26 February 2024

The Declaration of Independence Condemned Catholic Culture

How low we've sunk since 'Dagger' John Hughes said, ''Our mission [is] to convert ... the inhabitants of the United States – the people of the cities, and the people of the country, . . . the Legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President, and all!"

From One Peter Five

By Timothy Flanders, MA

…Yet God Brought Good out of this Evil Through Mary

Author’s note: this is the final text of a talk given at The Collegium Gala last fall. The video of this presentation, which is an earlier draft of this essay, can be viewed here:

In the year 1774 of the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, on October the 14th, in the city of Philadelphia, the First Continental Congress of the American revolution condemned what was happening in Canada: “establishing the Roman Catholic religion in the Province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there.”[1] In fact, this grievance against our Catholic Faith made it into the Declaration of Independence as:

Abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.

This “free system of English Laws” were the penal laws against Catholics in England and Ireland. This was a condemnation of the Catholic culture of Canada. Why did the revolutionaries condemn Canadian Catholicism? And why, moreover, did the Marylander Catholic Charles Carrollton, sign this condemnation? In this essay, we will attempt to show how God brought good out of this evil through Mary for Catholic culture in the United States.

The colony of Maryland was founded by a Catholic, George Calvert, aka, the first Lord Baltimore. He was a pious Catholic who renounced all his political power and publicly professed his Catholic faith in 1625. He made plans to build a colony in the Americas which would allow the free celebration of the Holy Sacrifice for the faithful. At that time the “free system of English Laws” made Holy Mass illegal. Attending an illegal Mass could get you the death penalty. This illegal Mass was the ancient Roman Rite – the “Latin Mass” – which, as Michael Davies showed in his trilogy on the liturgical revolution, is again made illegal in a similar way today, as it was then.

The plans for the colony of Maryland were carried out by his son, Cecil Calvert, aka, the second Lord Baltimore. The legal charter of the colony was named Terra Mariae, which made it named after the English King’s Consort, the Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria. But according to historian Charles A. Coulombe, we may safely assume that the Catholics who founded Maryland also took it to be named after Our Lady.[2]

The Baltimore family members were the governors of Maryland, but they stipulated that they would treat their Protestant colonists with kindness and that the practice of the Catholic Faith would not be forced upon them in any way. When they landed on one of the unclaimed islands in the Potomac on the feast of the Annunciation, Jesuit Father Andrew White sung High Mass on the island and named it after Pope St. Clement, the patron saint of mariners. As a result, the feast of the Annunciation is celebrated every year as Maryland Day.

We may see this as Mary’s hand in forming her own colony for the glory of American Christendom. This was not the first Mass ever celebrated in the continental United States (that distinction is found in Spanish Florida), but it was the first Mass celebrated in the “thirteen original colonies,” dominated as they were by heretics who had left the Faith.

It was the year 1634 of the reign of Christ the King. This is the Anglo-Catholic founding of American Christendom. What about Canadian Christendom?

Well, meanwhile to the north, the French Catholic brethren of the Baltimores were building Canadian Christendom extended through modern Canada, Michigan, and down the Mississippi to the great Catholic civilisation of New Orleans. Maryland and French Canada are the Anglo and French founding Christendom in the Americas. But only one of these was condemned at the American revolution – why is that? The reason is Catholic culture.

Every pious Catholic parent who is forming their children in the Faith is attempting to form Catholic culture from the domestic church into the parish and into the community. Let’s pause in our history to ask this question: what is culture?

As I discuss in my book City of God vs. City of Man, that great Catholic historian of the twentieth century, Christopher Dawson, breaks down the definition of culture into basically four main elements: cultus, tradition, elders and piety. Every culture known to man (until modern times) has these four elements.

The first is the most important: cultus. What is a cultus? A cultus is a religious ritual which provides contact with the divine. Everything in a culture flows from this cultus. St. Thomas says that the offering of sacrifice – the cultus – is a part of natural law. Therefore every culture, every civilisation, every government that has ever existed, has offered a public cultus – that is, a state-sponsored religious ritual – to the divine in order to make contact with the gods.

So we have the cultus, which makes contact with God. Obviously the cultus of Catholic culture is the Apostolic rite passed down from the Apostles. Many pious Catholic parents in our day are seeking out the Latin Mass or at least some reverent liturgy in order to form Catholic culture in their domestic church. Many Catholic parishes suffer from a lack of Eucharistic reverence itself, which leads to a lack of Catholic culture. But Eucharistic reverence is more than just the rite itself; it includes all of the customs surrounding the liturgy, which brings us to our next element of culture: tradition.

