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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bishop Challoner (Part 3) - Difficult Times 1745-53

  (Continued from previous post)     

 Following their defeat  at the Battle of Dettingen (1743), the French planned to invade England and utilising support from English Jacobite sympathisers, facilitate the restoration of the House of Stuart to the English throne. Unfortunately for the French, in February 1745,  much of their fleet was sunk in a storm just prior to sailing, resulting in the invasion being called off. The Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince Charlie) decided to carry on, landing one ship at Moidart in July 1745 with just 7 men. However within 2 months he had assembled a force of some 3000 men,  defeated the forces of George II at Prestonpans,  and  entered Edinburgh. 
  The Young Pretender-Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788)

On the last day of October he left Edinburgh, leading his troops south and reaching Carlisle on 14th November, Preston on the 27th November, and Manchester the following day, continuing shortly after to Derby, just 140 miles from London. The country was placed on a war footing, with Catholics generally being viewed with great suspicion, although in fact relatively few joined the Pretender’s army, with the Government issuing a proclamation ordering “all known Papists” in London to leave the capital. Challoner, whilst privately sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, publicly and personally opposed  participation by Catholics, as he could foresee ultimately tragic consequences for the Church in England and for the Catholic laity. He was right to be prudent, for in the event the Pretender, having reached Derby, failed to raise the support that he expected and needed, turned his troops around to return to Scotland, and was ultimately defeated at Culloden Moor in 1746. 

                        The Battle of Culloden 1746

The prisons were filled with Catholic prisoners;  Lord Derwentwater and other Jacobite peers  were executed;  and the aftermath of Culloden brought much brutality, with many Highlanders massacred by the King’s forces, under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, known as ‘The Butcher’. For a period Catholics were put under considerable pressure by Government and local authorities,  with Catholic houses constantly searched for arms, horses confiscated, and churches and chapels closed, including the embassy chapels in London with the exception of the Bavarian embassy.  
                             'Rebel Hunting' by J.S.Lucas (1884)

Fortunately for Catholics, no new punitive laws were enacted, and gradually their lives settled down into much the same state as before the Rising, with their loyalties transferring imperceptibly but surely, from the House of Stuart to the Hanoverian dynasty. Challoner himself was fully occupied in that pastoral work with which he was so familiar, visiting prisoners, the sick and the poor, and providing spiritual consolation and grace in the form of the Mass whenever possible, the Sacraments, and material help in the form of food, clothing and money. This itself was dangerous work and carried its own risks, for those consorting with enemies of the state were themselves considered highly suspect, and were closely watched

   The beheading of the Rebel (Jacobite) Lords on Great Tower Hill

 At about this time serious internal dissensions broke out within the Church in England, between the secular and regular clergy. The basis for this was the question of ‘faculties’, specifically the 'authority' for priests to hear Confessions, which in normal times and societies, would be granted by the Bishop of the diocese in which the priests would be working. In England  since the advent of Protestantism, the Catholic hierarchy had been  non-existent, and the understanding was that those priests working in the English mission had their ‘faculties’ granted automatically as it were, by the Pope  who had overall responsibility for the English mission,  or in the case of  religious by the Superior of their particular Order. With the establishment of the four Vicariates in England, with a Bishop in charge of each, for practical and other reasons it made sense that responsibility for granting faculties be vested with the Bishop of that Vicariate. Bishop Challoner applied to Rome for this to be officially sanctioned, thus arousing the ire of the Regular Orders viz. Dominicans, Benedictines, Jesuits, Franciscans, and Carmelites, who were most unhappy, considering it a usurpation of their authority and an unacceptable intrusion into the management of their affairs.  Disagreement and dissension continued for several years, with appeals and counter appeals to Rome, with the matter finally settled in 1753 with the papal brief ‘Apostolicum Ministerium’ which laid out the Rules of Mission, pronouncing firmly on the side of the Bishops.
 Pope Benedict XIV - Papal Brief  'Apostolicum Ministerium' 1753

Throughout his life, Challoner showed an immense capacity for work and a clear judgement of priorities, particularly  in his writings which included prayer-books, catechisms, saints’ lives, martyrologies, controversy or ascetical writings, whatever he considered would best serve the salvation of souls. The result might not be the absolute best, but it would be the best that he could do at the time. For him the priority was that well or less well,  the work should be done when it was needed. Those who knew him spoke of "his tender compassion for the weakness and frailties of mankind;  that sweetness of speech and behaviour which gained the affection of all who knew him, and by which he led them to the love of God." They spoke of the "sweetness and affability of his discouse", and say how "the mildness and modesty, which were the distinctive marks of Dr. Challoner's character, were visible in his countenance and attracted every heart to him". He was devout and prayerful in his habits, and "he made it his constant and invariable practice (which all his acquaintances observed) to renew the love of God in his heart whenever he heard the clock strike, by signing himself with the sign of the Cross, and saying, 'O my God, teach me to love Thee in Time and Eternity ' - which practice he also recommended to all the faithful, and for that reason inserted it in the Catechism which he published for the instruction of children"          

       'Gin Lane, 1751' by Hogarth- the London of Bishop Challenor

Between 1749-1752 from his modest Holborn lodgings, Challoner combined a life of recollection and prayer, with one of unending pastoral activity in his work for the poor, the sick and those in prison, especially Catholics to whom he was the good shepherd. He was harassed by the troubles ensuing from the unsuccessful Jacobite revolt of 1745, added to which was his involvement in the vexatious dissensions between secular and regular clergy; yet in spite of these and other difficulties,  he found the time to edit and produce a revised edition of the Douai-Rheims Bible. The only available Catholic version in English was 150 years old, difficult to find, and hard to understand by reason of obscurities of style and the fact that it was not designed for popular use.

