19th Century Catholic Immigration In 1850, only 5 percent of the total U.S. population considered themselves Catholic. By 1906, Catholics had become the single largest religious domination in the country, consisting of about 14 million people (out of 82 million total).
What brought the Catholics to the country? • During the mid-1800s, countries across the globe were becoming capitalized and new industries were emerging. • European farm workers were being displaced from their land and labor. • For these peasants who could not make ends meet, America (with its reputation as a place where you could find work) was beginning to sound like a pretty great place to be.
Why did America accept the immigrants? • Idealistically speaking, why not accept the immigrants? After all, America’s forefathers were once immigrants themselves, and the motto of the Statue of Liberty was “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.” • Practically speaking, America needed labor…more specifically, it needed cheap labor.
What role did the Catholic Church play in accepting the immigrants? • The Catholic Church welcomed the Catholic immigrants with open arms. • The church became the center of Catholic neighborhoods. • It held religious festivals and social events. It helped its members find jobs and homes. Catholic schools opened with nuns as teachers.
How does the Protestant religion differ from the Catholic religion? • In order to better understand why the Protestants were not accepting of the Catholics, one most know the differences in religious doctrine between the two….
According to Catholic tradition… • 1. The Church is made up of a hierarchy, with the pope at the top. • 2. The sacraments (such as communion and confession) are the primary means of contact with the divine world. • 3. The saints may be called upon during prayer to “intercede” for Catholics with God.
According to Protestant tradition… • 1. There is little to no hierarchy in the structure of the church. • 2. The Bible, not any sacraments, is the main source of revelation from God. • 3. Jesus is the only necessary intercessor with God, not any saints.
Fear • Put simply, the Protestants were afraid of being overtaken. They did not want America to become a “Catholic” country. • Some Protestants believed the Catholics were coming to colonize America for the pope. • Organizations such as the American Protective Association, very popular at the time, were formed solely to promote anti-Catholicism.
Was it all about religion? • No, it was not all about religion. • Social standing played a role as well. Many people knew nothing about the Catholic religion and were indifferent to it. These people simply did not want any foreigners “invading” their country—they viewed them as dirty, dangerous, and poor.
What happened next? • In the early 1920s, a series of immigration restriction laws were passed. • These laws placed quotas on the number of people allowed from each different foreign country. • Quotas for Catholic countries were set abnormally low. • By 1924, Catholic immigration was at a stand still.
In the context of today… • Ponder this: Do you see any connections between 19th century Catholic immigration debates and the current debates over immigration? Why are new immigrants coming to America, and why are so many Americans rejecting them? • Presentation Source: “Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America” by Julie Byrne