The cultus in a culture rests on a tradition – written and unwritten. The tradition is what explains the cultus. The word tradition is a verb which means to “pass down.” What is Catholic Tradition therefore? Everything that is passed down, from the smallest and most obscure pious custom to the greatest pearl of great price in our tradition – the Apostolic Roman Rite, the Latin Mass. Indeed, the Second Council of Nicaea decreed regarding the lowest and least authoritative form of tradition (that is, sacred art): “if anyone despises a Church tradition, written or unwritten, let him be anathema.”

Therefore, in the broadest possible sense of the term, “Tradition” – all things passed down – would also include Scripture itself. Scripture is simply written tradition, as opposed to oral tradition. The Tradition explains the cultus, teaching the faithful to have Eucharistic reverence, which is what builds Catholic civilisation. From the cultus, mediated through Tradition, divine grace and divine wisdom illuminate all things in Catholic culture: family life, political and economic life, and all the rest – literature, sciences, music, visual art, architecture. Think, for example, of the treasury of Sacred Music all composed for the Holy Mass – Mozart, Beethoven, even the Lutheran Bach – or the immensity of Catholic architecture all built to orient the heart to reverence the Blessed Sacrament.

In French Canada, this was the case. The Holy Mass built French Canada.

Flag of Quebec with the Sacred Heart

The third and fourth elements of culture are simple: elders and piety. The elders are the ones who guard the cultus and teach the Tradition to the next generation. Piety is the virtue by which the younger generation reveres the older generation in order to receive the cultus and the Tradition.

So there you have it: what is culture? A culture is a society which flows from the cultus, explained by tradition passed down from the elders to the next generation by means of piety. The Catholic cultus is the Mass, the Tradition is the whole of Christendom which is centred on Eucharistic reverence – which is passed down by the elders – both priests and Catholic parents – to the younger generation, who receive it with reverence and piety.

As children grow to become adults, they make the transition from the Catholic culture of the domestic church to the Catholic culture of the parish and community, which is just an expansion of the same Catholic culture, all united in the same cultus.So let’s get back to Canada and Maryland.

First, the Catholic culture of New France was “ordinary Christendom” – this is the form of Catholic culture that had already been spreading in Asia, Africa, and later western Europe. The government of Quebec paid public obeisance to the King of Kings by means of the cultus – the Latin Mass. But after the French-Indian alliance lost a war to the British-Indian alliance in 1763, the Catholic culture of Canada came under the dominion of the Anglican King George III. Showing favour to the Catholic Faith in a way quite remarkable in the history of the Anglican regime, the British parliament passed the Quebec Act in 1774, which permitted French Catholicism to not only be freely practiced in the new English domains known as Canada, but also allowed Eucharistic reverence to continue to govern society. In other words, the Catholics could continue running things in Canada as if Canada was a Catholic nation, since it already was and had been for more than two hundred years at that point. The Quebec Act secured and protected state-sponsored, unapologetic Catholic culture in Canada.

This is why the Declaration of Independence condemns the Quebec Act. It is one thing to have Catholicism tolerated as a private devotion of those backward, superstitious papists. A private papist religion would still allow the culture to be Protestant or Deist.It is a totally different thing to have Catholicism define the culture. That would mean that the culture would be fully Catholic. Therefore, the Deceleration of Independence condemns Catholic culture itself.

Now why did Catholic Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, sign a document that condemned Catholic culture itself? Some Catholics say the Carroll family of Maryland was not very pious, and that its members were just Liberal Americanists. Yes, there is truth to this assertion, especially since we have Daniel Carroll’s name not only on the US Constitution, but on the Masonic cornerstone ritual performed by George Washington “in the year of Masonry 5793” as my book describes.[3]

Despite this fact, there is, concurrently, another positive side that can be seen in the Carroll family and Maryland Christendom. You see, what had happened in Maryland since Lord Baltimore was completely different than Quebec – Maryland had to create a new form of Christendom in order to pass down the faith. Catholic culture was in survival mode in Maryland, surrounded by heretics who wanted to destroy the Mass and kill Papists. Catholics chose to love their enemies, to protect the non-Catholic Marylanders and promote the Holy Mass not by state-sponsorship, but by the holiness of their own lives. Maryland was a different form of Catholic culture, for the sake of survival. There was at least a public cultus indirectly, by the very fact that Catholics were involved in government and intended to exclude non-Trinitarian heretics. The four elements of Catholic culture were still secure, albeit in survival mode.

But shortly after Maryland’s founding, the heretical Puritans seized the Catholic government of Maryland and passed laws to remove Catholics from any political power whatsoever. Thankfully, the heretics did not have the power to hunt down the Catholics and kill them like they did in England, so they were forced to tolerate them. The Catholics fought back and passed the Maryland Toleration Act, which put to death non-Trinitarian heretics, but permitted Catholics and Protestants free exercise of each faith.

