Anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom

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The Protestant Tutor, by Benjamin Harris ProtestantTutor.png
The Protestant Tutor, by Benjamin Harris

Anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom has its origins in the English and Irish Reformations under King Henry VIII and the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox. Within England the Act of Supremacy 1534 declared the English crown to be "the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England" in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers. Ireland was brought under direct English control starting in 1536 during the Tudor conquest of Ireland. The Scottish Reformation in 1560 abolished Catholic ecclesiastical structures and rendered Catholic practice illegal in Scotland. Today, anti-Catholicism is common in peripheral areas of the United Kingdom, mainly Scotland and Northern Ireland.

English Reformation Separation of the Church of England from the Pope of Rome

The English Reformation was a series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. These events were, in part, associated with the wider process of the European Protestant Reformation, a religious and political movement that affected the practice of Christianity across western and central Europe during this period. Many factors contributed to the process: the decline of feudalism and the rise of nationalism, the rise of the common law, the invention of the printing press and increased circulation of the Bible, and the transmission of new knowledge and ideas among scholars, the upper and middle classes and readers in general. However, the various phases of the English Reformation, which also covered Wales and Ireland, were largely driven by changes in government policy, to which public opinion gradually accommodated itself.

Reformation in Ireland

The Reformation in Ireland was a movement for the reform of religious life and institutions that was introduced into Ireland by the English administration at the behest of King Henry VIII of England. His desire for an annulment of his marriage was known as the King's Great Matter. Ultimately Pope Clement VII refused the petition; consequently, in order to give legal effect to his wishes, it became necessary for the King to assert his lordship over the Catholic Church in his realm. In passing the Acts of Supremacy in 1534, the English Parliament confirmed the King's supremacy over the Church in the Kingdom of England. This challenge to Papal supremacy resulted in a breach with the Catholic Church. By 1541, the Irish Parliament had agreed to the change in status of the country from that of a Lordship to that of Kingdom of Ireland.

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.


Anti-Catholicism among many of the English was grounded in the fear that the pope sought to reimpose not just religio-spiritual authority over England but also secular power in alliance with arch-enemy France or Spain. In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Queen Elizabeth who ruled England and Ireland with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis , which declared her a heretic and purported to dissolve the duty of all Elizabeth's subjects of their allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in their allegiance to the Catholic Church politically suspect, and made the position of her Catholic subjects largely untenable if they tried to maintain both allegiances at once. The Recusancy Acts, making it a legal obligation to worship in the Anglican faith, date from Elizabeth's reign. Later, assassination plots in which Catholics were prime movers fueled anti-Catholicism in England. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became also James I of England and Ireland.

Pope leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the Bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Glorious Revolution of 1689 involved the overthrow of King James II, who converted to Catholicism before he became king and favoured the Catholics, and his replacement by son-in-law William III, a Dutch Protestant. The Act of Settlement 1701, which was passed by the Parliament of England, stated the heir to the throne must not be a "Papist" and that an heir who is a Catholic or who marries one will be excluded from the succession to the throne. This law was extended to Scotland through the Act of Union which formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Act was amended in 2013 as regards marriage to a Catholic and the ecumenical movement has contributed to reducing sectarian tensions in the country.

Glorious Revolution 17th Century British revolution

The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, was the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, who was James's nephew and son-in-law. William's successful invasion of England with a Dutch fleet and army led to his ascension to the throne as William III of England jointly with his wife, Mary II, James's daughter, after the Declaration of Right, leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.

William III of England 17th-century Stadtholder, Prince of Orange and King of England, Scotland and Ireland

William III, also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672 and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known in Northern Ireland and Scotland as "King Billy".

Act of Settlement 1701 Former United Kingdom law disqualifying Catholic monarchs

The Act of Settlement is an Act of the Parliament of England that was passed in 1701 to settle the succession to the English and Irish crowns on Protestants only. The next Protestant in line to the throne was the Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England. After her the crowns would descend only to her non-Roman Catholic heirs.


