Trads, Anti-Papism, and Racism

Published September 23, 2020

Reader Raphael Saint-Christian Winters send along this interesting piece of work he wrote for his Facebook page:

Trads, Anti-Papism, and Racism

An Examination of Trad Pre-Vatican 2 History in America with particular focus on Traditional Catholic anti-papal resistance of the 1950’s, 1910’s, and 1840’s as well as a comparison of arguments used to justify slave markets to those used to defend capital punishment.

With the recent traditional catholic opposition to the increased regulation of capital punishment taught by the Pope the role of traditional catholics in American Catholicism has received increased visibility. Capital punishment is a statistically racist institution in America, although its proponents are not necessarily racist. Some of the major proponents for this- as well as other policies against the Pope- are traditional catholics.

While currently not the majority of the population or particularly primary major responsibility for the American catholic deviance from church teaching, they have a definite history and place in the history of American Catholicism. American Catholicism has had some issues and also successes. Some of these include having African-American priests long before protestant denominations opened their doors to African-American pastors. For every generalization there will always be a counter example.

This paper is merely a rough draft, which shall of course be altered as editors and suggestions permit.

The history of Catholicism and slavery is quite mixed and complex, suffice to say there is not time to enter into a discussion of how Catholicism ameliorated and helped reduce slavery throughout the world long before America as well as long after the American Civil War in other countries. Such a large subject is beyond the subject of this paper. I have a deep and abiding love of the history of the church, of the lives of the saints, of the beauty of certain parts of Church architecture. However reading deeply into the sermons of the saints as well as their writings as well as history, has convinced me of the sinfulness of humanity as well as the myriad justifications for error and evil which have been an issue since the beginning in a garden.

This paper is not to bash Catholicism, but to give insight into the historic sins and failures of some catholics (not all) so that they might abandon their historic anti-papism and adherence to factional (and occasionally racial) interests in opposition to church teaching. This essay focuses on the Trads.

Who are the Trads? They are also known as Traditional Catholics. This refers to the American movement. What generally are we talking about when we say ‘Trads’ or ‘Traditional Catholics’?

The first, is not their liturgical observance. While a Traditional Catholic may love or signal their virtue by appreciating or observing the traditional Latin Mass, they are not defined by the Traditional Latin Mass alone. Neither is religious observance of liturgy strictly proof of virtue alone. Roman Catholic Bishop John England wrote in 1840,

“Amongst the most pious and religious of their flocks, are the large slave-holders who are the most exact in performing all their Christian duties, and who frequently receive their sacraments.”

Citation: Letter II – Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth. October 7th, 1840

Therefore a Traditional Catholic may also go to an English speaking Mass as well, although some do not. So love for a particular rite of the church is not a defining feature. Instead, there are other more defining features which are generally part of their tradition.

It is difficult to categorize anti-papism in American catholicism with a few major themes which seem to re-occur with some frequency. Not all themes were necessarily all present at the same time. And of course, one could be a “traditional catholic” and still be a papist. And the number of laity or bishops who have resisted the papacy in America has no discernable frequency, sometimes it is both clerics and laity, sometimes laity, sometimes a few clerics and a few laity. There is no proportion to it. It does see though, that before Vatican II the anti-papist, when they rejected papal teaching authority, they were trying to fit into a particular faction.

The first, is sometimes, an emphasis on classical liberalism as a model for social organization. A major policy of classical liberalism (and against catholic social teaching) is the idea that the primary role of the government is merely to secure the rights of property and to protect lives but to not secure “right” public morals as defined by the priorities of the church or the pontiff. A classical liberal would thus oppose spending to ensure the goods of the earth are provided for the desperate in matters of food, housing, medicine, education. A classical liberal would then be in the Post John Locke and Post Cato’s Letter tradition and support republics, voting, and consent of the governed as a key point of both government policy as well as the subsequent creation of morals. A classical liberal will tend to be an institutionalist and try to avoid criticizing government institutions they regard as essential their persons or property, regardless of the objective evil committed by one of the members of such a institution. And of course, if pressures of faction demanded, they would side with the government institution masking a mistake on a point of morals rather then the Pope.

America was initially rural settlements under a monarchy. These settlements were intensively focused on ensuring agricultural production in an often hostile wilderness. The strong influence of the protestant churches was slowly diluted by successive waves of indifferent, agnostic, and even hostile European migrants. While the surviving American values of self-sufficiency, material ambition, strong nationalism, and emphasis on technical competence survived it was the quite late formation of the federal government and opposition to monarchy which gave huge emphasis to the newly injected values of classical liberalism. These values dictated of how society should be shaped via simple reason, natural law, and argument upon the ideas found in John Locke’s Second Discourse and Trenchard and Gordon’s Cato’s letters. These free thinking ideas had a strong and powerful affect on the population which regarded itself as the highest magisterium of authority.

Such was the influence of free thinking on faith and morals on 18th century protestant America that, “…in this era of non-conformity, as to question and modify Church dogma. Reverend Jones noted in his analysis of contemporary Virginia: “In several respects, the clergy are obliged to omit or alter some minute parts of the liturgy, and deviate from the strict disciplines and ceremonies of the church, to avoid giving offense….”

