The Catholics: The Church and Its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day by Roy Hattersley - review by Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson

Holy Trail

The Catholics: The Church and Its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day

By

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In one of the snarling outbursts that are becoming a worrying feature of his pontificate, Pope Francis recently likened the media’s fixation with public scandals to ‘coprophagia’ – that is, the habit of eating faeces. The Pope’s champions had a hard time explaining that one. The best they could come up with was the suggestion that references to excremental fetishes are a well-loved feature of Buenos Aires demotic – news to most Argentinians, I suspect.

Had Francis’s defenders read Roy Hattersley’s new history of British and Irish Catholics, they could have done better by pointing out that there is a saintly precedent for scatological invective. Thomas More’s name for Martin Luther was ‘Father Toss Pot’. Luther, he claimed, allowed ‘nothing in his mouth but

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