Anti-Catholicism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Anti-Catholicism is discrimination, hostility or prejudice directed at Catholics or the Catholic Church. The term also applies to the religious persecution of Roman Catholics.

In the early Modern period, the Roman Catholic Church struggled to maintain its role in the face of rising secular power in Europe. As a result of these struggles, there arose a hostile attitude towards the power of the Pope and the Roman Catholic clergy. This hostility is referred to as "anti-clericalism". To this was added the epochal crisis over its spiritual authority represented by the Protestant Reformation giving rise to sectarian conflict. In contemporary times anti-Catholicism has assumed various forms, including persecution of Catholics as religious minorities, assaults by governments upon Catholic faithful, discrimination, and virulent attacks on clergy and laity.

Contents

Roots in the Protestant Reformation

Many Protestant reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Knox, Cotton Mather, and John Wesley, identified the Pope as the Antichrist. The fifth round of talks in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue notes,

In calling the pope the "antichrist," the early Lutherans stood in a tradition that reached back into the eleventh century. Not only dissidents and heretics but even saints had called the bishop of Rome the "antichrist" when they wished to castigate his abuse of power.

Doctrinal materials of the Lutherans, Reformed churches, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, and Methodists contain references to the Pope as Antichrist.

Referring to the Book of Revelation, Edward Gibbon stated that "The advantage of turning those mysterious prophecies against the See of Rome, inspired the Protestants with uncommon veneration for so useful as ally". Protestants also condemned the Catholic policy of mandatory celibacy for priests, and the rituals of fasting and abstinence during Lent, as contradicting the clause stated in Template:Bibleverse, warning against doctrines that "forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." Partly as a result of the condemnation, many non-Catholic churches allow priests to marry and/or view fasting as a choice rather than an obligation.

United Kingdom

Instutitional anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom began with the English Reformation under Henry VIII. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 declared the English crown to be 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England' in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers. It was under this act that saints Thomas More and John Fisher were executed and became martyrs to the Catholic faith.

Anti-Catholicism among many of the English was grounded in the fear that the pope sought to reimpose not just religio-spiritual authority over England but also secular power of the country; this was seemingly confirmed by various actions by the Vatican. In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Elizabeth with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared her a heretic and purported to dissolve the duty of all Elizabeth's subjects of their allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in their allegiance to the Catholic Church politically suspect, and made the position of her Catholic subjects largely untenable if they tried to maintain both allegiances at once.

Later several accusations fueled strong anti-Catholicism in England including the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and other Catholic conspirators where accused of planning to blow up the English Parliament while it was in session. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was blamed on the Catholics and an inscription ascribing it to 'Popish frenzy' was engraved on the Monument to the Great Fire of London, which marked the location where the fire started (this inscription was only removed in 1831). The "Popish Plot" involving Titus Oates further exacerbated Anglican-Catholic relations.

Since World War Two anti-Catholic feeling in England has much abated. Ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics culminated in the first meeting of an Archbishop of Canterbury with a Pope since the Reformation when Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher visited Rome in 1960. Since then, dialogue has continued through envoys and standing conferences.

Residual anti-Catholicism in England is represented by the burning of an effigy of the Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes at local celebrations on Guy Fawkes Night every 5 November. This celebration has, however, largely lost any sectarian connotation and the allied tradition of burning an effigy of the Pope on this day has been discontinued - except in the town of Lewes, Sussex.

Germany

The German term Kulturkampf (literally, "culture struggle") refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck.

Until the mid-19th century, the Catholic Church was still a political power. The Pope's Papal States were supported by France but ceased to exist as an indirect result of the Franco-Prussian War. The Catholic Church still had a strong influence on many parts of life, though, even in Bismarck's Protestant Prussia. In the newly founded German Empire, Bismarck sought to bolster the power of the secular state and reduce the political and social influence of the Roman Catholic Church by instituting political control over Church activities.

Priests and bishops who resisted the Kulturkampf were arrested or removed from their positions. By the height of anti-Catholic legislation, half of the Prussian bishops were in prison or in exile, a quarter of the parishes had no priest, half the monks and nuns had left Prussia, a third of the monasteries and convents were closed, 1800 parish priests were imprisoned or exiled, and thousands of laypeople were imprisoned for helping the priests.