English Reformation

St Thomas More, the Catholic government official executed in 1535 by King Henry VIII Hans Holbein, the Younger - Sir Thomas More - Google Art Project.jpg
St Thomas More, the Catholic government official executed in 1535 by King Henry VIII

The Act of Supremacy issued by King Henry VIII in 1534 declared the king to be "the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England" in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers. It was under this act that Thomas More and John Fisher were executed and became martyrs to the Catholic faith.

Thomas More 15th/16th-century English statesman

Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.

John Fisher 16th-century Bishop of Rochester

John Fisher, venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint John Fisher, was an English Catholic bishop, cardinal, and theologian. Fisher was also an academic, and eventually served as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

The Act of Supremacy (which asserted England's independence from papal authority) was repealed in 1554 by Henry's devoutly Catholic daughter Queen Mary I when she reinstituted Catholicism as England's state religion. She executed many Protestants by burning. Her actions were reversed by a new Act of Supremacy passed in 1559 under her successor, Elizabeth I, along with an Act of Uniformity which made worship in Church of England compulsory. Anyone who took office in the English church or government was required to take the Oath of Supremacy; penalties for violating it included hanging and quartering. Attendance at Anglican services became obligatory—those who refused to attend Anglican services, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants (Puritans), were fined and physically punished as recusants.

Mary I of England Queen of England and Ireland

Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. The executions that marked her pursuit of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in England and Ireland led to her denunciation as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents.

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Over the course of English parliamentary history there were a number of Acts of Uniformity. All had the basic object of establishing some sort of religious orthodoxy within the English church.

Elizabethan regime

Foxe's Book of Martyrs helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism in Britain. Foxe's Book of Martyrs title page.jpg
Foxe's Book of Martyrs helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism in Britain.

In the time of Elizabeth I, the persecution of the adherents of the Reformed religion, both Anglicans and Protestants alike, which had occurred during the reign of her elder half-sister Queen Mary I was used to fuel strong anti-Catholic propaganda in the hugely influential Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Those who had died in Mary's reign, under the Marian Persecutions, were effectively canonised by this work of hagiography. In 1571, the Convocation of the Church of England ordered that copies of the Book of Martyrs should be kept for public inspection in all cathedrals and in the houses of church dignitaries. The book was also displayed in many Anglican parish churches alongside the Holy Bible. The passionate intensity of its style and its vivid and picturesque dialogues made the book very popular among Puritan and Low Church families, Anglican and Protestant nonconformist, down to the nineteenth century. In a period of extreme partisanship on all sides of the religious debate, the exaggeratedly partisan church history of the earlier portion of the book, with its grotesque stories of popes and monks, contributed to fuel anti-Catholic prejudices in England, as did the story of the sufferings of several hundred Reformers (both Anglican and Protestant) who had been burnt at the stake under Mary and Bishop Bonner.

<i>Foxes Book of Martyrs</i> book by John Foxe

The Actes and Monuments, popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, is a work of Protestant history and martyrology by John Foxe, first published in English in 1563 by John Day. It includes a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland. The book was highly influential in those countries and helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there. The book went through four editions in Foxe's lifetime and a number of later editions and abridgements, including some that specifically reduced the text to a Book of Martyrs.

Hagiography biography of a Christian saint

A hagiography is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader. The term hagiography may be used to refer to the biography of a saint or highly developed spiritual being in any of the world's spiritual traditions.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

Anti-Catholicism among many of the English was grounded in the fear that the pope sought to reimpose not just religio-spiritual authority over England but also secular power over the country; this was seemingly confirmed by various actions by the Vatican. In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Elizabeth with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis , which declared her a heretic and purported to dissolve the duty of all Elizabeth's subjects of their allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in their allegiance to the Catholic Church politically suspect, and made the position of her Catholic subjects largely untenable if they tried to maintain both allegiances at once.

In 1588, one Elizabethian loyalist cited the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada as an attempt by Philip II of Spain to put into effect the Pope's decree. In truth, King Philip II was attempting to claim the throne of England he felt he had as a result of being the widower of Mary I of England.[ citation needed ]

Elizabeth's resultant persecution of Catholic Jesuit missionaries led to many executions at Tyburn. Priests like Edmund Campion who suffered there are considered martyrs by the Catholic Church, and a number of them were canonized by the Catholic Church as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, though at the time they were considered traitors to England. In recent decades, a Catholic convent has been established near the site of the Tyburn gallows to honor those executed there for their faith.

