Monday, May 31, 2021

From Newman to Macaulay to More to Richard Brothers and Prince Hohenlohe?

I apologize for the blogging drought. I've been working on an academic paper for the 4th annual Florovsky-Newman Week sponsored by Eighth Day Institute (EDI). Writing about Newman's religious opinions about Baptism and the Church from 1816 to 1828 has meant that I've been reading his Apologia pro Vita Sua and other works, including Ian Ker's biography of Newman and a book I think is now out of print (The Church. . . . .A Communion--in the preaching and thought of John Henry Newman by James Tolhurst DD, Gracewing, 1991).

In the Apologia, I was mostly working in the first chapter, "History of My Religious Opinions to the Year 1833" but I did skip to the fifth chapter, "Position of My Mind Since 1845". In his introduction to the Penguin edition of the Apologia, Father Ian Ker says the last chapter should be read separately to help us understand Newman's thoughts about the Catholic Church in the mid to late nineteenth century.

In Chapter 5, Newman proclaims that after becoming a Catholic, he had “no further history of my religious opinions to narrate”. Of course he was still thinking about theological and doctrinal matters, but he didn't have to form private judgments about them in the same way as he did before. For instance, he mentions the teaching on transubstantiation:

People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible, to imagine, I grant;—but how is it difficult to believe?

Then he cites a comment by Thomas Babington Macaulay:

Yet Macaulay thought it so difficult to believe, that he had need of a believer in it of talents as eminent as Sir Thomas More, before he could bring himself to conceive that the Catholics of an enlightened age could resist "the overwhelming force of the argument against it." "Sir Thomas More," he says, "is one of the choice specimens of wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test, will stand any test."

So I searched for the source of that quotation. It is from Thomas Babington Macaulay's review of Leopold von Ranke's History of the Popes. Here is a fuller quotation:

But when we reflect that Sir Thomas More was ready to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation, we cannot but feel some doubt whether the doctrine of transubstantiation may not triumph over all opposition. More was a man of eminent talents. He had all the information on the subject that we have, or that, while the world lasts, any human being will have. The text, “This is my body,” was in his New Testament as it is in ours. The absurdity of the literal interpretation was as great and as obvious in the sixteenth century as it is now. No progress that science has made, or will make, can add to what seems to us the overwhelming force of the argument against the Real Presence. We are, therefore, unable to understand why what Sir Thomas More believed respecting transubstantiation may not be believed to the end of time by men equal in abilities and honesty to Sir Thomas More. But Sir Thomas More is one of the choice specimens of human wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test will stand any test. The prophecies of Brothers and the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the comparison.

One point is that Macaulay didn't know that King Henry VIII also defended the doctrine of transubstantiation--before and after the Break from Rome! According to Macaulay, Henry VIII was as absurd as More in taking the words "This is my body" literally! More was willing to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation, but that wasn't why he was imprisoned, tried, and sentenced to death. That was because he refused to sign the oaths Henry VIII required which denied the authority of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

So that made me wonder what the "prophecies of Brothers" and the "miracles of Prince Hohenlohe" were.

The "prophesies of Brothers" refers to the works of Richard Brothers, described as a "British religious fanatic" in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

born in Newfoundland on Christmas day, 1757, and educated at Woolwich. He entered the navy and served under Keppel and Rodney. In 1783 he became lieutenant, and was discharged on half-pay. He travelled on the continent, made an unhappy marriage in 1786, and again went to sea. But he felt that the military calling and Christianity were incompatible and abandoned the former (1789). Further scruples as to the oath required on the receipt of his half-pay reduced him to serious pecuniary straits (1791), and he divided his time between the open air and the workhouse, where he developed the idea that he had a special divine commission, and wrote to the king and the parliament to that effect. In 1793 he declared himself the apostle of a new religion, “the nephew of the Almighty, and prince of the Hebrews, appointed to lead them to the land of Canaan.” At the end of 1794 he began to print his interpretations of prophecy, his first book being A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times. In consequence of prophesying the death of the king and the end of the monarchy, he was arrested for treason in 1795, and confined as a criminal lunatic. His case was, however, brought before parliament by his ardent disciple, Nathaniel Halhed, the orientalist, a member of the House of Commons, and he was removed to a private asylum in Islington. Here he wrote a variety of prophetic pamphlets, which gained him many believers, amongst them William Sharp, the engraver, who afterwards deserted him for Joanna Southcott. Brothers, however, had announced that on the 19th of November 1795 he was to be “revealed” as prince of the Hebrews and ruler of the world; and when this date passed without any such manifestation, what enthusiasm he had aroused rapidly dwindled, despite the fact that some of his earlier political predictions (e.g. the violent death of Louis XVI.) had been fulfilled. He died in London on the 25th of January 1824, in the house of John Finlayson, who had secured his release, and who afterwards pestered the government with an enormous claim for Brothers’s maintenance. The supporters of the Anglo-Israelite theory claim him as the first writer on their side.

