Skip to main content

England, The Catholic Church in

ENGLAND, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN

One of several kingdoms comprising the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England is situated on the largest island in Europe. Bordered on the north by Scotland, on the west by Wales, the Irish Sea, and the island of Ireland, and on the east by the North Sea, England is separated from France and the European mainland by the English Channel. One of the world' major industrial powers, and with a maritime fleet second to none during the 18th and 19th centuries, England divested itself of its colonial holdings during the early 20th century and has since become a modern nation and a member of the European Union. Although retaining political control of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the British parliament granted each of these principalities increasing degrees of political self-determination by the end of the 20th century.

The essay that follows covers the history of Catholicism in England from a.d. 597 to the present. For information specific to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, please refer to those entries. For information on the Church in England prior to 597, see the entry, britain, the early church in.

[eds.]

English history before the Reformation can be divided into three epochs, the first of which is a period of conversion or plantation (7th8th centuries). After almost a century of wars, shifting political boundaries, and Danish invasion, a second period began with Alfred the Great, in which civil and ecclesiastical organization interpenetrated and in which the fortunes of the Church depended greatly upon the king. Finally, during the period from the Conquest onward, the Church in England was drawn into the administrative network of the reformed papacy. From being an outlying part of Christendom in communion with the apostolic see, it became a regional Church (ecclesia Anglicana ) like all the other churches of Europe, forming part of a unitary system that depended directly upon the papacy for its doctrine, legislation, and discipline.

597 to 880. When gregory i became pope all England, save the Cornish coast, was pagan. Christianity had been driven, with the British, into Wales. In Ireland, however, a flourishing Christian population was evangelizing the western isles of Scotland; Wales was also Christian, but the Celtic Church had made no attempt to convert the Anglo-Saxon invaders. Had Gregory not sent augustine of canterbury, Christianity would probably have spread slowly from the north over England; as it was, there was an almost simultaneous entry from north and from south.

While successful at the court of King ethelbert of kent, the mission of Augustine failed to expand beyond London and south Essex, and a meeting with British ecclesiastics near the Severn failed to achieve a union. After Augustine's death, one of his companions, paulinus of

york, was sent as bishop to evangelize the north. Having converted the king of the Northumbrians, Paulinus preached and baptized in Lindsey, near York, and as far north as Yeavering in Northumberland. At retirement he left numerous converts, but not an organized church. In East Anglia, the Burgundian Felix of Dunwich and the Irishman fursey had more permanent success, and in Wessex birinus founded a church in the upper Thames Valley. Where Paulinus had failed, aidan from Iona and his companions succeeded; within 20 years a flourishing Church with Celtic traditions and culture had extended its influence to Mercia in the north Midlands. A clash between the Roman and Celtic traditions was inevitable; while no doctrinal issue was at stake, points of ritual and discipline, including the date of Easter, as well as differences of sentiment, devotions, and ascetic ideals caused disagreement. Union was effected at a debate held at whitby in 663, and the victory on disputed points lay with the Roman party, ably represented by wilfrid; but Celtic sanctity, personified by cuthbert of lindisfarne, permanently influenced Northumbrian religious sentiment.

Meanwhile England was becoming Christian. The faith was spread and maintained by groups of monks and clergy, living in "minsters" and preaching and ministering at crosses and other landmarks before founding churches, which in time became parishes. Monasteries of men and women of the Gallic pattern multiplied, with saintly abbesses such as hilda of whitby and ethelreda of ely and hermits such as guthlac of crowland. A period of loose organization ended with the papal appointment to Canterbury of the elderly Greek monk theodore, who, assisted by the African monk hadrian, reformed the church, founding new sees and giving it new laws and discipline. Schools began to flourish, and aldhelm of malmesbury was the first writer. At the same time, the Northumbrian benedict biscop took Roman ritual and chant and Benedictine monachism to Jarrow and Wearmouth, where a remarkable flowering of literary and artistic activity was crowned by the writings of bede and the calligraphy and illuminations of the lindisfarne gospels. The generation following Bede saw a great exodus of missionaries, men and women, from

Northumbrian and Wessex monasteries to Frisia and Germany, with St. boniface of Devon as their chief. The great age of the Anglo-Saxon Church continued in Mercia under Offa and flourished in the north and south till the end of the 8th century, and had its share, through alcuin and others, in forming the spirit of the carolingian renaissance.

880 to 1066. The continuity of development was broken from 780 onward by the Danish invasions, which increased in number and strength until the Danes ultimately controlled England north and east of Watling Street. Though Christianity was never exterminated, and the whole of the Danelaw soon became Christian, the country had been shaken and ravaged, and the culture of the past did not return. alfred the great (871899) inherited a kingdom without schools or monasteries, making the period of recovery slow. A new era of prosperity dawned during the mid-10th century, when the ability and piety of King Athelstan, the patronage of King edgar, and the emergence of a trio of saintly and able monk-bishops, dunstan, ethelwold, and oswald of york, led to a great rebirth of piety. It issued in and was assisted by a monastic revival on a large scale, leading to the foundation of some 40 houses of men and women, including three cathedrals staffed by monks. A revival of educational, literary, and artistic activity accompanied the monastic movement. This revival owed nothing to Roman or Continental initiative, and though England was traditionally devoted to Rome, the only direct links were the reception of the pallium by each archbishop of Canterbury, the collection of peter's pence, and frequent pilgrimages to Rome.

In this period civil and ecclesiastical affairs were closely interwoven. Bishops and abbots were members of the royal council or witenagemot, which, presided over by the king, elected bishops, judged important cases, and framed laws on moral and ecclesiastical matters. Bishops would publish their decrees in the shire court, where ecclesiastical as well as civil justice was administered, and were appointed by the king on the advice of the witan.

