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Fortnight for Freedom—U.S. Catholics and religious liberty: The origins


GEORGE WEIGEL

Source:
Archdiocese of Denver
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
6/20/2012

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ABSTRACTGEORGE WEIGEL COLUMN   Search ARCHBISHOP AQUILA HOME NEWS DENVER CATHOLIC REGISTER EL PUEBLO CATOLICO PARISHES OFFICES CATHOLIC SCHOOLS BISHOP CONLEY QUICK LINKS >>> About the Archdiocese Becoming Catholic Pastoral Handbook Cardinal Stafford Library Calendar Donations Web Archive Contact Us MENU BY TOPICS MENU GEORGE WEIGEL Cemeteries & Mortuaries Child & Youth Protection Education/Classes Hispanics (En Español) Evangelization/RCIA Liturgy & Spirituality Marriage & Family Life Other Catholic Organizations Seminaries & Clergy Social Teaching Vocations Youth, Young Adults & Campus Ministry Archive 2012 Archive 2011 Archive 2010 Archive 2009 Archive 2008 Archive 2007 Archive 2006 Archive 2005 Archive 2004 Archive 2003 GEORGE WEIGEL COLUMN George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. His column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register , official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.  Click here to read his biography .   Subscribe Today! For only $20 per column (print or online), you, too, can publish George Weigel’s weekly column in your newspaper, bulletin or journal. For more information, contact Kayla Snider, in the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese of Denver, at kayla.snider@archden.org . Fortnight for Freedom—U.S. Catholics and religious liberty: The origins June 20, 2012 - Several months ago, I came across a two-volume history of the Church in the United States I’d never read before: Theodore Maynard’s “The Story of American Catholicism,” first published in 1941. Maynard was not a professional historian and his telling of the American Catholic story has a bit more of the apologetic edginess of early 20th-century Catholicism than a 21st-century audience might find congenial. Yet Dr. Maynard manifestly did his homework in the pioneering tomes of such giants of U.S. Catholic history as John Gilmary Shea and Peter Guilday; his judgments are usually judicious, even if his ecumenical sensibility is not overly developed; and every once in a while he comes up with an insight that is truly refreshing—and very neatly put. Take, for example, the following passage—a bit baroque rhetorically, but nonetheless worth pondering: “…[It] is very curious that men who admit no dogmatic bias in their own lives or their concept of the universe should so often retain a sentimental attachment to the legend that, because certain dissenting Protestant groups sought, among other things, their own liberty of conscience, they were the architects of American religious liberty. There is no special need to complain that, when in a position to enforce their will, they refused liberty to those with whom they happened to disagree—and particularly to Catholics. … Instead, it may be gratefully acknowledged that their stern adhesion to their personal convictions contributed in the end greatly to bring about an extension of religious liberty to all. … [Yet] such Catholic groups as came to the American colonies never thought of religious liberty as something that should be exclusively enjoyed by themselves. In this respect, the Catholic settlers of Maryland were Americans from the beginning, whereas the Puritans became Americans only by slow degrees.” As Theodore Maynard readily admits, the legal construction of Amer.......