There had long existed a need for a new English edition of the Douai Bible, in which current expressions would replace obsolete and archaic forms, at the same time preserving the original sense. It was a project beset with difficulties, demanding considerable time, labour, and patience, as well as linguistic ability and wide and detailed knowledge, theological as well as exegetical. Ideally it was a work for numerous scholars working together over a period of years, but in 18th century  England, such a committee of Catholic scholars was an impossibility. To Challoner this meant that he must take on the responsibility himself, for he considered it a work that had to be done as a matter of urgency for the salvation of souls. He set out to revise the Douai text according to the Clementine edition of the Vulgate, and to rewrite it in such English as could be understood by the people of his day. In effect he produced what was practically a new translation which was to serve not only as the basis but also the substance of later versions. Challoner’s method was simple and effective, for he took the Douai Bible as his text and checked the translation by the Clementine Vulgate, and when he found a word or phrase which needed simplifying, had recourse to the Authorized Version. The New Testament was completed first, and after approval by two theologians at Douai, was published in 1749, with the Old Testament following a year later.

A comparison of the Challoner-Rheims with the original Rheims and the King James Version shows how much influence the latter had in Challoner's revision:

Rheims, 1582

1 Diversely and many ways in times past God speaking to the fathers in the prophets,
2 last of all in these days hath spoken to us in his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all, by whom he made also the worlds.
3 Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and carrying all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty in the high places;
4 being made so much better than angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name above them.

King James, 1611

1 God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds,
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Challoner, 1752

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high,
4 being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.

                          (with ack. www.Bible Researcher)


At  this same time, Challoner was urgently seeking a suitable location for a Catholic boy’s school within convenient distance of London, the original school  at Twyford having been forced to close as a result of the civic unrest following the 1745 rising.   Lord Aston’s manor house of Standon Lordship in Hertfordshire, was eventually chosen, and after some local objections had been overcome, the school  opened in the autumn of 1749, which as St Edmund’s, Old Hall, Ware, was later to become the diocesan college for the see of Westminster.

St Edmunds, Old Hall, Ware
During this time, Bishop Challoner maintained his episcopal visitations on a regular basis.  As has been said, usually the Catholic laity were centred around the estates of Catholic gentry, with a chapel and resident priest available to them. Over time and for different reasons, these estates passed to new owners often unsympathetic to the Catholic faith, resulting in the departure of the priest and the closing of the chapel.  With the exception of Winchester, Langston and Havant, in Hampshire, and in the county of Berkshire, Challoner found a general diminution in the numbers of missions and the numbers of Catholics, thus confirming what he had feared for some time.
On 8th February 1750, the day before Challoner was due to return home,   “London experienced an earthquake which not only caused chimneys to collapse, but made the judges and barristers flee from Westminster Hall lest the building fall upon them. A month later alarm turned to panic when a second and more violent shock, accompanied by lightning, set the bells ringing in the steeples and brought masses of stonework crashing from the towers of Westminster Abbey. Pulpit and Press had already published the view that the occurrence was a warning against sin, and it was widely rumoured that London and Westminster were to be utterly destroyed on the 8th April, with the result that the greater part of the population is said to have spent the night of the 7th in the open air”        
                    A pastoral letter was issued by Challoner entitled, ‘Instructions and advice to Catholicks upon occasion of the late earthquakes’ in which Catholics were reminded that earthquakes may justly be regarded as tokens that God is angry with us, calling on Catholics to prayer and penance, and ordering the priests to insert the Collects against earthquakes in the Mass, until the end of May, while the ‘Miserere’ was to be sung in all public chapels after Compline or Benediction on week-days.
                'The Great Day of His Wrath'  by John Martin

In 1751 Challoner published his ‘Instructions and Meditations on the Jubilee’ which had been proclaimed in 1750 by Pope Benedict XIV. This was a relatively short work explaining the Church’s intention in granting indulgences and the conditions for gaining them, thirty meditations, and some suitable prayers. This publication though short, is important as showing the zeal for souls which inspired him, and his power as a preacher. The never ending struggle between good and evil, with its final issue for each individual soul, was so intensely real to him, and the presence of God  so actual a reality, that his words in direct exhortation take on a force and directness in marked contrast to his usual style. He writes as though he were speaking, in short insistent phrases, questioning, exclaiming, and exhorting. There is sometimes a sense of spiritual exaltation, and sometimes personal pain in his hurrying sentences. 
In one passage he is contemplating the loss of God which is the chief horror of hell, and writes;
            “They have lost Him totally: they have lost Him irrecoverably:  they have lost Him eternally.  They have lost Him in Himself: they have lost Him in themselves: they have lost Him in all His creatures.  The lively sense of this irreparable loss, and of all the consequences of it, continually racks their despairing souls:  they cannot turn away their thought one moment from it:  it grips them with inexpressible torments.  Whichever way they turn to seek any one drop of ease or comfort, in Him or from Him, they meet with none:  all things conspire against them:  all things tell them they have lost their God.”
    'Satan' by Gustave Dore-Illustration for Paradise Lost (Milton)

