April 20, 2007
April 23, 2007

April 21-22, 2007, weekend


This issue has been under discussion and in the news for quite some time, but now Pope Benedict XVI in effect has put "Limbo" out of business. What's your view (or the view of your faith tradition) of the eternal destiny of babies who die?

* * *


You may recall that last month I did a blog entry about a new documentary film on the Rev. Fred Phelps and his hateful anti-gay and anti-lots-of-folks ministry in Topeka, Kan. I had a chance to see it and I recommend it to anyone who gets a similar opportunity. You have such a chance at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, at Holmeswood Baptist Church, located at 97th and Holmes in Kansas City, Mo. The pastor of that excellent congregation, the Rev. Keith Herron, has arranged the showing.

* * *


As regular blog readers know, I'm a proponent of studying -- or at least being aware of -- our history.

MarylandSo this weekend is a good time to recall a bit of American religious history that sometimes gets neglected: The passage on April 21, 1649, of the Toleration Act. The Maryland Assembly, with vigorous support from Lord Baltimore, a Catholic who was proprietor of Maryland, passed the measure to protect Catholics within Maryland from Protestant harrassment. (The picture here today is the Maryland flag.)

Such antagonism toward Catholics was growing then due the rise to power in England of the Protestant leader Oliver Cromwell.

That was certainly not the end of prejudice against and other trouble for Catholics in this country, of course -- or what was to become this country. It's true that today five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are Catholics and that Catholics have in many other ways been merged into the mainstream of American religious and social culture.

But I certainly recall hatred against Catholics being spewed from the preacher of the Protestant church (Presbyterian) in which I grew up in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was running for office. Our pastor warned us that the pope, in effect, would rule America if JFK were elected.

Perhaps you, too, recall instances of anti-Catholic prejudice in your life. If so, are you aware of such feelings today among people you know? If you have no experience of anti-Catholic prejudices, how do you think we got past all that?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend will point you to some help for understanding the religious aspects of the 2008 presidential race.)

Today's religious holiday: Ridvan begins (Baha'i, 21st)



Bill, why in the world are you lobbing JT such a softball? It's like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Why wouldn't a Protestant minister have negative things to say about the Catholic religion? That's what Protestants were protesting, for heaven's sake. If they didn't disagree with the Catholic religion, they would be Catholics.

Your minister should have known that the Pope would not rule America if a Catholic was elected President. We've already established that Catholics are free to ignore the Pope whenever they like, because his opinion about anything is just that...his opinion. Catholics are free to follow their own conscience in all religious matters...and they do, especially in the USA.

Dolores Lear

I was born in 1922, and was raised Lutheran from birth. I was cautioned not to marry a Catholic, Jew, Italian, or a Black. I guess that was to keep the Lutheran line pure. But, in the end I did not marry a Lutheran, but a lax protestant, that went to Church with me, and joined the Lutheran church.

My brother also did not marry a Lutheran, but she also joined our Lutheran church.

Dolores Lear

My husband and my sister-in-law, both had to take Adult instructions in the Lutheran religion, to join.

Dolores Lear

My brother and I had to take Confirmation instructions at 13 to be an adult member also.

I guess most Protestant and Jewish churches have these ceremonies.

Dolores Lear

Catholics are not the only people that follow their conscience in religious matters. Religious people might follow Church rules, but no one follows Jesus and God's rules, of Equality in All Things for All, and No Killing.

Why are there so many orphans and starving and homeless people? Why does our Home Planet have so much pollution in our Eco System, and nuclear bombs on land and sea? Is this following God and Jesus, or the other inhumane influence for Life on a planet?

Just Thinking

The toleration act didn't sound like much toleration at all. In fact, it sounds like only religious intolerance.

"or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shall be punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires."

That was in the ancient tradition of Catholic toleration: You say anything against us and you die. That's so typical of those who scream so loudly about their own honor: they have none. I wonder if there were goon squads back then that would show up whenever they heard of you saying anything against them.

On the lighter side, everyone who was worried about JFK being unduly influenced by the Pope instead should have been more worried about the father Joe Kennedy, a huge antiSemite and a criminal who was probably first to have bought a presidential election.

And Robert Kennedy was on the staff of Joe McCarthy during all of the witch hunts. In 1954, when the Senate was threatening to condemn McCarthy, Senator John Kennedy faced a dilemma. "How could I demand that Joe McCarthy be censured for things he did when my own brother was on his staff?" asked JFK.

Organized crime, antiSemitism, political corruption, witch hunts and other violent religious intolerance, all wrapped up in one package, in today's blog.


Did you shoot Kennedy?


I am a pretty conservative guy I guess but I really like Kennedy's policies as a president. Why didn't people make those arguments against kerry when he ran? Would it be the same for Mit Romney? I think a lot of the McCarthy backlash was another subspecies of anti-Catholicism.

In popular culture, movies from the golden era almost uniformly portrayed Catholics as good people. Then when the late 60's came around, there became an almost outright hostility in some media. I don't know if that is because the Catholic identity in America weakened or because of a more pernicious element.

In my own life, a lot of evangelicals around where I live seem somewhat intrigued by our ancient religion especially with the stand that Catholics take on life issues. At the same time, there is a real ossified set of misconceptions about the Church that one constantly encounters. Typical misconceptions involve teachings on purgatory, the Mass, and marriage laws. I went to a Protestant private college as a sort of lapsed Catholic. I heard anti-Catholic nonsense quite often. When I came back into the fold, I brought a few friends with me and had professors giving private classes on how to argue against the Catholic church. A few years later, Catholics have Mass and Vespers on campus and the school hired its first Catholic professor. Some people are still pissed about it, but they are in the minority now.

