Pennsylvania and Maryland were
the only American colonies that permitted the free exercise of Catholic
worship, and in Pennsylvania certain restrictions applied. A Test
Act, enacted by the Crown in 1695 to bar Catholics from public office,
remained in effect until the American revolution, but the Quakers of
Pennsylvania prevented the enforcement of the English penal code
against Catholic practices. Technically, property ownership
required citizenship and citizenship required making the Test Oath,
which included denials of major tenets of Catholic faith.
Nevertheless, German Catholics found little difficulty in buying and
holding land. In 1733 the provincial council allowed the first
public chapel in Philadelphia and the Catholic right to worship was
never seriously challenged thereafter.
A spirit of distrust prevailed leading to the 1757 census of
Catholics within Pennsylvania when they numbered a little more than
1300 of the total colony population of about 300,000. The
majority were German, with some of Irish or English derivation.
The first parochial school in the United States was established at
Goshenhoppen in 1743 and the first Catholic cemetery in 1765.
Prior to that, family burial plots were typically used.
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