When considering the perfections of God, he talks of - “His truth is infinitely charming”, and “What a joy it is to a true lover of God, to think that whatsoever may come to himself or to anything in the world, his Love at least, whom he loves without comparison more than himself and all things else, will always be infinitely glorious, infinitely rich and infinitely happy.”
 At about this time a major problem arose for the English Catholics, concerning the Sacrament of Marriage, a problem which was to remain a source of scandal and controversy for more than eighty years. The facts were that for a long time it was legal for marriages to be celebrated without banns in any church not subject to the jurisdiction of a bishop, and such places as St James’s, Duke’s Place, the Savoy Chapel, and the prison chapels in the Marshalsea, Fleet, and Kings Bench, had long had a flourishing and disreputable trade in such marriages. In 1686 an  attempt was made to legislate against these clandestine marriages, but this was unsuccessful, and by 1704 marriages were being performed in the Fleet at around 600 per month. In 1712 an Act was eventually passed prohibiting the use of these chapels for marriages. This again proved ineffective, for the disreputable clergy  or pseudo clergy, merely fitted up local shops or rooms as chapels, and touted for business in the streets, with extremely successful and profitable results. London effectively became a grand ‘Gretna Green’, initially without even the need for residential qualification.  Not surprisingly the evil and misery that ensued was immense.
             Eventually in 1753,  Lord Hardwicke introduced a Bill intended to stop this scandal, whereby every marriage was to be solemnized according to the requirements of the Church of England, including banns or licence and the full Anglican ritual, the only exceptions being in favour of Quakers and Jews.
            This was a great grievance to Dissenters, but even more so to Catholics, who hitherto had been able to be married as and where they pleased, and to whom it was a matter of grave religious principle that they should under no circumstances take part in the worship or religious rites of other denominations. Challoner immediately pressed for Catholics to be included in the exceptions, using the services of an eminent Catholic lawyer named Booth,  also enlisting the support of the Duke of Norfolk and his brother the Duke of Newcastle. Unfortunately, in spite of strong objections, the Bill passed both Houses, becoming law in June 1753.

                      Thus Catholics now found themselves in a truly invidious position, for if they obeyed the law and married in an Anglican church, they were acting against their conscience; whereas if they disobeyed it and were content with a marriage solemnized as of old by one of their own priests, the marriage was held to be void in law, their future children were made illegitimate, they themselves might be convicted as felons, and the officiating priest was liable to 14 years transportation. The best that Catholics could obtain from the Government was an assurance that the attendance of Catholics in Protestant churches on these occasions, was to be considered, not as an act of religious conformity, but as “a ceremony prescribed by the law of the land for the civil legality of the marriage.”  Many priests took the view that marriage under the prescribed circumstances, had become merely a civil ceremony with the prayers of the officiating minister regarded rather as the good wishes of a civil official. Others including Bishop Challoner, could not accept this broad interpretation, regarding marriage in these circumstances, as a religious service conducted by a minister in an heretical church.  Agreement could not be reached, and after some weeks the question was referred by Bishop Challoner to Rome, with copies of the Act of Parliament and the Anglican Marriage Services duly forwarded.
A reply was subsequently received from the Pope’s secretary in Rome, disallowing Catholics to be married in accordance with the new Act, as it would constitute ‘communicatio in sacris’;  which reply was felt by Challoner to be inadequate and not particularly helpful, bearing in mind  the prevailing circumstances.
Bishop Challoner was acutely aware of the implications and practical difficulties for his flock, and chose to:-
              “tolerate, where necessity may require it, our peoples going to Church (out of the time of the service) and there making or renewing their marriage contract, in the usual form of words before the minister, and witnesses: putting on also the ring, if they please, and paying the dues; but excusing themselves from kneeling and praying. But then, I think in this case, they should first be married by a priest. As for our countenancing marriages, absolutely clandestine, which the Church has always detested, (it) is what should not be thought of……”           
By adopting this practice the marriages of Catholics would be valid under English law, and the children of such marriages would be legitimate, but equally by the same law the earlier celebration of the marriage by a priest was a felony punishable in the case of the celebrant, by transportation for 14 years.
           The danger was real and there were some priests who felt it better that the parties go first to the Protestant church, which while keeping everything within the law of the land, meant that the Sacrament was conferred without the blessing of the Church and amid surroundings of an alien worship. Some London clergy considered that this could be evaded by the expedient of withholding true internal consent, so that once before the Catholic priest, the parties could give full consent for the first time, and thus receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. Another view was that the contract expressed before the priest operated as a second expression of one continuing consent, beginning before one minister and finishing before another.
         'Christ Crowned With Thorns' by Mathias Stom (1633/9)
Thus there arose a considerable divergency of practice, and even though Challoner preferred that Catholics should not go to the Protestant church at all, his view was not shared by all, and thus he tolerated their going to an Anglican church but only after their marriage by a Catholic priest. Challenor had not received a clear and 'fully considered' reply from Rome, and thus felt it prudent to ‘tread softly’ on this question. Yet the operation of the Act led to many difficulties, for in practice it was found almost impossible to prevent couples from kneeling to receive the clergyman’s blessing, or from joining in his prayers when once they were within the walls of the Protestant church. In the case of those who went first to the Anglican church, the majority of priests considered it sacrilegious in so contracting the Sacrament. Yet over time this practice became so widespread that  it was described as the ‘accepted modern practice’(Rev F C Husenbeth 1834),  yet it could not have happened without much trouble of conscience to clergy and laity alike.
         In this instance Bishop Challenor’s authority, great as it was among Catholics, did not prevail, for in spite of his views and his directions to the clergy, the more usual practice was for Catholic marriages to be celebrated first in the Anglican church, and then before a priest. This unsatisfactory situation continued for more than 80 years, until the Marriage Act of 1836 placed all Dissenters, including Catholics, on the same footing as the Quakers and the Jews.   
(to be continued)                 ( Ack.  'Bishop Challoner'  by
                                                                    M. Trappes-Lomax
                                          pub. Longman's Green & Co. 1936)            

