Damian Thompson’s take on the Pope at Westminster

Pope Benedict Westminster HallDamian Thompson offers some analysis. 

I found it reassuring that many of his points are in harmony with some of my thoughts

Here is some of with my E&C:

How odd that it should be the Guardian that grasped the magnitude of what happened yesterday. Andrew Brown, religion editor of Comment is Free, and the possessor of an intellect as mighty and muddled as that of Rowan Williams, writes:

This was the end of the British Empire. [!] In all the four centuries from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, England has been defined as a Protestant nation. The Catholics were the Other; sometimes violent terrorists and rebels, sometimes merely dirty immigrants. The sense that this was a nation specially blessed by God arose from a deeply anti-Catholic reading of the Bible. Yet it was central to English self-understanding when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 [sic], and swore to uphold the Protestant religion by law established.

For all of those 400 or so years it would have been unthinkable that a pope should stand in Westminster Hall and praise Sir Thomas More, who died to defend the pope’s sovereignty against the king’s. Rebellion against the pope was the foundational act of English power. And now the power is gone, and perhaps the rebellion has gone, too. [!]

This was indeed a day of unthinkable events. Many Protestants will have been disturbed to see Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall praising St Thomas More (who incidentally died to defend what he saw as the sovereignty of God). I don’t agree, [I don’t know as much about it, but I think Damian is right, and I said as much in my piece.] however, that rebellion against the Pope was the “foundational act of English power”.


Even Catholics who would never be so crude as to say “the Abbey belongs to us, not to you” sensed that history was being re-balanced in some way. [Indeed they would] They realised that the Pope had as much right to sit in that sanctuary as the Archbishop of Canterbury (who, to be fair, showed the Holy Father a degree of respect that implied that he, at least, recognises the spiritual primacy of the See of Peter even if he rejects some of its teachings).  [Williams recognizes Benedict’s "Spiritual primacy"?  I wonder about that.]


Protestant anti-Catholics, in contrast [to secular humanists to are anti-Catholic], don’t have mates in the media or useful allies in the Church of England. All they can do is watch in horror as the Pope of Rome processes into the church where Protestant monarchs are crowned, declares unambigously that he is the successor of St Peter with responsibility for the unity of Christendom, and then walks out again – to hearty applause.  [And I suspect quite a few of them would also applaud… and will, given time.]

To be honest, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it all myself. Benedict XVI’s speeches are worth reading several times; they often turn out to be more radical than they first appear. But one thing is for sure. Despite the unassuming courtesy of the Pope’s manner, he didn’t give an inch. [Exactly.]

Right! Pope Benedict, as usual, won ground of inestimable worth because he was willing to give something.  In doing so, he compromised on no essential point.  On the contrary, he made himself clear on everything that counted.

Good analysis from Damian, who knows far more about the dynamics of this than the undersigned.

His combox has some truly hateful comments, the sort that are born of panic, guilt, and fear.

Moreover, Benedict XVI is not only the Successor of Peter – a fact he repeated several times in Westminster – he is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    Fascinating. This article hit it spot-on. Fascinating. Did I say that already?

  2. Caro_c says:

    Damien Thompson’s combox is always fully of hateful comments. He has a few regular visitors who are quite committed in their hatred of the Church. I am currently watching Mass from Westminister Cathedral (Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood). It is all very grand. The music is spectacular.

  3. Given Fr. Faber’s big commitment to spreading devotion to the Precious Blood, it’s very fitting for them to be singing “Faith of Our Fathers” during that Votive Mass!

    And did I hear them say that those kids wearing the colors were each representing one of the martyrs of the UK? And they started this trip at Holyroodhouse, which has the Five Wounds image on its walls, which was the popular symbol of the medieval and Recusant English Catholics. So the blood theme is very strong.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Having lived in England for a great part of my life, I am astounded at the acceptance of the Papal Visit to the intersanctum of civic life. It is a great relief, also, as, indeed, obvious anti-Catholicism was something I met not only with some adults, but with some students I taught there as well. The barricade has been stormed, and respect for this Pope, who does not mince words, and who manages to express the relationship between faith and reason so clearly, will remain after he leaves. I suspect that when those who care actually sit down and read all the homilies and talks Pope Benedict has given, they will recognize both the great intellect and the prophetic message he is giving to the West about the need to renew Western Civilization. Long Live the Pope!

