Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Real Saint Thomas More on Saturday, May 2nd

The latest episode of Wolf Hall was the best one so far with its focus on Cromwell's efforts to suppress dissension from Henry VIII's new role as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England and the breakaway from the Catholic Church. Watching this episode was homework for my presentation this Saturday at the Spiritual Life Center on The Real Saint Thomas More from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. this Saturday (May 2). If you're in the Wichita area, register here or call 316-744-0167.

While this was the best of the episodes so far, it also contained some historical inaccuracies, as Nancy Bilyeau notes in her review for Medievalists.net:

A tough and wily Cromwell questions Barton, who comes across as vindictive and unbalanced, and then interviews each of the important people who've been conspiring with the nun. Not one of them comes within a country mile of Cromwell’s abilities and intelligence. The true motive of the last remaining Plantagenets’ unhappiness with Henry VIII during this period is not explored in Wolf Hall—their respect and affection for Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon; their (justifiable) fear for what will happen to her daughter Mary; and their fear of the country’s religious future in this fast-moving Reformation. Instead, the Poles and Courtenays and Bishop Fisher, one of the most respected scholars in all of Europe in the early 16th century, are shown as stupid, easily duped, and ungrateful for Henry VIII’s supposed years of kindness.

Wolf Hall strains to connect the followers of Sister Elizabeth Barton to an international conspiracy bent on destroying England and taking orders from Rome. At one point, Cromwell tells Margaret Pole, the niece of Edward IV, that through his spies in the kitchen he knows that her sons, Henry and Geoffrey Pole, had dinner with the Lady Mary twice and “talked about the Emperor, the invasion, and the best way to bring it about.” The Emperor Charles V was Mary Tudor’s first cousin through her Mother, and according to Wolf Hall, England was terrified of Spanish invasion in the mid-1530s.

There are two problems with this scene. One is that as Anne Boleyn made clear at the beginning of the episode, Lady Mary is a virtual prisoner in the household of her half-sister Princess Elizabeth. She was in reality subjected to emotional and even physical abuse during this time and watched like a hawk for receiving any letters from sympathizers. The possibility that she could escape her jailers to have dinner with her Yorkist relations and drink toasts to Spanish invasion is nothing short of ludicrous. Second, if such dinners had taken place it would fit the definition of treason to a “T.” All parties would have been carted to the Tower of London immediately. Several years later, when a religious rebellion in the North of England left Henry VIII even more paranoid, Cromwell would orchestrate the destruction of Henry Pole and Edward Courtenay on evidence much flimsier than the content of these alleged dinners. But the deaths of those found guilty in the “Exeter Conspiracy” lies years ahead of this episode, between Wife No. 3 and Wife No. 4. 

[Note that Bilyeau includes a magnificent sequence on the parties involved in the "Exeter Conspiracy" in her second Joanna Stafford novel, The Chalice.]


The marriage of Henry and Anne endures another blow when the queen miscarries. Afterward, the queen is even more vengeful and vindictive. “I’ll have no peace until Fisher is dead,” she says. “I’ll have no peace until More is dead.”

Anne tells Cromwell she wants him to “make” More talk, to say why he won’t sign the oath. When Cromwell replies, “No, Madam, we don’t do that,” she runs from the room.

This is one of the most dishonest moments of Wolf Hall. It is no secret that the real Thomas Cromwell, during this same period, presided over the arrest, questioning and executions of a group of friars and monks who also refused to sign the oath. The Carthusian monks of the Charterhouse were starved, hanged, cut down while still alive, castrated and dismembered. This is one of the most well known aspects of England under Thomas Cromwell: the swift arrests, the torture, the convictions without trial, the harrowing executions. No matter how many kittens that Wolf Hall’s Cromwell cuddles or women he flirts with, the historical record is inescapable. Yet at one point in this series, a fair and tolerant Cromwell tells More to “repent your cruelties.”

Bilyeau is referring to Blesseds Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate, who were executed on June 19, 1535, after being arrested on May 25 and kept bound to pillars with iron rings around their necks, hands, and feet, without any relief for 14 days before trial--the rest of the Carthusians who refused to support Henry VIII's supremacy were imprisoned and left to starve to death without even an attainder. The Observant Franciscans were similarly treated.

Mantel and the BBC deceive viewers when they present such a merciful Cromwell in contrast with such a vindictive More.

