Monday, July 29, 2019

The Walsingham Conspiracy and its Martyrs

Yesterday I posted some information about the Walsingham Conspiracy in 1537, when Cromwell's men came to suppress the priory of Walsingham, a house of Augustinian Canons and to close down the shrine (from British History Online: 'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Walsingham', in A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1906), pp. 394-401.)

The priory of Walsingham had a special hold on Norfolk, even in places far remote from the town. The concourse of pilgrims from all parts of England, as well as from over the seas, kept Our Lady of Walsingham vividly in mind. . . .

No wonder, then, that the suppression of the lesser monasteries in 1536, and the general upheaval of matters pertaining to the ancient faith of the populace, should have aroused much bitterness with regard to the threats against Walsingham. In April, 1537, depositions were taken before Sir Roger Townsend and Sir John Heydon against George Gysburgh, of Walsingham, charged with expressing regret that so many houses were dissolved where God was well served, and advocating a rising of the commons. George Gysburgh confessed to discussing with one, Ralph Rogerson, a rising against the suppression of the abbeys, believing that Walsingham would soon go. (fn. 45) On 3 May, Sir Roger Townsend and Richard; South well wrote to Cromwell as to the apprehension of the rest of the 'conspirators.' They had seized Nicholas Mileham, sub-prior of Walsingham, who by the confession of one, Watson, was privy to the proposals; they thought that the Gysburghs (father and son) and Ralph Rogers would make a larger confession if examined by Cromwell and others of- the council, for in their confession, so far, they did not touch the sub-prior, a man of lewd inclination. (fn. 46) On 20 May, Prior Vowell, the time-server, wrote an unctuous letter to Cromwell thanking him for favour shown to him and to his kinsman taken into the Lord Privy Seal's service; with the letter he sent 'a poor remembrance' as a further bribe to Cromwell. (fn. 47) Cromwell's accounts show that this poor remembrance was the big round sum of £100. (fn. 48)

The charge against these 'conspirators' was somewhat flimsily sustained, and their offence had certainly not gone beyond words, but the punishment was awful and speedy. On 24 May, 1537, a special commission sitting at Norwich Castle condemned no fewer than eleven of the accused to be drawn, hung, beheaded, and quartered for high treason. The executions took place in different parts of the county, so as to arouse more terror. On Saturday, 26 May, Ralph Rogerson and four others were executed at Norwich; on 28 May, two more were executed at Yarmouth; on Wednesday, 30 May, Sub-Prior Nicholas Mileham and George Gysburgh perished on the scaffold at Walsingham; and on 1 June the young William Gysburgh and John Pecock, a Carmelite friar, suffered at Lynn. Several others, including two clergy, were condemned to life imprisonment.

I searched for more information about these men and their conspiracy, which was to somehow stop the suppression of the priory and the destruction of the shrine. The leader of the group, Ralph Rogerson, planned an uprising, timed for St. Eligius' Eve on June 24. Recruiting others to join the uprising led to the kind of talk that authorities were always listening for, including from those who knew about the conspiracy and didn't report it (misprision of treason).

Different accounts (from Gasquet and Elton) provide slightly different details of the lists of men and what happened to them, but it is sure that the authorities wanted to squash this conspiracy and even the thought of conspiracy in Norfork by executing clergy and laity on site: they were not taken to London for trial, but held and tried in Norwich. They weren't all executed in Norwich, but also taken to three other locations, east, west, and north of Norwich to be hanged, drawn, and quartered: Yarmouth (Great Yarmouth, on the North Sea), Lynn (Bishop's Lynn under the authority of the Bishop of Norwich until 1537 when Henry VIII took control, King's Lynn), and outside the priory in Walsingham.

Neither the clergy, Mileham and Pecock, nor the laymen, Rogerson, the Gysburghs, etc, are listed among the English martyrs as developed for a cause of canonization in the late nineteenth century, but in Walsingham, Mileham and Gysburgh are considered martyrs. There is a shrine in their honor set up in cellar of the Dowry House.

There was one notable survivor from the gutting and bloodletting at Walsingham, the prior, Richard Vowell, as the Catholic Encyclopedia recounts:

In 1537 while the last prior, Richard Vowell, was paying obsequious respect to Cromwell, the sub-prior Nicholas Milcham was charged with conspiring to rebel against the suppression of the lesser monasteries, and on flimsy evidence was convicted of high treason and hanged outside the priory walls. In July, 1538, Prior Vowell assented to the destruction of Walsingham Priory and assisted the king's commissioners in the removal of the figure of Our Lady, of many of the gold and silver ornaments and in the general spoliation of the shrine. For his ready compliance the prior received a pension of 100 pounds a year, a large sum in those days, while fifteen of the canons received pensions varying from 4 pounds to 6 pounds. The shrine dismantled, and the priory destroyed, its site was sold by order of Henry VIII to one Thomas Sidney for 90 pounds, and a private mansion was subsequently erected on the spot. 

Image creditBy John Armagh - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 ("13th-Century east-end of Walsingham Priory dominating the site")

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Cromwell's Bonfire and Our Lady of Walsingham

Did the original statue of Our Lady of Walsingham survive Thomas Cromwell's bonfire?

There's a story in The Catholic Herald suggesting that a statue identified as "Virgin and Child" and also called the  Langham Virgin in the Victoria and Albert Museum could be the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The co-author of that article, Dr. Francis Young, writes on his own blog:

We are fortunate to have a fairly detailed image of this statue, which was depicted on the seal of Walsingham Priory – although we have no way of knowing how accurate the seal’s depiction was. What can be said, however, is that what remains of the Langham Madonna is strikingly similar to the seal image. This similarity on its own, of course, is not enough to show that the Langham statue is Our Lady of Walsingham – it could be a copy of the famous statue, or just an image of a similar type from a time when portrayals of the Virgin enthroned were popular in English religious art. There are, however, good reasons to believe the Langham statue could be the famous Walsingham image – partly because it can now be shown that the provenance of the Langham Madonna was inaccurately recorded when the statue was purchased by the V&A, and partly because the statue bears physical signs of traits apparently unique to the image of Our Lady of Walsingham. The details of these arguments can be found in the original article.

Young refers to the "provenance" of the statue being inaccurately recorded: instead of what the V&A states ("Said to have come from Langham church, near Colchester, Essex"), it may have come from the Langham church near Walsingham, Norfolk. As he and Father Michael Rear wrote in The Catholic Herald article, this is not a new idea:

Confirmation of the likely error comes in a letter to the Tablet of July 25, 1931 from the Anglican priest Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton:
Recently there was discovered in an old house near Walsingham, and sold, an old wooden carved figure apparently of the 12th century which almost without any doubt is a copy of the Walsingham Image, or even, may we think? the original, saved perhaps as other relics and holy things, by means of substitution being made for the purposes of satisfying the desecrators.
Langham in Norfolk is only six miles from Walsingham. The vicar of Langham, John Grigby, was arrested in 1537 for his part in the “Walsingham Conspiracy” of Catholics who resisted the destruction of the Shrine. Langham Hall was the home of the Calthorpe family, who became notable recusants, and was inherited in 1555 by the Catholic Rookwood family of Euston, Suffolk. Although the present Langham Hall dates only from the 1820s, Langham Hall in Essex is not much older. It was built between 1756 and 1772.

