Blaine authored the “Blaine Amendment,” a proposed reworking of the religion clauses of the First Amendment that, had it been passed by the Congress and ratified by the states, would have crippled parochial education in the United States.
As it was, many states adopted their own “Blaine amendments,” which continue to this day to complicate the growth of private schools, including Catholic schools.
Blaine would have objected that he wasn’t anti-Catholic at all, that his mother was Catholic in fact, and that his concern was really just the strengthening of public schools and the maintenance of the separation of church and state.
But his handiwork and its progeny emerged from a vigorous anti-Catholic movement, were quite clearly aimed at Catholics, and injured Catholic institutions, so history doesn’t quarrel with the appellation “anti-Catholic” as applied to the “Plumed Knight,” as Blaine was named at the GOP’s 1876 convention.
From just before that convention to the end of the 19th century, the Republican Party became enmeshed in anti-Catholic rhetoric and politics, just as the Democratic Party has become entangled in that poisonous and poisoning trap in the last quarter-century.
(For a great summary of this period, read “A Mandate for Anti-Catholicism: The Blaine Amendment,” by the Rev. Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., from the Sept. 27, 2004, edition of America magazine.) [More]