Friday, February 23, 2018

Newman and History: An Interview

Francis Phillips, the book reviewer for The Catholic Herald, interviews Edward Short, author of Newman and History. She's reading the book and I am too. She asks Mr. Short about the first chapter in his bis book, "Newman, Gibbon, and God's Particular Providence":

For Newman, in Short’s eyes, “History is also the register of man’s need for salvation”. He reminds me that in his opening chapter he contends “that a good deal of history after Gibbon is flawed because it is based on the conviction that history, properly understood, can make no allowance for the providential. What I endeavour to show in that chapter is that leaving the providential out of any account of the rise of Christianity inevitably leads to bad, uncritical, ahistorical history because it produces a view of Christianity that is essentially unaccountable.”

He warms to his theme: “If the faith of the martyrs in the supernatural reality of God’s plan for our salvation does not account for the rise of Christianity, what does account for it? To say, as Gibbon says, that credulity and fanaticism and the chicane of bishops accounts for the unprecedented spread of the Christian religion is nonsense.”

Short reflects, “Gibbon may have convinced himself, in his trifling, derisive way, that history is often “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind”. Yet what Newman shows is that, on the contrary, history is the register of man’s need for God’s salvation – indeed, his hope in that salvation. This is why Newman’s history is always so full of prayer.”

Phillips asks Short about what he admires about Blessed John Henry Newman and why he writes about him:

I am curious to know what aspect of Newman’s personality does the author most admire. Short thinks this a difficult question, telling me he is a great admirer of the man “especially his integrity. It is his integrity after all that gives him not only his wisdom but his holiness. For me”, he continues, “it is the saint in the man that commands most respect, his constant unwavering care for the cure of souls, his solicitude for the spiritual wellbeing of his fellows, the quality of his caritas. In his quiet, eminently English, self-deprecatory way, Newman was indeed a saint and one reads him not only to understand but to try to emulate that holiness.”

Is this why Short has written three books on Newman? He says wryly, “On the face of it, my writing at all might seem a quixotic undertaking. After all, I am neither an academic nor a popular author. The only reason I continue to write about Newman is that in order to write about him I must read him fairly closely and he is a delight to read. Then again, there is so much to learn from Newman. He is so charming, so witty and so companionable.”

Please read the rest there.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

GKC on "The Style of Newman"


G.K. Chesterton seems to have written about almost everything and everyone. I found the text of his book A Handful of Authors online. His secretary and friend Dorothy Collins edited this book in 1953 from among many essays and reviews Chesterton had written and it was published by Sheed & Ward. Here's part of what Chesterton says about the prose style of John Henry Cardinal Newman (Blessed John Newman):

A FINE style is not a narrow or fastidious or aristocratic thing, as many think. On the contrary, style is the truly democratic thing, since it touches all common things with the same fairy wand. A man who loves all men enough to use them rightly is a democrat. A man who loves all words enough to use them rightly is a stylist. Style comes out, as the fraternal human sentiment comes out, pre-eminently and most definitely in dealing with coarse or everyday things. An eloquent outburst from Carlyle about the stars and the heroes is, in its own way, fine style. But a page of Newman's Apologia which merely describes how he left off living at some college and went to live in some settlement is also fine style. The ideal lover of mankind would linger over a postcard to his washerwoman, transposing words and modifying adjectives until it was as perfect as a sonnet.

The one weakness of Newman's temper and attitude as a whole was, I think, that he lacked the democratic warmth. This had nothing to do with his religion; for in Manning, who was a far more rigid and central Catholic than he, democracy roared like a bonfire. It had something to do with his character and something to do with his training. But in this matter of a fine style Newman was not doing anything precious or exclusive; he was doing something entirely human and sociable. Good style treats verbs and particles as good manners treats chairs and tables, easily but in the proper way. There is no such thing as being a gentleman at important moments; it is at unimportant moments that a man is a gentleman. At important moments he ought to be something better. So while we can consent to receive some poignant message or violent and sudden sincerity in any language that the man chooses to use, we feel that the finest instinct of geniality is to speak of common things with some dignity and care. No man has ever done this so well as Newman. A magic that is like a sort of musical accompaniment changes and heightens the most prosaic fragments of personal biography or scholastic explanation. And in this, as I say, he achieves for a time that awful and beautiful thing which is the dream of all democracy, the seeing of all things as wonderful, the thing for which Whitman strove and which he did not perfectly attain. In this respect Carlyle and Walt Whitman (that immeasurably greater man) are even the aristocrats compared to this classical embroiderer. They spoke in a tongue not understanded of the people. They were bold and boisterous and personal, as the better kind of aristocrats are always bold and boisterous and personal.

"The Style of Newman" was first published in The Speaker in 1904.