British History Online provides some details about the "Walsingham Conspiracy" of 1537 although John Grigby is not mentioned:

The priory of Walsingham had a special hold on Norfolk, even in places far remote from the town. The concourse of pilgrims from all parts of England, as well as from over the seas, kept Our Lady of Walsingham vividly in mind. . . .

No wonder, then, that the suppression of the lesser monasteries in 1536, and the general upheaval of matters pertaining to the ancient faith of the populace, should have aroused much bitterness with regard to the threats against Walsingham. In April, 1537, depositions were taken before Sir Roger Townsend and Sir John Heydon against George Gysburgh, of Walsingham, charged with expressing regret that so many houses were dissolved where God was well served, and advocating a rising of the commons. George Gysburgh confessed to discussing with one, Ralph Rogerson, a rising against the suppression of the abbeys, believing that Walsingham would soon go. (fn. 45) On 3 May, Sir Roger Townsend and Richard; South well wrote to Cromwell as to the apprehension of the rest of the 'conspirators.' They had seized Nicholas Mileham, sub-prior of Walsingham, who by the confession of one, Watson, was privy to the proposals; they thought that the Gysburghs (father and son) and Ralph Rogers would make a larger confession if examined by Cromwell and others of- the council, for in their confession, so far, they did not touch the sub-prior, a man of lewd inclination. (fn. 46) On 20 May, Prior Vowell, the time-server, wrote an unctuous letter to Cromwell thanking him for favour shown to him and to his kinsman taken into the Lord Privy Seal's service; with the letter he sent 'a poor remembrance' as a further bribe to Cromwell. (fn. 47) Cromwell's accounts show that this poor remembrance was the big round sum of £100. (fn. 48)

The charge against these 'conspirators' was somewhat flimsily sustained, and their offence had certainly not gone beyond words, but the punishment was awful and speedy. On 24 May, 1537, a special commission sitting at Norwich Castle condemned no fewer than eleven of the accused to be drawn, hung, beheaded, and quartered for high treason. The executions took place in different parts of the county, so as to arouse more terror. On Saturday, 26 May, Ralph Rogerson and four others were executed at Norwich; on 28 May, two more were executed at Yarmouth; on Wednesday, 30 May, Sub-Prior Nicholas Mileham and George Gysburgh perished on the scaffold at Walsingham; and on 1 June the young William Gysburgh and John Pecock, a Carmelite friar, suffered at Lynn. Several others, including two clergy, were condemned to life imprisonment.

There is, however, an entry for the pardon John Grigby received later in 1537, in BHO's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII:

38. Will. Gybson, of Burneham, Norf., clk., Carmelite friar and co-brother of John prior of Burneham, Ric. Malyot alias Maryot, of Welles, Norf., yeoman alias mariner, John Grygeby or Greggby, of Langham, Norf., clk., rector of the parish church of Langham, Thos. Penny, of Houghton near Walsingham, husbandman, John Puntte or Punte, rector of Waterden, Norf., Rob. Hawker orHauker, of Walsingham alias of Walsingham Parva, Norf., butcher, and Will. Yonger of Walsingham alias of Feltwell, Norf., clk. Pardon of all treasons, rebellions, &c. committed by them before the 1st Aug. last. Del. Westm., 27 Nov. 29 Hen. VIII.—S.B. Pat. p. 1, m. 27.

Weep, weep, O Walsingham,
Whose days are turned to nights,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites.

Sin is where Our Lady sat,
Heaven is turned to hell,
Satan sits where Our Lord did sway
Walsingham, O farewell!

But with the restoration of the shrine in the 20th century and the Dowry Tour concluding with the rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary in 2020--and now the possibility that the original statute of Our Lady of Walsingham survived--the victorious gloatings of Latimer, Husee, and Melancthon ring hollow:

Bishop Latimer wrote a jocular letter to Cromwell in June, 1538, suggesting the burning of the image of the virgin of Walsingham and others: 'they would make a joly mustere in Smythfeld.' (fn. 56) John Husee, writing to Lord Lisle, on 18 June, also attempted to be witty on the same subject:
This day our late lady of Walsingham was brought to Lambithe (Lambeth), where was both my Lord Chancellor and my Lord Privy Seal with many virtuous prelates, but there was offered neither oblation nor candle. What shall become of her is not determined. (fn. 57)
Melancthon, on 1 November of the same year, exulted in the overthrow of the image of 'Mary by the Sea.' (fn. 58)

Among the Lady Day accounts of 1538 the usual payments were made for the king's candle, and to the king's priest who sang before Our Lady at Walsingham. But when the Michaelmas payments came round the entry runs:

'For the king's candle before Our Lady of Walsingham, and to the prior there for his salary, nil.' (fn. 59)
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!

Holy Martyrs of the English Reformation, pray for us!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Eamon Duffy on Reginald Pole

Eamon Duffy, who included a chapter on Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury in his 2017 Reformation Divided:Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England, presented a lecture for the Ordinariate's pilgrimage to Canterbury last Saturday, July 13. There's a video/audio recording of his talk uploaded here.

One of the interesting aspects of his talk is that he calls for a new biography of Reginald Pole in spite of the fact that the late Thomas F. Mayer of Augustana College wrote a biography, Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet, published by Cambridge University Press in 2000 and now available in paperback:

This is the first biography in ninety years of Reginald Pole (1500-1558), one of the most important international figures of the sixteenth century. Pole's career is followed as protege; and then harshest critic of Henry VIII, as cardinal and papal diplomat, legate of Viterbo, a nearly successful candidate for pope, and finally as legate to England, archbishop of Canterbury, architect of the English Counter-Reformation, and victim of both Pope Paul IV and of himself.
  • A comprehensive, illustrated biography of Cardinal (Reginald) Pole, one of the most influential and charismatic figures of the sixteenth century
  • Covers Pole's career from his years as Henry VIII's protégé to his years in Italy, and his return to England during the reign of Mary I as archbishop of Canterbury
  • Delves deeply into archival material, including the records of the Inquisition, and includes startling new evidence about Pole's sexual orientation [ugh]

So why does Duffy want a new biography--or perhaps one that's more accessible (price!)--than this recent effort?

Duffy's main issue is that Mayer has no sympathy for his subject: he did not like Reginald Cardinal Pole and Duffy says it shows: in fact, Duffy states, Mayer "loathed Pole"! Duffy also cites Mayer's entry for Pole in the new Dictionary of National Biography, noting the same problem.

