ENGLISH ANTI-CATHOLICISM - "MEANING IT PLEASANTLY YOU KNOW"
Technical problems with Google indexing have made it desirable to re-post all of our material. I hope you will find interest in reflecting with me, on the history of the Church over the centuries and during the life of the Blog which began on 14th December 2009. This post first appeared on 6th June 2010.
No, the picture above is not proof that I have "lost my marbles", nor is it a mistake. We have seen plenty of evidence of the worst kind of vicious British anti- Catholicism in recent weeks. But there is a lesser, less spiteful kind, coming from that beefy, hale and hearty "not chaps like us, what?" strain of English life - probably now perishing in the New Britain as modern crudity spreads and the decrepitation of the Church of England reaches galloping speed.
But here is a beautiful piece of writing by the late Patrick O'Brian in "Master and Commander". The hero Jack Aubrey has only lately received his first command as "Master and Commander" of H.M. Brig Sophie. He is chatting with his recently met Surgeon Stephen Maturin an educated Irishman, whom he likes:
"Such a tedious damned morning. Each watch was to have just the same proportion of skilled hands in the various stations, and so on. Endless discussion. And", said he hitching himself a little closer to Stephen's ear, "I blundered into one of those unhappy gaffes..... I picked up the list and read off Flaherty, Lynch, Sullivan, Michael Kelly, Joseph Kelly, Sheridan and Aloysius Burke - those chaps that took the bounty at Liverpool - and I said "More of these damned Irish Papists; at this rate half the starboard watch will be made up of them, and we shall not be able to get by for beads"- meaning it pleasantly, you know. But then I noticed a damned frozen kind of chill and I said to myself "Why Jack, you damned fool, Dillon is from Ireland and he takes it as a national reflexion." Whereas I had not meant anything so illiberal as a national reflexion, of course; only that I hated Papists. So I tried to put it right by a few well-turned flings against the Pope, but perhaps they were not as clever as I thought for they did not seem to answer."
"And you hate Papists, so?" asked Stephen.
"Oh yes: and I hate paperwork. But the Papists are a very wicked crew too, you know, with confession and all that" said Jack. "And they tried to blow up Parliament. Lord, how we used to keep up the Fifth of November. One of my very best friends - you would not believe how kind - was so upset when her mother married one that she took to mathematics and Hebrew directly - aleph, beth - though she was the prettiest girl for miles around - taught me navigation - splendid headpiece, bless her. She told me quantities of things about the Papists: I forget it all now, but they are certainly a very wicked crew. There is no trusting them. Look at the rebellion they have just had."
"But my dear sir, the United Irishmen were primarily Protestants - their leaders were Protestants. Wolfe Tone and Napper Tandy were Protestants. The Emmetts, the O'Connors, Simon Butler, Hamilton Rowan, Lord Edward Fitzgerald were Protestants. And the whole idea of the club was to unite Protestant and Catholic and Presbyterian Irishmen. The Protestants it was who took the initiative."
"Oh? Well, I don't know much about it, as you see - I thought it was the Papists. I was on the West Indies station at the time. But after a great deal of this paperwork I am quite ready to hate Papists and Protestants, too, and Anabaptists and Methodies. And Jews. No - I don't give a damn. But what really vexes me is that I should have got across Dillon's hause like that; as I was saying there is nothing pleasanter than good shipmates."
Of course, Jack is yet to discover that Stephen to whom he is speaking, is himself a Catholic! The Aubrey/ Maturin series of novels is brilliant on many levels and I heartily recommend them.
But the bluff, near-mindless prejudice of Jack Aubrey rings wonderfully true - in fact, I have personally encountered something very close to it only last year.