“The Archivists’ Nook” on the website of The Catholic University of America’s libraries has a great lesson for us all about “Catholic contributions to the national cause.” Most of us may know well that Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence — and he was a cousin of Bishop (later Archbishop) John Carroll of Baltimore, who in 1789 became the first Catholic bishop of the United States.
The “Nook” posting highlights many other Catholics who had a role “in the front ranks of freedom’s struggle” it says:
— Two Catholics who signed the U.S. Constitution were Thomas Fitzsimons, an Irish-born Philadelphia merchant, and Bishop Carroll’s older brother, Daniel, who served in the Continental Congress and also signed the Articles of Confederation.
— Others included Stephen Moylan, also an Irish-born Philadelphia merchant; Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko of Poland; and the Marquis de Lafayette of France.
These Catholic leaders did all this despite the prejudice that existed against Catholics and the civil and legal restrictions on them.
A story in the CNS archives on Charles Carroll notes that he returned to Maryland, after getting a Jesuit education in Belgium, where his studies on the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Robert Bellarmine and Francisco de Suarez helped shape his political philosophy, and he began lobbying for repeal of the Stamp Act in 1765. But he was prohibited from voting on any issue because he was Catholic.
According to Scott McDermott, who wrote “Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary,” it was ” a profound victory for Catholic Americans” when he was elected to the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, and “the beginning of religious tolerance on this continent.”