Duffy believes that Reginald Pole was "a holy man; a troubled man" and that Mayer judges him too harshly. Mayer thought he was a hypocrite and a sham! Duffy opines that Mayer's biography of Pole is "dense" and "elusive" as this review seems to agree:

Pole's life was lived in a number of contexts; he was a cousin of Henry VIII, a major figure in the European reform, and Mary's advisor and archbishop of Canterbury. In addition to his many roles, however, Mayer argues that Pole's biography is complicated by the nature of the sources about and by him. Pole was a prolific writer, but refused the appellation, arguing that he never wrote to publish. Partly for this reason, the authorship of works attributed to him, and his circle, is confused. Further, Pole and his contemporaries wrote and rewrote his life story, both during his life and after his death. As a result of all of this textual revision, Mayer argues that "Pole always existed in two phases, the life as lived and the life as written" (p. 3). Rather than trying to evade this difficulty, Mayer has chosen to build his biography around it, giving equal focus to the texts and the man, and hoping that the juxtaposition will help to explain both. This ambitious aim has spawned more than simply the biography, which stands as the keystone to an entire Polian edifice.[2] . . .

This is not an easy book. For those who are not already familiar with the broad outlines of Pole's life, it may be difficult to follow.[3] This biography is concerned with drawing the links that lie below the surface of such a narrative, setting Pole's life in the nest of his relationships with people like Contarini, Morone, Priuli, Bembo, Carafa and Vittoria Colonna. An astonishing amount of work has gone into tracing those networks, and the density of the narrative can be dizzying at times. However, it provides a remarkable richness of context, and allows Mayer to draw a character of formidable complexity. He paints a picture of Pole as an influential thinker, a conscientious and tolerant reformer, a warm and sustaining friend and a prolific writer who was, admittedly, a bad diplomat and politician. Mayer concludes that "Pole had greatness thrust upon him and it missed" (p. 439); what strikes the reader is how effectively Pole avoided greatness. He was placed in numerous positions of influence, importance and opportunity, and regularly fled them, only to be offered another chance. Mayer argues that Pole "succeeded best in private away from the public stage" (p. 442), but given his birth, his education, and the times, it seems that Pole never had the option of privacy.

Although it's not a complete biography by any means, I think Philip Hughes' analysis of Reginald Cardinal Pole's role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation and the revival of Catholicism in England in his book Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England is masterful. Hughes notes Pole's strengths and weaknesses, as I commented in my review a couple of years ago:

Hughes covered three periods of the efforts to revive, save, and restore Catholicism in England after the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI:

looking first at the Marian efforts to re-establish the Catholic Church with the papacy and hierarchy in England (during the reign of Mary I), then the long recusant period of missionaries, martyrs, and hopes of political conquest (during the reign of Elizabeth I), and finally the divisive disasters of the effort to bring on-site leadership to the clergy and the laity with the Archpriest controversy and the Bishops of Chalcedon failures (during the reigns of James I and Charles I).

Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England is divided into three parts, one for the leading figure of the eras described above: 1) Reginald Cardinal Pole; 2) William Cardinal Allen; 3) Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon. For each man Hughes provides an insightful character sketch and analysis, noting his strengths and weaknesses. Those strengths and weaknesses contribute, of course, to each man's successes and failures.

Of Reginald Pole, Hughes demonstrates that for all his knowledge and love of Jesus and His Church, he lacked "irascible passion"; he was too ready to be a victim--and that he had "a temperament that instinctively turned from the hard, unpleasant realities of a problem to the ideal way in which it ought to be solved." (p. 43) Although Pole was a man of action and ready to promote reform and renewal, Hughes claims that he lacked audacity: he was not bold and he could not be stirred to righteous anger. Therefore, he wasn't able to take crucial action in a crisis. Nevertheless, Hughes does not blame the failure of the Marian revival and re-establishment of the Catholic Church in England on Pole's character; he acknowledges that time was the main factor. Mary and Pole died too soon to effect a long-lasting Catholic revival. They left great resources for Catholicism in England, however, in the good bishops they'd appointed, but they left also left the disastrous legacy of the burnings of Smithfield to the memory of Protestants in England. Unlike Eamon Duffy, who proposed that the prosecution of heretics was working in
Fires of Faith, Hughes notes that even this effort was made ineffective by the too early deaths of Mary and Pole, especially without a Catholic heir. The other great legacy Mary and Pole left to Catholics in England was William Allen.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Marie Borroff, RIP and Sir Gawain

The penultimate work on our Christendom Academy reading list is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Since I still have my two volume Norton anthology of English literature, I am reading the Marie Borroff translation. J.R.R. Tolkien also translated this poem from its Middle English Midlands dialect. The British Library has the only manuscript that survives (as far as we know now), which also includes three other poems: Patience, Pearl, and Cleanness. Simon Armitage, another recent translator, describes the provenance of this manuscript in the British Library collection:

We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.

To cast eyes on the manuscript, or even to shuffle the unbound pages of the Early English Text Society's facsimile edition, is to be intrigued by the handwriting: stern, stylish letters, like crusading chess pieces, fall into orderly ranks along faintly ruled lines. But the man whose calligraphy we ponder, a jobbing scribe probably, was not the author. The person who has become known as the Gawain poet remains as shadowy as the pages themselves. Among many other reasons, it is partly this anonymity which has made the poem so attractive to latter-day translators. The lack of definitive authorship seems to serve as an invitation, opening up a space within the poem for a new writer to occupy. Its comparatively recent rediscovery acts as a further draw; if Milton or Pope had put their stamp on it, or if Dr Johnson had offered an opinion, or if Keats or Coleridge or Wordsworth had drawn it into their orbit, such an invitation might now appear less forthcoming. . . .

Please read the rest, and view the illustrations from the manuscript, there.

As I was reading--aloud--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Marie Borroff's translation, I looked her up and discovered that she died on July 5 at the age of 95. Yale University, where she taught as Sterling Professor of English, provided this tribute:

“Marie Borroff will be remembered not only because of her place in Yale history but because she exemplified excellence and demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the university’s mission,” says Peter Salovey, ’86 Ph.D., President of Yale and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology. “A superb scholar, dedicated educator, and exemplary community citizen, she mentored scores of students and made critical contributions on and beyond our campus through her writing, translation, and teaching. Yale mourns the passing of one of its greats.”

Professor Borroff was born in New York City the daughter of professional musicians Marie Bergerson and Raymond Borroff. The family moved to Chicago in 1941, and it was there that she received an undergraduate degree and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. Later, she earned a doctorate in English literature and philology from Yale. She began her teaching career at Smith College, and in 1959 became the first woman appointed to Yale’s Department of English. In 1965 she was appointed as a professor of English, making her one of the first two women granted tenure in any department of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and in 1991 she became the first woman to be named a Sterling Professor, the highest honor bestowed on a Yale faculty member.

A scholar of medieval and Anglo Saxon literature and philologist by training, Professor Borroff extended her scholarship and teaching to what she called “the language of poetry and the poetry of language.” Her critical book-length studies, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Stylistic and Metrical Study” (1962) and “Language and the Poet: Verbal Artistry in Frost, Stevens and Moore” (1979), received accolades, as did her many articles and editions on the history of the language and modern poets.

“Marie held the whole history of English poetry in her mind and shared it with generation after generation of Yale students,” says Langdon Hammer, the Neil Gray Jr. professor of English and chair of the Department of English at Yale.

