Archive for January, 2013
Then and Now: Anti-Catholic Nativism in the United States
Catholic vs. Puritan/Protestants as presented in Maria Monk:
Catholics and Democracy, No Dice:
Silent Immigration Video:
Irish Need Not Apply Song:
Nativist History and The Know Nothings:
Nativism (and semi-anti-Catholic nativism) Today:
Gengrich Exceptionalism Trailer:
Regan’s Shining City on a Hill:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=332QeTNmfh8
Unholy Secrets: A Nun’s Autobiography
A Lament for the Irish:
The Irish Rover by The High Kings:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR_MnOVBx6U
Whiskey in the Jar by The High Kings:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoUYr6YNjWc
Or maybe not? As it turns out, the protestant ministers may have had more aversion to monarchy than was good for them; or society. Let me back this up.
The story of Maria Monk’s adventures (or horrifying experiences) in the convent is fraught with more than one unbelievable instance. Babies thrown into pits, nuns raped and tortured are just a few examples of the supposed misdeeds of Catholic priests and supporters of the church. Whether or not these events actually occurred is beside the point. The ultimate point of the writings of Marie Monk was to slander the Catholic church. In that regard, they were a huge success.
Anti-Catholic feelings were already high, almost all of the people in the new world were Protestants escaping the religious intolerance of Europe. While it is true that Catholics and Protestants have clashed and continue to do so, the real issue is far beneath the surface.
The animosity for Catholicism grows out of a deep-seated hatred for Monarchy. The citizens of a young America view Catholicism much the same way they view the King and his subjects across the pond. Catholics are all organized under one leader, the pope. It is difficult to separate Catholicism and Monarchy, therefore Maria Monk’s writings only added more fuel to the fire of enmity.
Someone in class was saying something along the lines of how this book makes for an interesting story with decently creative writers. The readers just didn’t notice the fiction. I mean how would they know what it’s like to live in a monastery anyway? But also, didn’t these writers have to base their lies off something? Not that I’m saying I believe it, but I wonder how they could make so many details up like this.
Another thing, these ministers seem to be protesting Catholic rituals via monastic rituals, since nuns and monks participate in longer rituals than other Catholics. While all Catholics perform rituals in the name of God, nuns and monks devote their entire life to God and, essentially, ritual. What I’m really trying to say here is maybe the Protestants are afraid of ritual, or Catholic ritual, and how the nuns are participating in it, giving them an overall fear or dislike of the Catholic church.
To bring in the sexual part of the story, much of the story is about priests defiling nuns and so forth, therefore degrading and contradicting their “good deeds get you into heaven” philosophy, as well as any good name of the Catholic church. Priests are placed at a high order in the Catholic church to uphold the name of Catholics and bring people to God. However, if they are having sex with nuns, they are not only hurting the reputation of the church, but they are going against their convenant with God, which is quite possibly the worst thing they could do. Therefore, even if some of the other details in the book weren’t true, just the fact that priests may have been raping nuns would convince someone that Catholicism is a faulty religion.
One last thing, horror movies are sometimes set in monasteries, so they are even presented to the general public as less than pleasant places today. Was this book just used for a good horror story with underlying hopes that everyone would start disliking Catholicism as much as the Protestants did?
Throughout the course of history, people and conspiracy theories have gone hand in hand. From the JFK assassination to the alien landing at Roswell to the birth certificate of President Obama, there have always been people willing to believe what they want or need to believe. Millions of dollars have been made on television shows (X-Files, Fringe) and movies (National Treasure, The DaVinci Code) because the entertainment industry exploits this need to believe.
Maria Monk’s scandalous tale of of “Awful Disclosures” added fuel to an already growing fire of the anti-Catholic sentiment at that time. Even though her story was discredited within months of being published, it still created that seed of doubt that non-Catholics clung to in order to justify their school of thought. Beginning the story by basically saying that the readers did not have any reason to believe her but that she did not have any reason to lie, she helped to ease the doubt that the reader might have had. The details that she added like the times of bells and the descriptions of the rooms helped to add to her credibility. The careful construction of her story by the priests who actually wrote it helped to justify the beliefs that non-Catholics had about the corruption occurring within the Catholic religion. Even after Maria Monk was exposed as a fraud, there were still people willing to believe that the “Awful Disclosures” of Maria Monk was true. These people may be distant relatives of the people that think that Elvis is still alive.
It’s easy to look back on the people who believed Awful Disclosures as prejudice and ignorant, and alot of them probably were. Just like we are. Sensationalism didn’t end with Pulitzer and Hearst, and many people today base incredibly important decesions and even support wars based off of false, exagerated, or misrepresented information. More specifically, there’s still lots of prejudice against the Catholic Church in the modern U.S. When we hear about a priest molesting kids, most of us are inclined to believe it reflexively. Although there might be compelling incriminating evidence (and I’m not trying to say that this doesn’t really happen, I’m sure most of the cases are legitimate) we react as soon as we see the headline, not because of evidence. Still, even after saying that I think that there are many policys of the Catholic Church that are repressive and lead to or exacerbate problems.
