"Den katolska faran" Antikatolicismen och den svenska nationella identiteten i ett nordiskt perspektiv


  • Yvonne Maria Werner


anti-Catholicism, Lutheran heritage, religious legislation, national culture, identity


In Sweden, as in other Protestant countries, the gradual dismantling of the legislation on compulsory religious adherence saw the politicization of religious issues. In this situation, the imagery of the old enemy took on new functions. This was very much the case with the notion of the ‘Catholic danger’, which time and again surfaced in the Swedish media and in parliamentary debate. In the 1860s and 1870s, Sweden’s harsh religious legislation was liberalized. The Dissenter Act of 1860 legalized conversions to other Christian denominations, but it put in place many obstacles to leaving the Established Church, and many of the legal restrictions were obviously anti-Catholic in intent. Anti-Catholic sentiment was also expressed in conjunction with the legislative proposals and parliamentary debates on the question of religious freedom that preceded the Act concerning Freedom of Religion of 1951. The fact that full religious freedom was introduced so late stemmed largely from fears that the Catholic Church would grow strong under the protection of a more liberal religious legislation. The article addresses anti-Catholic rhetoric in Sweden from the mid nineteenth century to the early 1960s, with a focus on the debates in the media and in parliament. It is shown that there was a shift in the perception of the ‘Catholic danger’. At the beginning of the period, anti-Catholicism was prompted by a desire to shield Protestant religious unity; later the objective became progressively more secular. Even if the Lutheran heritage still played an important role for Swedish cultural identity, common values were no longer motivated by religion, but purely by politics and ideology. Today it is Islam that is portrayed as a threat to the Nordic community of values, and the current anti-Islamic rhetoric is closely allied to that used until the 1960s against Catholicism.