Friday, 5 November 2010


An anti Catholic mob of thousands will march tonight complete with burning crosses and 'No Popery here' banners. The march will culminate with a bonfire upon which an effigy of the Pope will be burnt.

Is this Deep South Alabama?  Or, maybe Islamabad in Pakistan?  No, it's leafy Lewes in peaceful, law abiding Sussex. This is the traditional display of bigotry which takes place every November 5th. And, by the way, if you were thinking of going, don't. Visitors from outside of the town are discouraged by the organisers (due to the town's incapacity to handle large numbers of people).

For those readers from overseas unacquainted with such charming British customs, this all stems from the time of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when a group of misguided extremist Catholics sought to bring an end to Protestant rule and attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
As a child I was forbidden from having or taking part in any bonfire celebration as the 'Guy' being burnt was, in my parents' eyes, a Papal effigy. They had come from London's East End which, at the time, had gangs of Orangemen who routinely 'burnt the Pope' on this date.
But what of Catholics living in Lewes? How must they feel about such open sectarianism?
Fr Ray Blake on reported on this a few years ago (thanks for the info Father) and raised the issue of how the resident Parish Priest must feel.                   In a word, threatened, I guess.
And there are ripples of Orange bigotry present in this sad town; the Rev Dr Ian Paisley no less (has anyone scrutinised his theological qualifications)? is rumoured to appear from time to time in the town on this date.
Well what an honour for the town that must be. Perhaps they should feature the Reverend gent in their tourist publications or erect a statue to him in the town square.
But, there is a very serious tone here. No one, but no one, would dare burn an effigy of Mohammed, the Queen, Peter Tatchell or Simon Cowell (well, maybe Simon Cowell). In the British Catholic social culture (with the possible exception of elements in Northern Ireland) we do not indulge in such capers. We would not march with placards saying things like 'No Protestantism' or 'Burn the Archbishop of Canterbury' that is not our style. A few prayers offered up for those who oppose us is what we do and we should remember Lewes and all its pagan type excesses in our prayers tonight. Not forgetting, either, prayers for the Catholic Priest of Lewes and his flock.
But by not taking against this display of ignorance we Catholics are contributing to the general British Catholic's passive resistance to inequality and religious hatred. It allows the fundamentalist Muslims, the anti lifers, the intolerant sections of the LGBT movement and the Protestant extremists a free rein to do what they will, while, of course, the law will arrest a Christian for distributing leaflets and nurses will be sacked for praying with their patients.
If we want our Faith to be respected we need to hammer home the tenets of the type of behaviour we are NOT prepared to accept.
Maybe we can (metaphorically at least) unfurl the banners proclaiming 'No Anti Catholicism Here'.


  1. That's a dreadful thing. I'm surprised it's allowed. The priest and the Catholics of Lewes are in my prayers today.

  2. The Parish Priest of Lewes has an annual Know Popery lecture, which he uses to dispel anti-Catholic prejudice.

    A brilliant idea, I think.

  3. I'm glad that the citizenry of Lewes continue to burn an effigy of the Pope, just as I am glad that the Act of Settlement continues to prohibit the marriage of anyone in line of succession to the throne to a Catholic. I find it helpful to be reminded from time to time that I am a member of a persecuted minority.

  4. This was very informative post. Thank you.

    I am very sorry that this is what the citizens of Lewes have to put up with annually.