When the Rev. Pierce Connelly denounced Protestantism and converted to Catholicism in 1835, he inadvertently started a small newspaper war among the burgeoning religious press in America. While Catholic periodicals celebrated their newest addition in print, Protestant newspapermen were scandalized. They worried about how the clerical husband's conversion might affect his marital life should he pursue ordination in the Catholic Church. Soon, the Connellys dissolved their marriage in Rome and moved to England, where Pierce became a priest, and his wife Cornelia entered a convent. When, thirteen years later, Pierce reconverted and sued Cornelia “for the restoration of conjugal rights” in an English court, the case became an international sensation – with both British and American newspapers covering the developments and using the saga to comment on larger religious and political issues of their time. The two scandals demonstrate how the transatlantic press debated contested global concerns about the limits of religious freedom, the changing nature of marriage, church–state relations, and international law.
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