Catholic Commitment in an Inhospitable Climate

Maura Jane Farrelly

in Papist Patriots

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199757718
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932504 | DOI:
Catholic Commitment in an Inhospitable Climate

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This chapter considers the eighty-seven-year Penal Period in Maryland’s history, when the colonial government restricted the civil, military, educational, economic, religious, and even parental rights of the colony’s “papists.” In spite of this environment, Catholicism survived in Maryland because lay Catholics refused to give up their faith. To preserve the faith, the laity and their clergy fashioned a version of Catholicism that reflected both the adverse political circumstances under which they lived and the New World contingencies with which they were forced to grapple. They also constructed a “memory” of Maryland’s founding that preserved Catholicism by ennobling it. This memory relied upon the belief that Maryland had its own “constitution,” and it implicitly defined England as a source of corruption. These mechanisms for preserving the Catholic faith set Maryland’s Catholics apart from their religious brethren in Europe and, in so doing, laid the foundation for a distinctly “American” Catholic identity.

Keywords: Penal Period; survival; laity; clergy; memory; constitution; anti-Catholic legislation; corruption

Chapter.  19244 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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