Posted by Lexington Green on August 31st, 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
It just depends on who the “they” is. There’s always somebody. Sometimes it’s the same people, even. (Lex will add here, as an aside, that it gave brought genuine joy to his Roman Catholic heart to see that David Warren has swum the Tiber.)
Our long-time readers are well aware that we Chicago Boyz celebrate diversity, amongst ourselves, comprising as we do a delightful array of strongly held religious and philosophical perspectives. And we get along fine. Civility, so sadly lacking in our world, is in surplus on this blog. (And of course we expect it and usually get it from our most of our esteemed visitors.)
Believing that the Vatican is secretly manipulating all kinds of things, that it secretly pulls the strings behind major world events, is an old and disreputable (to say nothing of demonstrably false) form of anti-Catholic conspiracy theorizing. It is deeply-rooted in this country in the frontier Protestantism which preceded and to a large degree still permeates Jacksonian America. You can still see it on cable TV from time to time — clean-cut people from the Heartland who know darn well that the Pope is the Antichrist and secretly behind this or that. Ho hum. Same old thing. Click to the figure skating trials.
The British still have a deep streak of this kind of thing. In fact, we got it from them. One friend, an American expat and lapsed Catholic, was struck by the chants on “No Popery” on Guy Fawkes day. How un-PC. Other than that annual outburst, these sentiments seems to only be vocalized out on the right-wing fringe even in England. So I was a little surprised when the Spectator, which I like very much, recently published an extraordinary article entitled “Render unto the Pope” which shows what I suppose is the cutting edge of British anti-Catholic “thinking“. The author is a person named Hilton, whom we are assured by the Spectator is “an approved candidate for the Conservative party.” Wow. I guess the Catholic vote is not up for grabs in the UK. A friend whom I’ll call Francophile Pundit (“FP”) sent me the link, and I responded pretty much as follows:
Classic, FP. Wonderful. Thanks. Let me once again pledge my undying love for the Spectator. May it never change. It is one of the few places you can still get a good whiff of the stale, sour dry-rot which has so long afflicted British conservatism. British conservatives are ideologically pure — they have no intelligent life behind their eyebrows whatsoever, just a set of reflexive prejudices. Sometimes I approve of these prejudices, like when they hate Socialism, or the French, or Bolsheviks, or anyone who tries to take away their houses, horses, hounds or shotguns. Sometimes I do not approve, like when they hate all wogs, Irish and Americans the same way — or when they are gripped by a delusional fear of an imaginary takeover attempt by the Vatican. Virtually no one in Britain goes to church or believes in God, especially the wealthy and well-connected, yet they are the very ones who are die-hards who live in reflexive dread that somehow their country will lose its “Protestant” character. Only a British Conservative could be stupid enough to believe that the EU is a front operation for “Rome’s s goal of assuming political and religious authority over the lives of all Europeans.” Oh my heavens. Wake up and have a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit Mr. Hilton, you have been having a bad dream. Here’s the cure — repeat this until it sinks in: The EU is a secular, anti-religious entity.
I am sure Hilton is right that the Catholic Church’s leading spokesmen have been saying sweet things about the EU, making nice to it, sucking up to it, hoping to have some influence on it. I also have to concede that the Catholic senior clergy like the EU the way they like the UN, another organization which is hostile to Catholicism, based on some mix of delusion and wishful thinking. (They incorrectly think the EU and its predecessors prevented another European war, when it was fear of Russia and occupation by the United States that kept the peace.) Less forgivably, the Church’s leadership does seem to harbor some vague hope that one day a vast bureaucracy will squat toad-like atop the entire world, imagining that this loathsome thing will be easier for the Church to deal with than a troublesome bunch of free and independent countries. Thank God I’ll be long dead before that happens. But, back in the real world, the RC Church manifestly wields no real power in the EU, as any rational person can see even from here.
Anyway, hallucinatory anti-Catholic conspiracy theorizing amongst bigoted Brit conservatives is nothing new. And if this “tradition” helps to stiffen resistance to the encroaching Fourth Reich headquartered in Brussels, fabulous. I do actually agree with the underlying aim of the article — two-fisted opposition to the EU and to Britain’s subjugation by it. Whatever is bad for the EU is fine with me. I don’t have to like its enemies, I just want it to have lots and lots of them. The “Europe” which is gelling into solidity nowadays is an entity which is being born already senile, a self-parody of pointless paper-shuffling and red-tape and nannyism and political correctness, a continent-sized retirement home, too febrile and bankrupt even to work effectively in deeds the evil that resides in its grotty, scabrous old heart. A curse on the EU, a pox on it. And England? Merrie Olde England? Better that it be governed by people like Hilton, if necessary, living in the past, amidst the detritus of its lost greatness and power, bone-stupid and bigoted, than that it become one more gray, dull, regimented, lifeless regional department of the nascent European Superstate.
I prayed a decade of the rosary for Mr. Hilton. Love your enemies. It’s hard, but it’s do-able.