A poignant line from the end of the obituary: "Her death signals the end of an age."

An age of scholarship and beauty, of reverence for the past, and dedication to excellence, I presume. Not an age of political correctness, doxxing, and deconstruction!

Here is a poem she wrote titled "Understanding Poetry."

May she rest in peace.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

St. James the Greater and the English Reformation

Today is the Feast of St. James, the son of Zebedee, also called the Greater, one of the Twelve Apostles, not to be confused with St. James the Lesser or St. James the Just, the bishop of Jerusalem. He is renowned today because of the popularity of the Camino de Santiago and his shrine church in Compostela, Spain. Pilgrims walk the Camino to visit his shrine and gain the Indulgences of the pilgrimage.

There was an English route to the shrine which began in either A Coruña (Corunna) or Ferrol on the coast. After crossing the seas from England, Ireland, or Northern Europe, the pilgrims walked at least 75 kilometers or 46 miles. This was also a major trade route during the late Middle Ages.

Of course, once pilgrimages and other devotions to the saints, including the saints previously honored in England like Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Thomas of Canterbury, were discouraged, this pilgrimage to Spain from England was curtailed. William Farina, in his Saint James the Greater in History, Art and Culture, further suggests that there was a great animosity in England toward this traditional devotion to St. James the Greater because it was in Spain. He notes that Henry VIII named St. James Palace in the City of Westminster for St. James the Lesser "in direct opposition to the popular Spanish cult"--even though the Palace was built on the site of a former leper hostel named for St. James the Lesser, so perhaps it wasn't such direct opposition but continuity with the past. Farina also interprets several passages from Shakespeare plays, especially naming one of his greater villains, Iago in Othello, after the (Spanish) saint, as displaying not only national English animosity, but Shakespeare's personal animosity to Saint James the Greater because of his shrine in Spain, even though there were many churches in England dedicated to this saint. Finally, Farina states that more churches were built in England after the Break from Rome dedicated to St. James the Lesser than to St. James the Greater, although he does not provide any evidence of that assertion. Usually, St. James the Lesser is combined with St. Philip as in their shared feast Saints Philip and James in May.

We do know, however, that Sir Francis Drake's excursions into Spain provoked fear that English forces would desecrate the shrine of Santiago de Compostela, as this website explains:

In May 1589, faced with the fear of an attack on Compostela by the English troops of Francis Drake, whose ships were attacking Corunna, Archbishop Juan de Sanclemente ordered the concealment of the body of the apostle in the presbytery of the Cathedral. Its exact location was unknown for several centuries until 1879, the year of the second discovery of the apostolic remains.

So the conflict between England and Spain during the reigns of Elizabeth I and Philip II indirectly impacted the shrine of Saint James the Greater at Compostela, even though the Spanish forces at Corunna was prepared to thwart his attack.

In England, however, there was a Spanish presence and embassy chapel in London throughout the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I as the parish church now called St. James-Spanish Place explains:

In the reign of Elizabeth I the Bishops of Ely let their palace and chapel in Ely Place to the Spanish Ambassador, and until the reign of Charles I it was occupied by the representative of the Court of Spain. During this period the chapel was freely used by English Catholics and became a place of sanctuary for them.

St. James-Spanish Place celebrates its patronal feast today with a Solemn Pontifical Mass and glorious music, its choir accompanied by His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts:

Mass Andrea Gabrieli 
Plaudite omnis terra Giovanni Gabrieli 
Iubilate Deo a 15 Giovanni Gabrieli 
O quam suavis est Giovanni Gabrieli 
O lux et decus Hispaniae Victoria (O light and grace of Spain,
most holy James, you who were the first among the apostles, were the first of them to wear a martyr’s crown. Alleluia.)
Canzon a 13 Pietro Lappi

St. James the Greater, pray for us!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Santo Subito: Newman, Church History, and the Church

So Anna Mitchell and I will talk about Blessed John Henry Newman and Church History on the Son Rise Morning Show at 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. This is part of our Santo Subito! Series before his canonization on Sunday, October 13 this year.

As G.K. Chesterton commented about the Catholic Church, it “is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.” Newman found that out as has every other convert and many Catholics who were born into Catholic families and grew up with Catholic education, the Sacraments, piety, and devotion: the world has various ideas about the Catholic Church that are just wrong, but you have to be inside to realize how wrong they are. Newman had been part of that world as an Anglican and Oxford student, tutor, and fellow. The Catholic Church is superstitious, repressive, and mendacious, that view says: its history is false, its practitioners weak-minded, and its doctrine pernicious. He believed all that before he entered into the Church in its fullness; then as Chesterton wrote in his poem "The Convert"*, "the world turned over and came upright"* and Newman knew the truth and entered into the mystery of the "one, true fold of Christ."

But so many of his friends and contemporaries remained in the world and they could not accept that he had accepted all that the Catholic Church teaches. They could never understand how a man of such intellect and erudition--a former Fellow of one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford! an ordained Anglican minister! one of them!--could become a Catholic. Newman had to get used to some aspects of it himself because he was a Catholic in a Protestant and prejudiced country: Catholicism was absolutely foreign to the England. That's why he was continually accused of lying and reports of his return to the Church of England were so common. It's one thing for an Irish peasant or a woman to believe all that superstitious priestcraft, but for an Englishman! They had to acknowledge his brilliance and prose style, but that praise is superficial because they could not get inside: their ignorance of and prejudice toward Catholicism stymied them.

Although he tried in various works to persuade them, they could never accept that view: like him before 1839, they might know about the history of the Catholic Church, they might even acknowledge some of her achievements, but they still believed that the pope was the Antichrist. Of course, Newman did not write a narrative history of the Catholic Church, but he wrote about Church History often, and defended the Church based upon his study of her History from the Fathers through the English Reformation and beyond. Newman tried to make Anglicans and other Protestants in England understand that their mistaken views of Catholicism meant that they did not understand Christian history at all--nor could they really know Who Jesus IS and what He teaches us about the Father and ourselves. Newman also worked to help other converts to become more fully Catholic in the midst of a world, including their families, friends, and entire social milieu, which believed all the worst anyone ever could of Catholics, English, Irish, Italian, or French--or even American, should they encounter a Catholic from the U.S.A.!

