Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Catholics and Schools

Everybody (saving only the odd archbishop here and there) is having good fun with John Oliver's suggestion that putting a mosque next to Ground Zero is a bit like putting a Catholic church next to a school.

He's closer to the truth than he may have noticed.  Recall the history of public education in this country: in the post-Civil-War period, it can be pretty much summarized under the subhead Keeping the Catholics Out.  In gross oversimplification, the Protestants ran the public schools in the early Republic, one way or another--as,e.g., by direct subventions to the church.  The Catholics showed up and said hey, how about us, and all of s sudden we get all shirty over the separation of church and state.  I'd say you could probably trace a good deal of the development of the parochial school system to exclusion from the "public" schools.   Those who opposed the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion were not going to have their quiet lives cluttered up by that lot.

Indeed, "nice" people were permitted to say alarmist things about the risks of letting Catholics into public life as late as the Kennedy-Nixon race.  For one fascinating thread of the story, go here.

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