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How rife was anti-Catholicism in Downton Abbey’s time?

After all, the Earl of Grantham’s estate was stolen from the Church

By on Monday, 15 October 2012

Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey.

Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey, which I confess to not watching very attentively, is now broaching the question of anti-Catholicism.

Up to now I have been puzzled by the way Tom Branson, the Fenian ex-chauffeur and son-in-law, seemingly has no religion. I assumed he was a Protestant (some Irish nationalists were), but it turns out that, no, he is a Catholic after all. Funny it has only surfaced now, as I am pretty certain that someone like the Earl of Grantham, a self-proclaimed anti-Catholic, would not have employed Catholic staff, and would have died of apoplexy att he thought of his daughter marrying one.

How rife was anti-Catholicism in the 1920’s?

Drawing on my admittedly partial knowledge, among the upper classes it was common. It is possible that the aristocracy were less anti-Catholic than the people in the rungs directly below them: after all the Earl of Grantham would have known several Catholic peers, whom he would have seen regularly at the House of Lords. (The Earl in Downton never seems to go there, which is one of the many historical oddities of the series, but let that pass.) Edward VII, the recently deceased King, had several Catholic friends. So, one would imagine that Catholics were socially acceptable in the highest ranks of society, though this would not have extended to intermarriage, partly because of the Church’s laws on that. But further down the social ladder it was a different matter altogether.

Recently, talking to my last surviving aunt, I made the astonishing discovery that when a maternal uncle of mine married a Catholic, some time in the late 1930’s, in Chile, my maternal grandparents refused to attend the wedding. My mother, too, married a Catholic, my father, but I imagine that my anti-Catholic grandparents must have been sufficiently intimidated by him never to play the anti-Catholic card.

The odd thing is that both my anti-Catholic grandparents were descended from lapsed Catholics. My grandfather’s mother came from a well-known Catholic family in the North, that had given a martyr to the faith; on my grandmother’s side, her maternal antecedents were Irish, and presumably, judging by the surname, what an Irish friend of mine called “soupers” – Catholics who turned Protestant.

My theory is that anti-Catholicism springs from guilt, specifically the guilt for the crimes of the Reformation – but many people have scoffed at this idea. Please note, though, that the Earl of Grantham lives in an Abbey, that is, his estate was stolen from the Church at the time of the Reformation. One can never like those whom one has unjustly defrauded of their rights.

Who knows how or when the soap opera of Downton will end? One possible ending is that Branson’s Catholic daughter will inherit the lot. That would be some conclusion.

  • firstparepidemos



    Firstly, I appreciate that, at least with me, you have not
    plunged into the depths of personal insult in this debate ; long may this


    I agree that it is Dawkin’s tactics, rather than his logic,
    which annoys some atheists, but I was under the impression that the issue under
    discussion was tactics i.e. how people treat one another.

    Nor am I about to refute your assertion that people have
    killed others in the name of religion; evidence for this atrocity is clear.
    However, any Christians who have done so have betrayed the clear command of
    Christ to love one another and have done untold damage to the message of the
    Gospel. Yet, the message of the Gospel remains powerfully challenging and is
    the best creed by which to live (and in this regard, I admit I fail dismally).


    As to the likes of Mao, I submit they committed cruelty
    precisely because of their creed (e.g. Pol Pot wished to return to what he
    called ‘Year Zero’ and Mao believed it necessary to eradicate Western
    influence). On the other hand, Christians have committed cruelty in violation
    of their creed. BTW, you erroniously referred to Hitler as a Catholic. He may
    have been baptised a Catholic, but in practice he was anything but a believer. Here
    are a few sites regarding Professor Dawkins.




    (an interesting article which argues that the fundamentalist approach of
    atheists such as Dawkins is not truly scientific)


  • firstparepidemos

    I do believe that this is another example of Mr Carter’s very British sense of humour and I get his point. Whilst he and I would probably disagree on several matters, humour would not be included.

  • Acleron
  • firstparepidemos

    Interesting point, but do remember that one of the central beliefs in Buddhism is that everything from the smallest grain of rice to the largest star is intimately connected (a principle with which Catholicism agrees). This means that one should do no harm to any living thing (another principle with which Catholicism would agree). My point is that Buddhism believes in a force greater than the individual human being even though they do not name that reality as God.

  • Benedict Carter

    Could go that way. Impossible in dear old Blighty?

