to be more than 900,000, in a total black population estimated to
number more than 22 million. There were 666 Catholic parishes that were
entirely or predominantly black. These parishes were served by 1,014
pastors or assistant pastors of missions and parishes. Also, the black
population in more recent years has moved from the Southern United
States, until nearly two out of three Catholic Negroes now live in the
largest Eastern, Midwestern, and Western cities.
16. Did Catholics find freedom
from bigotry after the Constitution guaranteed religious liberty?
In many cases, no. The idea that one could not be a good
American and a good Catholic at the same time was introduced to this
country from Europe. Unscrupulous politicians used it to their
advantage in appealing to hatred of the Catholic Church.
In 1837 an organization was formed, Native Americans,
that apparently forgot that the Indian people are the
natives. This organization developed into the Know Nothing Party, and
when a papal representative came to the United States in 1853, he was
mobbed by its members in Cincinnati.
Persecution of Catholics resulted all over the country,
and Catholic churches were destroyed. A Jesuit priest was tarred and
feathered in Bangor, Maine. Riots broke out in cities like Louisville
and St. Louis, and blood was shed. A movement was on to keep Catholics
from holding public office and having the right to vote.
Archbishop John Hughes, who was made bishop of New York
in 1842, did everything he could to defend the Church from this bigotry
and intolerance. At first he tried to win public support for Catholic
schools. Realizing he was defeated and that, unjustly, Catholics had to
pay taxes for education from which they did not benefit, he worked hard
to build and staff a Catholic school in every parish.
Archbishop Hughes, the first archbishop of New York,
continued to fight the Native Americans and the Know Nothing Party, at
the same time demonstrating great patriotism for America. He eventually
won support from fair-minded Americans who were not Catholic, but
bigotry has never entirely disappeared from the American scene.
17. What was the bigotry
represented by the Ku Klux Klan?
The Ku Klux Klan was a bigotry movement that was
anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Semitic, and anti-alien. The American
Protective Association (APA) first appeared in 1887; it spread
throughout the country but its main strength was in the Midwest. It
sought to repeal naturalization laws, to forbid teaching of foreign
languages in public schools, and to tax Church property. This movement
followed in 1915 when thirty-four men, meeting under a blazing cross on
a mountaintop near Atlanta, Georgia, pledged loyalty to the "Invisible
Empire." This was the origin (in modern days) of the Knights of the Ku
The Ku Klux Klan used murder, beatings, and tar and
feathers as they spread hatred and misunderstanding. Membership was
placed at 1,200,000 by 1922. In 1925 it claimed 5 million members,
living in every state, the Canal Zone, and Alaska. Its symbols became
the burning cross and hooded white figures. Burning crosses were
sometimes placed in front of Catholic churches. In Pennsylvania, a
court trial produced evidence of Klan-inspired riots, floggings,
kidnappings, and even murder.
The Klan gained strength in the Democratic Party and is
considered to have played a large role in the prejudice that hindered
Governor Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic ever nominated, from being
elected president of the United States in 1928. His presidential
campaign stirred prejudice that brought wild anti-Catholic emotions
into the open. Among the extreme methods was circulation of a false
oath, purported to be the secret Knights of Columbus oath.
The 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, the
first United States president who was Catholic, was an occasion for
anti-Catholic prejudice again to surface. While the prejudice was not
as severe as in 1928, the bogus Knights of Columbus oath again
appeared, sermons were preached against a Catholic president, and false
accusations were again circulated.
18. Does anti-Catholic bigotry
Yes. Protestants and Other Americans Unite (POAU) has
spread much anti-Catholic sentiment in recent years.
Evidence that anti-Catholicism is not dead was see in
May 1973, when need for a Catholic League for Religious and Civil
Rights was noted. Patterned after the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, it
seeks to champion the rights of Catholics and the Bill of Rights. It
seeks to make public exposure, where necessary, of anti-Catholicism and
to negotiate anti-Catholic prejudices with offenders.
19. What canonized saints did
the United States produce in its first 200 years of history?