England was now wholly Christianized, and every village had its church. Yet, as on the Continent, the proprietary church was ubiquitous. Parish and field churches as well as domestic chapels were almost all the property of an individual, lay or cleric, or of a monastery, and in the towns they were often owned by a group of burgesses. Everywhere the priest was appointed by the owner. The dioceses, uneven in size and ill-defined, were usually large, preventing bishops from regular contact with their clergy and faithful. While the decadence of the Church remains a debated question, England in the middle decades of the 11th century was certainly an educational and disciplinary (though not an artistic) backwater.

1066 to 1216. The Norman Conquest marked an epoch, not least because it coincided with a great crisis in the history of the Western Church. Its immediate result was to give England, in William the Conqueror and in his archbishop, lanfranc, two able and energetic men of wide outlook, bent on order and reform. A long-term result was the integration of England into the cultural and religious community of Europe, sharing in and eventually adding to the spiritual and institutional developments of the age. Within 20 years of the Conquest almost all the bishops and abbots were Normans, as were many monks and leading clerks. A great wave of building activity began and cathedrals, abbeys, and parish churches were renewed on a grand scale. After a few decades the new or rejuvenated ordersAustin canons, cistercians, premonstratensians, and the native gilbertines were ubiquitous. The number of religious houses, 60 in 1066, had risen to some 600 by 1166. Councils and synods were held, cathedral schools came into existence, the study and observance of Canon Law became common, and canonical episcopal election was recognized as a norm. The Church in England was enriched by men from the Continent, such as the Italians Lanfranc, anselm, Faricius of Abingdon (d. 1117), and Vacarius, as well as the French theobald of canterbury and William of Rievaulx. Those of Norman blood included Gilbert foliot and Thomas becket. England returned the obligation with Pope adrian iv (Breakspear), stephen harding, john of salisbury, and many others. Lanfranc, above all others, proved himself a great archbishop by establishing metropolitan rights over Wales and attaining similar, although temporary, successes in Ireland and Scotland. Ecclesiastical history, biography, and spiritual writing flourished with eadmer, ordericus vitalis, william of malmesbury, and aelred of Rievaulx; after an interval, sculpture and illumination flourished also.

The wise rule of william i changed to a rough autocracy under william ii, and Anselm was twice constrained

to become an exile before a compromise was arranged with Henry I as to the royal appointment of bishops. Tensions existed for the rest of the century between the king endeavoring to retain or reassert the rights exercised by his predecessors and the bishops insisting upon adherence to the new discipline and Canon Law of the gregorian reform. Tension flared into conflict when henry ii, after the eclipse of royal power under King Stephen, attempted to reassert royal control over the Church and over criminal justice in regard to clerks. Archbishop Thomas Becket, after repeated clashes and a long exile in France, was murdered in his cathedral on his return in 1170.

Among the most important social consequences of the Norman Conquest was the feudalization of the Church, which gave bishops and greater abbots liability for feudal dues and military service, while also making them members of the king's council, the body that developed

into the Parliament that would become a national institution during the reign of Henry III. Feudalization and the great wealth accumulated by the Church tended to both secularize the prelates concerned and give bishops the double allegiance and the separation from pastoral care that would help cause the spiritual malaise of later centuries.

The reign of john (11991216) was a time of tribulation for the Church. A disputed Canterbury election, in which a royal nominee figured, led to an appeal to Rome, the appointment of stephen langton by innocent iii, and a refusal by John to accept this outcome. There followed excommunication for the king and an interdict for the country. Even if the miseries of this episode have been exaggerated, it led to the dispersal of some monks, the exile of bishops, and the impoverishment of religious houses at the hands of the king. John's unexpected death brought relaxation, and Pandulf and other papal legates were a harmonizing and reforming influence during the decades that followed.

The Church's Golden Age: 12161350. The 13th century was indeed the golden age of the medieval Church in England. Its freedom was guaranteed by the magna carta and respected by the pious Henry III, while its discipline was regulated by the Fourth lateran council. Free election gave it a hierarchy that for almost a century maintained a high level of enlightened administration. Three bishopsRichard of Chichester, edmund of abingdon, and thomas of cantelupeattained canonization; robert kilwardby, OP; john peckham, OFM; and robert winchelsea, all of Canterbury, were distinguished theologians; and the bench of bishops of which robert grosseteste of Lincoln was the acknowledged leader was perhaps the most illustrious of the English medieval Church.

England, with the rest of Europe, experienced the coming of the friars in the 3d decade of the century. Minors (franciscans) and Preachers (dominicans) arrived almost simultaneously, settling in London, Oxford, and in all the major towns. Welcomed into their respective communities, they preached and heard confessions, bringing to the middle and lower orders an example of fervor and expert advice. The carmelites and Austin Friars (augustinians) followed soon after; by 1300 there were nearly 200 friaries with 5,000 inmates, and in a dozen towns all four orders had houses. At Oxford, as at Paris, the friars came to learn and to serve and remained to teach. As at Paris, leading masters such as adam marsh and roger bacon joined their ranks; the fame of Oxford, which soon rivaled that of Paris, rested principally upon them, particularly upon the Minors. Britain gave its full share of masters to Europe: alexander of hales, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, Kilwardby, Peckham, duns scotus, william of ockham, and thomas bradwardine make up a series unsurpassed by any other nation.

The age had its difficulties. Papal provision to benefices, the appointment of absentee, foreign, or pluralist incumbents, and papal taxation were resented and opposed in England more strongly than elsewhere. The fervor of the monks and canons declined under the influence of wealth and the competition of the friars, but c. 1300 the number of religious of all kinds reached a peak (17,000) that was never again to be attained. Almost all the great abbeys and cathedrals were again reconstructed in part. salisbury, built on a virgin site in a single impulse, and westminster abbey, rebuilt and decorated in the French style, are typical monuments of the purest Gothic.

The rhythm of prosperity slackened in the early 14th century under the influence of economic recession, war, and, in 1348, the Black Death, followed by further visits of pestilence. Clashes between Parliament and Church over papal taxation and provision were sparked by the statutes of provisors (1351) and praemunire (1353), the latter in origin simply a deterrent to clerical appeals to Rome. Earlier still the Statute of mortmain had controlled the engrossing of feudal land by monasteries. In the matter of elections, a compromise was reached by which the canonical body elected a royal nominee, who was then approved and provided by the pope.