17th and 18th century polemics

Later several accusations fueled strong anti-Catholicism in England including the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and other Catholic conspirators were found guilty of planning to blow up the English Parliament on the day the King was to open it. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was blamed on the Catholics and an inscription ascribing it to 'Popish frenzy' was engraved on the Monument to the Great Fire of London, which marked the location where the fire started (this inscription was only removed in 1831). The 'Popish Plot' involving Titus Oates further exacerbated Anglican-Catholic relations.

The beliefs that underlie the sort of strong anti-Catholicism once seen in the United Kingdom were summarized by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England :

As to papists, what has been said of the Protestant dissenters would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them; provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments, their purgatory, and auricular confession; their worship of relics and images; nay even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects..
— Bl. Comm. IV, c.4 ss. iii.2, p. *54

The gravamen of this charge, then, is that Catholics constitute an imperium in imperio , a sort of fifth column of persons who owe a greater allegiance to the Pope than they do to the civil government, a charge very similar to that repeatedly leveled against Jews. Accordingly, a large body of British laws such as the Popery Act 1698, collectively known as the Penal Laws, imposed various civil disabilities and legal penalties on recusant Catholics.

A change of attitude was eventually signalled by the Papists Act 1778 in the reign of King George III. Under this Act, an oath was imposed, which besides being a declaration of loyalty to the reigning sovereign, contained an abjuration of Charles Edward Stuart, the Pretender to the British throne, and of certain doctrines attributed to Roman Catholics (doctrines such as those stating that excommunicated princes may lawfully be murdered, that no faith should be kept with heretics, and that the Pope has temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction in the realm). Those taking this oath were exempted from some of the provisions of the Popery Act. The section as to taking and prosecuting priests were repealed, as also the penalty of perpetual imprisonment for keeping a school. Catholics were also enabled to inherit and purchase land, nor was a Protestant heir any longer empowered to enter and enjoy the estate of his Catholic kinsman. However, the passing of this act was the occasion of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots (1780) in which the violence of the mob was especially directed against Lord Mansfield who had balked at various prosecutions under the statutes now repealed. [1] The anti-clerical excesses of the French Revolution and the consequent emigration to England of Catholic priests from France led to a softening of opinion towards Catholics on the part of the English Anglican establishment, resulting in the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 which allowed Catholics to enter the legal profession, relieved them from taking the Oath of Supremacy, and granted toleration for their schools and places of worship [2] The repeal of the Penal Laws culminated in the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829.

19th century and early 20th century

Despite the Emancipation Act, however, anti-Catholic attitudes persisted throughout the 19th century, particularly following the sudden massive Irish Catholic migration to England during the Great Famine. [3]

The forces of anti-Catholicism were defeated by the unexpected mass mobilization of Catholic activists in Ireland, led by Daniel O'Connell. The Catholics had long been passive but now there was a clear threat of insurrection that troubled Prime Minister Wellington and his aide Robert Peel. The passage of Catholic emancipation in 1829, which allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament, opened the way for a large Irish Catholic contingent. Lord Shaftesbury (1801-1885), a prominent philanthropist, was a pre-millennial evangelical Anglican who believed in the imminent second coming of Christ, and became a leader in anti-Catholicism. He strongly opposed the Oxford movement In the Church of England, fearful of its high church Catholics features. In 1845, he denounced the Maynooth Grant which funded the Catholic seminary in Ireland that would train many priests. [4]

The re-establishment of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy in England in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, was followed by a frenzy of anti-Catholic feeling, often stoked by newspapers. Examples include an effigy of Cardinal Wiseman, the new head of the restored hierarchy, being paraded through the streets and burned on Bethnal Green, and graffiti proclaiming 'No popery!' being chalked on walls. [5] Charles Kingsley wrote a vigorously anti-Catholic book Hypatia (1853). [6] The novel was mainly aimed at the embattled Catholic minority in England, who had recently emerged from a half-illegal status.

