The Northern Ireland Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Mr. Nigel Dodds, is increasingly under fire for the recent outburst of his adviser, Mr. William Thompson.
Mr. Thompson has caused great shock in Washington for denouncing the Pope as “ the Anti-Christ”, and for threatening to oppose any Papal visit to Northern Ireland.
As an indication of how the issue is escalating, the Washington AOH has asked Fr. Sean Mc Manus, president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, to address them on Tuesday, February 5 on the topic of “ Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland”.
Fr. Mc Manus, who has spent the past week briefing Members of Congress on Thompson’s sectarian rant, said, “ It’s almost as if Minister Dodds’s own Department is trying to sabotage the upcoming Investment Conference in Belfast and to discourage American investment. Already there is dark talk about organizing an American boycott of the Conference, something that I do not support. But make no mistake about it, there is a lot of anger in Washington, and utter amazement that Minister Dodds has shown little concern.”
In his address to the AOH, Fr. Mc Manus observes, “ Minister Dodds has not fired Thompson. But then how could he? Dodds himself holds the same pernicious anti-Catholic belief. Dodds has been a long-time member of Dr. Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, which holds as an article of faith that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. There is no record of Nigel Dodds ever dissenting from this unchristian and anti-Catholic lunacy.”
Fr. Mc Manus concluded, “ What I’m hearing time and time again is ‘Are we just expected to keep on welcoming members of the DUP to Washington, while
back in Northern Ireland the DUP demonstrates contempt for Catholics and disrespects the Irish language?’ Isn’t it sad all this is happening so soon after the very positive visit of Dr. Paisley and Martin Mc Guinness?”
ANTI-CATHOLICISM IN NORTHERN IRELAND:
ADDRESS BY FR. SEAN MC MANUS
John Barry AOH Division,
Supposing a top adviser in President Bush’s Cabinet went on national TV and radio, denounced the Pope as “the anti-Christ”, and declared he was going to oppose the Pope’s upcoming visit to Washington.
How long do you think he would keep his job?
Well recently in Northern Ireland a top aide to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Mr. Nigel Dodds, made a similar outrageous outburst. Mr. William Thompson called the Pope the anti-Christ and threatened to oppose any Papal visit to Northern Ireland. Minister Dodds has not fired him. But then how could he?
Dodds himself appears to hold the same pernicious belief.
Minister Dodds has been a long-time member of Dr. Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, which holds as an article of faith that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. There is no record of Nigel Dodds ever dissenting from this unchristian and anti-Catholic
Yet Minister Dodds is looking for strong Washington support for the upcoming Investment Conference in Belfast, while Washington is preparing to soon welcome the Pope with love and respect.
So what is going on here? Why would the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment find itself caught up in this unseemly and squalid 17th Century-type of anti-Catholic sectarianism?
ANTI-CATHOLICISM: THE STATE RELIGION
Is it an aberration, a deviation from the Northern Ireland norm? Sadly, it is not. Anti-Catholicism was one of the main pillars upon which the State of Northern Ireland was built in 1920.
Now here it must be stressed that anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland is not about a difference in faith and theology, which by definition exist between different religions, (that’s why there are different religions). Rather, anti-Catholicism is a socio-economic -political system for oppressing Catholics. Its primary aim is not to hurt the Pope or the College of Cardinals but to show contempt for local Catholics. It has nothing to do with the many valid points of Martin Luther’s Reformation but everything to do with keeping uppity Catholics in their place.
The operating principle behind the artificial creation of the Six County State of Northern Ireland was: English rule through Protestant supremacy. England could hold on to that part of Ireland for as long as the Protestants could keep the Catholics down. Anti-Catholicism became in effect the state- religion of Northern Ireland – just as racism was the tool for keeping African-Americans down in the Deep South until the 1960’s. Keep in mind that sectarianism is but the flip side of the racist coin.
ANTI-CATHOLICISM ENSHRINED IN BRITISH CONSTITUTION
But before blaming the extreme Protestants/Unionists/Orangemen, we must first blame – and this is always the Mc Manus doctrine – the British Government. Why?
Because the source of anti-Catholic sectarianism is constitutionally enshrined at the very heart of the British Monarchy and the British Government – in the Act of Settlement, 1701. And the Orangemen are not responsible for that Act.
This sectarian and inherently anti-Catholic Act -- which is still the law today -- have provisions that decree a Catholic cannot secede to the British throne and that if the Monarch becomes a Catholic, or marries a Catholic, he/she forfeits the Throne and “the people are absolved from their allegiance”.
While this absurdly anachronistic law may mean little to the average Englishman in the street, it has always been of fundamental importance to Protestant/Unionist/Orange extremists in Northern Ireland. It provides the ideological and philosophical underpinnings for their bigotry and sectarianism. For you see, the spurious but deadly logic goes, if a Catholic by law can’t get the top job, then Catholics are inferior and, therefore, it’s okay to discriminate against them.
Imagine had there been a provision in the US Constitution forbidding an African-American being president, or forbidding the president to marry a Black person… imagine how that would have stoked the flames of racism and the sick ideology of White supremacy.
