Published in 1949, Paul Blanshard’s American Freedom and Catholic Power captured the attention of American intelligentsia with its claim that American Catholic citizens had to choose “between a church hostile to fundamentals of democracy and a state where contrary views are implicit under our Constitution.” John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to Protestant ministers in Houston on Sept. 12, 1960 was in many respects a response to Blanshard’s thesis. Today Blanshard’s bigotry may not be explicitly defended in educated circles, but questions remain about what made his book so compelling. Patrick Brennan considers whether Blanshard was onto something about the incompatibility of Catholic principles and American democratic philosophy.
Patrick McKinley Brennan is Professor of Law at Villanova University and holds the John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies. Professor Brennan’s scholarship uses the resources of the central western philosophical and theological tradition, including but not limited to the Thomistic natural law tradition, to examine a wide range of questions in American public law.