With the Papal visit just months away many Brits, particularly the ‘cultured’ sort, seem to be slowly working themselves up into a frenzy of anti-Catholic sentiment. For the observer this is mildly humorous, not least because it shows that even in ‘enlightened’ and ‘rational’ times people can yet churn out the most narrow-minded and illogical propaganda. Of course, one mustn’t be too surprised, since many have been bathed in pseudo-history since they were babes, and even the most eloquent debunking is incapable of convincing those so utterly determined to remain hostile.
As a result, the issue that consistently remains neglected is that of why such propaganda was ever needed in the first place. And if it were finally addressed, there can be little doubt that even the most ardent of contemporary apparatchiks would find themselves blushing at the cause they were passionately upholding. For the truth is, these pockmarked histories were manufactured primarily to protect a genocidal King and, later on, those whose consciences had been bought by him. That is not to say that this is a uniquely modern phenomenon, and common folk have been taught to misrepresent history ever since it became clear that history must be written by the winners, not least because those winners were also the ones who literally had the most to lose.
Thus, the folk on the ground passionately screaming silly slogans became the useful idiots that defended the very specimens that had dispossessed them, and who were to continue dispossessing them, over and over, for several hundred years. As such, if one ever wants to know why the Pope was depicted as a foreign enemy assaulting national sovereignty, or why clerical celibacy was denounced as inhumane, or why the Head of State had necessarily to become the Head of the Church, or why shrines were desecrated and pilgrimages condemned, or why veneration of the saints (and of Mary) was denounced as idolatrous, or why the monasteries were depicted as parasitic and regressive insitutitons, or why churches were stripped naked in the name of helping the impoverished, or why Tradition was denied in the name of sola scriptura and sola fide – if you want to know the answer to any of these things, then one need at the outset grasp this simple, central fact: that it best benefitted the desires and fortunes of those who had the most to gain by saying so.
Thus, for the sake of a man who wanted to divorce his Queen, and the honourable refusal of a Church to abandon a lady to the changeable lusts of a tyrant, even at the price of losing one of its most precious jewels – for the sake of this did the plunder commence. And the plunder was shared out among those whose consciences were valued at thirty pieces of silver, bringing with it the creation of a rapacious and institutionally anti-clerical petit-bourgeoisie, whose most distinguishing feature throughout history has been the depths to which it will descend to defend and protect its ill-gotten purse. And so, for those who would understand British history, or at least the past 500 or so years of it, one must keep this in mind: that those in power could only justify their crimes by demonising their victim. The absurd historical revisionism, the numerous character assassinations, the bloody persecution of non-conformists, the depiction of Catholics as traitors, the emergence of whiggism, the embrace of so-called ‘Parliamentary democracy’, the ‘Glorious Revolution’, the recusancy laws, the barbarous treatment of the Irish, and much much more besides; all these things were at root instituted in the name of, and to the benefit of, our alleged ‘liberators’ from the manacles of the Catholic Church.
An acknowledgment of the reality of this history often precedes conversion to the Faith, as several high-profile Anglicans have demonstrated throughout history. And since his name is topical, one might also turn to Cardinal Newman for confirmation of just this. One can read Newman’s thoughts directly here, or alternatively take at face value a neat analysis provided by the author of the blogpost, who writes;
Newman was also a historian. He showed how the historical claims and myths underlying “anti-Catholicism” of his time were inaccurate, false and unjustified. But it is interesting that the same set of myths are still used today to justify many anti-Catholic rants despite their historical inaccuracy. He described such a version of the historical record as “Fables” or Myths. He showed them to be logically inconsistent and grounded in prejudice, sustained by tradition and by many institutions of the British State. People who held to such “fables” required ignorance of the Catholic view as a protection for their own position‘ [my emphasis].
Newman diagnosed then what remains true now, and if anything is becoming ever more acute. But the central fact remains that the Fables are grounded in fantasy, not reality. Or, in the pithy words of Newman: ‘To be deep in history is to cease to be protestant.’