Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30, Tyburn Tree in 1582 and 1612

Saint Luke Kirby, Blessed William Filby, Blessed Lawrence Johnson, and Blessed Thomas Cottam SJ, four priests and martyrs suffered at Tyburn Tree on May 30, 1562.  More about them here.

Thirty years after St. Luke Kirby and his companions suffered at Tyburn, two more Catholic priests joined the blessed clouds of witnesses at the site of martyrdom: Blessed William or Maurus Scott, OSB and Blessed Richard Newport. Read more about them here.

Holy and blessed martyrs of England, pray for us!

Samuel Pepys and the Popish Plot

Accusations of treason against Samuel Pepys were a side product of the Popish Plot: he was accused of being a Catholic (treason enough in England then) and of providing naval secrets to France. The two authors provide tremendous detail about Pepys' accuser, John Scott, the English justice system, the conspiracy against Pepys, and the defense Pepys is able to muster through his contacts and connections. The main connection against him, however, was that his mentor was Charles II's Catholic brother and heir, James, the Duke of York. The main thrust of the Popish Plot was to arrest, try, and execute Jesuit and other Catholic priests, primarily to harm the Jesuits, and Titus Oates took the lead as witness in that project.

The conspiracy against Samuel Pepys was led by John Scott, whose back story almost hijacks this book, as Long and Long trace his history, enumerate his crimes and scams, and detail his difficulties as a witness: he began to get confused about which lies he had told the Court. His animus against Pepys is part of the wider conspiracy against the Duke of York, as Parliament debated the Exclusion Act to keep the Catholic heir from the throne.

Long and Long dedicate a chapter to a Catholic layman who tried to mount the same kind of defense as Pepys, Richard Langhorne, who did have strong links to the Jesuit mission in England since he was their attorney, managing practical matters. Langhorne did not have the same connections Pepys had, however, and he was manifestly a Catholic, but he attempted throughout his trial to show that Titus Oates and William Bedloe were not reliable witnesses and could not have witnessed events as they said, for example, because they were somewhere else on certain dates. Langhorne tried to point out inconsistencies in their testimony but according to Long and Long, the court prevented many of those attempts. His witnesses were also roughed up and threatened.

This untold story has been thoroughly told but since the authors focus so much on the details of Pepys' efforts to make contacts to build his defense, including all the difficulties of conflicting interests, mail service, and diplomatic entanglements, when the case against him falls apart, the resolution is anti-climactic. Traitor to the Crown needed a summing up to identify the consequences of the Popish Plot, the inadequacies of the English judicial system, and what it means for a country and people when fear of the stranger (in this case, Catholics) overwhelms both the legislature and the judiciary--and how it can lead to accusations against the innocent and the unlikely. In a 2007 review in The Telegraph for example, Nicholas Shakespeare made the connections I wanted to see in the book:

For five impossibly happy years, I lived in Wiltshire in a converted Catholic chapel that Italian masons built in 1695 to house temporarily the relics of two early Christian martyrs, the curiously named saints, Primus and Secundus. Recent excavations have exposed a passage 150 yards long that possibly served as an escape route for harried priests who worshipped in what was my bedroom. As the father and son authors of this intriguing book remind us: "To be converted to Catholicism, to attend mass or to possess Catholic apparatus was illegal. Catholic priests were forbidden entry into England; any found within England could be executed."

We're always inventing dragons. In the 1960s, the Reds were under the bed. In the late 17th century, Papists were feared to be in the bed. "If the Pope gets his great toe in England," believed one MP, "all his body would follow." Catholics formed just five per cent of the population, but their hysterical persecution by a Protestant Whig Parliament has unsettling echoes of the Mexican witch-hunt depicted in Graham Greene's novel
The Power and the Glory.

In the summer of 1679, there unfolded "the great Holocaust of the Plot", in J P Kenyon's phrase. The invention by Titus Oates - a braying, dish-faced homosexual ex-Jesuit - of a plan to kill Charles II and replace him with his Catholic brother the Duke of York, ignited "a powder-keg of suspicion and anxiety".

Priests were rumoured to be seen tossing fire-bombs through windows to start another Fire of London. Tracts warned of "troops of papists ravishing your wives and daughters, dashing your little children's brains out against the walls". No one proved more adept at whipping up the London mob than the sour, thin-lipped Earl of Shaftesbury. In one parade, a wax pope attended by devils and nuns was set on fire. "For added realism the effigy was filled with cats, which screeched as the flames took hold."

A survey of several Pepys related websites reveals that this untold story now told has not had much influence on summaries of his biography. This episode is usually dismissed as a brief imprisonment in the Tower of London on charges of giving naval secrets to the French--without any connection to the Popish Plot or anti-Catholicism in English history.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, G.K. Chesterton!

The first fact about the celebration of a birthday is that it is a way of affirming defiantly, and even flamboyantly, that it is a good thing to be alive….But there is a second fact about Birthdays, and the birth-song of all creation, a fact which really follows on this; but which, as it seems to me, the other school of thought almost refuses to recognize. The point of that fact is simply that it is a fact. In being glad about my Birthday, I am being glad about something which I did not myself bring about.

--from G.K.’s Weekly, 21st March, 1935

David Cardinal Beaton, RIP

On May 29, 1546 the Cardinal Archbishop of St. Andrews, David Beaton, the last Catholic Cardinal named before the Scottish Reformation erupted, was murdered at St. Andrew's Castle. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Beaton was very much involved in diplomatic events throughout the reigns of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots:

His first ecclesiastical preferment was to the rectories of Campsie and Cambushing, to which he was presented by his uncle, the Archbishop of Glasgow, and when the latter was translated to the primatial see in 1522, he resigned to his nephew the commendatory Abbacy of Arbroath, obtaining for him from Pope Adrian IV a dispensation from wearing the monastic habit. Beaton returned from France in 1525, took his seat in Parliament as Abbot of Arbroath, and was soon created by the young king Lord Privy Seal, in succession to Bishop Crichton of Dunkeld. James dispatched him to Paris in 1533, with Sir Thomas Erskine, in order to renew the Scottish alliance with Francis I, and to negotiate for the marriage of James with Magdalen, only daughter of the French king. Beaton was present at the marriage of the royal pair at Notre-Dame on 1 January, 1537, and returned with them to Scotland in May; but the young queen died of consumption two months later. We next find Beaton on a mission in England, negotiating about certain difficulties which had arisen on the Border. The Queen-Mother (Margaret) wrote specially commending the Abbot of Arbroath to her brother, Henry VIII, mentioning that he was "gret wyth the Kyng" (of Scots). A few months later he was again in Paris, arranging for the marriage of his widowed king with Mary of Guise. After the ceremony (by proxy) in the French capital, Beaton conducted the bride to Scotland, assisted at the solemnization of the marriage in St. Andrews Cathedral, and was afterwards sponsor (together with the Archbishop of Glasgow) to the first child that was born of the union. His elevation to the episcopate took place during this second embassy to the French court. King Francis nominated him to the Bishopric of Mirepoix (a suffragan see of Toulouse, with an annual revenue of 10,000 livres), and he received the papal confirmation on 5 December, 1537. Two months later he assisted at the coronation of James and Mary at Holyrood, himself crowning the queen.

