Sunday, May 27, 2018

Blessed Margaret Pole: Tall in the Chapel

In the National Catholic Register last year, Thomas Craughwell wrote about the discovery of Blessed Margaret Pole's remains in the Tower of London:

You never know what you’ll find when you go hunting around old churches. In 1876, a restoration crew was at work in the Tower of London’s appropriately named Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains). In the crypt, where so many executed prisoners were buried, they found the remains of a tall, elderly lady. And since only one elderly lady was executed in the Tower, its is very likely that these bones are the relics of Blessed Margaret Pole, whose feast day we celebrate on May 28.

Henry VIII is notorious for his cruelty to his wife and daughter, his execution his friends, most famously Thomas More, but Blessed Margaret is the only member of the English Royal Family to fall victim to the king.

Henry once described Margaret as “the saintliest woman in Christendom.” Bear in mind, the king offered this fine tribute years before he wanted Margaret’s head — literally.

Margaret Pole was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the family which had been ruling England since 1154. Two of her uncles were kings, Edward IV and Richard III. The famous “Little Princes in the Tower,” who went missing and were almost certainly murdered during the reign of their uncle Richard III, were her first cousins. You would think that coming from England’s royal family Margaret would have been guaranteed a life of privilege and ease. Instead, she suffered more than her share of tragedy.


She was executed in the aftermath of the Exeter Conspiracy, but mostly because one of her sons, Reginald Pole, had written to Henry VIII descrying not only his role as Supreme Head and Governor in the Church of England but his actions in executing the Carthusians, Sir Thomas More, and John Cardinal Fisher. After having been held in the Tower of London for two and a half years, she was Attainted as a traitor by Parliament and her execution ordered:

Early in the morning on May 27, 1541, Margaret learned that she would be executed that day. She had never had a trial. This was a summary execution ordered by the king.

Typically, large crowds turned out for the execution of a prominent person. But Henry’s advisors knew that having an elderly lady (Margaret was about 68 at the time) climb a scaffold in front of a throng of sympathetic witnesses would be a public relations disaster. Instead, in front of very few witnesses, Margaret was led out to a courtyard where a small headman’s block had been set on the ground. She knelt and placed her neck on the block. The Tower’s professional executioner was away, so a young novice was given the job. He blundered badly, hacking at Margaret’s neck and shoulders until she was dead.

The date of her martyrdom coincides with the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury--but today we are celebrating Trinity Sunday. In the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, ten first Masses are being celebrated by the newly ordained!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Clearing His Name: Father John Gerard, SJ

The BBC has personally apologized and will correct one of their recent series depicting the Gunpowder Plot after a viewer complained about the inaccurate depiction of his relative, Father John Gerard, SJ. According to The Catholic Herald, Michael Maslinski is a 10-times great nephew of Fr John Gerard. He complained about how his 10-times great uncle was depicted in the historical drama series Gunpowder and then again about the historical documentary series Elizabeth I's Secret Agents, with different results:

He has been an inspiration to members of my family for hundreds of years and it came as a shock to see him featured in the BBC historical drama Gunpowder, clearly represented as being “in on the plot”. The characterisation of Fr Gerard was so far removed from all historical accounts that I believed it could only have been a deliberate misrepresentation.

I complained to the BBC that the priest they called “Fr Gerard” was an entirely fictitious character, and that it was unethical to use the name of a real person whom the drama was implicating in a serious crime.

The BBC did not dispute my comments, but its guidelines for historical dramas allow substantial leeway in departing from the facts. They clearly need to be changed.

This was followed by a historical documentary series on BBC Two,
Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents. In this series, Fr Gerard was given a starring role at the centre of the Gunpowder Plot, suggesting not only that he had prior knowledge of it, but also that he supported it and, most offensively, that he blessed the plot “in the Blood of Christ”. It was clearly stated that he played a leading role in devising the plot. . . .

Working through the BBC’s complaints process took a great deal of patience and tenacity: it involved at least six exchanges of letters, as the complaint gradually filtered up to the top level. The eventual outcome, however, was a great credit to the corporation. It accepted that the programmes were “seriously misleading” and a “breach of editorial standards”. It has agreed to publish an apology on its website and has had the series re-edited to reflect my complaints, prior to re-broadcast. I could hardly have asked for more.


The Jesuits in Britain website also reported on this story. Here's their biography of this intrepid missionary:

Aged 23, John Gerard became a Jesuit in Rome in August 1588. Having already studied at the Jesuit College in Clermont, he was sent almost immediately back to England. For six years he undertook a clandestine mission, bringing more than twenty influential families back to the Catholic faith and preaching the Spiritual Exercises. He worked closely with the Jesuit superior in England, Henry Garnet. He was captured in 1594 and sent to the Tower of London where he was tortured, fruitlessly, to reveal Garnet’s headquarters. In 1597 with the help of Nicholas Owen he made a daring escape from the Tower. He was implicated in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot because several of the plotters were those to whom he had ministered. He managed to escape to the continent (disguised as a servant of the Spanish Ambassador), and continued his ministry. Around 1620 he was removed from his position of novice-master in Liege because of his support for Mary Ward and her “English Ladies”, an early attempt to form an apostolic congregation of women. At the request of his superiors, he wrote his autobiography. After a decade as spiritual father, he died in the Roman College on 27th July 1637.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monsignor Knox and King Henry VI


If Henry VII would have had his way, we would be celebrating the feast of Henry VI today. The son of Henry V died on May 21, 1471 in the Tower of London, probably killed at the orders of the newly re-crowned King Edward IV (although Thomas More cites Richard, the Duke of York as the responsible party). The official version was that Henry VI died of melancholy after hearing about the results of the Battle of Tewkesbury, which the House of York won and his son Edward, the Prince of Wales, had been killed.