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) was the first
American citizen to be canonized (in 1946). Born in Italy, she founded
the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1877, settled in the
United States in 1889, and became an American citizen at Seattle in
1909. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini labored among Italian immigrants.
Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized as the first
native-born citizen of the United States in 1976, when America
celebrated its 200th birthday as a nation. St. Elizabeth Ann
(1774-1821), a convert to the Catholic Church, founded the Sisters of
Charity in the United States.1
Bishop John Nepomucene Neumann, who was born in Bohemia
in 1811, was ordained a priest in New York in 1836. He became a
missionary among Germans near Niagara Falls, then joined the
Redemptorist Order. In 1852 he became the bishop of Philadelphia.
Canonized in June 1977, John Neumann was the first United States bishop
to prescribe Forty Hours devotion to our Lord (in the Blessed
Sacrament) for his diocese.2
20. Have Catholics demonstrated
their patriotism whenever the United States has been at war?
Yes. During World War I, although Catholics at that time
were about 17 percent of the population, it is estimated that between
25 and 35 percent of the army and about 50 percent of the navy were
Catholic. This is attributed to the fact that our Catholic schools have
always taught patriotism. During this war, Catholic priests became
outstanding as chaplains, the best known being Fr. Francis P. Duffy of
the famous Fighting Sixty-Ninth.
One of every four members of the armed forces was
Catholic in World War II. Again, at least half of the navy was
Catholic, as was a high percentage of the Marine Corps. Many Catholics
received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest
decoration for heroic service beyond the call of duty.
In various wars of the United States, the loyalty and
contributions of Catholics have been obvious. Catholics again showed
their loyalty in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The manner in which the
Vietnam War was fought proved very controversial, although its
anti-communism aim was worthy.
Patriotism, which is love of one's country, was taught
by Christ, who said we should give our country its due. St. Paul wrote
that we should be obedient to just authority. Patriotism is related to
justice and an ally of charity, which requires us to love our fellow
countrymen. The Church, however, does not teach blind patriotism or
excessive and inordinate affection for one's country, to the detriment
of the rights of other nations. This is nationalism, which is opposed
to the unity of the human race. In modern times, nazism, fascism, and
communism are disguised and extreme forms of nationalism.
It is true that there have been many cases of great
patriotism and heroism among non-Catholic chaplains, but it's a fact
that only four chaplains have received the nation's highest decoration,
presented in the name of Congress for "conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the normal call of
duty." All four were Catholics.
21. Has the Catholic Church in
the United States had a record of befriending the rights of the
Yes. Catholic immigrants made a large proportion of the
working force in the United States and their bishops have long worked
for social reform and justice in the conditions of labor. In the
development of the labor movement, the Catholic Church has worked to
protect the rights of the laboring man while, at the same time,
protecting him from capitalistic abuses and exploitation by socialistic
and atheistic forces. Communist forces have long sought to gain the
favor of the workingman by deceit.
As socialistic groups attempted to take over the labor
movement for their own ends, the Church has sometimes found itself in
delicate positions, working to defend the social rights of the laboring
force while not condemning labor organizations. Attempts were made,
however, to make the Catholic Church appear to be a friend of the
powerful rich and the enemy of the helpless poor.
Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) won the support of
another champion for the rights of labor — Archbishop John Ireland
(1839-1918) of St. Paul and two other bishops. These bishops prepared a
special document, examining the Knights of Labor to forestall any
misunderstanding that the Church was condemning the right of labor to
organize for their rights and against abuses. Cardinal Gibbons took the
document to Rome with him in 1887, when he received the "red hat" for
This effort won an official Church position that saved
the workingman for the Catholic Church in the United States, and had
great influence on Pope Leo XIII. In 1891 this pope issued his historic
encyclical, Rerum Novarum.
22. What did the encyclical
"Rerum Novarum" concern and how did the Church follow its teachings?
Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII, dealt with the
conditions of the working class and laid down the principles of social
justice. After this great, progressive encyclical, Catholic social
doctrine has steadily presented successive authoritative documents.