He demonstrates some knowledge of Newman's works, comparing him to Gladstone in some respects. Anticipating the great Newman biographer Father Ian Ker, Chesterton comments on Newman's use of humor:

The truth was, as I fancy, that it was very fortunate for Newman, considered merely as a temperament and a personality, that he was forced into that insatiably fighting thing, the Catholic Church, and that he was forced into it in a deeply Protestant country. His spirit might have been too much protected by the politeness of our English temper and our modern age, but it was flayed alive by the living spirit of "No Popery". The frigid philosopher was called a liar and turned into a man. We might also dwell upon that one outburst of wild and exuberant satire in which Newman indulged: I mean his comparison (in the first lecture on "The Position of English Catholics")* of the English view of the Catholic Church to the probable Russian view of the British Constitution. It is one of the great pages of fierce English humour. Why he thus once exploded into fantastic derision I do not know. But I suspect that it was because Birmingham was full of "No Popery" rioters and his back was to the wall. This man, when he was in the sweet but too refined atmosphere of the Oxford High Churchmen, had shed many tears. But, like all brave men when he first saw the face of battle, he began to laugh.

*Of course, Chesterton means The Present Position of Catholics in England!

More about A Handful of Authors from Dale Ahlquist and the American Chesterton Society.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman and St. Robert Southwell

What a remarkable doctrine of the Church is the Communion of Saints! Two great holy men were born this day--one to eternal life, the other to life on earth: St. Robert Southwell was executed on February 21, 1595 and Blessed John Henry Newman was born on February 21, 1801.

St. Robert Southwell was 33 years old when he was executed at Tyburn on February 21, 1595. When he cited his age during his trial, his torturer Richard Topcliffe mocked him for claiming equality with Jesus Christ. Southwell answered that he was but a worm.

It is hard to be temperate when writing about his arrest, torture and execution--it is obviously a horrendous blot against the Elizabethan "regime". He was betrayed by a woman that Elizabeth's pursuivant Richard Topcliffe had raped and blackmailed--he promised to find her a husband since she was pregnant with his child if she would turn Southwell in; he was tortured--illegally and excruciatingly--numerous times, starting with a visit to Topcliffe's personal torture chamber, while Elizabeth's officials looked on; then he was held in fetid conditions until his father visited him in Westminster's gatehouse and petitioned the queen to put him to death rather than leave him there, in his own filth.

Moved to the Tower of London he was held in greater but solitary comfort, but Queen Elizabeth allowed the sadistic Topcliffe to continue torturing Southwell, who had readily admitted his priesthood. Prior to his trial on February 20 he was moved into a hole called Limbo; the government did not even try to implicate him in any plot against the Queen; he was executed just because he was a Catholic priest. When he was executed on February 21st, the crowds made sure he was dead before the butchery began--and no one cheered when his severed head was displayed to the crowd. Indeed, Elizabeth's government recognized that they had gone too far--there was lull in executions of Catholic priests in London. Lord Cecil even ignored Topcliffe's desires to get started on new victims.

Robert Southwell was canonized by Pope Paul VI among the group called The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. In addition to be a great saint and steadfast martyr, he is regarded as one of the great poets of the Elizabethan Age. Some of his poetry was written while he was held in solitary confinement in the Tower of London and was published posthumously.

Pope St. John Paul II remembered the 200th anniversary of Newman's birth in this 2001 letter to Birmingham:

Newman was born in troubled times which knew not only political and military upheaval but also turbulence of soul. Old certitudes were shaken, and believers were faced with the threat of rationalism on the one hand and fideism on the other. Rationalism brought with it a rejection of both authority and transcendence, while fideism turned from the challenges of history and the tasks of this world to a distorted dependence upon authority and the supernatural. In such a world, Newman came eventually to a remarkable synthesis of faith and reason which were for him "like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth" (Fides et Ratio,Introduction; cf. ibid., 74). It was the passionate contemplation of truth which also led him to a liberating acceptance of the authority which has its roots in Christ, and to the sense of the supernatural which opens the human mind and heart to the full range of possibilities revealed in Christ. "Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on", Newman wrote in "The Pillar of the Cloud"; and for him Christ was the light at the heart of every kind of darkness. For his tomb he chose the inscription: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem; and it was clear at the end of his life’s journey that Christ was the truth he had found.

But Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: "Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about" (Meditations and Devotions). All these trials he knew in his life; but rather than diminish or destroy him they paradoxically strengthened his faith in the God who had called him, and confirmed him in the conviction that God "does nothing in vain". In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the "kindly light" which led him on.