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Bishop Challoner (Part 2) - the English Mission 1730 - 1742

(Continuation of previous post)

                               KING GEORGE II (1683-1760)

When Challoner returned to England in the late summer of 1730, he found a Church silenced and generally alienated from society, with Catholics effectively barred from much community life. Apprehension, frustration and loneliness, arising from the cumulative effect of perpetual ostracism and incessant injustice and oppression, had replaced physical martyrdom. In 1723, for instance, £100,000 was automatically assessed on Catholic landowners above 18 years of age, Catholic gentry were debarred from sitting or voting in either House of Parliament; they were incapable of inheriting land so that family estates passed to Protestant next-of-kin should they so choose; they were unable to purchase land but were required to pay double land tax on such real property as they owned; they were forbidden to keep arms and were liable to be deprived of any horse above the value of £5. They were disqualified from holding any office in the army or the navy; nor could they practise as a barrister, doctor, or schoolmaster. They could not send their children to be educated abroad without a fine; and in order that due check might be kept on them and their property they were bound to register their name and estate under penalty of forfeiture, and to enrol all deeds. Although some laws were rarely enforced, they could be and occasionally were, on individual Catholics.
The situation for the clergy was even worse, with their very presence in the country illegal.   Between 1700-1778 the law was summed up as follows:-

“By the statute of Queen Elizabeth, 27, c.2, it is High Treason for any man who is proved to be a priest, to breathe in this kingdom.”

Later a 'less severe statute' was added, which authorised a fine and short imprisonment.  However to somewhat redress the 'status quo', a statute of King William III condemned any priest convicted of exercising his functions, to perpetual punishment.
It may here be remarked that the 'less severe statute' did not supersede the statute of Elizabeth, 27, and that the act of William III was so far from being a dead letter, that a priest, Fr.John Baptist Maloney, was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, under its provisions, as late as 1767.

                                 THE BENCH  -  by W.Hogarth
During three-quarters of the 18th century there was intermittent application of the penal code which ensured that the possibility of enforcement was an ever present threat. In 1730 the political situation was hostile to Catholics, and throughout the country the Faith was maintained almost wholly through the efforts of those gentry  who, by supporting private chaplains, and giving employment, maintained as it were, tiny oases of Catholicism. Should these families apostatize, or die out, or suffer financial exhaustion, both the source of Catholic teaching and the support which their poorer neighbours received, would  automatically end. Each such failure was like the loss of an important outpost in a hostile land, with no possibility of recapture. Eventually and logically, the extinction of the Faith outside London seemed to be only a question of time.
     In London, the several embassy chapels protected by diplomatic immunity,  ensured that the Mass and the Sacraments were at least available to the laity. Even so there was no expansion of the faith in these quarters, for which Bishop Petre, in his letter to Rome of 1737, blamed some of the clergy,  "Several of the missioners, as we behold, not without deep grief of mind, are inflamed with no zeal for souls, but seek the things which are their own and not the things of Jesus Christ. Not a few of them, even, either entirely rough and ignorant, or being men of bad character, give scandal both to Catholics and others.”

      THINK WELL ON'T (1728) -  by Richard Challoner

 In stark contrast, Charles Butler in his biography of Richard Challoner, had this to say:

"From his arrival in London till he was consecrated Bishop, he was a perfect model of a Missionary Priest. He avoided more intercourse with the world than was absolutely necessary, assiduous in the discharge of his duties, with daily meditation, celebration of Mass, and reading of office; frequently visiting his flock carrying piety and recollection wherever he went; he was cheerful, and the cause of cheerfulness in others; always serene, affable, unaffected, prudent and charitable, never said anything which tended, even remotely, to his own advantage.  He reproved with the greatest gentleness, his conduct abundantly verifying the golden maxim of St Francis de Sales, ‘that a good man is never outdone in good manner’.  His visits were always short, and nothing, except the most urgent necessity, ever kept him from returning to his abode at a very early hour, that he might be in the way to hear confessions, to give advice, to catechise, to attend to the calls of the sick or dying, or to exercise any other missionary duty, for which it should be necessary or expedient that he should then be found at home…….he considered himself as particularly commissioned to preach the gospel to the poor, whose cellars, garrets, hospitals, workhouses and prisons were much more agreeable, as well as familiar, to him than the splendid habitations of the great and opulent …..”
                                    BISHOP CHALLONER

Little is known of the details of his early years in London, but it is believed that he lived north of Holborn, and worked in that area, always in disguise. He seems to have been successful in reclaiming bad Catholics and making converts. His subsequent catechetical and controversial works illustrate his method, which was to lay a solid foundation of instruction on which to base his exhortations. To touch the will through the intelligence was his objective. His first appeal was always to authority; to the authority of the Church if he is addressing Catholics, to that of Scripture if he is arguing with others. His presentation was always orderly and methodical, and confined strictly to the matter in hand; citations from Scripture, dogmatic truths, theological arguments, historical facts, are all gathered together in the closest compass. When this task had been accomplished he made what may be regarded as the personal appeal, and, if necessary, pleaded, encouraged and exhorted with deep conviction and earnestness. But all his efforts in this direction were immediately based on the truths which he had been at pains to establish.
In 1732 he published two works ‘The Unerring Authority of the Catholic Church in matters of Faith…..’ and ‘The Grounds of the Catholic Doctrine contained in the Profession of Faith, published by Pope Pius IV, by way of question and answer’

