This charming man

Here’s an absolutely lovely quote from Titus Oates of the National ‘Secular’ Society:

For too long the Jewish community behaved like an arrogant, unaccountable arm of the government and of the law aided at every turn by a fifth column of Jews whose primary, indeed seemingly only, loyalty is to their own kind. Having so comprehensively abused their place in the corridors of power, they now need to be banished from them.

Oh, I’m sorry. Mr Oates was in fact talking about Catholics. So that’s all right then.

As Mr Oates is weighing in on the Chesney affair, there are one or two other points in his barking mad editorial that are worth remarking on. Let’s just note in passing that, as far as we can tell from the Hutchinson report, the cover-up was instigated by the government and police, while the Church authorities were brought in to get Chesney out of the way. Mr Oates of course cannot admit this, as in the NSS view of the world the State is a God-term. It’s the same way that, while he references the Ryan Report, one will find no acknowledgement that not a single child would have gone into the industrial schools without the approval of the Department of Education, the Garda Síochána and the courts. Which is not to deny Church responsibility, just to point out that the responsibility wasn’t the Church’s alone.

What’s also remarkable about this is that Mr Oates ventilates rather a lot on the Irish state. Maybe my memory is faulty, but I thought Willie Whitelaw was a minister in the British government. And that the RUC had its headquarters in Belfast, not in Dublin. Of course, this is rather inconvenient for the flow of Mr Oates’ argument, given that his view of the Irish nation is roughly equivalent to that of a nineteenth-century Punch cartoonist. So the Brits get quietly brushed under the carpet.

Finally, note the reference to the government being riddled with fifth columnists who need to be sent packing. Nice to see that our 21st-century rationalists can still channel the spirit of the 1840s when it suits them. Of course, this all very reminiscent of the episode a couple of years back when NSS honorary associate Mary Honeyball MEP called on the Labour Party to keep papists off the front bench, and followed it up with paranoid ravings about the Vatican’s alleged stranglehold on the British parliament and mass media. Or their other honorary associate, the sane and rational Johann Hari, who is living proof that you can take the boy out of Govan but you can’t take the Rangers Supporters Club out of the boy.

Indeed, Mr Oates has quite the track record at this sort of witch-hunting, having argued, for instance, that Mark Thompson is unfit to head the BBC because he’s a Catholic. Not that it’s ever stopped the BBC running fawning interviews with Mr Oates, where he can be confident that his many terminological inexactitudes will never be challenged.

If Mr Oates is really that worried about popish fifth columnists, and fancies campaigning for the reinstatement of the Test Acts, perhaps he could have a word with new equality minister Lynne Featherstone, who is on record as opining that religious believers shouldn’t be employed in the public sector. Ms Featherstone is not yet, I see, one of the NSS’s small army of honorary associates, but I think she’d fit right in.

And since Mr Oates will be on our screens and in our papers a good deal more over the coming weeks in his capacity as co-leader with Peter Tatchell of the No Popery Coalition, it will be worth keeping a close eye on him.

41 Comments

  1. BenSix said,

    August 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    …perhaps he could have a word with new equality minister Lynne Featherstone, who is on record as opining that religious believers shouldn’t be employed in the public sector.

    …if [their] religious belief is going to make it impossible [for them] to carry out [their] work…

    Difference, Shirley?

    • BenSix said,

      August 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      HTML is discriminating against my religious beliefs…

  2. shane said,

    August 30, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Padraig Reidy, former deputy editor of the New Humanist, recently wrote a piece on anti-Catholicism in Britain: I’m an atheist but this anti-Catholic rhetoric is making me nervous

    He cites the popular left-wing Liberal Conspiracy blog, ranked by ‘wikio’ as the second most influential British blog:

    “As I see it, Catholics are the last people who should be calling anyone ‘Dr Death’.

    This is, after all, a church that expects its followers to mumble incantations in front of a large statue of a mostly-naked European bloke nailed to Roman torture implement and includes an act of ritual cannibalism in its rites…

    …so who’s really obsessed with death here.”

    Can anyone imagine a top left-wing Irish blog making similar comments about the beliefs and practices of the Anglican Church of Ireland, never mind Jews or Muslims?

  3. Sue Sims said,

    August 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Slightly further down the Lynne Featherstone blog entry you’ve quoted is the delightfully Freudian typo:

    “So – that bit is relatively simple – perhaps more complex is how far and in what circumstances can or should the state expand beyond where pubic money is spent.”

    Uh-huh.

  4. Garibaldy said,

    August 31, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Never mind the 1840s, this is the language of the 1690s, when the penal laws were being introduced. And I don’t say that in an exaggerated way. There’s not much difference.

