The UK Telegraph reports today that the Vatican newspaper says there are "few doubts" that Shakespeare was a Catholic.
That's obviously the case, as anyone who has read Joseph Pearce's two books on the subject (The Quest for Shakespeare and Through Shakespeare's Eyes ) can tell you. Indeed, the documentary evidence alone (which Joseph covers in The Quest for Shakespeare) is what any unbiased observer would call conclusive, without even looking at the Catholic spirit and Catholic themes of the plays themselves (which Joseph covers in Through Shakespeare's Eyes).
But what a hornet's nest of comments appear on the UK Telegraph site! I haven't the patience to read them all, myself, but I encourage you to take a glance at them at least. If you doubt that anti-Catholicism is alive and well, the fervor and indignation of the commenters on this issue will satisfy you on that score. If there is any logic to be found in the commenters, the logic seems to be kind-of sort-of syllogistic ...
1. The Catholic Church is narrow and shadowy and judgmental
2. Shakespeare's plays are broad and lively and fun
3. Therefore, Shakespeare was not a Catholic.
But this bigotry takes many forms.
One commenter, for example, more or less says, "How dare the Vatican tell us what to believe about Shakespeare!" That comment is so wrong-headed it's hard to know where to begin. Behind it is nothing but confusion. First, it never occurs to the commenter that the Vatican is not exactly speaking with the authority of the Church, far less is one reporter working for L'Osservatore Romano; next, it never occurs to him that the Church is not in the business of issuing fatwas and snuffing out reasoned discussion on any subject, much less literary criticism or historical fact; and most importantly, that the question of Shakespeare's religion is just such a question of Historical Fact, a question that is independent of one's empathy toward or antipathy against the Church.
And there's the great irony that the anti-Catholic bigots in the UK Telegraph comboxes are all worked up that the Church is the enemy of reason, art and (as one Protestant commenter implies) Christ Himself - and they make these points in the most unreasonable, inartistic and antichristian way possible.
Well, Willie Shakespeare (God rest his soul) keeps learning after death what Catholics have known from the beginning - that Our Lord and Savior is a Sign of Contradiction, and that He will be spoken against, or sometimes simply ranted and raved against.
I would suggest that the Earl of Oxford wrote all of the comments in the UK Telegraph comboxes - but they're not the work of one man. They are the hallmark of chaos and contradiction - they are Legion.