Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: The Mote and the Beam

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Anti-Catbolicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998.- The Mote and the Beam. By John D. Brewer with Garth I. Higgins. (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc. 1998. Pp. xi, 248. $69.95.)

John Brewer, professor of sociology in Queen's University, Belfast, distinguishes three important modes of anti-Catholicism. The covenantal mode, represented by Reverend Ian Paisley and his constituency, is characterized by both high political content and high theological content. Covenantal anti-Catholics understand their world in Old Testament terms; God has chosen the Protestants as He earlier chose the Israelites, and it is their duty to defend their land against the apostate minions of the Roman antichrist. The secular mode, which typically informs the actions of middle-class Unionists as well as some Protestant paramilitaries, is high in political content but low in theological content. Its adherents abhor the Catholics' principal political objective, a united Ireland, and therefore accept a variety of negative stereotypes of them and of the Irish Republic. The Pharisaic mode, reflected in the official positions of the Presbyterian and other mainstream Protestant churches, is high in theological content and low in political content. Its proponents do not stigmatize Catholics but, confident in their own possession of the gospel truth, seek to convert them while being careful to separate their own political beliefs from their religious convictions.

This tripartite conceptualization turns out to be a powerful and elegant device for understanding complexities of Ulster Protestant thinking. It enables Brewer to explain, in the light of the Protestant community's dominance within their society, the unique persistence into the late twentieth century of antiCatholicism as such a salient element in the political culture of Northern Ireland. This analysis of the contemporary situation is preceded by a lengthy review of the history of anti -Catholicism since the seventeenth-century plantations. …


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