1350 to 1485. The 14th century saw the rise of vernacular literature and lay piety. English mystical writers Richard rolle (d. 1349), the unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing (c. 1375), Walter hilton (d. 1396), julian of norwich (13421416?), and their contemporary, William Langland, to whom piers plowman is attributed, all stressed in their different but wholly orthodox ways an individual and uninstitutional spirituality. The same epoch saw a direct attack upon the organized Church, its riches and its claims to special powers and rights. The spokesman of this party was John wyclif, a master of Oxford, who, opening with an academic debate on the right of the Church to wealth, went on to attack sacramental and sacerdotal religion and to advocate vernacular preaching and Bible reading. His denial of transubstantiation and his other heterodox opinions were condemned, though Wyclif himself died unmolested. Externally, the English Church, with its clergy reduced by pestilence, suffered with the rest of Europe the trials of the western schism which accentuated the insularity already caused by the French war. Among the centralized religious orders the links with European administration were permanently weakened, while many of the "alien priories" became denizen, and others were permanently confiscated and their estates transferred to other orders or royal colleges. No new monasteries were founded save a small but fervent group of carthusian priories, but colleges of priests and large chantries became popular forms of pious benefaction, as were educational colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. William of wykeham's double foundation at Winchester and New College were no-table examples of the trend. In the early 15th century English prelates played a considerable part at the Councils of constance and basel, but the clergy emerged from the epoch of conciliarism conservative in its attitude toward the papacy. Henry V was characteristic of his country in his severe and orthodox piety, of which sheen charterhouse and the Bridgettine syon gave evidence. The century that opened with his reign was perhaps the least distinguished in the history of the English Church. It was as unaffected by the brilliance and paganism of the Italian Renaissance as it was untroubled by the birth pangs of revolution. The devotio moderna of Flanders had no counterpart in England. The administration of the Church was conducted efficiently but mechanically by a group of functionaries in each diocese, who could, when needed, perform all duties for an absentee bishop. Formalism was more ubiquitous than moral laxity or official

neglect. The brooding anticlericalism and religious indifference were due to resentment that the higher clergy existed only to judge, to amerce, and to tax. Royal munificence continued to fund great architecture as at Windsor and at King's College, Cambridge, while rich merchants showed their devotion in the churches of Somerset, Gloucester shire, and Suffolk.

Bibliography: d. wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae, 4 v. (London 1737, new ed.). a. w. haddan and w. stubbs, eds., Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland, 3 v. in 4 (Oxford 186978). f. m. powicke and e. b. fryde, eds., Handbook of British Chronology (2d ed. London 1961). m. deanesly, The Pre-Conquest Church in England (New York 1961). Victoria History of the Counties of England (London 1900). bede, Ecclesiastical History, ed. c. plummer, 2 v. (Oxford 1896). a. h. thompson, ed., Bede, His Life, Times, and Writings (Oxford 1935). s. j. crawford, Anglo-Saxon Influence on Western Christendom, 600800 (London 1933). w. levison, England and the Continent in the 8th Century (Oxford 1946). moe. f. barlow, The English Church 10001066: A Constitutional History (Hamden, CT 1963). z. n. brooke, The English Church and the Papacy from the Conquest to the Reign of John (Cambridge, Eng. 1931). j. r. h. moorman, Church Life in England in the 13th Century (Cambridge, Eng. 1945). w. a. pantin, The English Church in the 14th Century (Cambridge, Eng. 1955). É. perroy, L'Angleterre et le grand schisme d'Occident (Paris 1934). g.r. owst, Preaching in Medieval England (Cambridge, Eng. 1926). a. h. thompson, The English Clergy and Their Organization in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford 1947).

[m. d. knowles]

The Early Tudors: 1485 to 1558. The establishment of the Tudor dynasty under its first ruler, Henry VII (14851509), introduced a period of strong government and increasing peace and prosperity. This situation was rudely disturbed by the revolt of the king's son, henry viii (150947), against the authority of the Catholic Church. During his early years of rule, Henry entrusted the affairs of the Church in England to the hands of Thomas wolsey, Lord Chancellor, archbishop of York, and papal legate. The failure of catherine of aragon to present Henry with a male heir and his increasing infatuation with Anne Boleyn led Henry to seek an annulment of his marriage on the grounds that the dispensation that had permitted him to marry his brother's widow had been obtained on false pretenses. Henry's inability to prove his case before a legatine court at Blackfriars, London, presided over by Wolsey and the Roman cardinal, campeggio, in 1529, brought on the fall of Wolsey and a successful attempt to subject the Church in England to the king's will.

In 1531, under the threat of praemunire, the bishops recognized the king as "Supreme Head of the Church in England," with the qualifying clause"insofar as the law of Christ allows"soon disregarded. In 1532 the clergy virtually abdicated their authority by their submission to the king's demand for a radical revision of Canon Law. On the death of Abp. Warham of Canterbury in this same year, Henry secured the appointment of Thomas cranmer, already a convinced Protestant, as his successor. Even before Cranmer, at the king's behest, declared the marriage to Catherine null and void, Henry married Anne Boleyn, who in September 1533 gave birth to a daughter, the future Queen elizabeth i.

The Statute in Restraint of Appeals of 1532 prevented any appeal to Rome against the judgment of the archbishop's court. Other statutes established the royal supremacy, secured the succession of Elizabeth, and made it treason to deprive the king of any of his titles or dignities. Between the years 153445 all who refused to take an oath to accept the supremacy were destroyed, among them Thomas more, who had succeeded Wolsey as chancellor; John fisher, the saintly bishop of Rochester; and a group of Carthusians and Observant friars. In 1535 Henry began to exploit his ecclesiastical authority by a general visitation and valuation of the Church, which soon led to the suppression of the lesser monasteries. The king's agent and vicar-general in the business was Thomas cromwell, who had for some time been managing Parliament in Henry's interest.