An outstanding encyclical after Rerum Novarum
is Quadrogesimo Anno by Pope Pius XI, issued in 1931-forty
years after the first great social pronouncement of the Church. These
were followed by Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social
Progress) and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), by Pope John
XXIII in 1961 and 1963. In 1967 Pope Paul VI issued Populorum
Progressio (Development of Peoples).
In 1965, Vatican Council II issued the Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which deals with
the dignity of the human person, the problem of atheism, the community
of mankind, etc. It also deals with the nobility of marriage and the
family, culture and socioeconomic life, the political community, and
the fostering of peace.
In America, in particular, the Catholic Church has best
identified itself with the welfare of the laboring man, as leaders
pioneered paths for social justice. Many Catholic bishops and priests
have labored to implement the Church's social doctrines, outlined in
official Church documents. Too frequently, however, the social
doctrines of the Church have not been properly taught or implemented.
23. How did the bishops of the
United States coordinate their efforts in a young and growing country?
The bishops of the expanding dioceses met at Baltimore
for seven provincial councils between 1829 and 1849. In 1846 they named
the Mother of God, under her title of Immaculate Conception, patroness
of the United States. This was eight years before the dogma was
proclaimed by the universal Church.
The first of three plenary councils of Baltimore was
held after the establishment of the archdiocese of Oregon City in 1846
and the elevation to metropolitan status of St. Louis, New Orleans,
Cincinnati, and New York.
Archbishop Francis P. Kenrick of Baltimore served as
papal legate at the first plenary assembly, which convened May 9, 1852.
Regulations were drawn up concerning parish life, liturgical ritual and
ceremonies, administration of funds, and the teaching of Christian
The second plenary council met from October 7 to 21,
1866, and was presided over by Archbishop Martin J. Spalding. It dealt
with current doctrinal errors, norms for the organization of dioceses,
the education and conduct of the clergy, the management of church
property, parish duties, and general education.
The third plenary council, held from November 19 to
December 7, 1884, was called into session by Archbishop James Gibbons
(who was later named a cardinal of the Church). It provided for
preparation of a line of "Baltimore catechisms" which have served (even
to the present) as a basic means of religious education. It called for
building Catholic elementary schools in all parishes, establishment of
the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., (in 1889), and
the six Holy Days of Obligation for the United States.
The Holy See established an apostolic delegation at
Washington, D.C., on January 24, 1893.
24. What system of coordination
have the Catholic bishops of the United States used in modern times?
In 1917, under the title National Catholic War Council,
the bishops mobilized the Church's resources. Several years later it
changed its name to National Catholic Welfare Conference. Its
objectives were to serve as an advisory and coordinating agency of
American bishops for advancing the works of the Church in social
action, education, communications, immigration, legislation, and youth
and lay organizations.
The organization of American bishops was renamed the
United States Catholic Conference (USCC) in November 1966, when the
hierarchy organized itself as a territorial conference under the title
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. USCC carries on the work of
the former NCWC.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops elects one
of its members as president for a term of three years. In many
respects, the president of the NCCB becomes a chief spokesman for the
Catholic Church in America, but he must work in harmony with all the
25. What have American
Catholics done to demonstrate their devotion to the Mother of God as
To demonstrate their dedication to the Mother of God,
American Catholics in 1914 launched the project for the National Shrine
of the Immaculate Conception at Washington, D.C., in the nation's
capital. The shrine, dedicated November 20, 1959, is the seventh
largest religious building in the world, with normal seating capacity
for 6,000 persons and up to 8,000 persons in attendance on occasion.
Each year, approximately 1 million persons visit the shrine, which is
adjacent to the Catholic University of America. The huge undertaking
was financed by contributions from Catholics throughout the country.
