Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Monday, 4 March 2013

Cultural Cleansing in Britain

Glastonbury Abbey
Britain today is experiencing a cultural breakdown of catastrophic proportions. People are understandably upset to see a social decay creeping into all aspects of their lives. Some attribute this to immigration and  an influx of people with a significantly different culture and religion from their own. Unfortunately we must look further back than today's newspapers to understand this phenomenon.

I recently watched a BBC program which featured scenes of the various ruined monasteries throughout Britain and I was shocked. What were once living communities were now mere shells and fragments of buildings jutting up in the landscape. An entire culture was torn from Britain leaving an eviscerated ruin in its place. What had these people done?

The dissolution of the monasteries robbed England of countless treausures of inestimable value: works of art; books and manuscripts preserved the learning of many civilisations; the traditions of hospitality, of health and healing, of education of all who desired it; progress in agriculture and stock rearing; and buildings magnificent or humble. Later the valuables of every cathedral and parish church, the legacy of centuries of generous giving by innumerable folk, were also looted for the royal purse. From the resulting demoralisation we have never fully recovered.
Cathedrals and Abbeys of England (1996). (Gilbert Thurlow, M.A., F.S.A., F. R. Hist. S., Dean Emeritus of Gloucester). Jarrold and Sons Ltd, Norwich. 

When Henry VIII declared his independence from Rome and made the English church subordinate to the state, he unleashed upon England a cultural cleansing whose effects are still being felt today. The Hagia Sophia still stands today but Glastonbury Abbey is as you see it above. Deprived of many of their churches, Christians in Byzantium learned to survive under oppressive laws which made them second class citizens. Henry, on the other hand sought to stamp out the Catholic Church's influence in his domain. From 1536 to 1541 Henry carried out a dissolution of the monasteries, leaving many abandoned or sold to wealthy sympathizers. While some churches were turned over to local parishes, most of the wealth ended up in Henry's coffers.
Buddha Statues in Afghanistan (before and after)

Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy and the Treason Act in 1534, making disavowal of the king's supremacy over the church an act of treason. Many Catholics were martyred including St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. The settlement under Elizabeth I provided significant penalties for Catholics continuing Henry's cultural cleansing. This process continued unabated for some time, eventually depriving Britain of the only bulwark it had against the rising tide of secularism. This secular culture has proven to be woefully inadequate when set against new and vibrant cultures brought in by immigrants. Newcomers to Britain do not wish to adopt the culture of their new land for the simple reason that they see the effects of this moral collapse and wish no part of it. 

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. 
Benedict XVI at Westminster


Barona said...

Excellent post. Britain took the wrong turn about 500 years ago.

Barona said...

Henry VIII was one of history's most repulsive vandals. Today, he would be the equivalent of a Talibanist... as noted in your second photo. Hopefully, today, rather than accept him as the founder of one's religion, people would call the police to have a psychopath like Henry locked up.

The Age of Elizabeth too, was not so much a "golden" age, but rather a prototype of group persecution that Nazis inflicted on Jews in Germany during the 30s.