Pope Francis has ruffled the feathers of the American pseudo-christian politicians and the radio talkers. Looking back, it's probably not a huge surprise. They lash out at anyone who dares to get press with statements that disagree with their narrow worldview.
America has had an uneasy relationship with Catholicism and the Papacy that dates back to Colonial times. The Colony of Maryland was founded as a Catholic haven to escape the persecution of the Anglican Church in Great Britain. The British agreed to it to get rid of those pesky Papists. After all, the last Catholic Queen, Mary after whom Maryland was named, was beheaded by her half sister Elizabeth I.
There were Catholics spread around the Colonies. They were always in the minority and tended to maintain a low profile. As it is now Protestant denominations were the overwhelming majority.Catholics were viewed with suspicion and mistrust. A view that dates back to the Reformation and schism that broke the Vatican's hold on European politics and spiritual life. Anti-Catholic views came here with the British settlers. After the Revolution in some states Catholics were prohibited from holding office. Thomas Jefferson said,"History, I believe,furnishes no example of a priest ridden people maintaining a free civil government."
America didn't see a large growth in Catholic population until we started adding French and Spanish Colonies. The Louisiana Purchase and Florida. This didn't really change things much as these areas were distant from the major population centers. The only real change was there were now Catholics in the House and Senate. For much of it's history politics in America weren't religion driven. However anti Catholic bias is as deeply ingrained in America as is racism. Intolerance is a traditional American value.
The bias came to light again as America saw a large influx of Catholic immigrants from Catholic Europe. Ireland and Italy primarily.
With the Irish there was the dominant British view that they were also sub human. In places there was an argument as to whether the Irish were even white. The Catholic immigration was seen as destroying traditional American values. They couldn't be trusted as they put loyalty to the Papacy above loyalty to America.
Following the Civil War in the old South, even Catholic Louisiana, the KKK fought to defend American values from the Whore of Babylon. They suffered the same violence as did the freed slaves. Beatings, intimidation, Cross Burning and lynchings were the methods of choice.
Catholics tended to ghettoize along ethnic neighborhoods. Irish areas. Italian areas. Polish neighborhoods. As populations grew, Catholics became a political force in the big cities. With getting out the vote they wrested control from the established Protestant politicians and ruling class. The organized Catholic power was denigrated as "The Machine."
Growing Catholic political power left the tension bubbling beneath the surface of American life in the big cities. For example, my Maternal Grandfather and Great Uncle were two Catholic boys in a Protestant neighborhood in Cleveland. There was also one African American family. So, the three boys fought their way to and from school everyday in the late 19th Century..
Catholic political power grew far faster than acceptance of Catholics. This was evident in the breakdown of voting patterns of the presidential run of Al Smith in 1928. He won Catholic strongholds and was hammered in Protestant America.
During WWII, Protestants from across America served next to Catholics. They lived, drank, whored , fought and died together. The Protestants found out Catholics didn't eat children and were people like them. Following the war the tension eased but simmered in conservative areas. There seemed to be an uneasy acceptance, seasoned with distrust.
This came to the fore again in 1960 when a Catholic war hero from Boston ran for President. The prevailing view of Catholics was questioning of their loyalty to America. It was widely believed a Catholic President would serve the Pope first .Jack Kennedy addressed that idea in a historic speech to Protestant religious leaders in Houston Texas. That speech may be the most compelling look at the separation of church and state by an American politician in our history. JFK not only rejected Papal control of him as an American he reaffirmed the idea that America is a secular nation and faith should not be used as a criteria of policy.
The election of Jack Kennedy ended overt demonetization of Catholicism in mainstream American life. It was no longer an overriding issue in politics as a factor if a person was fit to hold office.
In the latter part of the Twentieth Century as the power of Evangelical Christians rose, seizing on cultural issues to to drive policy, they allied with conservative Catholics on the Abortion issues. It was and is an uneasy alliance. Many Evangelicals still see the Pope as an agent of Satan and from time to time as the Anti-Christ.
With moderate and conservative Catholics sitting on the Throne Of Peter there was no real issue. In fact we saw a rise of extreme conservative Catholic politicians come to the national quest for office. They aligned themselves with the Evangelical right on social issues. At times they espoused religious views and ideas that had been abandoned by the Catholic Church. Rick Santorum comes to mind.
In 2012, Santorum ran strong in the GOP presidential Primaries by drawing more support from evangelicals than Catholics. His view of Catholicism was more in line with the Church of the Inquisition than the modern version of Catholicism. He supported the withholding of Communion from Catholic office holders who did not toe the line on abortion. He spoke highly of faith above secularism as a basis of government. Santorum not only condemned JFK's Houston speech, he said it nauseated him. Santorum viewed Separation of Church and State as a myth and secular plot to drive Christianity from the public arena. He is the leader of what I like to call the Torquemada wing of Catholicism as I think he would not be opposed to the return of the Inquisition.
Now there is a new Pope. This didn't cause any concern with right wing Americans because they were used to catholic support and alliance. Then Pope Francis opened his mouth.
This Pope is from South America where a social justice version of Christianity is preached. The church there harkens back to the Christ of the Gospels who threw the money changers out of the Temple. The Christ that fed the masses and denounced wealth as a means to enter heaven.
When he recently denounced "trickle down economics" the bedrock of American conservatism and spoke against "unfettered capitalism" as God's plan there was panic and heads exploding in the US.
How dare the Pope speak of those issues, let alone condemn them? Obviously he is not a true Catholic because he dares to call for compassion. He is a Marxist for reminding us what Jesus actually preached. A Pope who wants to tend his flock in an actual Christian manner.
Then to top it off, President Obama quotes this Pope. Now that proves the Pope isn't Christian since the secret African Muslim in the White House quotes him.
What the right ignores is Catholics like Rick Santorum don't represent modern American Catholicism. For years of American Catholics have been condemned as Cafeteria Catholics. They pick and choose what parts of dogma to accept. This Pope, reordering the priorities, is more in line with the average American Catholic than any Pope in memory. He could actually help bring a resurgence of American Catholicism.
The intolerant Evangelical reactionaries ignore Catholic devotion to aiding the poor and uplifting the downtrodden while praising the opposition to birth control and abortion. Pope Francis' statement that there shouldn't be a fixation on Gays and abortion started the right wing meltdown.
These people have warped their view of Christianity into a supplyside path to paradise. The poor are reviled. Those who don't buy into the hateful rhetoric are cast aside as secularist, an opponent of a theocratic America where wealth is adulated.
What has been funny is now that Pope Francis has expressed this new take on the Gospel, they are saying there is no place for religion in politics. These right wing talkers don't even recognize their own hypocrisy in those statements.
With the right's revulsion of any point of view that doesn't conform to their worldview I wonder how long till Catholicism is once more reviled. I wonder if it will be spoken of as a threat to Christianity on par with Islam. Will Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson blame support for the Pope for natural disasters and tragedies?
Stranger shit has been spoken by them. They are remembering the Catholic Church is the enemy.