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception's many
chapels are dedicated to, and depict, God's Mother under her various
This chapter has taken us from the early days of the
English colonies, when the rights of Catholics were not respected, to
the end of the nineteenth century, when great churchmen fought for the
rights of the laboring man, who, with his family, made the Catholic
Church grow from 30,000 souls in 1790 to over 50 million by the latter
part of the 1970s. The chapter has also introduced us to the present
Catholics in the United States have often had to fight
against bigotry. Although, in the present day, Catholics are the
largest single Christian body, much prejudice against the Catholic
faith still remains, though it is not as violent as it was in the first
two centuries of our country. The celebration of the country's
bicentennial in 1976 found America beginning its third century with
much residual, if more sophisticated, bigotry.
Catholics have suffered when their rights have been
suppressed. A minority among Protestants, who represented hundreds of
differing religious communities in the United States alone, Catholics
have not always fought for their rights as well as they could have. At
the same time, the struggle of Catholic leaders, among both the clergy
and laity (as in the case of labor), has greatly enhanced the human
rights of the entire country.
The Catholic Church has made great contributions in the
United States in many areas — in its schools, its hospitals, and vast
charitable works. Catholics have also made significant contributions to
science in the United States. They have been part of the exploration of
space, just as they were in exploring the New World after the discovery
of America. Catholics have also made significant contributions in the
United States in literature, the arts and social justice.
Questions for Discussion
- Describe the kinds of restrictions Catholics met in
the English colonies.
- What happened to the freedom of Catholics in the
colony that was founded to give Catholics freedom?
- What Catholic family played a great role in the
foundation of our country? Which member of this prominent family held
an important position in the early Church in the United States?
- What did the first bishop of the United States do to
help the Church prosper?
- What did the early Catholics in the United States do
- Relate the story of the prince who became a priest in
the United States.
- What made possible the great growth of the Catholic
school system in the United States?
- Did the Catholic press have any influence on Catholic
life during the first 200 years of our nation? Explain.
- Has the Catholic Church done anything for the Indians
and black people in the United States? Explain.
- What did the Know Nothing Party try to do?
- Explain the purpose and activities of the Ku Klux
- Has religious bigotry ceased in the United States?
- Who were the first three canonized saints among
- Has the history of Catholics proved to be one of
patriotism toward their country, the United States? Explain with
- What has been the relationship of the Catholic Church
to the working class in the United States?
- What could have been the outcome of the relationship
of the laboring people to the Catholic Church in the United States if
leaders among our bishops had not developed deep insights to the
problems of working people and thus kept the pope correctly informed?
- What have Catholics in the United States done in the
past century to manifest their love and devotion for the Mother of God?
- Why was the Catholic faith so strong and why did its
membership grow so rapidly during the first 200 years of our country?
Fox, Rev. Robert J. "The Catholic Church in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries." A Catechism of Church History:
2,000 Years of Faith and Tradition (Park Press Quality
Printing, Jubilee 2000 Edition),
Reprinted by permission of the publisher and by the
author, Fr. Robert J. Fox.
Father Robert J. Fox is the director of the Fatima
Family Apostolate and editor of the Immaculate Heart
Messenger. Before founding his own Apostolate and editing his own
magazine Father Robert J. Fox for many years was a columnist with
leading Catholic magazines, newspapers, and journals in the United
States. In addition to being a retiired pastor from the Diocess of
South Dakota and now lives in Hanceville, Alabama and offers daily Mass
at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady's of Angels
Monastery home Mother Angelica and the Poor Clare Nuns.
|Category: Catholic Doctrine
Fatima Family Apostolate ( Non-Profit)
2000 4th Edition
Nihl Obstat: Rev James N Joyce
Imprimatar: Most Rev. Paul V. Dudley
9 L x 6 W x 3/4 H
Apostolate is dedicated to the sanctification of the family and the
individual through spreading the Fatima message. A non-profit
missionary apostolate specializing in the publishing and distribution of Catholic books
designed to aid Catholics on their journey towards
Family Apostolate was started at the encouragement of the Pontifical
Council for the Laity, and is endorsed by the Vatican's Pontifical
Council for the Family. It is now an international Apostolate, having
members all over the world and publishes a 52-page quarterly
magazine called the Immaculate