The "miracles of Prince Hohenlohe" refers to Prince Alexander of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst, a German priest and miracle worker. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia he was:

A titular Bishop of Sardica, famous for his many supposedly miraculous cures, born 17 August, 1794, at Kupferzell in Würtemberg; died 14 November, 1849, at Vöslau near Vienna. He studied the humanities at the Theresianum in Vienna, 1804-8, and at Berne, 1808-10; philosophy at Vienna, 1810-12; theology at Tyrnau in Hungary, 1812-14, and at Ellwangen, 1814-15. On 16 September, 1815, he was ordained priest and at once devoted himself to the care of souls first at Stuttgart, then at Munich. In October, 1816, he went to Rome where he had little difficulty in justifying himself against the accusations of having administered the sacraments in the German language and of belonging to the Bible Society. On his return he made a pilgrimage to Loreto, and again arrived at Munich on 23 March, 1817. On 8 June of the same year he was made ecclesiastical councillor, and, in 1821, canon of Bamberg. About this time began the numerous miraculous cures which are alleged to have been effected through the prayers of Hohenlohe. On 1 February, 1821, he was suddenly cured at Hassfurt of a severe pain in the throat in consequence of the prayers of a devout peasant named Martin Michel. His belief in the efficacy of prayer was greatly strengthened by this cure, and on 21 June, 1821, he succeeded in curing the Princess Mathilda von Schwarzenberg, who had been a paralytic for eight years, by his prayers which he joined with those of Martin Michel. Having asked the pope whether he was permitted to attempt similar cures in the future, he was told not to attempt any more public cures, but he continued them in private. He would specify a time during which he would pray for those that applied to him, and in this manner he effected numerous cures not only on the Continent, but also in England, Ireland, and the United States. Worthy of mention is the case of Mrs. Ann Mattingly of Washington, D. C., who was said to have been cured of a tumour through his prayers on 10 March, 1824. Rome did not pass judgment on these supposed miracles and Catholics were divided in their opinion. In 1824 Hohenlohe became canon, in 1829 provost, and later Vicar-General and Administrator of Grosswardein. In 1844 he was made chorepiscopus and titular Bishop of Sardica. He is the author of four volumes of sermons and ascetical treatises most of which were collected and published by S. Brunner (Ratisbon, 1851). His method of curing the sick was continued after his death by his friend and disciple Joseph Forster, pastor of Hüttenheim, who died in 1875.

So when you read all of Macaulay's comments about Saint Thomas More and his belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, you realize it's pretty faint praise. Macaulay's point in reviewing von Ranke's History of the Popes is to emphasize that the Catholic Church, in spite of all of the progress England and enlightened Protestant Europe had made, was still powerful and dominant, because, he thought, still so superstitious and simple. 

This review is the source of the famous quotation about the Catholic Church being just as strong as she ever has been "when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s." Again, when you read the rest of his review, you realize that Macaulay does not think that it is a good thing that this may be true, because it just means that progress has failed to triumph over an institution that has "stood its ground in spite of the immense progress made by the human race in knowledge since the days of Queen Elizabeth." (Elizabeth I, of course, since Macaulay did not know of the Second!) 

There is a book about Mrs. Ann Mattingly of Washington, D. C. and her miraculous cure in 1824! And I've ordered a copy!

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