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The News from Boston

I am a little puzzled by Michael Brendan Dougherty’s post this morning. Michael is a Catholic whose Catholicism is central to his political beliefs, and he offers, as an example of the kind of principles he cherishes in government, Massachusetts in 1780. It is true that John Adams’s constitution did do away with the law that allowed for the hanging of Catholic priests for the crime of being present in Massachusetts, but Catholics continued to be legally excluded from full civil rights for years. As I am sure Michael knows, there were no Masses publicly celebrated in Boston on the day that constitution was enacted, or on any other day for years to come, because the “common good” as then understood in Massachusetts was imposed by violence and terrorism against Catholics. A strange bit of evidence for Michael’s case, but then this has been a strange discussion. But to answer his question directly: Yes, that is exactly the kind of communal savagery I can happily do without.

I can foresee a response: Advocates of Michael’s sensibility will say that they do not admire the oppressive religious bigotry of 18th-century Massachusetts, but only its sense of moral purpose and solidarity. But that is “real socialism has never been tried” stuff. It is not as though the illiberal nationalism that is in vogue at the moment among some on the Right does not have a record in office, from Franco to Orban. If you order bacon, you’re going to get served pork.

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