Richard Rex analyses the controversy about Thomas More's prosecution of heretics and the rather rough language he used in his apologetics in The Cambridge Companion to Thomas More:

Thomas More’s dealings with heresy and heretics have been the most bitterly contested aspects of his career. Even within his lifetime they aroused controversy, as his own Apology demonstrates. John Foxe’s famous ‘Book of Martyrs’ cast More, along with the Tudor bishops, among the deepest-dyed villains, and the stories it told, true and false alike, have been handed down and continue to be supplemented and embellished to this day. Thus Brian Moynahan has bizarrely proposed that More, from his confinement in the Tower of London, masterminded the taking of William Tyndale in Antwerp; while the numbers of heretics executed during More’s chancellorship were recently inflated from half a dozen to ‘a few hundred’ by one of England’s leading journalists; and in 2009 a novelist won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction (appropriately enough) with a story in which she has More admit in conversation the allegations of torture he denied in print. Which all goes to show that, while there have always been admirers for whom Thomas More was a ‘man for all seasons’, there have always been critics for whom he was a fanatical persecutor.

More’s Tudor critics mostly censured him not for persecution as such but for persecuting the wrong people, namely Protestants. Today’s critics censure him rather for the fact of the persecution, and for his emotional intensity in going about it, than for his particular choice of victims. The contrast that mattered for John Foxe was between papist and Protestant; the contrast that matters more today is between the apostle of tolerance some detect in the author of
Utopia and the inquisitorial magistrate who became Henry VIII’s lord chancellor.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Maria Monk Debunked and--Defended?

Sarah Laskow writes about The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, as Exhibited in a Narrative of Her Sufferings During a Residence of Five Years as a Novice and Two Years as a Black Nun, in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery in Montreal in Lapham's Quarterly--yes, take a breath NOW:

The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk was the most-read book in America before Uncle Tom’s Cabin, selling a record 300,000 copies. First published in the States in January 1836—just a few months after Hoyt and his colleagues visited Mrs. Mills—the book recounts Maria’s time among Montreal’s Black Nuns at the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, first as a novice and then as an initiate. The book was ostensibly written by Maria herself, who is taught by a Protestant to read and write but sent to Catholic school to learn French. Some time later, having “attended several different schools for a short time,” Maria becomes “dissatisfied, having many and severe trials to endure at home.” She remembers her Catholic friends’ positive experiences with their religion, and she decides to become a nun. After she takes the veil, Maria alleges that, far from being a saintly community of celibates, the nuns were sexually abused by the city’s Catholic priests, a real-life tale seemingly ripped the pages of the Marquis de Sade. According to the book, the errant nuns became mothers, too—the babies they bore were baptized, smothered, and buried in a lime-layered pit in the basement of the nunnery. . . .

The shocking parts of Maria’s story are studded into a thorough attack on Catholicism: the Mother Superior is greedy about money, the priests disparage the Protestant Bible as a dangerous book, the nuns believe in ghosts. When Maria Monk was published, anti-Catholicism in America was on the rise. Irish immigrants had started to fill the cities of the Eastern seaboard; in 1834 a mob burned down a Catholic convent in Boston. Maria’s story was not the first account from an escaped nun, but it was the most successful. Her book was backed by a trio of Protestant leaders known to be campaigning against the influence of Catholicism in America: Theodore Dwight—supposedly related to Jonathan Edwards—and the reverends John Jay Slocum and George Bourne, all prominent nativist and abolitionist leaders. . . . They traveled with Maria from Montreal to promote the book in New York and other American cities, coached her, and, very likely, wrote her actual book. They also made significant amounts of money on it—and though Maria may have eked out a little profit, it was relatively small. She even tried, and failed, to sue them for her share.

And, of course, none of it was true. According to this website, the Catholic AND Protestant people of Montreal were upset by the attacks on their religious, whom they knew were good, charitable people:

The publication of defenses of the Hotel Dieu only added to the furor and sparked the publication of refutations of refutations. The Hotel Dieu and the Bishop of Montreal chose to remain above the fray and did not respond to the book. In attacking the Hotel Dieu, the nativists had chosen to attack one of the most respectable institutions in all of Canada. Picture a charity hospital run by the D.A.R. and you have some sense of the reputation of the place. The hospital was founded by Mlle. Jeanne Mance, a lay nurse, in 1642. She returned to France and convinced a group of nuns, members of the order of Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, to come to Montreal to staff the hospital. In 1659, the convent was formed. Shortly before the publication of the Awful Disclosures, the nuns of the Hotel Dieu had distinguished themselves by their zeal in treating victims of a cholera epidemic. These women were venerated by the people of Montreal, Protestant and Catholic, and the whole community was outraged by the attack on them. Their champions published anonymously a refutation titled: Awful exposure of the atrocious plot formed by certain individuals against the clergy and nuns of lower Canada, through the intervention of Maria Monk. Well-reasoned and full of verifiable facts, the book was little read. It was denounced as a fabrication put out by the priests of Montreal.