In 1734, Bishop Giffard died, aged 92 years, and was succeeded by Bishop Benjamin Petre who immediately appointed Challoner his Vicar General. 
Between 1734 and 1737, in spite of his additional responsibilities, Challoner wrote five more controversial works,  as well as editing a new edition of Gother’s ‘Essay on the Change and Choice of Religion’ and providing a new translation of the ‘Imitation of Christ’. His final book of this period was entitled ‘The Catholic Christian instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies and Observances of the Church’ which for more than a century was to remain the standard work of instruction on these points.
                It contained more than its name implied, however, for its preface was devoted to refuting the main contentions of the ‘Letter from Rome showing an exact conformity between Popery and Paganism: or the Religion of the present Romans derived from that of their heathen ancestors’,  by the Protestant writer Dr Conyers Middleton.
                In his refutation Challoner added light humour to his usual framework of logic and erudition, and from his secret lodging in the slums of Holborn, fighting an apparently losing battle and himself an outlaw, Challoner made gentle fun of Dr Middleton.  The latter was not amused, and seizing on Challoner’s references to the Anglican Church, used these as evidence of the author’s disaffection to his sovereign – an offence under the existing penal code. 

 Dr CONYERS MIDDLETON - Protestant writer and theologian
 “It was not in the power of Dr Middleton, with all his store of ancient learning and all his powers of language, to give anything like an answer to the arguments above stated: but in return he was enabled to bring in the penal laws to the aid of his defective logic and theology. In short, the situation of Dr Challoner, after the publication of this ‘Catholic Christian Instructed’, with the preface to it, became so much exposed to danger, which others shared together with him, that he was advised to retire out of the kingdom for a certain space of time’ (Rev. Milner in his ‘Brief Account’).

Thus in mid September 1737, Challoner returned to Douai, but it was not to be a time of rest, for the ailing President,  Dr Witham, took the opportunity to nominate Challoner as his successor. In May 1738 Dr Witham died, and Challoner succeeded him as head of the College.
Challoner now found himself in an awkward situation, for he was highly regarded by Bishop Petre, who flatly refused to agree to his taking the post at Douai. Furthermore in writing to Rome in April 1739, the former was full of praise for Challoner’s  “many remarkable gifts of mind, his great humility and gentleness, by his assiduous fidelity in reclaiming sinners to the way of life taught by the Gospel and to the truths of our religion; by his marvellous power in preaching, in instructing the ignorant and in writing books both spiritual and controversial, he has won not only the esteem but the veneration of all who have either heard him preach or who have read his books.” Bishop Petre then expressed his wish for Challoner to be his Coadjutor.

                               POPE CLEMENT XII  (1730-1740)

Thus it was that with Papal approval, in September 1739, Challoner was appointed titular Bishop of Debra, also Coadjutor to Bishop Petre with right of succession to the London District. Initially Challoner begged to be excused from accepting these appointments, alleging that he was an improper person to be made Bishop, being born of parents who were not members of the Catholic Church; and that he himself had professed the erroneous opinions of his parents. This purely technical objection was overcome after some delay, and on 29 January 1741, the feast of St Francis de Sales, Bishop Petre consecrated his coadjutor. There is no record of the details of the consecration except that it was in a small, hidden convent in Hammersmith, where Bishop Giffard had died, and where a community established by Queen Catherine of Braganza, had preserved the secret of its religious life.

    In 1740 was published possibly Challoner’s most famous work, namely ‘The Garden of the Soul: or a Manual of Spiritual Exercises and Instructions for Christians, who living in the World, aspire to devotion.’ This small and inexpensive work combined the functions of a prayer book with information, instructions and practical advice, and it proved so popular that seven editions were printed in seventeen years. The difference between the ‘Garden of the Soul’ and its predecessors was that it gave, as it were, the theory as well as the practice: it was a treatise on the spiritual life, as well as a collection of exercises therein.

The London District included Kent, Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and Jersey and Guernsey;  also Maryland and Pennsylvania in the American colonies, and certain islands in the West Indies. There were about 20,000 Catholics in London itself,  and in the counties which formed the London Vicariate were an additional 4/5000 souls. Early in June 1741, Challoner set off on his first visitation which was to take two years in all, when combined with the ordinary work of the vicariate. Today it is normal to find a Catholic church in most large towns, with perhaps the occasional country chapel. In the 18th century the situation was reversed and in the ten counties forming the London Vicariate almost all the centres of Catholic life were found in the country seats of the nobility and gentry. Every Catholic estate had a priest and a congregation. The clergy themselves were in an anomalous position for as private chaplains they could be employed or dismissed at will, and as such were not at the effective disposition of their Bishop. Additionally the situation was complicated by many Catholics preferring to have chaplains belonging to a religious order over whom the Bishop had less control than ever, for it was for many years contended that he had no right either to give or withdraw faculties, and all that he could reasonably expect was that they should intimate to him the faculties they had received from their own superiors.

Challoner returned to London on 19 July 1741 on completion of the first part of his visitation, having visited twenty congregations and confirmed over 800 persons. He then immediately commenced work on a new book, ‘Memoirs of Missionary Priests, as well Secular as Regular and of other Catholics of both sexes, that have suffered death in England, on Religious Accounts, from the Year of Our Lord 1577 to1684’. This was published in 1742 in two volumes and won itself a place with his ‘Garden of the Soul’ and ‘Meditations’ in the affections of Catholics. “We pretend not to make Panegyrics of any of these brave men,” he wrote, “but merely to deliver short memoirs of what we found most remarkable in their lives and particularly in their deaths.”