    Not impossible at all. It’s happened before. 

    The Bolsheviks killed how many Orthodox and Catholics?

    Millions upon millions. 

    Today’s militant atheists are their direct descendants.

  • Benedict Carter

    Oh! The “Bronze Age”! 

    Now let’s have a round of “sky fairies” etc. etc. please. 

  • gabriel_syme

     We could first rid ourselves of some of the modern horrors we have built as Churches, including the one in Glasgow (name escapes me) which looks as though it has been assembled from a jumble of left-over Gun Emplacements from the war.

  • karlf

    Oh dear.

  • Katie

    yes Charles, enough of the moth ridden past; it’s only makes people feel either inferior or superior. Can’t the English (yes I am Eng) think beyond these 2 alternatives? I wonder if the success of Upstairs, Downstairs and in the Potting Shed as well as Downton Abbey is because they are allegories of the welfare state: everyone is included in the WHOLE hierarchical structure and the basis of what keeps us all together is ‘being looked after’ whether by servants and nannies or by nurses and doctors and social workers?

  • gabriel_syme

    In the modern era, neither egg nor chicken came first, as to the minds of some Scots, Irish / Catholic / Republican, have all been fully interchangeable terms with the same meaning (ie a meaning of persona non grata).

    Until the fairly recent failure of protestantism, there was a need among some Scots to paint Catholicism as alien and unwelcome, as doing anything else may have given an unwitting glimpse of the Catholicity at the very heart of Scottish history.  (Which would be a real blow to the psyche of these Protestants)

    Hence the seeming perpetual identification of Catholicism as Irish in Scotland, (resulting from the Irish famine migrations), despite the Catholicism which never died in parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and despite that which has since arrived in other forms, notably Italian and Polish.

    Scottish Anti-Catholicism lives on in Scotland; due to a general loosening of British identity (rise of Holyrood Parliament and the SNP) and the lingering death of mainline protestantism, (maybe 20-30 years left in it?), it now remains essentially all some people have as a reference point for what passes for their own identity.

    Tolerating overt signs of anti-Catholicism, while either pretending it doesn’t exist and/or blaming the problem on Catholics themselves, is a long-term lynch-pin of the Scottish psyche.  It endures because, if it did not, there would likely be a general unraveling of the mock-up identity the Scottish establishment created for Scots, (over the last few hundred years), British / Protestant / “Loyal” etc.

    It was only in the late 1980s when Glasgow Rangers FC (now liquidated and reformed) dropped its proud public policy of not signing players who were Catholic (though apparently one low-key lapsed Catholic slipped through the net decades earlier. He is today brandished like a talisman by Rangers fans who bizarrely insist their ex-club was not founded on Bigotry). 

    It was only in 2002 when the Church of Scotland finally dropped documents claiming Catholics were immoral drunks, responsible for most crime and “racially inferior” (the irish bit) to non-Catholic Scots.  These Church of Scotland documents, written in the eatly 20th century by a man who was twice CoS moderator, have strong parallels in places with Adolf Hitlers “Mein Kampf”, except it substituted Catholics in place of Hitlers Jews.

    And yet some today in Scotland – including some allegedly educated and intelligent people, such as politicians – will still passionately insist, to the point of anger, that the causes of Scottish Social problems lie with the existence of Catholic Schools.  Such is the strength of desire – the base need – which many Scots have to cling onto false notions of Catholicism, to shore up their own failing identity.

    They can’t see the wood for the trees, these people.

  • Acleron

    Ref 1) Somebody who claims to be an atheist but isn’t even clear that atheism is the word to describe lack of belief, not a belief in itself. His ability to observe the world is also in doubt with comments such as :

    ‘When Richard Dawkins records his deliberately contrarian, snarling TV trailers, he probably feels all fuzzy inside knowing that he’s offended some religious people. ‘

    Snarling? Just laughable.

    Refs 2 & 3) Michael Ruse is not well accepted by atheists as a spokesman of anything.
    He craves attention, just doesn’t have the intellect to achieve more than notoriety.

    Ref 4) All the embarrassment appears to be directed at the author not Dawkins.

    Two memes are in constant motion about Dawkins.

    1) He is strident, snarling etc, etc. Anyone who can see his presentations will see a polite, civil and very erudite person, those that can distinguish the message from the delivery that is.

