Can we regain the spirit of Manning?
At a time of political instability, can religious institutions help to bring Britain together? That was the question asked by Paul Embery at UnHerd. “Anyone searching for a blueprint,” Embery suggested, “could do worse than examine the momentous London dock strike of 1889, and in particular the part played by Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, then the 81-year-old Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.”
At the time, dockers were “treated as cattle”, and would each day turn up at the dockside hoping for work. Many would be turned away; the lucky ones nevertheless faced low wages.
The 1889 strikes centred on demands for a “dockers’ tanner” – a rate of sixpence an hour – and guaranteed working hours. Around 100,000 men joined the protests; and Cardinal Manning took up their cause.
“He saw in the dockers a group of men who were downtrodden and oppressed. Their treatment conflicted with everything he stood for, principally the belief, central to his faith, that all humans were equal in the eyes of the Almighty and deserving of justice and compassion.”
Manning became a “trusted mediator”, commanding respect from both sides. And the dockers gained their demands.
The episode influenced Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891, which “provided a crucial moral and economic framework for ensuring the representation of the voiceless in the face of a powerful, dehumanising market on the one hand, and an impersonal, over-mighty State on the other.” Today, we need to return to those principles – and Catholicism has a role to play.
Prelates who quietly ‘tear their hair out’
La Fede Quotidiana, an Italian daily, ran an interview with Vittorio Messori, who co-wrote The Ratzinger Report with Cardinal Ratzinger and Crossing the Threshold of Hope with Pope St John Paul II.
Messori said, according to the National Catholic Register’s translation, that “many bishops and also cardinals” were “pulling their hair out” about Pope Francis, but “they are afraid, silent, shutting up”.
There’s an intolerant atmosphere, Messori claimed. When he wrote a politely critical article for an Italian newspaper, a “committee was set up” to campaign for his removal as a contributor.
“It’s said this is the Church of mercy, but it’s nonsense,” Messori said. “Those in command are intolerant of every critical voice.” Nevertheless, “The forces of evil will not win … in the end the Father will intervene.”
Why Catholics resisted Nazism – at first
A new article in the American Journal of Political Science asks why the Nazi party did so badly in Catholic areas. The authors, Jörg L Spenkuch and Philipp Tillmann, suggested at the AJPS website that it was because Church leaders resisted the Nazis – and the laity followed suit. In fact, “the single most important empirical predictor” of low Nazi voting was a high Catholic presence.
However, “after the Catholic bishops gave up their opposition and took a position that was favourable to Hitler, parishioners’ relative resistance crumbled as well”.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.