Chief Justice Roger Taney, Catholic Justice on the Supreme Court
So, why do so many American Catholics identify as Democrats? It goes back to the 19th century when the Whigs and the Know-Nothings were viciously anti-Catholic as they viewed the Catholic Church as a foreign entity especially with the new wave of Catholic immigrants mostly from Ireland and Germany. According to James Woods, professor of history, notes that many abolitionists were also anti-Catholic since some Catholics owned slaves. Because of anti-Catholicism on the part of the Whigs and the Know-Nothings, many Catholics sided with the pro-slavery Democratic Party. For Catholics it was not so much because of slavery but because of the Democratic Party’s openness to Catholic immigrants that attracted Catholics to the party. Contrary to what some believe, both major parties (the Democrats and the Republicans) were quite religious and not secularist; they just disagreed on several things like slavery and immigration. The Republican Party at this time had its share of anti-Catholics like Thomas Nast, German-American cartoonist, who often depicted Catholics in very negative ways to discourage Catholic immigration especially from Ireland. Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican politician and later 19th President of the United States, received funding from anti-Catholic sources.
Leo XIII, Pope
During this time, Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical Rerum Novarum in which he not only condemned socialism in name, but explained the rights of workers which included to form labor unions as he said, “History attests what excellent results were brought about by the artificers’ guilds of olden times” and said “unions should be suited to the requirements of this our age – an age of wider education, of different habits, and of far more numerous requirements in daily life” (no. 49). The Democratic Party platform included labor unions as a right. Many Catholics saw this in harmony with Church teaching.
Anti-Catholic sentiments intensified when another influx of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy mostly came in the late 19th century. Due to the continued support of immigration from Democrats, Irish, Italian, Polish and German Catholics continued to support the Democratic Party. In the early 20th century however, things started to change. A Jewish Agnostic community organizer named Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals, started a class warfare which also caused strife among Italian, Irish and Polish Catholic immigrants. He even called Catholic monks “those bastards” at least once in a speech. This was just the beginning of a long road to a reform of the Democratic Party.
By this same time, the second Ku Klux Klan — which succeeded the one made by Southern Democrats — was very anti-Catholic. The Klan published countless anti-Catholic articles and cartoons some of which called the Pope the Antichrist, others accusing the American Church of establishing an Inquisition, others promoting prohibitionism and portraying Catholics especially the Irish as drunkards. This did not suit well with the American Church as the Church taught alcohol in moderate amounts was fine and even promoted. Wine was an important part of the Italian and German cultures while beer was an important part of the German, Irish and Polish cultures. The Klan was actually very instrumental in prohibition, the banning of alcohol. Not only was this seen as an assault on an adult beverage, but also an assault on their culture. By this time Democrats like Hugo Black and Republicans like Edward L. Jackson (both devout anti-Catholics and Protestants) were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Klan violence against Catholics resumed. A year after Amendment XVIII was enacted, a Klansman and Southern Methodist Episcopal pastor named Rev. E.R. Stephenson, shot and killed Catholic priest Fr. James Coyle at Saint Paul’s Rectory in Birmingham, Alabama. Previously the Irish priest married Stephenson’s daughter to an Afro-Hispanic Catholic from Puerto Rico and she converted to Catholicism. Hugo Black defended Rev. Stephenson in court. This was one of many cases of Klan violence against Catholics. In spite of this, the Democratic Party fought against prohibition, another reason why many Catholics sided with them and in 1933 Congress passed Amendment XXI which re-legalized alcohol for non-sacramental use. The Klan continued to cause trouble for Catholics and in the 1932 elections when they funded Franklin D. Roosevelt’s candidacy for president and tarnished Al Smith’s possibility of becoming President. Smith, an Irish and Italian-American, Catholic, anti-prohibitionist and recipient of the Laetare Medal, was slandered by the Klan as somebody who would usher the reign of the Antichrist (whom they affiliated with the Pope).
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States
Hugo Black was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Democratic Party member and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Black was instrumental in the establishment of separation of church and state such as in the Engel v. Vitale decision which forbade prayer in public schools. Then later came along something many probably did not expect, a Catholic President. Needless to say this was met with anti-Catholic rhetoric from Protestant clergy. Kennedy, a member of the Democratic Party, clarified that he was not going to establish Catholicism as the state religion. Kennedy was not known for fidelity and a scandal erupted after he was revealed having affairs with multiple women such as Playboy model Marilyn Monroe. It is reported that he confessed his sins to (Saint) Padre Pio just before his death. Supposedly this was when the president was on a trip to Italy and met with Blessed Paul VI. So far Kennedy remains to be the only Catholic president of the United States. Then came along the New Left, a wave of professors and others who embraced progressive thought on topics such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and gender roles. This quickly became the new identity of the Democratic Party and in 1973 the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision which declared abortion to be legal. This was in direct contrast with the Catholic Church which teaches abortion to be intrinsically evil. Then later came along something many probably did not expect, a Catholic President. Needless to say this was met with anti-Catholic rhetoric from Protestant clergy. Kennedy, a member of the Democratic Party, clarified that he was not going to establish Catholicism as the state religion. So far Kennedy remains to be the only Catholic president of the United States. Then came along the New Left, a wave of professors and others who embraced progressive thought on topics such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and gender roles. This quickly became the new identity of the Democratic Party and in 1973 the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision which declared abortion to be legal. This was in direct contrast with the Catholic Church which teaches abortion to intrinsic evil. In spite of this President Bill Clinton, another Democrat, signed DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996 which granted individual states the right to not recognize same-sex unions made in other states as legally binding. The Supreme Court in 2013 ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional. Barack Obama, Democrat and U.S. President, has been very persistent in regards to abortion and increasingly in favor of same-sex unions; he has made it abundantly clear that Americans must help the Middle East, even countries which actively persecute Christians. The Democratic Party platform mentions abortion, euthanasia, same-sex “marriage” and embryonic stem cell research as rights it defends and all which are condemned by the Church as intrinsically sinful. Other Democrats have followed in his footsteps to push for these things in addition to endless funding of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia which oppress Christians and groups like the Free Syria Army which has strong ties to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. This administration has granted weapons to jihadist Muslims in many countries like Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq, which have either violently toppled their leaders and replaced them with Sharia law or control large portions of those countries. The number of Catholics leaving the Democratic Party is increasing as they discover its anti-Catholic agenda.