Anti-Catholicism

Anti-Catholicism is hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy, and/or its adherents.[1] At various points after the Reformation, some majority Protestant states, including England, Prussia, Scotland, and the United States, made anti-Catholicism and opposition to the Pope (anti-Papalism), Catholic rituals, and Catholic adherents into major political themes.[2] The anti-Catholic sentiment which resulted from this trend frequently led to religious discrimination against Catholic communities and individuals and occasionally led to the religious persecution of them (they were frequently derogatorily referred to as "papists" or "Romanists" in Anglophone Protestant countries.) Historian John Wolffe identifies four types of anti-Catholicism: constitutional-national, theological, popular and socio-cultural.[3]

A famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast which portrays bishops as crocodiles who are attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish Catholic politicians

Historically, Catholics who lived in Protestant countries were frequently suspected of conspiring against the state in furtherance of papal interests. Support for the alien pope led to allegations that they lacked loyalty to the state. In majority Protestant countries which experienced large scale immigration, such as the United States and Australia, suspicion of Catholic immigrants and/or discrimination against them often overlapped or conflated with nativism, xenophobia, and ethnocentric and/or racist sentiments (i.e. anti-Irish sentiment, anti-Italianism, Hispanophobia, and anti-Slavic sentiment, specifically anti-Polish sentiment).

In the Early modern period, the Catholic Church struggled to maintain its traditional religious and political role in the face of rising secular power in Catholic countries. As a result of these struggles, a hostile attitude towards the considerable political, social, spiritual and religious power of the Pope and the clergy arose in majority Catholic countries in the form of anti-clericalism. The Inquisition was a favorite target of attack. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, anti-clerical forces gained strength in some primarily Catholic nations, such as France, Spain, Mexico, and certain regions of Italy (especially in Emilia-Romagna). Certain political parties in these historically Catholic regions subscribed to and propagated an internal form of anti-Catholicism, generally known as anti-clericalism, that expressed a hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church as an establishment and the overwhelming political, social, spiritual and religious power of the Catholic Church, attacking the pope's power to name bishops and criticizing the perceived power of Catholic international orders such as the Jesuits.[4]


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