This blog explains some aspects of the development of Henry VI's cult and cause for canonization, which was of course, cut short by Henry VIII's English Reformation:

The great mystery of Henry VI’s posthumous popularity has been grappled with for centuries. Many distinguished historians have dismissed the cult as a purely political phenomenon, and at first look this explanation is rather appealing. At the time of Henry VI’s oddly suspicious death from “pure displeasure” in that most hospitable of structures, the Tower of London, England had been embroiled in a bloody civil war for twelve long years [1]. The War of the Roses was fought between the House of Lancaster (represented by poor Henry), and the House of York, led by King Edward IV. Likely killed at the hands of his York cousins, rumors quickly spread of Henry’s murder by the creepiest of English uncles, Richard III. Most significantly, the supposedly violent homicide of Henry VI saw him reimagined in popular medieval culture as an innocent martyr. And political martyrdom, in late medieval England, was a particularly transformative process. It turned the unsuspecting victim into an impressively sacred figure, and bestowed the deceased monarch with a legitimacy denied him in life. As such, the initial impetus for Henry’s cult did rely upon his sacred political martyrdom.

Henry VII, who was the Lancastrian King’s half nephew, reinforced and strengthened the political nature of Henry VI’s posthumous cult. Defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Henry Tudor shamelessly manipulated his uncle’s growing cultic popularity to legitimize his own claim to the throne. Not only was the long reigning “Martir by great Tormernting” continuously referred to in Henry VII’s inaugural pageants [2], the Tudor King also aggressively patronized the widespread cult, and petitioned three successive Popes to have his uncle canonized as a Saint. While Henry VI’s canonization was never secured, the process did produce a remarkable work titled The Miracles of King Henry VI [3]. This 1500 AD compilation of 174 miracle stories left out a staggering 300 accounts, and strongly suggests that Henry’s saintly popularity went much deeper than political manipulation.

The Miracles of King Henry VI demonstrates that the cult began, at least, with popular lay piety and not royal propaganda and patronage:

the English people worshipped Henry for his remarkable gentleness, compassion and leniency. Although odd qualities for a medieval King to possess, Henry’s renowned mercy and benevolence in life rendered him an extremely accessible royal figure. The late monarch was generous to the poor, commonly exempted dangerous criminals, and abhorred violence of any kind. As a Saint, he consequently appealed to those in great need of divine charity, which in bleak medieval times happened to be the majority of the English population. Saintly Henry aided criminals, madmen, plague sufferers, innocent children, lowly servants and stricken noblemen. The common theme in all his miracles was that his followers found themselves in critical emergencies, and yearned for divinely sympathetic intervention.

Henry VI posthumously provided such divine sympathetic intervention, and emerged as the patron saint of tragedy and all worldly suffering. During his catastrophic reign, Henry himself experienced extended bouts of mental illness, physical incapacitation and visible torment. His patent suffering invested the Lancastrian King with a unique saintly power, that of empathy. In The Miracles, Henry saves individuals from fatal fires, cures the terminally blind, and amazingly resurrects children from the dead. As a tormented monarch, Henry embodied both sacred power and profane suffering. His embodiment of sacral power and worldly misery explains much of his posthumous popularity, as Henry VI was never far from the minds of those in serious need.

Ronald Knox, the Catholic convert son of the evangelical Bishop of Manchester, developed a devotion to King Henry VI when he was at Eton, which Henry had founded in 1440 as The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Windsor. In 1923, just six years after he had become a Catholic and five years after becoming a Catholic priest, Cambridge University Press published his translation of The Miracles of King Henry VI. He also preached a sermon, included in the collection published by Ignatius Press, in which he asked the congregation to pray for the beatification of King Henry VI!

Well, even if Henry VII and Monsignor Ronald Knox had had their way and May 21 was the feast of King St. Henry VI, on this May 21, since it is on Monday the day after Pentecost, we would still be celebrating Mary, Mother of the Church, as determined by Pope Francis and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In view of the devotion King Henry VI had to Our Lady, he would be most satisfied.

Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

Friday, May 18, 2018

"The King and The Catholics"

The Catholic Herald posts an excerpt from Antonia Fraser's new book, The King and the Catholics: The Fight for Rights 1829 published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson:

From beloved historian Antonia Fraser comes the dramatic story of how Catholics in Britain won back their rights after two hundred years of official discrimination.

The story of Catholic Emancipation begins with the violent Anti-Catholic Gordon Riots in 1780, fuelled by the reduction in Penal Laws against the Roman Catholics harking back to the sixteenth century. Some fifty years later, the passing of the Emancipation Bill was hailed as a 'bloodless revolution'.

Had the Irish Catholics been a 'millstone', as described by an English aristocrat, or were they the prime movers? While the English Catholic aristocracy and the Irish peasants and merchants approached the Catholic Question in very different ways, they manifestly shared the same objective.

Antonia Fraser brings colour and humour to the vivid drama with its huge cast of characters: George III, who opposed Emancipation on the basis of the Coronation Oath; his son, the indulgent Prince of Wales, who was enamoured with the Catholic Maria Fitzherbert before the voluptuous Lady Conyngham; Wellington and the 'born Tory' Peel vying for leadership; 'roaring' Lord Winchilsea; the heroic Daniel O'Connell. Expertly written and deftly argued, The King and Catholics is also a distant mirror of our times, reflecting the political issues arising from religious intolerance.

The excerpt describes those Gordon Riots:

The story begins with violence: in the summer of 1780 London was the scene of the worst riots the city had ever experienced, and which were to prove the “largest, deadliest and most protracted urban riots in British history”. The death toll was probably about 1,000 people altogether (in proportion to the population of the capital, this remains the highest percentage of deaths in a riot yet known).

The physical damage to the structure of the city would not be surpassed until the Blitz in the Second World War. Known to history as the Gordon Riots – famously commemorated by Dickens in Barnaby Rudge, when he wrote of “a moral plague” running through the city – they were initiated by the militantly anti-Catholic son of a Scottish duke, who was a Member of the British Parliament.

Riots were certainly not unknown in 18th-century London: there had been the so-called Wilkes Riots in the 1760s and the Keppel Riots after that; but in degree of violence, the Gordon Riots excelled them. Symbols of the state were attacked; 10 Downing Street, already the official residence of the prime minister, Lord North, was assaulted at two o’clock in the morning by protesters bearing lighted flambeaux and faggots: they had to be driven off by 20 dragoons on horseback. Meanwhile the prime minister’s dinner guests climbed onto the roof in order to see the fires burning as far as the horizon.

