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Catholic politician praises Reformation

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Iain Duncan Smith said it was 'the making' of Britain

A British Catholic politician has praised the Protestant Reformation as “the making of this country”.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith compared the vote to leave the European Union with Henry VIII’s break from Rome, describing the Catholic Church of the time as a “corrupt organisation”.

“Freed from the shackles of what had become a corrupt organisation, the concept of our island nation emerged, supreme and self-governing,” Duncan Smith wrote in an article for the Sunday Telegraph.

“From that moment, our buccaneering global nature was given free rein with astonishing results as the UK grew to influence the rest of the world.

“On everything from free trade to parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, Britain was truly a nation that led the globe.”

“I believe Brexit is about us breaking from Rome again,” he added.

Duncan Smith was leader of the Conservative Party from 2001 to 2003, the first Catholic to hold the position, and later served as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016. He was a prominent member of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum and recently chaired Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign.

His comments in praise of the Protestant Reformation surprised some commentators. Former Tablet editor Catherine Pepinster said it was a “Strange notion for a Roman Catholic, condoning Henry VIII’s tyranny.”

TV historian Simon Schama also criticised the comments, saying: “1) the Reformation was a pan European phenomenon, 2) it created a religious civil war in Britain that lasted 2 centuries.”

Iain Duncan Smith previously said that his Catholic background “has become integral to everything I do”, and frequently cited the importance of religious groups in helping the poor.