Here is David Barton’s thoughts on this topic at today’s Wallbuilders Live radio show:
This is one of the things that people don’t get…they say that the founding fathers were anti-Catholic. No they weren’t, they were pro-republican form of government. Until American Catholics were able to prove that they were republican in their thinking–and that’s what Charles Carroll did, that’s what Thomas Fitzsimmons did, Daniel Carroll, several signers, they were the Catholics who came along and said ‘look, where not like the Catholics in Europe, we really like people-centered government, we like republican forms of government….”
The founding fathers weren’t anti-Catholic in that sense, they were pro-republican form of government until Catholics could show that they supported that form of government over monarchy, then that was a problem.
Barton is right. Many of the founding fathers did not trust Catholics because they did not believe that Catholics could be good republican citizens. I would call this anti-Catholicism.
But I see what Barton is doing here. He is suggesting that the founders’ opposition to Catholicism was political, not religious. (As if the founders believed that these could be separated).
Tell that to John Adams: in 1765 he wrote:
..the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy, that ever was conceived by the mind of man,w as framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandisement of their own order. All the epithets I have here given to the Romish policy are just: and will be allowed to be so, when it is considered, that they even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtedly, that GOD almighty had instrusted them with the keys of heaven; whose gates they might open and close a pleasure–with a power of dispensation over all the rules and obligations of morality–with authority to license all sorts of sins and crimes–with a power of deposing princes, and absolving subjects from allegiance–with a power of procuring or witholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun–with the management of earthquakes, pestilence and famine. Nay with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine, the flesh and blood of God himself. All these opinions, they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people, by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity; and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. –Adams, “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law,” August 12, 1765.
I could keep quoting. See my discussion in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.