Citation: Klein, H. (1966). Anglicanism, Catholicism and the Negro Slave. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 8(3), 314-315. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/177568

The second, is an adherence to a more conservative social faction as opposed to a faction which would socially be regarded as “radical” or “liberal”. In America, factions are intellectual and lifestyle reactions to the social policies and positions made by political parties. As Catholics in America are almost always ever a minority of the population of any faction, they must always be on the edge as to whether to adhere more to the social policies of their faction- or to the moral teachings of the church as well as the Pope. Catholics in America are ever pushed via their faction to accept different moral teachings and regulations then the Pope. Depending on which faction they which to adhere to, their deviance against the Pope or moral teachings will often differ as well.

The third, is a reliance on contractual ideas about membership in religion. The contractual idea is basically that they, as traditional catholics, agree to and adhere to all of the major and essential points of the faith upon the time of their joining. Similar to a mercantile contract, they regard such an agreement as “fixed” and thus they see the role of the pope is to ensure the “contractual points” is simply adhered to and see no room for the papacy to increase the regulation on any particular social matter. This will make it challenging for them whenever the papacy begins to teach on a particular social issue which opposes a social policy supported by their particular American faction they are a member of.

The fourth, is a major emphasis on the use of reason, established church policies on various social liberties, and quite often the implied idea that the successors of the policies received a fixed set of morals and laws and of regulations and style of leadership which were to be unchanged until the end of time. They would see the increased papal social regulation of a neutral or good act, as possibly leading to the mandate that a person might one day be compelled to commit an evil act. Therefore due to their education and status in society, traditional catholics in the press will often imagine themselves as a more authoritative magisterium than the Pope himself.

So these then are the major points of traditional catholics. What are the major intellectual tools they use to establish themselves as if a more authoritative magisterium than the Pope himself? Such a thing can happen quite often if one does not accept the pope as the supreme authority on teaching faith or morals to which a catholic is morally bound to submit. It is quite easy to argue against the pope if one assumes he is wrong. How is this accomplished?

The first, is to quote prior church teachings regulating a social liberty a particular way. This is to make the implied assumption that the pope does not have the authority to regulate social liberties either more or less than before.

The second, is to appeal to neo-platonicism. In other words, to use citations and arguments to imply that the “inherent nature” or “intrinsic nature” of an act (in the world of forms) is a certain moral state and therefore to imply its regulation cannot be different from its essential state. In other words, to make a case an act once “permitted by God” is always to be permitted and not regulated against more strenuously.

The third, is to use “simple reason” to argue a point. Such a method can be devastatingly powerful, for while a Pope can state issues authoritatively, he almost never can do so in a rhetorically compellingly way. It is always possible to study papal teachings and use “simple reason” to construct an argument which disassembles, critiques, or misinterprets it.

The fourth, is to appeal to “laws of nature” or “nature’s laws” or “scientific truth.” This is to make a separate magisterium of moral truth out of nature or science, and to appoint or accept intellectuals as its true guardians and thus make the implicit assumption such a magisterium is higher in authority than the pope.

These then are the four major tools of traditional Catholicism to oppose the pope. But from whence did traditional Catholicism come from in the English speaking Americans?

It did not come from the first beginnings of Catholicism in North America. The first Mass in what later became Florida was held September 8, 1565 in what would become St. Augustine. The first Mass on the west coast of North America in what would later become California was held in November 12, 1602. However, the first Mass in the English speaking territories was held by Fr. Andrew White in March of 1634 in what would later become known as Maryland.

The first American Bishop, was John Carroll. Major policies for him was to establish the legitimacy of the Catholic religion, freedom of worship, oppose alcoholism, as well as to consider how to make it easier for conversion from Protestantism or agnosticism or atheism to Catholicism. His belief was that the form of the Latin Mass of being held in an unknown language was the major impediment to conversion.

To quote Francis J. Weber, “As early as 1787, Father Carroll made a strong plea for the vernacular, stating his opinion that the continued use of Latin was a major obstacle to a proper understanding of the Church by Protestants. In a letter to Father Joseph Berington, Carroll remarked that: I cannot help thinking that the alteration of the Church discipline ought not only to be solicited, but insisted upon as essential to the service of God and benefit of mankind.”

Weber, Francis J. “John Carroll and a Vernacular Liturgy.” The Furrow, vol. 15, no. 4, 1964, pp. 228–230. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27658727. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

However it was not in Bishop John Carroll that Traditional Catholics have their true founding. It was later, in the 19th century where their true origin begins. The early 19th century was not a kind one to Catholicism in America. The number of Catholics in 1790 (p. 7) was 35,000. At the time of Bishop’s John Carroll’s death in 1815, total Catholics outside of Louisiana Purchase and Florida was 90,000.

In 1818, total population was 100,000.

A conservative estimate for number of Catholics in 1820 was 160,000.

Baltimore: 80,000. Boston: 3500. New York: 24000. Philadelphia 30,000. Charleston 3600. Richmond 2400. Bardstown 20000.

However, the number of lapsed Catholics in 1820 was 225,000 (Rev. G. Shaughnessy, A Century of Catholic Growth in the United States, Cf. A Study in Numbers by J. Elliott Ross in Catholic World 1923, 313-318).

What were the causes? The causes were of the following:

First, the rapid increase of lay Catholics via migration in the early 19th century often found a country settled intensively by protestant churches. There was a inadequate supply of priests.

Second, the inadequate supply of priests was often caused by potential seminarians having to pay for schooling.