In Catholic countries

Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious (generally Catholic) institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen. It suggests a more active and partisan role than mere laïcité. The goal of anti-clericalism is sometimes to reduce religion to a purely private belief-system with no public profile or influence. However, many times it has included outright suppression of all aspects of faith.

Anti-clericalism has at times been violent, leading to murders and the desecration, destruction and seizure of church property. Anti-clericalism in one form or another has existed throughout most of Christian history, and is considered to be one of the major popular forces underlying the 16th century reformation. Some of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire, continually attacked the Catholic Church, both its leadership and priests, claiming that many of its clergy were morally corrupt. These assaults in part led to the suppression of the Jesuits, and played a major part in the wholesale attacks on the very existence of the Church during the French Revolution in the Reign of Terror and the program of dechristianization. Similar attacks on the Church occurred in Mexico and in Spain in the twentieth century.

France

During the French Revolution (1789-95) church property was confiscated by the new government as part of a process of Dechristianization. The French invasions of Italy (1796-99) included an assault on Rome and the exile of Pope Pius VI in 1798. Relations improved from 1802 to 1870. France's Third Republic was cemented by anti-clericalism, the desire to secularise the State and social life, faithful to the French Revolution In the Affaire Des Fiches, in France in 1904–1905, it was discovered that the militantly anticlerical War Minister under Emile Combes, General Louis André, was determining promotions based on the French Masonic Grand Orient's huge card index on public officials, detailing which were Catholic and who attended Mass, with the goal of preventing their promotions.

Italy

In 1860 through 1870, the new Italian government closed various monasteries, confiscated their property, expelled religious orders and imprisoned or banished bishops who opposed this.

Spain

Anti-clericalism in Spain at the start of the Spanish Civil War resulted in the killing of almost 7,000 clergy, the destruction of hundreds of churches and the persecution of lay people in Spain's Red Terror. Hundreds of Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War have been beatified and hundreds more were beatified in October 2007.

Nazi Germany

One of Adolf Hitler's beliefs about the Aryan race was that they were inherently Protestant, and that Catholics were not "true" Aryans. Nazi-Occupied Poland killed over 3 million Polish Catholics, and imprisoned thousands more in Nazi-Operated Death Camps.

Poland

Catholicism in Poland, the religion of the vast majority of the population, was severely persecuted during World War II, following the Nazi invasion of the country and its subsequent annexation into Germany. An undetermined number of Catholics of Polish descent, probably numbering in the thousandsTemplate:Citation needed, are believed to have been murdered during the Holocaust. In 1999, 108 of these, including 3 bishops, 52 priests, 26 monks, 3 seminarians, 8 nuns and 9 lay people, were beatified by Pope John Paul II as the 108 Martyrs of World War Two.

Catholicism continued to be persecuted under the Communist regime from the 1950s. Current Stalinist ideology claimed that the Church and religion in general were about to disintegrate. To begin with, Archbishop Wyszyński entered into an agreement with the Communist authorities, which was signed on 14 February 1950 by the Polish episcopate and the government. The Agreement regulated the matters of the Church in Poland. However, in May of that year, the Sejm breached the Agreement by passing a law for the confiscation of Church property.

On 12 January 1953, Wyszyński was elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pius XII as another wave of persecution began in Poland. When the bishops voiced their opposition to state interference in ecclesiastical appointments, mass trials and the internment of priests began - the cardinal being one of its victims. On 25 September 1953 he was imprisoned at Grudziądz, and later placed under house arrest in monasteries in Prudnik near Opole and in Komańcza in the Bieszczady Mountains. He was not released until 26 October 1956.

Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland as Karol Wojtyla, often cited the persecution of Polish Catholics in his stance against Communism.

Russia and Eastern Europe

Less widely known in the West has been the anti-Catholicism found in countries where the Eastern or Orthodox Christian Churches have prevailed historically.

Israel

The roots of Anti-Catholicism in Israel can be traced back to the origin of the Jewish state in 1948 when several villages with majority Catholic populations, such as Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit, were forcibly depopulated by the Israel Defence Forces.

Anti-Catholicism in popular culture

Anti-Catholicism in literature and media

Anti-Catholic stereotypes are a long-standing feature of Anglo-Saxon literature, popular fiction, and even pornography. Gothic fiction is particularly rich in this regard. Lustful priests, cruel abbesses, immured nuns, and sadistic inquisitors appear in such works as The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin and "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe.

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See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anti-Catholicism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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