Hostility to Catholics and their Church was prominent among Protestants in Britain and Germany from the Protestant Reformation onwards. Immigrants brought that hostility with them to the American colonies. Two types of anti-Catholic rhetoric existed in colonial society. The first, derived from the theological heritage of the Protestant Reformation and the religious wars of the sixteenth century, consisted of the Biblical "Anti-Christ" and the "Whore of Babylon" variety and dominated anti-Catholic thought until the late seventeenth century. The second type was a secular variety which focused on the alleged intrigues of Catholic states which were hostile to both Marxism and Classical Liberalism.
Historians have studied the motivations for anti-Catholicism. The basic motivations were political (the threat posed by Rome and its allies to Protestant nations) and theological. However, scholars have also speculated on the psychological motivations, usually concluding that a strong element of irrational bigotry was involved. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. characterized prejudice against the Catholics as "the deepest bias in the history of the American people." Conservative writer Peter Viereck once commented that (in 1960) "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals." Historian John Higham described anti-Catholicism as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history".
The Know Nothing movement was an American political movement that operated on a national basis during the mid 1850s. It promised to purify American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values and controlled by the pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization, but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant males. There were few prominent leaders, and the largely middle-class membership fragmented over the issue of slavery.
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The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (US), America, or simply the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, 16 territories, and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and the federal district of Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) in total and with around 316 million people, the United States is the fourth-largest country by total area and third largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-indians migrated from Asia to what is now the US mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The ensuing war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first 10 amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. The Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. It also teaches that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles and that the Bishop of Rome, as the successor to the head of the apostles, Saint Peter, has supreme authority over the Church. The Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it presents as definitive is infallible. Within the Church there are a variety of doctrinal and theological traditions, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, the personal ordinariates and religious communities.
The Catholic Church is Trinitarian and defines its mission as spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity. Catholic worship is highly liturgical, focusing on the Mass or Divine Liturgy, in which the sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated. The Church teaches that when consecrated by a validly ordained priest the bread and wine used during the Mass become the body and blood of Christ through transubstantiation. The Catholic Church practises closed communion and only baptised members of the Church in a state of grace are ordinarily permitted to receive the Eucharist. It holds the Virgin Mary, as mother of Jesus Christ, in special regard and has defined four specific Marian dogmatic teachings, namely her Immaculate Conception without original sin, her status as the Mother of God, her perpetual virginity and her bodily Assumption into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.