    2) That his logical arguments have been demolished by Ruse, Eagleton etc etc. In fact, no logical rebuttal of his ideas has ever been made. Many make the claim but no-one has accomplished it. I suspect that many who criticise ‘The God Delusion’ have never read it.

  • firstparepidemos

    Interesting points about the Gaels and the situation in North America. I know a retired US archbishop of Irish ancestry who once told me that there was a Polish church  across the street from the Irish parish he attended in his youth. The first time he entered the Polish church was after he was ordained.

  • Cestius

    No, please – as an ex-Anglican I would plead with you to think very carefully about it.  Those old buildings may look very pretty, but they’re a total pain.  Freezing cold in winter, heating bills to raise temperature from perishing to just bearable are astronomical, maintenance bills astronomical, preservation orders mean you can’t do anything.  They’re a total drain on resources, using up energy and money and in my opinion are a distraction from the true mission of the Church which is to evangelize and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.  One Catholic parish near where I live has purchased an old Anglican Church. It was in my opinion a very expensive mistake, the money they pay out on it they could have built a new church a lot warmer, more comfortable, better designed and with full disabled access.   

  • Acleron

    The development of their rules of societal conduct are totally different from yours. They didn’t have a god or gods telling them what to do, they worked it out for themselves. You are  trying to include them in your definition of a godded theism. This is an attempt to say that god believers do not commit mass murder.
     In fact, your god commands to commit atrocious acts.

    Numbers 31:7
    ‘And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.’

    So not believing in a god doesn’t create mass murders, but believing in one definitely does. Strange old world.

  • Acleron

    If the catholic church was in any way modern in thought and conduct, we wouldn’t have to go back that far to point to your behavioural origins, would we?

  • teigitur

    Any RC Church built in the last 50 years tends to look like that!

  • teigitur

    Have you seen the way our Church bulds new Church buildings? They are almost without exception the ugliest buildings in any given town or city.

  • Cestius

    Would agree with that to some extent, there is a tendency to get architects to design something overelaborate and pretty ugly.  All you really need is a straightforward building on one level with a pitched roof that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.  Simplicity is the key and the result is often more spiritually uplifting than some of the overdesigned monstrosities I’ve seen.

  • Benedict Carter

    Your “modernity” is just a reversion to paganism, nothing else.

  • Acleron

    For the first time, you have made me laugh.Most of your ritual is a copy of paganism, didn’t you know?

  • Acleron

    For the first time, you have made me laugh.Most of your ritual is a copy of paganism, didn’t you know?

  • Ghengis

     Yes, through Christ the King we must focus on victory and throw away the psychological state of victim-hood. Sell off hideous unCatholic structures like Liverpool Cathedral and use that money to maintain the traditional churches. Rebuild old ruined Abbeys as well and learn from cities like Prague and Budapest who are restoring and maintaining their historic churches and architecture utilizing money from tourism. If others can maintain them then so can the English…

  • theroadmaster

    I always found it faintly amusing that whig historians and the anglican establishment depicted the Catholic Faith as being alien to Britain, when in fact it was directly responsible for and inspired many of the institutions which one takes for granted in the modern era and which are firmly ingrained in British liife-e.g. monarchy, parliamentary procedures, common law, university system. charitable institutions, cathedrals and churches.  Diarmuid McCullough the well-known anglican theologian and historian has acknowledged that Catholicism was instrumental in the historical and religious development of Britain and he is by no means an apologist for the Old Faith.

  • Acleron

    Some, the cc were associated with, some it actively campaigned against and one of  those happened before the catholics even appeared here.

    The first group contains charities although the compulsory donation through the tithe bears little resemblance to modern charity. Cathedrals, churches and universities, paid for by the general population is a given.

    Kings and queens were here before christianity and the catholics often campaigned against the monarchy.

    The most iconic event in the development of law was the Magna Carta, which of course was declared null and void by Innocent III.

    Parliament of a kind started when christianity was the most widely observed religion but that was a council of advisors, democratic parliament started with the reform acts, when the church of England was firmly protestant.

    So, no, the catholic church didn’t have as much influence on our present state as stated.

