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Peters: Violent protests allow anti-Catholic hate to again rear its ugly head l COMMENTARY

It is a sad truth that violent protests in America often allow anti-Catholic hate to rear its ugly head. Maryland’s history as a colony set aside for the protection of Catholics who wanted to worship freely is well-known, but that knowledge also made it a target for those who wish to cause destruction.

From the English Civil War to the American, Maryland has often been invaded by mobs who have burned churches, torn down statues, and spread hateful lies about Catholics. Following the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was formed with a focus on attacking Catholics, especially those of Irish and Italian descent, and they were to blame for many of the lynchings of tens of thousands of immigrant — and naturally-born Catholics over a hundred-year period.

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However, not all of the anti-Catholicism they and others spread were direct attacks. Instead, they also spread propaganda to rewrite history and cast the Catholic Church in a bad light. Most of the claims are obvious lies, such as Galileo’s treatment (actually house arrested in a country villa for slander), Joan of Arc (actually killed by the English Monarch), and Columbus (no one actually thought the world was flat), but they can still be heard today.

Of Columbus in particular, old lies are the most pertinent today. In all actuality, Christopher Columbus was a faithful Catholic explorer who discovered important trade routes, made it to mainland Central America, and helped settle current United States soil in Puerto Rico. He never had slaves, never killed anyone, never raped anyone, and never committed genocide.

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The claims against Columbus came from Francisco de Bobadilla, a Spanaird who was jealous of Columbus’s riches and who charged Columbus with being a bad leader who withheld funds from the Monarchy. Bobadilla had Columbus jailed and took over Columbus’s governorship of the Caribbean island Hispania. Columbus was able to meet with the King of Spain and received a pardon clearing him of all wrongdoing. Before Bobadilla could be punished, he died in a storm.

Yet the claims of this dubious source was spread with even greater exaggeration to smear Columbus. Why? Because Columbus represented the introduction of Catholicism to the Americas and was the first to hold a Catholic Mass here. Thus, to smear him was a way to delegitimize all Catholics.

At the end of the 19th century, the Knights of Columbus were formed to stand against the KKK and the bigotry, and they chose the name to stand up against the lies. It was their push back against evil that led to the KKK’s collapse, forcing them underground.

But going underground allowed their lies to spread, and other bigots were quick to adopt them as their own. Thus, Columbus’s statues are being torn down along with many saints and even those of Christ himself while trolls fill social media with the same debunked lies, because this is not about correcting “wrongs” of the past but using lies to wrong the present. Their goal is to end Catholicism, and this hate needs to be stopped.

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Jeffrey Peters, a graduate of Catholic University with a doctorate, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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