Cardinal Beaton urged resistance to Henry VIII's attempts to sway King James V--Henry wanted James to follow his lead in usurping ecclesiastical authority and breaking away from the Catholic Church and the Papacy. Henry especially urged James to suppress the monasteries and take all their wealth:

His intrigues being baffled, Henry had recourse to force; and hostilities broke out between the two kingdoms in 1542. The Scotch, successful in the first engagement, were hopelessly defeated by the English forces on Solway Moss, and James died broken-hearted at Falkland soon afterwards, leaving a daughter (Mary) a week old, to inherit the crown. Beaton produced a document in which he, with three nobles, was appointed regent by the late monarch's will; but the nobles assembled in Edinburgh refused to act on this, declared the Earl of Arran (heir- presumptive to the throne) regent during the queen's minority, and imprisoned the cardinal on a false charge of conspiring with the Duke of Guise against Arran's authority. Henry now commenced negotiations with the Scottish regent and Parliament with the object of arranging a marriage between the infant queen and his own heir (afterwards Edward VI), of getting the Scottish fortresses and the government of the country committed into his hands, and the person of Mary entrusted to his custody. Arran and the Parliament agreed to the project of marriage, but were resolute against the rest of Henry's schemes. Meanwhile the unjust imprisonment of the cardinal-primate had been followed by the proclamation of an interdict throughout the kingdom; and so deep was the feeling aroused among the still Catholic people by the closing of the churches and the suspension of the sacraments that it was thought prudent at once to release Beaton. The undaunted primate instantly summoned the bishops and clergy to St. Andrews; and the assembly, fully alive to that imminent danger (menacing both Church and State) of Henry's insolent demands, spontaneously voted a large sum, taxed on their own benefices, in defence of the national rights. Beaton by his patriotic ardour awakened similar sentiments in the people at large; the person of the baby queen was safeguarded, and a number of the nobles, including the regent himself (who about this time abjured the new doctrines and submitted to the Catholic Church), abandoned their unnatural alliance with the enemies of Scotland, and ranged themselves on the cardinal's side.

Cardinal Beaton was therefore an enemy to Henry VIII, who attempted to have him assassinated through the efforts of George Wishart, whom Beaton had put on trial for heresy in March, 1546--Wishart was found guilty of heresy, having denied the Real Presence, the Sacrament of Confession, and free will. He was strangled and then burned at the stake on March 28, 1546. Norman Leslie,Master of Rothes, with his uncle John Leslie, Kirkaldy of Grange, and James Melville murdered the Cardinal two months and a day later. The Catholic Encyclopedia article denies it, but other reports indicate that Beaton had a mistress, Marion Ogilvy, with whom he had several children. He served more as a statesman than as a priest--he was Chancellor of Scotland when murdered--and he requested a dispensation from Pope Paul III from attending the Council of Trent because of his work in Scotland.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Last Plantagenet Princess: Blessed Margaret Pole

Matt Swaim and I will talk about Blessed Margaret Pole this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show in my usual time slot, after the 6:45 a.m. Central time (7:45 a.m. Eastern) news brief. Please listen live here.

EWTN posts this biography from Father Alban Butler:

The life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was tragic from her cradle to her grave.l Nay, even before she was born, death in its most violent or dreaded forms had been long busy with her family—hastening to extinction a line that had swayed the destinies of England for nearly four centuries and a half. Her grandfather was that splendid Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the mighty King-maker, who as the "last of the Barons," so fittingly died on the stricken field of garnet, and whose soldier's passing gave to Shakespeare a theme worthy of some of his most affecting lines. Her father was the George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, whose death in the Tower in January, 1478, has been attributed to so many causes. The murdered "Princes in the Tower," Edward V and his little brother, the Duke of York, were her first cousins, while her only brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick, was judicially murdered by Henry VII to ensure his own possession of the Crown. The list of tragedies in the family of the Blessed Margaret is still far from complete, but sufficient instances have been given to justify the description we have given of her whole career. . . .

The Countess of Salisbury was taken to East Smithfield early in the morning of 28th May, 1541, and there beheaded on a low block or log in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and a few other spectators. The regular headsman was away from London at the time, and his deputy, an unskilful lout, hacked at the blessed Martyr in such a way as to give some foundation to the story afterwards made current by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, that she had refused to lay her head on the block and was, therefore, struck repeatedly by the executioner till she fell dead. Before her death, she prayed for the King, Queen (Catherine Howard), Prince of Wales (later Edward VI), and the Princess Mary Her last words were: "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice' sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

The body of the Blessed Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was interred in the Tower, in that Chapel dedicated to St. Peter's Chains, whose illustrious dead and historic associations are enshrined in Macaulay's memorable lines. She was declared Blessed with many of the rest of the English Martyrs by Leo XIII, 29th December, 1886. Others than her co-religionists, no doubt, like to reflect that a life, so marked by piety, and so full of griefs ever heroically borne, has after the lapse of nearly four centuries been thus honoured, and that the last direct descendant of the Plantagenet line has her place in the Hagiography of the Church so long associated with their sway.

There is a new biography of Blessed Margaret Pole, written by Susan Higginbotham and published by Amberley (due out on August 15 this year):

Of the many executions ordered by Henry VIII, surely the most horrifying was that of sixty-seven-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, hacked to pieces on the scaffold by a blundering headsman. From the start, Margaret’s life had been marred by tragedy and violence: her father, George, Duke of Clarence, had been executed at the order of his own brother, Edward IV, and her naïve young brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick, had spent most of his life in the Tower before being executed on the orders of Henry VII. Yet Margaret, friend to Catherine of Aragon and the beloved governess of her daughter Mary, had seemed destined for a happier fate, until religious upheaval and rebellion caused Margaret and her family to fall from grace. From Margaret’s birth as the daughter of a royal duke to her beatification centuries after her death, Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower tells the story of one of the fortress’s most unlikely prisoners.

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Today is the memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury. CNA has this profile, emphasizing his role as Pope St. Gregory the Great's chosen leader of the re-evangelization of England:

Around 595, five years into his 14-year pontificate, Pope Gregory set to work on a plan for the conversion of the English people. The Catholic faith had already been preached and accepted among England's original Celtic inhabitants, in earlier times; but from the mid-fifth century onward, the country was dominated by Anglo-Saxon invaders who did not accept Christianity, and were not converted by the small number of isolated Celtic Christian holdouts. Thus, England largely had to be evangelized anew.

For this task the Pope chose a group of around forty monks – including Augustine, who was to represent the delegation and communicate on its behalf. Though he was not explicitly chosen as its leader at that time, that was the role he ended up taking on with Gregory’s support. The group left for England in June 596, but some of the missionaries lost their nerve after hearing fearsome reports about the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine ended up returning to Rome, where he got further advice and support from the Pope.

Persuaded to continue on their way, the missionary-monks reached their port of departure and set sail for England in spring of 597. After arriving they gained an audience with King Ethelbert of Kent, a pagan ruler whose Frankish wife Queen Bertha was a Christian. Speaking with the king through an interpreter, Augustine gave a powerful and straightforward presentation of the Gospel message, speaking of Christ’s redemption of the world and his offer of eternal life.

According to the entry for St. Augustine of Canterbury in the Alba House book Saints of the Roman Calendar, although there was a cult for St. Augustine in England since 747 A.D., he was not listed on the Roman Calendar until 1882. He died on May 26, but since St. Philip Neri already "had" that date, his feast was moved to May 27. St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine of Canterbury are often honored together, as at Westminster Cathedral, and the latter's feast was added to the Roman Calendar in response to the re-establishment of the hierarchy in England in 1850.

Since St. Augustine of Canterbury's abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII, his Catholic shrine in England is St. Augustine's in Ramsgate, designed and built by the great A.W. N. Pugin in the 19th century and named the saint's shrine in 2012. The church is celebrating a St. Augustine Week right now, with various events

God, Our Father,
by the preaching of Saint Augustine of Canterbury,
you led the people of England to the Gospel.
May the fruits of his work continue in your Church.
Grant that through his intercession,
the hearts of those who err may return to the unity of your truth
and that we may be of one mind in doing your will.
Through your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blessed John Henry Newman's St. Philip Neri Novena

Today is the feast of St. Philip Neri, Blessed John Henry Newman's patron and model. Newman composed a novena of reflections and prayers. On the fifth day of the novena he noted St. Philip's tenderness and compassion:

Philip's Tenderness of Heart

Philip could not endure the very sight of suffering; and though he abhorred riches, he always wished to have money to give in alms.

