Saturday, 17 May 2014

What if.......

.....what if the Protestant Reformation never took place?

New York today...but could it be an everyday
sight in London or Cardiff if the Reformation had not taken place?
I mean, if it had never taken place in Britain; what sort of country would we have today?

The most obvious element would be that Westminster Cathedral would not exist.

No need for it. we would have Westminster Abbey just a few hundred metres away at the other end of Bulinga Fen.

And the same would apply for all those ghastly modern Catholic churches that look like something out of Dr Who; we would have many hundreds of traditional churches from the centuries before the 16th to worship God in.

But, that's the physical side of things.

What would WE be like today, we Catholics of the British Isles.

I ask that question because for three hundred years after the Reformation we have been 'invisible' Christians born out of the persecution of the Faithful up until the Catholic Emancipation act of 1829.

Prior to the Act most Catholics had endured a heavier tax burden than their Protestant neighbours and, if any passing non Catholic took a fancy to our horse, we had to hand over the reins and walk off.
Rather like handing over the keys to your VW Passat in today's world.

And we were not allowed to build our churches on main roads or in any prominent position.

I believe that such oppression has conditioned us today so that we still keep a low profile, not seeking out trouble, avoiding the limelight, playing the part of St Peter when he denied that he was a follower of the Lord.

We are grateful to be allowed to exist.

We keep quiet when friends extol the virtues of IVF or proclaim the joys of same sex 'marriage' and an equal, inclusive society.

And when the subject of abortion crops up, we steal away, anxious not to upset the status quo.

Am I being overly harsh? 

Let's return to the picture of a Catholic Britain today with no illustrious history of the martyrs, no St Thomas More, no St John Fisher.

We would have Blessed Sacrament processions through the city streets, maybe (a bit of a big 'maybe') we would all stop at mid-day and say the Angelus - wherever we were, in the street, at the pub, in the office - just as we did before the 1530s.

And priests, some of them, would walk the streets freely in their cassocks and monks and nuns would be visible in their habits.

Holidays of Obligation would be real feastdays and there would be carousing throughout the land.

Catholics would be visible and able to wear crucifixes or rosaries without restraint.

But...I am overlooking one other hiccup in our recent history - the Second Vatican Council.

That, appears to share many of the outcome characteristics of the Protestant Reformation.

An emasculated liturgy, a removal of the more obvious signs of our Faith (Benediction, Confessions, priestly attire, crucifixes in the home, house blessings) and much more.

In some ways it would be better called the 'Second Reformation' because it finished the job started by Henry VIII.



  1. This rather made my eyes mist. Yet in some places a little of the former Catholic life and culture is returning. In my town, some of the priests are wearing their cassocks again. There will be two parishes with Eucharistic processions for Corpus Christi. Some priests will pray at the local abortion mill. But what a joy it is for me when I travel and see the signs of a Catholic culture in Europe with roadside Calvarys and pictures of the Madonna and Child on buildings and so forth. But the sad thing is that they are only leftovers from a time gone by because so many of the beautiful churches are either taken over by protestants or are museum pieces. The Church thrives in time of persecution so we do have that to "look forward to" because that time is dawning now. We must be prepared to suffer for our faith. May Our Lady obtain that grace for us.

  2. Now that we have fRANCIS and the culmination of Vatican II on his watch,what I have observed amongst some catholics out here in Australia,is a "horror" of the traditional practice of the Church.
    I was with two managers of chaplaincy and pastoral care from two large Catholic welfare agencies. I mentioned that I had entered the Church through the Latin mass community and that I purchased my 1962 Missal at a certain bookshop. The effect was as if I had said Francis is a heretic-they both said they had purchased books at this bookshop and that they wondered why young people would bother with the Latin mass. The tone was one of arrogance I was surprised and wondered if in times of persecution would they stand or fall. Pray Lord give me the courage to stand for YOU

  3. Philip Pullman used this particular 'what if' to underpin the 'Dark Materials' trilogy, didn't he? ( I never got more than halfway through the first book and relied on someone else to explain it all to me). As did one of my favourite childhood authors, Joan Aiken, though I think she fantasised a Catholic restoration under a successful James II. Both, of course suggested that we'd still be living in some sort of Dark Age, having missed out on the Enlightenment.

