Book reviews

Antonia Fraser’s The King and the Catholics: England, Ireland, and the Fight for Religious Freedom, 1780-1829 (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2018)

Lugubrious writing, yet how Catholics overcame British bigotry in the nineteenth century can apply to the pro-life movement today.

What do events two centuries ago have to do with life today?  If you can say “religious freedom”, “bigotry”, and “anti-Catholicism”, then those phrases should be enough to help contemporary readers understand how Protestant bigotry against “Papists” kept millions of people in second-class citizen status for centuries.  More importantly, though, Fraser’s book illustrates how the peaceful protests of activists like Daniel O’Connell and Catholic and Protestant aristocrats overcame such bigotry.

The heroes of the book are the Duke of Wellington and O’Connell; the anti-Catholic bigotry of “beloved” writers like William Wordsworth and Robert Southey is simply disgusting.  The irrational anti-Catholic positions of George III and George IV testify to the inherent contradiction of the British monarchy: if a British king thought he was forced to uphold only Protestant Christianity, then he could not help those who believe in the Church which Protestantism left.  Those kings, who blocked Catholic Emancipation for forty years, also deserve our disgust for their bigotry against millions of their Catholic subjects.

However, the contemporary pro-life movement’s emphasis on peaceful protest and legislative action parallels O’Connell’s methods to provide civil rights for the millions of Catholics in Britain at the time.  The parallels are inescapable, especially when contrasted against the hostile, Antifa tactics which obstructionist Democrats endorse to keep abortion legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever.  That they want to have infanticide and euthanasia legalized makes pro-life efforts more vital in the new year and beyond.

Finally, I disagree with the opinions of the critics on the back cover about the quality of the writing.  In many places, passages are not as mellifluous as they could be; a clearer chronological order would have helped.  The uneven flow probably accounted for a reading which took three days instead of one.

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