Volume > Issue > Fleeing from the Whore of Babylon

Fleeing from the Whore of Babylon

GROWING UP “ANTI-CATHOLIC”

By James J. Thompson Jr. | September 1984
James J. Thompson Jr. is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. A Contributing Editor of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW, he is the author of Tried as by Fire: Southern Baptists and the Religious Controversies of the 1920s.

Ten years old — shocked from innocence into cruel knowledge: I met my first Roman Catholic. My mother and I had just moved into an apartment in a rambling old hulk of a house in Takoma Park in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. As we sat at the supper table one evening soon after our move my mother mentioned that our landlord, Mr. Ferraro, and his family, who lived in the front part of the house, were Catholic. Surprise and consternation mingled in equal parts as I pondered this unpleasant piece of news. How could we live under the same roof with a pack of papists?

I avoided the Ferraros — father, mother, son, and daughter — as long as possible, but a week or so later the inevitable happened: on the sidewalk ahead of me loomed Mr. Ferraro himself, an im­mense and scowling man of bear-like girth and gen­erally forbidding appearance. He growled some­thing which bore only the slightest resemblance to a greeting; I mumbled hello (even stark terror did not excuse one from good manners) and scurried past, relieved that I had survived my first confron­tation with one of the pope’s minions.

During the next few years I developed great affection for the Ferraros, but I didn’t solve the conundrum: How could such kind and friendly people belong to such an odious Church? Never did I cease to feel a prickle of anxiety when on a Sun­day morning I would see Mrs. Ferraro and her chil­dren (Mr. Ferraro turned out to be more of a stay-at-home papist) leave for Mass, she wearing a man­tilla of black lace and carrying those mysterious wooden beads.

The belatedness of my acquaintance with Catholics may seem odd when one considers that Maryland owes its founding to Catholicism. In 1634 a company of English Roman Catholic land­ed across the Potomac River from Virginia to es­tablish a colony where they could worship in peace, free from the disabilities inflicted upon them at home by their countrymen.

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