12 September 2010

Wrong Then, Wrong Now

Wrong Then, Wrong Now, by Paul Moses (Commonweal, 26 August 2010)


Look, for example, at just one day in the city’s history: Sunday, October 31, 1880. All the “right” people—former President Ulysses S. Grant, for example—filled the pews of Protestant churches to hear accusations from a multitude of ministers that the pope was poised to take over New York if William R. Grace, a Democrat, was elected several days later as the city’s first Catholic mayor.

At Central Methodist Episcopal Church on Fourteenth Street, the Rev. J. P. Newman argued that if Grace was a good Catholic (he attended daily Mass), he was unfit to be mayor. “The Catholic candidate for Mayor is the shadow of a man who is the shadow of another man,” he said, meaning the pope.


The bottom line was that many of the city’s most influential people contended that Catholicism was a foreign religion bent on usurping America’s democratic values and that Catholics—by that time already well-established in New York—would carry out Rome’s malevolent dictates. Catholicism was considered inherently dangerous, a view the elite fanned to gain political advantage in the upcoming election.