Who knew I owe my freedom to Nativists who killed Irish Catholics! The “ground zero mosque” debate gets uglier.

I would like to thank New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, on behalf of my Irish Catholic relatives; indeed, on behalf of all Irish Catholics, including the Kennedy family, for reminding us of the debt we owe to anti-Catholic “Nativists.” Yes, even though I was raised to believe the Nativists spread anti-Catholic prejudice and bigotry with lies about who we were and what we believed, Douthat says I was raised wrong (not surprising, given I was raised by Irish Catholics). In fact, Catholics like my family and the Kennedys should apparently thank the Nativists, because, as Douthat patiently explains, “Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.”

Got that? Until today, I had always thought the belief that Catholics couldn’t be “unambiguously Catholic and American,” or that the Catholic Church had “illiberal tendencies,” represented prejudice, the kind of prejudice that collided with and eventually gave way to American ideals about equality and religious freedom. I didn’t realize my people had to be “inspired” into fully embracing “the virtues of democracy” by Nativists, often by violence: from Charlestown, Mass, where Nativists burned a Catholic convent in 1834, to Philadelphia in 1844 (where thousands of Nativists attacked Irish Catholics, derided as “scum unloaded on American wharfs,” burned Catholic churches and convents, invaded the homes of Irish Catholics and beat residents), to St. Louis, where a Nativist riot against Irish Catholics killed 10 and destroyed 93 Irish Catholic homes and businesses, or Louisville, Ky., where Nativist mobs killed at least two dozen Catholics on “Bloody Monday,” Aug. 6, 1855.

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