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It’s a Waste of Time to Study
Anti-Catholicism in Colonial History

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Dear TIA

Regarding your write-up of the persecution of Catholics in the English colonies of America [click here], I have two somewhat tangential observations:

1. There is a persistent story that George Washington was sympathetic toward the Catholic Church and that he was baptized as a Catholic on his deathbed.

See the Angelus magazine for Feb. 1987 [click here] and the August 18, 2000 commentary by Fr. Morrison on the Traditio Web site [click here]. This seems to contrast with the idea that the American revolutionaries hated Catholics.

2. Considering the current state of the Catholic Church in the United States, with the majority of the American bishops mired in crime and great confusion among those who think of themselves as Catholics, isn't it a waste of time to indulge in heart-burning over persecutions of Catholics in colonial America? I don't see how the latter can be used to illuminate or correct the former.

     B. M.
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Dr. Horvat responds:

Mr. B.M.,

Regarding your objections to my article on the persecution of Catholics in the colonial period of American history, I will answer your two points:

1. The public life of George Washington did not belong to the colonial period of our history (1600-1765). Therefore, his position regarding Catholics was not included in my analysis. I don’t see how his alleged conversion to Catholicism could modify prior historical facts.

I plan to deal with the revolutionary period (1765-1786) in a second article on Catholicism in American History. The role of Washington will be studied then.

2. As I pointed out in my article, there is a practical aim for studying the anti-Catholicism of the colonial period. I think a knowledge of this period helps us to understand the roots and essence of Americanism, condemned by Pope Leo XIII, so we can better combat it today.

If, because of the present day crisis in the Church, we were to stop studying history, which Cicero defined quite well as “the master of life,” we would not have its teachings to help us resolve today’s problems, and we would destine Catholics to live in a chronic state of ignorance. I am sorry that you advocate this position. I certainly do not.

     With consideration,

     Marian Horvat

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Posted January 31, 2006

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