Third, there was a lack of catholic schooling.

Fourth, there was scandals and trusteeism relating from poor personal conduct of Priests, schisms due to trusteeism, departure from the faith due to intermarriage.

Fifth, the role of social exclusion and often degrading poverty in convincing catholics to leave the faith in order to achieve some certain level of dignified ambition. Therefore in order to gain independence and wealth, some migrant Irish or German catholics would have to leave their faith.

Sixth, social persecution and political persecution of Catholics.

Seventh, protestant evangelism oriented towards orphans and catholic men and women of weak faith.

Eighth, the priesthood only held out the promise of self-denial and endless toil. To quote Fr. Harold, “Every other profession secured to its members wealth, rank, and independence and leaves them free to indulge the propensities of human nature ; the clerical state in that country holds out no other prospect to those who embrace it, but that of unlimited self denial and endless toil, hence even if a young person felt an inclination for the catholic priesthood, their parents would discourage a notion so incompatible with the interested view of the most ambitious and worldly minded people on the earth.”

And ninth, racial animosity towards the migration of Irish or French priests to often give homilies in broken or bad English to a lay population which was quite familiar of the much better rhetoric and use of language by Protestant pastors and preachers.

Citation: The Life and Times of John Carroll, Vol. 2: Archbishop of Baltimore, 1735-1815. Pages 276, 373-374.

These were the issues confronting clergymen in America in the early 19th century. Along with other religious issues such ecclesiastical boundaries they would be the major concerns for American clergymen with the proceeds of the Fourth Council of Baltimore being an example of what was on their mind at the time.

Unfortunately for such traditional catholics, on the edge of achieving a betternment of the church in America there was an issue which they wanted no part of. That issue was the “radical” idea of abolitionism towards slavery. With few exceptions, generally Catholics in the early 19th century had a “tolerant” view towards the social regulations allowing the buying, selling, and use of chattel slaves.

In the United States, even priests owned slaves or ran farms with them- which included their buying or their selling to even worse plantations. “In 1838, the Society of Jesus sold 200 of its slaves … who were transported from the Jesuit’s farms in Maryland to plantations in Louisiana.”

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 680. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

For such traditional catholics, they were quite unprepared and quite caught off guard when Pope Gregory XVI issued the papal bull “In Supremo” (1839) which issued forth the universal prohibition against buying and selling of slaves, everywhere, for all time, henceforth. Such was the counter reaction against the teaching that even now “In Supremo” is misinterpreted as only applying to international slave trafficking (already then illegal under US federal law) as opposed to the buying and selling within and across state lines which was legal

The reason for this is simple. Traditional Catholics first opposed the pope over an issue relating to white supremacy and thus racism. This is related to their second defining feature: an adherence to faction. At the time in 1840, the Democratic Parties and Whig Parties were majority in favor of tolerating slavery and buying and selling slaves. Therefore the major intellectual factions as a consequence of these parties were also in favor of toleration of buying and selling slaves.

Therefore Catholics, whether in more “Whig” territories to the north or more “Democratic” territories to the South would also have to decide how to fit in with the factional view which widely tolerated the buying and selling of slaves against the papal view which did not.

The papal bull was published on March 14, 1840 along with Bishop’s England’s explanation of it’s intent in the publication the United States Catholic Miscellany. “He acknowledged that slavery continued to exist, and whatever opinions and desires were held against the institution, it was impossible to abolish it for a considerable time to come without injurious results, both to property and to society. In his opinion abolitionism only tended to retard the efforts that southern planters were making to ameliorate conditions. According to England, the papal letter taught two great principles: that it was unchristian to enslave those who had their national freedom, and further it was morally wrong to treat one who was in bondage with undeserved harshness. Masters were obligated to provide for the physical and moral needs of their slaves. He concluded with the opinion that less cruelty and injustice was committed against slaves by their owners than was committed by the abolitionists against the slave owner. “

Citation: Saunders, R., & Rogers, G. (1993). Bishop John England of Charleston: Catholic Spokesman and Southern Intellectual, 1820-1842. Journal of the Early Republic, 13(3), 318. doi:10.2307/3124347

Of course, there was always the rare exception to the pro-slavery line such as the more “abolitionist” Bishop of Cincinnati John Purcell or Orestes W. Brownson or Irishman O’Connell who were more “radical” in their resistance to slavery. Historically, the papacy and true religious morality often has a few defenders even if the majority may stray.

Citation: Butsch, J. (1917). Catholics and the Negro. The Journal of Negro History, 2(4), 399. doi:10.2307/2713397.

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 678. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

However, even the talented rhetoric of O’Connell was insufficient to energize the American Irish to oppose slavery. “…many Irish Americans found them deeply troubling. Most had strong links to the Democrats, who had welcomed them to America and helped a number of their countrymen find jobs. Because the Democrats were also militantly nationalistic and intensly pro slavery, Irish Americans found themselves in an awkward position.”

“The attitudes… can be explained in part by the immigrants’ tenuous position in the American workforce. In Northern cities, they competed with the small free black population for jobs as laborers and dockworkers, and they worried that if emancipated, Southern slaves would travel North and exert even more pressure on the tight labor market.”

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 671, 675. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

The traditional catholic bishops were also put into a quandary by the recent papal teaching of 1839 which if adhered to could increase friction between catholics and their place in their American faction.

