On the term "anti-Catholic" (1 of 2)


#1

This topic has a particular interest for me because I have myself been branded, at various times over the last 5 years, an “anti-catholic”. I have been told that the term originates in a work entitled Culture Wars by James Davison Hunter, and that Hunter’s work outlines a particular brand of hatred on the part of Protestants against Catholics which is unsubstantiated and irrational.

Culture Wars outlines the roots of anti-catholicism thus:
Understanding the American experience even as late as the nineteenth century requires an understanding of the critical role played by anti-Catholicism in shaping the character of politics, public education, the media, and social reform. (Hunter, 35)
Well, that’s pretty bad on the face of it, no? Anti-Catholicism shaped many of the major social structures of America all the way up through the nineteenth century – it must be a terrible thing! And let’s make an admission here: what Hunter is talking about here was a terrible thing. But how did it come into being, and in what environment did it exist?

Prof. Hunter is obliging enough to tell us in the very next paragraph:
Of course, the mutual hostility of Protestants and Catholics had been implacable since the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth century. For their rejection of church traditions and ecclesiastical authority, Protestants were regarded by Catholics as infidels who had abandoned the true faith, for their elevation of “arcane rituals” to the status of scriptural truth and for their elevation of papal authority to the status of the authority of Christ, Catholics were regarded by Protestants as heretics who had perverted the true faith.(Hunter, 35)
Notice that Hunter defines it in an environment of mutual disregard: it is not a matter of the poor victimized Catholics being treated badly by the damned insolent or ignorant (or both) Protestants: it is a matter of a foundational dispute between the two. The dispute is inherently theological, and in that it inherently poses the two sided in positions that cannot be reconciled: either one believes one set of truths or the other, but since they are contradictory they cannot both be right.
…more to follow…


#2

…continued from lead post …

And in that, Hunter describes the tension to spill over into political and social conflict:
… even after the age of religious wars had formally come to an end, the political tensions between these religious and cultural traditions continued to effect the cultural fabric of Western life. Prejudice, discrimination, and even physical violence were commonplace for the Proestant minorities in southern Europe … and the Catholic minorities in the North …(Hunter, 35-36)
So the phenomenon Hunter is describing here is not a matter of one-sided insular Protestant bigotry: it is a matter of mutual disregard which, after a century of overt war, turned to the quiet warfare of personal relationships. The hatred of Protestants for Catholics was equally matched by Protestant hatred by Catholics – and it was manifest on both sides in the political geographies where one side or the other was dominant.

It is in this context that Hunter uses the term “anti-Catholicism”. Because the majority – the vast majority – of immigrants to the United States were Protestants of one stripe or another, their attitude toward Catholics – based on the mutual attitude of Catholics toward them – was hardly a rosey, philadelphial view. This view only escalated over time, and resulted in may abuses, including hundreds of scandalous accounts of “popish” behavior and slanted media reporting which resulted in numerous riots and personal attacks against Catholics in the nineteenth century (Hunter, 36).

There is no doubt that Hunter either coins or simply applies the term “Anti-Catholicism” in his work, but the question is: what is Hunter describing? Is he describing the inherently-Protestant theological view that Catholics are heretics, or is he describing the political and social upheaval that resulted when the dispute over theology turned, in popular hands, into a reason to discriminate against a man for an honest education or the right to gain employment for a wage?

Clearly, Hunter thinks the dispute over theology is the root cause – but it is a two-sided cause. If he were writing a history of southern Europe, one has to wonder how he would have positioned the circumstances of Protestants given his brief description already cited. He does call the editorial policies of the Chicago Tribune and the substance of the “great school wars” “anti-Catholicism”, but does he qualify all Protestant theology as anti-Catholic?

Hardly. Even as Hunter develops his thesis that Protestant biases inhabited the political system, he makes this clear concession:
At a more profound level, however, biblical theism gave Protestants, Catholics, and Jews many of the common ideals of public life. … the migration and resettlement of bonded groups in the new land made the biblical imagery of the Exodus seem to be a metaphor for the American experience as a whole.(Hunter, 71)
It is the acceptance of the Bible as the unitive heritage of men who fear God that resolves their differences. That hardly sounds like a Catholic perspective: it sounds significantly Protestant. The doctrine of sola Scriptura – that Scripture alone has the authority to correct all other forms of authority, and that it alone in the normative standard – is not Catholic but Protestant, and it is this ideal of Scripture conforming the minds of men to which Hunter ascribes the basis and the ground of whatever resolution has occurred over time between the parties.

