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THE NEW 'KNOW NOTHINGS'

8/2/2003 - 10:30 AM PST

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By: Keith A Fournier, Esq.
© Third Millennium, LLC


The “Know-Nothing party” hated immigrants and Catholics. So do the modern “Know Nothings”. They did not like the way Catholics believed, practiced their faith, the way they refused to separate their faith from their public service and the way they infused their faith in the cultural framework in which they lived their lives. They still don’t.

This movement, rooted in bigotry, flourished between 1852 and 1856. America was the home of a nativist movement that had grown in reaction to immigration, especially from Ireland and Germany. This influx brought with its teeming masses many Catholics who were also “yearning to be free”.

At the time it was predominantly a movement of Democrats but that shifted to include Republicans as well. Actually, then as now, the labels were a problem. After all what characterizes a political party is its ideas and the people who lead it. This movement was popularly known as the “know-nothings” because its members answered "I know nothing" when asked about their anti-Catholic aims. In effect, they hid their bigotry behind denials.

This Anti-Catholic sentiment has re-emerged in our day.

For example, it was clearly demonstrated in the judicial confirmation hearings of Attorney general William Pryor a devout Catholic and an accomplished public servant with a stellar record. He has been nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush.

He once referred to the Roe v Wade opinion as "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.

In his appearance before the committee considering his nomination he was probably expected to give some sort of nuanced response when asked about these prior statements. Instead he referred to abortion as "murder." He was right.

As the hearings unfolded, the committee received a dose of refreshing truth from Mr. Pryor in this response:

"I stand by that comment. I believe that not only is [Roe] unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it has led to a morally wrong result. It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent, unborn children. That's my personal belief… I believe that abortion is the taking of human life ... I believe that abortion is morally wrong.”

General Pryor is a Catholic. His position on the inviolable dignity and personhood of children in the womb is that of any faithful Catholic citizen. Those Catholics in public life who claim otherwise (and there are some in both major political parties) are being unfaithful to their baptism and placing their own souls in jeopardy. The teaching of the magisterium (teaching office) of the Catholic Church on this issue is unequivocal.

General Pryor is also a patriotic American and an exemplary public servant who is eminently qualified for the bench. He, like the patron of all public servants and politicians, Thomas more, is ““the Kings good servant but Gods first”. This is the path for all Catholic citizens who serve in public life. After all, the struggles that sometimes occur between Caesar and Christ are clearly addressed by the Lord. (See, e.g. Luke 20:21-26)

The General’s opinion is also the opinion of a majority of Americans, religious or not. The recent cover of Newsweek magazine and countless polls have revealed the encouraging reawakening of America to truth. This issue concerns the fundamental human and civil rights issue of our age. The child in the womb is our neighbor. Medical science has confirmed it, common sense knows it and even our national deadened conscience, long deluded by the siren song of those who seek to define freedom as a raw power over others, can no longer pretend it isn’t so.

His reasoned legal analysis that the Roe opinion is constitutionally wrong is shared by a growing number of constitutional lawyers and scholars. That opinion, a cousin of the infamous “Dred Scott” decision, is based on incorrect legal analysis, faulty history and junk appeals to junk science.

Because of a filibuster by Democrats, this committee has all but denied his appointment to the Federal Appeals Court.

“Your Catholic Voice” first raised the issue of this “know nothing” approach that is making it extremely difficult for faithful Catholics to serve on any Federal bench. YCV President, the Honorable Ray Flynn, clearly framed the current debate when he coined the phrase “Judges Needed, Catholics Need Not Apply”, reminiscent a phrase used by the “Know Nothings” and also reminiscent of the signs that used to appear in Boston shop windows, “Help Wanted, No Irish Need Apply”.

Pryor’s “Know Nothing” opponents strutted out some Catholics whose voting records are unfaithful to the clear teaching of their own Church. A new kind of “collaborator” group which I have ...

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