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The unashamedly Catholic and conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg

The new Leader of the House of Commons is as much a political sensation in his country as Donald Trump is in ours.

Official portrait of Mr. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was appointed by Great Britain's new Prime Minister as Leader of the House of Commons. (Images: Wikipedia)

Despite Boris Johnson’s dismal record on key social issues there can be little doubt that his election as leader of the British Conservative Party, and the consequent legal formality of his appointment as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth, constitutes a major step forward for world politics. In most ways he is the most conservative politician to hold his office in more than two decades, his election and appointment delivering a stinging defeat to Europe’s left-wing established powers and constituting his own country’s sharpest positive turn since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister exactly forty years ago.

But while such facts are well known to politically aware Americans, the character of the devoutly Catholic and more eminently conservative British politician who has been appointed by Johnson to high office as Leader of the House of Commons and as Lord President of the Council is not—though the man in question, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is as much a political sensation in his country as Donald Trump is in ours.

Born in 1969, Rees-Mogg is of stereotypical English upper middle class lineage and education. His father, William Rees-Mogg, edited The Times for fourteen years, served as Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain for nine and received a non-hereditary life peerage as a baron. He was also of the first generation of the family to be raised as a Catholic, thanks to his Irish-American mother. Before his election to parliament in 2001 Jacob Rees-Mogg studied at Eton and at Oxford and spent two years working in finance.

As a public figure Rees-Mogg honestly embraces his upper class status, reminding one of the scene in Gladiator in which Derek Jacobi’s Gracchus states that “I do not claim to be a man of the people but I do try to be a man for the people.” He has never been seen in public without a tie, and usually wears either a dark, double-breasted suit or tweeds. He maintains the tradition of black tie dinners whenever he has guests. He responded to rumors that he had campaigned driving his Bentley by saying that a Bentley is not a car for campaigning so he had driven a Mercedes instead. He speaks highly of his former nanny, who now performs that job for his own children, and has incurred the ire of the left because, when asked about the matter, said that he has never needed to change his children’s diapers. Britain’s public is divided between those who love him for his honest refusal to engage in plebian pretense and those who attack him on the basis of their own class hatred.

Rees-Mogg is just as unashamedly Catholic and conservative. He has six children, prays the rosary frequently and attends the Tridentine Mass (which his father had also favored, signing a petition to Pope Paul VI for its continued use alongside the reformed liturgy). When leaders of the Conservative Party were attempting to get its members of parliament to support David Cameron’s introduction of “gay marriage” Rees-Mogg stated that where moral issues are concerned he takes his lead from the Holy See. One of his children is named after Saint Alephege of Canterbury, whom Rees-Mogg sees as model of opposition to unjustly high taxation. Another is named for the staunchly royalist Earl of Stafford, who was beheaded by seventeenth century Puritans and was an ancestor of his wife. Asked what he thought about being called “the member of parliament for the early twentieth century” he said he doesn’t understand why the term is applied to him since “the twentieth century is so modern” and that he should be called “the member for the early eighteenth century.”

Some clarification is, however, needed in regard to one point of Rees-Mogg’s record. He was for a time a member of the Ethics Committee of London’s Catholic hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth, in which capacity he opposed the hospital’s performance of abortions and of “sex change” surgery. When Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor intervened to halt such practices he demanded that hospital authorities (including Rees-Mogg) resign en masse regardless of the positions they had taken on the issue. Much online coverage of this event gives the erroneous impression the Rees-Mogg was among those who supported violations of Catholic morality.

It only remains to add that Rees-Mogg’s attitudes towards American politics are heartening. While former prime minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron favored Barack Obama in the 2012 election Rees-Mogg publically expressed his preference for Mitt Romney. Today, though holding responsible reservations about our current president, he consistently and vocally defends Donald Trump and his broad agenda against the incessant attacks and hatred of the left. His appointment to high office is not, therefore, good news only for his own country but gives us, as Americans, a friend in the highest political echelons of our closest foreign ally.


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About James Baresel 3 Articles
James Baresel is a freelance writer. He holds a Master of Arts in philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati.

18 Comments

  1. “since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister exactly thirty years ago.”

    Didn’t she become PM in 1979? That would be 40 years ago.

