Jesuits Banned From Massachuetts Bay Colony in 1647

Early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were both inhospitable and intolerant of those who didn’t share their religious beliefs. These Puritans were particularly hostile to the “devilish” Roman Catholic Frenchmen of Quebec and especially to the Jesuit missionary priests they brought with them. Jesuit conversions of the natives along with the “popish” rituals and practices and the ties to France intensified Puritan fears. To ward-off any spread of Catholicism and its influences, the General Court forbade the entrance of any Jesuit into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. While the Revolution with its needs of France as an ally might have soften some rules, anti-Catholic sentiment – prejudice, discrimination and even violence in Massachusetts continued thoughout the years even as the Catholic population increased through waves of immigration into the 20th Century. Ironically in 1960, a son of Massachusetts became the first Catholic President of the United States.

…in 1647, Massachusetts Bay banned Jesuit priests from the colony on penalty of death. The English Puritans who settled the colony feared the Jesuits for several reasons. First, simply because they were Catholic. To Puritans, Catholicism was nothing less than idolatrous blasphemy, and Catholics were destined for eternal damnation. Second, because the Jesuits were French, and France and England were engaged in a bitter struggle for control of North America. Finally, Jesuit missionaries had converted large numbers of Indians in Canada to Catholicism. Indian converts were potential allies of France and enemies of the English. Although no Jesuit was executed for defying the ban, the legacy of anti-Catholicism in Massachusetts survived for generations.

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3 Responses to Jesuits Banned From Massachuetts Bay Colony in 1647

  1. C R Krieger says:

    Not just our Commonwealth.  There were Priest Holes in Virginia around the same time.  Father Andrew Greeley has argued in the past that the oldest prejudice in this land was not against Blacks, but against Catholics.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. Christopher says:

    Just to clarify, Puritans in fact did not separate from the Church of England, but sought to purify from within. The Pilgrims were the real radicals that felt the Church of England was a lost cause and advocated complete separation.