Saturday, 31 December 2011

Famous Welsh Catholic #3: Dr Saunders Lewis

Saunders Lewis
There is an oft-used saying that Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Some people take this to mean that being patriotic (or being a patriot) typifies a man as a scoundrel. I do not believe this is the case in either respect, in fact or in regards to the meaning of the saying. Patriots as a whole tend to be decent enough types within the confines of their human nature (as patriotism tends to butter no parsnips) and the aforementioned non-patriotic scoundrels tend to run for cover in patriotic ranks when the proverbial hits the fan.

You will rarely find, for example, in the ranks of day-to-day patriots, the like of the London City banker or the Marxist provocateur. For the former, patriotism restricts profits and if he can make more money by sacking English workers and using sweat-shop labour, he will. Money is his god, and wherever he can make a profit is (temporarily!) his homeland -- to be defecated upon when he can make better profits elswehere. It is only when his operating base in the City of London faces a new tax, that he may become an uber-patriot, defending his "rights" to use tax-havens etc.

For the latter, the Marxian commissar, patriotism is, like God, to be attacked at every opportunity, both being "opiates of the people" - until they feel pressurised and under assault, then they will use the cloaks of patriotism (and even Christianity): as they did in WW2-era USSR. Marxists can seldom be trusted, again to give WW2 as an example, prior to 1941 it was a "capitalist war" and some Trade Unionists even organised go-slows or work to rules (so were seen as "anti-patriotic"). After 1941, of course, it became a 'war against fascism' and they urged an all-out effort (and so became "uber-patriots"). All this was exposed by the former high-ranking Marxist, Douglas Hyde, who converted to Catholicism and exposed Marxist hypocrisy in is autobiography entitled I Believed.

The Church herself teaches that patriotism is normal, we are creatures of our soil, via nature and nurture, and the Just War theory demands that should our homeland be invaded, for example, we are justified in defending it from the oppressor (a Catholic tenet that gives rights to the Afghan tribesman that the US GI in Afghanistan does not seemingly enjoy).

In Wales, Nationalism came of age through the teachings of Dr Saunders Lewis, one of the co-founders of Plaid Cymru, whose February 1962 radio talk entitled the Fate of the Language gave rise to the Welsh Language Society, which in turn made Welsh a growing rather than a dying language by 2011.

In a recent sermon in our own humble parish, Bishop emeritus Daniel Mullins gave the example of Dr Saunders Lewis as one of the greatest post-WW2 European Catholic thinkers. Saunders Lewis taught Bishop Mullins to read and speak Welsh when he was his parishioner in Penarth, a beautiful church I had reason to visit quite recently for a relative's wedding.

In his booklet The Principles of Nationalism, Dr Saunders Lewis outlines nationalism as a Catholic would understand it. He salutes the nationalism of nations like Wales within the (Holy?) Roman Empire, and outlines how nationalism isn't about borders, barbed wire, invasions or xenophobia. he extols what is, in essence, a Catholic vision of nationalism: to celebrate one's nation,one's culture, one's heritage, one's history etc. within the bedrock of Christendom.

I have few of the qualities of Saunders Lewis (apart from our shared Faith and nationality) and so I doubt I can do his writings justice, but this is what patriotism should be. A perfectly natural celebration of shared values, heritage and culture within a wider shared history and culture that is Christian. Within a truly Catholic Europe the various nationalities would be free to celebrate their nationhood, within a shared common value system, one far above and beyond the false, sterile, death-culture, control-freakery of the current European Union.

Patriotism is as natural as wanting to own one's home, seeking to protect one's family, and wanting to live in a crime-free and safe society (all perfectly Catholic values). What worries me is when the scoundrels out there who normally pooh-pooh patriotism (and Catholicism!) as something "backwards" or "medieval" scramble to wave their little plastic flags and pound the jingoistic flag.

Sometimes this is to drum up support for a highly questionable war (which we've seen more than enough of lately); sometimes it is to defend greed and profits by the few (e.g. defending the "rights" of the City of London), and sometimes it is even to defend the liberal anti-family relativistic (anti-) values of the UK when they are questioned (for example by the Pope).

So patriotism, when it becomes the lifeblood of the people, as a means to celebrate culture, values, language and the Common Good is perfectly natural, perfectly Catholic and should be seen as normal and healthy for the national body as breathing is for the actual body.

But beware when you see scoundrels running to grab a flag and embrace patriotism - because then you know they are up to no good.

Nationalism when it is natural, normal and respectful is thoroughly Catholic, as long as it acts within the laws of Holy Mother Church (no unjust wars, not against the Common Good, not acting against the state in society of the working classes etc. etc.).

It is when "nationalism" becomes jingoistic, aggressive and anti-Catholic in nature that it is to be avoided at all costs. Sadly for all too long in the UK we have been drip-fed a worship of the state, the monarchy and the state religion (with the monarch at the top) as the be all and end all, and this 'religion of the state' goes against the universal nature of Catholicism, for it is not under the umbrella of Christ's Church, hence its chaotic, greedy, relativist nature as it votes for what is right - from abortion to women vicaresses - without the fatherly guidance of the Popes and Tradition)

It is in being part of the universality of Holy Mother Church, with the care of souls within ones boundaries and in neighbouring nations too, that nations truly come into the fulfilment of their God-given right of being.