                              St JOHN SOUTHWORTH  (1592-1654)

His purpose in writing this book was to enable and encourage the English Catholics of the day - who had  little going for them and no expectation of better things to come, to find  spiritual consolation and strength from the lives of their faithful  predecessors. Up to this time there was no recorded English version of their lives. There were some individual biographies in French, Spanish and Italian, and probably more in Latin in rare and ancient works and in inaccessible archives. Challoner’s task was to collect, examine and arrange, to translate and abridge, and finally to present in suitable form,  material from manuscripts, books and records, scattered widely throughout Britain and the Continent. He was assisted by Rev.Alban Butler at Douai, who transcribed many of the original documents, amounting to some four hundred memoirs. Challoner’s account is written in the way of an ancient chronicler, setting down without comment, deeds which speak for themselves, and telling it  simply and straightforwardly, without pause, protest or debate, and as though present at the scene. It concerned people of whom he would write, “there was not a man of them all, but might have saved his life, if he would but have conformed in matters of religion.”
  For those of his flock for whom he wrote, conformity would have brought all that made life in their world worth living. Their temptation was one of despair in an hostile environment, and this book and others like it, provided the spiritual sustenance and encouragement so desperately needed  for their faith to survive.

    In the autumn of 1741 Challoner resumed his visitation through the counties of Surrey, Middlesex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and into Hampshire, eventually reaching Winchester with its sizeable Catholic community of some 300 souls, plus an additional 400 from surrounding congregations. On route he visited East Hendred where the Eyston family maintained an unbroken tradition of Catholicity, and where in their  13th century private chapel of St Amand he celebrated Mass and confirmed some twenty-five parishioners.    Winchester had its own resident priest, occupying  St Peter’s House, where apparently the Catholic Church and presbytery still stands to this day. A feature peculiar to Winchester, was that the Catholics had retained the use of the ancient Catholic cemetery of St James, where Dr Challoner’s mother had been buried. Challoner remained at Winchester for two or three days, confirming some 100 people, and  leaving on the 26th October to ensure his return to London by 1st November, the feast of All Saints.

            St AMANDS 13th century Chapel, East Hendred, Oxon.

Challoner now completed a new work entitled ‘The Grounds of the Old Religion’, his longest apologetical work, being the practical outcome of his method of bringing before all men the claims of the Catholic Church to be the only “pillar and ground of truth”, the one divinely appointed authority in regard to revelation.
He wrote “the things of this world all seem to stand against the Old Religion in this Nation: the general prejudice of the people, the penal laws, the authority of the magistrate, the interest of the clergy, the eloquence of the pulpit, the learning of the Universities, the favour of men in power, the influence of education; in a word, all temporal considerations of honour, profit and pleasure are visibly on the Protestant side.” Against this, he adds that he presents “a set of motives of a superior nature” which will satisfy his reader “that if he has the World against him, he has at least God and His truth on his side”.

                                      ' TU ES PETRUS .......'

  The ‘superior motives’ were simply the arguments in favour of the divine authority of the Catholic Church, which he insisted on as the basis of his position. One particular line of argument he used, was directed against the reformers of the XVI century, both Continental heresiarchs and the first prelates intruded by Elizabeth into the English sees. He offers an historical  examination of their lives and writings, with a view to showing that such men were unworthy of being accepted as religious guides, or as witnesses against the traditions of the Church., asserting both the novelty of the reformed doctrines and the unsatisfactory characters of the reformers.


                            KING HENRY VIII  (1539)  -  by Holbein

"Nothing,"he writes, "makes more for the old Religion, than an impartial view of the first origin of all these new sects of pretenders to Reformation. Every circumstance that attended the change of Religion introduced by these Reformers, demonstrates that God had no hand in their work ...... The motives which set these men to work were visibly bad: the means they employed to compass their ends were illegal and unchristian; and the fruits that ensued both in Church and State, and in the lives and manners of particulars, were such as a good tree could never have produced. All which things, as they are undeniably plain from History, clearly show that none of these new sects have any share in the Church of Christ; which therefore must be sought for elsewhere, viz. amongst the followers of the old Religion: there Christ left it and there alone we shall find it."

                              St MICHAEL - Crushing Lucifer

This was Challoner's first controversial book since his 'Catholic Christian Instructed', and to forestall any repetition of legal action, he included in the preface a request that any writer undertaking an answer should do so on the basis of solid argument, rather than resort to legal violence to 'stop the mouth of truth and suppress its light'.    There were no repercussions.                  (To be continued)

Ack. 'Bishop Challoner' by M.Trappes-Lomax
Pub. Longman's, Green & Co. 1936

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bishop Challoner (1691-1781) Catholic Leader in Dangerous Times

Bishop Richard Challoner (1691-1781)
I suspect that many of us, and I include myself, are apt to take our Catholic heritage rather for granted.   We know of the terrible persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries with many heroic martyrs and saints known and unknown. Because of their faith and courage, and through the mercy and goodness of God, the Catholic faith survived. Yet I wonder how much we know of and appreciate the sufferings of Catholics in 18th century England, I have to admit that until recently I had little or no idea.  It was because of  this that I was persuaded  to read a biography of  'Bishop Challoner' by Michael Trappex-Lomax,  itself  based on another book,  'The life and Times of Bishop Challenor' by Dr Edwin Burton. The book is an eye-opener in so far as it makes one realise the enormous odds stacked against the very survival of the Catholic faith in England during that century. As Catholics we know that Christ promised that He would be with His Church all days, even to the consummation of the world, but that does not mean that in some countries the Faith might not die out, and certainly in England it was only saved by the grace of God, the sacrifices of  generations of Catholics, and by those courageous and faithful few, clerical and lay members of 18th century English society, of which number Bishop Challoner was an outstanding and inspirational leader.
King James II - reigned Feb 1685 to Dec 1688
Last Catholic King of England