Let’s keep that in mind the next time someone wants to throw out the term “anti-Catholic”. I take a wholly-Protestant view of Catholic theology, but even I do no call for the disenfranchisement of Catholics. I don’t think you should go out and beat Catholics, nor rob them of their possessions, nor that you should slander them for things they have never done. And in that, I find the term “anti-Catholic” both reductive and inflammatory – because the term means “bigot”, and I am certain that one can hold Protestant views of Catholicism without being a bigot.


#3

[quote=centuri0n]And in that, I find the term “anti-Catholic” both reductive and inflammatory – because the term means “bigot”, and I am certain that one can hold Protestant views of Catholicism without being a bigot.
[/quote]

Great post centuri0n, and I appreciate the research into the origin of the term. I agree whole-heartedly that the term is meant to be pejorative when applied to Protestant apologists.

God bless,
c0ach


#4

I think an “anti-Catholic” would be one (of the many) that would tell me, i am not Christian because I am Catholic, or one who declares that Catholics are all going to hell, or that we worship idols, calls me a “papist”, or a laundry list of other insults. I try not to insult protestants, but, I disagree with many of their teachings. I am not going to attack your faith, I simply ask you to do the same. Rather than concentrate and fight on our differences, let’s join in praise and our love for Jesus.
For example i disagree with the solas, all of them. I feel they are against Scripture. I don’t say this to argue over them, i say this in response to your contention of sola Scriptura.
"The doctrine of sola Scriptura – that Scripture alone has the authority to correct all other forms of authority, and that it alone in the normative standard – is not Catholic but Protestant, and it is this ideal of Scripture conforming the minds of men to which Hunter ascribes the basis and the ground of whatever resolution has occurred over time between the parties."
In my mind you’re not “anti-Catholic” because you believe in sola Scriptura, but, and I have a big butt (hey if i can’t laugh at myself, i wouldn’t be able to laugh with you), you’d be an “anti-Catholic”, to me, if you demanded I admit sola Scriptura is correct and the Catholic Church teaching is in error.


#5

There are certainly Protestants who are not bigots in regard to Catholics. There are others who are. I love to debate theological issues, it helps me grow and become more comfortable defending my faith. Many of my debates are with Protestants and as long as we both tacitally agree to respect each others’ position without having to agree on the positions themselves the debates tend to be mutually beneficial.

I don’t really see my debates as evangelical. I prefer to evangelize through example; in the way I live and comport myself. I don’t try to force feed my faith down my Protestant friends throats and have never been accused of being anti-Protestant. I have also not been accused of backing down from a good debate! I believe there is plenty of room for Protestants and Catholics to respect what we have in common, while acknowledging our differences without recourse to ad hominem attacks. If everyone would refrain from the ad hominem, there would, in my opinion be no reason to refer to each other as either anti-catholic or anti-protestant.


#6

Anti-Catholicism

What is the difference between legitimate Catholic criticism and anti-Catholicism? Indeed, what are the features of any “anti-ism”?

FIVE FEATURES
In general, there are usually five such elements.

The first is stereotyping: indulging in general statements that attribute negative qualities to the target group as a whole. “Catholics worship idols” and “Catholics don’t read the Bible.”

The second is denigration: the ascription of moral inferiority to a whole group, traceable in the last resort to an irreducibly evil nature. “Catholics aren’t Christian” and “Catholics can’t be saved.”

The third element is obsession, the idee fixe that the target group is both omnipresent and omni-causal — an invisible force that explains all misery, whether dying cattle or failing businesses. “The Vatican is pulling strings in capitals around the world.” “The Jesuits are the Vatican’s secret agents.”

The fourth point is demonization. Here the key themes include conspiracy and actual evil: thus, Catholics want to sully our racial purity, or subvert our sacred traditions or, above all, to achieve domination. “The pope is the anti-Christ” and “Rome is the Whore of Babylon.”

Finally comes elimination: the determination to seek an end to troubles by removing the alleged source of torment, be it by exclusion, extrusion, or annihilation.

EVALUATION
How then, can one tell the difference between legitimate criticism and “anti-ism”? One test is language. Does it seek to inflict maximal moral damage on the target?

