Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: Persecution without Martyrdom

From the publisher, Gracewing:

Persecution Without Martyrdom: The Catholics of North-East England in the Age of the Vicars Apostolic 1688-1850
by Leo Gooch

978 0 85244 819 9  -  488 pages   -  £20.00 (I received a review copy from the publisher for my honest opinion and review: see below)

Until comparatively recently, historical studies of English Catholicism have lavished attention on the ‘Age of Martyrs’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries or on the ‘Second Spring’ of the nineteenth century, while the eighteenth, a century of ‘persecution without martyrdom’ as Edwin Burton described the life and times of Richard Challoner, is largely passed over. That neglect is wholly unwarranted. The creation of the four Vicariates Apostolic in 1688 marks the foundation of the modern Roman Catholic Church in England ND Wales and a series of significant ecclesiastical developments affecting the disposition and operation of the mission followed over the next century and a half: its emergence from ‘seigneurial’ rule, its shift from its rural strongholds into the towns, and its metamorphosis into a centrally-managed organization. In the secular field, this was the age when major political crises relating to Catholicism arose, when Catholics threw off discrimination and oppression and by degrees emerged from recusancy to full citizenship; and when the sociological character of the English Catholics changed completely. Theses were all important enough singly, but cumulatively they amounted to nothing less than a radical transformation of the structure and outlook of the English Catholics. The later achievements of the Church of Cardinals Manning, Wiseman and Newman could not possibly have been won without the perseverance and vigour of the eighteenth-century recusants.

This book is a tremendous resource for understanding the status of Catholics in north-east England after the Glorious Revolution and up to the 1850 restoration of the diocesan hierarchy. The range of dates from 1688 to 1850 means that the period covered includes the Jacobite attempts to restore the Catholic Stuarts, the end of the Stuart dynasty and the beginning of the Hanoverians (1714--three hundred years ago!), and the slow restoration of freedom to worship and civil rights  for Catholics, leading up to Emancipation in 1829. The first four chapters offer a compelling narrative of Catholic gentry in the northeast of England surviving the fall of James II, continuing their family's traditions and education, working for their freedom of religion and worship, and responding to the presence of the Vicars Apostolic.The last two chapters provide tremendous detail about the chapels and the chaplains established by the gentry on their estates, breaking off from the narrative of the first four chapters.

In chapter one, Gooch provides statistical surveys of the recusant Catholics throughout the period, noting the ebbs and falls of their population. He demonstrates that while they had to be careful and discrete, they were committed to practicing their faith. He notes that Catholic gentry often played down their wealth--to avoid confiscation and fines by the government--by various financial arrangements, loans, and leases. The gentry provided both the chapels and the chaplains for the celebration of Catholic Mass and the other Sacraments--and Gooch gives much more detail of these arrangements in the last two chapters.

Gooch depicts the education, travel and intellectual avocations of north-east Catholic gentry in chapter two. The Catholic gentry were better educated than their Anglican peers, because they attended the Jesuit colleges on the Continent while Cambridge and Oxford were still serving primarily as educational institutions for  Anglican clergy. Catholic gentlemen traveled extensively on the Continent on long Grand Tours, collecting books and artwork. They usually were accompanied by a chaplain cum chaperone, spending Holy Week in Rome and celebrating the Feast of the Ascension in Venice. 

The Catholic Question--the issue of Catholic freedom to worship and take full part in English political and social life--occupies our interest in chapter three. Could Catholics be trusted? Gooch notes that not many of the north-eastern Catholic gentry had supported the Jacobite cause, and that as the English gentry negotiated with the government, they were often ready to compromise on certain aspects like government approval of episcopal appointments or allowing the government to read official church correspond with the Holy See, just so they could be free of the fines or threat of fines for not attending the Church of England services, exempted as they were from the Toleration Act of 1689.

In chapter four Gooch discusses the Vicars Apostolic (V.A.) of the Northern District, Titular Bishops without geographical dioceses or sees, and how they changed the structures of ecclesiastical power. They had titles like Titular Bishop of Marcopolis, Bolina, Trachis, Abydus, or Samosata. The latter was the title of the V.A. of the Northern District, William Hogarth, who became the Bishop of Hexham in 1850. We have to remember that the gentry were hiring--and firing--the clergy for their private estate chapels. As Gooch will demonstrate in the last two chapters, this practice meant that if the head of the  family conformed to the established Church of England, the chapel could be lost to the Catholics on the estate--or if there was some disagreement between the chaplain and family, he could be fired. The Vicars Apostolic, of course, wanted to establish a more stable infrastructure of "parish" chapels with assigned pastors. Their efforts before Emancipation and between Emancipation and the restoration of the hierarchy are what Gooch argues helped prepare Catholicism in England for the achievements of bishops and archbishops like Hogarth, Briggs (another V.A. in the north who became a diocesan bishop in 1850, of Beverley), Wiseman, Ullathorne, Manning, etc. after them.  I do not think that including Cardinal Newman in the blurb was necessary or appropriate, since he was never a bishop and was named a Cardinal Deacon late in life by Pope Leo XIII as a personal honor rather than as a hierarchical office or position (he continued his work at the Oratory in Birmingham in fact, not moving to Rome as usually required at that time for a Cardinal Deacon).

The last two chapters, while providing the great wealth of detail about different estates, their families, chapels, and chaplains, really should have been placed in an appendix. After stating that the Vicars Apostolic had, as the blurb above notes, worked to create a "centrally-managed organization", two chapters describing the "seigneurial rule" in such detail contradicted--at least structurally--the argument. Throughout the book, Gooch's attention to detail and excellent research, with tremendous notes and sources consulted, is obvious. I also wish the publishers could have included maps or some illustrations--especially the maps, which would have helped an American reader not familiar with the territory. Certainly, this is a great achievement and resource.

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