“Bishop Benedict Fenwick of Boston, remarked in a letter to the archbishop of Baltimore, Samuel Eccleston, that “the Pope’s Bull . . . will place our southern bishops in no very pleasant situation.”

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 678-679. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

Such differences between Catholics and the majority protestant social factions they belonged could result in friction. “Indeed, Protestants’ distrust of Catholics often focused, particularly in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, on the church’s perceived abolitionist sympathies.”

Stern, A. (2007). Southern Harmony: Catholic-Protestant Relations in the Antebellum South. Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, 17(2), 171. doi:10.1525/rac.2007.17.2.165

Even pro-slavery Bishop John England realized the difficulty which Catholics were placed due to their place in the factions of America. Bishop England like many other Catholic clerics and catholic lay persons had attempted within the context of their times to help the condition of African-Americans as far as possible. England had helped establish schools for African-Americans, and as a traditional catholic was a product of his time and was not notably a racist in the conetxt of his time . England points out- “This, sir, is the fate of the Catholics of the United States ; they are the shuttle cock for the parties of the republics, -threatened by the myrmid-ons of General Harrison’s party to day, and placed in a false position by Mr. Van Buren’s secretary of state the next moment.”

Citation: Letter I – Bishop John England to the Honorable John Forsyth

So Catholicism in America was caught between the interests of the pope and the interests of their place in a factional America. The American bishops dealt with the papal bull at the Fourth Council of Baltimore “…where it was read, only in Latin, midway through the week. No bishop initiated any further discussion of the missive, and so the hierarchy returned to its more pressing concerns: priest’s behavior, the temperance movement, and mixed marriages.”

However, protestants and other Americans were upset. The teaching of Gregory XVI was widely known and it might have been feared such teaching might lead to disloyalty of catholics to their factions, thus their political parties, thus the country. To assuage fears of this, the brilliant rhetorician Catholic Bishop John England assured the country via letters in the press through that,

“Scripture and by tradition we discover that the existence of domestic slavery is perfectly compatible with the practice of true religion.” … the letters were widely seen as the Church’s official teaching on slavery.

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 686. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

The letters would be re-published as a independent volume in 1844 by William George Read. Read stated that, “O’Connell had misconstrue[d] the Pope’s denunciation of the African slave trade, “ Read maintained, “into a denial of the compatibility of domestic slavery, as existing in this country, with the practice . . . of the Catholic Religion…” Read’s volume was favorably reviewed in the diocesan newspapers of Baltimore and Charleston.” … such a publication also powerfully influenced the exceptionally “abolitionist” Bishop John Purcell of Cincinnati. “…towards the end of 1843, Father Purcell reprinted a letter that had appeared in another newspaper; it argued that Pope Gregory XVI had condemned the slave trade only, not slavery.”

Citation: Quinn, J. (2009). Expecting the Impossible? Abolitionist Appeals to the Irish in Antebellum America. The New England Quarterly,82(4), 707-708. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25652054

The vast majority of catholic bishops and media were for slavery and the papal call for an ending of the purchasing or selling of slaves had been forgotten. When “radical” abolitionist Garrison was at work in 1849, he was savaged in Catholic press.

“The Boston Catholic Observer, organ of the local prelate, Bishop Fitzpatrick, referred to Garrison as a blasphemer and a traitor to his country, for whom ‘the abolition of slavery is the only good cause to be done on earth’, but expressed confidence that Mathew would ‘not be led astray by politicians and fanatics’”

Quote, “Why not abuse him because he does not go about preaching against the vile habit of swearing and imprecating – against the use of tobacco – against the tyranny of kings – against fornication – any of which are, in the aggregate, as great curses to society, as the slavery of the American Blacks? Why does he suppose this last the only great evil, or devil, to be cast out of modern civilisation?’

“In this the Pilot was reflecting the inability of the Archbishop of New York, Tyrone-born John Hughes, to see slavery as different in kind from other forms of oppression and evil. For Hughes, slavery was indeed an evil, but a comparative one.?”

Bishop John Hughes would go on to cite church history in defense of slavery when he said, “Under the circumstances, it is difficult to discover in the purchases any moral transgression of the law of God or of the law of man where that traffic is authorized.”

Citation: Andrews, R. (1934). Slavery Views of a Northern Prelate. Church History, 3(1), 65. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/3161036

Furthermore,

“F. P. Kenrick, the Irish-born Bishop of Philadelphia, held the view that nothing should be said or done that would make slaves ‘bear their yoke unwillingly.”

Kerrigan, C. (1991). Irish Temperance and US Anti-Slavery: Father Mathew and the Abolitionists. History Workshop, (31), 108. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/4289056

And so despite the best efforts of the papacy, Catholicism in America would continue on its way of its historic tradition of not listening to him.

It was far more easier for catholic to criticize personal vices which had no force of law, as opposed to enormous injustices which had been officially tolerated for centuries.

The great catholic temperance evangelist of the time Fr. Matthew also was quiet on the matter. “In a letter written from Mobile, Alabama, in March 1850, he disclosed that his refusal to speak against slavery had been necessary, as, had he been prevented from visiting the Southern states because of his support for abolitionism, many Iris people in the South would have remained ‘saves’ to drink. He had no regrets… the answer [to the mystery of his character] may lie in his political conservatism and his personal timidity.”

