The Catholics in England fifty years ago were an unknown sect among us. Now there is hardly a family but has brothers, or sisters, or cousins, or connexions, or friends and acquaintances, or associates in business or work, of that religion, not to mention the large influx of population from the sister island; and such an interpenetration of Catholics with Protestants, especially in our great cities, could not take place without there being a gradual accumulation of experience, slow indeed, but therefore the more sure, about individual Catholics, and what they really are in character, and whether or not they can be trusted in the concerns and intercourse of life. And I fancy that Protestants, spontaneously and before setting about to form a judgment, have found them to be men whom they could be drawn to like and to love quite as much as their fellow Protestants might be—human beings whom they could be interested in and could sympathise with, and interchange good offices with, before the question of religion came into consideration. Perhaps they even got into intimacy and fellowship with some one of them before they knew he was a Catholic, for religious convictions in this day do not show themselves in a man's exterior; and then, when their minds turned back on their existing prejudices against the Catholic religion, it would be forced upon them that that hated creed, at least, had not destroyed what was estimable and agreeable in him, or at least that he was a being with human affections and human tastes, whatever might be his inner religious convictions.
Perhaps the particular specimen of a Catholic which I have supposed might only go half way in possessing this sort of ethical appeal to the goodwill of others, or a quarter way, but he would have enough to destroy their imaginary notions of what a Catholic, and, much more, a priest, must be, and to make short work, and once for all, of that Guy Faux or Duke of Alva sort of Papist who hitherto stood in their minds for the normal representative of a Roman Catholic. I have been speaking of those ordinary and visible traits of character, of what is human merely, what is social in personal bearing, of what, as a moral magnetism, unites men to each other—of those qualities which are the basis, the sine quâ non of a political community—of those qualities which may be expressed by the word "neighbourly;" and I say that Catholics, as a body, are, to say the least, quite as neighbourly as Protestants, as attractive, as capable of uniting in civil society; and I say that in consequence, their multiplication in England, by making them visible, tangible, sensible, must, as an inevitable consequence, create a more kindly feeling to them than has existed hitherto; and it has done. I have not spoken of social virtues such as make a man respected and honoured, for that was not necessary for my purpose, though, whatever our failings may be as sons of Adam, I trust that at least we do not fall below that standard which is received in our country as the condition of a good name. And I might have enlarged on this—that, much as members of a Protestant country may dislike their relations being converted to a religion not their own, and angry as they may be with them at first, yet, as time goes on, they take their part when others speak against them, and anyhow feel the cruelty as well as the baseness of the slanders circulated against Catholics when those slanders include those dear to them; and they are indignant at the slanderer and feel tender towards the slandered from the very fact that among the subjects of such calumnious treatment are persons who, as their experience tells them, so little deserve it.
(First of two extracts from a talk in Birmingham 1880)