He could not bear to see children scantily clothed, and did all he could to get new clothes for them.

Oppressed and suffering innocence troubled him especially; when a Roman gentleman was falsely accused of having been the death of a man, and was imprisoned, he went so far as to put his cause before the Pope, and obtained his liberation.

A priest was accused by some powerful persons, and was likely to suffer in consequence. Philip took up his cause with such warmth that he established his innocence before the public.

Another time, hearing of some gypsies who had been unjustly condemned to hard labour, he went to the Pope, and procured their freedom. His love of justice was as great as his tenderness and compassion.

Soon after he became a Priest there was a severe famine in Rome, and six loaves were sent to him as a present. Knowing that there was in the same house a poor foreigner suffering from want of food, he gave them all to him, and had for the first day nothing but olives to eat.

Philip had a special tenderness towards artisans, and those who had a difficulty of selling their goods. There were two watchmakers, skillful artists, but old and burdened with large families. He gave them a large order for watches, and contrived to sell them among his friends.

His zeal and liberality specially shone forth towards poor girls. He provided for them when they had no other means of provision. He found marriage dowries for some of them; to others he gave what was sufficient to gain their admittance into convents.

He was particularly good to prisoners, to whom he sent money several times in the week.

He set no limits to his affection for the shrinking and bashful poor, and was more liberal in his alms towards them.

Poor students were another object of his special compassion; he provided them not only with food and clothing, but also with books for their studies. To aid one of them he sold all his own books.

He felt most keenly any kindness done to him, so that one of his friends said: "You could not make Philip a present without receiving another from him of double value."

He was very tender towards brute animals. Seeing someone put his foot on a lizard, he cried out, "Cruel fellow! what has that poor animal done to you?"

Seeing a butcher wound a dog with one of his knives, he could not contain himself, and had great difficulty in keeping himself cool.

He could not bear the slightest cruelty to be shown to brute animals under any pretext whatever. If a bird came into the room, he would have the window opened that it might not be caught.


Philip, my glorious Advocate, teach me to look at all I see around me after thy pattern as the creatures of God. Let me never forget that the same God who made me made the whole world, and all men and all animals that are in it. Gain me the grace to love all God's works for God's sake, and all men for the sake of my Lord and Saviour who has redeemed them by the Cross. And especially let me be tender and compassionate and loving towards all Christians, as my brethren in grace. And do thou, who on earth was so tender to all, be especially tender to us, and feel for us, bear with us in all our troubles, and gain for us from God, with whom thou dwellest in beatific light, all the aids necessary for bringing us safely to Him and to thee.

Silencing Ovid

Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal, has some questions and comments for students who are upset by certain aspects of the Western literary canon (Ovid's Metamorphoses in this case) and want works like the Metamorphoses silenced:

Well, here are some questions and a few thoughts for all those who have been declaring at all the universities, and on social media, that their feelings have been hurt in the world and that the world had just better straighten up.

Why are you so fixated on the idea of personal safety, by which you apparently mean not having uncomfortable or unhappy thoughts and feelings? Is there any chance this preoccupation is unworthy of you? Please say yes.

There is no such thing as safety. That is asking too much of life. You can’t expect those around you to constantly accommodate your need for safety. That is asking too much of people.

Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are “safe.” And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech?

You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?

Masterpieces, by their nature, pierce. They jar and unsettle. If something in a literary masterpiece upsets you, should the masterpiece really be banished? What will you be left with when all of them are gone?

What in your upbringing told you that safety is the highest of values? What told you it is a realistic expectation? Who taught you that you are entitled to it every day? Was your life full of . . . unchecked privilege? Discuss.

Do you think Shakespeare, Frieda Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes and Steve Jobs woke up every morning thinking, “My focus today is on looking for slights and telling people they’re scaring me”? Or were their energies and commitments perhaps focused on other areas?

Read the rest of her column there. If those students offended by Ovid travel to Rome, they had better avoid the Borghese Palace and Bernini's great sculptures of "The Rape of Persephone" and "Apollo and Daphne", both depicting episodes from the Metamorphoses and the latter featured on the cover of the Penguin edition of Ovid's masterpiece. This wikipedia article demonstrates how influential Ovid has been in Western art and literature--removing him from the canon would leave a huge gap in our knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Catherine of Aragon's Aria

The June issue of the BBC Music magazine features Verdi's Don Carlos/Don Carlo, suggesting the best recordings of the French and Italian versions. Then it mentions other operas to explore after Don Carlos, including Saint-Saens' Henry VIII, based on plays by Calderon de la Barca and William Shakespeare. In Catherine of Aragon's final aria she remembers Spain, to which she will never return but will never forget. There are several performances available on youtube, and I've linked the one by Veronique Gens.

Ô cruel souvenir!
Là-bas, dans ma patrie
Le nom du roi mon père était ainsi fêté!
Tout me parle de toi dans ma captivité,
Ô berceau de mes jours, mon Espagne chérie!
Je ne te reverrai jamais,
Ô douce terre où je suis née!
Au destin qui m’a condamnée
Sans révolte je me soumets.
Mais du moins garde à ma mémoire
Un souvenir plein de pitié,
Ô pays d’amour et de gloire
Que je n’ai jamais oublié!
La mort m’eût été moins amère
Si, comme autrefois, le sommeil,
Je l’avais trouvée, ô ma mère,
Sur ton sein fécond et vermeil.
Comme un soldat vaincu je tombe
Sur une terre de douleurs…
Ceux-là sont heureux dont la tombe
De leur berceau garde des fleurs.

Here is another performance from the blog which provided the lyrics above. UPDATE: Thinking about this more, the subject of never seeing her homeland seems a strange selection for Catherine of Aragon--when she left Spain to marry Arthur, the Prince of Wales, she probably knew she would never return home; England was her new home. Never seeing her husband and her daughter again would be more likely subjects, I think.

Elizabeth I's War on Catholics

Jessie Childs wrote about recusant and penal laws passed against Catholics in Elizabethan England for the BBC History Magazine when her book God's Traitors was released last year:

Under Elizabeth I, Catholics grew adept at concealment. Their lifeblood – the Mass – was banned. Anyone who heard it risked a fine and prison. Hence the need for secret Mass-kits and altar-stones small enough to slip into the pocket. Their priests – essential agents of sacramental grace – were outlawed.

Reconciling anyone to Rome (and, indeed, being reconciled) was made treason. After 1585, any priest ordained abroad since 1559, and found on English soil, was automatically deemed a traitor and his lay host a felon, both punishable by death. Hence the need for priest-holes, like the one at Harvington Hall, or at Hindlip, where a feeding tube was embedded in the masonry.

Even personal devotional items like rosary beads or the Agnus Dei found at Lyford were regarded with suspicion, since a statute of 1571 had ruled that the receipt of such ‘superstitious’ items, blessed by the pope or his priests, would lead to forfeiture of lands and goods.

It is impossible to know how many Catholics there were in Elizabethan England, for few were willing to be categorised and counted. John Bossy (defining a Catholic as one who habitually, though not necessarily regularly, used the services of a priest) estimated some 40,000 in 1603, less than one per cent of the population.

This was not a homogenous group, rather a wide and wavering spectrum of experience. Many were branded ‘church papists’: they attended official services according to law, but some conformed only occasionally or partially. William Flamstead read his book during the sermon “in contempt of the word preached”, while for two decades of attendance Sir Richard Shireburn blocked his ears with wool.

