Monday, February 20, 2012

Franklin on Catholicism and Brown Sugar

In passing I noticed this paragraph in an article from NRO:
The American arrangement on church-and-state relations was a novelty for the Catholic Church. When it was deemed appropriate to appoint a bishop for the new republic after its founding, the Holy See sent a representative to learn the U.S. government’s wishes through the American minister in Paris, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin replied that this was none of the government’s business, and that the Church could appoint whomever it liked — a response that caused astonishment along the Tiber, where the pope, in those days, had a free right of appointing bishops in, at best, 20 percent of the world’s dioceses.
Was Franklin respectful of the Catholic Church or only tolerant, i.e. respectful of their rights? In a footnote of James Campbell’s book, “Recovering Benjamin Franklin” he writes:
Franklin displayed elements of anti-Catholicism throughout his life. He writes, for example, on 13 April 1785 of the conversion of a Boston Protestant clergyman to Catholicism: “Our ancestors from Catholic became first Church-of-England men, and then refined into Presbyterians. To change now from Presbytarianism to Popery seems to me refining backwards, from white sugar to brown.”
Nevertheless, Franklin maintained good relations with Rome and supported Charles Carroll (cousin of John Carroll) for Bishop of the first Catholic diocese in the states (see Raymond J. Kupke’s book). Franklin’s respect for the Catholic Church as an institution (and perhaps his respect for hypocrisy as a practice) made him a logical diplomatic choice for ambassador to the French Court--at least compared to John Jay and John Adams. Or perhaps it was just Franklin’s shrewd manner of making friends for fun and profit. As John Adams said of his friend, Ben:
The Catholics thought him almost a Catholic. The Church of England claimed him as one of them. The Presbyterians thought him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends believed him a wet Quaker.
I think that Ben wanted it that way.


Magpie Mason said...

Franklin, who served as Grand Master of Freemasons in Pennsylvania as a much younger man, simply may have been adhering to Masonic conduct by granting to all their right to their own religious opinions, while also correctly representing the U.S. government as one that was not linked to a state church.


Anonymous said...

Most of the post is wildly inaccurate. What is accurate is incomplete.

JOHN Carroll was the first Catholic bishop in the United States.

Franklin, in response to the Vatican's question, NOMINATED JOHN CARROLL.

The response "along the Tiber" was to agree with Franklin. All that stuff about Franklin replying that "it was none of the government's business" is PURE ANTI-CATHOLIC BUNK.

What is missing from this terrible post is the context of the expedition of the 1776 Commissioners to Canada. Franklin, John Carroll, his cousin Charles Carroll, (A CATHOLIC LAYMAN) and Samuel Chase traveled to Quebec. They failed in their diplomatic purpose. Franklin became unwell, and JOHN Carroll and Franklin traveled back home together, during which trip they forged a well-documented and lasting friendship.

Which culminated in Franklin suggesting that JOHN Carroll would be a fine American bishop.

JOHN Carroll was appointed, and in his 'Constitution for the Clergy' suggested such things as worship in English, instead of Latin, the election of bishops by the clergy and the nomination of pastors by the laity.

As shown, the truth is a far better story than the poorly-researched claptrap in the original post, "Franklin on Catholicism and Brown Sugar."