If prime ministers were obvious targets for attack, private individuals were not safe either. Lady Anne Erskine was a Scottish lady living quietly in a house attached to Spa Fields Chapel in Clerkenwell. She wrote: “Such a scene my eyes never beheld, and I pray God I never may again. The situation of the place which is high and very open gave us an awful prospect of it. We were surrounded by flames.

“Six different fires – with that of Newgate towering to the clouds … with every hour we were in expectation of this house and chapel making the seventh. The sky was like blood with the reflection of the fires.” Ten years later, the literary Ladies of Llangollen, gazing at a fierce crimson sunset, were still irresistibly reminded of the Gordon Riots.

The book won't be released until September this year in the USA, published by Penguin with a cover I don't like half as much as the UK version. Note the details in the blurb for US readers, adding context:

In the summer of 1780, mob violence swept through London. Nearly one thousand people were killed, looting was widespread, and torch-bearing protestors marched on the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. These were the Gordon Riots: the worst civil disturbance in British history, triggered by an act of Parliament designed to loosen two centuries of systemic oppression of Catholics in the British Isles. While many London Catholics saw their homes ransacked and chapels desecrated, the riots marked a crucial turning point in their fight to return to public life.

Over the next fifty years, factions battled one another to reform the laws of the land: wealthy English Catholics yearned to rejoin the political elite; the protestant aristocracy in Ireland feared an empowered Catholic populace; and the priesthood coveted old authority that royal decree had forbidden. Kings George III and George IV stubbornly refused to address the “Catholic Question” even when pressed by their prime ministers–governments fell over it–and events in America and Europe made many skeptical of disrupting the social order. But in 1829, through the dogged work of charismatic Irish lawyer Daniel O’Connell and with the support of the Duke of Wellington, the Roman Catholic Relief Act finally passed. It was a watershed moment, opening the door to future social reform and the radical transformation of the Victorian age.

The King and the Catholics is a gripping, character-driven example of narrative history at its best. It is also a distant mirror of our own times, reflecting the dire consequences of state-sanctioned intolerance and showing how collective action and the political process can triumph over wrongheaded legislation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More Resigns, May 16, 1532

After the Convocation of Bishops offered their Submission of the Clergy to Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor on May 16, 1532, turning in the Great Seal. Sir Thomas Audley, who had succeeded him as Speaker of the House, was soon named Chancellor. On July 1, 1535, Audley would preside over More's trial.

Less than a month after his resignation, More wrote a letter to Erasmus, explaining why he had resigned:

The thing which I have wished for from a boy, dear Desiderius, which I rejoice in your having ever enjoyed, and myself occasionally,—namely, that being free from public business, I might have some time to devote to God and myself,—that, by the grace of a great and good God, and by the favour of an indulgent prince, I have at last obtained.

I have not, however, obtained it as I wished. For I wished to reach that last stage of my life in a state, which, though suitable to my age, might yet enable me to enjoy my remaining years healthy and unbroken, free from disease and pain. But it remaineth in the hand of God, whether this wish, perhaps unreasonable, shall be accomplished. Meantime a disorder of I know not what nature hath attacked my breast, by which I suffer less in present pain than in fear of the consequence. For when it had plagued me without abatement some months, the physicians whom I consulted gave their opinion, that the long continuance of it was dangerous, and the speedy cure impossible; but that it must be cured by the gradual alterative effects of time, proper diet and medicine. Neither could they fix the period of my recovery, or ensure me a complete cure at last.

Considering this, I saw that I must either lay down my office, or discharge my duty in it incompletely. And since I could not discharge that duty without the hazard of my life, and by so doing should lose both life and office, I determined to lose one of them rather than both. Wherefore, that I might consult the public good as well as my own welfare, I entreated of the kindness of my good and great prince, that from the high office with which (as you know) he honoured me by his incredible favour, far above my pretensions, above my hopes, above my wishes, he should now release me, sinking as I was under the weight of it.

More told Erasmus to ignore reports that he had left his office unwilling. He looked forward to studying, writing, and praying without having to steal hours from sleep. More continued to write apologetic works, according to this list of works from the Center For Thomas More Studies:

Dec., 1532; publ. Dec., 1533 “Letter against Frith”
Spring 1533 Confutation of Tyndale IV-VIII 
April 1533 The Apology of Sir Thomas More 
October 1533 The Debellation of Salem and Bizance
December 1533 The Answer to a Poisoned Book

"A Protestant Understanding of England's Martyrs"


In the June/July 2018 issue of First Things (non-subscribers have access to three free articles a month), Peter Hitchens laments that Latimer and Ridley are Forgotten and provides A Protestant Understanding of England's Martyrs:

I offer these facts and thoughts to explain that this is the world in which I was brought up. I may even be the last living straggler of that era, a cultural coelacanth hauled up gasping from the silent, lightless depths of the day before yesterday. In my later, more multicultural life, I have learned that there are other versions of these events. I am more than ready to absorb these into my worldview, within reason. I know perfectly well that Elizabeth Tudor was not the simple figure of goodness and patriotism I was brought up to believe in. In general, I know that childhood history is merely a crude introduction to national myth, and that adults are required to treat it with severe and often brutal skepticism.

So please do not press William Cobbett’s view of the Reformation on me, or tell me to read the works of Eamon Duffy on the stripping of the altars, for I have done so. I know that there were terrible losses—of good men and women, of glorious art and sculpture, of valuable traditions, of learning and charitable works. I wish it had not been so. I only say that, without the Anglican compromise of Elizabeth, England would have had a far more savage Reformation than it did, and would have lost much more, as I think events in Scotland clearly show to this day.

Only one issue really concerns me here, on which I will stand my ground. And that is the argument, often advanced by Roman Catholics to me, that Elizabeth persecuted their faith just as Mary persecuted mine. It is not true to say that Elizabeth and Mary were mirror images of each other, and it matters that it is not true.


