American Freedom and Catholic Power

American Freedom and Catholic Power

American Freedom and Catholic Power

American Freedom and Catholic Power

Excerpt

IN TWO HUNDRED YEARS the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has increased from the smallest to the largest church in the nation, claiming in 1948 the allegiance of some twenty-six million Americans. The American branch of the Roman faith is now almost three times as large as the largest single Protestant denomination in the United States, the Methodist Church, and it claims about eighteen per cent of the total population. It contributes more money to the hierarchy at Rome than all the other national branches of the Catholic Church put together.

This commanding position is something quite recent for the American Catholic Church. As late as 1908 it was a missionary branch within the Roman system, supported partly by contributions from abroad, and treated with conspicuous condescension by the European hierarchy. It was so unimportant in the total scheme of world Catholicism before 1875 that until that date not a single American cardinal had been appointed.

For the first one hundred and fifty years of our history the Roman Church in America was on the defensive. All except one of the original thirteen colonies were settled by Protestants, and most of them were militant Protestants. Even Maryland's Catholics were not in a majority in that colony, and they soon lost control to non- Catholics. At the time of the Revolution only about one per cent of the people of the American colonies were Catholic. The greatest political leaders, writers and reformers of our early national history were all non-Catholics, and all the early centers of higher learning were dominated by Protestant influence.

In such an atmosphere the colonial Catholics were treated as . . .

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