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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)            


Fr PF said...

Thank you for the interesting posts on Bishop Challoner. The first picture in this post is actually Prince Charles Edward's father, James VIII of Scotland and III of England, also known as 'the Old Pretender'.

umblepie said...

Fr PF,
Thank you for advice regarding the painting. I have now replaced it with a correct one (I hope!).
I am pleased that you find these posts interesting,I have really enjoyed reading and writing about Bishop Challoner,a truly inspirational Catholic leader in 18th century England, and I have learnt so much.
Thank you again.

Giorgio Roversi said...

A Petition concerning the future of Ushaw College is now on line.

Some background information on the issue at the following link:

Thank you for your support

shadowlands said...

Happy Hogmaney to ye and yours(sorry I can't spell for toffee)!

umblepie said...

Thank you Shadowlands. Wishing you and your family a happy and peaceful New Year.