IT is surprising to read Mary Kenny generalising in your Centenary Issue, March 18 .
"Faith of our Fathers! Ireland's Gift to England" oh!
"Built with the pennies of the Irish (sic) poor" oh! oh!
"There is hardly any English Catholic without an Irish grandmother" oh! oh!
Let Archbishop David Mathew, historian correct:"In the early 19th century,' he writes "the primary element in the Catholic tradition was a conscious Englishness". Will Mary Kenny please tell us how many Irish in the preceding penal centuries were giving the Faith to the hundreds of English martyrs and the hundreds of thousands of recusant families?
Places of worship were openly built by English Catholics as soon as the Relief Act of 1791 allowed. Within 20 years over 900 chapels and mass-houses were built. The erection of Victorian churches and schools depended greatly on church collections and the door-to-door collections, often at the rate of one or two pence a week. (Many an English grandmother will remember them).
Mid-century famines drove tens of thousands of Irish into the dark industrial North. The "Faith of our Fathers" was there to welcome them. Baptised, but woefully ignorant of their Faith, they found English priests prepared to evangelise them priests who literally gave their lives, under appalling conditions, in service to the disease-ridden masses.
As for Irish grandmothers — the files of our society hold many claims of Catholic descent from run-of-the-mill English families going back well beyond grandmothers. A good proportion stems from late 17th century, a few from Tudor times. Less than one per cent of our 2000 correspondents refer to Irish grandparents. This in itself is, in current cliché, only the tip of an iceberg, considering the number of English families who are Catholic or who have Catholic ancestors.
English Catholicism has been described by the historian Philip Hughes as "something sui generisn.
Leslie Brooks Hon Secretary.
English Catholic Ancestor.
Crookham Village, Aldershot, GU 13 OSS .