Letter: Discrimination in life as well as death

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: Claire Tomalin tells us (Letters, 7 January) that the so-called Protestant cemetery in Rome 'owes its origin to the intolerance of the Catholic Church, which forbade all non-Catholics burial in consecrated ground' (pointing out that it is not Protestant but non-Catholic).

I dare say it was a little narrow- minded of Catholics to keep their own cemeteries for themselves, but at the period to which she refers - the early 19th century - Catholics were subject to a certain level of intolerance themselves in life, rather than in death.

Catholics in Britain and Ireland did not enjoy the parliamentary rights that existed; were barred from entry to Oxford and Cambridge and Trinity College Dublin, and from many other establishments and official positions; suffered under restrictions of property rights and, famously, could not own a horse above the value of pounds 5. Right up to our own lifetime, Catholics have been actively discriminated against in the job market within the UK and indeed, curiously, in the Republic of Ireland. Until the end of the Sixties, Dublin businesses such as Guinness would hire no Roman Catholic in senior management nor appoint one to the board.

Intolerance exists everywhere and comes from all quarters: but given the choice, I think I would prefer to have my body subjected to burial restrictions after death than have my prospects, or my children's prospects, deliberately restricted in the prime of life.



London, W11

8 January