Henry's treatment of the Church and the fear of worse to come sparked the pilgrimage of grace (153637), a rising in the northern counties led by the lawyer, Robert aske. The Pilgrimage was at once a protest against the king's marriage, the heretic bishops, the threat to the monasteries, and the repudiation of papal authority. Deceived by royal promises, the rebels dispersed, and Henry took a terrible vengeance. By 1540 every religious house in the country had been suppressed and taken into the king's hands.

Up to this point, apart from rejecting papal authority, Henry had made few innovations in doctrine. Lutheran ideas entered the country with tyndale's translation of the New Testament (1526) and coverdale's English Bible (1535). The Ten Articles of Religion published in 1536 introduced the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith only, but an official statement of doctrine appearing in 1543, the "Necessary Erudition of a Christian Man," commonly known as the "King's Book," was generally orthodox in tone. Until his death in January 1547, Henry kept strict control over belief in England. The situation was to change dramatically under his son and successor.

The Protestant Edward VI (154753) was a child of nine at his succession. Archbishop Cranmer was for the first time free to introduce principles of reform that had long been maturing in his mind. A new ritual, the Order of Communion, appeared in 1548. In January 1549 the Act of Uniformity imposed on the country a new form of worship in the first book of common prayer, which preserved the form of the Mass in English, but from which all expressions had been removed that suggested the idea of sacrifice. The attempt to impose this prayer book led to a revolt in the western counties that was ruthlessly suppressed by the government. The first Book of Common Prayer was something of a compromise. In 1552 Cranmer produced a more radical edition in which all traces of belief in the sacrifice of the Mass and also of the Real Presence in the Eucharist were absent. An official statement of the new religion, the 42 Articles, appeared in 1553 and was approved by the young king shortly before his death.

The short reign of Edward's sister mary tudor (155358) saw a temporary restoration of the Catholic faith and a sharp persecution of the Protestants. One of Mary's first acts was to repeal the religious legislation of the previous reign, but she alienated the sympathy of her people by her marriage to philip ii of Spain. Only when the marriage had taken place was Cardinal Reginald pole, the papal legate, allowed to enter the country and, after receiving the solemn submission of Parliament, to reconcile the nation to the Catholic Church. Mary honorably, but unwisely, attempted to make some restoration to the Church and thereby further antagonized the holders of monastic lands. Finally, in January 1555, the heresy laws were revived, and in the course of the next three years nearly 300 persons, among them Archbishop Cranmer and four other bishops, were burned at the stake as heretics. Many of the leading Protestants had already fled the country and taken refuge in the Protestant cities of Geneva, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Strasbourg, to prepare for the inevitable reaction in England under Mary's successor.

The Reign of Elizabeth: 1558 to 1603. On Nov. 17, 1558, Mary Tudor was succeeded by her half sister, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth's true religious convictions are a mystery, but from the first she saw clearly that her advantage lay with the party of reform, now reinforced by the returning exiles. A new religious settlement was inevitable, and it was effected in the first Parliament of the reign, which met in January 1559. By the Act of uniformity, passed in spite

of the protests of the bishops and of the convocation of the clergy, the second Prayer Book of Edward VI was restored with some slight modifications as the official form of public worship. By the Act of Supremacy, Elizabeth as "Supreme Governor" recovered control of the Church.

Bishops who refused to take the oath of supremacy were deprived of their sees and jailed. Those of the clergy who refused to accept the Prayer Book were punished by fines and imprisonment. The laity were commanded under penalty of a fine of 12 pence to attend the Protestant service in their parish churches each Sunday. In 1563 these penalties were increased; a second refusal of the oath was made treason, punishable by death. Royal commissioners toured the country to receive the submission of the clergy. Those who refused to submit were deprived; others went into hiding or exile; but the majority conformed, at least externally, and with this submission the government was for a time satisfied. The general religious situation in the country in the next few years is obscure; many Catholics, particularly in the north,

continued to practice their faith in secret, and there was little overt persecution. After 1568 the situation changed rapidly due to two series of events.

The first was the Northern Rising, an attempt to secure the eventual succession to the English throne of the Catholic mary stuart, queen of Scots. Led by the Catholic earls of Westmorland and Northumberland, the rising was a disastrous failure and provoked the first executions. In the following year pius v was persuaded to support the resistance by issuing the bull, Regnans in excelsis, in which he excommunicated Elizabeth as a heretic and supporter of heretics and released her subjects from their allegiance. The effect of the bull was to sharpen the penal laws.

The second event was the arrival in the country in 1574 of the first missionary priests from the English College founded in 1568 at douai by William allen, formerly principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, and a group of English Catholic exiles. The remarkable success of these missionary priests, who from 1580 were supported by a small group of Jesuits led by Edmund campion, alarmed the government. An act of 1581 made it treason to reconcile any of the queen's subjects "from the religion now by Her Highness' authority established," and a further act of 1585 commanded all Jesuits and seminary priests to depart the realm within 40 days under penalty of death.

But nothing could arrest the movement of Catholic revival. Before the end of the reign new seminaries for English students were founded at Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Seville, and Valladolid. In the course of these years, 189 persons were put to death for the faith in England, among them 111 secular priests and 62 lay men and women. The persecution was further sharpened by the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The toll of the martyrs is the measure of the strength of Catholic resistance to the Protestant government at the end of the century (see england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of).

