Is English nationalism still opposed to Catholicism?

For all the doubts that non Catholics in this country seem to inherit at birth through some inexplicable collective subconscious it is amazing there are any Catholics at all in this land.

People could be forgiven for thinking that the Catholic Church just one day decided to write down everything it believed relating to the supernatural, the spiritual, the moral and call itself a religion. The lack of historical understanding of the roots of Catholicism is in most people of this country complete.

Perhaps this has contributed to the sense of rootlessness that is widely felt in this country, perhaps this is where the bizarre urge to trace one’s family tree to the Nth degree comes from and why it is so popular. (everyone always seems to end up being a long lost relative of Napoleon, Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan or someone of such improbable ilk)

Myself, I’ve never felt the urge or need to place myself in some kind of elongated genetic context. My feeling of roots from my immediate family and my Church give me all the security I need.

Why does the Church provide that sense of security? That sense of cultural roots that the Church provides is inexhaustible because it comes from God.

Why do I think that this historical security comes from God? Because the Catholic Church has for the past 2000 years or so been mysteriously held together, despite the vast number of powerful forces arrayed against it.  Heresies, invasions, schisms, anti-popes, feudal kings, the Roman empire, the ‘enlightenment’, communism. All these things come and go, yet the Catholic Church remains.

First we should look at the Roman Empire, the Roman empire tolerated Jews their strange and quixotic dedication to monotheism just so long as they paid higher taxes than everyone else. Israel had been a troublesome little backwater province of the empire ever since they had conquered it.

Christianity caused great controversy amongst the Jewish communities throughout the Empire, rioting was even involved. As an aside it often amuses me to think about how wet modern Christianity is in comparison to that which rapidly spread around Europe in the first century AD.

Very quickly the Roman empire banned it and went about ruthlessly persecuting Christianity. The Jews also persecuted Christianity for its belief that a man called Jesus was in fact the son of God, which, unless it is true is indeed blasphemy in the extreme.

So Christianity thrived, despite martyrdom being an ever present possibility until the reign of Constantine. This is very important to note. All but one of the Apostles were martyred. Would you die for something unless it were true?

This was not the type of martyrdom common within Islamic fundamentalism, where you endeavor to take as  many of the heathens as you can with you. This was the simple choice often given to early Christians, denounce Jesus, accept pagan worship, or be horribly murdered.

Many chose the latter of those options, and it seemed as more and more Christians were publicly murdered the more people were amazed by this faith that defied all worldly persecution.

Even Catholics today who are born into the faith have to make a concrete choice to own and assent to that faith, converts have to go through every dogma and as many beliefs of the Church as possible before they make that final leap of faith into the waters of baptism.

But if you are in the West Christians don’t have to face the very real possibility that in doing so they may have to accept imminent death or horrific persecution. You do unfortunately have to accept ridicule, contempt and face very counter cultural life choices.

Christian converts in Islamic countries or in severe communist countries aren’t so lucky and are still persecuted viciously and frequently killed for their faith to this day.

Last night I was having a conversation with an good friend who is, I’d say an agnostic, or at least an atheist with a healthy sense of doubt. He told me that for some illogical reason he shudders when he walks past Catholic Churches.

Why? well I’ve got a number of theories. A couple of which I’ll post here.

1 It is very natural and sensible to shudder in the face of Catholicism because its claims are indeed so incredible and life changing, and things that are life changing are not without reason considered threatening. Perhaps an element of spiritual warfare is involved?

2 It is possible that the belief that Catholicism is against the national interest has become key to the national identity of England, which has seeped from the propaganda poison pens of the courts of Henry the 8th, Edward the 6th, Elizabeth the 1st, Oliver Cromwell and many others?

Does Spain, Italy, Poland or Ireland suffer because of their Catholic heritage? No, and neither would England suffer.  We would still be the nation of football, of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, fish and chips. We would still be a nation of music and wit, of good pubs and real ale.