Other than the glory they now share in Heaven, Southwell and Newman do have some other things in common:

~They are both Englishmen, born, as Pope St. John Paul II said, "in troubled times"
~Both are converts to the Catholic faith from the Church of England
~Both went to the Continent to study for the priesthood
~Both are order priests: Southwell a Jesuit and Newman an Oratorian
~Both are poets, although Southwell is probably the greater poet (but Newman's The Dream of Gerontius is a great achievement)

Of course, they differ vastly in their deaths and that marks their different status as saints in heaven: St. Robert Southwell was canonized as a martyr, while Newman was beatified--and perhaps soon will be canonized--as a confessor of the faith. Here's an article I wrote describing the differences between martyrs and confessors.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!
St. Robert Southwell, pray for us!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Leanda de Lisle Provides Context for the Reign of Charles I


Leanda de Lisle writes brilliantly in an article for History Today about the reign of Charles I, particularly its religious context:

Charles’ reign began during the Thirty Years War. This was the world of Charles’ sister, the Winter Queen, of Protestant churches in flames and the advance of the Counter-Reformation, of a Spanish empire on which the sun never set and the new Puritan colonies of the Americas, a London of fast-moving media reporting on politics from Parliament as well as on the conflict in Europe. England – Britain – is part of this wider world.

Henry VIII’s nationalised form of Anglo-Catholicism did not survive him. From the reign of Edward VI, English Protestants saw the Church of England as part of international Reform Protestantism – a stripped-down Protestantism that would later be labelled Calvinism – just as Scottish Protestants did their Presbyterian kirk. The fate of British Protestantism was linked to what happened to their fellow Calvinists in Europe; there, Protestantism was in retreat. In the 1590s, Protestants held half the land area in Europe. A century later they would hold only a fifth.

Anxiety over Calvinist survival on the continent gave an edge to concerns at home about the half-reformed nature of the Church of England, with its episcopate (government by bishops) and other pre-Reformation hangovers. There was mistrust of Stuart enthusiasm for Elizabethan compromises, particularly among those labelled Puritans.

Protestantism had only survived where it had been imposed or permitted by rulers. To defend themselves, British Protestants had therefore developed ‘resistance’ theories, arguing that kings took their authority from the people, who had the right to overthrow any monarch of the ‘wrong’ religion, which included being the ‘wrong’ kind of Protestant. ‘Popery’ was the term applied to those who sought to spread Counter-Reformation; it was also applied to any reversal of Calvinism.

James had confronted resistance theory by arguing that kings, like bishops, drew their authority from God and that only God could punish them. Divine Right Kingship was not some mere expression of megalomania: it was a defence against religious extremists, both Protestant and Catholic. Charles grew up aware that resistance theory had cost his grandmother, Mary, Queen of Scots, her throne (at Protestant hands); it had justified kidnap and murder attempts against his father (at Protestant and Catholic hands); and it lay behind the assassination of his wife’s father (at Catholic hands – a reminder that a monarch faced threats even from those of their own religion). He embraced his father’s writings and his accession revealed a dynamic monarch.

In the first weeks of his reign, in 1625, he ended his father’s ‘long corrupted peace’ and took his kingdoms into the Thirty Years War, fighting for the interests of the Stuarts and the Protestant cause. At home he created a theatre of ceremony, ritual and beauty, designed to shape a deferential and hierarchical society appropriate to divine right monarchy.

The informality and hard drinking habits of James’ court were brought to an end. Charles asked that nobles not ‘enter his apartments in confusion as heretofore’. Each rank was to have its appointed place. In religion, Charles sought a move away from Calvinist sermons and extempore prayers to rituals and ceremonies, with pre-Reformation origins, but which were nevertheless Protestant and set in buildings fit for purpose. His reforms would have a lasting influence on the Church of England, which still mark it – and English culture – today.
Please read the rest there. She wants us to have a more measured and balanced view of Charles I, to strip away the accumulated easy mythology of the man, his marriage, and his reign. I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that she makes a compelling case in the articles I've read about it.
I wonder if she will write a biography of James II!
Image credit: "Charles depicted as a victorious and chivalrous Saint George in an English landscape by Rubens, 1629–30."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sir Thomas Denys, RIP

Sir Thomas Denys of Devon died on February 18, 1561. Reading his biography on the History of Parliament website demonstrates to me once again how careful English MPs and officials had to be during the Tudor era:

With the rise of Wolsey, Denys found himself serving both King and minister. He took part in the Tournai campaign of 1513 but was knighted only in the following year. It was because of his new status ‘and for other considerations’—doubtless his call to be elsewhere—that in February 1515 he was excused the marshalship of his inn. In that year he is mentioned as one of those employed by Wolsey to victual the army abroad, a capacity in which he probably served again in 1523. He eventually became chamberlain of Wolsey’s household, an appointment which he retained until the cardinal’s death and which served him and his family well: by 1530 his services were retained by the majority of monastic houses and boroughs in Devon, while his friendship with another of Wolsey’s servants, Cromwell, was to prove an insurance for the future.5

So he could have been affected by the fall of Wolsey but his friendship with Thomas Cromwell saved him from losing his influence and position. Note that there were about 20 monasteries (abbeys and priories) in Devon before the Dissolution.