Read the rest of the article on the BBC History Magazine website.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reading Abbey: The Lost Tomb and the Last Abbot

According to the BBC History Magazine, researchers might find the burial site of King Henry I (William the Conqueror's fourth son) which has been lost since Reading Abbey was suppressed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

A search for the remains of Henry I’s ‘lost’ abbey could confirm the whereabouts of the 12th-century king’s sarcophagus – and, in parallels with the recent search for Richard III, it’s possible that it could be located beneath what is now a car park.

The Hidden Abbey Project aims to uncover the full extent of Reading Abbey, which was largely destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries. It has been instigated by Philippa Langley, well known for leading the search for Richard III’s remains in Leicester. Langley has secured the support of Historic England – formerly known as English Heritage – and in 2016 the project team will carry out ground-penetrating radar (GPR) research of the abbey area, followed by ‘trial trenching’ to estimate the site’s archaeological potential. It is hoped that the imaging might show sarcophagus burials, possibly including that of Henry.

“There is believed to be a pristine Cluniac abbey layout buried beneath the ground at Reading,” Langley told BBC History Magazine. “One of the main aims of the project is to confirm the exact positioning of the abbey church, as well as its size and structure. Sarcophagus burials tend to show up very clearly in GPR research, and potentially we might be able to see several.

“What’s really exciting is that we know that Henry was buried in front of the high altar, with members of his family buried in specific locations around him. The thinking in Reading, using current estimates of the size of the abbey, is that this burial spot is located beneath a school. If the abbey is larger, it could be situated underneath either what is today a playground or a car park. That option is considered less likely, but if Henry’s tomb is beneath the car park, that will be very interesting.”

Henry founded Reading Abbey in 1121 as a royal mausoleum, and is buried there along with his second wife, Adeliza, and great-grandson William of Poitiers. Langley is eager to stress that, while the potential to find his sarcophagus burial is exciting, the main aim of the project is to find out as much as possible about the abbey itself – and what happens next will be the decision of Historic England.

Read the rest of the article here.

Of course, it was not just the abbey that was destroyed and pulled down. Its last abbot was literally torn apart: hung, drawn and quartered as a traitor to Henry VIII. According to this British History Online entry for Reading Abbey, Thomas Cromwell had to circumvent the law to make sure that Abbot Hugh Faringdon Cook was found guilty and punished because he refused to surrender the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist, established by Henry I in 1121 "for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William, my father, and of King William, my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife, and all my ancestors and successors":

According to all current law, Abbot Hugh, a mitred abbot, who had sat in many a Parliament, ought to have been arraigned for high treason before Parliament; but Cromwell set law completely at defiance, and Hugh, with two brother abbots, had been cut to pieces by the common executioner ere Parliament reassembled.

On 15 November, the same day that the abbot of Glastonbury was done to death at Glastonbury, the abbot of Reading, with two priests, suffered the butchery reserved for traitors on a platform outside the gateway of his own abbey, decked with the gallows for partially hanging, the knife for disgustingly mutilating the still living body, and the caldron of boiling pitch into which to fling the limbs when the quartering was accomplished. With him suffered John Eynon, a priest attached to St. Giles', Reading, and John Rugg, a former prebendary of Chichester, who had retired to the monastery of Reading.

At the Public Record Office are thirty-three pages of a closely-written mutilated manuscript concerning Abbot Hugh and the two priests executed with him. It is in an educated but unidentified handwriting. The occasion for which it was written and its author are both unknown. From its presence among these state papers it was probably the work of some tool of Cromwell's, and was perhaps intended to be printed and circulated to try to stem the odium excited by the execution of 'my lord of Reading.' It is impossible to exaggerate the ribaldry and low scurrility of this infamous production. Great play is made on the name 'Cook,' and the king is supposed to have raised a mere kitchen scullion to this exalted position. The king is represented as the bountiful benefactor of Abbot Hugh, who has repaid him with the most dastardly treachery —'if he had lived when Christ was betrayed he would have put Judas out of his office,' and again he was 'able to teach even Judas the part of a traitor.' Such a sentence as 'a ragman's roll of old rotten monks, and rusty friars, and pockyd priests' is a fair sample of this literary reviler. No attention would have been paid to this stuff, only that its very virulent violence and total absence of any definite charge of treason against the king is a strong proof that no true treason, as ordinarily understood, existed. The worst that could be said of the abbot is that he is accused of stating that 'he wolde pray for the pope's holynes as long as he lived and wolde ons a weke saye masse for hym.' The writer also unconsciously bears witness to the integrity of the abbot, stating that he was ever a great student and setter forth of St. Benet's, St. Francis's, St. Dominic's, and St. Augustine's rules as being right holy and of great perfectness; adding that he never left mattins unsaid, spoke loud in the cloister, or ate even eggs on a Friday. (fn. 87)

Marillac, the French ambassador, writing to Francis I on 30 November, states that the remains of the abbot of Reading were hanged and left in chains outside the abbey gateway. (fn. 88)

With the execution of Abbot Hugh, this great monastery, wherein for the four centuries of its existence kings and queens had been lodged and the poorest entertained, where great councils of the Church and Parliaments of the state had frequently been held, and which had been a great centre of almsgiving and of a liberal education, passed absolutely into the hands of Henry VIII, together with its property, declared to be of the clear annual value of £1,908 14s. It remained uninterruptedly in the immediate control of the crown down to the Commonwealth.

The vast conventual church, where the remains of royalty and other notables had been laid to rest, remained desolate, but undisturbed so far as its fabric was concerned, until 1548. The lead on the roof of the abbey church and buildings was then so considerable that the amount helps to form some idea of the extent of the premises. It was measured and estimated to weigh 417 fodders, at the rate of 15 ft. sq. to the fodder. Six great bells still swung in the monastery's belfry. (fn. 89)

When the pension roll of Philip and Mary was drawn up there were thirteen ex-monks of Reading on the list; one in receipt of £6, eight of £5, one of £4 6s. 8d., one of £3 6s. 8d., and two of £2. (fn. 90)

P.H. Ditchfield and William Page edited this history of the Abbey of Reading in 1907--pretty clear what their author thought of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell!

Hugh Faringdon and companions were beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.

"Planets, Priests, and a Persistent Myth"

The Wall Street Journals' Friday "Houses of Worship" column tries to remind readers again that history should not be thought of in little soundbites like "the Catholic Church has always been against science". For instance, I used to watch Rick Steves' videos about Europe on PBS (and we even bought a few): he would take every opportunity he could to point out how anti-science the Catholic Church was. He talked about how the Church was opposed to professors at universities conducting autopsies but left out that it was because the bodies used were obtained by grave-robbing (people who believed in the resurrection of the body weren't donating their bodies to science at that time); he emphasized that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun, neglecting again to note that Bruno was no scientist, offered no scientific proof for his statements, and also was found guilty of serious heresy: denying THE essential Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. When I remonstrated with Steves' company, I received the response that Steves did not consider himself a historian--but he was teaching history, deceptive history that at least seemed to have an objective: demonstrate that the Catholic Church is against science.

The authors of this editorial commented on some recent videos of the dwarf planet Ceres, which was discovered and analyzed by the Theatine priest Giuseppe Piazzi from 1801 to 1803, including what could have been a dangerous trip to England:

Piazzi’s entry into history began on January 1, 1801, when he noticed a faint “star” not contained in any catalog. Tracking it over the following nights, he found that it moved across the background stars the same way planets do. After more than 40 nights, however, it moved too close to the sun to be seen. Would it ever be found again, once it emerged from the sun’s glare?

That would require the difficult feat of computing its orbit precisely from the positions Piazzi had measured. This was accomplished by the great mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, and Piazzi’s object was located again by a German observatory exactly a year after its original discovery. In 1802, Piazzi named it Ceres after the patron goddess of Sicily. . . 

Most news accounts don’t mention that Piazzi was a Catholic priest. In fact, the remarkable story of the Catholic clergy’s contributions to science is one of the best-kept secrets of scientific history. The exception is Gregor Mendel; it is widely known that the science of genetics began with the experiments of the Austrian monk.

