Washington showed his regard for the Catholic troops at Valley Forge and helped to support a Catholic church in Philadelphia. He kept a devotional image of the Virgin Mary in his dining room at Valley Forge. Generations later, based on inherited information and sentiment, St. Katherine Drexel was certain that he had become a Catholic on his deathbed. While there is no substantial evidence for that, Washington knew that the natural-law theory enshrined in the Declaration of Independence had roots older than the Founding Fathers, and he would not have blanched to hear the names of Augustine and Aquinas among them.
On October 9, 1774, in Philadelphia, John Adams went church shopping with Washington and attended a service in a "Romish chapel," which was either St. Joseph's or St. Mary's. He described in a letter to his wife Abigail what seemed to him exotic: "... the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings and genuflections before the altar." There was nothing like that in his Puritan world, but he found it all "awful and affecting" — and awful then meant awesome. The sermon was "a good, short moral essay upon the duty of parents to their children, founded in justice and charity, to take care of their interests, temporal and spiritual," and "the assembly chanted more sweetly and exquisitely." He wondered how Luther ever "broke the spell." Adams himself was enough under the spell to donate a generous gift to the building of Holy Cross Church in Boston in 1800. A Protestant friend of his said, "no circumstance has contributed more to the peace and good order of the town, than the establishment of a Catholic Church."
The peace and good order of our whole nation hang on how we vote. Catholics can keep faith with the Fathers of the Church and the Founding Fathers of our Nation only by voting for those who defend the fundamental right to life and the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.
Father George William Rutler. "Keeping faith with the Fathers and the Founders." From the Pastor (November 4, 2012).
Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.
Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Copyright © 2012 Father George W. Rutler