For an example of this, peruse the letters he sent to his nephew, John Rickards Mozley (Jemima's son), which Mozley published in 1899. Mozley wrote to him with the usual attacks on the Catholic Church and Her History and Newman replied in one letter, written in 1875:

But leaving the highest and truest outcome of the Catholic Church and descending to history, certainly I would maintain firmly, with most writers on the Evidences, that, as the Church has a dark side, so (as you do not seem to admit) it has a light side also, and that its good has been more potent and permanent and evidently intrinsic to it than its evil. Here, of course, we have to rely on the narrative of historians, if we have not made a study of original documents ourselves. It would be a long business (assuming their correctness), but an easy business too, to show how Christianity has raised the moral standard, tone, and customs of human society; and it must be recollected that for 1500 years Christianity and the Catholic Church are in history identical. The care and elevation of the lower classes, the championship of the weak against the powerful, the abolition of slavery, hospitals, the redemption of captives, education of children, agriculture, literature, the cultivation of the virtues of piety, devotion, justice, charity, chastity, family affection, are all historical monuments of the influence and teaching of the Church. Turn to the non-Catholic historians, to Gibbon, Voigt, Hurter, Guizot, Ranke, Waddington, Bowden, Milman, and you will find that they agree in their praises, as well as in their accusations, of the Catholic Church. Guizot says that Christianity would not have weathered the barbarism of the Middle Age but for the Church. Milman says almost or altogether the same. Neander sings the praises of the monks. Hurter was converted by his historical researches. Ranke shows how the Popes fought against the savageness of the Spanish Inquisition. Bowden brings out visibly how the cause of Hildebrand was the cause of religion and morals. If in the long line there be bad as well as good Popes, do not forget that long succession, continuous and thick, of holy and heroic men, all subjects of the Popes, and most of them his direct instruments in the most noble and serviceable and most various works, and some of them Popes themselves, such as Patrick, Leo, Gregory, Augustine, Boniface, Columban, Alfred, Wulstan, Queen Margaret of Scotland, Louis IX., Vincent Ferrer, Las Casas, Turibius, Xavier, Vincent of Paul—all of whom, as multitudes besides, in their day were the life of religion.

In another letter he responded to questions about the Inquisition, etc:

It is on the Inquisition that you mainly dwell; the question is whether such enormity of cruelty, as is commonly ascribed to it, is to be considered the act of the Church. As to Dr. Ward in the Dublin Review, his point (I think) was not the question of cruelty, but whether persecution, such as in Spain, was unjust; and with the capital punishment prescribed in the Mosaic law for idolatry, blasphemy, and witchcraft, and St. Paul's transferring the power of the sword to Christian magistrates, it seems difficult to call persecution (commonly so called) unjust. I suppose in like manner he would not deny, but condemn, the craft and cruelty, and the wholesale character of St. Bartholomew's Massacre; but still would argue in the abstract in defence of the magistrate's bearing the sword, and of the Church's sanctioning its use, in the aspect of justice, as Moses, Joshua, and Samuel might use it, against heretics, rebels, and cruel and crafty enemies.

I think such insane acts as St. Bartholomew's Massacre were prompted by mortal fear. The French Court considered (rightly or wrongly) that if they did not murder the Huguenots, the Huguenots would murder them. Thus I explain Pope Gregory's hasty approbation of so great a crime, without waiting to hear both sides. After a period of luxury and sloth, the sudden outburst of the Reformation frightened the Court of Rome out of its wits, and there were those who thought the one thing needful was to put it down anyhow, as the destruction, at least eventually, of all religion, morality, and society. Perhaps they were right in this fear; and thus they got mixed up with mere politicians, unscrupulous men, and became in the eyes of posterity answerable for deeds which were not properly theirs. I was reading the other day a defence of Pius V. against Lord Acton, the point of which was that in no sense was it the Pope who sanctioned the plot for assassinating Elizabeth, but, the Duke of Alva. Yet who can deny, true as this may be, still that to readers of history the Pope and the Duke are in one boat? Then, again, their agents, or the sovereigns who sought their sanction for certain courses or measures, went far beyond the intention of the Popes, who nevertheless, from their political entanglements, could not resume the powers that they had once given over to them. A large society, such as the Church, is necessarily a political power, and to touch politics is to touch pitch. A private Catholic is not answerable for the Pope's political errors, any more than the shareholder in a railway in 1875 is answerable for the railway's accidents in 1860, nay, or in 1875.

Evidently, Mozley just kept asking new questions:

You now ask me whether I agree or disagree with your judgment "that the Church of Rome, as a society, has sometimes done, more often sanctioned, actions, which were wrong and injurious to mankind." I find no difficulty in answering you. I should say that the Church has two sides, a human and a divine, and that everything that is human is liable to error. Whether, so considered, it has in matter of fact erred must be determined by history, and, for the very reason that it is human as well as divine, I am disposed to believe it has, even before the fact has been proved to me from history. At the same time I must add that I do not quite acquiesce in the wording of your question. It sounds awkward to ask, e.g., "Has the Kingdom of England done or sanctioned wrong?" It would be more natural to say, "Has the nation done wrong, or the sovereign, or the legislature done wrong, or all of these together"? I have no difficulty in supposing that Popes have erred, or Councils have erred, or populations have erred, in human aspects, because, as St. Paul says, "We have this treasure in earthly vessels," speaking of the Apostles themselves. No one is impeccable, and no collection of men.

I grant that the Church's teaching, which in its formal exhibitions is divine, has been at times perverted by its officials, representatives, subjects, who are human. I grant that it has not done so much good as it might have done. I grant that in its action, which is human, it is a fair mark for criticism or blame. But what I maintain is, that it has done an incalculable amount of good, that it has done good of a special kind, such as no other historical polity or teaching or worship has done, and that that good has come from its professed principles, and that its shortcomings and omissions have come from a neglect or an interruption of its principles.

The question that remains is, Has that which claims to be divine in the Church sanctioned that which is human and faulty in it? I maintain, No . . .

How much his nephew was impressed by his estranged uncle's explanations of Church History may be judged by Mozley's comment when he published the letters: "The Cardinal's answers to the questions of which the above is a summary will certainly be found extremely interesting."

*Chesterton's poem, The Convert:

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Preview: Newman and Church History

On Monday, July 22, I'll continue my series on the Son Rise Morning Show preparing for Blessed John Henry Newman's canonization on Sunday, October 13. Anna Mitchell and I will discuss "Newman and Church History" for a few minutes at 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

In his Apologia pro Vita Sua, Newman describes two books he read when he was 15 and the effects they had on him for many years:

Now I come to two other works, which produced a deep impression on me in the same autumn of 1816, when I was fifteen years old, each contrary to each, and planting in me the seeds of an intellectual inconsistency which disabled me for a long course of years. I read Joseph Milner's Church History, and was nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians: but simultaneously with Milner I read Newton on the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 1843; it had been obliterated from my reason and judgment at an earlier date; but the thought remained upon me as a sort of false conscience. Hence came that conflict of mind, which so many have felt besides myself;—leading some men to make a compromise between two ideas, so inconsistent with each other,—driving others to beat out the one idea or the other from their minds,—and ending in my own case, after many years of intellectual unrest, in the gradual decay and extinction of one of them,—I do not say in its violent death, for why should I not have murdered it sooner, if I murdered it at all?

So on the one hand, Newman, influenced by Joseph Milner's The History of the Church of Christ (the book's full title), had learned about the Fathers of the Church, which would be in some ways the source of the final impetus of his becoming Catholic and on the other hand by Sir Isaac Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John he was convinced that Pope was the Antichrist and thus had a strong animus toward the Catholic Church. It would be through his study of the Fathers of the Church that he would first intellectually and then religiously cast aside that prejudice against the Catholic Church and the Pope. 

