Their evangelical backing is a truly astonishing fact, given the long history of anti-Catholicism among evangelical Protestants in America. For more than three centuries, Evangelicals insisted that Catholicism represented a mortal threat to the body politic. But over the past three decades, they have joined hands with their former foes to change the face of politics altogether.
Start with Puritan New England, where ministers taught their flocks that the Pope was the “Beast of Rome” – that is, Satan incarnate. “This is a Catholick Church of the Devil, but not of Christ,” preached the Cambridge-educated John Cotton, who migrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s.
After America split off from England, evangelical clergy added a new charge: that Catholicism was incompatible with democratic self-rule. According to Connecticut minister Lyman Beecher, whose daughter Harriet would author the anti-slavery classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Catholicism was itself a system of mental and theological enslavement. Whereas Protestants thought for themselves, Beecher said, Catholics yoked their minds – and their souls – to Rome.