    • doloras said,

      August 31, 2010 at 6:40 am

      Much like the people who say “I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally”, I’m sure the NSS would say “We’re not Paisleyite anti-Catholics, we hate all religions equally”. (And some commenters here would consider that a good answer.)

      • Lobby Ludd said,

        August 31, 2010 at 10:14 pm

        Much like the people who say “I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally”, I’m sure the NSS would say “We’re not Paisleyite anti-Catholics, we hate all religions equally”. (And some commenters here would consider that a good answer.)

        It is a good answer, unless you can show it is not true.

      • doloras said,

        August 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

        Perhaps you didn’t get the point of the original post; why is it that the NSS can say things about Catholics that they would be run out of town on a rail for if they said them about Jews (and would sound like Geert Wilders if they said them about Muslims)?

      • Chris Williams said,

        September 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

        Because, Dolores, Catholicism is a religious belief not an ethnic category. You can choose to be one or not.

      • doloras said,

        September 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm

        And that’s EXACTLY what Islamophobes say about Islam.

    • Ciarán said,

      September 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      I was recently watching a piece by Keith Olbermann on the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy in New York, and was surprised to hear that similar language was used against John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. (“He’s a papist whose first loyalty will be to Rome” etc.)

      I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Its strange to think how groundbreaking some must have found that back then. Fifty years on though, he’s still the only catholic president – maybe there’s a lesson in that for anyone planning to follow in Obama’s footsteps.

      • doloras said,

        September 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm

        An interesting point is that Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and moderate-conservative by US standards, would probably be a shoo-in for the Repub nomination in 2012… IF he wasn’t a Mormon, something which freaks out the evangelical Protestants who are the base of the modern GOP.

      • weserei said,

        September 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm

        “Mitt Romney [...] would probably be a shoo-in for the Repub nomination in 2012 … … IF he wasn’t a Mormon”

        I doubt it. Romney was hurt in 2008 mostly by his flirtations with liberal positions on health care, abortion, and homosexuality; his inconsistent branding; and perceptions of elitism that were never effectively addressed. There is some statistical evidence, though not conclusive, that his Mormonism may have lost him votes among Protestants–but this has to be balanced by the enormous early financial boost he received from the Mormon community.

  5. patrick said,

    August 31, 2010 at 12:11 am

    the picture is actually of Terry Sanderson. i’ve no idea who mr oates is,

  6. August 31, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Titus Oates? Titus Oates?
    No way!!!
    Am I in a time=warp??

  7. DC said,

    August 31, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Godwins Law, eh? Did you get an indulgence for that? ;)

  8. Recusant said,

    August 31, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Always interesting to note that Terry Sanderson – for that is who he is Fr John – always refuses to divulge the membership numbers for the NSS. Digging into their published accounts, however, implies a figure the short side of 2,500. So an organisation that is one 2,400th part as big as the Catholic Church in England & Wales gets a greater degree of coverage from the UK media than the church itself.

    Of course they need all the publicity they can get in their constant battle against the arch enemy……….The British Humanist Association, an even smaller grouping, but gaining ground on the NSS. You didn’t naively think it was the Church now, did you?

  9. DG said,

    August 31, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I have twice written to the “National” Secular Society asking them what their membership numbers are. I didn’t receive replies. I wonder if someone could fine out. The leaders of this organisation speak for its membership and no one else. I wonder on whose behalf they speak.

    The NSS often gest quoted by the Telegraph. I don’t think there is anything sinister in this, it must be easier to phone them up for a quote.

  10. Sue Sims said,

    August 31, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    His real name is Terry Sanderson, but it pleases our host to rechristen him (or whatever the atheist equivalent might be), doubtless because Mr S, like his 17th-century equivalent, sees evil Papists under every Government bed.

    • August 31, 2010 at 11:19 pm

      Thank you, Sue.
      I’m a dim light bulb; being from “across the pond” it only gets worse.
      Thanks a bunch!

  11. Mike said,

    August 31, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    “Or their other honorary associate, the sane and rational Johann Hari, who is living proof that you can take the boy out of Govan but you can’t take the Rangers Supporters Club out of the boy.”

    According to Wikipedia, “Hari was born in Glasgow and has lived in London since he was a baby.” So don’t blame his nutcase views on Glasgow! I can’t see where Rangers comes into it. If you want to blame anywhere it seems more appropriate to blame London.