His closeness to Wolsey neither deterred nor debarred Denys from sitting in the Parliament which joined in the cardinal’s overthrow, and he seems to have been equally unaffected by his place in the household of Princess Mary: for the rest, his standing and influence in the shire must have made him an obvious partner for his friend Sir William Courtenay I. His attendance was interrupted by ill-health. He twice excused himself to Cromwell for not making the journey from Devon for the third session when he had a poisoned leg, and for the final one when he was forced to keep his bed: on the first of these occasions Denys was again sheriff and ten days after reporting his disability he supervised the burning of the heretic Thomas Benet at Exeter. His part in the proceedings of this Parliament is glimpsed only in its seventh session, when his name occurs in a list of Members written by Cromwell on the back of a letter of December 1534: the Members concerned are thought to have had a particular connexion with the treason bill then passing through Parliament, perhaps as belonging to a committee, and Denys would have been appropriately included as a lawyer, household official and friend of Cromwell. His attachment to the minister was strengthened about this time by the marriage of his step-daughter to Richard Cromwell alias Williams*, and early in 1534 he had been rewarded with an authority to grant export licences for tin.6

See the entry for Thomas Benet in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

But then Denys ran into some trouble:

The years which followed saw Denys’s hitherto unruffled progress placed at risk. In January 1538 he wrote to Cromwell to rebut accusations that he had concealed a robbery, was a papist, and ‘hung at other men’s sleeves’. The second of these charges he met by affirming his acceptance of the supreme headship—for which he and Sir William Kingston had found precedent in the description of the King as vicarius Christiin ‘a book called Bracton’ recommended to them by Cromwell three years ago—while to the third he declared that he was no man’s save the King’s, and that the fee of £4 a year and mastership of game which he had ‘from a great man’ he would surrender if the King so wished. As the great man was the Marquess of Exeter, who before the year was out would be executed for alleged treason, Cromwell’s reassurance that the King would consign to oblivion the complaints against Denys, and would remain his very good lord, could not have spared its recipient continuing apprehension, perhaps reflected in his plea to the minister to help advance his children. Two years later he had cause for fresh anxiety when it was Cromwell’s turn to go down, although as in 1529 Denys was again a Member of the Parliament which abetted that process. He had also been made chancellor to the new Queen whose rejection had preceded the palace revolution.8

So he survived another crisis when Anne of Cleves was replaced by Katherine Howard and Cromwell was attainted and beheaded. He received grants of two monasteries: the Cistercian house of Buckfast Abbey (not to be confused with the modern foundation of a Benedictine house there) and St. Nicholas Priory, a Benedictine house in Exeter. Denys also paid rent on grants of land from Shirborne Abbey in Dorset (the nave is pictured from a Wikipedia Commons photo, used with permission), and the Cistercian Abbey of the Vale of St. Mary in Croxen. From the latter, somehow the Uttoxeter Casket, an Anglo-Saxon era reliquary survived. More about it here.

When Sir Thomas Denys died on February 18, 1561, he had survived the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I; his age prevented him from serving Elizabeth I. He left his son a great estate, gained through the grants and the selling and renting of lands obtained through the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Why Was England So Slow to Embrace Religious Toleration?


When Hilaire Belloc described the goals of Cardinal Richelieu to make his king and his nation strong, secure, and united, he cited Richelieu's view that a country could be divided in religion and still maintain unity. Both Catholics and Protestants in France could be loyal subjects and participate in the governance and the community of the kingdom. Richelieu wanted to reduce the power of some Huguenot leaders, because his young king--remember that Henry IV was assassinated while Louis XIII was a child--was in danger of a permanent loss of power:

He had noticed how during his own youth the great nobles and especially the great Protestant nobles were black- mailing and weakening the Crown, after the assassination of Henry IV. The worst culprit was old Sully, who went off with enormous loot as the fruit of threats to aid civil war against the Queen Regent. The King, the heir of Henry IV, was only a boy, under the title of Louis XIII; until he should be of age his mother, Marie de Medici, a violent but unpractical woman, was left in control. The result was that the rich could do pretty well what they liked. The Protestant nobles and the large Protestant middle class of the towns took full advantage of this position. It will be remembered that Henry IV, by the Edict of Nantes, had allowed them to hold a number of strong walled cities and to govern them as a sort of State within the State, and had also permitted them to call national assemblies of their faction, which were a perpetual menace to the central power of the King. Richelieu saw that the first thing to be done if the Crown was to be saved, its power increased and thereby the whole nation consolidated, was to take away these dangerous special favours, and treat the Huguenots like everybody else. He was determined when he came to power that there should no longer be a realm within the realm, and a rival power strong enough to threaten the monarchy. 

But by so much as he was determined upon this was he also determined upon the fullest toleration for Calvinism. Richelieu was the first of that long line of public men from his day to ours to treat religious difference as a private matter, and to believe that one can have a united country without unity of religion. James I of England, as we have seen, had some such idea at the back of his head; but he never really put it into practice, for the hatred and fear of the Catholic Church of the great land-owners his subjects, whose fortunes had come from the loot of the Church, was too strong for him. And what is more, the great landowners proved in the long run too strong for the English Crown, and destroyed it, substituting their own two assemblies, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, known as "Parliament," for the old popular kingship of England. Richelieu saw the menace, though it had not fully developed in his own time, and he was determined that France should follow the opposite course. It is therefore due to him not only that France became politically united as a strong monarchy, but also that the peasantry won the long battle with the noble classes and became the main owners of the soil of France; whereas in England the noble classes, that is the squires, ate up the peasantry and became the main owners of the soil themselves.

