Monday, November 08, 2004


An interesting post by Enbrethiliel on the Gothic Genre and anti-Catholicism.
In England, Bishop Tom Wright is defending the English Bishop's right to make a castle his home. This editorial backs his position. (Incidentally, I heard Bishop Wright speak in Rome a couple of years ago when he was still Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and I must say that the Church of England is very fortunate to have such a fine scholar as Bishop of Durham.)
Finally, Enbrethiliel's article reminded me to revisit Newman's anti-Protestant polemic Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England wherein I found this wonderful piece of prose about the 'prejudiced man':
The prejudiced Man travels, and then everything he sees in Catholic countries only serves to make him more thankful that his notions are so true; and the more he sees of Popery, the more abominable he feels it to be. If there is any sin, any evil in a foreign population, though it be found among Protestants also, still Popery is clearly the cause of it. If great cities are the schools of vice, it is owing to Popery. If Sunday is profaned, if there is a Carnival, it is the fault of the Catholic Church. Then, there are no private homes, as in England, families live on staircases; see what it is to belong to a Popish country. Why do the Roman labourers wheel their barrows so slow on the Forum? why do the Lazzaroni of Naples lie so listlessly on the beach? why, but because they are under the malaria of a false religion. Rage, as is well-known, is in the Roman like a falling sickness, almost as if his will had no part in it, and he had no responsibility; see what it is to be a Papist. Bloodletting is as frequent and as much a matter of course in the South, as hair-cutting in England; it is a trick borrowed from the convents, when they wish to tame down refractory spirits.
The Prejudiced man gets up at an English hour, has his breakfast at his leisure, and then saunters into some of the churches of the place; he is scandalized to have proof of what he has so often heard, the infrequency of communions among Catholics. Again and again, in the course of his tour, has he entered them, and never by any chance did he see a solitary communicant:—hundreds, perhaps, having communicated in those very churches, according to their custom, before he was out of his bedroom. But what scandalizes him most, is that even bishops and priests, nay, the Pope himself does not communicate at the great festivals of the Church. He was at a great ceremonial, a High Mass, on Lady Day, at the Minerva; not one Cardinal communicated; Pope and Cardinals, and every Priest present but the celebrant, having communicated, of course, each in his own Mass, and in his own chapel or church early in the morning. Then the churches are so dirty; faded splendour, tawdriness, squalidness are the fashion of the day;—thanks to the Protestants and Infidels, who, in almost every country where Catholicism is found, have stolen the revenues by which they were kept decent. He walks about and looks at the monuments, what is this? the figure of a woman: who can it be? His Protestant cicerone at his elbow, who perhaps has been chosen by his good father or guardian to protect him on his travels from a Catholic taint, whispers that it is Pope Joan, and he notes it down in his pocket-book accordingly. I am alluding to an accident, which in its substance befell a most excellent person, for whom I had and have a great esteem, whom I am sure I would not willingly offend, and who will not be hurt at this cursory mention of an unintentional mistake. He was positive he had seen Pope Joan in Rome,—I think, in St. Peter's; nay, he saw the inscription on the monument, beginning with the words, "Joannæ Papissæ." It was so remarkable a fact, and formed so plausible an argument against the inviolateness of the chair of St. Peter, that it was thought worth inquiring into. I do not remember who it was that the female, thus elevated by his imagination, turned into in the process of investigation, whether into the Countess Matilda, or Queen Christina, or the figure of Religion in the vestibule of St. Peter's; but certainly into no lady who had any claim on the occupation of the Ecumenical See.
This puts me in mind of another occurrence, of which the publications of the day have recently been full. A lady of high literary reputation deposed that Denon and other French savans had given her the information that, in the days of the Republic or Consulate, they had examined St. Peter's chair in the Vatican Basilica, and had found that it unquestionably had come from the East, long after the age of the Apostle, for it had inscribed upon it the celebrated confession of Islamism, "There is one God, and Mahomet is his prophet." Her prejudices sharpened her memory, and she was positive in her testimony. Inquiry was made, and it turned out that the chair of which she had spoken was at Venice, not at Rome; that it had been brought thither by the Crusaders from the East, and therefore might well bear upon it the Mahometan inscription; and that tradition gave it the reputation of being, by no means the Roman, but the Antiochene Chair of the Apostle. In this, as in other mistakes, there was no deliberate intention to deceive; it was an ordinary result of an ordinary degree of prejudice. The voucher of the story was so firmly convinced, I suppose, of the "childish absurdity and falsehood of all the traditions of the Romish Church," that she thought it unnecessary to take pains to be very accurate, whether in her hearing or her memory.
Our Prejudiced Man might travel half his life up and down Catholic Europe, and only be confirmed in his contempt and hatred of its religion. In every place there are many worlds, quite distinct from each other: there are good men and bad, and the good form one body, the bad another. Two young men, as is well known, may pass through their course at a Protestant University, and come away with opposite reports of the state of the place: the one will have seen all the bad, the other all the good; one will say it is a sober, well-conducted place, the other will maintain that it is the home of every vice. The Prejudiced Man takes care to mix only in such society as will confirm his views; he courts the society of Protestants and unbelievers, and of bad Catholics, who shelter their own vice under the imputations they cast on others, and whose lives are a disgrace to the Church prior to their testimony. His servants, couriers, laquais de place, and acquaintance, are all of his own way of thinking, and find it for their interest to flatter and confirm it. He carries England with him abroad; and, though he has ascended mountains and traversed cities, knows scarcely more of Europe than when he set out.

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