Columnists > What an idea! Hitler an architect? He did enough harm as it was

16 February 2017 | by Christopher Howse

What an idea! Hitler an architect? He did enough harm as it was


I was surprised to see The Times describe Phil Shiner (the human rights lawyer instrumental in bringing cases against British servicemen, who has now been struck off) as a “devout Catholic”. I hadn’t realised he was a Catholic of any kind, but I had obviously not been paying attention, because I find my own newspaper noted last year that he had been educated at Bishop Ullathorne comprehensive school. I have a soft spot for Bernard Ullathorne, who did a fair bit of human rights work himself 180 years ago, exposing the disgraceful conditions for convicts on Norfolk Island.

Anyway, only a few days before the Times report, a letter to The Sunday Times upbraided the paper for calling Madame Fillon, the wife of the now not so hopeful candidate for the French presidency a “devout Catholic”. This description, the letter-writer declared, had “nothing to do with the story”. In this case, I’m not so sure, given the tides of French politics, but “in 30 years reading your paper,” the author of the letter went on “I have never seen anyone referred to as a “devout Protestant. Do they not exist?”

A good question. I agree that the correct clichés are “devout Catholic” and “staunch Protestant”, but to check if they still hold, I had a good rummage through the papers. After opening up quite a pile of papers and giving them a shake, the nearest I could find to a devout Protestant was a “devout Christian”, as The Sun called the pacifist Desmond Doss played by Andrew Garfield in the film Hacksaw Ridge.


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