Thursday, 6 November 2014

Catholics R us

It is always instructive and chastening to learn that the great minds of former times were subject to the common prejudices of their day. In 1823 Samuel Taylor Coleridge feeling the backward surge of Catholic Emancipation that came in 1829, could write:

April 29. 1823.
The present adherents of the church of Rome are not, in my judgment, Catholics. We are the Catholics. We can prove that we hold the doctrines of the primitive church for the first three hundred years. The council of Trent made the Papists what they are. [1] A foreign Romish bishop has declared, that the Protestants of his acquaintance were more like what he conceived the enlightened Catholics to have been before the council of Trent, than the best of the latter in his days. Perhaps you will say, this bishop was not a good Catholic.[2] I cannot answer for that. The course of Christianity and the Christian church may not unaptly be likened to a mighty river, which filled a wide channel, and bore along with its waters mud, and gravel, and weeds, till it met a great rock in the middle of its stream. By some means or other, the water flows purely, and separated from the filth, in a deeper and narrower course on one side of the rock, and the refuse of the dirt and troubled water goes off on the other in a broader current, and then cries out, "We are the river!"[Footnote 1: See Aids to Reflection, p. 180. note.][Footnote 2: Mr. Coleridge named him, but the name was strange to me, and I have been unable to recover it—ED.] * * * *

A person said to me lately, "But you will, for civility's sake, call them Catholics, will you not?" I answered, that I would not; for I would not tell a lie upon any, much less upon so solemn an occasion. "The adherents of the church of Rome, I repeat, are not Catholic Christians. If they are, then it follows that we Protestants are heretics and schismatics, as, indeed, the Papists very logically, from their own premisses, call us. And 'Roman Catholics' makes no difference. Catholicism is not capable of degrees or local apportionments. There can be but one body of Catholics, ex vi termini. To talk strictly of Irish or Scotch Roman Catholics is a mere absurdity."
(from Table Talk)

That particular Brand war goes on, with the fervour of our friends, the separated brethren in the ‘wee six’ of NornIrlan, and their Romish and Papist contrasted with the style book correctness that is still maintained, the very one that Coleridge objected to. Another modern result of this term conflict was the taking over of a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin some years ago by Afghani asylum seekers. My intuition is that they thought that this was the main church of the populace. After a period of quiet reflection they were evicted by the Guards and mostly deported. The ways of the Ferengi are strange and inscrutable.

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