That's why he wrote at the beginning of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine that "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant". His reading of the Fathers of the Church and his interest in Church History led him to see as he famously summarized in the Apologia pro Vita Sua, that the Catholic Church had always upheld the true doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Person of Jesus, the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, and that the Protestant Church or the Anglican Church would always choose the wrong side in those historic early disputes:

About the middle of June I began to study and master the history of the Monophysites. I was absorbed in the doctrinal question. This was from about June 13th to August 30th. It was during this course of reading that for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness of Anglicanism. I recollect on the 30th of July mentioning to a friend, whom I had accidentally met, how remarkable the history was; but by the end of August I was seriously alarmed.

I have described in a former work, how the history affected me. My stronghold was Antiquity; now here, in the middle of the fifth century, I found, as it seemed to me, Christendom of the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians. Of all passages of history, since history has been, who would have thought of going to the sayings and doings of old Eutyches, that delirus senex, as (I think) Petavius calls him, and to the enormities of the unprincipled Dioscorus, in order to be converted to Rome!

Now let it be simply understood that I am not writing controversially, but with the one object of relating things as they happened to me in the course of my conversion. With this view I will quote a passage from the account, which I gave in 1850, of my reasonings and feelings in 1839:

"It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so,—almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the sixteenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters of the old world, with the shape and lineaments of the new. The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together, except by its aid; and the civil power was ever aiming at comprehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and substituting expediency for faith. What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches, and turning devil's advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright, as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God! anathema to a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels! perish the names of Bramhall, Ussher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow from the face of the earth, ere I should do aught but fall at their feet in love and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on my tongue!"

Note that the Monophysites and the Eutychians denied the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine, in one Divine Person.

He still had to fight that old prejudice against Catholics and the Papacy, but Newman was on his way to becoming a Catholic. The history of the Early Church of the Fathers had been the basis of his efforts to build the Via Media of the Church of England. In July of 1839 he had become uncertain about those foundations; in August of 1839 they had crumbled beneath him after he had read Father Nicholas Wiseman in the Dublin Review, comparing Anglicanism to Donatism and citing St. Augustine of Hippo:

For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the "Turn again Whittington" of the chime; or, to take a more serious one, they were like the "Tolle, lege,—Tolle, lege," of the child, which converted St. Augustine himself. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum!" By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized.

The Donatists were schismatics in Africa from 311 to 411 with whom St. Augustine of Hippo contended.

More about Newman and Church History on Monday. Here is some background on the two books Newman read when he was 15 years old. From the Dictionary of National Biography entry on Joseph Milner:

As a writer Milner is chiefly known in connection with ‘The History of the Church of Christ’ which bears his name, though the literary history of that work is a curious medley. The excellent and somewhat novel idea of the book is no doubt exclusively his. He was painfully struck by the fact that most church histories were in reality little more than records of the errors and disputes of Christians, and thus too often played into the hands of unbelievers. Perhaps the recent publication of Gibbon's ‘Decline and Fall’ (first volume, 1776) strengthened this feeling. At any rate his object was to bring out into greater prominence the bright side of church history. ‘The terms “church” and “Christian,”’ he says, ‘in their natural sense respect only good men. Such a succession of pious men in all ages existed, and it will be no contemptible use of such a history as this if it prove that in every age there have been real followers of Christ.’ With this end in view he brought out the first three volumes— vol. i. in 1794, vol. ii. in 1795, and vol. iii. in 1797. Then death cut short his labours; but even in these first three volumes the hand of Isaac as well as of Joseph may be found, and after Joseph's death Isaac published in 1800 a new and greatly revised edition of vol. i. Vols. ii. and iii. did not require so much revision, because they had been corrected by Isaac in manuscript. In 1803 appeared vol. iv., and in 1809 vol. v., both edited by Isaac, but still containing much of Joseph's work.

Newman is referring to Sir Isaac Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John. The Newton Project comments:

Like most radical Protestants, Newton was keenly interested in the interpretation of Biblical prophecy. However, he believed that God had specially chosen him to deliver the truth about how prophetic texts were to be understood. A central plank of his general prophetic outlook was that images of the vials and trumpets described in the Book of Revelation referred to key events in the downfall of Roman Catholicism. In another remarkable treatise that can be dated to the late 1680s, Newton discussed what he believed would happen to the elect during Jesus’s thousand year reign immediately after his Second Coming. He suggested that Christ would reign with saints over a kingdom of mortals on Earth that would continue to produce successive generations of people until the end of time.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Papal Primacy in Pastor Aeternus

As today is the anniversary of the definition of the Church's teaching on Papal Primacy and Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, here are some comments from Father John Trigilio  at Legatus:

Papal primacy is the concept that the bishop of Rome (the pope) is the universal pastor and supreme head of the Catholic Church. He has full, supreme, immediate, and universal jurisdictional authority to govern the Church.

This means that no bishop, synod, or council of bishops can override his authority. His teaching authority is defined in the doctrine of papal infallibility. His governing authority is contained in papal primacy.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers the bishop of Rome to have a primacy in honor among the five patriarchs of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. They do not recognize his primacy in jurisdiction, however.

Every bishop in the Catholic Church must be approved by the pope and receive a papal mandate before being ordained and consecrated to the episcopacy, and it is the pope who confers on that bishop the authority to govern the diocese to which he has been appointed.

The First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility and papal primacy. “All the faithful of Christ must believe that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and that the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church and faith, and teacher of all Christians.”

The charism of infallibility is exercised only when the pope issues an ex cathedra statement on faith and morals or when he proposes a teaching united with all the bishops of the world. Unlike divine inspiration of scripture, where God directed the sacred authors to write only what he wanted them to write, infallibility means there are no moral or doctrinal errors present in the statement.

And here's a conversation on these doctrines on Thinking With the Church:

These teachings – of an Ecumenical Council – are to be held by all the faithful on pain of mortal sin: to deny them is to separate oneself from the Body of Christ.

Only, what do these teachings mean?

More importantly, what don’t they mean?

Where did they come from?

Why did the Fathers of the I Vatican Council bother with them at all, and why do we bother with them today, when the Papacy as an institution often appears rather to be an impediment to Christian unity than anything else (and don’t be upset with me – I didn’t say it, Pope St. John Paul II did in Ut unum sint, 96).

This week, we explore these questions and others with Christopher Wells, a theologian doing Doctoral work at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, who has written extensively on both subjects, especially their treatment in the thought and writings of the great 19th Century theologian and Churchman, Henry Edward Cardinal Manning.

Among other comments, Christopher Wells contrasts Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, noting that the former did not use his primacy or authority as much as he could have, while the latter uses his primacy and authority as much as he can.

I'm still reading--in between assigned reading for my summer school classes at the Spiritual Life Center's Christendom Academy--Adam DeVille's Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cause of the Irish Martyrs

As announced, the Archdiocese of Armagh celebrated the 350th anniversary of St. Oliver Plunkett's appointment as the Archbishop of Armagh in 1669 as described by The Irish Catholic:

People from across the country braved a three-day pilgrimage in honour of St Oliver Plunkett this week, which culminated in the unveiling of a statue of the martyred saint.