But it is the rare person who knows that the big-bang theory, the central pillar of modern cosmology, was the brainchild of the Belgian Catholic priest and physicist Georges Lemaître. In the 1920s, Lemaître showed that Albert Einstein’s equations of gravity allow space itself to expand and, connecting this to observations that distant galaxies were flying apart, he formulated his famous theory of how the universe began.

Et cetera, et cetera, and so forth; you'll need a subscription to read the entire editorial. Do yourself a favor and don't read the comments!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Can You Spell I-R-O-N-Y? Blessed Junipera Serra

From First Things, author Stephen Schwartz places the controversy over the upcoming canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra in context, noting that the moral outrage may be misplaced:

Here in California, the Pope’s intention has reignited an old controversy. Serra has been accused by self-appointed representatives of Native Americans of “genocide.” Most of this polemic is carried out in the media and rests on thin documentation. These allegations of cruelty, exploitation, and mass murder against Serra and other Franciscan and Jesuits in the Californias—Lower and Upper, Baja and Alta—echo Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry, which dominated the United States during the early period of independence. Once California became the object of a Gold Rush, Easterners had every incentive to deny the rights of the colony’s Spanish and Mexican residents, as they did later in acts of violence against “Chilean” and Chinese miners, followed by long-lasting prohibition on other Asian immigrants.

If we wish to study the history of violence against the Indians, we should turn to that later episode, the 1849 gold rush. It’s a history San Franciscans take pride in, even having a football team bearing the 49er name. Meanwhile, the newspaper for which I worked from 1989 to 1999, the San Francisco Chronicle, refuses to print references to the Washington Redskins football team. The editors argue that the name is racist, and the newspaper refers to the franchise only as “the Washington, DC football team.”

Avaricious pioneers like the 49ers committed far worse depredations against the natives than did the missionaries. Two anthropologists, Lowell J. Bean and Sylvia B. Vane, wrote in the 1978 edition of the Handbook of North American Indians: 
Some native Californians were Christianized only by force, [but] others accepted the new religion apparently because the Spanish demonstrated possession of kinds of power that appeared desirable. The acceptance of Christianity did not mean that native religious systems disappeared. Native religious ceremonies persisted alongside Catholicism, often tolerated by the priests under the guide of ‘secular’ events, but sometimes carried out secretly. The extreme decrease in native population in the last part of the nineteenth century and the concomitant ‘melting pot’ philosophy on the part of the Anglo-Americans were more destructive to native religious systems than Catholicism.
It is true that some California natives resisted the missionaries; for example, in 1775 the mission at San Diego was destroyed in a revolt by nine Indian villages. The attackers killed a Mallorcan priest, Fr. Lluís Jaume Vallespir. Serra appealed to the Spanish authorities to spare the perpetrators, however. This call for mercy was successful, and the insurgents were pardoned.

Blessed Junípero Serra stands for a period in history that is unknown by most Americans. How many people could even answer the question of the origin of the name “San Francisco”? Let us hope that his canonization will inspire further and deeper discussion of the arrival of Christianity to the American West.

To paraphrase Pope Francis, "Who is the San Francisco Chronicle to judge?" Seriously, the same trend is popping up in headlines re: Father Serra as for Thomas More during the airing of Wolf Hall: Saint or Sinner? 

When the Church beatifies or canonizes any man or woman, we do not declare that he or she is perfect according to whatever secular standards apply at the time. As G.K. Chesterton wrote "There are saints indeed in my religion: but a saint only means a man who really knows he is a sinner." (from "The High Plains" in Alarms and Discursions a collection of essays Chesterton wrote for the London Daily News from 1901 to 1913). 

A Book about a Queen's Books

From Palgrave Macmillan, a book to be published this August in the Queenship and Power series:

Printed book and manuscript dedications were at the juncture between the actual interests and reading abilities of Tudor royal ladies and the beliefs and hopes of those who wrote and printed them on what was suitable for royalty and how royal ladies might be persuaded in certain directions. Queen Mary I received eighteen manuscript dedications and thirty-three printed book dedications, the majority of them were religious in nature, specifically addressing a return to Catholicism. In this revisionist approach to book history and Marian studies Valerie Schutte argues that dedications, and the negotiations that accompanied them, reveal both contemporary perceptions of how statecraft, religion, and gender were and the political maneuvering attempting to influence how they ought to be. Schutte offers the first comprehensive catalogue of all book and manuscript dedications to Mary and all books that were known to have been in Mary's possession.

When you review the books published in the Queenship and Power series thus far, most of them are about Elizabeth I, so it's good that the editors of the series are addressing that imbalance in a way. There's no surprise that Mary would receive books dedicated to her in support of bringing Catholicism back to England as she was engaged in eliminating all the legislation passed during Edward VI's reign as soon as she came to the throne. There's also no surprise that the Princess and later Queen Mary would have manuscripts and books dedicated and presented to her: she received a careful Christian humanist education at the direction of her mother Katherine of Aragon. To quote any earlier blogpost:
Juan Luis Vives of Spain became Mary's tutor and wrote a handbook on the education of Christian females which he dedicated to Katherine of Aragon: De Institutione Feminae Christianae. He detailed the course of Mary's study in De ratione studii puerilis. While he is not a feminist nor overemphasizes female virtue, he is certainly not a misogynist although he is opposed to fancy clothing and makeup. Vives resided at Corpus Christi College in Oxford where he lectured on philosophy as a Doctor of Law. Henry and Katherine attended some his lectures. Because he supported Katherine against Henry in the King's Great Matter, he fled to the Continent, residing in Bruges.
The Table of Contents:

1. Lady Margaret Beaufort and the Wives of Henry VIII
2. Dedications to a Princess
3. Printed Dedications to a Queen
4. Manuscript Dedications to Mary
5. Dedications to Philip and Mary
6. Books Owned by Mary

Could be a fascinating book to read, but it's far out of my price range. I just completed an article about Reginald Cardinal Pole commissioned by a publication--the most recent biography of Pole, from Ashgate Publishing, costs $125.00. Some books are just written and published for an exclusively academic audience.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Heresy or Treason? Blessed John Forest

Blessed John Forest is the only Supremacy Martyr to be executed by being burned alive, sentenced by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, with the penalty of death carried out by the state. He was found guilty of the same offenses as the Carthusians and John Fisher, but he was not beheaded or hung, drawn and quartered.

Blessed John Forest was executed by being burned to death by being suspended over the flames from a gibbet --those are chains under his arms in the stained glass--on May 22, 1538 because he opposed Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and Henry's claim to supremacy and religious and ecclesiastical matters in England, which was heresy to Henry VIII. According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia

Born in 1471, presumably at Oxford, where his surname was then not unknown; suffered 22 May, 1538. At the age of twenty he received the habit of St. Francis at Greenwich, in the church of the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, called for brevity's sake "Observants". Nine years later we find him at Oxford, studying theology. He is commonly styled "Doctor" though, beyond the steps which he took to qualify as bachelor of divinity, no positive proof of his further progress has been found. Afterwards he became one of Queen Catherine's chaplains, and was appointed her confessor. In 1525 he appears to have been provincial, which seems certain from the fact that he threatened with excommunication the brethren who opposed Cardinal Wolsey's legatine powers. Already in 1531 the Observants had incurred the king's displeasure by their determined opposition to the divorce; and no wonder that Father Forest was soon singled out as an object of wrath In November, 1532, we find the holy man discoursing at Paul's Cross on the decay of the realm and pulling down of churches. At the beginning of February, 1533 an attempt at reconciliation was made between him and Henry: but a couple of months later he left the neighborhood of London, where he was no longer safe. He was probably already in Newgate prison 1534, when Father Peto his famous sermon before the king at Greenwich. In his confinement Father Forest corresponded with the queen and Blessed Thomas Abel and wrote a book or treatise against Henry, which began with the text: "Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was." On 8 April, 1538, the holy friar was taken to Lambeth, where, before Cranmer, he was required to make an act of abjuration. This, however, he firmly refused to do; and it was then decided that the sentence of death should be carried out. On 22 May following he was taken to Smithfield to be burned. The statue of Saint Derfel which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; and thus, according to popular belief, was fulfilled an old prophecy, that this holy image would set a forest on fire. The holy man's martyrdom lasted two hours, at the end of which the executioners threw him, together with the gibbet on which he hung, into the fire. 

