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Butler, Edward Cuthbert

BUTLER, EDWARD CUTHBERT

Benedictine abbot and scholar; b. Dublin, May 6, 1858; d. Clapham, London, April 1, 1934. His father was professor of mathematics at the Irish university organized by John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman. After his school days at Downside, he entered the Benedictine novitiate (1876) and later studied and taught in the priory school at Downside. He took a leading part in a controversy in the English Benedictine Congregation that issued in the conversion of a unitary congregation devoted to missionary work into one of fully autonomous abbeys. In 1896 he became first head of the Downside house of studies at Cambridge and produced a study and text of the Lausiac History of Palladius (1898, 1904). He was recalled in 1904 and succeeded Dom Edmund Ford as second abbot of Downside in 1906. As abbot he was an apostle of the liturgy and an advocate of mental prayer; his lifelong guide was Augustine Baker's Holy Wisdom. In 1922 the frustration of his endeavors to diminish the parochial commitments of Downside led to his resignation; he moved to Ealing Priory, where he remained until his death. He produced a valuable Latin edition of the Rule of St. Benedict (1912), and Benedictine Monachism (1919), a series of studies on every aspect of Benedictine history, polity, and spirituality. In retirement he published Western Mysticism (1922), his Life and Times of Bishop Ullathorne (1926), and History of the Vatican Council (1930). Much of his work still retains its value and reflects a scholar of wide learning, sane judgment, and powerful mind. Butler lacked the common touch and some of the qualities of leadership, but his unassuming piety and patent sincerity won universal respect.

Bibliography: d. knowles, "Abbot Butler: A Memoir," Downside Review 52 (1934) 347440, reprinted in The Historian and Character, ed. c. n. l. brooke and g. constable (New York 1963) 264341.

[m. d. knowles]

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