English Catholicism

The New Secular Puritan Covenant

Thanksgiving brings back memories for Americans of the Pilgrims and Puritans, carrying out their “errand into the wilderness” to build a “city on a hill,” surviving that first bleak Massachusetts winter of 1620-21. As a kid, I remember that cutting out Puritan hats from black construction paper and taping them to the school windows was [...]

St. Thomas More and London Bridge

If you stand on London Bridge and look east you will see the Tower of London. It was on a small hill behind the Tower that, in 1535, St. Thomas More was beheaded. Thereafter, his head was taken to London Bridge and placed upon a spike for all who came and went across that bridge [...]

Westminster Abbey: A Beautiful Confusion

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to visit Westminster Abbey. My stride was brisk as I made my way past Big Ben and took my place in line before the north door. However, my experience with this quasi-sacred space was clouded by the schizophrenia of the current Westminster Dean, with momentary flashes of exquisite [...]

A Model of Spiritual Courage for Our Time

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. (The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.)   ∼ Words inscribed by Philip Howard upon the wall of his cell. When he first entered the fastness of that grim London [...]

St. Thomas More: Defender of Christendom

On July 6, 1535, St. Thomas More spoke briefly on the scaffold, proclaiming himself “the King’s good servant and God’s first.” He was echoing the direction his king, Henry VIII, had given him when he entered his service: “Look first to God and then to King.” More lived and died according to that priority, using [...]

The Case for Catholic Shakespeare 

Unlike the conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare was really the more educated Earl of Oxford, the rival Christopher Marlowe, or the polymath Francis Bacon, the story of the Catholic Shakespeare is now a mainstream if not a consensus view among scholars. Stretched to the edge of credulity, using arguments and speculations from scholars both Catholic [...]

British Priests Speak Up for Marriage

Since almost the beginning of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops that considered the "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization" over a fortnight in Rome last October, the Church has been wrought with anguished debate on the future of marriage and human sexuality. That’s the way the matter has been reported in [...]

Catholics, Liberals and Tories

Late nineteenth-century English Catholic politics may be characterized by the fluctuating party sympathies of John Henry Newman. Despite his identification with nineteenth-century liberalism, Newman supported the Tories in 1865: I have no great love of the Conservatives, as being Erastians of a type which I do not think you can admire—but I speak of them [...]

Thomas More & The Man for All Treasons

It began with an email. A friend had been to London’s West End to see a play called Wolf Hall, a new production by the Royal Shakespeare Company; he asked if I had heard of it? Heard of it? I was tired hearing of it. Let me explain: Wolf Hall is a novel set in [...]

John Gerard, S.J.: The Adventures of an Elizabethan Priest

In London, at a public place called Guildhall, Catholic prisoners were being examined. The chief interrogator, proceeding methodically, asked one of the prisoners if he recognized that Elizabeth was the Queen of England, even though she had been excommunicated by the pope. The prisoner, carefully weighing his words, admitted that Elizabeth was the Queen, and, [...]

John Gerard, Elizabethan Jesuit Missionary

The life of John Gerard, an English Catholic and Jesuit missionary priest, well illustrates what is at stake when the power of the state is enlisted against the Catholic faith and church. The persecutions of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I meant that the English government hunted down John Gerard as though he were [...]

Firm Under Persecution: St. Cuthbert Mayne

Today’s Catholics, whose religious liberties—to say nothing of their lives—are under threat from antagonistic secularist and Islamic governments have a courageous compatriot in the Elizabethan priest-martyr Cuthbert Mayne (1544-1570), whose feast day is November 29. When Mayne was born, King Henry VIII, who had broken England’s communion with the Holy Father in 1535. His son [...]

Prisoner Voting Rights: What Should Catholics Think?

In the UK there is a ban on all prisoners from voting in elections. This applies to all prisoners who have been convicted, i.e. are not on remand awaiting trial or detained without conviction in psychiatric hospitals. The ban includes European, Parliamentary or local elections and any referendums that might be held, such as on [...]

A British Royal Comes to America to Tell the Catholic Story

Next week Washington DC will be treated to the arrival of a pro-life Catholic who is also a member of the British royal family. How is that possible? Nicholas Windsor gave up his place in line to the British throne when he converted to the Catholic Church in 2001. He became “the first male blood [...]

Episcopal Attacks on Orthodox Catholic Blogs

Not for the first time in his own indispensable blog, Protect the Pope, Deacon Nick has drawn our attention to another attack on Catholic blogs, coming from a familiar prelatical source. In a homily given during the Diocese of Westminster’s recent Mass following the election of Pope Francis, Archbishop Nichols quoted the new Pope’s reflection [...]

St. Robert Southwell: Poet and Martyr

A line that is so overused that it has almost become trite is Shakespeare's "to be or not to be." Yet, it hits at the existential struggle of the modern world. Hamlet’s struggle embodies the difficulty of living in a world cut off from its own past. Hamlet receives a revelation of a great rupture [...]

Blessed John Henry Newman: Our Guide and Inspiration

In 2010, I was honored to be among the official press commentators for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain. It was indeed a joy and a privilege to follow the Pope as he visited venues in London that resonated with Catholic significance. He visited Westminster Hall, in which St. Thomas More had stood trial, and [...]

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