An Interlocking Directorate

Anti-Catholicism is far from new to  America, but there certainly is a new anti-Catholicism in America.  In the mid-19th century, anti-Catholic abolitionists, Know-Nothings, evangelicals, and Republicans railed against what the 1856 GOP platform derisively called the “twin relics of barbarism, slavery and polygamy.”  Today, anti-Catholic feminists, homosexuals, liberal Protestants, and Democrats hold fast to the twin relics of the sexual barbarism of the 1960’s, abortion and homosexuality.

When it comes to anti-Catholicism in America, it sometimes does come down to sex, doesn’t it?  Back then, the fevered concern was illicit sex, whether on slave plantations, in Mormon enclaves, or in Catholic convents and confessionals.  Today’s anti-Catholics are disdainful of a Church that dares to declare their fevered sexploits to be sinful.  

To be sure, anti-Catholicism was once grounded in serious doctrinal differences and driven by images of Catholics as ignorant drunks or un-American cultists.  Once upon a time, anti-Catholicism reflected the ingrained mental makeup of an entire gallery of Americans, from John Winthrop to Eleanor Roosevelt.  For his part, Philip Jenkins almost seems to be longing for the good old days when anti-Catholicism was confined to the pulpits and fever swamps of America or when it was simply hardwired to the worldview of the...

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