A second test is the test of selectivity. If Catholicism is always the target of indignation or incrimination but not Protestantism’s bloody history or the persecution of Catholics by others, then we are in the presence of a double standard. This strengthens the presupposition of anti-Catholicism.

A third test is exclusivity. Are Catholics denied the same rights as non-Catholics? Is the playing field tilted against Catholics? Do Protestants defend their right of private interpretation of the Bible but deny the same for Catholics? Is Catholic exegesis automatically deemed inferior and therefore automatically opposed? If such discrimination exists then the indications of anti-Catholicism are strong.

GOING FORWARD
The real difficulty for Catholic apologists is not the inadequacy of the evidence but some seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

The first is invincible prejudice – those conceptions that have been formed in the absence of evidence which no evidence can overcome. The anti-Catholic just “knows” that Catholics are wrong and he accepts only that evidence that supports his presumptions.

Another difficult hurdle was identified by Belloc as “stupid skepticism,” the inability of your opponent to grasp concepts that may be novel to his thinking. As he put it: “The man who confuses infallibility with impeccability is less intelligent than the man who does not.”

These hurdles are not easily overcome. Many experienced Catholic apologists recognize the futility of engaging anti-Catholics. They simply move on to greener pastures comforted by the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will move hearts in his own time.


#7

Would you call the statement “the Catholic church preaches a false Gospel” anti-Catholicism?


#8

You mix unfair characterizations like “all Catholics are going to hell” (which is no more fair than saying “all protestants are going to heaven”) with fair theological interpretations like, “Catholics worship idols (e.g. – praying to Mary or a Saint)”.

Do you think that is any more fair than what you are criticizing?


#9

posts like these often preach to the choir, unfortuantely …


#10

My husbands family are not Anti-Catholic. They are just seriously mis-informed. They don’t agree with my faith and never have. They have however learned to suck up their pride and get over it.

We discuss what we can agree on. We pray for and with one another in times of need and sorrow. We love and respect one another.

Of course it has taken the better part of 40 years, but it’s a non starter in our mixed religious family. I am long on patience and longer on standing firm by doing not talking. It works for me anyway.


#11

[quote=centuri0n]You mix unfair characterizations like “all Catholics are going to hell” (which is no more fair than saying “all protestants are going to heaven”) with fair theological interpretations like, “Catholics worship idols (e.g. – praying to Mary or a Saint)”.

Do you think that is any more fair than what you are criticizing?
[/quote]

But from the Catholic perspective, it is no less unfair to make a claim such as “Catholics worship idols” than it is to claim “all Catholics [except those who believe like Protestants do] are going to hell”. Both are equally unfair and untrue.


#12

[quote=centuri0n] with fair theological interpretations like, “Catholics worship idols (e.g. – praying to Mary or a Saint)”.

Do you think that is any more fair than what you are criticizing?
[/quote]

Arrgh! This is not FAIR at all. It is a lie. Praying does not equal worship. It is almost too frustrating to read these forums. :frowning:


#13

[quote=centuri0n]Would you call the statement “the Catholic church preaches a false Gospel” anti-Catholicism?
[/quote]

Not anti Catholic any more than I would be anti Protestant saying Protestants deny the teachings of our Lord and saviour Jesus the Christ. Each statement is an attack, used to tear down, rather than build each other up in our Lord.


#14

[quote=centuri0n]fair theological interpretations like, “Catholics worship idols (e.g. – praying to Mary or a Saint)”.
[/quote]

That is anti-Catholic, yes, also quite untrue.


#15

[quote=centuri0n]Would you call the statement “the Catholic church preaches a false Gospel” anti-Catholicism?
[/quote]

Such a statement, made in isolation, is obviously so.

But let’s assume for the sake of the argument, that the non-Catholic making the statement has found some point of Catholic theology with which he disagrees. Is such a statement still reflective of anti-Catholic bias?

Before I answer that, allow me to make a point using a reductio ad absurdum technique.

A foundational aspect of Protestantism is sola Scriptura. It results in multiple theological systems because it relies on private judgment. Of the resulting “N” Protestant theological systems, at least “N-1” are wrong. Given this reality, the only logically-consistent statement that a Protestant apologist can make in this regard is: “All Christians preach a false gospel, except me (or my denomination).” Otherwise, by making sweeping statements about Catholics alone, the Protestant apologist has shown that he suffers from the obsession and denigration attributes that are characteristic of anti-Catholicism and further that he is unwilling to grant the same latitude to Catholics as he is to fellow Protestants.

