Mary Baker Eddy left no written record regarding why she established this By-Law, which forbids teaching “Roman Catholics Christian Science, except it be with the written consent of the authority of their Church.” This By-Law was adopted by the Christian Science Board of Directors on April 26, 1904, nine months after Pope Pius X assumed office following the decease of Leo XIII.1
It’s well known that from colonial times Protestantism (and especially Congregationalism) flourished in New England, bringing with it strong feelings of anti-Catholicism. In the nineteenth century, New England experienced several waves of Catholic emigration from Europe. Anti-Catholic beliefs became so widespread that they gave birth to a political party, the American Party (also known as the Know-Nothings), which flourished for a time and ran a presidential candidate in 1856.
Not surprisingly, by the turn of the century the Catholic Church and its membership were consciously pulling away from extensive contacts with Protestants. This inward turning, which included the formation of parochial schools and social organizations, was promoted by the Vatican.2 The “Church Membership” By-Law can be seen as a respectful response to this policy of the Catholic Church. One letter in our collections seems to support this interpretation. Eddy’s secretary Lewis Strang wrote in a letter dated November 22, 1906, “Her [Eddy’s] ruling against teaching Roman Catholics is strictly in accord with the Golden Rule, for it is no secret that the Roman Catholic Church does not approve of its adherents investigating the subject of Christian Science.”3
- Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1913), 294.
- For more information, one good resource is the biography Militant and Triumphant: William Henry O’Connell and the Catholic Church in Boston, 1859-1944 by James M. O’Toole (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992).
- Lewis Strang to William Fuller, 22 November 1906, L14017.