Hugh Latimer preached a sermon at Smithfield urging Forest to recant his defense of truths that Henry VIII had believed and affirmed several years before, as he had praised the Observant Friars as holy and devout religious.

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: The Silencing by Kirsten Powers

I read Kirsten Powers's The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech because I was interested in what she would say about free speech on our university and college campuses. I have blogged about the restrictions on free speech on campus, with free speech zones and other horrors, before on my blog.

Powers identifies an "illiberal left" which, instead of engaging in debate and discussion with people who have different viewpoints, works to shut those people down. They refuse to look at any content and instead attack the person, usually by identifying them as misogynistic, racist, or some other ad hominem attack.

Throughout Powers' book she makes statements like, "although I support a woman's right to choose abortion" or "although I support the Affordable Care Act" and then follows them up with something to the effect that "I think those who are opposed to abortion have a right to be heard" or "those who want to repeal the ACA should be treated with respect". She wants our country to maintain its great heritage of free speech, including speech that opposes settled law. She thinks free speech should be practiced in journalism, on university campuses, and in society in general. She argues that when those in power (academic, political, or social) attempt to silence free speech, all of our freedoms are in danger, including religious liberty.

Powers' book is filled with anecdotes, cases, interviews, and examples. She maintains a tone of mild outrage throughout the text and warns continuously against the consequences of this pattern of silencing opposing viewpoints. She does repeat some of the same examples in different context, which I think is a weak point.

I read the book on Kindle and one of the advantages is that every web-based source she has cited is linked in the notes, so the reader may follow up and check on Powers' interpretation of events.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Last Abbots and Suppressed Monasteries

The Recusants and Renegades blog highlights the career and survival of the last prior of St. Mary Overy in Southwark:

I've decided to write something here about my (probable) ancestor Bartholomew Fowle, who was the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, even though he was not strictly speaking a recusant – a term that would only really come into use during the reign of Elizabeth I. However, like countless other faithful Catholics, Bartholomew’s world was turned upside down by the seismic upheavals of the Reformation. Moreover, telling Bartholomew’s story seems like a natural sequel to the last post about my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle and his recusant connections. As with my that post, I’ll be drawing on my own original genealogical research, some of which I’ve already published on my family history blog Past Lives.

The lives and afterlives of these canons, friars, and monks were completely disrupted by Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, but did receive pensions:

The priory of St Mary Overy was ‘surrendered’ to Thomas Cromwell’s agents on 27th October 1539. Cromwell himself signed the pension list, which granted £8 each per annum to two of the canons and £6 to nine others. There were eleven annuitants in all, besides the prior, with their pensions totalling £70 in all. At least one source claims that Bartholomew Fowle quibbled over his original grant of £80 per annum and managed to have it increased to £100. In addition, Bartholomew was provided with a house ‘within the close where Dr Michell was dwelling’. Robert Michell was the last prior but one before Bartholomew, and had probably resigned due to ill health or old age. (A certain William Michell, almost certainly a relative, had witnessed the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst in 1525.)

The blog's author, Martin Robb, notes traces of his probable ancestor's life after the surrender of the Abbey:

There is evidence that Bartholomew Fowle remained in London after his enforced retirement, and also that he continued to serve as a priest. For example, in 1543 Dame Joan Milbourne, the widow of a former lord mayor of London, bequeathed money in herwill to a number of priests to come to her burial at the church of St Edmund, Lombard Street, and to pray for her. She left the sum of £6 13s 6d ‘to my very good friend Bartholomew Linsted some time prior of St Mary Overies, to pray for my soul’. From this, we can conclude two things: firstly, that Bartholomew Fowle was well connected with the gentry of London, and secondly that, despite the religious changes of Henry’s reign, Catholic practices such as prayers for the dead remained popular.

The date of Bartholomew’s death is unknown, and I’ve failed to find any trace of a will, but a number of sources confirm that he was still receiving his pension in 1553. In other words, he lived for at least another fifteen years or so after his expulsion from St Mary Overy. This means that, like my ancestor and his relative Gabriel Fowle, Bartholomew may have lived long enough to have his hopes revived by the brief restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary.

Prior Fowle may have seen Catholicism's brief restoration but perhaps not its fall again during Elizabeth I's reign. On May 20, 1560, John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster, was sent to the Tower of London by Matthew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had been “railing against the [religious] changes that have been made.” He had been at Evesham when that abbey was surrendered in 1540 and then been named Abbot at Westminster Abbey during Mary I's reign. More about him here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

St. Edmund Campion and the "Magna Carta"

Joanna Bogle highlighted the annual Tyburn Lecture on her blog and provided a link to a synopsis of the lecture, which focused on how St. Edmund Campion cited the Magna Carta in his defense at trial for Treason in 1581:

The lecture gave a legal analysis of the case against the Jesuit martyr St Edmund Campion to comment on state oppression and religious freedom in England in the late sixteenth century, and how this resonated down the centuries.

The British values and identity narrative we hear so strongly today is one of a tradition of tolerance. So it was most interesting to learn that Elizabethan/Jacobean England was the most intolerant state in Europe: more Catholics were judicially murdered here than anywhere else. Catholics in the Protestant states of Germany and the Dutch Republic had freedom of conscience and worship. Protestants in Catholic France, Poland and even in Spain ran fewer risks than did Catholics in England. This was much commented on in Europe at the time of Campion’s trial.

Campion was accused under the Treason Act of 1350. Elizabeth wanted to be seen as a tolerant monarch who could encourage freedom of expression. England was at that time sending military support to the Dutch Protestants in their struggle against their Spanish overlords, in order to uphold their rights to freedom from oppression.

Sir Michael explained that there was no evidence presented at the trial to demonstrate Campion’s guilt under the Treason Act. He admitted breaking the law by saying Mass but this was not a crime under the Treason Act. On his return to England in 1580 as an ordained Catholic priest Campion had issued a public statement (known as the Bragge) addressed to the Queen’s Council declaring his loyalty to the Queen alongside an appeal for the right to debate the merits of the true faith.

In his presentations to the court Campion claimed four specific natural rights which go back to Magna Carta:

· The right to a fair trial (Campion was tried by a jury but it was biased against him)

· The right not to be tortured (Campion was illegally tortured for three days)

· The right not to incriminate himself (i.e. to remain silent)

· The right to freedom of expression.

This presentation is important because it demonstrates how Elizabethan courts were denying prisoners their rights under English law: this is not applying a standard of rights in our era, but in Campion's own. The presentation is timely because England is celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. See for example this page at the British Library.

St. Thomas More also cited the Magna Carta at his trial in 1535, arguing that Parliament's law making Henry VIII the Supreme Head and Governor and other laws restricting the rights of the clergy to appeal to Rome (The Act in Restraint of Appeals for example), violated its primary purpose: defense of the Church. As this website notes:

More was tried at Westminster on the 6th July 1535. In responding to the guilty ruling he first argued that the act of supremacy was directly repugnant to the laws of God and the Church, “the Supreme Government of which, or of any part thereof, no Temporal Person may by any Law presume to take upon him, being what right belongs to the See of Rome, which by special Prerogative was granted by the Mouth of our Savior Christ himself to St.Peter, and the Bishops of Rome his Successors only”. More went further though. Not only was the act contrary to the laws which governed the Church, it was also contrary to the rights of the Church as defined by Magna Carta, the first clause of which reads:
FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Real St. Thomas More, Recorded

The Spiritual Life Center has posted a recording of my presentation on The Real St. Thomas More.