In December 1688,  as a result of treachery by  English nobles, particularly the Duke of Marlborough   whom he had trusted and honoured,  King James II was forced to flee England,  leaving his kingdom in the hands of the usurper Protestant Dutch prince,William of Orange. With the King went the hopes of the English Catholics, and to the accompaniment of incendiarism and looting, there began that period for the Catholic Church in England, which was to last for 100 years, in which there was nothing  to look forward to, except endurance to the end.
This was the world into which Richard Challoner was born on 29th September 1691, at Lewes in  Sussex. His father Richard Challoner, ‘a rigid Dissenter’, and wine-cooper of that place, died whilst he was a  child, and his mother with her son, took up domestic service in  the Catholic  household of Sir John Gage,  at Firle near Lewes. To the influence of this Catholic household can reasonably be attributed the conversion or reconciliation to the Church of Mrs Challoner, and the reception of her son when he was about 13 years old.
            Shortly after, they moved to Warkworth in Northamptonshire, the mother employed as housekeeper to the Catholic widow Lady Anastasia Holman, daughter of the martyred Viscount Stafford, now Blessed William Howard, and herself a descendant of another martyr, Margaret of Salisbury, now Blessed Margaret Pole, the last of the Plantagenists. The chaplain at Warksworth was the saintly John Gother, a small frail man of untiring zeal, one of the most notable apologists of the time, a man of wit and learning. It was he who arranged for Richard Challoner to be sent to the English College at Douai in Flanders, where he was to study ultimately for the priesthood. On  July 29th 1705  Richard Challoner began his studies; he was nearly 14 years of age.

Blessed Margaret Pole (1473-1541)

Blessed William Howard (1614-1680)        

The English College prided itself on its history, patriotic to an intense degree cherishing the Catholic tradition of earlier time. Significantly the Presidents of Douai at the time of Challoner’s entry and at his ordination, Dr Edward Paston and Dr Robert Witham, and the professor who welcomed him, Dr Dicconson, all belonged to families long established before either Tudors or Cecils were known in England.
               It was to be 13 years before Challenor was to return home, passing the days of  his youth and early manhood in that unique establishment, set up solely for the formation of young men both cleric and lay, willing to suffer all things to maintain and increase the Catholic faith in England. Already, in fulfilment of that purpose, one hundred and sixty of its pupils had suffered death. The older members of the house had conversed with martyrs, and there was no guarantee that those days were not to return.
                 Apart from the reality of exile and the communal daily Mass for the conversion of England,  the faith at Douai was lived and  breathed without fear, but danger still lurked in the shadows for, as with other English colleges, spies had found their way into Douai. As a result scholars usually changed their names, and Challoner was known as Richard Willard.
               For three years Challoner’s education  was concerned almost wholly with the Classics. The morning routine comprised  5 a.m. rise, followed by Mass and meditation and a breakfast of bread and butter, with study commencing at 8a.m..All but the youngest boys had private rooms, the bread and the beer was ‘of the best sort’ and adequate in quantity, and the half-pound ration of meat for dinner was doubled on Sundays and holidays.
             In the summer of 1708 Challenor finished the ‘Humanities’ course, and immediately began the ‘Divinity’ course, consisting of two years Philosophy and four years Theology, in preparation for the priesthood. On 3rd November 1708 he took the 'College Oath' and made his Profession of Faith:-
            ‘I, Richard Challoner, an Alumnus of the English College at Douay, considering the divine benefits which I have received, particularly that which has led me from my country now afflicted with heresy, and which has made me a member of His Catholic Church, desiring moreover to show myself not altogether unmindful of such great mercy of God, have resolved to offer myself to His divine service, so far as I am able for furthering the end of this College: and I promise and swear before Almighty God that I am ready and will be ever ready, so far as His most holy Grace shall help me, to receive Holy Orders in due time and to return to England in order to gain the souls of others as often and when it shall seem good to the Superior of this College so to command. In the meantime while I dwell here I promise to live peaceably and quietly, and manfully to obey the constitutions and rules of the College.’

             The peace was short-lived for in 1710 the shadow of war reached Douai, and the army of the Confederation surrounded the town. The main body of the community had managed to escape to Lille, a few remaining to look after the interests of the college property. It is not known whether Challoner was among them. Douai was besieged for 52 nights with the French defenders reduced from 8000 to 2000 men, and on 24 June they surrendered.

            The new Dutch governor of Douai performed one of his first public duties a few days later when he welcomed into the conquered town Prince Eugene and with him Marlborough, calm, unconquerable, the glory of English arms, the betrayer of the Catholic King, James II.

Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)

The interests of the university of Douai and the colleges had been safeguarded in the articles of capitulation, and on the 1st October 1710 the new scholastic year began. But problems of a different sort now arose, namely the suspicion of Jansenist influences in the theological teaching..A commission of enquiry was appointed but it was to be five years before the charge was officially and finally dismissed. During that period Challenor completed his theological studies also being appointed professor of philosophy for the students.                                  
            In August 1712 the French army recaptured Douai from the Dutch, necessitating the vacation of the college yet again, with on this occasion considerable structural damage. Notwithstanding,  the students and staff soon returned, and Challoner continued his work and his preparation for the priesthood.

          On 28 March 1716, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Tournai. In the official record of ordination, the president described him in the college diary, as 'notable for learning and piety if ever man was'. The next two years passed smoothly according to normal college routine, and in July 1718 Challoner returned to England for the first time for 13 years, remaining away until September. His visit was on 'private matters', probably meeting his mother and engaging in college business connected with the forfeiture of Catholic estates following the failure of the 1715 rising.

