Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Papal Bull Irritates Another English Queen

"Am I the Queen of England or am I not?" So said Queen Victoria when news of the Restoration of the English Catholic hierarchy was announced in 1850. Pope Pius IX issued the Papal Bull "Universalis Ecclesiae" on September 29th that year. The first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman issued a pastoral letter to English Catholics, "Out of the Flaminian Gate," on October 7, 1850. His tone of exultation offended the Queen and her government, especially in its praise of the Pope:

And in nothing will it be fairer or brighter than in this, that the glow of more fervent love will be upon it. Whatever our sincere attachment and unflinching devotion to the Holy see till now, there is a new ingredient cast into these feelings; a warmer gratitude, a tenderer affection, a profounder admiration, a boundless and endless sense of obligation, for so new, so great, so sublime a gift, will be added to past sentiments of loyalty and fidelity to the supreme see of Peter. Our venerable Pontiff has shown himself a true shepherd, a true father; and we cannot but express our gratitude to him in our most fervent language, in the language of prayer. For when we raise our voices, as is meet, in loud and fervent thanksgiving to the Almighty, for the precious gifts bestowed upon our portion of Christ’s vineyard, we will also implore every choice blessing on him who has been so signally the divine instrument in procuring it. We will pray that his rule over the Church may be prolonged to many years, for its welfare; that health and strength may be preserved to him for the discharge of his arduous duties; that light and grace may be granted to him proportioned to the sublimity of his office; and that consolations, temporal and spiritual, may be poured out upon him abundantly, in compensation for past sorrows and past ingratitude. And of these consolations may one of the most sweet to his paternal heart be the propagation of holy religion in our country, the advancement of his spiritual children there in true piety and devotion, and our ever-increasing affection and attachment to the see of St. Peter.

As Cardinal Wiseman progressed on the Continent toward the British Isles he heard about the anger expressed in the British papers. Queen Victoria expressed herself in the strongest terms and the Cardinal responded by publishing a pamphlet and giving lectures that indicated the Catholic Church had no intention of opposing Her Majesty's Government in any way.

Queen Victoria's Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, introduced a bill in Parliament which passed making it illegal for the new Catholic Bishops to be physically present in their new dioceses--a law which was never enforced by the next government under Gladstone. There were still flare ups of anti-Catholic rioting and violence, but the Cardinal Archibishop had toned down his rather triumphalistic rhetoric and settled down to the restoration of simple things, like schools, chapels, seminaries, and churches. Because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851, the hierarchy did not restore the pre-Reformation sees.

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