Even after he had destroyed the Huguenot power center and completed the siege of La Rochelle, for example, Richelieu maintained the Edict of Nantes:

All the more was Calvinism tolerated as a religion. In that very lifetime which saw priests butchered in England after the cruel fashion for which the Puritans were openly responsible during their period of power, Calvinism in Catholic France was perfectly free. It had no martyrs and suffered no persecution. 

And Huguenots could be doctors, lawyers, own property, travel freely, visit Paris, etc--while Catholics in England had many restrictions against them and had to pay crippling fines.

Of course, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, but nevertheless, the French monarchy had adopted religious tolerance as an acceptable administrative policy within his kingdom and both Catholics and Protestants were trusted--as much as a monarch ever trusts his subjects' loyalty--to be loyal subjects. But in England at the same time, Catholics were not trusted as loyal subjects because of their faith. The English monarchy presumed that any Catholic, unless he denied his religious allegiance to the Pope (abjured his faith and was no longer a Catholic) was a traitor or an imminently potential traitor, plotting or liable to plotting against the king.

Why did France progress for a generation at least into a more modern, tolerant view of religion in their country than England did?

Belloc would say it was because the land-owning nobility and upper class  in England, exemplified by the Cecils (father and son), would not permit the monarch to adopt even so much toleration as to allow Catholics to attend the Mass freely. James I promised a measure of toleration to Catholics at Court when he wanted to marry his son Charles to Catholic princesses of Spain and France, but the promises were never completely kept. He still enforced his Oath of Allegiance, had the recusancy fines levied, and restricted Catholics from taking full part in English society.

I'd suggest that the English monarchy was stuck on the issue of the papacy and never could separate the religious and regal aspects of the papal office at the time. The pope was a monarch as well as the Vicar of Christ. James I could not accept Catholic loyalty to the pope and even would have limited the spiritual authority of the papacy if Catholics had accepted the Oath of Allegiance. English leadership could not imagine a nation in which subjects or citizens would not be Protestant. What a lack of progress, a complete denial of the Whig view of British history--and they wouldn't catch up until 1829!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Belloc on Gustavus Adolphus and Cardinal Richelieu

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow with Anna Mitchell to continue our discussion of chapters in Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation. Tomorrow: Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and Cardinal Richelieu of France. Listen live here tomorrow a little after 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern.


Belloc describes the situation in the Thirty Years War and in Sweden:

We saw in discussing the Emperor Ferdinand II that his failure was mainly due to the discovery of a great military genius by Richelieu, the hiring of that genius by Richelieu in the interests of France, and the launching of him, also by Richelieu, against the Catholic Emperor. 

The name of this genius was Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. But for his quite exceptional talents in the art of war Ferdinand would have succeeded in making all Germans united under the Catholic Imperial Crown and in making Catholicism permanently dominating in Europe. The astonishing victories of Gustavus destroyed that opportunity, and Richelieu his paymaster was principally responsible. 

Gustavus Adolphus was the immediate descendant of the man who had ousted the rightful King of Sweden from his throne. The Royal Family of Sweden was called Vasa. The Reformation in Sweden had followed the usual lines; the great nobles or landowners of that small country had looted the lands and other wealth of the Church, just as they did in England. They had been supported, as in England, by a small but enthusiastic minority of religious revolutionaries, and they had precariously established a Protestant government. The whole thing was done with more difficulty than in England because it came later. There were rich monastic establishments working almost to the end of the sixteenth century in Sweden, because, in spite of one small clique of men aiming to fill their own pockets, there was a succession of erratic monarchs, whose individual eccentricity prevented a continuous policy; for there was something of madness in all the Vasa family.

Now the legitimate heir to the kingdom of Sweden in the second generation of all this affair was strongly Catholic; and because he was hereditary King of Sweden, he was also the elected King of Poland — a country which, after much hesitation, had come down strongly on the Catholic side. This legitimate hereditary King of Sweden, Sigismund, thus became at one and the same time, the King of Sweden and of Poland. Even strong Protestants in Sweden hesitated to take the full step of rebellion and refuse to accept his sovereignty; for that would have been shocking to the ideas of the time. But, being determined to keep their Church loot and at the same time to maintain the independence of Sweden, so that her affairs should not be merged in those of Poland, they made the young King swear to respect all the institutions of Sweden and maintain the Reformation settlement of land in that country. 

Such a situation was too unstable to last. The vested interests created by the loot of the Church in Sweden were, as in England, terrified lest a Catholic monarch should restore the Church's wealth to its rightful owners, and they repudiated, in spite of their oaths, their legitimate king and adopted for their candidate to the throne his usurping uncle.