  • theroadmaster

    The activities of charitable fraternal guilds which characterized certain trades in medieval Europe(thus including England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and the hospitality and care given by monasteries to the sick and impoverished presaged and influenced the establishment of modern charitable organizations and  national social welfare schemes.
    I recognize that the concept of secular kingship and queenship existed before the rise of Christianity, but the role of these positions changed with the rise of this global religion as they became invested with religious ideals which encouraged reigning monarchs to rule with justice, compassion and fairness in the light of Christ’s teachings.  The symbols, gestures and texts associated with the inauguration of the British monarchy are in large part Christian, and the first English king to convert to the Faith was Ethelbert of Kent, back in the sixth century.  So you see there is a very long lineage regarding the influence of Christianity(especially Catholicism) on monarchy on the Island of Britain.

    The Magna Carta document was influenced by the biblical concepts of justice and fair government by monarchs and leaders, and does not negate the Catholic influence at all, but rather enhances it during the medieval period.  

    Of course parliamentary procedures and the fairness of the parliamentary franchise were far from perfect during the early medieval period and reflected the social hierarchy at the time.  But the fact that representation based on the lords and commoners(which developed over course of 13th and 14th centuries) was established during this period, demonstrated the abiding influence of Catholic concepts regarding the right ordering of society during this era.  I don’t dispute that the landmark reforms of the 18th-20th centuries in Britain which dismantled  the unfair narrow and unrepresentative system of parliamentary democracy happened while the country was officially protestant, but the origins of parliament itself are indubitably Catholic.

    So your description of the Catholic Church as not having much influence on the development of the state as I’ve stated, is to say the least, lacking in historical perspective and accuracy.

  • Acleron

    I didn’t dispute the charity part except to point out it was compulsory contributions doled out by the church and I would bet that it had strings.

    And yes, there was an effect on the monarchy from religion. After Henry VIII removed England from the domain of Rome, the king became the active head of the church, nobody in their right mind would allow the church the power they previously enjoyed. Of course, that is all traditional now and of little consequence.

    Your pope was playing power politics at the time of the Magna Carta. K John was under threat of invasion from the French and to stop that he appealed to Innocent III. In return for John’s promise of capitulation to papal authority, Innocent annulled the charter. This demonstrates two major points. The catholic church wasn’t interested in freedom of the individual or indeed any rights to the individual and the only influence on the most important part of common law was entirely negative. Fortunately, the barons, ignored him. As to the claim that it was derived from biblical times is just silly, Other civilisations evolved similar laws. 

    As I explained, parliament was a talking shop of advisors to the monarchy. It evolved into a house containing permanent religious figures. Until their power was broken in the reform acts little progress was made. To try to claim that as a christian achievement is futile. We still have an unelected house and the religious elements are not exactly falling over themselves to make it democratic, are they?

    So perhaps I should have said, little positive influence.

  • theroadmaster

    Institutions and concepts over centuries,evolve without losing their core elements, and they include monarchies, parliaments and human rights. They all function to their full moral potential when they are purified by a system of values which allow this, as contained within Catholicism.
    In medieval times, there was indeed power plays between popes, emperors and kings and sometimes compromises were made to preserve the rights of one at the expense of the others.  This was the case concerning the Magna Carta,but the point is still valid that it got it’s origins from a Catholic,Christian concept of rights and accountability, as outlined by Thomas Aquinas.The evolution of the British parliament into a fully representative democracy was achieved by the agitation of such radical groups as the Chartists, trade unions and non-conformist Christian campaigners. There was therefore a definite Christian element to it and whether you like it or not, biblical tenets in relation to social justice, informed a lot of the work of those who took up the struggle during the 19th and 20th centuries.  But there is no such thing as a “perfect” democratic system, and democracies cannot simply function as the tyranny of the majority.  This is where hierarchical truth comes in and allows man-made structures to function as they should.  I agree that the Catholic Church throughout history was wary of the implications of secular democracy and other political systems, but came to accommodate them without compromising on Her own ideals.  Vatican 11 is a case in point.

  • Oconnord

    I admit, I dismissed Downtown Abbey as just another period drama. But it seems to be well liked. 
    Is it on a par with “Boardwalk Empire”. Is it worth watching as a non-english person? 

  • Acleron

    I am sure there are elements from christianity in our society, just not as much of positive value as you claim. Democracy was a Greek invention, the rule of law that most affected us was a Roman invention from when they still worshipped Jupiter.

    Considering that the Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians were far more important at the time the bible was being copied from even older stories, it is more probable that those elements you find in the bible came from the other civilisations.

    Oh and the catholic church was never wary of all political systems, tyrannical dictatorship was favoured and practised by them.

    And I’ve never denied your church changes, just that it changes too slowly and by applying out dated modes of interaction causes needless suffering.

