Podcast: English Anti-Catholicism & Ethiopian Lutheranism

Anti-Catholic bias is alive and well in Britain — however the animus to the “Italian mission to the Irish” comes not from the Church of England. Nor does it stem from the 1701 Act of Settlement (barring Catholics from the Royal Family), Guy Fawkes Night, xenophobia or other collective memories of the Britain’s past. The anti-Catholic bias one sees in England today is that of the political and media elites — those members of the chattering classes who detest the church for what it believes (not what it is).

Now there is an equal opportunity disdain at work — the Church of England is held in low regard also by the elites. Yet despite the best efforts of the magic circle, the small group of liberal prelates who control the English church, to conform the institution to the demands of the right thinking members of the establishment — the chattering classes reject the Catholic moral worldview (and have no problem saying so).

This is the theme of my chat this week with Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc.  In our conversation broadcast on 21 Feb 2013, Todd and I discussed my article “Guardian wins week one of 2013 All-England pope-bashing contest” posted at GetReligion and discussed the phenomena of shoddy reporting on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. Todd asked whether I believed that this was a failure of journalism or if there was something more involved.

I argued that this was more than a failure of adhering to the reporter’s art, but represented a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-religious prejudice in the stories we discussed. How could one explain assertions made by the Guardian‘s man in Rome that Africans were unable to conform to the church’s requirements of priestly celibacy due to their being Africans? The Guardian (and the BBC) are the temples of the p.c. priests. How could such a  slur be allowed to make its way into print? Well if it is in a story that damns the Catholic Church it can.

The restraints of time and my inherent good breeding prevented me from giving full voice to my views. I would have liked to add that I was also concerned by the Guardian‘s decision to run so many pope stories — many not worth the bother reading due to the the ignorance of the authors — when other issues of equal merit in the world of religion were taken place over the past few weeks — the story about the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) being but one example.

No, this is not a joke on my part. While I do not downplay the importance of the pope’s resignation announcement, the sheer volume of nonsense being published and the absence of news about the EECMY speaks to the media’s inability to evaluate religious events.

The EECMY story, in a nutshell, is that one of the largest members of the Lutheran World Federation — the 6.1 million member EECMY — has broken fellowship with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The cause for this break is the normalization of homosexuality by the ELCA and the Church of Sweden. This story was all over the religion press in the US and Europe: Christianity Today, First Things, Dagen, and I covered this story for The Church of England Newspaper. I have seen only one secular news story on this item — a local Wisconsin news story in the La Crosse Tribune that ran comments from a Lutheran bishop lamenting the split.

Perhaps the Anglican wars have sucked all the air out of these sorts of stories. The splits in the Anglican world between the Episcopal Church in America and many of the Africans churches over the issue of homosexuality — the same issue that has divided the Ethiopians and the Swedes and the ELCA — has received lengthy and on-going coverage in the press. This may well be another example of the phenomena noted by TMatt here in the pages of GetReligion — the disproportionate coverage given to the Episcopal Church and the Church of England in the American press compared to other, larger faith groups.

There is so much in this story for a newspaper to develop, not least is how the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has stepped into the shoes once filled by the ELCA as far as Lutherans in the developing world are concerned. I am not saying the Ethiopian split should have pushed the pope off the front page, but some coverage of the seismic change underway in global Christianity might be nice

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  • FW Ken

    Anti-catholicism is certainly found among the British elites, who are either honestly secular or modernist religionists. One also finds it among some conservative Anglicans. Thankfully, more of those folks are finding that Catholics don’t worship Mary, statues, the pope, our saints, and that we aren’t going to steal their children. They disagree with our theology, but do so agreeably. They recognize us as Christians and even friends. But Jack Chick Anglicans do still exist.

  • Martha

    I agree the story about the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia should have gotten much more coverage than it did. I’m certain I’m not the only person out there who had no idea there were Lutherans in Ethiopia; when I think of Christianity there, I think of the mediaeval legends of Prester John and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, who are not “Chalcedon-compliant”).

    How did there come to be Lutherans there? Where did the early missionaries come from – Europe or the American churches? Why do they look towards ELCA and now LCMS rather than, say, the EKD (parishioners and clergy of which have visited my brother-in-law’s parish as part of exchange with their Lutheran/Church of Ireland “link parish” scheme)?

    Nope, nothing about all that.

  • Jay

    Yea… Media wasn’t exactly too welcoming of the pope when he went to England in 2010… Anti-Catholic bias within English media was discussed quite a bit back then as I recall. Really don’t see any reason why they would be any more friendly with his decision to step down now. Pope was also fairly critical of the mindset of those found within English government towards religion in his Westminster Hall address. Here’s the transcript for those interested. Critique begins in paragraph 4:
    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/the-popes-westminster-hall-speech

    • Will

      Westminster Hall? Did he “dance a dance like a semi-despondent Fury”?


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