Kerrigan, C. (1991). Irish Temperance and US Anti-Slavery: Father Mathew and the Abolitionists. History Workshop, (31), 116. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/4289056

Traditional Catholicism in America continued upon its way, little imagination the storm clouds gathering due to the failure to defend what seemed to t hem an unnecessary point of morality newly devised by the papacy. “And thus the Pastoral Letter of the Ninth Provincial Council of Baltimore, in 1858, was able to affirm: “. . . in the great political struggles that have agitated the country on the subject of domestic slavery … among us there has been no agitation on the subject.”

Citation: Andrews, R. (1934). Slavery Views of a Northern Prelate. Church History, 3(1), 60. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/3161036

Let us now consider the intellectual tools which Bishop John England used to disassemble the papal bull “In Supremo.” The four major intellectual tools is to cite prior church regulations on a particular social liberty as if they were doctrine, the second is to appeal to the neo-platonic “inherent nature” or “intrinsic nature” more abstractly “permitted by God”, the third is simple reason, the fourth is to speak of “nature’s laws” or “natural law.”

First – Prior Regulation,

“I shall now proceed to show, from a variety of ecclesiastical documents, that the church which he commissioned to teach all nations, all days to the end of the world, has at all times considered the existence of slaves as compatible with religious profession and practice.”

Citation: Letter V – Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth. October 28, 1840

Second – Inherent Nature or Intrinsic Nature or Permitted by God

“…It was not incompatible with the practice of pure and undefiled religion, because it was, at least, permitted by him who is the great and sole object of the highest religious homage.”

Citation: Letter III – – Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth. October 18th, 1840.

Third – Reason, quoting Thomas Aquinas, “This man is a slave, absolutely speaking, rather a son, not by any natural cause, but by reason of the benefits which are produced, for it is more beneficial to this one be governed by one who has more wisdom, and to the other to be helped by the labor of the former…”

Citation: Letter II – Letters of the Late Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth. October 7th, 1840.

Fourth – Natural Law, “…the natural law does not prohibit one man from having dominion over the useful action of another as his slave; provided this dominion be obtained by a just title. That one man may voluntarily give this title to another, is plain from the principle… “

Citation: Letter II – October 7th, 1840. Letters of the Late Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth

However, the opportunity for a moral end of this evil was lost when the catholics of this traditional time refused to listen to the pope. Instead, they took the more violent route of the Civil War and the anti-slavery 13th Amendment which enshrined the same principles of “In Supremo” albeit after much bloodshed.

As we look at the road less traveled, we see instead a much more peaceful end of slavery. “… a prohibition of the sale of slaves by one man to the other in the same state ; and then we shall be ripe for either of the late Mr. Rufus King’s or General Harrison’s plan of gradual emancipation; the government purchase of the blacks by the proceeds of the public lands, or by the use of the surplus revenue- taxes and duties being properly increased to make that surplus large enough to effectuate the object.”

Citation: Letter I – Bishop John England to the Hon. John Forsyth. September 29th, 1840

Continuing, despite the civil war the Catholics in America in the late 19th century were becoming stronger thanks to a more organized and powerful church hierarchy. They had been assisted along their way frequently in the south by southern protestants who even helped the construction of some catholic churches due to the favor they felt towards the catholics who were officially tolerant of the “southern institution” of slavery more so then some of the more radical northern protestant brethren. While Catholics still had to find their place within the greater factions of America, they were no longer in such a precarious place as before.

The next great anti-papist struggle would take place several generations after the civil war, as Christendom was tested and fractured in World War One. This time, the majority of bishops and Catholics would instead remain allied with the pope. Only a small number of Catholics would openly oppose him.

The Pope in World War One maintained an official position of neutrality, while also condemning certain excesses as well as attempting to alleviate the conditions of non-combatants. If he had been successful, then the Russians would have been able to pull back their forces and lightly defended Moscow would never have fallen to the Bolsheviks who wiped out the republican anti-monarchial reformers. Alas, it was not to be. The papal cry for peace was ignored thereby condemning the 20th century to the increase of communism. Were there catholics in this traditional age who opposed the pope? Indeed, there were.

There were some American Catholics who were beginning to side more with the president who was for the war then the pope who was against the war. They ranged from “the Tablet’s exuberant claim that “Catholic America is with the President,”

Citation: Cuddy, E. (1968). Pro-Germanism and American Catholicism, 1914-1917. The Catholic Historical Review, 54(3), 437. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25018243

To, “Cardinal William O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston, for “absolute unity” in support of the national war effort, expressing the prevailing mood in American Catholicism.” There is no government in the world today more entitle to the loyalty and devotion of its Catholic citizens,” declared Bishop John P. Farrelly, of Cleveland, “than that of the United States. . . .” Other members of the hierarchy shared these convictions as they proceeded to mobilize the faithful in support of the war effort.”

Cuddy, E. (1968). Pro-Germanism and American Catholicism, 1914-1917. The Catholic Historical Review, 54(3), 441. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25018243

The Catholic hierarchy of Bishops, once entirely supportive of the Papal call for peace, had slowly broken ranks with Rome and folded into the pressure to support the war effort called for by the president and the political party in power, the Democrats, who would go on to champion involvement in WW2 and Vietnam as well.