    Like M Prodigal I've been fortunate to see some small improvements in my diocese: Corpus Christi procession through the city centre for several years now (bring back the Marian procession in May!) and priests, even the bishop, joining 40 Days For Life vigils. The discouraging side is that much of this is fuelled by recent immigrants- the 40 Days organisers are Hispanic, for example- Anglo/Irish involvement is poor. The Church in England really failed in its 'Golden Age' (c 1850-Vatican II) to convert England.

    1. Celia, I tried reading Philip Pullman's 'Dark Materials' too, just to see what all the fuss was about, and I couldn't finish it, almost threw the book across the room. Really bad book for kids.

  4. If the Christian religion - Catholic, Protestant, whatever - had really done its work, religious people would be known not for any outward markers, but by the quality of their being. I don't know if we will ever move into that post-religious era. There is clearly a long way to go so long, as we are still fighting the battles of centuries ago and keeping up our tribal identities - rather than letting God transform us, beyond all our divisions, into the new humanity.

    1. The Age of Aquarius???

    2. No! not the Age of Aquarius - whatever that may be. It is the Hebraic age to come, or as Christ calls it the kingdom of God.

  5. The so-called Reformation might well not have happened. Richard III could have won at Bosworth. Had it not been for Stanley's treachery he would have done. Henry VIII could have listened to Wolsey and secured his annulment on the grounds that Julius II's Bull of dispensation was canonically defective (ironically the more so if Catherine's marriage to Arthur had indeed not been consummated).

    Vatican II might not have happened either. Had Pius XII not refused Montini a red hat, the latter would have been elected in 1958 and would almost certainly not have called a General Council.

  6. It's surprising England had it's Reformation. There were so many Marian shrines everywhere. Mary's Dowry, and yet it happened...?

    1. Apathy and fear DR........and mainly from, as St Thomas More described them: "a weak clergy lacking in grace".
      Sound familiar?

  7. I am not adding much to what has been said about V2, but how tragic the Council and it's 'spirit' opened pandora's box to every heresy, error, heterodoxy and sheer madness. And the New Mass? Only Cranmer would have been pleased with what Bugnini came up with. Domine, miserere nobis. +JMJ+

  8. Well the first thing that occurs to me is that Noth America, as well as South America, not to mention Australasia, most of Africa etc., would all be Catholic.

    Yes it would be a very different world.

  9. Damask Rose

    The English 'Reformation' was imposed on a largely unwilling population by a centralized and despotic state. The post-Vatican II revolution was likewise imposed by a Church whose highly centralized bureaucracy brooked no opposition. No medieval or Renaissance pope could have done what Paul VI did. It was the nemesis of ultramontanism, which Newman warned against but which appeared in the late 19th century to be a way of preserving orthodoxy.

    1. John,

      There was another factor, I speak as a pre-Vat II Catholic.

      We trusted the Church, as did the numerous converts, the Waugh's and Hydes etc. and we were badly let down.

      It was some time before we realised, most of us, what was happening. The naievity and appaling bad judgement of St John XXIII and the weakness, confusion and arrogance of Paul VI failed us badly and allowed the forces of Modernism suppressed by St Pius X, to pour into the Church with devastating consequences.

      In fairness I think most of the bishops were equally fooled until it was too late, but their fault and I include St John Paul II in this is that they failed to counter-attack. Though Benedict XVI did, it was half hearted.

      As for Pope Francis, I think he has simply failed to grasp both the strategic as well as the tactical situations. He is fighting the wrong battles. I hope I am wrong but I suspect we have a very long way to go yet?

      But what is essential now is that we all speak out!

  10. A fine piece of writing, Richard.

    1. Thank you AP. Coming from you that is a fine compliment. God bless.