George Calvert, the first Baron of Baltimore, ought to be more widely known as a Catholic founder of the United States.
Born just 40 years after the excommunication of King Henry VIII, Calvert himself has a storied past and political career. Although raised in a Catholic home, Calvert discarded the faith to pursue university studies and to advance in the King’s favor. Having taken an oath of allegiance (required by law), he was married in the Church of England, where his children were also baptized. At one point, he served on an investigatory committee to Ireland, which advocated for further religious compulsion and the suppression of Catholic schools.
James’s successor, Charles I, made it clear that he would not afford Calvert due esteem. Consequently Calvert resigned from his post (he had been one of England’s secretaries of state) and converted to Catholicism.
Devotion to his reclaimed faith, and a desire to grow his nascent fortune, led Calvert to turn his hopes to the New World. However, he found in England’s young colonies the same penal laws and raw opposition to Catholicism that he had known in England.
It was then that Calvert turned to Charles I and asked for a charter to found a new colony.
Calvert died two months before his charter was granted. His son, however, took up his father’s mantle and established a colony, Maryland (named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary), where all religious men could practice the faith of their conscience.
The tale of the Baron of Baltimore is just one example of the devotion of American Catholics, from the outset, to the cause of religious liberty. The United States has a storied, but proud, history of religious freedom, one that must be known and treasured today.
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