American Catholics found victory of a sorts after World War One. However, such a peace had been made by human efforts and not by God. Such a peace was unjust, and it created festering greivances and continued violations of the moral law which would explode into a second and more dangerous war a generation later. The lost opportunity for peace, and the terrible consequences of how Traditional Catholics had broken with the pope thereby leading indirectly to the triumph of Bolshevism in Moscow and thus all of Russia would be entirely forgotten and overlooked.

Subsequently, there was another great moral challenge several decades later from the 1950’s onward. That of the issue of institutional racism in America. The pope had long denounced racism. This is not surprising, as Catholicism is partly a cultural artifact of Rome- which had no issue with interracial marriages as a cultural principle. Ranging from Julius Caesar (Roman) lusting after Cleopatra (Greek), or the Catholic Spanish intermarriage with the first peoples in South, Central, and North America or the various Italian conjugal relations with first peoples in its colony of Ethiopia.

One of the denunciations of racism came from Pius XI. “Whoever exalts race of the people .. above their standard value .. distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God.”

Or Pius XII, “the first of these pernicious errors [racism] . . . is the forgetfulness of that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong . . .”

Citation: Anderson, R. (2009). “Pamphleteering against Prejudice: The Catholic Press Attacks Jim Crow in Twentieth-Century America”. American Catholic Studies, 120(2), Page 8. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44195220

Thus claims that tolerance of “racists” or “racism” could be justified by traditional Catholicism, which is to say, Catholicism in America before the Second Vatican Council, is simply not true. The pope spoke out several times against it long before the Second Vatican Council and long after as well. The issue of racism is long existing within traditional Catholicism in America.

The moral mistake of segregation in traditional Catholicism was so closely defended by some in the laity that in 1956, “Emile Wagner, a pro-segregation Catholic, a graduate of Loyola University, and president of the newly created “Association of Catholic Laymen,” who questioned the right of ecclesiastical authorities to condemn segregation.”

Anderson, R. (2009). “Pamphleteering against Prejudice: The Catholic Press Attacks Jim Crow in Twentieth-Century America”. American Catholic Studies, 120(2), 21. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44195220

Thus again we have in traditional Catholicism of the wrong moral position on a factional issue being taken up and defended by an American against the teaching of the pope. Such a defense is not surprising, for while the pope is often distant and seen as ineffectual, the pressing need to fit into a faction in America has been a constant historical pressure upon the conscience of the Catholic.

“Unfortunately, in the mid-twentieth century there was a tendency among Catholics to minimize the impact and importance of Catholic efforts to end Jim Crow Catholicism and to excuse white Catholic bigotry as a product of the culture.”

Citation: Anderson, R. (2009). “Pamphleteering against Prejudice: The Catholic Press Attacks Jim Crow in Twentieth-Century America”. American Catholic Studies, 120(2), 2 Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44195220

Such excuse extended in many catholic regions including New Orleans. “Many New Orleans white Catholics favored segregation, believing that they could support such a position and still be considered a good Catholic, church teachings notwithstanding.”

Citation: Anderson, R. (2009). “Pamphleteering against Prejudice: The Catholic Press Attacks Jim Crow in Twentieth-Century America”. American Catholic Studies, 120(2), 22. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44195220

It was a time when even, “…many prelates remained resistant to pressures from the Vatican and from progressive American Catholics to denounce segregation and racism…”

Citation: Botham, F. (2009). Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law. United States: University of North Carolina Press. Page 126.

Thus we find in traditional Catholicism the popes were against racism while it was the American laity and even a few prelates who were for it. Thus justifications for racism cannot appeal to the Pre Vatican II Church, for it was clearly condemned by the pope even then. Instead we find much the same as now- either misinterpretation or rejection of papal teachings on morality being considered a prudential option by the traditional laity or even clerics.

This was neither the first nor the latest test which Traditional Catholics would face in a test of their ability to submit to the moral teaching authority of the pope.

In 2018, the Pope declared the death penalty morally inadmissible. The death penalty had long been rumored to be racist, and it had since been proven statistically. To quote the secular organization Amnesty International,

“In a 1990 report, the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office found “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.” The study concluded that a defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white. This has been confirmed by the findings of many other studies that, holding all other factors constant, the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim.”

“A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.“

https://www.americanbar.org/…/human_rights_vol34_2007/sprin…

“A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American.“

“A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring.”

By the early 21st century vast strides had been made in catholic attitudes towards race. The Catholic defenders of the death penalty, personally, were not racists. However the racist nature of the death penalty had been proven statistically. And morally, its social legitimacy had been spoken against by the Pope. Regardless, it was still an important social point of morality for the more conservative faction in the United States and it would be up to Traditional Catholics to attempt to justify the pope once again.

One of the most brilliant and capable Catholic defenses of the death penalty was Edward Feser. Other intellectual defenders included Matt Walsh and Dr. Taylor Marshall one of the most conservative Catholic American intellectuals of his generation.

Did Edward Feser use the four intellectual tools as we have found before to justify opposition to the pope, as one might say Bishop John England once did? Indeed he does. These four tools are (I) first, prior regulation. If the church regulated a social liberty once a certain way, it can be implied that it is more authoritative then the pope.

(II) Second, inherent nature or implicit nature. If it can be implied that the inherent nature of an act is a certain way, it can be implied more authoritatively then the pope that such moral regulation should not be more rigorous then its inherent nature.

