Despite efforts to root out racism and prejudice against various groups, anti-Catholicism persists in the United States, said William H. Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore.
“We live in a culture in which anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism are rightly condemned. Yet anti-Catholicism is tolerated,” he said in a comment published in the Baltimore Sun, Nov. 28, adding, “most Catholics seem resigned to it.”
The cardinal summarized the long history of anti-Catholicism in Maryland, despite the fact that it was a colony founded by Catholics. Too few recall that it was “the first home of religious freedom in the English-speaking world,” he said, and that Marylanders were later denied this freedom for almost a century.
Religious freedom was reclaimed with American independence. However, said the cardinal, anti-Catholicism has persisted.
It has taken on different forms, “evolving across the years from violent expressions and the outright denial of basic human rights, to rumors of papal conspiracies, to behaviors we now too often witness in the public square—policy-makers who defame our clergy and assault our doctrinal beliefs, policy initiatives that not only promote abortion and gay marriage but also ridicule our Church's teachings in those matters,” he said.
“Regrettably, religious groups that should defend one another against such calumny sometimes do not,” he said, pointing out that “on sad occasion, they support it.
“Signs of a reviving anti-Catholicism are also apparent in the mainstream media, recalling a time when it was ‘vogue’ to depict Catholics as abnormal or unpatriotic,” he said.
The cardinal cited Philip Jenkins’ 2003 book, “The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice,” in which the author states that in modern American history "no mainstream denomination has ever been treated so consistently, so publicly, with such venom" as has the Catholic Church.
Today, Catholics seem resigned to this treatment of their Church and faith, and some even engage in Catholic-bashing, the cardinal pointed out, except for two groups.
The cardinal said Catholic immigrants and Catholic youth actively defend their beliefs and are “unapologetic about their Catholic heritage and about what it means to be Catholic.”
Other Catholics, he said, should be emboldened by their example and follow suit.