New Catholic episcopates, which ran parallel to the established Anglican episcopates, and a Catholic conversion drive awakened fears of 'papal aggression' and relations between the Catholic Church and the establishment remained frosty. [7] At the end of the nineteenth century one contemporary wrote that "the prevailing opinion of the religious people I knew and loved was that Roman Catholic worship is idolatry, and that it was better to be an Atheist than a Papist". [8] When former Prime Minister Gladstone wrote a polemic against the infallibility declaration of the Catholic Church, it sold 150,000 copies in 1874. [9] He urged Catholics to obey the crown and disobey the pope when there was disagreement.

Post-war period and ecumenism

Since World War II anti-Catholic feeling in England has much abated. Ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics culminated in the first meeting of an Archbishop of Canterbury with a Pope since the Reformation when Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher visited Rome in 1960. [10] Since then, dialogue has continued through envoys and standing conferences.

Residual anti-Catholicism in England is represented by the burning of an effigy of the Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes at local celebrations on Guy Fawkes Night every 5 November. [11] This celebration has, however, largely lost any sectarian connotation and the allied tradition of burning an effigy of the Pope on this day has been discontinued – except in the town of Lewes, Sussex. [12] The "Calvinistic Methodists" represented a militant core of anti-Catholics. [13]

As a result of the 1701 Act of Settlement, any member of the British royal family who joins the Catholic Church must renounce the throne. [14] The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 allows members to marry a Roman Catholic without incurring this ban.

Ireland under British control

Ireland's Catholic majority was subjected to persecution from the time of the English Reformation under Henry VIII. This persecution intensified when the Gaelic clan system was completely destroyed by the governments of Elizabeth I and her successor, James I. Land was appropriated either by the conversion of native Anglo-Irish aristocrats or by forcible seizure. Many Catholics were dispossessed and their lands given to Anglican and Protestant settlers from Britain. However it should be noted that the first plantation in Ireland was a Catholic plantation under Queen Mary I; for more see Plantations of Ireland.

In order to cement the power of the Anglican Ascendancy, political and land-owning rights were denied to Ireland's Catholics by law, following the Glorious Revolution in England and consequent turbulence in Ireland. The Penal Laws, established first in the 1690s, assured Church of Ireland control of political, economic and religious life. The Mass, ordination, and the presence in Ireland of Catholic Bishops were all banned, although some did carry on secretly. Catholic schools were also banned, as were all voting franchises. Violent persecution also resulted, leading to the torture and execution of many Catholics, both clergy and laity. Since then, many have been canonised and beatified by the Vatican, such as Saint Oliver Plunkett, Blessed Dermot O'Hurley, and Blessed Margaret Ball.

Although some of the Penal Laws restricting Catholic access to landed property were repealed between 1778 and 1782, this did not end anti-Catholic agitation and violence. Catholic competition with Protestants in County Armagh for leases intensified, driving up prices and provoking resentment of Anglicans and Protestants alike. Then in 1793, the Roman Catholic Relief Act enfranchised forty shilling freeholders in the counties, thus increasing the political value of Catholic tenants to landlords. In addition, Catholics began to enter the linen weaving trade, thus depressing Protestant wage rates. From the 1780s the Protestant Peep O'Day Boys grouping began attacking Catholic homes and smashing their looms. In addition, the Peep O'Day Boys disarmed Catholics of any weapons they were holding. [15] A Catholic group called the Defenders was formed in response to these attacks. This climaxed in the Battle of the Diamond on 21 September 1795 outside the small village of Loughgall between Peep O' Day boys and the Defenders. [16] Roughly 30 Catholic Defenders but none of the better armed Peep O'Day Boys were killed in the fight. Hundreds of Catholic homes and at least one Church were burnt out in the aftermath of the skirmish. [17] After the battle Daniel Winter, James Wilson, and James Sloan changed the name of the Peep O' Day Boys to the Orange Order devoted to maintaining the Protestant ascendency.