(III) Third, simple reason (condemned in Vatican One, 3:7). (IV) Fourth, natural law. If natural allow permits a certain liberty it can be thus implied the pope does not have sufficient authority to regulate it more tightly then allowed by natural law. The assumption being that natural law is the highest moral authority and the Pope may not by virtue of necessity of submission to the moral authority of his office compel a more rigorous social regulation then allowed for by the liberty of natural law.

(I) – Prior Regulation.

…”by the end of the Middle Ages, a “Catholic consensus” had emerged that abandoned the reservations of these Fathers, and which continued to regard the legitimacy of the death penalty as the teaching of scriptural passages such as Romans 13.”

(II) – Inherent nature or Implicit Nature

“… the magisterium has taught that the death penalty is not intrinsically contrary to either natural law or the Gospel…”

(III) – Simple Reason

“…The reason is that by “punish[ing] the guilty” in this way, the state thereby “protect[s] the innocent”…”

(IV) – Natural Law

“… If capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, then the Church has also been badly misinterpreting the sizable number of scriptural passages spread across the Old and New Testaments that seem to permit capital punishment. In other words, she has for two millennia been badly misunderstanding both natural law and divine revelation…”

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/…/capital-punishment-a…

Thus it is we see the same instruments used many times before- natural law, simple reason, prior regulation, and ideas of inherency being used to oppose the pope.

Traditional Catholicism rather then being a form of authentic magisterium is occasionally an extension of Americanism. And far from being always faithful until after Vatican II, it had issues with obedience to papal moral teachings long before Vatican II.

The belief that pre-Vatican II American church was a golden era of virtue and submission to the pope can be laid to rest.

Instead we find, much as we expect now, that human beings are the most cunning and wise of all creation upon this world. For we can justify evil using our mind, which is what generally sets us apart from the rest of the natural creation of the earth. Rather then seeking a historical past we should instead seek more spiritual virtues.

What are they? The first is to walk in humility and in charity, which is violated by racism. The second is to take up our cross and walk with it. The third is to learn the teachings of the church as provided by the catechism and the pope. The fourth is frequent confession, adoration of the Eucharist, and a deepening of prayer life especially the Rosary in our families.

The fifth is to resist the temptation to faction as much as possible and strive to implement papal moral teachings around us rather then to justify resistance. The sixth is to end the pernicious practice of receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin which has hardened American hearts for generations. The seventh is to renew the practice of the traditional liturgy upon request of the faithful.

The long held belief that it was “Latin Rite Prevents Conversion” was a long held myth which we find from the First Bishop of the United States in the 18th century all the to the 1960s- when the ‘long awaited large number of protestant conversions’ from making the “liturgy in English” never happened. The eighth is to renew the traditional practice of submission to papal moral teaching authority on faith or morals whether delivered by bull, encyclical, or formal speech most especially among the Catholic intellectuals who bear the eternal responsibility if they mislead the laity.

The ninth is to keep Christ crucified upon our mind during Mass. The tenth is to prepare for death- which is inevitable to us all- by not only implementing all of the prior practices but also to lay up “treasure in heaven” which does not save us, but is still expected of us- which is to say, the practices of material and spiritual charity.

I hope to have edified you. I know some of you will not like what I have written, and I accept this. However, some of you have convinced me that your resistance to my much simpler statement about the issues with racism in Catholicism in America were not factual. I hope by providing the citations you have asked for, that you intellectually may be ameliorated and therefore may make a decision.

10 Responses

  1. The article should choose terms other than “Traditional Catholic” or “Trad” as both terms have accepted common usages at variance with how the author uses them. If you need to explain that the term you are using is different from how pretty much everyone uses it, then you are using the wrong term.

    Otherwise, it was a good article.

  2. “ The history of Catholicism and slavery is quite mixed and complex, suffice to say there is not time to enter into a discussion of how Catholicism ameliorated and helped reduce slavery throughout the world long before America as well as long after the American Civil War in other countries.”

    Apparently, there is also not enough time to enter into discussion of how Catholicism promoted and preserve slavery in the Americas. Most of Catholic South and central America Had abandoned slavery by, I believe, 1854. It might have been earlier, but I’m too lazy to look it up. So, 300 years or so of slavery while the Catholic Church was running the show. The United States abandoned slavery de jure With the emancipation proclamation in 1862, But continued slavery de facto until 1865 after a very bloody Civil War. It’s still required another hundred years to even begin to address what remained of institutionalized and legal slavery. Catholic Brazil was the last country in South America to get rid of slavery, in 1888. Of course, as in the United States, de facto slavery remained, and the pernicious effects of slavery continued on for another hundred years. The face that Brazil has generally presented to the world has been a white face, even though the majority of the people in Brazil are not white.

    Just a little bit of useful historical context.. More useful than having a broom and a rug to sweep it under.

  3. I am Eastern Catholic. In the US, we are isolated small groups, usually served by some priest who travels 100s of miles and conducts an Eastern rite mass, once a month or during special occasions. Otherwise its the Latin rite Church for worship.

