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Centuries Old Themes of Catholics vs. Protestants in Play At Our Border By Jeffrey Ludwig January 26, 2019

reformation-s.jpgThe theme of this article is that the present border security crisis, in an important sense, is an updated continuation of the struggles of the Protestant Reformation against Roman Catholic claims to be the exclusive heir to the realities and teachings occasioned by Christ’s manifestation on planet Earth.

We need to keep in mind that when the Protestants began to grow in France, there were six French wars of religion between the Catholics and Protestants in the space of 36 years (between 1562 and 1598).  The French King Henry IV, who was a Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism in order to become king of France, extended some protection to Protestants with the Edict of Nantes (1598).  However, in 1685, almost 100 years later, Louis XIV, who really hated the Protestants, revoked the Edict of Nantes.  Life became unbearable for the Protestants (Huguenots) and many fled, mostly to the American colonies, and in particular to those colonies which were later to become the states of New York and South Carolina.

Additionally, Switzerland’s cities became centers for Reformed (Protestant) Theology where new modes of institutional life consistent with this theology could be developed without Catholic interference.  Martin Bucer, Huldrych Zwingli, Joachim Vadian, Theodore De Beze, and John Calvin developed new ways of understanding man’s relation to God, and civic institutions to reflect that understanding.  The American colonies, particularly in New England, can be seen as outposts of new civic organization that resulted directly from the “new theology” of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.

Similarly, the Netherlands successfully revolted against Catholic Spain (1568-1648).  Germany, divided into various princedoms, became divided between those princes who embraced the reformed theology of Martin Luther, and those that remained Roman Catholic.  Catholic Spain in 1588 sent its fleet of ships to attack England, but as every school boy should know, but probably does not, the actions of Sir Francis Drake combined with a tremendous storm wrecked the Spanish armada.

At the same time, in England there was a complex struggle between Catholics and Protestants, and between the Church of England and other independent protestant groups.  This led to the beheading of Charles I in 1649, and, later, by The Act of Settlement, a law passed in 1701 stating that a Catholic could never become king or queen of England. That law was partially modified by The Act of Succession of 2013 which allows for the heir to the throne to marry a Catholic or even another person of the same sex. (See how the Protestants have “evolved”!)

Meanwhile the settlement of the New World -- Spanish Mexico, Central America, and South America --continued, with a foray by the Spanish into the Pacific in 1560 where they also took control of the Philippines. To this day, the Philippines is 85+% Catholic.  That control continued until the Spanish-American War (1898-1901) when the U.S. defeated the Spanish, took control of Puerto Rico, partial control over Cuba, and total control of the Philippines that was not relinquished until 1947.  Keep in mind that the Philippines disallowed American naval and military bases after they gained independence.  To this writer, this sense of alienation from the U.S. is at least partially related to the fact that the Philippines is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and the USA is not. 

In the 19th century, the Spanish who were struggling against the Native Americans in Texas invited in Americans (Protestants) – including Sam Houston (noted for his toxic masculinity) -- whom they felt would help them subdue the fractious Indian tribes. However, the Americans proved more intractable than the natives, and Texas fought and won the war for their independence (1835-1836), later joining the USA.

This annexation of Texas as a state by the USA was considered a provocative act by Mexico, which led to the Mexican-American War ending in the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo in 1848 whereby Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas, and to lands in what is now the southwest USA. All Mexicans living in that territory automatically became U.S. citizens at the conclusion of that treaty. 

Although there were important differences between the U.S. and Mexico’s legal system and our respective languages, it seems reasonable to think that the understanding of man’s relationship to God, the institutions of church and family, the nature of salvation, the path to heaven, and the authority of church hierarchy expressed serious underlying as well as overtly radical differences between the Americans and the Mexicans.  Considering the incredible struggles that had already taken place in Europe regarding theological differences and their manifestation in everyday life, it is intuitively compelling to see these differences as significant even in the Americas.

The above then is essentially a short summary of the longstanding rivalry between Protestants and Catholics in Europe, and the extension of that rivalry to the new world.

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the Catholic Church in the U.S., facing declining attendance, would benefit and does benefit from an influx of people from south of the border, and Catholic adherents to liberation theology might feel it is their duty to help undocumented migrants. 

However, unlike in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the U.S. now has 70 million Catholics as American citizens, more than one-fifth of the country, and they need border security as much as the Protestants.  They need border security as much as the Protestants.  They do not want to be paying money to a lot of people looking for handouts. They do not want to see the crime rate increase because of unsavory persons crossing the border who, if they applied legally, would not be doing so.  They want English-speaking persons, or persons committed to language-assimilation, the same as the Protestant citizens. 

And, they have accepted the rights ideas and language of the American polity even though rights language was originally inimical to Catholic teaching. In fact, the French, when they had their Declaration of the Rights of Man at the time of the French revolution, confiscated Catholic church lands, and the Catholic clergy were either imprisoned, killed, or fled for their lives from France.  Natural rights political philosophy at a basic level is not conformable with Catholic doctrine.  Yet, La Raza (“The Race”) and other organizations have a violent antipathy towards the “gringos” that can be traced to those deep-seated religious antagonisms that were in play more vividly centuries ago. 

Despite short-term victories over the Protestants in Europe, such as in France, Catholic dominance in Western Civilization has been eclipsed by currents of Protestant intellectual history and political institutions.  To the extent that the present border crisis is a vestigial expression of that centuries old conflict, it seems apparent to this writer that illegal crossing (invasions) of our border by hundreds of thousands of illegal Hispanic persons will be stopped as have past confrontations.  The rule of law under the auspices of hundreds of years of development by Protestant institutions and philosophy will prevail.

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