In his Present Position of Catholics in England, Blessed John Henry Newman remarked on how the falsehoods of the Awful Disclosures were accepted because the readers want to think badly of Catholics and so they let the book's sinister depictions of convent life to influence their interpretation of things they would otherwise see as holy and innocent:

It is an idea, which, as I have already said, was naturally suggested to an impure mind, and forcibly addressed itself to a curious reader. Mankind necessarily proceeds upon the notion that what is within discloses itself by what is without; that the soul prompts the tongue, inspires the eye, and rules the demeanour; and such is the doctrine of Holy Writ, when it tells us that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Hence, when strangers visit a nunnery, and see the order, cheerfulness, and quiet which reigns through it, they naturally take all this as the indication of that inward peace and joy which ought to be the portion of its inmates. And again, when strangers attend Mass, and observe the venerable and awful character of the rite, they naturally are led to think that the priest is "holding up pure hands," and is as undefiled in heart as he is grave in aspect. Now it is the object of this Narrative to reverse this natural association, to establish the contrary principle, and to impress upon the mind that what is within is always what the outward appearance is not, and that the more of saintliness is in the exterior, the more certainly is there depravity and guilt in the heart. Of course it must be confessed, there have been cases where what looked fair and beautiful was but a whited sepulchre, "full within of dead men's bones and of all filthiness;" such cases have been and may be, but they are unnatural surely, not natural; the exception, not the rule. To consider this as the rule of things, you must destroy all trust in the senses; when a man laughs, you must say he is sad; when he cries, you must say he is merry; when he is overbearing in words, you must call him gentle; and when he says foolish things, you must call him wise; all because sad hearts sometimes wear cheerful countenances, and divine wisdom sometimes has condescended to look like folly. It is reported to have been said by an able diplomatist, that the use of words is to disguise men's thoughts; but the very wit of the remark lies in the preposterous principle it ironically implies. Yet still to the run of readers there is something attractive in this perverted and morbid notion, both from a sort of malevolence and love of scandal, which possesses the minds of the vulgar, and from the wish to prove that others, who seems religious, are even worse than themselves; and besides, from the desire of mystery and marvel, which prompts them, as I have said before, to have recourse to some monstrous tale of priestcraft for excitement, as they would betake themselves to a romance or a ghost story. . . .

Now observe the effect of all this. When a person, who never was in a Catholic church or convent, reads such particulars; when he reads, moreover, of the lattice-work of the confessional, of the stoup of holy water, and the custom of dipping the finger into it, of silence during dinner, and of recreation after it; of a priest saying Mass with his hands first joined together, and then spread, and his face to the altar; of his being addressed by the title of "my father," and speaking of his "children," and many other similar particulars; and then afterwards actually sees some Catholic establishment, he says to himself, "This is just what the book said;" "here is quite the very thing of which it gave me the picture;" and I repeat he has, in consequence of his reliance on it, so associated the acts of the ceremonial, the joined hands or the downcast eyes, with what his book went on slanderously to connect them, with horrible sin, that he cannot disconnect them in his imagination; and he thinks the Catholic priest already convicted of hypocrisy, because he observes those usages which all the world knows that he does observe, which he is obliged to observe, and which the Church has ever observed. Thus you see the very things, which are naturally so touching and so beautiful in the old Catholic forms of devotion, become by this artifice the means of infusing suspicion into the mind of the beholder.

