It is a sign of the present religious state of Britain that the procession aroused no animosity, and indeed produced only mild gawking and some selfie-taking from passers-by and tourists as it made its way through the London streets.
A century ago, such a procession was planned as the culmination of a great Eucharistic Congress held in London but it was banned by the public authorities on the grounds that it would be too controversial and would create public disorder. No such problems seemed to emerge on this day, the memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman’s beatification. While the Church’s moral teachings are much challenged and derided — anyone in public life who openly opposes same-sex “marriages” or dares to suggest that homosexual activity might be wrong is likely to be hounded out of office, or forced to make a public recantation — the Church’s sacraments and life of prayer are virtually unknown to millions.
The militant anti-Catholicism of past years, led by fervent Protestants who believed that Catholicism was a form of paganism or idolatry, has given way to puzzled indifference. Almost the only thing that most British people know about the Catholic Church is its opposition to abortion and to same-sex marriage. So the sight of the Blessed Sacrament being carried through the streets beneath a canopy, attended by a great throng of people, induces not opposition but vague bewilderment — and for some immediate clicking of a mobile phone to record the moment and send a picture to a friend.
Before his conversion, Newman wrote a retraction of all his anti-Catholic statements in print.