I am still reading the article, but my first reaction is that Peter Hitchens is either angry at Catholics for honoring the English Catholic martyrs from 1534 to 1681 or angry at Anglican Protestants for forgetting the English Protestant martyrs from 1553 to 1558. 

He is particularly upset at the honor Catholics pay to Saints John Fisher and Thomas More as depicted in one painting of the Brompton Oratory:

. . . More and Fisher, like Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, were undeniably great and courageous Englishmen, and eloquent ones, too. One especially potent use of their memory can be found in St Wilfrid’s Chapel in the Brompton Oratory in London, perhaps the supreme headquarters of Catholic militancy in England. Above the altar of the English martyrs, in a side chapel of this majestic church, is a powerfully sinister and suggestively grim mural. It looks very old, but it was painted in 1938 by Rex Whistler (who is possibly the model for Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited). It depicts executions at Tyburn, London’s principal place for such things, and is flanked by idealized portraits of More and Fisher.

The execution scene is a masterpiece. The callous, lumpish crowd, backs turned on us, watches as several bodies dangle from a triangular gibbet. Many people are busy with horrible tasks. A condemned man is being guided up a ladder to join these broken, throttled corpses, and every inch of him betokens horror and resignation. Another man is being unstrapped from a hurdle before he too makes the ascent. A fire burns in the middle distance, oily black smoke curling into the summer sky (the trees are in leaf). That fire, it is clear, means no good to somebody. It seems to be dusk, but the darkness of the scene might only be the mood, or the smoke. Halberds and pikes, immensely tall, rise from among the mob, almost as high as the gallows, marking the presence of soldiers, presumably gathered around some notable victim. A castle tower commands the background. Far off, a windmill stands in a sort of Claude Lorrain landscape of sylvan peace. Yet the light in the painting is the light of a nightmare. A strong impression of evil and cruelty comes out of the frame, as I am sure it is meant to do. I would not want an impressionable child to see it. It is one of the most powerful pieces of propaganda I have ever experienced. When I recently revisited it, I was astonished to find how small it actually is. I had remembered it as huge. . . .


He contends that this painting is misleading since More and Fisher were beheaded, missing the point that the Catholic protomartyrs, the Carthusians St John Houghton, St Robert Lawrence, St Augustine Webster, the Briggitine St Richard Reynolds, and the parish priest Blessed John Haile were hanged, drawn, and quartered! He thinks that because More and Fisher are on the left and right hand panels, the center panel is supposed to represent their martyrdoms. 

Hitchens confuses doctrine and discipline (the laity receiving the Body and Blood of Holy Communion separately; married priesthood through the Anglican Ordinariate, and singing hymns), and doesn't think it fair that we don't honor Cranmer (or Latimer, or Ridley I suppose) on the Roman Calendar of Saints, while the Church of England honors More, Fisher, and the Catholic martyrs of the Recusant era on its Calendar of Saints. 

The Catholic laity have always received the Body and the Blood at Holy Communion; the Host is not exsanguinated flesh! He conveniently passes over the point of what Catholics are receiving--the Real Presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ under the form of Bread and Wine--and what Anglicans are receiving according to the 39 Articles of the Church of England. He doesn't understand what the Mass and Holy Communion are to a believing, devout Catholic. That's also why he thinks the Anglican Book of Common Prayer services should do quite well for Catholics today and should have done quite well for Elizabethan Catholics when Parliament passed laws forbidding the celebration of the Holy Mass as Catholics knew it at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.

There have always been married Catholic priests, in the Eastern Rite--his view of the Catholic Church is too small and insular.

Singing hymns? That's a great sign of change in the Catholic Church? That started in the nineteenth century in England with the Oratorians when Catholics were at last allowed to practice their faith and worship God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!

The Church of England and the Catholic Church have completely different understandings of what it means to be named to their respective Calendar of Saints. Hitchens ought to know that.

He is piling on and mixing things up, and he displays as much misunderstanding as he does anguish--and thus he weakens what he wanted to argue in his thesis, that "It is not true to say that Elizabeth and Mary were mirror images of each other, and it matters that it is not true."

Please read the rest there. I'll be thinking more about that contention, apart from the misunderstandings that Hitchens has added to his article, muddling his central thesis.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Henry VIII's Wrath

Advance notice: I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show Tuesday morning about 7:50 Eastern time/6:50 Central to discuss Henry VIII's reaction to an abbot who didn't want to surrender his monastery peacefully. We'll base our conversation on this National Catholic Register post:

Even Fox News reported on the letter Henry VIII dictated in October 1536, demanding the most horrific punishment of an abbot of a small monastery in the northwest of England: he wanted him to be hanged, drawn, and quartered and the quarters displayed prominently as warnings to any who would oppose the will of Henry VIII. Then he changed his mind: the abbot should just be hanged. The secretary who took the king’s dictation crossed out the first punishment and then must have copied the letter and sent it.

The letter, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is on display at the Norton Priory Museum and Gardens in Cheshire. The museum, which opened in 2016, features “the most excavated monastic site in Europe. Boasting the ruins of an Abbey, 12th century undercroft and an 18th century Walled Garden, it is located within an oasis of tranquil woodland and wildflower meadows. The new museum displays thousands of artefacts (sic) from Norton’s 900 year history including the internationally significant 14th century statue of St Christopher.”

Norton Priory was a house of Augustinian Canons Regular, following the Rule of St. Augustine of Hippo, living in community and observing the evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity and common property. The Canons Regular first came to in England during the twelfth century and established many houses, more than the Benedictines. Because St. Augustine had written his Rule for a community of priests with active ministries, the Augustinian Canons Regular throughout England served the spiritual needs of their neighbors, developing close relationships with them.

What had the Abbot of St. Mary’s Priory in Norton done to make Henry VIII so vindictively angry?