Just Thinking

Corbin, organized crime probably got to Kennedy. It all started to unravel with a campaign by Robert against organized crime. Murder is usually committed by someone with whom you are intimately involved and with whom you have a falling out. The boys probably didn't know everything about Joe.


"...that then the person or persons soe offending shall be publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without baile or maineprise [bail] until he, she or they respectively shall satisfy the party so offended or greived by such reproachful Language by asking him or her respectively forgiveness publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate of chief Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shall be given."

This sounds like today's hate crime legislation. I guess we haven't changed much since 1649.


I think it was the CIA.


Re: anti-Catholic prejudice ...

My mother's side of the family was rabidly anti-Catholic. (Growing up, I remember being told by my mother that she'd rather I bring home a black girl than a Catholic one.)

As a teenager I asked about why everyone hated Catholics so much and was told that my great-grandfather married a Catholic woman who died not long after my grandmother and her twin sister was born. According to the story, the priest kept coming back to the house seking donations to pray my great-grandmother out of Purgatory. Finally my great-grandfather told the priest that they only thing he had left to donate was the milk cow and he thought he'd wife would understand if she had to stay in Purgatory to make sure her children got milk and told the priest in no uncertain terms where he should go.

I have no idea whether the story is true, either totally or in part, but it was handed down and still reverberates in the family today.

Accompanying the story were many "beliefs" about Catholics and their religious practices. The doctrine of intercession, for instance, was "proof" that Catholics worshipped idols. Or Catholic opposition to birth control was seen as an attempt to produce enough children so that Catholics could dominate the world.

Once I got out into the real world, those old prejudices were challenged from my interactions with Catholics. While I might disagree with the Church's leadership on numerous issues, I am fortunate to have many Catholic friends. I think the only lingering prejudice from childhood I have about Catholics is the fact that the grade school lunchroom served fish every Friday. Since I've never liked fish, I always blamed Catholics for having to bring a balogna sandwich from home every Friday.


As far as that law is concerned, knowing what was going on in other parts of the West at the time, that law seems to be a mere speed limit compared to some others.


I think it's been pretty-well established that Joe Kennedy, John Kennedy, et.al were not practicing Catholics.


I totally agree. Fish only Fridays really was a disappointment when I was a kid. Sure, the fried fish is all good spiritually, but why can't we have a Jonah Shrimp Scampi Fry?

Kansas Bob

Roman Catholics have recently buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went (http://tinyurl.com/3y3mye). Maybe these types of changes can lead to more dialog between Protestants and Roman Catholics.

On a personal note, I began to change my views about Roman Catholics 12 years ago as I took the time to know them ... especially the one that I eventually married. Roman Catholics, like many evangelicals, are often summarily dismissed because they are identified with the positions and rhetoric of their leaders. The only way to get past the rhetoric is to take the time to talk to and get to know each other. Easier said than done :)

Just Thinking

"According to the story, the priest kept coming back to the house seking donations to pray my great-grandmother out of Purgatory."

Kayceewolf, that sort of thing still goes on today, just not in this country anymore.


"Roman Catholics, like many evangelicals, are often summarily dismissed because they are identified with the positions and rhetoric of their leaders. The only way to get past the rhetoric is to take the time to talk to and get to know each other."

So true, Kansas Bob. And it applies to all groups.

Growing up in rural Southern Missouri, I also grew up around a lot of prejudice against blacks. But since there were absolutely no blacks in the area, it wasn't until I got to college that I could begin to address the prejudices I grew up with. Many of the people I knew were racists and it was easy to react against this and feel empathy for the civil rights struggle I saw enacted on the TV growing up. But I had to get out in the real world and understand how much of the racism I grew up with had been absorbed simply because I lacked experience challenging those prejudices in the real world.


"That was in the ancient tradition of Catholic toleration: You say anything against us and you die."

That was in the ancient tradition of CHRISTIAN toleration. This was also in the ancient tradition of HUMAN toleration.

The Puritans were no better. Who do you think hanged the Quakers in New York and Massachusetts?


"I think it's been pretty-well established that Joe Kennedy, John Kennedy, et.al were not practicing Catholics."

They were practicing Catholics, Ron. All were leaders in their churches.


I don't remember anti-Catholic sentiment when I was growing up. But having two grandmothers who were well-loved and Catholic probably had a lot to do with that.

I was just a kid when JFK was elected, but my working class area was completely behind him. I don't remember any questions about his religion.

If there was less Catholic/Protestant understanding among youngsters, it had to do with the fact that we were segregated into public school and parochial school. An we tended to "hang out" with our school friends.


I know a few non-Catholic Christians that go looking for money in nasty ways too. Wait, there are some more, I just turned on the television. Lets be fair at least.

Just Thinking

Corbin, that wasn't about Catholics vs non-Catholics.

I'm still disgusted by the idea that Joe Kennedy went around buying votes. What a terrible thing to have happen in a democracy. That's why I said, "On the lighter side, everyone who was worried about JFK being unduly influenced by the Pope instead should have been more worried about the father Joe Kennedy."

The only thing more frightening about the thought that JFK's election victory was purchased for him is the fact that had the election gone the other way, then Nixon would have been in office much earlier. Then he could have undermined our democratic process in his own way. Grrrrrr.


Pure Democracy, the only way to rule.


"I'm still disgusted by the idea that Joe Kennedy went around buying votes."

Those were the days that everyone went around buying votes. Although I have to admit that old Joe was darned good at it. The Kennedys had a fierce political machine.

If you will please note, recent darlings of the Evangelical corps have found their own ways into political corruption. Tom DeLay just drew new district lines and kept the money for himself.

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