In her Lapham's Quarterly article Sarah Laskow asks us to have some sympathy for Maria Monk, comparing her to the woman at the center of rape allegations at UVA in the recently debunked Rolling Stone article, and I think she expresses some of the warped view Newman mentions above:

It’s a sadly familiar tale: a woman comes forward with a terrible story, is embraced by the media, then is discredited and attacked as a sexually promiscuous liar. When Rolling Stone published the story of “Jackie” it followed a similar trajectory as Maria’s story, echoing an idea that had been gaining power: now, fraternities are bastions of rape culture; then, Catholicism is corrupt. Even after the Rolling Stone piece was investigated, Jackie was not entirely excoriated. Something traumatic happened to her, even if it was not exactly what she shared with a reporter. Was the same true of Maria?

Maybe Maria did have some cognitive disabilities, maybe she had, at some point, had sex for money or lived in a halfway house for sex workers. While relations between nuns and priests might have been as appropriate as advertised, how did they act toward powerless women like Maria? It’s not so hard to imagine a less-than-perfect priest trying to elicit stories of the “most improper and even revolting nature” during confession with a former prostitute. And no matter what, something did happen to her; she was taken advantage of. Whatever story she had, whatever bit of it might have been true, it was picked up by more powerful people who twisted it to their own ends. Maria didn’t profit from the book, or her infamy. She died poor and young—and, it seems, without anyone ever trying to reconstruct what had actually happened in her life. These days, we’re more willing to re-evaluate the stories of women and sex, especially when they’ve been controlled by powerful men. It’s almost impossible to find any real interrogation of the men involved in Maria Monk’s story: How did they find her? Who gave them the idea to use her as the figurehead of an anti-Catholic book? Where did they go wrong?

That's easy to answer: they went wrong because they hated and feared Catholics and Catholicism more than they loved truth.

Even Laskow is ready to think badly of Catholic priests, based on reputation and conjecture to imagine "a less-than-perfect priest" in the confessional questioning a penitent who is a prostitute. This discloses ignorance of the confessional, the penitent, and the priest, all based on imagination in the most subversive view as Newman outlines above.

Either something is true or it is not true. In my current job in Ethics and Compliance at a major manufacturing corporation, I often wear black and white, especially when offering a training session on some ethics and compliance issue!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Paris Commune Rises Again! or--Paris is Well Worth a Mass!

This story isn't receiving that much notice, but vandals spray painted various anti-Catholic and anti-establishment phrases at the entrance of that shrine of Eucharistic Adoration in Paris in Montmartre: the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I've linked to the page that gives more detail about what the slogans said here but won't post them because they are so vulgar. One that caught my eye was translated "1871, long live the commune!"

The cleaner version of the story is here:

France's interior minister says unknown vandals have spray-painted graffiti on Sacre Coeur basilica in Paris.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the anti-church and anti-state vandalism on the entrance door, walls and floor. Clean-up crews were deployed to erase the words.

The Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, basilica offers eye-popping views of Paris atop the trendy Montmartre neighbourhood. Millions of visitors trek there each year.

Consecrated in 1919, Sacre Coeur was approved as a project by the government decades earlier in an effort to restore moral values following the ill-fated Paris Commune revolt of 1871 in which thousands died.

Mr Valls says authorities are working to identify and arrest the vandals.

When we visited Sacre Coeur in 2012, the Basilica had celebrated a Jubilee of 125 years of Perpetual Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, including through two World Wars--some silly vandals certainly aren't going to make any impact! The vandals did know something about history since they correctly identified the Paris Commune as in opposition to the prayers of reparation and for healing that have been lifted up on the hill of Montmartre since August 1885.

One more less related note--at least two Catholic churches were targeted for an attack by a radicalized Algerian national. The Prime Minister of France noted:

To attack a church is to attack “a symbol of France," the premier said. "The terrorists probably still wanted to hit the heart to divide and destroy. The answer is the gathering, is unity. That's democracy, it's the living together and that is the ability to respond as the French have done on January 11.

"The faithful of the Catholic religion,” he continued, “must be able to worship, go to Mass in perfect serenity. Moreover, it is the most beautiful and strongest of the answers we need to terrorism, which targets France to divide... . France has a great Christian heritage. Cathedrals, churches, chapels, attract tourists, pilgrims, thousands of the faithful around the world. This heritage must be protected, but must remain open, accessible.”

And this in the land of laïcité

Bon dimanche! Paris is well worth a Mass!

