The Last Respectable Bias

In this age of multiculturalism and sensitivity, there is one bigotry still tolerated: anti-Catholicism. As Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., Peter Viereck, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan have all observed, anti-Catholicism remains our nation's deepest bias, and the only one found respectable by intellectuals.

The anti-Catholicism that marked our nation's founding was directed at both individual Catholics and the institutional Church. Somewhat later, it became colored by an anti-Irish impulse; later still, anti-Irish sentiments gave way to bigotry against Eastern and Southern Europeans, most of whom were Catholic. And, of course, there was always the nativistic element expressed by the Know-Nothing Party and the Ku Klux Klan; their fondness for Catholics is well known.

Today's anti-Catholicism looks different but still bears that same odor: there is something basically un-American about the Catholic Church. Indeed, in a survey in the mid-90's commissioned by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, anti-Catholicism was found to be the nation's leading prejudice. To be specific, the sneaking suspicion that Catholics are trying to impose their views on society elevated anti-Catholicism to the top of the charts. Incidentally, the authors of the report never flagged this result but merely made a quiet notation of the conclusion.

Contemporary expressions of Catholic-bashing involve such serious issues...

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