However, unfortunately, Dodds’s Department is not the only one caught up in controversary. His DUP colleague, Edwin Poots, MLA, Minister for Culture and Arts has launched a parallel attack on Nationalist in Northern Ireland. Histoically, when bigoted Unionists wanted to show contempt for Nationalists they typically not only demeaned Catholicism but also poured scorn on the ancient and beautiful Irish language. Minister Poots has sabotaged the Irish Language Act, agreed to by the St. Andrew’s Agreement, and he has killed funding for the Irish Language broadcast sector by removing it from his budget.
Irish-Americans must not bury their head in the sand. While we must continue to strongly support the peace-process, and recognize and welcome the great progress, we cannot ignore these twin-evils: sectarian anti-Catholicism and racist contempt for the Irish language. Equally we must condemn the recent upsurge in attacks on Orange Halls.
Now, let me take a moment to place all this in an American context.
Anti-Catholicism in America
Irish-Americans should not find it hard to understand the phenomenon of anti-Catholicism. In the 19th and 20th Century Irish-Americans saw lots of it -- and indeed some of it is still around, on the Right and on the Left.
The famous American historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr., once called anti-Catholicism ‘‘the deepest bias in the history of the American people”.
It is well known that JFK when he was running for President had to go cap -in -hand to Texas and explain himself to 300 ministers of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, and to prove a Catholic was fit to be President.
What is less well known, is that in Washington itself, at the Mayflower Hotel in 1960, a high-powered, very respectable, group of 150 conservative Protestant ministers met to oppose the idea of a Catholic being President. The group was organized by the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale (he of “The Power of Positive Thinking”) and included the father-in-law of Billy Graham, Dr. Nelson Bell. Ironically enough, the group called itself, the “National Conference of Citizens for Religious Freedom. And the day before, the New York Times carried a front page article on the group, as well a as full-page “official statement”. The two-thousand-word statement explained “actions and polices of the Catholic Church have given Protestants legitimate grounds for concern about having a Catholic in the White House”.
At the conference in the Mayflower, Peale warned the Protestant ministers, “… our American culture is at stake”. (“ The Power of Negative Thinking”, Time, September 19, 1960.) Billy Graham’s father-in-law, Dr. Bell cautioned, “too many Protestants are soft on Catholicism. Pseudo-tolerance is not tolerance at all but simply ignorance… Rome was little better than Moscow… the antagonism of the Roman church to Communism is in part because of similar methods”. (“Test of Religion”, Time, September 26, 1960, page 21.)
After the meeting the group held a Press Conference and the Reverend Harold Ockenga -- not from some church in the Bible Belt, but from Boston’s Park Street Church -- spoke for the group charging, “Senator Kennedy’s statement upholding separation of church and state [are] analogous to statements made by Soviet Premier Khrushchev urging world peace during his last tour of the United States last fall. Mr. Khrushchev’s meaning of the word “peace” equaled the worldwide victory of Marxism, and not what Americans thought it meant. Both men [are] caught in their respective philosophical systems.” (“ Protestant Group Wary on Kennedy”, New York Times, September 8, 1960).
The Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, has been Ian Paisley’s main American sponsor, and gave Paisley his Doctorate. It also gave Governor George Wallace a Doctorate for standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963 to stop Black students from entering and vowing “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever”. Bob Jones University still does not accept Catholics.
Listen to just one thing Bob Jones Jr has stated about the Catholic Church: “[It is] a Satanic counterfeit, an ecclesiastical tyranny over the souls of men, not to bring them to salvation but to hold them bound to sin and to hurl them into eternal damnation. It is the old harlot of the Book of Revelation - ‘the Mother of Harlots’.” And, like Paisley, he called the late, Great Pope John Paul 11 the Anti-Christ. What does it say about the spiritual discernment of someone who sees Pope John Paul as the anti-Christ?
And then, of course, we have the famous Jimmy Swaggart who declared that Catholicism was “a false religion. Whosoever follows its errant doctrines will be deceived and end up eternally lost”. (“A Letter to my Catholic Friends”, The Evangelist, January 1983). Swaggart also called the Mass “a liturgical religious monstrosity.” (“King of Honky Tonk”, Ken Woodward. Newsweek, May 30, 1983. Page 89). In 1984, Swaggart boycotted a huge charismatic conference in the Superdome in New Orleance because Catholics would be attending. He said: “There is absolutely no way that ministers of the Gospel can stand on a platform with Catholic priests in some type of professed unity without compromising the Word of God”.
But, you know, that crazy type of anti-Catholicism may not be the most dangerous. There is a more subtle form of anti-Catholicism still present in America -- among some elements in the media and elsewhere. For example, Fr. Andrew Greeley of Chicago says this type of subtle anti-Catholicism is dangerous “precisely because it is not acknowledged, not recognized, not explicitly and self-consciously rejected.” (An Ugly Little Secret, Sheed Andrews and Mc Meel, Kanas City. Mo. 1977) And nobody can accuse Fr. Greeley of not being prepared to criticize the Catholic Church, when he feels the need.
That subtle type of anti-Catholicism perhaps can help explain why the American media so often reported badly on the problem in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years… why it often completely ignored the problem…why it often only reported something only when it could blame the IRA… why it often ignored British violence and the murders of hundreds of Catholics by Unionist paramilitaries, that were directed and supplied by British security forces and British intelligence agencies… why it failed almost totally to report how the British Government by its laws and policy promoted anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland.
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