When I visited there recently I stood on the edge of a small group while a guide (each room has a knowledgeable volunteer who offers information) gave forth on the history of the period.
"The Pope at the time excommunicated Queen Elizabeth and told Catholics that is was their duty to assassinate her"
Spouted the guide firmly.
I could not believe what I was hearing, so much so that I interjected and stated that the Pope issued no such command.
"Oh yes he did!" Was the response and I am afraid that I made the less than original reply - "Oh no he didn't".
For the sake of clarity I now relay the ensuing conversation:-
Guide: "Well he implied it"
Me: "No, he did not even imply it"
Guide: "Well he might not have implied it"
Me: "He didn't so please stop distorting the facts"
Now this may all sound rather trivial and even childish but stop to think for one minute, just how many vistors each day would leave Coughton Court under the impression that Catholics are a violent lot who only listen to the Pope on matters secular as well as spiritual. A modest estimate of visitor numbers would be c. 240 each day, 1,680 each week and, very roughly, 60,000 each year.
So are prejudices implanted and ingrained.
|A hiding hole for priests revealed at Coughton|
Court, still the seat of lies today regarding the Faith
Moving on to another room I asked yet another guide about an item of furniture and she relayed the information that it came from a Cambridge convent after Henry VIII had "closed" the monasteries and religious houses. More angst on my part. I politely pointed out that Henry did a shade more than "close" the monasteries".
There is an undercurrent of anti Catholicism in England and Wales, I have come across it many times in my career and, of course, socially. It never erupts beyond much more than a sideways swipe at all things Catholic at a dinner party or a mealy mouthed comment at a business meeting but it is the sort of thing that would not be contemplated if Islam or race or homosexuality was the topic of conversation.
Heavily distorted historical "facts" passed on to an audience who have no reason to suspect that the truth has been distorted beyond recognition, only adds fuel to the flames and helps embed prejudices.
I recall how, in history lessons at school we were first taught the textbook answers and then, pause, the Catholic ones. Thankfully, we never seemed to confuse the two.
The words of St Robert Southwell ring as true today as they did back in Reformation times......
He might have added....."a requirement to traduce!"