Read the rest there and listen live here tomorrow morning!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Divided Loyalties: May 11, 1532

Chronicler Edward Hall describes the events of May 11, 1532, when Henry VIII told Thomas Audley, Speaker of the House of Commons, that the Catholic clergy of England were not true subjects of their king unless they renounced their loyalty to the Pope:

"The. xi. daie of Maie, the kyng sent for the Speker again, and. xii. of the common house, hauvng with hym eight Lordes, and saied to theim, welbeloued subiectes, we thought that y clergie of our realme, had been our subiectes wholy, but now wee haue well perceiued, that they bee but halfe our subiectes, yea, and scace our subiectes: for all the Prelates at their consecracion, make an othe to the Pope, clene contrary to the othe that they make to vs, so that they seme to be his subiectes, and not ours, the copie of bothe the othes I deliuer here to you, requiryng you to inuent some ordre, that we bee not thus deluded, of our Spirituall subiectes. The Spekar departed and caused the othes to be redde in the comon house, the very tenor whereof ensueth.

"I Ihon bishop or Abbot of A. from this houre forward, shalbe faithefull and obedient to sainct Peter, and to the holy Churche of Rome, and to my lorde the Pope, and his successors Canonically enteryng, I shall not be of counsaill nor concent, that they shall lese either life or member, or shall bee taken, or suffre any violence, or any wrong by any meanes, their Counsaill to me credited, by theim their messyngers or letters, I shall not willyngly discouer to any person : the Papacie of Rome, the rules of the holy fathers, and the Regalie of sainct Peter, I shall help and retain, and defende against all men : the Legate of the Sea Apostolicke, goyng and commyng I shall honourably entreate, the rightes, honors, priuileges, authorities of the Churche of Rome, and of the Pope and his successors, I shall cause to be conserued, defended, augmented and promoted, I shall not bee in counsaill, treatie, or any acte, in the whiche any thyng shalbe imagined against hym, or the Churche of Rome, there rightes, states, honors, or powers. And if I knowe any suche to bee moued or compassed, I shall resist it to my power, and as sone as I can, I shall aduertise hym or suche as maie geue hym knowlege. The rules of the holy fathers, the Decrees, Ordinaunces, Sentences, Disposicions, Reseruacions, Prouisions, and Commaundementes Apostolicke, to my power I shall kepe and cause to be kept of other : Heretickes, Sismatikes and rebelles to our holy father and his successors, I shal resist and persecute to my power, I shall come to the Sinode, when I am called, except I be letted by a Canonicall impediment, the lightes of the Apostles I shall visite yerely personally, or by my deputie, I shall not alien nor sell my possessions, without the Popes Counsuill: so God me helpe and the holy Euangelistes."


Henry VIII wanted the clergy to forswear that oath and make another:

"I Ihon Bishop of. A. vtterly renounce and clerely forsake all suche clauses, woordes, sentences and grauntes, whiche I haue or shall haue here alter, of the Popes holines, of and for the Bishopricke of A. that in any wise hath been, is or hereafter maie bee hurtefull or preiudiciall to your highnes, your heires, successors, dignitie, priuilege, or estate royall : and also I dooe swere, that I shalbe faithfull and true, and faithe and truth I shall beare to you my souereigne lorde, and to your heires kynges of thesame, of life and lymme, & yearthly worship aboue all creatures, for to liue and dye with you and yours, against all people, and diligently I shalbe attendant, to all your nedes and busines, after my witt and power, and your counsaill I shall kepe and holde, knowlegyng my self to hold my bishopricke of you onely, besechyng you of restitucion of the temporalties of thesame, promisyng as before, that I shalbe faithefull, true, and obedient subiect to your saied highnes heires, and successors duryng my life, and the seruices and other thynges dewe to youre highnes, for the restitucion of the Temporalties, of thesame Bishoprike I shall truly dooe and obediently perfourme, so God me helpe and all sainctes."

This was part of the pressure on the clergy to submit to the king and acknowledge not only his temporal but his spiritual authority over England. The Submission of the Clergy would lead Sir Thomas More, the Chancellor, to resign. He had preceded Thomas Audley as Speaker of the House of Commons and Audley would succeed More as Chancellor too. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Catherine and Anne: May 10, 1533 and May 10, 1536

On May 10, 1533, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, began the process of declaring that King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had never been married. The Anne Boleyn Files blog describes the sequence of events:

On 5th April 1533, Convocation gave its ruling on Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, stating that the Pope had no power to dispense in the case of a man marrying his brother’s widow, and that it was contrary to God’s law. This ruling led to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer being authorised to set up a trial to examine Henry VIII’s case for the annulment of his first marriage. This trial opened at a special court at Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire.

On 23rd May 1533, Cranmer’s court ruled that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was against the will of God, and declared that the marriage was null and void. On 28th May 1533, Cranmer proclaimed the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn after a special enquiry at Lambeth Palace.

Remember that the Catholic Clergy of England had renounced their spiritual loyalty to the Chair of St. Peter and the pope in 1532. Henry VIII was in control of the Convocation of Bishops. 

Catherine of Aragon had been banished from Court and was residing in Hertfordshire in one of the late Thomas Cardinal Wolsey's houses, The Manor at the More. She would receive the news in July of 1533 that her new title was Princess Dowager since Henry and she were never married, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She refused to accept that title.

Dunstable Priory, a house of Augustinian Canons, would be suppressed in January of 1540. The last prior, Gervase Markham--who welcomed Cranmer on May 10, 1533--would surrender the property, accept his pension and become a secular priest.

Three years after the opening of the Dunstable Court, another court met and decided the fate of Anne Boleyn. Giles Heron, son-in-law of the late Sir Thomas More, was the foreman of the Grand Jury of Middlesex meeting in Westminster Hall (where his father-in-law had been tried and sentenced to death). On behalf of the Grand Jury, Heron announced that there was sufficient evidence--presented by the injured party, Henry VIII--that Anne Boleyn, her brother George, the Court musician Mark Smeaton, and Henry's courtiers Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton, had committed various crimes of adultery and treason against His Majesty and should be tried by jury.

Those trials would occur quickly and Anne Boleyn soon lost her title as Queen of England. Thomas Cranmer would declare that her marriage to Henry VIII had never taken place either. (Anne Boleyn had been in the Tower of London since May 2nd that year.)