The position of English Catholics was weakened in the last years of Elizabeth's reign by serious divisions within the ranks of the clergy. After the death of Thomas Goldwell, the last of the deposed Catholic bishops, in 1585 and of Cardinal Allen in 1594, Catholics were left without a leader. In 1598 the cardinal protector, Tommaso Gaetani, appointed George Blackwell archpriest with full authority over all the clergy in England and with instructions to seek the advice and help of the Jesuit superior in England. A group of the clergy appealed this ruling, asking for the appointment of a bishop. A further appeal in 1601 by a group of 33 priests, later known as the Appellants, was followed by a third appeal, led by Thomas Bluet, this time with the approval of the government

which sought to profit from the rift between the parties among the clergy. Bluet undertook to secure the recall of the Jesuits from the English mission. Pope Clement VIII, while condemning the association of Bluet and his supporters with the English crown, limited the authority of the archpriest and released him from the obligation of consulting the Jesuits (see archpriest controversy). But the damage was done. Elizabeth ordered all the Jesuits to leave the country and offered a veiled promise of toleration to those of the secular clergy who would, before the last day of January, acknowledge their allegiance to the queen. In spite of the papal prohibition of all dealings with the government, a group of 13 secular priests on the last appointed day made a formal declaration of their allegiance. While professing their undying loyalty to the pope as the successor of St. Peter, they declared their refusal to obey any papal command to take the part of the queen's enemies. With the death of Elizabeth in March 1603 the conflict was temporarily resolved, but the acute division between a party of secular clergy and religious,

notably the Jesuits, was revived later in the century with disastrous consequences.

Under Stuart Kings: 1603 to 1688. Elizabeth was succeeded by james i (160325), the son of Mary Queen of Scots. James, a Protestant, began his reign with a promise of toleration that was soon forgotten. As a result of the Gunpowder Plot (1605), the penal laws were revived, and an oath of allegiance that declared the pope's deposing power to be "impious and heretical," was demanded of all Catholics. The question of the legality of the oath was to be a further cause of division in the Catholic body.

Later in James's reign negotiations for the marriage of the king's son, Charles, to a Catholic princess, first the Infanta Maria of Spain, and then Henrietta Maria of France, whom he married, led to a measure of toleration in practice and the hope of further relief. In these years, too, episcopal government was briefly restored to England. In 1623 William Bishop (15441624) was consecrated titular bishop of Chalcedon to serve the Catholics in England. He was succeeded by Richard Smith (15661655), who soon became involved in a controversy with the regular clergy and in 1631 retired to France and resigned his charge. For the next 50 years English Catholics were left without a bishop.

The early years of Charles I (162549) were a time of relative peace. He became deeply attached to his wife, Henrietta Maria, who, by the terms of the marriage treaty, was able to retain a large establishment of priests and chaplains. A movement of conversion developed in the court. Chapels of the Catholic ambassadors in London were well attended, schools and religious houses founded by exiles on the Continent flourished, and the penal laws, by the king's favor, were largely held in abeyance. From 1634 to 1641 a series of Roman agents, ostensibly accredited to the queen, resided in London, and Charles kept up an active correspondence with the court of Rome. There was even talk of reunion, but this possibility was shattered by the outbreak of civil war in 1642, in which the Catholic lords and gentry were royalist almost to a man. After the defeat of the king and his execution in January 1649, the monarchy was abolished and government was assumed first by a Council of State and then by Oliver cromwell as lord protector (165358). Catholics who had supported the king lost their property, but though the penal laws were revived, only two priests were put to death. Cromwell, in spite of his savage repressions in Ireland, extended a large measure of practical toleration to English Catholics.

The return of the monarchy with charles ii (166085) brought fresh hopes. Married to a Catholic wife and grateful to the Catholics who had saved his life and helped him to escape to France after the battle of Worcester during the civil war, Charles was prepared to give them support and comfort short of risking his throne. In 1670 he made the secret Treaty of Dover. By the terms of this agreement Charles promised, in return for financial help from Louis XIV of France, to declare himself a Catholic when a suitable opportunity offered. The conversion of his brother James, duke of York, under the influence of the example of his first wife, Anne Hyde (163771), herself a convert, alarmed the country, and in 1673 Parliament passed the Test Act, which excluded from office all who refused to take Communion in the Established Church and to deny the doctrine of transubstantiation. A later act of 1678 excluded Catholics from sitting in Parliament. But the great crisis of the reign was the Popish Plot (see oates plot) of 1678. Titus Oates, an apostate convert of questionable reputation, revealed an alleged plot of the Jesuits to murder Charles and enthrone the Catholic James. The plot, as Charles well knew, was a fiction, but he made no attempt to protect the accused. Several laymen and priests, including Oliver plunket, archbishop of Armagh, were executed.

On his deathbed, Charles, at the suggestion of his brother, sent for John Huddleston, a Benedictine who had helped save his life after Worcester. The priest heard the dying king's confession, reconciled him to the Church,

and administered the last sacraments. With the accession of his brother james ii (168588), Protestant England had a Catholic king. It was to prove a disastrous experiment.

James was determined from the outset to secure some measure of toleration, not only for persecuted Catholics, but also for Quakers and Protestant dissenters. Unfortunately, after the first months of his reign, he acted with the greatest imprudence. Catholics were appointed to the Privy Council and given commissions in the army and navy, the king using his dispensing power to protect them from the penalties of the law. At Oxford the master of University College was allowed to continue in office after becoming a Catholic, and at Magdalen College a Catholic president was forced on the unwilling fellows. Tensions flared in 1688 when the Anglican bishops refused to publish the king's "Declaration of Indulgence" granting full civic rights to dissenters. The archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops were promptly imprisoned in the Tower of London. The birth of James's son at this time aroused fears of a Catholic succession, and the sequel was the revolution of 1688 (known as the Glorious Revolution), the flight of the king, and the succession of the Protestant William of Orange (16881702), husband of James's daughter Mary.

Not everything gained during James's three-year rule was lost. In 1685 John Leyburn (16201702), a former president of Douai College, was made vicar apostolic for England and took up residence in London. Leyburn proved to be an active and able bishop. Three years later, three more vicars apostolic were appointed to the Midland, Western, and London districts. In spite of the vicissitudes of the years immediately following, this form of episcopal government was successfully maintained until the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850.