A Mass dedicated to the annual procession of the holy relics of St Oliver, as well as commemorating the 350th anniversary of his appointment as Archbishop of Armagh, took place before 100 pilgrims began their 100km trek.

Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrated the Mass on Sunday in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, Co. Louth, opening a triduum of prayer across the Archdiocese of Armagh.

The statue of St Oliver was unveiled on Tuesday evening. It was commissioned by Archbishop Martin and cast in bronze by Dublin-sculptor Dony McManus.

The seven-foot high statue depicts St Oliver in the final moments of his earthly life.

The saint is in Ecce Homo pose with his hands bound behind his back.

Pictures from the unveiling may be seen at the website of the Archdiocese of Armagh, accompanied by Archbishop Eamon Martin's homily.

In other news from The Irish Catholic, an explanation for the delay in the cause of many Irish martyrs and news of the renewal of their cause at the diocesan level:

Ireland could be set to have 42 more martyrs recognised by the Church in the near future, with Archbishop Eamon Martin revealing that the process of readying their causes for submission to Rome is at “an advanced stage”.

Speaking to
The Irish Catholic at Drogheda’s annual celebration of St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop Martin said that while his 17th-Century predecessor is Ireland’s most famous martyr, Irish Catholics can look to the examples of many others who heroically gave their lives for the Faith. . . .

According to the Archdiocese of Dublin, which administers the Irish Martyrs Fund, after the beatification of 17 Irish martyrs in 1992 work continued on a second group of 42 martyrs and a positio – a dossier of documentation pertaining to them – was prepared in 1998. . . .

It appears, however, that the positio was never forwarded to the Vatican. Following the 2016 death of Msgr John Hanley, postulator of the martyrs’ causes, the positio was discovered in an examination of his papers.

“Just over two years ago, the papers were consigned to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and they must be verified regarding their completeness by the relevant office of the Holy See,” a diocesan spokesperson said. “On completion of the examination the second phase of the process can be opened.”

The position contains 18 dossiers, covering 41 Irish people and one English Carmelite priest all killed between 1572 and 1655. The martyrs include 10 lay men and two lay women, with such individuals, Dr Martin said in Drogheda, being especially important examples for today’s Catholics.

St. Oliver Plunkett, pray for us! Holy martyrs of Ireland, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Thomas More changed the course of the narrative"

In a presentation on June 25, 2019, Richard Rex spoke in Dublin -- in the Church Blessed John Henry Newman built for the Catholic University of Ireland, which is under the stewardship of the University of Notre Dame as the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason -- on what Hilary Mantel has done to the reputation of St. Thomas More for the sake of elevating the reputation of Thomas Cromwell. The Iona Institute website offers this introduction:

Professor Richard Rex of Queen’s College, Cambridge, addressed a packed University Church in Dublin last week on the topic: The Two Thomases, namely Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. In particular, he examined the portrayal of both in Hilary Mantel’s best-selling and widely-praised novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Professor Rex, who lectures in Reformation and Tudor history, offers a wry, learned and ultimately devastating analysis of how Mantel essentially reversed the personalities and characters of both men.

As Professor Rex . . . says: “They are two of the emblematic figures of English history: More, the defender of the Catholic Church in England against the tyrannical pretensions of Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England; and Cromwell, the pliant instrument of tyranny. Robert Bolt’s
A Man for All Seasons cast More as a liberal hero of freedom of conscience and Cromwell as the ruthless agent of State pragmatism. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has reversed those polarities for a new age, with Cromwell now the apostle of humanist tolerance and More the hate-filled prophet of religious fanaticism. My aims this evening are to investigate and document this reversal, to show how it was achieved, and to speculate on why it has enjoyed so much success. The key to this final aim is the idea that Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell have, in one little cultural niche, served to embody or represent the changing position of the Catholic Church in modern – or postmodern – western culture. But before we come to that we must unpack and unpick the role reversal and comment on its rationality and plausibility.”

Or as Professor Rex says elsewhere in his address: “To destroy More, the symbol of Catholicism, More must be diminished to the scale of an ant, that Cromwell may trample upon him. Mantel’s fiction shows us a nasty man getting his Tudor come-uppance. History shows us something rather different.”

You may watch video of the presentation here. The Iona Institute website also provides a link to the text of the presentation (which contains some additional material). One of the more interesting insights to me was Professor Rex's analysis of how "Thomas More changed the course of the narrative" that is, changed what Hilary Mantel planned to write:

According to the author, Wolf Hall was originally conceived as a single novel, retelling the rise and fall of its hero. However, as she got to grips with the events of 1534-35, in which Thomas More was targeted and ultimately destroyed by the regime for his refusal to go along with Henry’s assumption of the title of Supreme Head, under Christ, of the Church of England, she found the duel between More and Cromwell irresistibly dramatic. One sees her point. This duel became the dominant theme of the narrative, with a natural end in More’s execution. Thus the original novel was therefore recast as a trilogy, each closed by a beheading: Thomas More in 1535, Anne Boleyn in 1536, and, presumably, in the final volume, which has now been promised for next year, Cromwell himself in 1540. What you should note is that Thomas More changed the course of the narrative. In a sense, I would argue, he took over the story, despite his allotted role as a merely secondary presence within it. More’s impact on the story itself serves to undermine the author’s intentions and assumptions and assertions. Crucially, it was the portrayal of More, not that of Cromwell, which accounts for Wolf Hall’s early vogue.

The bold emphasis is in the text as downloaded. He later comments:

As one review of Wolf Hall put it, ‘you cannot back Cromwell without spitting on More’. If you can’t back Cromwell without spitting on More, can you back More without spitting on Cromwell? You certainly can’t back both horses. But you can esteem and praise More, even making room for appropriate criticism, without really having to take Cromwell into account at all. Bolt and Mantel once again offer a useful contrast. In A Man for All Seasons, Cromwell is definitely down among the ‘minor characters’ in the credits. But in Wolf Hall, Thomas More is central to the action. This imbalance reflects reality, despite the author. Thomas More has never been forgotten. People fell over themselves to write his biography, even in the Tudor era. The biographies by William Roper, Nicholas Harpsfield, and Thomas Stapleton all survive. The one written by William Rastell is preserved only in a few stray fragments. There have been more editions just of Roper’s Life of More than there have been biographies of Cromwell. Not a century has gone by without its share of biographies of More. No one rushed to write the life of Cromwell. . . .

And Rex concludes with Mantel's own comments about Holbein's portrait of Cromwell at the Frick:

And in the case of Cromwell and More, the pictures are there for us to see. They can be seen in the Frick Collection in New York, where More and Cromwell gaze at each other across a fireplace, captured by the hand of the sixteenth century’s greatest portraitist, Holbein. The author of Wolf Hall herself describes his Cromwell as an ‘incredibly dead picture’. The art critic Waldemar Januszczak more memorably labels Cromwell ‘the least attractive sitter in the whole of Holbein’s art’. The picture is the evidence. A great painter, they say, paints not just the face but the soul. And Holbein’s More is famously and sublimely living. This is the evidence: Cromwell – dead, dull; More – alive, alert. Holbein got it. Seeing is believing. But there’s none so blind as them that will not see.