For all his good service to Henry VIII, Giles Heron ended up accused of treason and executed in 1540.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Thomas Hyde, RIP: Consolation in Exile

According to Emily Tennyson Bradley in the Dictionary of National Biography, Thomas Hide or Hyde was a

Roman catholic exile, born at Newbury, Berkshire, was connected with the family to which Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, belonged [q. v.] He became at the age of thirteen (1537) a scholar of Winchester, and proceeded to New College, Oxford, where he was elected fellow in 1543, and graduated B.A. in October 1545 and M.A. in 1549 (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 121; Oxf. Univ. Reg., Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 211). He resigned his fellowship at New College in 1550, and in 1551 succeeded Everard as headmaster of Winchester. He was installed a prebendary of Winchester on 23 June 1556 (Le Neve, Fasti, iii. 33). As a fervent catholic, 'very stiff and perverse,' he was forced to resign his offices after Elizabeth's accession, and was ordered to the custody of the lord treasurer by the ecclesiastical commissioners in 1561 (Stype, Annals, ed. 1824, vol. i. pt. i. p.414). He, however, escaped abroad, and lived for some years at Louvain, where he was much esteemed by the other exiles. Cardinal Allen commends his counsel and abilities in a letter dated 1579. He afterwards removed to Douay, where he boarded with a printer's widow. He died there on 9 May 1597, and was buried in the lady chapel of St. James's Church. Pits praises his strict life and conversation, his great gravity and severity, his fierce hatred of vice and heresy.

While at Louvain Hyde published his principal work (Wood credits him with others, but does not name them): 'A Consolatorie Epistle to the Afflicted Catholikes. Being a Dissuasive against frequenting Protestant Churches, and an Exhortation to Suffer with Patience. Set foorth by Thomas Hide, Priest,' Louvain, 1579, 8vo; 2nd edition, with three woodcuts, 1580. A copy of the later edition only is in the British Museum.

[Pits, ed. 1619, p. 795; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), i. 659; Wood's Fasti, i. 121, 128; Dodd's Church Hist., ed. 1691, i. 250; Gillow's Dict.]


Note the subtitle of Hyde's book: "Being a Dissuasive against frequenting Protestant Churches, and an Exhortation to Suffer with Patience". Hyde is obviously siding with the Jesuit view, espoused by St. Robert Southwell and others, that Catholics should not attend Anglican services for the sake of avoiding the fines imposed by Elizabeth I's government. Church Papists were trying to maintain an outward compromise of conformity. 

This was a contentious issue for Catholics and also for Anglicans: could the Anglican clergy and the authorities trust a Church Papist? To whom would he be loyal: The Pope or the Queen? 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"I die merely for the Catholic Faith", May 6, 1590

As the Catholic Encyclopedia recounts, Blessed Edward Jones was one of Richard Topcliffe's victims, enduring the torture meted out by Elizabeth I's personal pursuivant:

Blessed Edward Jones:  Priest and martyr, b. in the Diocese of St. Asaph, Wales, date unknown; d. in London, 6 May 1590. Bred an Anglican, he was received into the Church at the English College, Reims, 1587; he was ordained priest in 1588, and went to England in the same year. In 1590 he was arrested by a priest-catcher, who pretended to be a Catholic, in a shop in Fleet Street. He was imprisoned in the Tower and brutally tortured by Topcliffe, finally admitting he was a priest and had been an Anglican. These admissions were used against him at his trial, but he made a skillful and learned defense, pleading that a confession elicited under torture was not legally sufficient to ensure a conviction. The court complimented him on his courageous bearing, but of course he was convicted of high treason as a priest coming into England. On the same day he was hanged, drawn, and quartered, opposite the grocer's shop where he had been captured, in Fleet Street near the Conduit. 

Blessed Anthony Middleton: On the same day there suffered Anthony Middleton, priest and martyr, born probably at Middleton-Tyas, Yorkshire, date unknown, son of Ambrose Middleton of Barnard Castle, Durham, and Cecil, daughter of Anthony Crackenthorpe of Howgill Castle, Westmoreland. He entered the English College at Reims 9 Jan., 1582; was ordained 30 May 1586, and went to England in the same year. His work lay in London and the neighbourhood and he laboured very successfully; he was captured at a house in Clerkenwell (London) by the same artifice which was practiced on Father Jones. On the ladder he said: "I call God to witness I die merely for the Catholic Faith, and for being a priest of the true Religion"; and someone present called out, "Sir, you have spoken very well". The martyr was cut down and disemboweled while yet alive.

According to Bishop Challoner's Memoirs of the Missionary Priests, Father Middleton was executed outside the house in Clerkenwell where he had been captured. He also includes the detail that signs were affixed to their gallows reading "For Treason and Foreign Invasion", so Father Middleton's statement about the true reason for his death--and the brave response to it--contradicted the government's claim about their crimes.

They were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Blessed Edward Jones, pray for us!
Blessed Anthony Middleton, pray for us!

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Catholic English Martyrs in England and the USA


I stated yesterday that the Feast of the English Martyrs is celebrated in the Dioceses of England, but the Memorial of the English Martyrs is celebrated in the United States by the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. St. Gregory the Great Ordinariate parish in Chestnut, Massachusetts provides these notes on today's Feast/Memorial:

A feast day not celebrated in the United States anywhere except the Ordinariate falls today, the fourth day of May; it honors those Catholics martyred for remaining true to the “old faith,” mostly during the century and a half following Henry VIII’s decision to split the English Church from its ancient submission to the See of Peter.

These men and women were called “Recusants” because they refused to attend the services of the new Anglican church; the name comes from the Latin verb “recusare” — to refuse or object. The laws under which they suffered began under Elizabeth I with a statute against “Popish recusants” in 1593; it and subsequent laws (levying many penalties, up to and including death) were finally repealed by Oliver Cromwell (of all people) in 1650: but his intention was the relief of “other” non-conformers, the Calvinist Puritans; during the Puritan Commonwealth Catholics and Anglicans were united through persecution by Government. The recusant laws, per se, were not reinstated with reestablishment of the monarchy in 1660; but legal persecution of English Catholics only came to an end with Catholic Emancipation — in 1829. . . .