A Century of Decline: 1688 to 1781. The Protestant Revolution of 1688 was the prelude to the darkest chapter in the history of post-Reformation Catholicism in England. New penal laws prohibited Catholics from bearing arms or possessing a horse above the value of £5, from voting in Parliamentary elections, from practicing as solicitors or barristers, and from inheriting land. A reward of £100 was offered to any informer who secured the conviction of a priest, while an Act of Succession excluded from the throne the many Catholic descendants of Charles II and James II. The effect of this legislation was to exclude the Catholic gentry and middle classes from the professions and from public life. Many, perforce, devoted themselves to the care of their family estates, and with the good will of their Protestant neighbors profited accordingly. Catholics, as a whole, maintained their allegiance to the exiled James II and his sons and successors and played some part in the risings of 1715 and 1745 that attempted the restoration of the Stuart line.

The 18th century saw a sharp decline in Catholic numbers. At the beginning of the period they probably numbered five percent of the population of 6 or 7 million. By 1780 their numbers had decreased to 69,316, served by some 300 priests. The largest concentration was in London, where, in 1742, challoner estimated the Catholic population as 25,000. After London, the greatest numbers were in the north, especially Lancashire. This decline was in large measure due to the extinction or apostasy of many of the old Catholic families who, since the 16th century, had been the chief support of the clergy and who had made possible the continuance of Catholic worship.

The vicars apostolic were imprisoned in 1688 but were soon released. Bishop Philip ellis of the Western district then left the country and ended his days as bishop of Segni in Italy. Bishop Bonaventure gifford of the London district was subsequently imprisoned on three separate occasions and lived in constant fear of arrest. Still, with difficulty, the succession was maintained. Although the vicars apostolic of the 18th century were notable for their longevity rather than their accomplishments, there were a few exceptions, among them Richard Challoner, who was in every way distinguished.

Challoner was ordained at Douai (1716) and, after spending some years teaching philosophy and theology, was sent to the London mission in 1730. Here he spent the next 50 years, first as a simple priest, later as coadjutor to Bp. Benjamin petre, and from 1758 as vicar apostolic of the London district. His long life was disturbed by two mild outbreaks of persecution: the first in 1745 when Prince Charles Edward, the Stuart Pretender, marched his forces from Scotland as far south as Derby, thus threatening a Catholic restoration; the second in 1767 when John Payne, a Protestant informer, denounced John Baptist Maloney, a priest, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. Challoner was also indicted but the charge failed; the mood of the day no longer favored persecution. Besides his extensive spiritual writings, which did much to mold the piety that would prevail in England for several centuries, Challoner founded two schools for boys, at Standon Lordship in Essex (1749) and at Sedgeley Park, near Wolverhampton (1762). A third school, for girls, was opened at Brook Green.

Relief for persecuted English Catholics came from an unexpected quarter. The revolt of the American colonies obliged the government to seek recruits for the army among Catholic clansmen of the Scottish Highlands and to offer in return a measure of toleration. The crown approached Bishop Challoner as representative of the English Catholics. When Challoner hesitated, the government turned to a committee of laymen, who took over negotiations. It was suggested that in return for the repeal of the penal laws enacted under William III, English Catholics should take an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. Upon Challoner's approval, a petition on these lines was drawn up by Edmund burke, and in 1778 a bill for a limited measure of toleration passed both houses of Parliament without difficulty. Passage of this first Relief Act showed the laity what they could do without the bishops, and the lesson was not lost. The act also led to a furious outburst of Protestant bigotry in London when wild rumors of plots against the liberties of Protestant Englishmen circulated in the capital. A Protestant alliance was formed to secure the repeal of the Act. In 1780, under the leadership of Lord George Gordon, an unbalanced nobleman who was also a religious fanatic, a large mob marched on Parliament to present a petition for repeal. A riot followed in which Catholic chapels in the city, including those of the Sardinian and Bavarian embassies, were looted and burned. The rioting spread beyond London. In Bath the house of the vicar apostolic of the Western district, Bishop Walmsley, was destroyed, together with all the archives of the district (see gordon riots). Challoner remained outside London until his death the following January at the age of 90.

Emancipation and Revival: 1781 to 1850. The closing years of the 18th century witnessed a remarkable transformation in the situation of Catholics. The lay committee, largely inspired by its able secretary, Charles butler, and somewhat Gallican in its outlook, continued to seek relief from the penal laws. In 1789 a new bill incorporating an oath rejecting the papal deposing power was drafted. The terms of the oath led to some acute controversies with the vicars apostolic, but in 1791 a new Relief Act authorized the celebration of Mass in registered chapels by priests who had subscribed to the oath.

The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 led to the arrival in England of more than 5,500 French clergy; as further evidence of the a new attitude, the English government established a fund for their maintenance. The suppression by France's revolutionary government of English colleges and religious houses on the Continent led to the return of religious orders and seminaries. Students from Douai relocated to Old Hall, Ware, in Hertfordshire, and Ushaw College in County Durham. The Jesuits settled at Stonyhurst in Lancashire, and the Benedictines at Ampleforth and Downside.

An attempt by Prime Minister William Pitt to introduce a bill for Catholic emancipation in 1801 was frustrated by King George III's opposition, but from this year onward, projects for the complete abolition of the penal laws became an almost annual Parliamentary event. Meanwhile Catholics were growing in numbers and influence. By 1811 they numbered some 250,000, a remarkable increase due in part to steady Irish immigration. Between 1791 and 1816 more than 900 chapels were opened. A few Catholics began to attend the universities, and at Cambridge and elsewhere there were a few notable conversions. In 1817 commissions in the army and navy were opened to Catholics. In 1819 John lingard published the first three volumes of his History of England; this marked the turning of the tide. In 1829, in large measure because of the exertions of Irish Catholic leader Daniel o'connell, an Act of Emancipation was passed restoring to Catholics full rights as citizens, including eligibility for government office and the right to sit in Parliament. Catholic worship and religious activities, however, were prohibited in public. Although religious orders were declared illegal, this clause was never enforced.

An increase in the Catholic population led to an increase in the number of bishops. In 1840 the number of vicariates was raised from four to eight. Even before this date, agitation had begun for the restoration of a diocesan hierarchy and a return to normal episcopal government. In 1835 Nicholas wiseman, a former pupil of the newly restored English College in Rome and a brilliant scholar, visited England and delivered a course of sermons for non-Catholics in the chapel of the Sardinian embassy in London. Wiseman soon became the acknowledged leader and spokesman of English Catholics. In 1836 he founded the Dublin Review as the organ of English Catholic opinion.

