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History of American Roman Catholic-Protestant Interreligious Hostilities and Reconciliations

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The history of intergroup tensions between American Roman Catholic Christians and non-Roman Catholic Christians spans the history of the United States. In 1789 George Washington formally welcomed U.S. Roman Catholics, stating "May the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Chrisitanity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity." [1] Scholars divide these tensions into two time intervals, disagreeing on the precise placement of the line of separation. For the scholar James Atkinson the periods are 1517-1939 and 1939-1983[present], the later period being one of respect and revaluation initiated by the work of the Roman Catholic scholar Joseph Lortz[2]. For other scholars, the boundary is less precisely marked by 1960's events such as the election of the first Roman Catholic president of the United States John F. Kennedy and the Catholic Church's Vatican II[3] .

Pre-1960's American Protestant attitudes towards Catholics

Know Nothings. Protestant acceptance of the hoax Maria Monk's best-selling book The Awful Discolsures of Maria Monk (1836).

Pre-1960's American Catholic attitudes towards Protestants

The pro-catholic work Maria Monk's Daughter: An Autobiography (1874), which was supposedly written by Lizzie St. John Eckel.

Post 1960's attitudes

The election of John F. Kennedy and Vatican II did much to change and even eliminate some of the old hostilities, but new differences and voices have arisen.[4] Such voices of hostilities are those of Jack Chick and other American liberals: "Good American liberals who would not dream of using sexist language or racist slurs or anti-Semitic jokes have no problem at all about using anti-Catholic language, ethnic slurs, or Polish Jokes."[5]

Anglican(American Episcopalian) and Roman-Catholic reconciliations

On December 11, 1983, John Paul II became the first Pope to ever officially attend a Lutheran service. Both the Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams and Prince Charles attended Pope John Paul II's funeral on April 8, 2005; Williams is the first Archbishop of Cantebury to attend a Roman Catholic funeral since the Anglican Church's break under King Henry VIII (oddly, media such as CNN focused less on the unprecedented historical nature of this event and more on Prince Charles post-poning his own wedding in order to attend the Pope's funeral)[6]. Two years earlier in 2003 after becoming the head of the Anglican Church Rowan Williams met with the Pope. Such meetings between the Anglican and Roman Catholic leadership have been relatively routine since the 1960's[7][8].

Official Position of Catholics

All Christian denominations are to be treated as equal in love for Jesus, our brothers in Christ. Our differences over sacraments and apostolic lineage will not deny the existence of Christ among all Gods children.


  1. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture Jim Hill and Rand Cheadle, 1995, Anchor Books/Doubleday, pp. 82-85, ISBN 0385476957
  2. Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic, James Atkinson, 1983, W.B. Eerdmans
  3. Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America, Robert Neelly Bellah, Frederick E. Greenspahn, Crossroad, 1987, ISBN 0824507967, 9780824507961, 235 pages
  4. online pdf of New and Old Anti-Catholicism, originally published in Theological Studies, 2001, volume 62, Mark S. Massa, S.J.
  5. An Ugly Little Secret: Anti-Catholicism in North America, Andrew M. Greeley, 1977, page 1
  • Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America, Robert Neelly Bellah, Frederick E. Greenspahn, Crossroad, 1987, ISBN 0824507967, 9780824507961, 235 pages

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