Belloc does not describe Gustavus Adolphus's character, except to say that he was Protestant and that he showed great ability in military leadership and Cardinal Richelieu, on behalf of France, engaged the king of Sweden to blunt the success of Ferdinand II's military efforts to reunite the Holy Roman Empire and Catholicism. As Belloc notes, Gustavus Adolphus soon succeeded beyond Richelieu's dreams or even desires; after paying Gustavus with tremendous wealth and after Gustavus' first victories, he became a new threat to France's power!

Fortunately for Ferdinand II and Richelieu, this great military genius died before he could conquer parts of the Holy Roman Empire. As Belloc concludes:

The struggle dragged on, lingering, until after Ferdinand's death. The Thirty Years' War did not end until the general pacification of the mid-century, in the treaties which are usually known as the Peace of Westphalia. These were signed just before the triumph of the English revolution against Charles I, and one may say that, after 1650, Europe was finally settled into the opposing cultures which it has since maintained. North Germany, thanks to the efforts of Gustavus Adolphus and in spite of his death eighteen years before; thanks also to the statesmanship of Richelieu, the paymaster of Gustavus Adolphus, who was also by this time dead — was to be securely Protestant and its princes and lords and cities to keep the loot of religion. Catholicism in South Germany was saved, nominally, and the power of the Emperor was still maintained; but it had failed to make a united country of its subjects. The great Swedish general had done his work well.


Belloc has a second title for the chapter on Richelieu:

THE CONFIRMATION OF PROTESTANTISM IN EUROPE 

He goes on to explain:

Of all the public characters who molded Europe during the seventeenth century Richelieu is both the greatest in himself, and the most important in the effect he had. He perpetuated in France the presence of a Huguenot (that is a Protestant) minority among the wealthier classes, and he confirmed the independence of Protestant Germany, initiating the breakdown of Catholic authority represented by the Emperor at Vienna. 

In other words, it was Richelieu's genius more than any other factor which led to the great battle ending in a draw, and to a Europe from one half of which the Catholic culture was to be permanently excluded. Most people would still say, being asked what was Richelieu's lifework, "The Consolidation of the French nation through the strengthening of the French monarchy." That was certainly his intention; it was certainly the object to which he himself was devoted; everything else he did was subsidiary to that in his own mind. But the fruits of a man's work are never those which he expects — there is always some side effect which will seem after a certain lapse of time to be the principal one. A man wins a battle in order to obtain a crown and the result — unexpected by himself— is a change of language over a wide district. A man protects some oppressed people and liberates them from their oppressor and the result — unexpected to himself and coming perhaps a hundred years later — is the conquest of his own people by those whom he had befriended. A man raises a rebellion to establish democracy, and the result is government by a financial oligarchy. 

So it was with Richelieu. The one thing he cared about  was giving the French people political unity, which could only be done by making the King strong. He succeeded; but the result was to leave the French morally divided between Catholicism and its enemies; while the much larger indirect result which has affected the whole world was the creation of a firmly planted Protestant North Germany typified to-day by the power of Prussia, and all this power has meant during the last hundred and fifty years. 

Remember that Belloc was writing in the 1930's, so he was thinking of Bismarck's nineteenth century Kulturkampf and of World War I, etc.

Belloc contrasts the situation of Calvinists in France with that of Catholics in England:

In that very lifetime which saw priests butchered in England after the cruel fashion for which the Puritans were openly responsible during their period of power, Calvinism in Catholic France was perfectly free. It had no martyrs and suffered no persecution. Although its followers were a minority among the French people they were a considerable proportion of the wealthy class, and it was from them that the anti-Catholic feeling among the French gradually developed. Their influence did not take the form of converting any further numbers to Calvinism, but of familiarising masses of Frenchmen with a dislike of the Catholic Church; so that at long last, after ferment had been at work for a couple of centuries, the whole nation was divided upon the issue — and remains violently so divided to this day. This religious division is the principal source of French weakness at the present time. [The 1930s]

Belloc calls Richelieu, "the first of that long line of public men from his day to ours to treat religious difference as a private matter, and to believe that one can have a united country without unity of religion."

After contending with the threat of the Holy Roman Empire to French unity and power and avoiding greater problems when Gustavus Adolphus was almost too successful, Richelieu had to contend with Spanish power. 

Belloc concludes:

Richelieu died in 1642, having seen all his schemes come to success. They came late. He could not be certain of his triumph until the very last years of his life. Even as his last sickness was upon him, when he was a dying man, it still looked as though the Spaniards in the South might be too strong for the French, although their attack from Belgium had been defeated. But by the actual moment of bis death Richelieu knew that he had conquered everywhere. What he did not know (but what the Pope of the day foresaw rather vaguely) was that the triumph of the French Cardinal meant also the permanent establishment of Protestant power in Europe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Shakespeare's Henry V's Prayers for Richard II

In Shakespeare's historical play Henry V, the king leaves his headquarters to mingle with his soldiers on the eve of the battle of Agincourt. After some discussion of the relationship between the justice of the king's cause and his subject's responsibility for doing the right thing, Henry V reflects upon his father Henry IV's role in the death of the deposed Richard II.