In the following years two devoted Italian missionary priests made a considerable impact on the people of England, Catholic and non-Catholic alike: Luigi Gentili (180148), of the Institute of Charity, who was established at Grace-Dieu, and Bl. Dominic barberi, a Passionist. Both preached with astonishing success and made many converts, although their introduction of a number of pious Italian practices was less favorably regarded by the older clergy and laity. Augustus Welby pugin, a convert, revived the Gothic style of architecture and designed the cathedral church of Southwark.

In 1845 Barberi received into the Church the leader of the oxford movement, John Henry newman. Newman and his friends had for some years been engaged in an attempt to find a via media between Catholicism and anglicanism. The condemnation of the famous Tract 90 foreshadowed Newman's conversion. He was preceded into the Church by William George ward, author of The Ideal of a Christian Church (1844), a work that held up the Catholic Church as the model of what a church should be. For these opinions Ward was deprived of his degrees by Oxford University. Although a layman, he later taught theology at St. Edmund's, Ware. Newman and Ward were followed into the Church by a large group of Anglican clergy and laity.

In the late 1840s, there came from Ireland, as a result of the potato famine, a tremendous influx of destitute Irish. This immigration swelled enormously the numbers of Catholics in the country; according to the 1851 census England's Catholic population of 679,000 was served by less than 800 priests. The time was ripe for further ecclesiastical reorganization, and in 1850 a diocesan hierarchy was restored. The Holy See created 12 dioceses, with Westminster as the metropolitan see. Wiseman, vicar apostolic of the London district since 1849, became the first cardinal archbishop of Westminster.

Wiseman's pastoral letter from Rome announcing the restoration of the hierarchy was couched in somewhat imprudent terms and roused a flood of protest led by Prime Minister Lord John Russell. Throughout the country effigies of the pope and the cardinal were burned by mobs. In the midst of this no-popery agitation, Wiseman returned to London and issued an "Appeal to the British People," which was published in all the leading newspapers. In it he explained the nature of the new hierarchy's authority and the limitations of his own jurisdiction as archbishop of Westminster; he emphasized the poverty, indeed destitution, of a high percentage of the Catholics of his own diocese. The religious agitation soon subsided, and although Parliament passed an Ecclesiastical Titles Act that imposed a fine of £100 on any person assuming a title to a pretended see in the country, the law was never enforced.

The Modern Church. The new hierarchy met in a synod (1852) at Oscott, where Newman preached his famous sermon on the "Second Spring," but the sanguine hopes of the rapid conversion of England did not materialize. As a result of the Gorham judgment, Archdeacon Henry manning and other Anglicans entered the Church (1851), but the stream of conversions was declining. Wiseman, under an increasing strain because of ill health, fell under the influence of Manning, who was ordained a few weeks after reception into the Church and who became in 1865 the second archbishop of Westminster. As archbishop and, from 1875, as cardinal, Manning provided distinguished leadership in primary education and in social work, particularly on the occasion of the great London dock strike (1889). But the hierarchy showed little interest in higher education. Newman's plan to found a Catholic college at Oxford encountered bitter opposition, and Manning's experiment with a Catholic university in Kensington was a failure. Manning showed little understanding of Lord John acton or other liberal Catholics, or of Newman. After spending four years in Ireland in connection with the proposed University of Dublin, Newman retired to the Oratory he had established at Birmingham in 1848, and died in 1889.

At vatican council i (186970) Manning was a spokesman for extreme ultramontanism. This synod occasioned a mild outbreak of antipapal feeling in England. Bigotry, however, was slowly dying. While religious practice in the country began a long, steady decline, the Catholic body grew in numbers and prospered.

Herbert vaughan, who would succeed Manning at Westminster (18931902), founded the first English foreign missionary society, the mill hill missionaries, whose members worked among the African-American population in the United States. Shortly after his appointment to Westminster, Vaughan obtained permission from Rome for Catholics to attend the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which had abolished all religious tests many years earlier. Vaughan became a cardinal in 1893, and in 1895 he began the construction of Westminster Cathedral. The other outstanding events of his episcopate were the examination of Anglican orders, which were condemned by Leo XIII in apostolicae curae (1896), and the cardinal's vigorous defense of denominational schools, which Nonconformists in Parliament wanted to deprive of public financial support.

Vaughan's successor at Westminster was Francis bourne, bishop of Southwark from 1897, an excellent diocesan bishop and a builder of schools and churches. In alliance with the Anglicans he defeated an education bill hostile to Catholic schools, which were then increasing rapidly in number. Bourne's long episcopate (190335) was disturbed by modernism, which in England was associated with the names of George tyrrell and Baron Friedrich Von hÜgel; and later by World War I. During these decades there was a notable increase in Catholics and a reorganization of dioceses. In 1878 the See of Beverley was divided to form the Dioceses of Leeds and Middlesbrough. Portsmouth became a diocese in 1892, and Menevia in 1898. Liverpool and Birmingham were raised to metropolitan status in 1911. In 1916 the Diocese of Newport became the Archdiocese of Cardiff with Menevia as its sole suffragan. Brentwood was created a diocese in 1917, and Lancaster in 1924. The one archdiocese and 12 suffragans of 1850 had thus grown to four metropolitan sees and 14 suffragans.

The number of converts to Catholicism increased steadily. Among the more distinguished during this period were Cyril martindale, SJ; Ronald knox, G. K. chesterton, and Christopher Dawson, while the public champion of the Catholic cause was Hilaire belloc. On the initiative of Lord halifax, a group of Anglicans explored the possibilities of reunion in a series of conversations with Catholic theologians at Malines, Belgium, under the presidency of Cardinal Mercier. English Catholics, in general, were not sympathetic, and no tangible results followed from these meetings (see malines conversations).

