The ‘Catholic Union’, the voice of Rome in politics, takes on massive
The following appeared in the Catholic Herald, 24th
The biggest overhaul in the history of the Catholic Union began this week
with the election of a new team to bring Britain’s oldest parliamentary lobby group into the
The Catholic Union, founded in 1872 to promote the Catholic voice in
politics, is preparing a major new membership drive early next year.
Members hope to take the organisation out of the shadows and allow it to
play a more visible and outspoken role in Parliament.
The union, which is also considering changing its name, has already
announced the names of its new leaders in preparation for a new era in the organisation’s
At the union’s annual general meeting on November 29th, Dr
Anthony Cole, of the Guild of Catholic Doctors, will be elected chairman. Jamie Bogle and
Angela Gracie will also be elected, unopposed, as vice-chairmen.
Mr Bogle, a barrister, said the union had come through a period of change
and reflection and was now preparing to move forward with a new constitution approved by
members in general meeting.
‘After the elections at the upcoming AGM, the union will, we hope, move
into a new and exciting stage of its development and I hope that more members with skills and
interests will become involved and benefit the union, the Church and the community at
large’, he said.
Mr Bogle added that the union would be launching a major new drive in
early 2001, aimed at increasing interest among parliamentarians and the wider community.
Leo Simmonds, chairman of the membership subcommittee, said the union
currently had around 2,000 members.
He added that there had been calls within the union to make the
organisation more vocal and more public.
In the past the union has exerted influence by behind-the-scenes
lobbying. ‘The quiet word in the a quiet voice in the right ear is a valuable thing’,
Mr Simmonds said.
But he noted that the situation in Parliament had changed, with the loss
of the Church’s traditional channel of influence – hereditary peers.
‘You have five million Catholics and all have a vote. They need some
sort of body to tell them what is going on, so they can make an informed judgement when they
come to vote’, Mr Simmonds said.
The union, a consultative body of the bishops’ conference, has in the past
advised the bishops on a number of important issues. Its last major report was a submission
to the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, which expressed scepticism over
whether religious figures should be allowed to sit in the Upper House.
It also doubted whether it would be right to allocate seats to Catholics
on the basis of their faith and hoped that ‘a reformed system will attract individual
Catholics acting with faith and conviction.’
Others to be elected to the union’s council at the end of this month
include Gordon Heald, a Catholic opinion researcher, Christopher Graffius, of the British
Council and former secretary to Lord Alton, and Stuart Sexton, a Catholic headmaster. A
subordinate committee of the union, the parliamentary and public affairs committee, elected
Francis Steiner, Maureen Mullally and Dr Ian Jessiman, and its officers.
Adam Smith stated in his famous ‘Wealth of Nations’:
‘The Church of Rome is the most formidable combination that ever was
formed against the authority and security of civil Government, as well as against the
liberty, reason and happiness of mankind’.
Is it any wonder then that Samuel Taylor Coleridge – philosopher,
metaphysician, bard – should have summed up the characteristics of this ‘formidable
combination’ with a lucidity and force peculiarly his own?
‘When I contemplate the whole system of the Romish most uncatholic,
religion as it affects the great fundamental principles of morality, the terra firma, as it
were, of our humanity; then trace its operations on the sources and conditions of national
strength and well being; and lastly, consider its woeful influences on the innocence and
sanctity of the female mind – on the faith and happiness, the gentle fragrancy and unnoticed
ever-present verdure of domestic life – I can with difficulty avoid applying to it what the
Rabbins fable of the fratricide Cain after the curse; that "the firm earth trembled
wherever he strode and the grass turned black beneath his feet"’
Viewing these danger signals can the prospect of the King of Popery
invading our country and processing triumphantly through it not cause concern to every true