CATHOLICS in Britain are 'LA no longer outsiders, according to the Rev. John Gunstone, writing in the August issue of the radical Anglican monthly, Outlook. For this he says, "we must thank the inspiration of Pope John and the work of Vatican II. But we must also acknowledge the levelling and unifying effect of ordinary English culture."
He argues that differences between Christians are wider than the differences in their teaching. and cites the Catholic community in England as an example.
"Compared with their brethren on the Continent, they tend to be reserved, cautious, and hesitant in their dealings with other Christians. This is not because they are any less obedient to the calls from Rome to pray with other Christians and encourage closer relations with them. It is because in England the -non-religious factors are so different.
"Unlike their Continental brethren," writes Mr. Ciunstone, "the Roman Catholics here do not have the security of knowing that they have been in possession of the country since its conversion from paganism.
"It is difficult for Anglicans to grasp this. We are so used to regarding ourselves as heirs of St. David of Wales and St. Augustine of Canterbury, we forget that from a Roman Catholic point of view, England as a nation was lost in the captivity of Protestantism 400 years ago.
INSECU R ITY "Through the long. lean years they learned to be circumspectly faithful to the religion of their forefathers. The memory of that experience still hangs about the Roman Catholic community today. Behind the reserve, the caution, and the hesitations we can detect the insecurity of an underprivileged m inori ty."
He points out the bulk of British Catholics are of Irish descent and that they have rarely been regarded as an integral part of the British community. "The Holy Spirit is certainly moving among Catholics as well as others today towards reunion: but in England these movements of the Spirit are not just in men's minds. They are allied to strong social influences."
Mr. Gunstone concludes by pointing out that the Catholic community, at least as numerous as the Anglican, will probably become larger. "Furthermore, the foreign-ness of the community is disappearing. Irishmen are no longer confined to the manual jobs.
"The second and third generation of the immigrants descendants are now merging with the professional and propertied classes in English society, with only a surname and the story of a greatgrandmother from Cashel to link them with their past."
Now that the vernacular has been introduced into the Mass, says the writer "only a few details in a Catholic Church will remind you that you are not in an Anglican church. The people in the pews are just the same as You would find in any English congregation."