Saturday, September 17, 2016

Deep in History: The Counter-Reformation in England

Interesting timing: The Coming Home Network has posted this video of Father Charles Connor speaking about "The English Counter-Reformation":

Many are familiar with the Catholic Counter-Reformation that took place on the European continent in response to Martin Luther and other reformers. Less well known is what the Counter-Reformation looked like in England as a response to the schism led by King Henry VIII. Fr. Charles Connor explores the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans in England in the decades following the split between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

Since I'm reading Father Philip Hughes' great work on Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England, I watched/listened to the video the day it was released (I think I have an audio CD that I purchased several years ago). Of course, Father Connor can't go into the detail that Father Hughes can, but I think it is unfortunate that he concentrated only on the campaign against heresy during Mary I's reign, and skipped the constructive reform that Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and his bishops led during Mary I's reign. 

Hughes provides the most unflinching interpretation of the international and papal politics, the personalities of major players and how their personalities influenced their efforts, and the status of belief in England that I have ever read. For example, he comments on how 20 years of the civil administration of religious policy in England had essentially freed the English from all thought of having canon law and the Catholic hierarchy in control again. Canon law and the ecclesiastical courts had previously ruled on many of the most essential events in the laity's life: marriage, family life, etc. The English people were not ready to place themselves under that authority again. Hughes also examines Reginald Pole's personality, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he was not able to face unpleasant realities and also too imperturbable--Pole was too willing to accept the role of martyrdom and incapable of the kind of righteous anger that drives us to effective action and real sacrifice.

I'm still reading Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England and will post a fuller review later. This book is the necessary supplement to Father Connor's brief presentation and also a more realistic (pessimistic?) view of the first Counter-Reformation efforts in England than Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor. That's not really fair, to say that Hughes was a pessimist--after all, the Counter-Reformation in England did fail!

And, after I finish this book, I have another Counter-Reformation book in queue: John Hungerford Pollen's The Counter-Reformation in Scotland. Who knew that there was one? 

John Hungerford Pollen, SJ, was the son of John Hungerford Pollen, convert and associate of Blessed John Henry Newman. (He was the architect of the church Newman had built for the Catholic University of Ireland and a member of the faculty too.) His namesake son researched and published many books on the Catholic martyrs of England and Wales. This monograph is based upon a lecture, expanded for publication. More information on Father Pollen, here, from the Jesuits in Britain. He was vice-postulator for the cause of the martyrs of England and Wales from 1900 to 1923.

No comments:

Post a Comment