As for those who pooh-pooh the idea of nationhood, what else do they envision? A 'brotherhood of man' like the limp-wristed John Lennon tune 'Imagine'? Well sad for them (and Lennon) Heaven and Hell do exist, and so do nations. Besides which, we all know that the ideal of universal suffrage and the brotherhood of man all too often end in universal suffering and the brotherhood of the gulag.

At Fatima the three children were visited by the Guardian Angel of Portugal. Here we ourselves have our very own Patron Saint - Dewi Sant. Holy Mother Church has given our nation a patron Saint, surely Heaven itself has given us a Guardian Angel? Who are we, in our venal pride, to say that we know better than Heaven and its Church to pooh-pooh the very idea of nationhood?

Rather it is our duty in this life to ensure that nationhood is subservient to Catholicism, so that patriotism can flourish as something beautiful and natural, within the bedrock of Christendom (a dream that Saunders Lewis clung to).

Enthroning Christ the King as the ruler of a Welsh nation would surely bring us enhanced recognition throughout the world, and bring many Graces to a land that (if current political events in Scotland progress) could see itself with more national powers than it has enjoyed since its Medieval Princes asked the Popes for recognition of its parliament and universities.

So may I humbly ask the Welsh Bishops to think ahead and enthrone Christ the King - perhaps at some carefully chosen site - as the supernatural and social King of Wales?

What an example to set all the nations of Europe and the world! What Graces for our small nation! What recognition for us, and imagine those who would clamour for the same beautiful ceremony to be made in Spain, Poland, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, France, Croatia, Ireland, Argentina, The Gabon, The Philippines... and so on!
Saunders Lewis

So your Lordships - over to you.

In memory of the greatest Welsh Catholic theorist, writer and activist in the 20th Century, Dr Saunders Lewis. To give a path for a resurgent Wales to follow. To remind our countrymen of the rights of Christ the King in an age of moral relativism, chaos and lawlessness as seen in the riots last Summer just across the border.

Let us embrace a Catholic future for Wales, so that patriotism can again be as natural and normal as breathing, set in the universal bedrock that Holy Mother Church provides to all nations.


  1. Interesting to see the Welsh perspective on Catholicism and nationalism. I agree there's an affinity between the two -and moreover, the universal aspects of the Church can help correct some of the dangers inherent in nationalism. In practice, the relationship in Scotland between the SNP and Catholicism is and has been problematic. Alex Salmond has made strenuous efforts to improve relations between the church and the party -to the extent that what was once seen as almost an anti-Catholic party was showing signs of becoming the natural choice for Catholics. But difficult to see that surviving the current row over same sex marriage. (There's in any case a strong anti-religious tendency among the 'cybernats' here.)

    What's the current relationship, practically, between Plaid Cymru and the Church? (I noticed from Lewis' Wikipedia entry that he resigned the party leadership because he thought Wales wasn't ready for a Catholic leader.)

  2. As with the SNP (from the little I know) the modern Plaid Cymru has sought to outflank the Labour Party on its left. This includes being more pro-abortion, more pro-homosexual etc.

    Originally Welsh nationalism was far more conservative (with a small c) but to get power it had to reach out to the industrial workers of the valleys and to the chattering classes of Cardiff.

    Scotland has an advantage over Wales in that to grab Labour voters in the Central Belt, the SNP has to try and attract Catholic voters. There has never been a Catholic bloc in Wales.

    I believe that Saunders Lewis is all but air-brushed out of Plaid's party history, despite his role in establishing the party, leading it, and inspiring the creation of Cymdeithas [Welsh Language Society]. He doesnt seem to fit their modern agenda.

    Wales, like Scotland, has the disadvantage of being a protestant nation drifting into paganism/atheism.

  3. Sounds familiar. Gordon Wilson (who as a former leader of the SNP dared to speak out against same sex 'marriage') has been ripped apart by younger Nationalist politicians eager to distance themselves from 'old' Scotland.

  4. My memory may be wrong (it often is these days!) but didnt the Scottish Catholics provide the backbone of the campaign to keep Section 28 north of the border, much to the chagrin of the Scottish Labour Party? I seem to remember the 'grass roots' of opinion being overwhelmingly in favour of Brian Souter's [?] campaign whilst the chattering classes held the levers of power and pressed ahead regardless...

    Please clarify if possible.

  5. Saunders Lewis did not teach Welsh to Bishop Mullins in Penarth. He had done so when Bishop Mullins, then a very young man, was a student at St Mary's College, Aberystwyth.

    Daniel Mullins then went on to gain a 1st Class Honours degree in Welsh from Cardiff University.

  6. Ah apologies. Just happy coincidence then that Fr Mullins was parish priest at Saunders Lewis's home parish of Penarth. The next time I have the opportunity I will ask the good Bishop...