(Note this well: this law is not at all a foreshadowing of the American Constitution’s First Amendment, as Liberal Americanists will later claim. Maryland at this point is nothing less than a Christian state that recognises the poison of non-Trinitarian heresy, but, applying the traditional Catholic doctrine of the state, also tolerates non-Catholic heretics for the sake of civil tranquility. The First Amendment, by contrast, is nothing less than rank Liberalism, since it creates an Atheistic state in practice by denying the public cultus to the state in any way whatsoever. In the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, it is “state Atheism without the name.”[4] Maryland was several things – including those which can be critiqued by Catholics – but it was not State Atheism. Jesus was still publicly King over Maryland, the Land of Mary. The laws of Maryland from the very beginning, and restored in the Maryland Toleration Act, were an application of the Catholic doctrine of toleration.[5] Catholics today may debate as to the prudence of Maryland’s acts from the beginning, but they cannot claim that this Toleration Law was the same as the heretical Liberalism of the First Amendment, which uncrowned His Majesty and denied His right to rule over nations. Let us return to our history.)

The heretics could not tolerate Catholic toleration, and, after 1688, they were able to remove all Catholics from public office in Maryland. The Mass was illegal again, and Catholics were forced to celebrate the Latin Mass privately in homes. The “free system of English laws” was imposed on Maryland.

Compared to Canada, the survival mode Catholic culture of Maryland had been greatly suppressed. True, the public cultus of the Latin Mass had never been truly public and political since Maryland Day at the Annunciation, 1634. But removing the Catholic governors and statemen of Maryland truly relegated the cultus to private devotion, with very little influence on Maryland culture.

At that time, despite the heretical takeover of Maryland, the Carroll family had managed to become the richest and most powerful Catholic family in Maryland – and indeed, in the whole thirteen colonies. And what did they do with that wealth? They raised altars on their own land so that the Holy Sacrifice could at least be celebrated privately, keeping the remnant of Maryland’s Christendom alive. If the Puritans or other Protestants came with a mob to threaten them, the Carroll family would meet them with a small army of their sons and slaves, putting down their hubris with the musket. The Carroll family lived on 17,000 acres at Carroll Manor, just 41 miles northwest of DC.

So when the American revolutionary war of Independence was breaking out in 1774, the Carroll family must have seen an opportunity to re-establish the American Christendom of Maryland, and indeed in these whole United States. If we can safely assume that some of the Carroll family were Liberal Americanists, we can also safely assume that some of them had real Catholic piety. They saw that the Patriots, led by George Washington, were willing to tolerate and even promote the Catholics if they contributed to the cause of independence. The Carroll family took action, and, for the first time, these Catholic noblemen returned to government, forming the Annapolis convention in 1774. This was Maryland declaring its own independence from the Crown even as the Philadelphia Continental Congress was condemning the Quebec Act. Maryland’s Declaration of Independence happened in 1775, and it implicitly abolished the “free system of English laws” which had hitherto prevented Catholics from holding political office in this state.

So what happened next? By siding with the Patriots, the Carroll family was able to secure not only the legalisation of the Latin Mass again, but also an intimate place for the Faith in the American culture of these United States. The cousins of Charles Carroll were the aforementioned Daniel Carroll and John Carroll – the latter became the first bishop of the United States. As Providence had it, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits, causing John Carroll to flee to Maryland in 1774 at the moment when Maryland was declaring independence and removing anti-Catholic laws.

In that year, Fr. Carroll said the first Mass in his mother’s home, but after the Revolution gave more influence to Catholic culture, this quickly became St. John’s parish in Silver Spring, MD, 8 miles north of DC. You remember Maryland Day when Fr. Andrew White celebrated the Annunciation? John Carroll was also able to re-establish his mission site as St. Ignatius Parish in Port Tobacco, MD (see here and here).

And in the same year as the Masonic ritual of Daniel Carroll, out of Maryland, Mary had her own plans: Bishop John Carroll dedicated these United States to the Immaculate Conception in the year 1793 of the reign of Christ the King. This is when Maryland, the “Land of Mary” extended to these United States: henceforth America was the Land of the Immaculate Conception.

What happened with Quebec? The Carroll family actually travelled to Quebec and attempted to win over the French Catholics there to their cause. But unfortunately, Bishop Briand of Quebec had read the anti-Catholic pronouncements of the Continental Congress and issued an excommunication against Fr. John Carroll, which meant he had to travel back over the Atlantic to receive his episcopal consecration after American Independence.

(In a twist of Providence, the Catholic kings of France and Spain, meanwhile, also sided with the Patriots, which forced the Patriots to favour the Church, allowing the Spanish king to finance a Catholic Church built in New York City, the historic St. Peter’s Church.)

