May 26, 1647

Massachusetts Bay Colony Bans Catholic Priests

Region:
Greater Boston

On this day 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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