Adding Catholic Color to Monochromatic US History | Carrie Gress | CWR
The founding of the United States has a lot more color than the typical Protestant narrative, thanks to the heroics, quirks, and sacrifices of American Catholics. In her new book, The American Catholic Almanac, (Image Books, 2014), Emily Stimpson chronicles the saints and sinners who helped shape America from the founding on.
Stimpson, who has also written The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Yearsand These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, spoke with Catholic World Report about the book she co-authored with Brian Burch, president ofCatholicVote.org, and some of the surprising finds buried in the pages of time.
CWR: What prompted you and Brian to write this book?
Emily Stimpson: From the earliest days of America’s founding, a large number of the nation’s Protestants argued that democracy and Catholicism weren’t compatible. Those arguments often turned ugly, with nativist groups such as the Know-Nothings burning churches, convents, and Catholic schools, as well as targeting Catholics in their homes. Catholics worked hard to counter that sort of bigotry and secure a place for themselves in this country. To a large extent they succeeded. Unfortunately, in recent years, anti-Catholicism has begun rearing its head again.
Obviously, no one is burning churches just yet, but the same arguments once made against Catholics—that we shouldn’t have a voice in the public square, that we should keep our faith to ourselves, that our beliefs aren’t compatible with democracy—are being made again. Brian and I thought that one way to counter the hostility towards faith in general and Catholicism in particular was by demonstrating the profound effect Catholics have had on this country. America wouldn’t be America without the contributions of the Catholic men and women we write about in the Almanac. The history of Catholicism in America is our family story, and the better we know that story and the better we appreciate it, the better we can face the challenges coming at the Church today.
CWR: The book has an unusual format—it seems to be an “American Catholic History for Busy People.” Is that what you had in mind, particularly with its one-entry-per-day approach?