Lee v. Weisman
Vine & Fig Tree's
of Church and State Page
Catholic Nations vs. Christian Nations
Some secularists have posted attacks on David Barton's use of John Jay, co-author of
the Federalist Papers and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, because he was
an "anti-Catholic bigot."
Jay was not against catholic religion (liturgy) so much as he was against catholic
politics. Jay's position was well stated some years ago by a Secular Humanist named Paul
Blanshard, in a book on American Freedom and Catholic Power. It is truly ironic
that Secularists would now turn around and welcome "papists" with open arms, and
sweep both Blanshard and Jay under the carpet.
This is not anti-catholic bigotry. The question on this webpage is not whether a
Bible-believing, Trinitarian Christian who happens to be a member of the Roman Catholic
Church is actually a real Christian. The question is whether Jay and other Founding
Fathers were justified in drawing a distinction between Christian nations and Catholic
nations. I personally believe that
Bible-believing Trinitarians who are members of the Roman Catholic church are Christians.
And I would rather have public offices filled by a catholic like Joan Andrews (who was
imprisoned for a decade by anti-Christian Secular Humanist bigots for protesting abortion)
than a "church-going Southern Baptist" like Bill Clinton. The Founding Fathers,
regardless of whether they believed an individual papist could be a Christian, wrote laws
excluding them from public office because they believed papist political principles were
antithetical to the American principles of liberty. Papal political theory, according to
the Founders, was monarchical, and subversive of the form of government established in
this country. To accuse John Jay or other Founders of "bigotry" is simply a
demonstration of one's ignorance of historical and political realities
The Founders agreed with the theories
of Max Weber or R.H. Tawney (which would be written generations later) whose works explore
the relationship between The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (to
use the title of Weber's thesis). The Founding Fathers knew all of this. They knew that
Catholic countries were backward, economically and politically. The distinction between
catholic and Christian nations emerged in the following way on a "Separation of
Church and State" bulletin board:
(Kathy P 11) writes that since I have so many complaints about our government, I should
><<There are plenty of other politically Christian
nations to choose from,
>And Kevin replied:
><<Really? I sure can't think of any.>>
>How about the U.K., Mexico, and Italy to name a few.
Mexico and Italy are at best roman catholic nations, not Christian nations,
and they are actually mafia or drug cartel nations.
I grant the U.K. but wouldn't describe that as "plenty of nations."
In article <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org (Witchward) writes:
>I hate to burst your bubble, Kevin, but by definition, Roman
Catholicism IS a
>Christian religion, ergo, Roman Catholic nations ARE Christian Nations!
The question is not whether a person who is a member of the Roman Catholic Church can
have his sins atoned for by Jesus. The question is whether the political principles of
papism are compatible with the political principles of a Christian nation like America. The Founding
Fathers were virtually unanimous in their answer: NO. Even those men who were members of
the Roman Catholic Church and signed America's founding documents downplayed their
political allegiance to the Pope, in much the same way John F. Kennedy did during his
presidential campaign. They adhered to Protestant principles of freedom, not monarchical
principles of papal submission.
Alexis de Tocqueville remarked that "Puritanism . . . was scarcely less a
political than a religious doctrine." The Puritans established schools because they
believed that knowledge of the Bible would lead to political liberty. Papists believed
that the laity should not study the Bible, because they might get out from under papal
domination. Tocqueville says of the Puritans of 1642:
But it is by the attention it pays to Public Education that the original character of
American civilization is at once placed in the clearest light. "It being," says
the law, "one chief project of Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the Scripture
by persuading from the use of tongues, to the end that learning may not be buried in the
graves of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our
endeavors..." Here follow clauses establishing schools in every township, and
obliging the inhabitants, under pain of heavy fines, to support them. Schools of a
superior kind were founded in the same manner in the more populous districts. The
municipal authorities were bound to enforce the sending of children to school by their
parents; they were empowered to inflict fines upon all who refused compliance; and in case
of continued resistance society assumed the place of the parent, took possession of the
child, and deprived the father of those natural rights which he used to so bad a purpose.
The reader will undoubtedly have remarked the preamble of these enactments: in
America religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man
to civil freedom.
The Puritan religion, says de Tocqueville,
perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the faculties of man, and that
the political world is a field prepared by the Creator for the efforts of the
intelligence. Contented with the freedom and the power which it enjoys in its own sphere,
and with the place which it occupies, the empire of religion is never more surely
established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its
native strength. Religion is no less the companion of liberty in all its battles and its
triumphs; the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims. The
safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest
pledge of freedom.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America,
Reeves, Trans. vol.1, p.40 - p.41
The roots of America's "democratic republic" are in Puritanism, and they
conflict with papism. Another great American historian, George Bancroft, in History of
the United States, vol.1, p.317 - p.318, says:
The principles of Puritanism proclaimed the civil magistrate subordinate to the
authority of religion. . . . In the firmness with which their conviction was held, the
Puritans did not yield to the Catholics; and, if the will of God is the criterion of
justice, both were, in one sense, in the right. The question arises, Who shall be the
interpreter of that will? In the Roman Catholic Church, the office was claimed by the
infallible pontiff, who, as the self-constituted guardian of the oppressed, insisted on
the power of dethroning kings, repealing laws, and subverting dynasties. The principle
thus asserted could not but become subservient to the temporal ambition of the clergy.