Richard II died in Pontefract Castle--probably of starvation--on February 14, 1400 (the usually accepted date). He had surrendered to Henry IV at Flint Castle on August 19, 1399, on promises that his life would be spared. He was held in the Tower of London and abdicated on September 30 that year. Parliament formally deposed him on October 1 and Henry IV was crowned on October 13. Richard was moved to Pontefract Castle. After the discovery of the Epiphany Plot, in which several noblemen planned to kidnap Henry IV at Windsor on Epiphany (January 6, 1400), kill him, and restore Richard II to the throne. Richard was not allowed to remain alive, a target for conspiracy--Mary, Queen of Scots' situation during Elizabeth I's reign comes to mind--even though he might have known nothing of the plot, which also called the Revolt of the Three Earls.

In terms that defied the Church of England's rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory and the practice of prayer for the dead, Henry V describes how he has tried to demonstrate his repentance for the death of Richard at the hands of his father. He has founded chantries, those chapels set aside for praying the dead, which had be suppressed by Edward VI; he has paid poor men and women, as Henry VIII had done in his will, to pray. He prays and promises to do more:

O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord,
O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown!
I Richard's body have interred anew;
And on it have bestow'd more contrite tears
Than from it issued forced drops of blood:
Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,
Who twice a-day their wither'd hands hold up
Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have built
Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard's soul. More will I do;
Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon.


I've always wondered how post-Reformation audiences responded to these words? Henry offers these prayers not for his father's sins, but for Richard II's soul. Henry V's repentance for his father's sins recalls Catholic teaching and piety and would have reminded them that at one time--not so long ago--English kings and queens were Catholics, as the gloriously gorgeous Wilton Diptych attests.


The word chantry might have reminded some in the audience of the celebration of the Catholic Mass, which of course had been declared illegal. It might have reminded them of ordained Catholic priests, who were now traitors, hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. Recusant Catholics or Church Papists in the audience would have definitely known what Shakespeare was describing.

Happy St. Valentine's Day! Best wishes for a holy and spiritually beneficial Ash Wednesday and Lent! I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show Friday morning to continue my discussion with Anna Mitchell on Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation--preview to come tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

John Fowler, RIP (A Thomas More Connection)

John Fowler was a Catholic printer and scholar who died on February 13, 1579 (new style). According to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20, he was

born at Bristol in 1537, was admitted in 1551 to Winchester School, whence he proceeded to Oxford, and was a fellow of New College in that university from 4 Oct. 1553 to 1559. He was admitted B.A. 23 Feb. 1556–7, and took the degree of M.A. in 1560, though he did not complete it by standing in the comitia. Dr. George Acworth [q. v.], in his reply to Sanders, asserts that Fowler, in the first year of Elizabeth's reign, took the oath renouncing the pope's supremacy, in order that he might retain the valuable living of Wonston, Hampshire, to which he had been instituted (De visibili Romanarchiâ, pp. 33, 34). However this may be, he left England in consequence of the changes of religion soon after the queen's accession and retired to Louvain, where he set up a printing press, which he afterwards removed to Antwerp, and finally to Douay. He printed and published several important works written by the exiled clergy, in support of the catholic cause. Henry Simpson, in his examination at York on 11 Oct. 1571, stated that Fowler printed all the English books at Louvain, written by Harding or others, and that the Duke of Alva's printer in Brussels produced all the Latin works which were written against the doings in England. He added that William Smith, a Welshman, servant to Dr. Harding, commonly brought the books to the press (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Eliz. 1566–79, p. 365). Wood says ‘he was well skill'd in the Greek and Latin tongues, a tolerable poet and orator, and a theologist not to be contemn'd. So learned he was also in criticisms, and other polite learning, that he might have passed for another Robert or Henry Stephens’ (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 441). Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Allen calls him ‘catholicissimus et doctissimus librorum impressor,’ in a letter addressed from Rheims in 1583 to Father Alphonsus Agazzari, rector of the English seminary at Rome, asking his interest in favour of Fowler's brother Henry, then in necessitous circumstances in that city (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 216). Fowler married Alice, daughter of John Harris, formerly secretary to Sir Thomas More, and died at Namur on 13 Feb. 1578–9, being buried near the body of his father-in-law, in the church of St. John the Evangelist (Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 772). His widow lived afterwards at Douay, where she entertained several of the English exiles as boarders (Dodd, Church Hist. i. 532).

