Way back in the days when I was in school, I spent a semester once taking classes at a Catholic seminary.
This sounds somewhat weirder than it was. I don’t mean the classes, for those were weirder than they sound: Synoptics. The Desert Fathers. Theological Anthropology.
What I mean, rather, is that it might sound weird that I’d be there, in a Catholic seminary, at all. It wasn’t.
One course I remember was called The History of Catholicism in America. We learned about how, back in the 19th century, Catholic immigrants to America were often seen as swarthy, bearded, bomb-toting unionists who refused to learn English or to try and fit into American society. They were “papists” whose divided loyalties meant they would never be real Americans.
This all sounded a bit familiar to me, somehow.
We read a book called Catholicism and American Freedom: A History in which John T. McGreevy wrote:
“The idea that American Catholics… threatened the foundations of the nation-state became a truism in some religious and intellectual circles. Either American Catholics must renounce the Vatican, one minister explained, or they must ‘renounce their allegiance as citizens.’ A writer for The Independent was more blunt: ‘The comprehensive lesson is that Romanism is incompatible with republican institutions. Like slavery, it is a hostile element lodged within the nation, gnawing and burning it like a caustic’.”I think about this sometimes. I think about it when I’m told by people (mostly online and probably even Catholic, to boot) that I cannot be a good Muslim and a good American.