    Very interesting article.

  5. Mariana says:

    Wonderful article!

  6. Kerry says:

    Some many weeks ago, Raymond de Souza appeared on EWTN’s ‘The Journey Home’. His website with links to Keys of Peter, and The Walsingham Project, and the reprinted A Defense of the Seven Sacraments, written by a certain Henry, the Eighth of that name, is here: http://www.raymonddesouza.com/. We are encouraged to pray for the conversion of England. Seem to be coming about. “IHS”

  7. shadowlands says:

    There’s a massive anti-Pope demonstration planned later today.


    Peter Tatchell and his merry (not) mob. I think Dickie Dawkins will be there too. Hope it rains.

  8. techno_aesthete says:

    Caro, yes, the music is outstanding. It is how the music for any Papal Mass should be, IMHO.

  9. Jacob says:

    Andrew Brown, religion editor of Comment is Free, and the possessor of an intellect as mighty and muddled as that of Rowan Williams…

    Mr. Thompson’s description here is what I was trying to drive at in the other post’s comments. It’s that muddledness that is doing so much harm by driving away traditionalists (both the Catholic-minded who have AC now and low-church/evangelicals who will most likely split off from the communion).

  10. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    it is kind of astounding to read these speeches which are delivered to the English government, and which speak of the atrocities committed by that very government in bygone days.

  11. irishgirl says:

    shadowlands-I hope that it ‘pours’ on Dawkins, Tatchell, and their ‘merry mob’, as you call them! Maybe then they’ll all go away-these ‘old guys’ will ‘catch a chill’ if they stay in the rain too long!

    (I love the way the Brits express themselves!)

    Great speeches by the Holy Father all during this trip!

    Long Live Our Holy Father, Benedict ‘the Brave’!

  12. TonyLayne says:

    @ shadowlands & irishgirl: I hope the Holy Spirit pours down on them as well, that they may finally shake loose of their spiritual blindness and enslaving hatred. And if not, I hope they catch colds.

    HF has been batting 1.000 from the plane to this Mass, mixing graciousness and apostolic vigor in every utterance. And the more this visit gets protested and debated and criticized, the more of a watershed event it becomes.

    It’s not the end of the British Empire (and even if it were, as the song says, there’ll always be an England), nor necessarily the stake through the heart of British Protestantism. But it may very well mark the moment when British (and, by extension, European) secularism, having reached its high-tide mark, started drawing back.

  13. TonyLayne says:

    “The high tide,” King Alfred cried, “the high tide and the turn!”

  14. irishgirl says:

    TonyLayne-one can only hope that the Holy Spirit will crack open their hardened hearts.

    ‘Come down, O Love Divine, teach Thou this soul of mine’, as one of those glorious Anglican hymn says.

    And I agree with the rest of your remarks, too!

    Love your ‘King Alfred quote’!

    Suburbanbanshee-oh, I’m so glad to read that Father Faber’s ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ was sung at the Mass at Westminster Cathedral! I’m sure that the good Father Frederick himself is happy in heaven over the Beatification of his friend, fellow convert and fellow Oratorian, John Henry Newman.

  15. becket1 says:

    I cannot help but feel that those Benedictine Monks and Abbots who served in Westminster Abbey, before the Reformation, are celebrating in Heaven because the Holy Father has finally come to their earthly home. God Bless Pope Benedict XVI. Definitely historical!.

  16. irishgirl says:

    Amen, becket1! Never thought of that!

  17. annieoakley says:

    Damian needs as many Catholic voices as possible posting on his blog. It’s one of the only sites in a mainstream British newspaper that comments positively on Catholic issues and he’s constantly pummeled for it – often quite viciously. You’ll get mud thrown at you; but there’ll also be wonderful people who come to support you.

    The thing about his site is that the same distorted comments by atheists and Catholic haters keep getting repeated over and over and – no matter how dumb they are – they need to be refuted, over and over, because there’s always new people reading his blog.


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