In addition to the marital connection to St. Thomas More mentioned above, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that he edited and published one of St. Thomas More's works:

He seems to have had a press at Antwerp as well as at Louvain, for his Antwerp books range from 1565 to 1575, whereas his Louvain books are dated 1566, 1567 and 1568; while one of his publications, Gregory Martin's "Treatise of Schism" bears the impress, Douay, 1578. More thorough bibliographical research than has yet been made into the output of his presses will probably throw new light upon his activity as a printer. The original works or translations for which he was personally responsible are: "An Oration against the unlawful Insurrections of the Protestants of our time under pretence to reforme Religion" (Antwerp, 1566), translated from the Latin of Peter Frarinus, which provoked a reply from Fulke; "Ex universâ summâ Sacrae Theologiae Doctori os S. Thomae Aquinatis desumptae conclusiones" (Louvain, 1570); "M. Maruli dictorum factorumque memorabilium libri VI" (Antwerp, 1577); "Additiones in Chronica Genebrandi" (1578); "A Psalter for Catholics", a controversial work answered by Sampson; epigrams and verses. The translation of the "Epistle of Orosius" (Antwerp, 1565), ascribed to him by Wood and Pitts, was really made by Richard Shacklock. Pitts also states that he wrote in English a work "Ad Ducissam Feriae confessionis forma", Fowler also edited Sir Thomas More's "Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation" (Antwerp, 1573).

You may see a copy of that publication here: It sold for $2,250 last year!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Five Blessed Martyrs at Tyburn


Blesseds George Haydock, James Fenn, Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, and John Mundyn were all executed at Tyburn on the charge of conspiring against Elizabeth  on February 12, 1584. I've posted before about Blessed George Haydock. This parish website tells the story of Blessed James Fenn, a lifelong Catholic, late vocation, and martyr:

Much ought to be said of the martyrdom itself. On the morning of the 12th February 1584, when he was already laid on the hurdle at Tower Gate, he looked up, and recognized his little daughter, Frances, standing in the crowd. She was weeping bitterly, but he kept his habitual calm and peaceful expression, as, lifting his pinioned hands so far as possible, he gave her both his parental and priestly blessing, and then was drawn away. Fenn prayed at the gallows itself, though refused the consolation of a Protestant minister ("I am not to be taught my duty by you."). Questioned on the accused charge of treason, he reiterated that he had never wished to harm the Queen by so much as a pin-prick and willingly gave all due obedience to her in worldly matters (but not in spiritual matters). Immediately before being hanged, he commended himself and the Queen to God's mercy.

The nature of the hanging was such that Fenn (by now stripped stark naked) was forced by the rope to stand upright, at which point he cried out to the wonder of all, 'my Lord and my God'. The boldness of Fenn and the other priests suffering the same fate is remarkable. The executioner would cut open the bellies of the still alive men, drag out their intestines with his bloody hands, and cast them into a fire. Meanwhile, the men continued in their confession of Faith. A brutal and experimental means to extend the anguish was employed whereby the breast was cut open and in stages reached towards to heart. His quarters were displayed above the four main gates of London, and his head was mounted on London Bridge.

James Fenn's brother John was also a priest who died in exile in 1615. Of Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, whose brother Robert was also martyred during Elizabeth I's reign, and John Mundyn, we know less. They were all born and raised in Catholic families and had studied at Oxford or Cambridge, but had to leave their colleges because they would not conform to the state religion. Discerning priestly vocations, they studied on the Continent and returned a missionary priests. We do have an eyewitness account of their executions, included by Father Pollen, S.J., in the fifth volume of the Catholic Record Society:

He describes Haydock as "a man of complexion fayre, of countenance milde, and in professing of his faith passing stoute". He had been reciting prayers all the way, and as he mounted the cart said aloud the last verse of "Te lucis ante terminum". He acknowledged Elizabeth as his rightful queen, but confessed that he had called her a heretic. He then recited secretly a Latin hymn, refused to pray in English with the people, but desired that all Catholics would pray for him and his country. Whereupon one bystander cried "Here be noe Catholicks", and another "We be all Catholicks"; Haydock explained "I meane Catholicks of the Catholick Roman Church, and I pray God that my bloud may encrease the Catholick faith in England". Then the cart was driven away, and though "the officer strock at the rope sundry times before he fell downe", Haydock was alive when he was disembowelled. So was Hemerford, who suffered second. The unknown eyewitness says, "when the tormentor did cutt off his members, he did cry, `Oh! A!'; I heard myself standing under the gibbet". As for Fenn, "before the cart was driven away, he was stripped of all his apparell saving his shirt only, and presently after the cart was driven away his shirt was pulled of his back, so that he hung stark naked, whereat the people muttered greatly". He also was cut down alive, though one of the sheriffs was for mercy. Nutter and Munden were the last to suffer. They made speeches and prayers similar to those uttered by their predecessors. Unlike them they were allowed to hang longer, if not till they were dead, at any rate until they were quite unconscious. Haydock was twenty-eight, Munden about forty, Fenn, a widower, with two children, was probably also about forty, Hemerford was probably about Haydock's age; Nutter's age is quite unknown.

Blessed martyrs, pray for us!