Puritanism conceded no such power to its spiritual guides; the church existed independent
of its pastor, who owed his office to its free choice; the will of the majority was its
law; and each one of the brethren possessed equal rights with the elders. The right,
exercised by each congregation, of electing its own ministers was in itself a moral
revolution; religion was now with the people, not over the people. Puritanism exalted the
laity. Every individual who had experienced the raptures of devotion, every believer, who
in moments of ecstasy had felt the assurance of the favor of God, was in his own eyes a
consecrated person, chosen to do the noblest and godliest deeds. For him the wonderful
counsels of the Almighty had appointed a Saviour; for him the laws of nature had been
suspended and controlled, the heavens had opened, earth had quaked, the sun had veiled his
face, and Christ had died and had risen again; for him prophets and apostles had revealed
to the world the oracles and the will of God. Before Heaven he prostrated himself in the
dust; looking out upon mankind, how could he but respect himself, whom God had chosen and
redeemed? He cherished hope; he possessed faith; as he walked the earth, his heart was in
the skies. Angels hovered round his path, charged to minister to his soul; spirits of
darkness vainly leagued together to tempt him from his allegiance. His burning piety could
use no liturgy; his penitence revealed itself to no confessor. He knew no superior in
holiness. He could as little become the slave of priestcraft as of a despot. He was
himself a judge of the orthodoxy of the elders; and, if he feared the invisible powers of
the air, of darkness, and of hell, he feared nothing on earth. Puritanism constituted not
the Christian clergy, but the Christian people, the interpreter of the divine will; and
the issue of Puritanism was popular sovereignty.
George Bancroft, History of the United States, Vol.4, p.81:
Protestantism, in the sphere of politics, had hitherto been the representative of that
increase of popular liberty which had grown out of free inquiry, while the Catholic
church, under the early influence of Roman law and the temporal sovereignty of the Roman
pontiff, had inclined to monarchical power.
Therefore, Catholics were generally excluded from political office, just as any
Confederate might have been unable to get elected in post-Civil War America. The 1776
Constitution of North Carolina (§32) prohibited from office those who denied "the
truth of the Protestant religion," because they held "religious principles
incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State."
Jonathan Elliot, Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4,
p.191, records the Debates in the Convention of North Carolina, Wednesday, July 30, 1788
Mr. HENRY ABBOT, after a short exordium, which was not distinctly heard, proceeded
thus: Some are afraid, Mr. Chairman, that, should the Constitution be received, they would
be deprived of the privilege of worshipping God according to their consciences, which
would be taking from them a benefit they enjoy under the present constitution. They wish
to know if their religious and civil liberties be secured under this system, or whether
the general government may not make laws infringing their religious liberties. The worthy
member from Edenton mentioned sundry political reasons why treaties should he the supreme
law of the land It is feared, by some people, that, by the power of [p.192] making
treaties, they might make a treaty engaging with foreign powers to adopt the Roman
Catholic religion in the United States, which would prevent the people from worshipping
God according to their own consciences.
Loyalty to the Pope was considered treasonous, and also inconsistent
with loyalty to a republican form of government. John Adams and the framers of the
Massachusetts constitution explained:
[W]e have . . . found ourselves obliged . . . to provide for the exclusion of these
from offices who will not disclaim these principles of spiritual jurisdiction which Roman
Catholics in some centuries have held and which are subversive of a free government
established by the people.
John Adams and John Bowdoin, An Address of the Convention for Framing A New
Constitution of Government for the State of Massachusetts-Bay to their Constituents
(Boston: White and Adams, 1780), p. 17.
They were not alone. The greatest authority on the US Constitution, founder of Harvard
Law School and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, explains the rationale: It was their
political loyalty to the Pope.
[If] men quarrel with the ecclesiastical establishment, the civil magistrate has
nothing to do with it unless their tenets and practice are such as threaten ruin or
disturbance to the state. He is bound, indeed, to protect . . . papists . . . . But while
they acknowledge a foreign power superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot
complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good
Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston:
Hilliard, Gray & Co., 1833) vol. III, p.383 §400.
It is no surprise that Virginia was one of the last states to separate state and
clergy, because Episcopalianism is merely a modified papism. As George Bancroft wrote in History
of the United States, Vol.3, p.327-28:
EPOCH SECOND Britain Estranges America -- From 1763 to
Its [Massachusetts'] ecclesiastical polity was in like manner republican. The great
mass were Congregationalists, of whom each church formed an assembly by voluntary
agreement, self-constituted, self-supported, and independent. They were clear that no
person or church had power over another church. There was not a Roman Catholic altar in
the place; the usages of "papists" were looked upon as worn-out superstitions,
fit only for the ignorant. But the people were not merely the fiercest enemies of
"popery and slavery," they were Protestants even against Protestantism; and,
though the English church was tolerated, Boston kept up the fight against prelacy. Its
ministers were still its prophets and its guides; its pulpit, in which now that Mayhew was
no more Cooper was admired above all others for eloquence and patriotism, inflamed by its
weekly appeals alike the fervor of piety and of liberty. In the "Boston Gazette"
it enjoyed a free press, which gave currency to its conclusions on the natural right of
man to self-government.
Chapter 25: The King and Parliament Against the Town of Boston, Hillsborough Secretary for
the Colonies, October 1768-February 1769
Thomas Paine (who in
1776 was not an atheist) wrote against Popery in Common Sense. After discussing the
Bible and its condemnation of monarchy, (1 Samuel 8) Paine says,
These portions of scripture are direct and positive. They admit of no equivocal
construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his protest against monarchical
government, is true, or the scripture is false. And a man hath good reason to believe that
there is as much of kingcraft, as priestcraft, in withholding the scripture from the
public in Popish countries. For monarchy in
every instance is the Popery of government.
Finally, for Catholics, "religion" is liturgy, ritual, bead-counting, and
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is
this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the
This is the religion which created literacy, hospitals, orphanages, and other charities
which were lauded by the U.S. Supreme Court as
evidence that America is a Christian nation and which distinguish a Christian nation
from slavish and medieval Catholic nations.