  12. August 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Nothing wrong with a bit of papist bashing.
    Congrats on Second Place, much deserved. You got my vote, at 2 obviously

  13. neilcaff said,

    September 1, 2010 at 12:09 am

    After re-reading Sandersons article I think you are being a bit disingenuous comparing his comment to antisemitism. The actual quote reads: “For too long the Church has behaved like an arrogant, unaccountable arm of the government and of the law aided at every turn by a fifth column of Catholics whose primary, indeed seemingly only, loyalty is to their Church. Having so comprehensively abused its place in the corridors of power, it now needs to be banished from them.” (emphasis my own)

    I still think it’s a crap article by Sanderson but the point here is that he is ranting about the institution of the Catholic Church, not accusing Catholics as a whole block of people as fifth columnists who need to be banished from power. That’s a crucial distinction even if Sandersons tone is overblown.
    It’s wrong to compare his remarks with antisemitism.

    • doloras said,

      September 1, 2010 at 12:52 am

      So, which Catholics make up “the Church” as opposed to “a block of people”? Is Sanderson calling for only priests to be excluded from power? How about lay religious such as Opus Dei? How “Catholic” do you have to be before you’re a threat to democracy?

      • neilcaff said,

        September 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

        Well that’s why I think it’s a bad article by Sanderson, not because it’s comparable to antisemetism or Gert Wilders rhetoric about Muslims, it isn’t, but because he doesn’t attempt to draw any distinction between the Catholic Church as an institution with it’s own labyrinthine bureaucratic interests and politics often separate to that of lay Catholics (see an article by one Mr. S. Sunrise ‘How Bureaucracy Works’) and those lay Catholics who share certain core universal core beliefs but are not exactly identical with the institution of the Catholic Church.

        As you point out that distinction is not hard and fast which means a certain amount sensitivity and nuance is required when one criticises the, shall we say, interactions between governments and the Catholic hierarchy or the prosecution of Catholic social, moral and religious teachings by the Catholic Church.

        Let me put it this way.
        I believe there should be absolutely no place for the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality within the confines of the state. This means it should not be taught in state funded schools, it should not be a bar to marriage and so on. Where it does gain a certain foothold in the state I think it is right that it should be contested through discussion and debate, campaigning and activism.
        I am not being anti-Catholic as such, I am expressing my opposition to Catholic social teaching becoming embedded within the sate. You may of course think I am wrong and that including Catholic social teaching in the state is a good thing and that is fine.

        On the other hand if I was to base my political perspective on the idea Catholics in general are congenitally homophobic then yes that would be comparable to antisemitism and most certainly should be opposed.

        However in this article Sanderson quite clearly is not saying that, instead we have an overwrought homily on the dangers of a close relationship between religious leaders and the state.

        What irks me about Splintered’s comparison is that it is uncomfortably close to the tactics of Harry’s Place in any debate around the State of Israel. Any criticism of the institution is immediately presented as an attack on those all the people who may have a connection with that institution.

        There’s plenty to criticise in Sanderson’s article but comparisons to antisemitism or some of the attacks that are happening to Muslim’s here in Europe right now are spurious and not particularly helpful.

      • doloras said,

        September 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm

        I certainly agree that leftists and liberals should not compromise on the defeat of certain IDEAS and sidelining them from governmental discourse (racism, homophobia, etc). It’s when certain groups of people become a stand-in for those ideas that it goes out of the realms of politics and into the realms of tribal warfare. Let’s – for example – fight the Opus Dei crowd on the basis that their ideas are dodgy, not on the grounds of demonizing their beliefs and cultural identity (inherent in many atheists’ nasty little comments about “magical sky fairies”).

        Case in point: the recent anti gay marriage referendum in California. Instead of fighting homophobia as a cultural meme, too many liberals have either blamed the Mormons as a fungible group; or even worse, urban blacks. (The undertone being that only educated white people on middle-class incomes should be making important social decisions – an ideology which any Marxist should be fighting tooth and nail to defeat when it rears its ugly head in the social movements.)

        As I keep saying, blaming the Pope for homophobia is up there with blaming Muslim clerics for sexism. Wrong target, wrong methods, too much collateral damage. As for Catholic social teaching – is it all right if we allow the bits critical of unfettered capitalism into public discourse?

      • neilcaff said,

        September 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

        That depends on how the Church’s opposition to unfettered capitalism translates into practical social policy. For example I have no problem with the existence of unions inspired by Catholic social teaching like they have in Belgium and other places on the Continent. I certainly don’t think representatives of those unions should be ‘driven from the corridors of power’. Obviously I think a union guided by a socialist program would be better but that is a strategic question not a point of principle.

        On the other hand it seems to me that when the Church talks about the need for greater social solidarity and help for the less well off, what that actually translates into in practice is a call for greater participation of Catholic charities in the provision of welfare.