I must warn you that I do not lecture when I make a presentation--I involve the participants, who have their own input to make, throughout, inviting comments, questions, and other participation. So you will hear other voices.

The outline of the talk is:

~Discussion of A Man for All Seasons and Wolf Hall;

~Defense of St. Thomas More against charges of being fussily pious, sado-masochistic, and misogynistic (based on my article from The National Catholic Register);

~Description of the Real Thomas More: lawyer, judge, diplomat, husband, father, friend, writer, poet, theologian, etc, as the first modern lay saint (neither a third order member, nor a charity worker, nor a founder, but an active lay Catholic)--although he was of course canonized he as a martyr, not as a confessor;

~Emphasis on More's integrity;

~Discussion of the scurrilous language in More's apologetical works against Luther, Tyndale, and Fish and of his prosecution of heresy as Chancellor (based mostly upon Richard Rex's contribution to The Cambridge Companion to Thomas More);

~Description of the last 14 months of St. Thomas More's life in the Tower of London (based on my article in The Latin Mass Magazine, "The Long Lent of St. Thomas More") and discussion of his defense at trial.

~Discussion of contemporary reaction to More's execution--why it took so long for him to be canonized--and why St. Thomas More suffered and died as a martyr--what did he die for?--with input from Chesterton, Belloc and others.

I also highlighted St. John Fisher's example and his sanctity.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Galileo, Science, and the Catholic Church

Since tomorrow is third Monday of the month, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss another "troublesome" event in Church History: Galileo, his Heliocentrism hypothesis, and Church reaction to not just his scientific theories but his scriptural interpretations. The Galileo episode is usually presented as one of the proofs that the Catholic Church is opposed to science.

The Vatican Observatory offers some insight here:

Why did Galileo get in trouble with the Church?

Many theories have been put forth over the years to explain why Galileo came into conflict with the Church. The mystery arises precisely because Galileo actually stood squarely in the long history of the Church’s support of science. Many churchmen of high standing, such as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, had suggested even more radical cosmologies than Galileo did; Copernicus’ work itself had been available without controversy for more than sixty years before Galileo first published his telescopic observations. Most theories explain Galileo's problems with the Church as a clash of strong personalities; as coming from a fear that his ideas would threaten the basis of contemporary theology; or as a reaction by the Pope to the political pressures of the day.

The interpretation of the bible was certainly one of the principal contributing factors to the controversy. At the council of Trent, at the height of the protestant reformation just about twenty years before the birth of Galileo, the Catholic Church had solemnly declared that only the church could authentically interpret the bible and that private interpretation was forbidden. Now in 1616, just as the controversy about a sun-centered Copernican universe was heating up, the church’s holy office declared that Copernicanism was formally heretical because it contradicted many passages in the bible (e.g. Joshua 10: 11-13, in which the sun stops moving in the sky). Galileo had already written several essays on the interpretation of the bible in which he essentially said that the bible was written to teach us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens go. In these documents he essentially anticipated by about 400 years what the Catholic Church would teach about the interpretation of the bible, but he did so privately.

In these documents and in many others Galileo certainly showed himself to be a person with an acerbic writing style who courted controversy. He also had friends in high places, including Prince Cesi, the head of the scientific “Academy of the Lynxes”. Unfortunately for Galileo, Prince Cesi died just before the controversy arose over Galileo’s book: “Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems” (Dialogue).

For many years Galileo had a close friendship with cardinal Maffeo Barberini who had even sent Galileo a latin ode composed by the cardinal in praise of Galileo’s telescopic discoveries. This same cardinal became Pope Urban VIII, the reigning pontiff at the time of the church’s condemnation of Galileo.

In the dialogue, Galileo provided persuasive, but not conclusive, evidence for a Sun-centered system. In so doing, he challenged the classical Greek philosophy of nature, which had dominated thinking about the universe for millennia. To embrace Copernicanism was to threaten Aristotelianism. The persistent requirement of fidelity to Aristotelianism had nothing to do with a Sun-centered system; rather, Aristotelianism was the basis for the philosophical and theological teachings of the time. If Aristotelian natural philosophy crumbled, some feared that the whole system of theology that it supported would also crumble.

In addition, the trial of Galileo occurred during the Thirty Years War, which entered a critical phase exactly at the time of the Galileo trial in 1632. The trial may have been a reaction to the political pressure being put on Pope Urban VIII by the Spanish (and others). By attacking Galileo, the Pope could be seen as showing the more conservative elements that he was not a radical. Perhaps also this was a veiled way of putting political pressure on the rich and powerful Medici family, who were Galileo’s patrons, to stay out of choosing sides in that war.

You may listen live here tomorrow at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, 6:45 a.m. Central.

Eighth Day Books in The New York Times!!

On Friday, May 15 our Chesterton group met at Eighth Day Books--and we did have six new Chesterton fans come to our meeting--and Saturday morning I discovered that Eighth Day Books had been featured in The New York Times:

Eighth Day Books lives in an old three-story house on Douglas Avenue, just east of C&R Comics and Superior Rubber Stamp. It is not exactly a Christian bookstore — while sitting at the communal table, I can pull off the shelf works like Greil Marcus’s “The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs” or scoot my chair a couple of feet and grab, Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”

Still, the store’s name, Eighth Day, serves as a secret handshake among Christian book lovers, and its following reaches far beyond the heartland city it serves. Popular Christian writers like Lauren F. Winner and Rod Dreher are fans and erstwhile visitors. On one wall hangs a picture of Kallistos Ware, an Eastern Orthodox bishop and theologian, taken during his visit in 2002.

Warren Farha, 59, gray-haired and laconic, is the store’s founder, custodian, clerk and sole book buyer, a job that is more complex than it would be at a typical independent bookstore. The store’s shelves are divided into sections like Monastic Writings & Studies, Patristic Writings & Studies” and C. S. Lewis & Friends, and filled only with books Mr. Farha would read. So no cooking or travel.

There's a big sic at the end of that paragraph. Eighth Day Books does carry books on cooking and travel. Since the store caters to the Eastern Orthodox population of Wichita, Eighth Day has carried Orthodox Lenten cookbooks--and there are a few travel books on the second floor. 

Nevertheless, it's a great article--so good to see Eighth Day Books and Warren receive the attention that's due. Eighth Day Books is unique. 

Among the essential books in the store are C.S. Lewis's, and the other Inklings (Tolkien, Barfield, Williams) and other associated writers (Chesterton, MacDonald, Sayers). They were all on a special bookcase in the first store and are on a special bookcase in the current store. 

