Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Catholic Church and Immigration

Damian Thompson makes very important points.

The official organs of the Catholic Church in this country have long been out of step with opinion in the pews, and doubtless in the presbyteries once their doors are closed, about immigration. Of course, it can sometimes be necessary for them to be out of step. But it certainly isn’t in this case.

So one hopes that the Polish Mission’s recent bewailing of the lapsation rate among Polish immigrants to Britain (only one in ten of whom is a regular Mass-goer, compared to eight out of ten people in Poland) might get the message through: many of the Poles are not coming here in order to “enrich” or “renew” the Church, but precisely in order to get away from Her.

Similarly, in America, consider the words of the Catechism, “Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (paragraph 2241). You can’t do that by entering illegally, or by working illegally, or by evading taxes.

In Britain, in America, and elsewhere, the sooner the Bishops stop urging their flock to accept the loss of their jobs, the running down of their wages and working conditions, and the confinement of their children and grandchildren to the bottom of the heap by means of de facto State bilingualism, the better. No, these things are not somehow to the good of the Church.

In fact, far from Hispanics’ being the great hope of American Catholicism (any more than Poles are the great hope of British Catholicism), Latin America has never been a very Catholic place, with slight if any Mass-going majorities, huge numbers of the unbaptised, rampant syncretism and surviving paganism, and a very heavy dependence on (historically European, these days usually North American) missionary priests. No wonder that the strongest opponents of the present levels of immigration, of any amnesty, and of the erosion of English in American life, are themselves traditional Catholics. We could do with something similar over here.


  1. You say (English) Catholicism is out of step with its flock on the issue of migration. Perhaps they are. But as a daily communicant I of course attend Mass on a daily basis when I go to London (usually a cumulative 10 to 12 days in a year).
    It strikes me that the proportion of visibly migrant people in the pews is prolly higher than the proportion inside the altar rails.

    Of course in London I have encountered many right wing priests in London who possibly hold views omn migration different from the "politically correct"
    official line.
    Indeed the links to the priests sites in your own Blog are "traditional" priests. Dare I assume most are right wing politically including migration issues.
    I dare I dare.
    Yet on issues such as contraception, the opinion in the pews is (or was) prolly different from official policy.
    Your response indicates you think the Church should be persuaded by "opinion" in the pews. As a liberal catholic (we havent gone away you know) I welcome this new departure.
    Of course opinion on married and women priests is different within the pews to the presbyterys thinking. Although the Church of my birth and 57 years and counting has been "enriched" by migrants such as Ann Widdicome and JohnSelwyn Gummer wscaping liberalism and boosting the "traditionalists".
    Therefore I fully understand your frustration that migrants to England "change" things.
    Perhaps migration controls.
    Perhaps a more stringent test for those who have changed the nature of Catholicism by their arrival among us.

  2. Except that they don't change things. They would have to turn up to do that.

    London is a very different place from the rest of the country. Just up the road from me, in the old stronghold of Consett, you now hear Polish spoken in the street, but the several thriving Catholic churches are the same old Anglicised Irish that they have always been.

    The present scale of immigration's only real impact on the Church is the driving down of employment, wages and working conditions among that Anglicised Irish working class.

  3. Indeed London is different and of course my own interest in Jacobite History leads me to the most conservative of churches .......Maiden Lane where on 20th May 2008 I had a post mass altercation with the priest (I wont name him save to say his name is appropriate) over his homily comparing Margaret Thatcher to Mother Teresa.
    And rather childishly the next (and final) time I attended his Church, I received the Blessed Sacrament weraing my Che Guevara Tshirt.
    All a bit pointless as he didnt say Mass that day.
    Yet I make my rounds of the old Jacobite churches and happily find that the "Bavarian" Church in Warwick Street now ministers to the gay, lesbian and transgendered community in London.
    Traditional Jacobites and other idiots are mortified.
    No London is NOT the rest of England.
    Clearly not.
    And I have pressed my TV remote control enough times NOT to watch those depressing Catherine Cookson tales of life in and around Consett.

  4. She was from South Shields. Somewhere completely different.

  5. I would be surprised if Consett was more than 25 to 30 miles from South Shields.
    Whether this is too far to "in and around" I dont know. If not they seem curiously remote from each other.

  6. Tyneside and County Durham are very, very different. Ask anyone from either. Or just listen to them speak, not something always appreciated by adapters of Catherine Cookson, among other people.

  7. David - regular church-going Poles are now but 50% of the population (not 80%). The Poles who tend to go to the UK to seek work are typically aged 20-35. They've grown out of childhood church going, they've not got children of their own yet. They are getting on with working hard and having fun. It's part of growing up. I'd bet that the ones that do return to Poland to set up families will take their children to Mass every Sunday.

    The Polish (urban) Mass-going demographic is three groups: children and younger teenagers; parents of the above; old people. Two groups less visible - the 20 to 35s, and the 45 to 60s. The Polish rural Mass-going demographic is still (nearly) everyone.

  8. As the school year at our village school (Anglo speaking Catholic) begins on Thursday, our parish priest mentioned that some Portugues and Polish children from a nearby town would be joining us this year.
    as far as Im aware there are no Polish/Portugues folks living in the village.
    The "town schools" (2 Catholic and one Gaelic) are about two miles away. I am I am not quite sure why this happening. Seemingly these are 4 and 5 year olds and already English speakers.
    One of the local town schools provides help for kids who dont speak English at home.
    I think this is a most welcome development as our local kids here can enjoy the same experience as their cousins in town.
    And of course the influx of Polish/Portuguese migrants and their identification with Catholicism is a very welcome demographic/electoral boost.

  9. But is it a Catholic school, as such?

  10. Yes its a totally Catholic school. All our "Catholic" schools are "Catholic" in ethos.
    I was a parent governor there.

    The village has (2001) 629 people.
    My own guess is that there are closer to 800 and of course there are outlying catchment areas.
    28% are under 16 (again local groups put the under 18 figure at 34%)
    98.3% are Catholic (or from Catholic background)