        Now I don’t have an issue with the Church promoting their own charities (I would hardly expect them to promote Protestant, Islamic or secular charities!). As someone who believes that the most efficient short term methods of tackling poverty while living in a capitalist system is through universal state benefits funded by wealth redistribution I think the inclusion of charities in welfare provision, however well intentioned, is in fact a fragmentation of the welfare state and a move towards privatization.

        So, on that basis I’d be opposed to that particular aspect of the Church’s social policy as it relates to unfettered capitalism. Not because Catholics, as such, can’t administer welfare but the solutions they put forward are incorrect.

  14. DG said,

    September 1, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Terry was on Newsnight last night with the editor of the Tablet. I am not anti Catholic he said. I’m sure I am not the only person to have laughed out loud. Oh how awful, said the interviewer to Lord Patten, the Pope is against abortion and how much is the tax payer being asked to pay? Can you recall the BBC ever asking before how much a State Visit has cost? It was a real hatchet job, perhaps worthy of the BBC even though I would like to say it was unworthy of them.

    • neilcaff said,

      September 3, 2010 at 12:12 am

      Hmm think about it, the Vatican City is a soverign state that is:

      a) an unelected, theocratic, male dominated bureaucratic state

      that

      b) does not possess any oil or similar valuable commodity or host a US military installation.

      Quite frankly you should thank your lucky stars all the Pope gets is flak over paying for State visits.

    • PaulineG said,

      September 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

      What a spectacular piece of blind ideologically-driven hypocrisy from the Beeb in the Patten interview:

      Those who object to the Church’s stand on abortion seem to be free to use it without challenge as a pretext to object to the use of state funds on the Pope’s visit. Yet those who object to abortion have been obliged for the last 43 years to fund them. How much has the killing of 7 million unborn children cost us taxpayers over the years? How many more must we pay for before this madness ends?

      How about we start kicking up about how our taxes are spent? Perhaps we could do a deal …………….

  15. ajay said,

    September 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    new equality minister Lynne Featherstone, who is on record as opining that religious believers shouldn’t be employed in the public sector.

    This is a lie.

    NSS honorary associate Mary Honeyball MEP called on the Labour Party to keep papists off the front bench

    As is this.

    followed it up with paranoid ravings about the Vatican’s alleged stranglehold on the British parliament and mass media.

    Not really true.

    Mr Oates has quite the track record at this sort of witch-hunting, having argued, for instance, that Mark Thompson is unfit to head the BBC because he’s a Catholic

    This is a lie too.

  16. Ken MacLeod said,

    September 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

    ajay # 15: Yes.

    And all the research needed to make your point is clicking on the links provided!

    • Chris Williams said,

      September 8, 2010 at 1:24 am

      And no response from yr man Splinty. Good luck to the rest of the sentient readership here, but me, I’m off. See y’all about.

  17. chjh said,

    September 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Chris Williams, in a reply to #4 above, opines that “you can choose to be a Catholic or not.” Ms or Mr Williams has clearly never come across the Orange Order – ex-Catholics are still Catholics as far as they’re concerned.

    The reason why Islamophobia and some forms of anti-Catholicism are racist is precisely because it’s the bigots who are are defining who falls into their hate category, irrespective of what the objects of that hate actually think.

    • Chris Williams said,

      September 4, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Just because some members of the Orange order are fools, it doesn’t follow that we all have to be. Although if you want to take as your cue, chjh, I can’t stop you. Nevertheless, bigotry is not the same as racism.

      Dr Williams

      • chjh said,

        September 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

        You’re rather proving my point there – it’s not some members of the Orange Order who think that, it’s in their constitution. As far as they are concerned, I am a Taig because one of my parents was – end of. As far as I’m concerned, that is racist bigotry. It’s racist because it’s a judgement about me based on my parentage. At least we agree that it’s bigotry.

      • Garibaldy said,

        September 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

        I don’t think it’s racist bigotry, bceause a conversion to protestantism can rescue you from the errors of Rome. Not the same as with colour.

  18. Andrew Coates said,

    September 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Official Tendance Line on The Pope’s Visit: show Love.

    http://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/official-statement-on-ratzinger%e2%80%99s-state-visit-the-tendance-shows-love/#comment-3188

  19. September 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    [...] stop complaining about how much the security is going to cost the taxpayer of this country (such as Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, who, recalls Andrew Brown, said on the comments thread [...]

  20. September 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    [...] stop complaining about how much the security is going to cost the taxpayer of this country (such as Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, who, recalls Andrew Brown, said on the comments thread [...]


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