Anti-Catholicism has had a long presence in American history. The Civil War beginning in 1861 gave Catholic Americans a chance to prove their patriotism once and for all.

In a talk Jan. 24 at the Union League of Philadelphia, author William Kurtz will explore how Catholics sought to use their participation in the war to counteract religious and political nativism in the United States. While the war was an alienating experience for many of the 200,000 Catholics who served, they still strove to construct a positive memory of their experiences to show that their religion was no barrier to their being loyal American citizens.


The opportunity for Irish and German Catholics to become “American” by fighting for and supporting the Union war effort also divided them as to the social, cultural and political cost of accepting the dominant Republican and Protestant terms for inclusion in that Union and their own need to maintain the integrity of their faith.

Kurtz’s talk, titled “Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America,” will explain how the war led Catholics to become both more American and more Catholic at the same time.

The program on Jan. 24 runs from 6 to 7 p.m., preceded by cocktails (cash bar) at 5:30.

There is no charge to attend. The dress code is jacket, collared shirt, slacks (no jeans, sneakers) for men, something comparable for women.

For questions and/or reservations, contact Jim Mundy at