Friday, April 24, 2015

If England Had Remained Catholic

There have been other alternative histories of England if the Spanish Armada succeeded, for example, or if, somehow the English Reformation never happened, but they have usually been negative and based upon flawed historical understanding. One example is Kingsley Amis' The Alteration, as summarized on this website:

Renowned novelist Kingsley Amis entered alternate-history territory in 1976 with his award-winning novel The Alteration. In his imagined history, Henry VIII’s short-lived older brother, Arthur, has a son just before his death. When Henry tries to usurp his nephew’s throne, he is stopped in a papal war. Hence, the Church of England is never founded, the Spanish Armada is never defeated (as Elizabeth I was never born), and Martin Luther reconciles with the Catholic Church, eventually becoming Pope. Naturally, this turns Europe into a vastly different place. By 1976, it is ruled by the Vatican, in the middle of a long-running Christian/Muslim cold war, and technologically regressed, as electricity is banned and scientists are frowned upon.

Of course, that last statement is ridiculously inaccurate, since Catholics, especially Jesuit priests--in the real world--were scientists. Of course, in Amis' world, St. Ignatius of Loyola might never have founded the Jesuits. But then, Benedictines would have fostered the use of electric power, just as they developed water power in their monasteries. Typical anti-Catholic rubbish. (Read or re-read Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization in paperback from Ignatius Press for more information on the Catholic Church and science.)

Dominic Selwood writes in The Catholic Herald a more hopeful view of England if the infant Henry the Duke of Cornwall hadn't died:

The 19-year-old King Henry VIII took to the field arrayed in cloth of gold and blue velvet, all spangled with golden hearts and K’s for his 25-year-old wife, Katherine of Aragon, whose honour he defended as “Sir Loyal Heart”. The joust was the most lavish of Henry’s reign, celebrating the birth, 10 days earlier on New Year’s Day, of their son, Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall.

Henry VIII and Katherine went on to preside over England’s first truly Renaissance court, where the progressive influence of Thomas More and Erasmus brought a gentle but keen appreciation of the classics and humanities. When Henry died an old man, he was mourned as our greatest scholar king.

His son, King Henry IX, acceded to the throne, inaugurating one of England’s most luminous reigns. He sponsored the maritime genius of Drake and Raleigh, oversaw England’s first substantial colonies in the New World, and witnessed the consolidation of England and Spain as Europe’s leading Catholic powers.

Selwood reminds us that's not what happened, of course, but then begins to sketch out some alternative ideas about the past and the present:

But let’s rejoin the story with Henry VIII, and ask what would have happened if Henry and Katherine had never divorced. How might England be different today?

First, the Reformation would almost certainly not have reached England, then known affectionately for the deepness of its Catholic faith as “Mary’s Dowry”. There were few Protestants this side of the Channel, and nothing suggests they would have grown in any significant numbers. So, like most of continental Europe, England would have remained Catholic.

He thinks that Mystery Plays would still be popular or would have influenced current drama, the monasteries would still be helping the needy, sheltering the homeless, and welcoming the stranger, and that English Catholic spirituality, with its colorful, gentle beauty would have greater influence--Selwood also opines that Cardinal Archbishop Edmund Campion would have led "an English scriptural renaissance" by translating the Holy Bible into English (instead of being torn apart at Tyburn Tree). Selwood should have also mentioned the influence of the friaries on social welfare and care for the poor (he may be lumping monasteries and friaries together, but there is a difference.)

Read the rest there.

Ten Years Ago Today

In honor of all the tenth anniversaries in connection with Pope St. John Paul II and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, I am reading this collection of essential works by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. Note the irony of the last paragraph of the publisher's description:

On April 24, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, the twenty-first-century successor of the Apostle Peter and the spiritual leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics. Who is this complex man whose office grants him sole charge of the world's largest religion? How will his tenure influence the future? The Essential Pope Benedict XVI answers these questions through carefully chosen selections from his homilies, interviews, theological essays, and articles on the crises facing the church today. This collection lays out Benedict's thinking and relates it to a variety of contemporary issues, including modern culture's abandonment of traditional religious values, social mores regarding conception and the sanctity of life, current challenges to the priesthood, and the Catholic Church's tenuous relations with other world religions.

First a brilliant peritus, or "expert advisor," to the Second Vatican Council and then archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger was appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981. As Cardinal Ratzinger, the ex officio defender of church doctrine, he gained a reputation as a heroic guardian of the faith for conservatives and was held in suspicion by church liberals.

We cannot yet know what issues and events will define the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, but by any measure he will be seen as one of the most important theological voices of our time. This one volume is the best source for understanding the heart, soul, and agenda of this twenty-first-century successor to St. Peter.