  • teigitur

    Its usually worth watching, even if its only for Maggie Smith!

  • JabbaPapa

    (excluding Hitler who was a catholic!)

    Hitler was violently atheistic.

    He personally ordered the destruction of the Jewish people and religion in those parts of Europe under his control, and he personally ordered the execution of the entire Roman Curia including most likely the Pope, by organising and sending a death squad to Rome, which attempt was foiled by one single Christian inside the German High Command who alerted the Church of this attack before it happened.

  • JabbaPapa

    What have you been smoking ?

  • Acleron

    The fact that he attacked religions does not make him an atheist. That would make every member of every major religion an atheist, you have continually attacked each other. Please get your definition of atheism sorted out so you don’t have to be corrected on this point.

    Hitler quoted your bible to justify his policies and talked about ‘my god’, pretty much standard for a believer.

  • theroadmaster

    Democracy certainly had it’s origins in the civic representative culture of ancient Athens, but electing people will not guarantee social cohesion or moral values being inculcated into society.  Here is where the wisdom of Catholic Christianity comes with it’s own, with a very reasonable mix of Logic and Theology to help democracy to mature, in respect to the proper ordering of society and human development.  This outlook can be traced back through Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, and indeed to St Paul himself.
    As regards your comments on Catholicism vis-a-vis tyrannical systems, one has only to think about the spiritual combat that Catholicism waged for the best part of the 20th century against the oppressive and vile communist regimes in eastern Europe, which culminated in the late,Blessed Pope John Paul’s invaluable contribution to their eventual demise there. The reputation of WW11 Pontiff, Pius X11, has been calumnied since the 1960′s but increasingly, evidence is coming to light to show that he worked behind the scenes to save the lives of many thousands of Jews, and gave direct encouragement to the anti-nazi German resistance.  Hitler gave orders for his abduction and murder which thankfully did not come to fruition.Yeah, the Church does change, but not in the ways that you would like.  She preaches the everlasting message of Christ in Her doctrines and tenets, and this will never change.  The essentials will always remain but the conveyance of that message will change in line with technological advances in communication etc.

  • Marion Luscombe

    Before anyone dismisses what Ben Carter has said about persecution, Cardinal George of Chicago made the following prediction in 2010:
    After the passage of legislation that enabled Civil Unions in Illinois, his eminence stated:
    I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.

    I have heard similar sentiments spoken of by British priests.

  • Acleron

    The very structure of the catholic church is non-democratic, so it is very difficult to see what positive lesson you have or have had for a democratic society. On the other hand, your church has learned a lot from those democratic struggles and it is interesting to see the rank and file protesting so vigorously about various aspects.

    The policies of your church vis a vis equal rights for all parts of society and population control are concerning to all. 

    It is very difficult without any firm evidence to know what Christ preached or even whether he existed so to claim his message is everlasting obviously produces the question: What message?

    As to your claims that your pope was instrumental in the fall of communism, we can look at it in two ways.

    Either you take responsibility for the Mafia style government that resulted or the breakdown of communism was from financial pressure mainly exerted by competition on world markets. Most scholars favour the second hypothesis. 

  • karlf

    And don’t forget the Flying Spaghetti monster! But to be fair,     one could quite accurately describe an angel as a ‘sky fairy’, albeit quite a large one.

  • theroadmaster

    No the Church does not have a democratic, horizontal, type structure but has always possessed a visible, hierarchical structure which is typical of an institution endowed with authority  to provide a particular service..the transmission of the gospel truths to the world at large.  Moral truths or the natural law cannot be arrived at by a democratic vote, but are everlasting and unchangeable in their compositions.  Thus we can speak of a “hierarchy of truths” e.g. murder is a more serious crime than shoplifting, which no democracy can overturn, due  to the indisputable nature of their claims.  Thus the Church as an authoritative presence with a profound spiritual insight, can enlighten secular democracies as to the direction they can follow in terms of framing laws for the common good of their citizens.