          Now ordained and with the additional responsibility of 'Prefect of Studies', Challoner was awarded a  Theology degree at the University of Douai, his thesis dealing with  the  'Infallibility of the Pope',  and basing his proposition  on the authoritative teachings of St Thomas Aquinas. This was a controversial subject particularly in the Europe of the day where Jansenism, Josephism,Gallicanism,  and nationalist pride in its various forms, had  support in powerful places. This occasion revealed  the faith, courage, determination, and intellect of Challoner, qualities that were to be continually displayed throughout his long and demanding life.


                                 Pope Clement XI (1700-1720)                         

At about this time, an unpleasant  allegation  was made by a disgruntled priest, a Rev Lawrence Breers, concerning the general standards of the College. He alleged that there was no discipline, nor  piety nor learning,  that the ecclesiastical spirit had almost vanished and that  the President and professors  were unfit for their work; that the students were ignorant and rough, and that nearly all the members of the college, cleric and laic, were given to drinking bouts.

         The College was of staunch Jacobite sympathy, and as such had aroused the ire of a  certain Abbe Strickland – an influential cleric and one of the first Catholics to support the Hanoverian dynasty, who forwarded details of this allegation to the Papal  Nuncio in Paris.   Challoner was deputed to deal with this  matter, which he did efficiently, proving the charges to be baseless. The Abbe Strickland then accused the President of libel, which allegation Challoner again dealt with. The significance of this matter is not so much in the allegations made, but rather that Challoner was given the responsibility of repudiating them.
                Prince William of Orange - King William III of England  (1689-1702)          

Interestingly the Abbe Strickland was a pupil at Douai from 1708 to 1712 when he returned to England. Subsequently he entered the English seminary of St Gregory in Paris. This would suggest that Strickland and Challoner were probably  known to each other, and one can  surmise that they were hardly kindred spirits. About 1716  Strickland was proposed as co-adjutor to Bishop Gifford of the London District, but was rejected on account of his youth and unfamiliarity with England. He then lived at Lorraine at the court of the exiled King of Poland, and also visited Rome and Vienna,  apparently  promoting the cause of the Hanoverian English king, to the anger of the Jacobite supporters.  He was given the abbey of  'Saint Pierre de Préaux' in Normandy by the Duc d'Orleans,  after which he returned to London, where  with contacts in high places,  he endeavoured to promote  laws aimed at improving the lot of Catholics in England - based on support for the new dynastic line. This failed, Jacobite influences prevailing, and  Strickland was accused of  being ‘an enemy to his religion and inclined to Jansenism’ – allegations which he denied.  In 1727  he was appointed Bishop of Namur, and thereafter  seems to have been much involved in diplomatic and political matters of Church and State, as well as administering his own diocese. He died in January 1740.  (ref.Wikisource)
George I- King of England (1714-1727)

In 1720 Dr Dicconson was appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District of England, and Challoner was appointed vice-president of the College in his place, this in spite of the fact that he was not yet thirty years old and had only been a priest for four years. The office of vice-president carried with it many duties besides that of governing the college in the absence of the President. As well as ensuring that the Constitution and rules were obeyed by all, both priests and students, he was responsible for  the spiritual care of  the students. The Constitution required him to take special pains to preserve charity and mutual goodwill in the college, and he was responsible for the care of the sick. He was also required to keep an inventory of all movable effects in the college, and finally he had jurisdiction over every other matter not the responsibility of another. To add to his work load, he had many penitents in the town particularly among the Irish soldiers then in the French army and garrisoned at Douai, visiting them regularly both in their quarters and in hospital. Yet somehow Challenor succeeded in fitting everything in, epitomizing to some degree the pattern of his whole life: there was always more to be done, and yet somehow it always was done.

 During the next four years, owing to the parlous state of the building,  in the President's words,  ' it being ready to fall upon our heads  with every great wind and storm’, the greater part of the college underwent extensive repair and renovation. Throughout this time the itinerary of the college contiued as usual.

       In 1727 Douai University conferred upon Challenor the 'doctorate of divinity', an honour which the President noted ‘he had in the opinion of all men long ago deserved’.
      Challenor had desired for a long time to return to England as a missionary, but always subject to the authority of the  President. He was loved and respected by all at the college, and nobody wanted him to leave. A college poet had this to say about Challenor;
                   Lest, all completed, you should now desire
                   Mov’d by a glowing zeal hence to retire,
                   Oh! With your presence bless us yet! Oh, stay,
                   And to perfection show us still the way!
                   Let Britain want a while your saving hand:
                   For howe’er great your pains, or good your heart,
                   You there can act but one Apostle’s part.
                   But here your conduct and instructions breed
                   A race of Shepherds fit Christ’s flock to feed.

            At this time, he was relieved of his responsibilities as ‘prefect of studies’, and thereupon  wrote a small volume of meditations for every day in the month, entitled ‘Think Well On’t’,  which was published in 1728. At a time when few Catholic works appeared, and with few facilities for the purchase of Catholic books, ‘Think Well On’t’  received a warm welcome from  English Catholics, with four editions printed in twenty years.

            In 1730  Richard Challoner obtained the President’s consent to leave for England. The College diary records that -
                    ‘on 18th August, set out for London and the English Mission, the Reverend Richard Challoner, here known as Willard, Doctor of Theology and professor thereof for ten years (who had taught Humanities and Philosophy for five years) Confessor and Prefect of Studies, a man well versed in every kind of knowledge, endowed with remarkable piety and inflamed with zeal for souls and the love of God and his neighbour’.

(To be continued)                                                   
                                                                                                                              Ack: 'Bishop Challenor'
                            Michael Trappes-Lomax                                                                      (Longmans Green)