A full quote
of Waldemar Januszczak on the contrast between the portraits: 

That is why I recommend a visit to the Living Hall at the Frick Collection, and a good gawp at Holbein’s portraits of More and Cromwell. Holbein was there. He knew them both. So what does he make of them?

Of More, he makes one of the most noble presences in the whole of British portraiture. Determined. Handsome. Resolute. With his velvet sleeves and his gold chain, More is a man of rank, but there’s something kindly about his face, too. And in the exact capturing of his five-o’clock shadow, Holbein has produced one of his finest records of the true textures of humanity.

On the other side of the fireplace, the new hero of
Wolf Hall, Cromwell, has none of those qualities. Indeed, with his piggy eyes and his veal-like complexion, he is one of Holbein’s least appealing sitters. He’s shown at a desk, writing. A death warrant, perhaps. Or further instructions for the destruction of a monastery. As soon as I saw him, that famous observation by Hannah Arendt about the “banality of evil” flashed into my thoughts.

So, who to trust? Holbein, who was there? Or Hilary Mantel, who is a great writer, and a worthy winner of the Booker prize? Over to you.

"Over to you" is a weak conclusion!

Rex, in contrast, presents a devastating critique of Mantel's vaunted historical accuracy and how people have fallen for her anachronistically "nice" Thomas Cromwell.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Book Review: "Mary's Bodily Assumption"

At the Eighth Day Institute Florovsky-Newman Week in June, the topic of the two Marian Doctrines proclaimed infallibly by Popes Pius IX and XII came up in the context of the discussion of authority in the Catholic Church. Pope Pius IX proclaimed the infallible doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception in 1854 before the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870. Pope Pius XII exercised papal infallibility in making a doctrinal definition "ex cathedra" for the first and only time since the First Vatican Council in 1950. In both instances, the pious popes conferred with Catholic bishops around the world--not at an Ecumenical Council--to determine if these doctrines about the Mother of God should be defined and proclaimed. Therefore Popes Pius IX and XII spoke as Blessed John Henry Newman summarized it when explaining the definition of Papal Infallibility to William Ewart Gladstone in 1875:
He speaks ex cathedrâ, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the Universal Teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the Apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision.
I decided to read more about the doctrine of the Assumption--because of a comment one of the other attendees made, that this definition was easier to accept than that of the Immaculate Conception-- and found (at Eighth Day Books) Matthew Levering's book from the University of Notre Dame Press:

In Mary’s Bodily Assumption, Matthew Levering presents a contemporary explanation and defense of the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption. He asks: How does the Church justify a doctrine that does not have explicit biblical or first-century historical evidence to support it? With the goal of exploring this question more deeply, he divides his discussion into two sections, one historical and the other systematic.

Levering’s historical section aims to retrieve the rich Mariological doctrine of the mid-twentieth century. He introduces the development of Mariology in Catholic Magisterial documents, focusing on Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Munificentissimus Deus of 1950, in which the bodily Assumption of Mary was dogmatically defined, and two later Magisterial documents, Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater. Levering addresses the work of the neo-scholastic theologians Joseph Duhr, Aloïs Janssens, and Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange before turning to the great theologians of the nouvelle théologie—Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Louis Bouyer, Joseph Ratzinger—and their emphasis on biblical typology. Using John Henry Newman as a guide, Levering organizes his systematic section by the three pillars of the doctrine on which Mary’s Assumption rests: biblical typology, the Church as authoritative interpreter of divine revelation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the fittingness of Mary’s Assumption in relation to the other mysteries of faith.

Levering’s ecumenical contribution is a significant engagement with Protestant biblical scholars and theologians; it is also a reclamation of Mariology as a central topic in Catholic theology.

The actual text of the book is 152 pages, the notes comprise 71 pages, and the bibliography 35, plus an index. I have not read all of the notes, which are substantial.

I appreciated Levering's method of exposition as outlined in the summary above. He limits his discussion to the 20th century, describing the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the different theological schools and how they explored the meaning this teaching--their speculative theology--and how in the case of Karl Rahner it led to correction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Not having read any of Joseph Ratzinger's speculative theology before, Levering's description of his work on the Assumption surprised me.

His exploration of typological interpretation of the Holy Bible as practiced by three Protestant theologians, Richard B. Hays, Peter Ens, and Peter Leithart, seemed to balance exposition of their thoughts and his reaction to their limitations of biblical interpretation by the historical-critical method fairly.

What I appreciated even more was Levering's references to two of Blessed John Henry Newman's Discourses to Mixed Congregations, "The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son" and "The Fitness of the Glories of Mary", although I was surprised that he did not also include Newman's thoughts on Mary as the New Eve from the Letter to Pusey. Nevertheless, the last two chapters present an excellent argument for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary based first on "The Authority of the Church as Interpreter of Revelation" (Chapter 5) and then on "The Fittingness of Mary's Assumption in God's Economy of Salvation" (Chapter 6).

In Chapter 5, Levering begins with the views of the Lutheran Jaroslav Pelikan (who later--eight years before his death in 2006--became an Orthodox Christian/member of the Orthodox Church in America) that Pope Pius XII had committed "A Papal Usurpation of Authority". Then Levering, led by Newman, explores themes of the Church's interpretative authority: Scripture, Community, Doctrine with biblical examples: "Elijah and the Priests of Baal: "I, even I only, am left" and "Jesus Christ and the People of God". Then he looks at the Church as "the pillar and ground of the Truth" in Church, Liturgy, Dogma.

In Chapter 6, Levering looks at the Church's interpretation of major Christian truths and how they support the fitting reality that the Mother of God would be given the privilege of a Bodily Assumption: "Creation and Fall", "The Election of Israel", and "The Incarnation of the Word". Through the story of the Visitation and Mary's great Magnificat, Levering shows that as the Father elected Israel as His special people and nation, He chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and thus gave her this special privilege. She did not do it herself; He did it for her!

In his Conclusion, Levering admits that his arguments may not convince Protestants that Mary was assumed into Heaven or convince Orthodox that the Catholic Church should have proclaimed her Bodily Assumption as a doctrine, but he does hope that he has presented 20th and 21st century Catholic on this doctrine cogently. The late, great Monsignor William Carr always told us at the Newman Center that Mary's Assumption was the great sign for us of the victory over Death that Jesus Christ has won for us. As she represents the Church in Heaven, she represents our hope for eternal life with the Holy Trinity. Levering echoes this: "Each August 15, then, the Church liturgically celebrates the wondrous truth that, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Mary has become the first to receive the promise that we are to be "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . . (Romans 8:17)"

Highly recommended!! For more on Newman and the Blessed Virgin Mary, see this from The International Centre of Newman Friends.