But because of the Carroll family siding with the Patriots, Bishop John was able to begin construction not only on new, public churches but the first Catholic university among the heretical English for centuries: Georgetown University in 1791. This institution greatly expanded Catholic Culture, passing down the Faith in these United States. Because they sided with the Revolution, the Carroll family helped form Maryland and indeed, American Catholic culture in these United States, leading to the traditional Catholic see of Baltimore. (perhaps you’ve heard of the Baltimore Catechism). In this way, Maryland Christendom became the mustard seed for American Christendom.

This is not the French Christendom of Canada, but an Anglo Christendom which formed a unique Catholic culture here. Because of the Carroll family’s efforts to restore Catholics to political office and the freedom to build churches and universities in the United States, Catholics have been able to gradually influence the American Protestant culture more and more for the true Faith. This reached its climax in the interwar period of the 20th century, when Catholics led a cultural movement against Hollywood pornography in the 1930s (known as the Legion of Decency), and eventually won the Presidency itself in John F. Kennedy.

Since 1776, there’s been this tension in American Catholicism – some Catholics have sought to establish the fullness of Catholic culture – the Catholic cultus informing the whole society – like French Canadian Catholicism or the Legion of Decency. But others, like Cardinal James Gibbons and John F. Kennedy, have sought not to make American more Catholic, but to make Catholicism more American. This is “Liberal Catholicism.” This may be a result of the divided nature of the Carroll family itself from the beginning.

To make a long, sorry story short, in the 1960s, Liberal Catholicism gained the dominant influence. The centerpiece of this effort was to reverse Catholic culture itself. Instead of transforming the society by means of the cultus, the Liberals have transformed the cultus by means of the society. They have not tried to subordinate society to the Latin Mass but make the Mass more subordinate to modern society. They have tried to abolish the Latin Mass again, just like the “free system of English laws” formerly in Maryland. Following Cardinal James Gibbons, they used the history of Maryland Christendom to argue against French Christendom as somehow “backwards” and “immoral.”

The American psychological warfare empire took occasion from Vatican II and its ambiguous declaration Dignitatus Humanae to impose on the world (with the direct or indirect support of the Holy See) the heresy of Liberalism in the form of the First Amendment of the United States, which is State Atheism without the name. This is meticulously documented by David Wemhoff.[6] And this is true whether or not the Vatican II document actually teaches the heresy of Liberalism. (In some sense, this question is irrelevant, since this is the historical fact, whether or not the Council erred.) This only added fuel to the Americanist claim that Maryland’s Christendom is per se opposed to Quebec’s.

French Canadian and Maryland Christendom were two forms of the same Catholic culture, formed by the Latin Mass. Both had the four elements: cultus, tradition, elders and piety. But one was French and Indian with a Catholic majority, and the other was Anglo with a Catholic minority. What the Liberal wing of American Catholicism wants to do is make French and Maryland Christendoms into enemies, repeating that condemnation of Catholicism by the Continental Congress we first quoted. And this history is obscured even in pious Catholic homeschool history textbooks.

Yet what a pious domestic church gives students is the experience of Catholic culture which is completely opposed to the Liberal Catholicism. It is through the domestic church and its supporting organisations such as homeschool co-ops where the elders of Catholic culture pass down to students the tradition, informed by the cultus, which is received with piety. And this is what Maryland has done for American Catholicism since its founding. It provided a space for Catholic culture to be passed down in a hostile environment before and after 1776. It is the Anglo mustard seed of Catholic culture here.

This is the good that God brought out of the evil of the Declaration of Independence condemning Catholic culture. Instead of stopping the spread of Catholic culture, it grew in Maryland and spread to all the States. This is why “the Land of Mary,” Maryland, matters for American Christendom, and why we should be celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception every year as our patronal feast in these States with much solemnity, fanfare and thanksgiving. While we’re at it, let’s all celebrate the Annunciation as Maryland Day and thank God for what the Land of Mary has done for these States.

Let God speed the day when December 8th, the Immaculate Conception, and Maryland Day March 25, will become another Federal Holy Day with the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that all Americans can give thanks to God through Mary. VIVA CHRISTO REY! JESUS IS KING!

[1] Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress,1774.

[2] Private correspondence.

[3] The heresy of Americanism can be described simply as claiming, directly or indirectly, that the American nation (and its laws and customs since 1776) must teach the Catholic Church about politics and social justice, not the other way around. This is a particular form of the general heresy of Liberalism, which has other particular forms in England and France, as elsewhere. On the “Year of Masonry” ritual performed by George Washington and Daniel Carroll et al., see Flanders, City of God vs. City of Man (Our Lady of Victory Press, 2021), 284ff.

[4] Marcel Lefebvre, They have Uncrowned Him (Angelus Press), 24.

[5] On the Catholic doctrine of toleration as opposed to the Liberal heresy of religious liberty, see Ibid., passim.

[6] Current edition: David Wemhoff, John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and The American Proposition: How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church, new ed. (Presence LLC, 2022), 2 volumes.

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