Even though what I’m about to say may be oversimplified and come from the same prejudices which spawned Awful Disclosures in the first place, I think that there was more to this then just anti-Catholisism. The men who were responsible for these lies were motivated by their own religions. They were acting against what they saw as an over dogmatic and oppressive religion, and ironically revealed themselves to be just as bad. Though they were also motivated by fear of European dominance, things in America back then (and now) are more intwined in and caused by religion then we like to think. So even though Awful Disclosures may read like a cautionary tale against intolerance of religion, it actually shows us how fanatical prejudice from religion influences us
Maria Monk. So many things come to mind when I hear that name. I would like to think that she was not mentally well and she wanted to create lies with the book, but of course, that’s not all that true either. The truth is that she was used and manipulated by a group of Protestant ministers in order to scare Catholics in America.
Protestants were mean back in the day and some still are! They were nosy bullies to the people they didn’t like because of their religion, race, sexual preference, people’s personal decisions, and other similar things. They obviously over looked 1 John chapter 4, which talks all about loving other people because it is a commandment. I don’t think many Christians at that time asked themselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” If they did, they did an awful job of showing it. They just didn’t know how to let people be and not be the bosses of everyone. It’s annoying and embarrassing, as a Christian myself, to see them force people into doing whatever they wanted, many things that were unjust, throughout history.
The book was hard to read for me personally because I had to remind myself constantly that it wasn’t real. Pretty frustrating.
And this is the fun part to my blog…. haha
…and BOY, is she an awful liar!
Okay, I am basically going to repeat the sentiments everyone else’s posts have already expressed:
- Sex sells. Whether it be rape (*cringing, can’t believe I wrote that*), incest, or any other negative/questionable sexual content, it grabs the reader’s attention.
- Babies. Gotta have infant death if it’s a worthwhile story. (For the record, I HATE “dead baby” jokes. Can’t stand them.)
- Priests make good scapegoats. They’re the guys people love to hate. Who would come to the door of a convent, make hissing noises, and expect to be let in around midnight for some wayward sexual pleasure? A priest, of course!
But seriously. I know that in 19th-century America– and indeed, since then– there has been a strong anti-Catholic rhetoric going around. Sometimes, the faith itself was used as a basis of racial oppression, as well. Indeed, two of the most discriminated-against European immigrant groups– the Irish and the Italians– were primarily Catholic, and in the early 1900s, they were “hated on” quite a bit for this reason.
HOWEVER, I would like to believe that if I were alive when the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk came out that I would have been at least a little bit skeptical. No matter how terrible you may think a particular religious sect is, would you really ascribe to them infanticide, rape, murder, and whatever else, all in the name of God? This seems to be a stretch, even for your average illiterate American Protestant who “didn’t know any better.”
Therefore, I must say that Maria (a.k.a., the shady Protestant males with a knack for tall tales…hey, that rhymed) may have put forth an interesting horror story through this volume, but no wonder it was disproved within months of its publication. It was simply “too bad to be true,” and the writing style itself left a lot to be desired– I think I yawned twice for each page.
If I had to describe The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk in one word it would be, Dramatic. SO DRAMATIC. After learning that basically non of the accounts given by Marie Monk was true it makes one wonder, why be so dramatic? The people who wrote this clearly where not huge fans of the Catholic church, but why did they have to go to such extremes as rape, torture, and drowning of babies? Why not just write about the things that they didn’t like about the Catholic church that where actually true? If they were going for a shock effect, they were definitely successful. There is no way someone could read this and not look at the Catholic Church differently. The images are something that probably stuck with the readers, long after the work was discredited. I think that that was kind of the point. The authors wanted people to have negative associations with the Catholic Church, even if they were preposterous. This way when people thought of the Catholic Church, they would automatically think of the horror stories they read in The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk. Its kind of like in a court room when a lawyer says something about the defendants character and the entire jury hears, even when the judge says that it can’t count as evidence, the jury still has those words of the lawyer in the back of their heads. During the period this was written their was a great anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States. This work only served to confirm the people’s dislike for the Church. To answer my original question, I think that if the authors didn’t use such powerful imagery it wouldn’t have stuck with the readers the same way this did.
Reading Maria Monk was such a bore!! There was so much more description in the layout of the nunnery than in the scandalous deeds that were carried on. It seems to me that Maria put in such useless descriptions in order to add credibility to her story.
Mother Superior was quite a character and must have been a bit mad in order to continue the lies and atrocities that supposedly went on at the nunnery. Not only did she enable the Priest to have their ways with the Nuns but she also believed that it was a righteous duty and privilege.
The Priest themselves were treated as closest to Christ than anyone else on earth and considered to be free of all sin. They told the Nuns to never reveal the truth of what was happening in the Convent and were told to lie to others. My favorite quote was “But a lie told for the good of the church or Convent, was meritorious, and of course the telling of it a duty.”
With that said how ironic that the entire story itself was a lie. It leads the reader to think … “What duty does this lie serve?”