When did the United States stop being violently anti-Catholic?

I read a great article “The war on Rome” on the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States. This led me immediately to remember some odd experiences of mine growing up.

My personal experience

Growing up in America in the 1970s, I thought Catholics were strange people. My classmates in school got to leave early sometimes to go to “catechism”. I didn’t ask what that meant, but that it was weird.

It didn’t help that my mother (an immigrant from Taiwan) explained to me that Catholics worship Mary instead of Jesus, whom “Christians” (as opposed to “Catholics”) worshipped.

Also, it didn’t help that there were evangelical Protestant kids at school who openly made fun of Catholic classmates in various ways, and even claimed the pope and Catholic Church were the friend of the “Antichrist” and the “Beast”. Never mind the complications added by the fact that I also had classmates who were openly Jewish (because they couldn’t celebrate Christmas like “everyone else”).

The social dynamics in elementary school were pretty confusing to me, a child of Asian immigrants, with no professed religion or religious instruction at home (at least one evangelical Protestant kid called me “heathen”). The Jewish kids and teachers treated me least weirdly; most of the others treated me as “foreign” in some way (note that I spent most of my childhood among non-Asians).

But things changed over time.


By the time I was in high school, the landscape had already changed for me: being Asian was no longer quite as exotic, I didn’t see the same level of Protestant vs. Catholic stuff going on in school.

I just got to thinking that when I was growing up in the 1970s, it wasn’t all that long after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president of the US. So maybe I was born just early enough to catch the tail end of attitudes passed down to my classmates from their parents? (Or for that matter, any misinformation my parents received before or after they came to the US. I informed my mother by the time I made a Catholic friend later in elementary school that Catholics were a kind of Christian and worship Jesus.)


From the article: “For most of US history, voters, ministers and lawmakers believed that there was something fundamentally un-American about Roman Catholics.” And this sentiment had to do with a perception of what “freedom” meant: not being subject somehow to a pope.


The question implicitly raised at the end of the article was, will Islam eventually become accepted as OK in the US? Is Islam in America in a position similar to that of Catholicism once upon a time? I guess we’ll see. I’m old enough to have seen many things change in this country… slowly.

What do you think? Is Islam too “foreign” to ever be accepted as being compatible with being “American”?

For that matter, Do you think it is more likely for an atheist to become president or a Muslim?

(Update of 2016-01-09)

Meanwhile, Protestantism is fracturing in interesting ways, and the effects are felt right here in the Pittsburgh area.

The Anglican Church, which historically included the American Episcopal, has been undergoing upheaval over cultural changes regarding the acceptability of homosexuality (changes that again, I am old enough to have seen firsthand over the past decades).

“Bishops of both dioceses of Pittsburgh — Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Church and Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America, who preceded Archbishop Beach as its founding leader — agree that the stakes are huge.”

Will there ever be an openly gay president of the United States?

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