Of course it will be years before historians evaluate the "issues and events" that "will define the reign of Pope Benedict XVI", but surely the restoration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, continued healing and justice from the horrors of sexual abuse (he should get create for that!), and the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate will be part of the story.

HarperCollins has provided this sampler from the book.

As we observe this great anniversary, news from Rome is that a library is being established in Pope Benedict's honor:

The Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Roman Library, dedicated entirely to the life and thought of Ratzinger as scholar and Pope, was officially announced. The study center is located within the Library of the Teutonic College and of the Roman Institute of the Gorres Society.

The announcement was made yesterday by Monsignor Stefan Heid, Director of the Roman Institute, during the presentation of the volume Benedict XVI, Servant of God and of Men, published in Italian by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and in German by Schnell & Steiner Publishers, for the 10th anniversary of Joseph Ratzinger’s election as Pontiff on April 19, 2005.

Attending the event, which took place in the afternoon of April 20 in the church of the Teutonic Cemetery in the Vatican, were, among others, the brother of the Pope Emeritus, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, Cardinals Bertone, Farina, Koch and Muller, and Archbishops Farhat, Ganswein, Marra and Pozzo.

The Library, named after the Pope Emeritus, will open next September and will have, to begin with, some one thousand volumes in different languages and will be characterized as an open place to all those interested in the publications of and on Joseph Ratzinger, to know his life and to reflect on his Theology. Benedict XVI himself donated many of the volumes. Others, instead, were given by the Vatican Foundation that bears his name and that supported the initiative.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The 23rd of April: St. George, the Garter and King Charles II

Today is the Feast of St. George, the martyr. It's also the anniversary date of the Order of the Garter (founded in 1348) and of the coronation of Charles II in 1661.

More on St. George:

Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to rescue a beautiful lady. The dragon stands for wickedness. The lady stands for God's holy truth. St. George was a brave martyr who was victorious over the devil.

He was a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and he was one of the Emperor's favorite soldiers. Now Diocletian was a pagan and a bitter enemy to the Christians. He put to death every Christian he could find. George was a brave Christian, a real soldier of Christ. Without fear, he went to the Emperor and sternly scolded him for being so cruel. Then he gave up his position in the Roman army. For this he was tortured in many terrible ways and finally beheaded.

So boldly daring and so cheerful was St. George in declaring his Faith and in dying for it that Christians felt courage when they heard about it. Many songs and poems were written about this martyr. Soldiers, especially, have always been devoted to him.

Some information about the Garter:

The Order of the Garter is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348.

The Order, consisting of the King and twenty-five knights, honours those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

The patron saint of the Order is St George (patron saint of soldiers and also of England) and the spiritual home of the Order is St George's Chapel, Windsor.

Here's a description of the Coronation by Samuel Pepys.

Four English poets died on this day:

Henry Vaughan, the Welsh metaphysical poet, 1695;

William Shakespeare in 1616 (this date is traditionally observed as his birthday too, based upon the record of his baptism);

William Wordsworth, the Romantic poet, 1880; and

Rupert Brooke, the WWI poet who did of sepsis in Greece, 1915.

Brooke's poem, "The Soldier" seems to sum up the patriotism of St. George's Day for England:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bishop Conley Talks About Beauty and Helps Design Beautiful Church in Nebraska

When Bishop Conley spoke at the Eighth Day Institute here in Wichita this January, he talked about the new church being built for the large number of Catholic students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. Now there's a story about the new church, with pictures of several features:

The resulting St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and Newman Center is a bow to tradition and a beacon of hope and adoration of God in the heart of a secular campus.

The original mural of storm clouds behind the altar has been replaced with a massive, awe-inspiring stained glass window. At the center of the window is a youthful Christ with an exposed sacred heart. Fourteen saints and blesseds are gathered in adoration around Christ. Students hand-picked each of the men and women, with the exception of Saint Albert – the 13th century saint stands to the left of his student Saint Thomas Aquinas to depict the importance of student-teacher relationships.

The simple, gold tabernacle that used to stand alone behind the altar is now housed in a grand, repurposed 125-year-old altar of repose with gold, red, and blue detailing. An outdoor courtyard on the north side of the Church has been replaced with a Marian chapel.

A new dome floods the Church with natural light. The dome’s pendentives mirror those in St. Peter’s Basilica: depicting St. Longinus, St. Veronica, St. Andrew, and St. Helena.

