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…