  2. While Mr Baresel’s praise for Jacob Rees-Mogg is well deserved, that for Boris Johnson is somewhat less so. More importantly, casting the Brexit issue in US based left/right terms is somewhat deceptive. It is quite possible for a Traditional Catholic (a British one) to oppose Brexit especially a “No Deal” Brexit – I should know as I am one! While Mr Rees-Mogg is in a financial condition that he does not have to worry about his childrens’ future, others are less fortunate. Brexit is not a dogmatic question but a prudential one and I oppose it. I am not alone in so doing.

    • As an American living in America, my English wife from Bristol would give you plenty to think about regards brexit & globalism………….prudential or not.

      • I am sure that she would, given that Bristol voted largely Remain (62%) at the referendum 3 years ago. But prudential means just that, do you consider (upon study and refelection) that a decision is right or wrong. I agree with the majority of the population of Bristol that it was a wrong one and an uninformed one.

    • Yes, indeed. But the British voters have spoken.
      The elites refuse to respect that vote, especially the BBC.
      God bless and good luck to Mr Rees-Moog, a stand-up guy
      In a Church full of snowflakes.

      • Every vote in a democracy can be revisited especially after a long period of time and should be if it seems that the information upon which it was based was inadequate. It has been 3 years and we have learned a lot. We don’t have Parliaments with no term limits or Presidents for Life – let’s just vote again. Let the people speak.

    • My brother is in the UK and while conservative, he isn’t a huge fan of Boris Johnson. He is very much in favor of getting Brexit done by whatever means though.
      Like you I’ve wondered about the economic effects of Brexit but my brother says he foresees no negative impact on Britain or the company he works for. Apparently he’s not alone in that opinion. I imagine time will tell .

    • You must understand that this is a fluff piece designed to make us like Rees-Mogg, so it doesn’t say much in the way of his religion (other than approving allusions to his Catholicity) and is far more interested in stoking left-right political schism, especially for the context of an American audience whose brains are addled by constant political media inundation.
      In other words, why wasn’t this published in First Things???

      • The article said plenty about his Catholicism, and of course it is approving that he is a faithful Catholic. This is a Catholic website.

      • “… it doesn’t say much in the way of his religion (other than approving allusions to his Catholicity)”

        ****************
        I would have thought that praying the Rosary, attending Latin Mass, naming his 6 children after saints & taking his moral lead from the Holy See says a good bit about his religion. But perhaps you were making a different point?
        I was actually listening to Mr. Rees-Mogg this morning. He was addressing a radio caller about Brexit & political divisions in the UK. He’s unfailing gracious & decent in his dealings with the public. I wish we had more people like him in the States.

        • While it is certainly true that Jacob Rees-Mogg is “unfailingly gracious and decent…” it is NOT true to say that he is unfailingly Catholic.

          Clearly, the author of this piece is not a reader of Catholic Truth, newsletter, website and blog, published in Scotland. In our newsletter and on our blog, we have reported on Rees-Mogg’s disappointing anxiety in interviews to reassure voters that, while he is personally 100% opposed to abortion in all circumstances, he would not, if ever elected Prime Minister, be changing the law on abortion. Ditto, he expressed delight (no exaggeration) when asked about the birth of Ruth Davison’s IVF baby (Ruth is a partnerned Lesbian, and Leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland). When pressed by a Sky News interviewer about Catholic teaching on this, he dismissed her question, saying that new life is always to be welcomed, giving the impression that the method is irrelevant.

          So, I’d hold off on launching the canonisation process just yet. As an aside, I’m also surprised at the claim that Jacob attends the traditional Latin Mass, since the only quote I’ve seen from him about the Mass is that he prefers “the Extraordinary Form” but is fine with the new Mass, without the guitars. I suspect that his love of tradition in the House of Commons doesn’t, perhaps, extend to adherence to Tradition in the Church, although I’d love to be wrong about that. His attitude to the natural moral law is certainly not wholly Catholic, that is clear from his Sky News (and other TV) interviews – which you can find if you Google OR visit the Catholic Truth blog – here’s one Piers Morgan interview on Good Morning Britain, which we discussed on our blog.
          https://catholictruthblog.com/2017/09/06/jacob-rees-mogg-a-catholic-hero/

          I watched his first speech as Leader of the House of Commons live, and it was terrific. He was truly hilarious. Whether or not he is unashamedly Catholic, however, is questionable.

  3. JRM is clever, kind, conservative and Catholic. I only hope he can rise to a position of great influence in the UK and the world.

    • I doubt he attends any church as he is separated from his wife and living with his mistress after many episodes of infidelity. Boris Johnson is pretty low on moral values.

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