I accidentally tuned in to a showing of the late Ken Russell's monitor film on Elgar (BBC 3, I think). I have found it on YouTube here. I have long been puzzled about Elgar's Catholicism. He was quite bitter after his "The Dream of Gerontius" was disregarded in England (it was a dreadful performance apparently) and made some remarks about being let down by "Providence". He was bitter about the way some people - according to Elgar - frustrated his ambitions because of his religion. I found a really excellent article on Elgar's faith here. Reading about how some people had commented on Elgar's Catholicism and how Elgar had felt the need to almost dismiss his faith, I became quite angry. It is clear that some people around the time of Elgar's death wanted to believe that he had indeed become either a kind of "pan-Christian" or an atheist or a pantheist (anything, it seems, but a Catholic). As he was dying Elgar apparently asked for his body to be cremated and his ashes to be scattered at the confluence of two local rivers. His daughter persuaded him otherwise and he asked for a Low Requiem Mass and agreed that his body should be buried near that of his late wife. By the time of his final illness he had ceased to be a regular Mass-goer, but the priest from his old family Church, St. George's, arrived at his deathbed and gave him the Last Rites. This priest later said that Elgar had made a "statement of faith" before he died. This last report is not treated with much respect even by the sympathetic writer of the article from Princeton (at the link). I was reminded of Chopin's death.
Chopin was the child of devout Polish Catholic parents. Although he had ceased practicing his faith amongst the salon society of the day, one of his visitors in his final illness was a Polish priest who had know Chopin as a boy. According to this priest Chopin made an enthusiastic profession of faith, made his confession and died reconciled with the Church. Some of his "friends" were horrified at this and the report of the priest was treated with scorn (suggesting he was lying). It was too much for some of them that Chopin would have done anything so uncivilized or tasteless as to return to the Catholic Faith (in fact he never lost it).
Certain elements of the "establishment" are still quite anti-Catholic. Some elements of the academic world cannot abide the thought that Shakespeare may have been a devout Catholic. Some years ago I was in Stratford with a Catholic friend, and I tried a short exercise. We went to three of four of the major bookshops asking for a specific book (Fr. Peter Milward's "Shakespeare's Catholic Background"). No one had heard of it. Since then there have been three more major books about his Catholicism (one of them from Fr. Milward). I suspect there may be ONE of them available in Stratford - perhaps, "Shadowplay" - but I would be surprised to find any others.
Even today there is a great reluctance to believe that any great British artist of recent or bygone years was a practicing Catholic (lapsed, they don't mind). There are some. of course, you cannot go around - for example the architect Pugin (although he suffered much after his conversion to Catholicism). I suspect that, in spite of the supposedly more enlightened environment of the 21st century, there are still quite a lot of well-educated people in Great Britain who merely tolerate a great artist's Catholicism (or even Christianity) and who wish he or she would have had the sense to free themselves from such backward thinking. I'm sorry to say this in Unity week, but reading about Elgar's difficulties and of the attitude of the Anglican establishment of the day I began to feel quite angry about the Church of England - something that hardly ever happens. The way some Anglican commentators spoke about Elgar's music in relation to his Catholicism was not only snobbish but very ill-informed. I plan to listen to the "Dream" again as soon as I have enough time to spare.