    Small Eastern Catholic communities in the US start out due to the generosity of Latin-rite Churches granting use of their facilities.This is very very good. Then they get a priests that come from abroad to serve them. These new priests are usually housed in the rectory initially, ( There is the chicken-and-egg problem of the priest organizing the people into a community of worshippers, before the community can raise funds to house and support a priest, and often immigrants are poor) Within 4-6 months the community will find and fund a place to house the priest. Then they raise funds, usually over many years, and buy a small church and so it goes…

    I have been personally involved in 2 such communities. Both times the new priests confided to me their treatment by the local priest was very demeaning, and dyed-in-the-wool racist. The Bishop will agree with the immigrant community’s request to house the priest temporary in a local parish, but the local priest is a closet racist. It is my guess that this happens, because the Bishop thinks there is this dwindling parish, with an aging priest and an aging community who can use the help for a few months… The clergy is racist to fellow clergy more than to the laity. What happens within the rectory is far worse than what happens in church.

    Then there is the Latin rite Church where all the white folks would attend only the mass offered by a certain priest. Woe to any non-white Liturgical minister or lector who signed up for that mass by accident. There will be calls to the priest about the lectors reading style and ministers conduct and attire. I served there, before we had our church, and I know. These folks have their beliefs and a priest who sympathizes with their beliefs, and its an “exclusive” parish within the parish. So much that my kids, started proffering the

    It’s enough to make me feel hopeless about when this will change. If this is Christians, then..

    1. Interesting. My experience is the complete opposite. Several parishes I belonged to have gotten African priests as either an intern or associate pastor. The traddies in these parishes absolutely loved these priests because they were completely orthodox(faithful) and were not afraid to preach about abortion, marriage, divorce, pre or extra marital sex and contraception. One pastor was not fond of his associate but it had more to do with orthodoxy and style as opposed to racism.

      But getting on topic, the article was interesting. His nine virtues at the end of his essay, if followed, would serve any Catholic well.

  4. Huh?
    I gather the writer thinks the death penalty is somehow ‘racist’. Maybe in the US it is, or maybe it isn’t–maybe it simply reflects the higher rates of criminality among African American males compared to other groups. I don’t know.

    But that has nothing to do with whether the current (or any) pope has the authority to change church teaching, which has always acknowledged that the state has the authority to execute criminals. (That’s not to say that right couldn’t be and hasn’t been abused at times.)

    That there were pro-slavery Catholics in the US in the past is neither here nor there.

    1. >>Huh?<>I gather the writer thinks the death penalty is somehow ‘racist’. Maybe in the US it is, or maybe it isn’t–maybe it simply reflects the higher rates of criminality among African American males compared to other groups. I don’t know.<>But that has nothing to do with whether the current (or any) pope has the authority to change church teaching, which has always acknowledged that the state has the authority to execute criminals. (That’s not to say that right couldn’t be and hasn’t been abused at times.)<>That there were pro-slavery Catholics in the US in the past is neither here nor there.<<
      The call for all Catholics around the world is to see Christ in their brothers and sisters. There is a call to forgiveness and understanding, humility and repentance, of course. But remember those bloodthirsty Psalms and Old Testament passages? Be assured, those heartfelt prayers for protection and calls for justice coming from the oppressed are heard by God.

    2. Yikes, not sure what the system did with that reply…

      To summarize:

      -The OP is a reflection on the history and formation of the Catholic Church in the US. It is complex and not light or junk reading. It is best read when you have time to absorb and comprehend.
      -African American males do not have a “higher rate of criminality.” They have an overrepresentation of policing, prosecution, and sentencing. Why does a 10 year old African American boy riding his bike the wrong way get the book thrown at him, while a 20 year old white college student rapist gets a light slap on the wrist?
      -The magisterium can teach and clarify. If you read the OP you can see some pretty odious comments made by Church officials about slavery that are clearly not accepted today. US “traditionalists” have historically had issues following the pope, not just post Vatican II or the current pope. From the OP: “Traditional Catholicism rather then being a form of authentic magisterium is occasionally an extension of Americanism. And far from being always faithful until after Vatican II, it had issues with obedience to papal moral teachings long before Vatican II.”
      -The call for all Catholics around the world is to see Christ in their brothers and sisters. There is a call to forgiveness and understanding, humility and repentance, of course. But remember those bloodthirsty Psalms and Old Testament passages? Be assured, those heartfelt prayers for protection and calls for justice coming from the oppressed are heard by God.

    3. The higher rates of incarceration and death penalty are for cases that already found their way into court. Even accepting that “African American males have higher rates of criminality”, suppose 1000 African Americans 100 white Americans end up in court for murder of a white individual in a state that has death penalty.
      If you sentenced 300 African Americans to death, you would expect 30 white Americans to be sentenced to death. Conversely, if you sentenced 10 white Americans to death, you would expect 100 African Americans to be sentenced to death.
      The problem is that statistics show that it’s likely to be 10 white Americans and 300 African Americans. Do you understand it now?

  5. This is interesting:
    “The Boston Catholic Observer, organ of the local prelate, Bishop Fitzpatrick, referred to Garrison as a blasphemer and a traitor to his country, for whom ‘the abolition of slavery is the only good cause to be done on earth’, but expressed confidence that Mathew would ‘not be led astray by politicians and fanatics’”

    Talk about a singular issue! I mean, if we now extol people who protested slavery and slavery only, in spite of the general attitudes of their day, we should definitely extend the same charity to people who protest abortion and abortion only, assuming they’re not in opposition to the Church in other matters.

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