Although more of the Penal Laws were repealed, and Catholic Emancipation in 1829 ensured political representation at Westminster, significant anti-Catholic hostility remained especially in Belfast where the Catholic population was in the minority. In the same year, the Presbyterians reaffirmed at the Synod of Ulster that the Pope was the anti-Christ, and joined the Orange Order in large numbers when the latter organisation opened its doors to all non-Catholics in 1834. As the Orange order grew, violence against Catholics became a regular feature of Belfast life. [18] Towards the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century when Irish Home Rule became imminent, Protestant fears and opposition towards it were articulated under the slogan "Home Rule means Rome Rule".

Constituent countries


In the 16th century, the Scottish Reformation resulted in Scotland's conversion to Presbyterianism through the Church of Scotland. The revolution resulted in a powerful hatred of the Roman Church. High Anglicanism also came under intense persecution after Charles I attempted to reform the Church of Scotland. The attempted reforms caused chaos, however, because they were seen as being overly Catholic in form, being based heavily on sacraments and ritual.

Over the course of later mediæval and early modern history violence against Catholics has broken out, often resulting in deaths, such as the torture and execution of Jesuit Saint John Ogilvie.

In the last 150 years, Irish migration to Scotland increased dramatically. As time has gone on Scotland has become much more open to other religions and Catholics have seen the nationalisation of their schools and the restoration of the Church hierarchy. Even in the area of politics, there are changes. The Orange Order has grown in numbers in recent times. This growth is, however, attributed by some to the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs as opposed to actual hatred of Catholics. [19]

Historian Tom Devine, who grew up in a family with Irish Catholic roots in the west of Scotland, described his youth as follows: [20]

Among my own family in a Lanarkshire town in the 1950s it was accepted that discriminatory employment practices against Catholics were endemic in the local steel industry, the police, banking and even some high-street shops. And until the 1960s in some of the Clyde shipyards, the power of the foremen with Orange and Masonic loyalties to hire and fire often made it difficult for Catholics to start apprenticeships.

However, although Devine accepts that anti-Catholic attitudes do exist in some areas of Scotland, especially in West Central Scotland, he has argued that discrimination against Catholics in Scotland's economic, social and political life is no longer systematic in the way it once was. Devine cited survey and research data collected in the 1990s which indicated that there was little difference in the social class of Catholics and non-Catholics in contemporary Scotland, and highlighted increased Catholic representation in politics and the professions, describing the change as a "silent revolution". Devine has suggested that a number of factors are responsible for this change: radical structural changes in the Scottish economy, with the decline of manufacturing industries where sectarian prejudices were ingrained; the increase of foreign investment in high-tech industry in Silicon Glen and the post-war expansion of the public sector; the construction of the welfare state and growth of educational opportunities, which provided avenues for social mobility and increased interfaith marriages with Catholics. [20]

Although there is a popular perception in Scotland that anti-Catholicism is football related (specifically directed against fans of Celtic F.C.), statistics released in 2004 by the Scottish Executive showed that 85% of sectarian attacks were not football related. [21] Sixty-three percent of the victims of sectarian attacks are Catholics, but when adjusted for population size this makes Catholics between five and eight times more likely to be a victim of a sectarian attack than a Protestant. [21] [22]

Due to the fact that many Catholics in Scotland today have Irish ancestry, there is considerable overlap between anti-Irish attitudes and anti-Catholicism. [21] For example, the word "Fenian" is regarded by authorities as a sectarian-related word in reference to Catholics. [22]

In 2003, the Scottish Parliament passed the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 which included provisions to make an assault motivated by the perceived religion of the victim an aggravating factor. [23]

Northern Ireland

The Troubles in Northern Ireland were characterised by bitter sectarian antagonism and bloodshed between Irish Republicans, a majority of whom are Catholic, and Loyalists who are overwhelmingly Protestant. In some areas Church buildings were frequently attacked and Mass-goers harassed and blocked from attending by Loyalist paramilitaries. [24]

Some of the most savage attacks were perpetrated by a Protestant gang dubbed the Shankill Butchers, led by Lenny Murphy who was described as a psychopath and a sadist. [25] The gang gained notoriety by torturing and murdering an estimated thirty Catholics between 1972 and 1982. Most of their victims had no connection to the Provisional Irish Republican Army or any other republican groups but were killed for no other reason than their religious affiliation. [26] Murphy's killing spree is the theme of the British film Resurrection Man (1998).