    I suppose when you mention, the Church standing in the way of “rights” for all, you mean such an instance, as the Catholic opposition to the legislative attempts across the western world to redefine the whole ethos of marriage to include same-sex couples.  The word “rights” has been misused and abused by liberal cultural elites to give legitimacy to their attempts to redefine much valued social/religious institutions and behaviours.  The Church and many social studies have shown, contrary to the claims of these groups, children do best in a marriage where they are raised by their natural mother and father .  Society benefits in turn, as social cohesion and demographic stability follows on from that reality

    Well, if you are familiar with the gospel texts in the New Testament, Jesus unambiguously described Himself as the Son of God  who had come to redeem mankind from the slavery of sin and death and that whoever followed him and  took up their cross would be guaranteed Salvation.  This in effect, mean’t loving one’s neighbour as oneself, and tending to the needs of the impoverished, the sick,prisoners and all people on the margins of society.  He described himself thus.. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:6).  His message is everlasting as He promised that he would be with His Church for all time and that “the gates of hades would not prevail against it”.  Some 2 billion Christians inhabit the world today, and have not been formed by some transitory fad or belief that came and went, but by a transforming way of life which is over 2000 years old.  It has outlasted centuries of man-made ideologies and cults, and will continue to do so.

    While the late, Blessed, pope, John Paul 11, did not single-handedly bring down eastern-bloc communism, he was the one iconic world leader of any stature to directly confront it and force world attention on it, which would pave the way for it’s eventual implosion.  Some would argue, that his refusal to back down in the face of the martial law threats of the Polish regime to disrupt his visit to his homeland in 1979, threw the first spanner into the communist works .  The British historian,Timothy Garton Ash put it this way, “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism.” Gorbachev even acknowledged that the dismantling of the communist regimes would have been impossible without the Polish Pontiff.

  • Acleron

    see above

  • Acleron

    Your rules of conduct are no more absolute or correct than anybody else’s. Civilisations all over the world have arrived at similar rules. Shoplifting is indeed a less heinous crime than murder. However, in an earlier era, one that was heavily religious and therefore according to you should show us the way, children were executed for stealing. Of course the priesthood could get away from punishment by ‘benefit of clergy’. Not an equitable, honest or fair set of rules. A better set of rules was arrived at while democracy was evolving to what we have today. So again, no positive benefit from religion and a pretty good indication that a better set of rules can be arrived at through democratic process.Your church’s thinly disguised homophobia blinds you to the facts. Homosexuals exist, they have as much right to all aspects of society as anyone else and that includes marriage if they so wish. Your institutions are not valued, they are less valued everytime anybody looks at the data and even less valued everytime you try to redefine equality to make certain groups less equal. I have asked for these studies that prove that children do best being raised by their natural mother and father. the replies have not been convincing because of misrepresentation of data, bias and incompetence in collecting evidence. There is similarly no evidence that society benefits from following your rules of conduct. But it wasn’t only equal rights for homosexuals, but also for women.I stated there was little evidence for what Jesus Christ said or even for his existence. Quoting tracts written by others doesn’t prove anything.The age or antiquity of your religion doesn’t impress. It hasn’t been very good for society in the past and it sounds like it will be unlikely to be of benefit in the future.John-Paul was the one iconic world leader to confront it and force attention on it? Your attempts to portray the catholic church in a good light are usually reasonable, especially considering the gargantuan task you have undertaken, but you have slipped here. World economic forces were the cause of the destruction of communism in Europe. Russia could no longer feed herself because so much was wasted in an inefficient system. Reagan’s increased military spending may have had a minor effect on the economy of the Soviets spending more on their military but in general they couldn’t support the state. Gorbachev saw the economic problems and thought they could be solved with yet another five year plan. He was replaced by Yeltsin as the USSR fell about their ears. John Paul may have been newsworthy fodder but he didn’t do much, there were far greater forces at work.

  • Theophilus

    A Catholic priest taking people around an English cathedral was heard to say, “Of course this used to be ours.” A guide standing near said, “It would still be yours if you had behaved yourselves.”Let us not ignore the reasons why the Reformation took place or the origins of English anti-Catholicism in, among other things, the appalling persecution of Protestants under Bloody Mary. Blame and fault lie on both sides. Surely we need to be honest about that if we are going to build a future in which we do not go on fighting old battles.

  • CaAndy

    I think that the CofE Bishop Tom Wright once joked that The God Delusion was the sort of book that once you put it down you found it very hard to pick up again.

  • theroadmaster

    When you say “see above” you mean my last reply.  If you do, it seems like the final word then.

  • Acleron

    Lol, you wouldn’t expect him to praise it, turkeys don’t vote for christmas.

  • Acleron

    Lol, for you, not for me apparently.

     I wrote at the start because of the narrowness of the columns.