April 6th 2019

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COVER STORY The NSW election and our incredible shrinking farming sector

SOCIETY The pervasive and pernicious online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coffers are full but Treasurer will take spending cautiously

OPINION Judge treats Cardinal Pell to a spot of 'open justice'

NATIONAL AFFAIRS NSW Liberals re-election gives a boost to Morrison

ECONOMICS The Great Dragon uncoils all around the globe

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS President Donald Trump: an unlikely promise keeper Part 2

REFLECTION On the conviction of Cardinal Pell

FICTION Orange Years: The Japie Greyling Story

TERRORISM Lessons from Christchurch

ASIAN AFFAIRS Xi's imperious play prompts U.S. to repair Asian friendships

YPAT Getting with the program: one young person's story

MUSIC To market, to market, to sell a good song

CINEMA The LEGO Movie 2: Building a world

BOOK REVIEW A template for living alongside the world

BOOK REVIEW Catholic Maryland and early tolerance



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Catholic Maryland and early tolerance

News Weekly, April 6, 2019

PIONEER PRIESTS AND MAKESHIFT ALTARS: A History of Catholicism in the Thirteen Colonies

by Fr Charles P. Connor

EWTN Publishing, Irondale, Alabama
Paperback: 272 pages
Price: AUD$39.95

Reviewed by Michael E. Daniel

Central to the foundation story of the United States of America are the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, and the subsequent establishment of Massachusetts by English Puritans.

In popular consciousness, colonists who left Britain for the fledgling North American colonies from 1620 to 1640 – such as this reviewer’s American ancestors – did so because they were non-conforming Protestants escaping religious persecution by the government for failing to adhere to the Church of England.

The author, Fr Charles P. Connor – a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and a regular presenter on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), whose other publications include works about Church history, saints, and converts to Roman Catholicism – demonstrates that the Puritan foundation story is only part of the religious picture of British North America prior to the War of Independence. Another small yet not insignificant element was the Catholic presence.

This was particularly the case with the colony of Maryland. Just as Massachusetts and Rhode Island were established by Puritans for religious motives, Maryland – named in honour of the Virgin Mary – was colonised by a range of settlers, including English Catholics, led by Lord Baltimore, in 1634. Like the Puritans, they were fleeing religious persecution.

From its inception, English Jesuit priests provided for the spiritual needs of Catholics in the colony. Although they were a significant element within the colony, Catholics still had to exercise a certain restraint and caution. The Jesuits ran a number of missions, on which were mission churches. For example, the schools they ran on their estates were essentially clandestine. The Jesuit priests attended to pastoral needs by riding various circuits, celebrating Masses in the houses of leading landowners – hence, the title of this book.

Ironically, in the period following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Maryland was to have the greatest levels of religious tolerance of any North American British colony. However, this was to change. In the wake of the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the Maryland legislature was to introduce a number of anti-Catholic measures beginning in the 1690s that limited the rights and freedoms of Catholics in the colony.

For this reason, a number of them were to move north to Pennsylvania. Established by Quaker William Penn in 1681 as a haven for Quakers, Pennsylvania gave religious freedom to anyone who professed belief in God. By the 1730s there were sufficient Catholics in Philadelphia, the capital of the colony, for a church to be erected: old St Joseph’s was opened in 1733.

In the succeeding decades, German Jesuit missionary priests such as Fr Ferdinand Steinmeyer SJ travelled throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The other pre-revolutionary Church built in Philadelphia was Old St Mary’s, opened in 1763. It played a prominent role during and after the American Revolution. For example, the First Continental Congress attended the first public religious commemoration of the Declaration of Independence there on July 4, 1779.

Fr Connor also explores the role of Catholics in the American Revolution. One of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence was Charles Carroll, a member of a prominent Maryland Catholic family, who at his death in 1832 was the last surviving signatory of the Declaration. He and his cousin, Fr John Carroll, were part of the delegation sent in 1776 by the Continental Congress to Quebec to persuade – albeit unsuccessfully – the inhabitants to revolt against British rule.

The career of John Carroll is also explored. Born in Maryland in 1735, he travelled to Europe as a young man, where he was educated in Jesuit colleges. He then joined the Jesuits there, and was ordained to the priesthood. After working in Europe and England, Fr Carroll SJ returned to Maryland where he ministered to Catholics.

Following the Treaty of Paris (1783), which formally ended the American Revolutionary War, the Catholic Church recognised the need for more formal pastoral oversight. Hence, John Carroll was appointed Prefect Apostolic in 1784, and Bishop of Baltimore in 1789, being consecrated in England in 1790.

Until his diocese was divided in 1808, it covered the entire expanse of what was then the United States of America! During his ministry, he established Georgetown University, the first Catholic university in the United States, and was elevated to Archbishop in 1808.

One of the major challenges Carroll and the Catholic communities in the various states faced was the transition of their status in the wake of American independence. Although prior to the Revolution they enjoyed considerable liberties in colonies such as Pennsylvania, others not only had entrenched anti-Catholic legislation – for example, priests were forbidden under pain of death to enter colonies such as New York – but there was an anti-Catholic ethos inherited from Great Britain that pervaded the colonies.

This was in stark contrast to the revolutionary ideal of liberty, which included freedom of religion, that was promoted and practised by leaders such as George Washington, who for example attended religious services of a number of denominations, including Catholics, and forbad anti-Catholic celebrations by members of the Continental Army.

Although some states, such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland passed acts of religious toleration in 1776, in some instances it took a period of time before Catholics obtained full civil rights in other states.

Fr Connor’s analysis of his material in Pioneer Priests and Makeshift Altars is essentially derivative: while there are numerous citations of secondary sources, most of the primary sources he refers to are those quoted in or mentioned by the secondary sources he cites.

However, the chief strength of this work is that the author both recognises the complexities in analysing his subject matter, yet at the same time is able to present it in a way to make it accessible to a range of readers, including those unfamiliar with American history. It is for this reason that Pioneer Priests and Makeshift Altars is recommended.

Michael E. Daniel is a Melbourne-based writer.

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