Dr. Bradley J. Birzer, author of Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson and other books, was recently interviewed by The Washington Times about his new book, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (ISI; available in Feb. 2010). Carroll was the only Catholic to have signed The Declaration of Independence.
A: A huge role. Prior to 1774, as a Marylander and a Roman Catholic, he did not have any rights except for economic rights. So his faith had shaped everything in his life. His signing of the Declaration, at least as he saw it, was intimately related to his religious faith. He said in 1829, "When I signed the Declaration of Independence, I had in view not only our independence of England but the toleration of all sects, professing the Christian religion, and communicating to them all great rights."
Q: How exactly did Colonial Maryland persecute Catholics?
A: In November of 1689, the state's 1649 law of tolerance was undone. Roman Catholics could practice privately after that, but they could not practice publicly. In 1704, they started closing all Catholic churches in Maryland. I think the craziest law passed in 1715. It said that children who were raised in Roman Catholic fashion could be taken from their parents and be given permanently to Protestants. But all those laws were undone in 1774.
And have a wonderful Fourth of July!