Since the ceasefire, sectarian killings have largely ceased, though occasional sectarian murders are still reported and bad feelings between Catholics and Protestants linger. [27] [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

In English history, penal law refers to a specific series of laws that sought to uphold the establishment of the Church of England against Protestant nonconformists and Catholicism, by imposing various forfeitures, civil penalties, and civil disabilities upon these dissenters. The penal laws in general were repealed in the 19th century during the process of Catholic Emancipation. Penal actions are civil in nature and were not English common law.

History of the Church of England history

The formal history of the Church of England is traditionally dated by the Church to the Gregorian mission to England by Saint Augustine of Canterbury in AD 597. As a result of Augustine's mission, Christianity in England, from Anglican (English) perspective, came under the authority of the Pope. However, in 1534 King Henry VIII declared himself to be supreme head of the Church of England. This resulted in a schism with the Papacy. As a result of this schism, many non-Anglicans consider that the Church of England only existed from the 16th century Protestant Reformation.

Papist historical and derogatory name for Roman Catholics or Catholicism

Papist is a pejorative term used to label the Roman Catholic Church, its teachings, practices, or adherents. However, in early use it was not always considered offensive, as the term could refer to a partisan backing the side of the pope on a particular issue. In English the word gained currency during the English Reformation, as it was used to denote a person whose loyalties were to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, rather than to the Church of England. First used in 1522, papist derives from Latin papa, meaning "pope".

The Acts of Supremacy are two acts passed by the Parliament of England in the 16th century that established the English monarchs as the head of the Church of England. The 1534 Act declared Henry VIII of England and his successors as the Supreme Head of the Church, replacing the Pope. The Act was repealed during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I. The 1558 Act declared Queen Elizabeth I and her successors the Supreme Governor of the Church, a title that the British monarch still holds.

The Elizabethan Religious Settlement, which was made during the reign of Elizabeth I, was a response to the religious divisions in England during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, and Mary I. This response, described as "The Revolution of 1559", was set out in two acts of parliament. The Act of Supremacy of 1558 re-established the Church of England's independence from Rome, with parliament conferring on Elizabeth the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England while the Act of Uniformity of 1559 re-introduced the 1552 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which contained the liturgical services of the church with some modification in a more Catholic direction regarding the doctrine of the Real Presence; permission to use the traditional Mass vestments other articles of clergy dress in accordance with the Ornaments Rubric of 1549 which stated that these were such as in use in the first year of the reign of Edward VI when services were still in Latin; and liturgical furniture The BCP became the yardstick of Anglicanism, which came to see its identity mainly in liturgy and institutional continuity rather than in a systematic school or confessional theology; and also to a lesser extent as set forth in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith which sought to navigate a middle way between Roman Catholicism, Continental Protestantism and radical sects.

Supreme Governor of the Church of England Title held by the British Monarch

Supreme Governor of the Church of England is a title held by the British monarch which signifies titular leadership over the Church of England. Although the monarch's authority over the Church of England is largely ceremonial, the position is still very relevant to the church and is mostly observed in a symbolic capacity. As the Supreme Governor, the monarch formally appoints high-ranking members of the church on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is in turn advised by church leaders.

Anti-Catholicism intense dislike or fear of Catholicism, hostility or prejudice towards Catholics

Anti-Catholicism is hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy and its adherents. At various points after the Reformation, some majority Protestant states, including England, Prussia, and also Scotland made anti-Catholicism and opposition to the Pope and Catholic rituals major political themes, with anti-Catholic sentiment at times leading to religious discrimination against Catholic individuals. Historian John Wolffe identifies four types of anti-Catholicism: constitutional-national, theological, popular and socio-cultural.