Read and see the rest there

Also, Bishop Conley gave the last talk at The Catholic Artists Society and the Thomistic Institute series of lectures on The Art of the Beautiful: Redeeming Culture in Christ in March this year. You may hear all of the lectures from that series (and some other recordings) here. Bishop Conley presented some of the same material in January.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Belloc's Strengths and Weaknesses

There is much that Belloc gets wrong in his Characters of the Reformation--details like Henry VIII having syphilis and Anne Boleyn having an extra finger--but his analysis of politics and personalities is often correct. It is his thesis that the Reformation was more a political event than theological and that England's break from Rome thwarted the political reunion of Christendom after Luther and Calvin divided the Continent.

That thesis drives his selection of characters: neither Martin Luther nor John Calvin have a chapter to themselves. Belloc selects instead, on the Continent for example, Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, Gustavus Adolphus, and Cardinal Richelieu. The first tried to reunite Germany under Catholicism and failed; the second was the brilliant general who thwarted that attempt; the third was the éminence grise who aided the second to prevent German unity at the expense of French hegemony, and thus continued the break up of Christendom.

Because of the second part of his thesis, Belloc profiles almost all the important figures of the English Reformation era: Henry VIII, More, Cranmer, Cromwell, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth, etc. He also includes figures from the early Stuart era, two philosophers (Descartes and Pascal) and two more combatants: William of Orange and Louis XIV.

In each chapter, Belloc examines the personality of the individual he is profiling. His analysis of Henry VIII's character, for example, explains more than the usual attempt to trace a change in his personality. He identifies Henry's main characteristic as "an inability to withstand impulse; he was passionate for having his own way." Belloc notes that all those who helped Henry get his way (Wolsey, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn) flattered and led him until he grew tired of their control over him and destroyed them. Belloc thinks that only Catherine of Aragon loved and respected Henry but even she did not attempt to influence him in matters of self-control. As Belloc notes, she was so simple, direct, and straightforward that she did not understand intrigue: "She neither made scenes, nor intrigued to recover her position," Belloc states. She remained adamant that she would never respond to any other title than Queen of England, but she did not know how to manipulate others to achieve her goals.

Belloc's interpretation stresses power and authority above theology and reform. While I agree with him that many political leaders took advantage of the religious divisions and debates for their own purposes, I think he goes too far in not considering the need for reform. The absence of any consideration of reform is a weakness in his study as it means he leaves out the great reformers like St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope St. Pius V, and Reginald Cardinal Pole. Over-emphasizing the political aspects of the Reformation era leads Belloc's selection of characters to be unbalanced and incomplete. The latter should have been part of the survey of English Reformation characters.

One extraordinary aspect of his view of the Reformation is that he places more blame on the Catholic rulers who failed to uphold Christendom because they wanted power and to prevent others from having power. Thus, Belloc blames Richelieu and Louis XIV for interfering with the efforts of Ferdinand II and later rulers to bring religious unity to Germany, fearing German unity meant French weakness. He also laments Louis XIV revocation of the Edict of Nantes because it thwarted the progress being made in France toward peace and unity.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's the Third Monday of the Month

That means that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show to continue our series of discussions of Church History and Apologetics!

Matt Swaim and I will talk about St. Thomas More this morning after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern (6:45 a.m. Central) news headlines from Anna Mitchell. We'll base our discussion on my article from The National Catholic Register (just finished writing another for them which I'll submit for publication soon!)

Please listen live here or on your local EWTN affiliate.

Seven Martyrs on April 20 in Three Years

It's heartbreaking to think that such a beautiful day in the midst of April and springtime would be marred by such violence. In addition to being the dies natalis of seven martyrs, beatified by the Catholic Church, today is also the anniversary of the beginning of Henry VIII's judicial revenge on any and all who opposed his Succession and Supremacy, with the executions of Elizabeth Barton and her confessors and spiritual advisers.

For more information about the Nun of Kent and companions, executed in 1534, click here.

For details about Blesseds James Bell and John Finch, martyred in 1584, click here.

For the stories of Blesseds Richard Sergeant and William Thomson, martyred two years later in 1586, click here.

And finally, for information on Blesseds Thomas Tichhorne, Robert Watkinson, and Francis Page, hung, drawn, and quartered in 1602, click here.

Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!