The Eighth Day Institute will hold its first annual Inklings Festival this summer. If you are interested in the Inklings and intrigued by Eighth Day Books it would be the perfect summer vacation! Watch for more information here.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

From One Thomas to Another, to Another

On May 16, 1532, Sir Thomas More resigned as Chancellor of England and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, succeeded by Thomas Audley in those offices--the latter on May 20, 1532 and the former on January 26, 1533. He would also succeed Thomas More as Speaker of the House of Commons when Parliament met again. His biography in the History of Parliament notes the delay in naming a Chancellor after More resigned:

The initial withholding of the office and title of chancellor from Audley, when he was named keeper of the great seal in May 1532, has yet to be explained. On 26 Jan. 1533, however, with the new parliamentary session only ten days away, he was made chancellor, and as soon as it opened he was succeeded as Speaker by Humphrey Wingfield. From then until the end of this Parliament, and at its successor of June 1536, Audley conducted business in the Lords, as More had done before him, without being a peer or having a vote. The most important Acts which passed the Upper House under his presidency also owed not a little to his legal skill: thus in the seventh session, the second to be held in 1534, the Act for first fruits and tenths (26 Hen. VIII, c.3) and that on murder and felonies in Wales (26 Hen. VIII, c.6) may have been largely his, and he polished, if he did not draft, the Treason Act (26 Hen. VIII, c.13). He was, however, not impeccable as is shown by the shortcomings in the bill he drafted for the suspension of Poynings’ Law, which required amendment shortly after its enactment in 1536 by the Irish Parliament; it may also have been through his negligence that the same Parliament had to pass a second subsidy Act. In 1539 he introduced, among others, bills for the law reform which, although rejected or allowed to lapse then, were to pass a year later as the Acts for wills (32 Hen. VIII, c.1), limiting prescriptions (32 Hen. VIII, c.2) and for shortening of the Trinity term (32 Hen. VIII, c.21). He also presented a memorial to the Lords in 1540 outlining several reforms, from which emerged Acts for lessees of lands (32 Hen. VIII, c.28) and against wrongful disseisin (32 Hen. VIII, c.33). After Cromwell’s fall the devising of government legislation became Audley’s undivided responsibility.

The same biography notes his participation in several trials, including that of Thomas More, and some confusion about his religious beliefs (was Audley a Catholic or a Protestant?):

If his knightly status exempted Audley from the trial of Anne Boleyn in 1536 (it was not he but John, 8th Lord Audley, who took part in this), he was involved in all the other state trials of these years. His conduct in these trials, and especially in More’s, has been much criticized but it deserves to be judged in the light of Audley’s own beliefs concerning the rights of the sovereign and the duties of the subject. No such criticism, despite occasional and clearly prejudiced charges of favouritism and corruption, can be levelled against his conduct as an equity judge, and even in cases of treason his attitude is illustrated by his advice in 1536 that the Duke of Suffolk should be armed against the Lincolnshire rebels with a commission to try cases of treason, showing that he took for granted, even in such circumstances, the necessity of a trial at common law.11

Audley’s religious position is difficult to assess. A correspondent of Melanchthon named him with Cromwell and Cranmer as friends to Protestantism but, if he was, the friendship was always qualified by his allegiance to the King whose policies he faithfully carried out, a course which in general gives an impression of conservatism. Thus an anonymous enthusiast for the Act of Six Articles (31 Hen. VIII, c.14) again linked Audley with Cromwell as two men who, this time in contrast to Cranmer and to other bishops, had been ‘as good as we can desire’ in the furtherance of the measure. Audley was equally content to follow Cromwell’s lead and what few clashes there were between them arose largely out of minor questions of patronage.12

Whatever Audley owed to Cromwell for his success, he served Henry VIII to coordinate the Attainder and condemnation of the Earl of Essex in 1542. Audley died in 1544 without a male heir and his baronetcy was extinct at this death. He was buried in the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Saffron Walden. Audley had purchased Walden Abbey and built his home there as Baron Audley of Walden. His Audley End was replaced, however, by the Jacobean manor house built by his grandson, Thomas Howard, the 1st Earl of Suffolk; it is now an English Heritage site.

Audley's daughter Margaret married first Lord Henry Dudley, the youngest son of John Dudley, the Earl of Northumberland who was executed during the reign of Mary I and then Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk who was executed during reign of Elizabeth I (but after Margaret had died in 1564). When she died, their son Thomas Howard inherited Audley End and the other properties at Saffron Walden--and yes, the name does refer to the valuable spice saffron as the saffron crocus was grown in the area, and is again today

Friday, May 15, 2015

Alternative History: If Thomas Cranmer Had Survived

Diarmaid MacCulloch speculated on what might have happened if Thomas Cranmer hadn't been executed during the reign of Mary I (because Mary I never reigned) in this 1996 article from History Today magazine:

What would the Church of England have looked like if instead of Queen Mary's triumph in 1553, Queen Jane's quite reasonable hereditary claim to the throne had succeeded in establishing her regime? The Lady Mary would have to have been effectively neutralised, and one fears that neutralising her for good would have involved the block, in a return to Henrician savagery. The Lady Elizabeth could have been married off to Lord Robert Dudley, a good catch for a royal bastard, and a good chance for them both of a happy love-match.

Archbishop Cranmer, living to his allotted three-score years and ten or beyond, could produce a third version of his two earlier Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, in the light of friendly criticism from continental reformers whom he respected, like Peter Martyr, Johann Heinrich Bullinger and Calvin. He would be succeeded as archbishop by Nicholas Ridley or Robert Holgate, with energetic younger. reformers like Edmund Grindal ready to make their mark and pick up good ideas from the best reformed churches of Europe. The Scots immigrant John Knox, mellowed by an increasingly successful career in the Church of England, would be appointed Bishop of Newcastle, benevolently taking no notice of the advanced congregations in his diocese who received communion sitting; this was a practice in any case increasingly common throughout Jane's Church, despite Cranmer's grumbles. Cranmer's cherished reform of the old popish canon law would be achieved; the primer and catechism published at the very end of Edward's reign in 1553 would become the standards; the Forty-two Articles would have been unmodified by Elizabethan hesitations about relegating the significance of the sacrament of Holy Communion to that merely of a symbolic repetition.

Out in the parishes, metrical psalms in the style of Geneva would quickly have spread: these were the best secret weapon of the English Reformation, making its public worship and private devotional practice genuinely popular throughout increasing areas of the kingdom. This congregational music would also take over in the cathedrals, now devoid of choirs or polyphony, and with their organs (where they survived) used mainly for entertainment in the Dutch fashion. The conservative nobility would continue the sullen public compliance with religious change which they had shown under Edward VI, their private celebration of ceremonial worship tolerated as eccentricity, like the Lady Elizabeth's patronage of choral music in her own chapel.

The traditionalist higher clergy would gradually die off in senior church offices and the universities, with no possibility of like-minded replacement: since the universities produced no major haemorrhage of exiles in the 1560s, the Jesuits and other religious orders would find it difficult to recruit potential clergy to train for their attempt to treat Jane's England as a mission field. England would have become the most powerful political player in the Reformed camp, with Cranmer a cordial if geographically distant partner with John Calvin. It is powerfully symbolic that it was Cranmer's son-in-law Thomas Norton who translated Calvin's Institutes into English, and Cranmer's veteran printer Reyner Wolfe who published it. With a Cranmer-Calvin axis, the profile of Reformed religion across the whole Continent would have been changed, and with the help and encouragement of Bishop Knox, the Reformation in Scotland might have followed a close path to the Reformed Church of England.

Then MacCulloch acknowledges what happened instead when Elizabeth I came to the throne after Mary I's death and created a compromise Church of England that in some ways thwarted Cranmer's reforms, especially in its "long march away from Cranmer's eucharistic theology". MacCulloch traces the ambiguous legacy of Thomas Cranmer through the Stuarts to the Tractarians concluding:

In an ecumenical age, which honours honest doubt and hesitancy as a lesser evil than clear-eyed ideological certainty, Cranmer may win admirers and sympathisers and take his due place in Anglican history. He would not have known what Anglicanism meant, and would probably not have approved if the meaning had been explained to him, but without his contribution, the unending dialogue of Protestantism and Catholicism which forms Anglican identity would not have been possible. Beyond the concerns of Christianity, for all those who criticise his politics, or find his theology alien, Cranmer's language remains as the most enduring monument to Henry Vlll's and Edward VI's most faithful servant. Twentieth-century scholarship has reminded us just how fundamental is the structure of language to the way in which we construct our lives and our culture. Cranmer's language lies at the heart of our own English-speaking culture, which has now become so central to the destiny of the world.

Read the rest there.