Act of Supremacy 1558

The Act of Supremacy 1558, sometimes referred to as the Act of Supremacy 1559, is an act of the Parliament of England, passed under the auspices of Elizabeth I. It replaced the original Act of Supremacy 1534 issued by Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, which arrogated ecclesiastical authority to the monarchy, and which had been repealed by Mary I. Along with the Act of Uniformity 1558 it made up what is generally referred to as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement.

Anti-Protestantism intense dislike or fear of Protestantism, hostility or prejudice towards Protestants

Anti-Protestantism is bias, hatred or distrust against some or all branches of Protestantism and its followers.

<i>Universalis Ecclesiae</i>

Universalis Ecclesiae is the incipit of the papal bull of 29 September 1850 by which Pope Pius IX recreated the Roman Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England, which had been extinguished with the death of the last Marian bishop in the reign of Elizabeth I. New names were given to the dioceses, as the old ones were in use by the Church of England. The bull aroused considerable anti-Catholic feeling among English Protestants.

Catholic Church in the United Kingdom

The Catholic Church in the United Kingdom is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in communion with the Pope. While there is no ecclesiastical jurisdiction corresponding to the political union, this article refers to the Catholic Church's geographical representation in the mainland Britain as well as Northern Ireland, ever since the establishment of the U.K.'s predecessor Kingdom of Great Britain by the Union of the Crowns in 1707.

Irish Catholic Martyrs Irish Catholic men and women martyed by English monarch.

Irish Catholic Martyrs were dozens of people who have been sanctified in varying degrees for dying for their Roman Catholic faith between 1537 and 1714 in Ireland. The canonisation of Oliver Plunkett in 1975 brought an awareness of the other men and women who died for the Catholic faith in the 16th and 17th centuries. On 22 September 1992 Pope John Paul II proclaimed a representative group from Ireland as martyrs and beatified them. "Martyr" was originally a Greek word meaning "witness". In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, speaking to those in Jerusalem at Pentecost, claimed he and all the apostles were "martyrs", that is, witnesses, in this case to Jesus's resurrection. Later the word came to mean a person who followed the example of Christ and gave up their lives rather than deny their faith.

Protestantism is the most popular religion practiced in the United Kingdom with Anglicanism, the Reformed tradition, Methodism, Pentecostalism and Baptists being the most prominent branches.

The English Protestant Reformation was imposed by the English Crown, and submission to its essential points was exacted by the State with post-Reformation oaths. With some solemnity, by oath, test, or formal declaration, English churchmen and others were required to assent to the religious changes, starting in the sixteenth century and continuing for more than 250 years.

Christianity in Ireland Largest religion in Ireland, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and others

Christianity is and has been the largest religion in Ireland. Most Christian churches are organized on an all-Ireland basis, including both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, 78.3% of the population adheres to the Catholic Church. In Northern Ireland, the various branches of Protestantism collectively form a plurality of the population but the single largest church is the Catholic Church which accounts for some 40.8% of the population.

Protestantism in Ireland Religious community

Protestantism is a Christian minority on the island of Ireland. In the 2011 census of Northern Ireland, 48% (883,768) described themselves as Protestant, which was a decline of approximately 5% from the 2001 census. In the 2011 census of the Republic of Ireland, 4.27% of the population described themselves as Protestant. In the Republic, Protestantism was the second largest religious grouping until the 2002 census in which they were exceeded by those who chose "No Religion". Some forms of Protestantism existed in Ireland in the early 16th century before the English Reformation, but demographically speaking these were very insignificant and the real influx of Protestantism began only with the spread of the English Reformation to Ireland. The Church of Ireland was established by King Henry VIII of England, who had himself proclaimed as King of Ireland.

Sectarian violence among Christians has been noted from the time of the first Christian schisms to the present day.

The Recusancy referred to those who refused to attend services of the established Church of Ireland. The individuals were known as "recusants". The term, which derives ultimately from the Latin recusare, was first used in England to refer to those who remained within the Roman Catholic Church and did not attend services of the Church of England, with a 1593 statute determining the penalties against "Popish recusants".


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Further reading