Looking farther afield--the nearest Ordinariate Parish to me is in Kansas City, Missouri--I noted that the Men's Choir of Westminster Cathedral in London is singing one of the Masses composed by William Byrd and two of his motets at the evening (17:30) Mass to celebrate the Feast of the English Martyrs. Martin Baker has selected the Mass for Three Voices, Ne Irascaris Domine, and Civitas sancti tui.

Since William Byrd knew some of the of the Jesuit missionaries and certainly met St. Robert Southwell, singing his work at Mass today is most appropriate. As John Milsom wrote in the liner notes of the Westminster Cathedral Choir's 2014 recording of Byrd's Three Masses:

The Englishness of Byrd’s Masses must also be mentioned, for these settings do not sound remotely like the Masses of Lassus or Palestrina. This is partly because of the way they were made, partly because of the way they allude to their Tudor past. Unlike most other Catholic composers of his generation, Byrd composed his three Masses freely, without directly quoting any pre-existing music. Hence the contrast with Palestrina and Lassus: those two composers habitually based their Masses on models, such as a motet or a plainchant melody, so that the Mass becomes a commentary on that model. Byrd, in contrast, simply took the words of the Mass as they came to him, and savoured them intuitively, using whatever melodies came into his head. Sometimes he makes audible allusion to the musical styles of his Tudor past, for instance through the turn of a melodic phrase or the choice of a chord or a selection of texture. By doing so, he invoked the music of his boyhood—the truly Catholic music of the reigns of Henry VIII (died 1547), and of England’s last Catholic monarch, Queen Mary (reigned 1553–8), which coincided with the years when Byrd was a boy chorister. A nostalgia for the Tudor past therefore haunts these works, especially in the Mass for four voices, which was the first to be composed.

It is in fact possible to date the three Masses with reasonable precision. In 1589 and 1591, Byrd published two collections of motets—called by him ‘sacred songs’ (Cantiones sacrae)—that summed up his achievement to that date. Immediately after that, Byrd’s mind seems to have turned to the words of the Catholic Mass, and his three settings were published in quick succession between around 1592 and 1595. The precise years of publication are unknown, since the prints themselves have no title pages; they are simply slender pamphlets of sheet music, headed with the name ‘W. Byrd’. Careful detective work, however, shows that the Mass for four voices, which is the most intimate and intense of the settings, came first. It was followed a year later by the Mass for three voices, which is a smaller and tighter work, and then by the Mass for five voices, which is the most serene of the three. This five-voice Mass sets the tone for Byrd’s next and final project, the great cycle of Gradualia—settings of liturgical texts for the Catholic calendar from Advent to Trinity—which went to press in two volumes in 1605 and 1607.


The two motets are usually interpreted to refer to the situation of Catholics in England:

Ne irascaris Domine satis,
et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae.
Ecce respice populus tuus omnes nos.


Be not angry, O Lord,
and remember our iniquity no more.
Behold, we are all your people.


Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est.

Your holy city has become a wilderness.
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem has been made desolate.


David Cashman offers this analysis:

Ne irascaris Domine is a five-part Latin motet by the Catholic English composer, William Byrd (1543-1623). It is one of three works known as the 'Jerusalem' motets (along with Tribulations civitatum and Vide Domine afflictionem nostram). Byrd wrote these motets in the 1580s as an act of protest against the Elizabethan Catholic persecutions. As his text, Byrd cunningly chooses here an irreproachable passage of scripture from Isaiah, telling of the Babylonian captivity.

Ne irascaris' general atmosphere of quiet contemplation coupled with solid polyphonic writing make this a deservedly well known work. Departing from his usual tradition, Byrd sets the appeal to God of Ne irascaris Domine polyphonically, continuing this writing throughout the work. Byrd uses minimal resources (in particular, the melody, which does not move out of the range of a fourth until the end of the work) to create a classic.

The second part of this work (from
Civitas sancti) is well-known as the Anglican hymn Bow thine ear. Despite the structure being thus truncated, the skilled contrapoint and expressive writing of the original make this one of the gems of the Anglican hymn tradition.

Holy Venerable, Blessed, and Canonized Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

May the Fourth Be With You, Today AND Tomorrow!

I will be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning to discuss the feast of the English Martyrs about 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time (6:50 a.m. Central), in anticipation of the May 4th feast, observed in England. Anna Mitchell will rebroadcast our interview tomorrow morning during the EWTN hour (from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. Eastern/5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Central).

There still seems to be some confusion about when this feast is celebrated: October 25 or May 4. The root of the confusion is that originally, when Pope Paul VI canonized the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, the feast was on October 25, the date of their canonization--but it has never been celebrated on the universal Roman Calendar for all Catholics. Then in 2010, the Vatican approved changes to the Liturgical Calendar for the U.K., as this article from The Catholic Herald archives notes:

The feast of the English Martyrs is celebrated on May 4. The 40 martyrs canonised under Paul VI in 1973 (sic), previously celebrated on October 25, are celebrated with the 85 beatified Martyrs of the Reformation and the other martyrs of the 16th and 17th century. The feast coincides with the Church of England celebration of English saints and martyrs of the Reformation.

These are a significant group of saints in British Catholicism and include St Margaret Clitherow, the butcher’s wife from York who became a Catholic at the age of 18 and was arrested for harbouring a priest. She was crushed to death under a large door loaded with weights. St John Haughton (sic), St Robert Lawrence, St Augustine Webster, and St Richard Reynolds (sic) were Carthusian monks executed at Tyburn on May 4 1535.

St Cuthbert Mayne, another martyr, was a young man from Devon who went to St John’s College, Oxford, in the late 1500s, where he met St Edmund Campion and eventually became a Catholic.


Choosing the date of May 4 was appropriate, since the first martyrs, which also included Blessed John Haile, were executed for refusing to swear to Henry VIII's supremacy over the the Church of England on that date in 1535. 

