Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Anti-Catholicism Dead?

This evening, I attended an interesting panel discussion at the Museum of the City of New York on the topic: "Is Anti-Catholicism Dead?". The event was held in conjunction with the museum's special exhibit "Catholics in New York 1808 - 1946."

The panel included moderator Paul Baumann, the editor of Commonweal; Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things; Peter Steinfels, writer of the "Beliefs" column in The New York Times; author and politico George Marlin; and two professors: Sr. Mary C. Boys of Union Theological Seminary and James McCartin of Seton Hall University.

I give the museum a great deal of credit for bringing together a panel that bridged what could perhaps be called the liberal - conservative divide in American Catholicsm: Baumann and Steinfels being leading liberal or "progressive" Catholics and Neuhaus and Marlin being noted "conservative" Catholics. I say this while acknowledging that these labels are neither helpful nor accurate in all contexts.

The panelists agreed that Anti-Catholicism is not dead but certainly less a presence in American life than it was during the era of the Know Nothing Party or even the 1960 Presidential Election. They explored the roots of Anti-Catholicism in the United States that stem from the religious wars and philosophical debates of Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The panelists also discussed the clerical sexual abuse scandal and its impact on how Americans view Catholicism today.

The photo above is featured in "Catholics in New York 1808 - 1946." Caption: Sachems of Tammany Hall, 1929, including Mayor James J. Walker and Governor Alfred E. Smith.

No comments: