"The American Catholic's Problem --

Cherishing Ideals Condemned by the Church"


Vol. v, No.1 First Quarter, 1995


Pages 51-56

Although the origins of the Stars and Stripes are obscure, we do know that the original use of horizontal red and white stripes was by the Protestant Dutch in their rebellion against Catholic Spain. It surfaces again on British ships, seen flying it as they were helping the French Huguenots [Protestants] against their fellow Catholic countrymen. It next surfaced as the flag of the Sons of Liberty, a radical, masonic group which put on the Boston Tea Party.

So even the flag participates historically in this culture of freeing oneself from the "slavery" of Roman Catholicism, and ultimately from any civil government which is not democratic, that is, which is not merely a functionary of the people's will.

I cite these examples of the influx of masonry into our institutions in order to point out to the American Catholic that principles which are alien to the Catholic Faith have deeply influenced the culture in which we live. The Catholic Church in the United States had difficulty in grappling with this problem.

In the nineteenth century there were two camps of clergy, the liberals and the anti-liberals, for lack of a better term. The liberals saw no problem in incorporating into Catholicism the principles of the American cult of liberty; the anti-liberals recognized the problem, and denounced them for watering down the Catholic Faith. In the end the liberals won out, particularly with the emergence of a personality like Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. Cardinal Farley of New York and Archbishop Ireland of Saint Paul also figure prominently in the liberal camp.

By "liberal" is not meant here the same thing that it means today. It meant at the turn of the century, when these men lived, a belief that the principles that animated American politics and the American mentality in general, were compatible with Catholicism. These liberals actually held up the American system of the government's indifference to all religion as an ideal for all nations to follow. In such a system, they argued, the Church can and does flourish, for it meets with no resistance from a hostile civil government. This sounded good to many ears on this side of the Atlantic. For a century they had been hearing the horror stories from Europe of civil governments persecuting the Catholic Church. The American system of "hands off religion" just seemed better.

While it is true that the Catholic Church did flourish in this country whose government was professedly indifferent to religion, it must be said that the Church received this "freedom to flourish" at a high price.

That price was the nearly complete negligence of the Church's doctrine of union of Church and State, of the duty of governments to profess the one true faith, and to repress non-catholic religions.

Catholics were told that the American system of freedom of all religions was the ideal system, and Catholics had deeply fixed in their heads the notion that you have a civil right to be a Protestant, a Jew, a Moslem or even a Satanist, since religion should have nothing to do with the state, and the state nothing to do with religion.

But this idea was condemned by Pope Gregory XVI and Pope Pius IX:

[52-55- illustrations of "liberty caps" on the "great seals" of 10 states]


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Editor - Father Donald Sanborn

2899 East Big Beaver Road, Suite 308

Troy, MI 48083-2400