However, the 59-year-old writer said child abuse scandals involving Roman Catholic priests demonstrated the “cruelty” and “hypocrisy” of the church.
Asked if she would call for a priest on her deathbed, Mantel replied: “No. I might very well call for a Church of England vicar, but I would not call for a Catholic priest.
“I’m one of nature’s Protestants. I should never have been brought up as a Catholic. I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.”
She said of the paedophilia scandals: “The fact that it could happen, the extent of the denial, the cover-up, the hypocrisy, the cruelty... When I was a child I wondered why priests and nuns were not nicer people. I thought that they were amongst the worst people I knew.
“But in a cold-blooded way, as a writer I’ve had full value from Catholicism - I can say that.
“It’s a great training in doubleness - this looks like bread but it is actually a man’s body, this looks like wine but it’s actually blood. And that’s very much a writer’s way of thinking - she comes in and says good morning, but she means damn you to hell.”
Mantel’s latest historical novel, Bring Up The Bodies, is published this month. It is a sequel to Wolf Hall, an account of the early life of Thomas Cromwell which won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.
Bring Up The Bodies takes the reader up to the execution of Anne Boleyn and will be followed by a third and final volume documenting Cromwell’s final years. Read more...