Well, they say history repeats itself. If you want proof, just check out this great story in The New York Times today that lays out the incredible parallels between the controversy over Park51, the proposed Muslim center and mosque that would be built near Ground Zero, and St. Peter's Catholic Church, which sits just two blocks from the Park51 site and is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone this year.
The arguments against the church then are eerily similar to
the arguments against the Muslim center now. According to the article by Paul Vitello, there were fears in the late 18th century that the Catholic church was being underwritten by foreigners, fears that the pope was going to use the location to gain a foothold and undermine America's new democracy, fears that Catholic beliefs were not compatible with U.S. beliefs and ideals. Opponents of St. Peter's even demanded the proposed church be built in a different location, outside of what was then the center of the city in lower Manhattan.
Long after the church was eventually built, tensions ran high. In 1806, angry Protestants surrounded the church on Christmas Eve because they saw the annual celebration of Christ's birth as a "popish superstition." They disrupted the service, causing dozens of injuries and the death of a cop.
Suddenly the current controversy, unfortunately, doesn't seem so unusual, does it? We forget that Catholics long suffered for their faith in this country, suspected of being anti-democracy because of their religious convictions.
Here's some of what Father Kevin V. Madigan, current pastor St. Peter's, told the Times:
“We were treated as second-class citizens; we were viewed with suspicion,” Father Madigan wrote in his letter to parishioners, adding, “Many of the charges being leveled at Muslim-Americans today are the same as those once leveled at our forebears.”
"The pastor said he respected the feelings of those who lost relatives or friends on 9/11. “They bear a grief that is inexpressible,” he said. Park51’s organizers, he added, would have to “make clear that they are in no way sympathetic to or supported by any ideology antithetical to our American ideals, which I am sure they can do.”
"But he said Catholic New Yorkers had a special obligation. The discrimination suffered by their forebears, he said, “ought to be an incentive for us to ensure that similar indignities not be inflicted on more recent arrivals.”
Read the full article HERE.