Yet we would also be connected to that great source of civilization that is the Catholic Church, with its wealth of learning, art, philosophy and theology. To the faith that forged Europe when the Roman empire failed. To the apostles, to the Church fathers, to the Pope.

Catholics have always rejected the idea that you must choose between being English and being Catholic. Some even did so as they went to the scaffold for their faith and faced being hung drawn and quartered for it.


5 thoughts on “Is English nationalism still opposed to Catholicism?

  1. The church of England has abandoned England years ago and sees itself as the church of britain.New Labour co-opted the c of e into promoting the abolition of England by regional assemblies.
    I was hoping for positive comments about England from the Pope,but it was not to be. England is a walk up start for anyone who wants it. at present no one does.

    • Your comment was more that a little ambiguous, so I thought I’d reply. I’ll approve it anyway because I want people to know what others have to say. I don’t look forward to the day when I won’t be able to approve something to be read on my blog.

      New Labour and Old Labour for that matter both despise Englishness it is true, and as an electoral strategy it has paid off, check out the constituency voting patterns and just because I know they have it try the Telegraph website if you haven’t already. Without Wales and Scotland the parliamentary Labour Party would hardly even exist.

      I don’t know that the C of E has political pull in any area so I can’t see how they have been co-opted, the C of E only exists because it has never resisted the whims of the government and it isn’t about to start now. It hardly seems to have religious pull over its own members any more but then it has never had a clear teaching authority so that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

      I’m not sure what a walk up start is, but if you mean up for grabs, I don’t entirely agree, English culture is exceptionally powerful. Within a generation of the Norman invasion the English invaded France with the Normans at the helm, within three generations those Normans spoke English and England was their home.

      Radical Islam will prove a problem for the next sixty years or so, perhaps longer abroad, but in England those that accept our values will remain, those that don’t will have died of old age. It is very hard to pass on values which are distorted when they can be readily compared to other more tolerant values and that is what our society of freedom of speech, expression and importantly freedom of religious expression provides.

      For example Konnie Huq has married Charlie Brooker (the lucky git) and England is stronger than ever for their union. (not that I’m saying Konnie Huq was ever from radical Islamic stock, but she is now as English as English can be and that is the power of our culture)

      Who wants England, we do, that is all that matters, I know as soon as people talk about love of country, most reach for the sick-bags, but deep down we do love this land. We may only express it during football matches and find people who fly the flag a little awkward, but we love the freedom that this country has always stood for, at least for its own citizens, and now before the world and hopefully will always stand for it. This is all that matters.

      As for the Pope, he did not come to the UK to proclaim a Scotsman or a Welshman, or a Northern Irish man blessed, that is all that he has to say, he is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, to the English and to everyone else to say anything else I think is a little redundant.

      I thought it was redundant when he talked about abolishing the slave trade (not least because I know how little we actually did in that respect), or even when he most emotionally talked about fighting the Nazis, but that too was of secondary importance, one of our countrymen is beatified and his blessing will be sought by Catholics around the globe, that is honour enough. I don’t know how else to put it.

      • Well yes but Islam, especially radical Islam… and if you take the Koran seriously Islam is by default pretty radical, is not really compatible with Englishness in any way, so I don’t think they have a chance.

        Islamic ghettos will exist but I don’t see them taking over. In fact the opposite, they will, over a couple of generations probably integrate, depending on if the government stops uncontrolled immigration.

        Religious extremism tends to always flourish when people perceive their religious values as under threat. They exist because they are loosing the ideological war despite what Tony Blair says.

        Killing people who convert to or proselytise for other religions is the resort of a religion that is relatively weak philosophically, spiritually and obviously morally.

      • I think Islam will takeover…if only by birthrates alone. While the UK’s secular population shrinks…the Islamic population expands rapidly.

        Secularism with its lack of belief is ideal soil for the growth of a religion as driven and fecund as Islam.

        Not to mention that any population gap will be filled by a constant supply of Islamic migration from the Middle east and Pakistan.

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