(To explain the two (sic) notations above: St. Richard Reynolds was not a Carthusian monk, he was from the Briggitine House of Syon; St. John's name is usually spelled Houghton.) 

The "other martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries" includes those beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and 1895 and by Pope Pius XI in 1929 who have not been canonized and also those declared venerable by Pope  Leo XIII in 1886:
  • In 1886, Pope Leo XIII beatified 54 martyrs, including Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher and 11 others who were canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI;
  • In 1886, Pope Leo also declared 29 English Catholic martyrs to be Venerable (several of these martyrs had died in chains, that is, is prison or because of their treatment in prison);
  • In 1895, Pope Leo XIII beatified nine more martyrs;
  • In 1929, Pope Pius XI beatified 136 additional martyrs, 29 of whom were later canonized.
Just to complete the sequence of dates:
  • In 1935, Pope Pius XI canonized John Cardinal Fisher and Thomas
  • In 1970, Pope Paul VI canonized the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales
  • In 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales (which did not include any of those declared Venerable in 1886)
These martyrs suffered for different reasons:

The Supremacy martyrs died because they would not swear Henry VIII's Oath of Supremacy and Oath of Succession, which both denied the spiritual, moral, and ecclesiastical authority of the Pope. The Recusant martyrs died during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I because they continued to practice their Catholic faith in England as missionary priests and/or laity in spite of the recusancy and penal laws against them. Finally, the Popish Plot martyrs were executed in the miscarriage of justice called the Popish Plot. Accused of conspiring in a non-existent plot, their Catholicism condemned them: the priests were sometimes found guilty of their priestly presence in England under Elizabethan statutes when no involvement in the Plot could be found.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Blessed Lion of Munster

This is the biography of a blessed saint of the Catholic Church: as I read it, I did not know that Clemens August Cardinal von Galens of Munster had been beatified! Father Daniel Utrecht of the Oratory (Toronto) did not write the book as hagiography but as the biography of a bishop who served his diocese during World War II, fighting for religious freedom in the midst of Nazi oppression:

“The dear God placed me in a position in which I had a duty to call black 'black' and white 'white'.” These words were spoken by Cardinal Clemens August von Galen, the bishop of the diocese of Münster in Germany from 1933 to 1946. In so doing, he risked death at the hands of the Nazis, one Gestapo leader even urging that he be publicly hanged. Joseph Goebbels and others in the Nazi leadership, knowing the bishop’s popularity, advised waiting, subscribing to the adage that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

In this, the definitive English language biography of the great Lion of Münster, readers will encounter the young von Galen as he learns the Catholic faith and love of the fatherland from his family, members of the German aristocracy. A nobleman, a “prince” of his people and of his Church, the boy grew into a man, a six-and-a-half-foot tall giant of a man, who, though he loved his homeland, loved God, His Church and His law even more; for he knew that calling his homeland back to the ways of God is the one way in which a bishop can best demonstrate that love for the people under his spiritual care. And so, in three magnificent sermons and countless other speeches, communiques and gestures, the Lion roared.

This story of his life and his stirring words provides readers with an indispensable glimpse into the confrontation between Church and State in Hitler’s Germany and will serve as a reminder to all men and women of good will of the duty to call black ‘black’ and white ‘white.’


Other than some unnecessary repetition--at the end of the book, describing Cardinal von Galen's funeral, his episcopal motto ["Nec laudibus, nec timore" (Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God)] is cited three times on three pages--the surprising announcement that Cardinal von Galen was beatified may be the most serious flaw in this book. Surely a paragraph describing the institution and progress of his cause would have been helpful. How did the devotion to Cardinal von Galen develop? how was it manifested? what's the status of his cause now?

Most of the book recounts Bishop von Galen's efforts to thwart Nazi oppression of Catholics in their schools, churches, and hospitals. Bishop von Galen did not speak out as openly about the oppression and extermination of the Jewish community in Germany, although he did argue forcefully against the Nazi views on race. While he opposed many of the Nazi's actions during the rule of the Third Reich, Bishop von Galen always did so on the grounds that the Nazi government was violating the promises it had made to protect and uphold religious freedom. He wanted the German bishops to be more united in opposing the Nazi regime's abuses of religious freedom but he never advised anything but passive resistance. He worked to make sure that Pope Pius XI's Mit brennender Sorge was well distributed and he successfully led the campaign to highlight the Nazi scheme to euthanize the handicapped and mentally ill, halting it at least temporarily. 

Father Utrecht describes the three great sermons Bishop von Galen preached in 1941 and includes long excerpts from each (you may read them all here): he opposed the actions of the Gestapo, the Nazi efforts to take over education and programs for the young (forcing everyone into the Nazi Youth groups), and the euthanasia programs to eradicate "life not worth living". After he preached those three sermons, some in the Nazi regime wanted to arrest and try von Galen for treason, but the Nazis feared unrest in his community and so as the blurb notes decided to wait until Germany and the Axis had won the war. The sermons inspired resistance, as the White Rose group attested, and Jewish readers were impressed by someone speaking out against the regime.

Father Utrecht also does not neglect the Bishop's opposition to what he saw as injustices committed by the occupying British and American forces after Germany's defeat. He was a proud German and he did not accept the notion that all Germans were guilty of the crimes against humanity committed by Hitler's Nazi Party. 

The last chapters of the book are remarkable: von Galen is named a Cardinal by Pope Pius XII and embarks on an incredibly difficult journey from Germany to Rome in postwar Europe, driving through floods, enduring car breakdowns, etc. He is welcomed a hero of resistance in Rome and praised by Pope Pius XII. Von Galen begins to feel a little ill on the way home, is welcomed rapturously by the people of Munster--and then becomes dangerously ill from an infection, has emergency surgery, and dies of peritonitis. He goes from the height of triumph to delirium and death in mere weeks!

The book is well-written, well-illustrated, and well-documented. Except for the gap of explaining how von Galen's cause for canonization began and proceeded, it's an excellent, sympathetic, and comprehensive biography.