Friday, August 31, 2012

St. Edmund Campion in St. John's Chapel, Tower of London

File:St John's Chapel, Tower of London.jpgFresh from his latest torture session, bereft of books or any sources but his memory and his wit, the Jesuit priest Edmund Campion debated, with other seminary priests, a group of Protestant divines on August 31, 1581. They all had a copy of his book, "Rationes Decem" and they could ask him questions, while he could only answer questions, not ask them. This was the first of four debates and was held in the Chapel of St. John in the Tower of London (image to the left from wikipedia commons).  Campion had offered the challenge to hold such debates, but perhaps had not reckoned with the fairness of the situation.

James V. Holleran recounts the story of these debates, records and reports of them in his 1999 book, A Jesuit Challenge: Edmund Campion's Debates at the Tower of London in 1581, published by Fordham University Press. As Holleran notes, Campion's "Brag" to the Queen's Council called for these debates and his "Ten Reasons" gave the debates their starting point. A brief summary of the Ten Reasons:

1. Protestants reject the parts of Scripture that don't support their doctrine.
2. Protestants distort the parts of Scripture to support their doctrine.
3. Protestants have a weak notion of the Church.
4. Protestants should accept Catholic teaching on the Mass, the Communion of Saints, and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ in His Church.
5. The Fathers of the Church don't support Protestant views of the Church, the Eucharist, the Communion of Saints, and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ in His Church.
6. Protestants ignore the authority of the Fathers of the Church, even of the Apostolic Fathers, since they can't find support for their doctrine in their lives and works.
7. Anticipating Blessed John Henry Newman: "To be deep in [Church] history is to cease to be a Protestant": Church History does not support Protestant doctrine of the Church, the Sacraments, the Priesthood, etc.
8. Some bad Protestant mottos (like "good works are mortal sins")
9. General weakness of Protestant arguments (as against clerical celibacy because marriage is a good thing),
10. Catholicism is the True Christian religion, the Church founded by Jesus Christ on St. Peter and the Apostles (the Pope and the Bishops as their successors): for 1500 years, everyone agreed this was true.

The plan of the debates was to go through these Reasons with the Protestants asking Campion to defend his position. The debates did not go through all the Reasons because Campion did too well defending his position and the organizers did not want to allow Campion the opportunity the argument from history. Once he had the opportunity to remind the audience at the debates of England's Catholic history: monasticism, the close relationship with the Papacy, the saints of England, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marian devotion (Our Lady of Walsingham), St. Augustine of Canterbury sent from the Pope to Canterbury, the beauty of the churches before desecration and destruction--as Campion would say after he and the other priests had been condemned to death, "In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors--all the ancient priests, bishops and kings--all that was once the glory of England, the island of Saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter. For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these lights--not of England only, but of the world--by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us." Te Deum Laudamus!

Here are some more resources on St. Edmund Campion from the Jesuit Institute, including the text of his "Brag" and a link to the Ten Reasons and this prayer:

throughout the ages you inspire heroic men and women
to preach your gospel
and proclaim the truth of your love.
We pray that the example of St Edmund Campion
may encourage us to stand up for what it right;
to hold to what is true;
and to love even those who persecute us,
for Christ's sake. Amen.

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