Arthur hinsley succeeded Bourne at Westminster (193543). English to the core and a warmhearted patriot, Hinsley (cardinal from 1937) made a profound impression on the English people, above all by his inspiring broadcast addresses in the early years of World War II. In 1940 he founded the sword of the spirit, a movement to unite all English Christians in defense of Christian social principles. Early in his episcopate an apostolic delegation was established in London, whose first delegate was Abp. William godfrey, later archbishop of Westminster (195663), succeeding Bernard griffin. The apostolic delegation performed valuable service in securing information about English prisoners of war. Hinsley's death in 1943 was widely mourned and almost the entire cabinet attended his funeral.

Following World War II there was a steady increase in Catholic ranks, due in part to a considerable influx of Polish and other refugees and to a very large immigration from Ireland. There was also a notable increase in churches and schools. Social legislation considerably improved the material lot of Catholics, most of whom belonged to the working class. Educational reforms and the expansion of the universities resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of Catholic university graduates. They became well represented in academic life and in all the professions.

The work of Vatican Council II aroused a keen awareness of the tragic divisions among Christians and a sincere desire for mutual understanding. Implementation of Vatican II reforms was, however, impeded in England by the resistance of the conservative Church hierarchy, led by Cardinal Godfrey. His successor, Carmel Heenan, was more amenable to the council's message of reconciliation, but, unable to embrace its deeper theological implications, he eventually became disillusioned. At the same time, greater freedom for Catholics in the educational and political realms was undermined by steadily increasing secularism in British society as well as a dramatic exodus of clerics and religious by the late 1980s. The total number of diocesan priests fell from 5,096 in 1966 to 4,457 in 1986 and continued to decline thereafter. Losses were greater in rural areas than in London, where the numbers changed very little. Shortages were felt most acutely in the field of education, as religious were replaced by lay teachers in Catholic schools throughout the country.

Into the Third Millennium. Interestingly, the 1990s sparked a flare-up of age-old questions among British Catholics. The question of whether a Catholic could remain a loyal subject to a divorced monarchthe question that had first surfaced as Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon in the mid-16th centurywas raised in 1996 upon the divorce of the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana. In particular, the role of Queen Elizabeth, leader of the Anglican Church, in backing her son's divorce was called into question. Another issue rooted in Church history was the campaign to repeal the Settlement Act of 1701, which prevents Catholics from gaining the English throne or marrying a British monarch. Several supporters of the repeal within the Anglican Church noted that the role of monarch was political rather than theological, while those opposed noted that eliminating the monarch's position as leader of the Church of England would erode England's traditional claim of being a Christian nation.

Ecumenical efforts between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church were highlighted in 2000 as leaders from both churches met in Toronto, Canada, in May to "review and evaluate the accomplishments of 30 years of ecumenical dialogue between the two traditions," in the words of Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. The meeting occurred six months after Pope John Paul II opened the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Paul in the presence of Anglican Archbishop Carey and a representative of the World Lutheran Federation. This gesture of peace among the world's Catholic and non-Catholic faiths was a historic moment, a millennial statement intended to bridge the theological gulf created in England five centuries before.

In 2000 England contained 2,495 parish churches, while an additional 1,000 private chapels held Mass at least once per week. There were 3,672 secular and 1,693 religious priests. Of England's approximately 1,950 Catholic schools, 75% educated primary-grade students; in addition, religion remained a required subject in all government-funded schools in both England and Wales. While in 1963 there had been 131,592 Church baptisms, that rate had dropped to 69,712 by 2000, reflecting a continued decline in affiliation with most faiths in England as a whole.

Bibliography: c. read, ed., Bibliography of British History: Tudor Period, 14851603 (2d ed. New York 1959). g. davis, ed., Bibliography of British History, Stuart Period, 16031714 (Oxford 1928). s. pargellis and d. j. medley, eds., Bibliography of British History, 171489 (Oxford 1951). d. mathew, Catholicism in England (2d ed. New York 1950; 3d ed. London 1955). e. i. watkin, Roman Catholicism in England: From the Reformation to 1950 (New York 1957). m. d. r. leys, Catholics in England, 15591829: A Social History (London 1961). h. tootell, Dodd's Church History of England, ed. m. a. tierney, 5 v. (London 183943). Biographical Studies 15341829 (Bognor Regis, Eng. 195156), continued as Recusant History (1957). g. r. elton, ed., The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, Eng. 1960). p. hughes, Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England (London 1942). b. magee, The English Recusants (London 1938). p. guilday, The English Catholic Refugees on the Continent, 15581795 (New York 1914). m. j. havran, The Catholics in Caroline England (Stanford, CA 1962). g. albion, Charles I and the Court of Rome (London 1935). d. mathew, The Age of Charles I (London 1951). m. v. hay, The Jesuits and the Popish Plot (London 1934). a. c. f. beales, Education under Penalty, 15471689 (London 1963). w. r. trimble, The Catholic Laity in Elizabethan England 15581603 (Cambridge, MA 1964). r. n. hadcock, Map of Monastic Britain (Chessington, Eng. 1950). b. hemphill (pseud. for b. whelan), The Early Vicars Apostolic of England, 16851750 (London 1954). p. hughes, The Catholic Question, 16851829 (London 1929). b. n. ward, Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England, 17811803, 2 v. (New York 1909); Eve of Catholic Emancipation, 3 v. (London 191112); The Sequel to Catholic Emancipation, 2 v. (New York 1915). g. machin, The Catholic Question in English Politics, 182030 (New York 1964). d. gwynn, Lord Shrewsbury, Pugin, and the Catholic Revival (London 1946). j. altholz, The Liberal Catholic Movement in England: The Rambler and Its Contributors, 18481864 (London 1962). g. a. beck, ed., The English Catholics 18501950 (London 1950). d. mcelrath, The Syllabus of Pius IX: Some Reactions in England (Louvain 1964).

[g. culkin/eds.]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"England, The Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"England, The Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/england-catholic-church

"England, The Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/england-catholic-church

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.