So to answer your original query, it may very well depend on the logical consistency of the speaker. :smiley:


sola gratia


#16

[quote=centuri0n]You mix unfair characterizations like “all Catholics are going to hell” (which is no more fair than saying “all protestants are going to heaven”) with fair theological interpretations like, “Catholics worship idols (e.g. – praying to Mary or a Saint)”.

Do you think that is any more fair than what you are criticizing?
[/quote]

Is it a fair characterization if it is based on a lie? Such a statement is not only false, but stupidly so, because it is so easily shown to be false. From an otherwise intelligent apologist, such a statement reflects at least invincible prejudice and not a little bit of stupid skepticism.


sola gratia


#17

I believe that when someone asks us whether or not we worship Mary is entirely different from telling us that we worship Mary. On the other hand, this is an especially difficult area for some Protestants because the only worship they know is praising, singing hymns to, and praying to God.

As Catholics we know that the supreme prayer and continuing sacrifice from the OT foreshadowings is partaking in the Sacrifice of the Mass each Sunday.(Not subsequent sacrifices, but partaking in the re-presentation of the once for all Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary…)

So…I guess I personally decide that someone is anti-Catholic when they bring their misinterpretations of my faith to me with a closed mind unwilling to hear and consider my explanation. As for others who ask me their questions, I am always blessed to explain our Faith to the best of my ability, or find out the answers to their questions if I don’t know.

In Christ’s peace and joy,


#18

[quote=Robin L. in TX]I believe that when someone asks us whether or not we worship Mary is entirely different from telling us that we worship Mary. On the other hand, this is an especially difficult area for some Protestants because the only worship they know is praising, singing hymns to, and praying to God.
[/quote]

I agree completely. The context of my statements are the nonsensical theories put forth by anti-Catholic apologists who should know better. Hopefully I made that clear by always referring back to the apologist making the statements.

It is a different matter if similar statements are made those with limited exposure to actual Catholic doctrine. Even if there is some prejudice present, charity and living la vida catolica will go a long way to open hearts to the truth.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my points.


sola gratia


#19

[quote=Melissa]But from the Catholic perspective, it is no less unfair to make a claim such as “Catholics worship idols” than it is to claim “all Catholics [except those who believe like Protestants do] are going to hell”. Both are equally unfair and untrue.
[/quote]

Where you make the mistake is to say that the latter belief is based on some specific theological discussion. It is not: it is a round-house kick from a bigot who wants to slander, not a considered argument from someone who has reviewed the facts and is looking for someone to either dispell his objections or confirm his suspicions.

I know many Catholics find the statement “Catholicism practices idolatry in it reverence for Mary and the Saints” inflammatory – but why? Let’s consider the possibilities here:

(1) That Catholics do not actually pray to Saints and Mary, thus the claim has no basis. Well, this is false on its face: Catholics pray to Mary all the time, and while the praying to saints is not a universal practice in RCism, you have to admit that it is pretty wide-spread and strict not condemned as a practice by Rome. So the basis for making the claim exists.

(2) That even if Catholics do “pray” to Mary and the Saints, it’s not the same thing as when they pray to Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit. Well … ok … this is a very interesting set of definitions by the RC advocate, but how is it justified? The practice of “talking to dead people” is “necromancy”, and that’s idolatry as we receive the OT definitions of such things. I’ve read dozens of explanations about this, and it can never get past that – except by saying, “even though the Bible says ‘X’, the Magisterium says, ‘but not Y’, and that makes it all OK.” That’s pretty significantly dodging the issue.

(3) That even if the prayers to Mary and the Saints are not idolatrous prayers, there is only mediator between God and Man, who is Jesus Christ. The Book of Hebrews clearly – and unequivically – states that there is a perfect priesthood of which Jesus is the only member, and in that priesthood there is a perfect mediation which perfectly pays the price for sin and reconciles man to God.

The “All Catholics go to hell” bigot does not bother with such details: he is simply spewing hatred. His intent is to offend for the sake of intimidating or shutting out. To make the case which is made here – summarized by the statement “Catholics worship idols” – is plainly not to demonize but to correct for the sake of the Gospel.

Classing all opposition to the Gospel of Rome in a form of “God Hates Fags” rhetoric is simply careless. And it is for that reason I have posted this essay here.


#20

Please find what praying to dead people is called in the Bible. It might change your mind about how frustrating it is to read these forums.


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