Milner, John

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English bishop and leader in the movement for Catholic emancipation; b. London, Oct. 14, 1752; d. Wolverhampton, April 19, 1826. His father was a tailor and his family, whose proper name was Miller, originated in Lancashire. Bishop Richard Challoner sent him in 1765 to the English college at douai, where he was ordained (1777). He returned then to Winchester, England, where he ministered to the French prisoners of war and served as pastor until 1803. While there, he also helped the English nuns who had fled their convents on the Continent because of the French Revolution to establish themselves in England. During the negotiations leading to the first Catholic Relief Bill, which abolished the Penal Laws and legalized the celebration of Mass (1791), Milner was theological adviser to the English vicars apostolic and encouraged firmness, especially against the objectionable oath required of Catholics and the title of "Protesting Catholic Dissenters." In this stand he opposed the counsel of Charles butler and the Cisalpine Club.

In 1803 Milner became titular bishop of Castabala and vicar apostolic of the Midland District. In subsequent agitation for Catholic emancipation, Milner acted as London representative of the Irish bishops and fought every measure that would concede to the British government a veto over the Holy See's appointments of Catholic bishops. Here again he was opposed by Butler and also by Bp. William poynter and the London clergy. His advocacy of papal prerogatives won for him in Rome the title of the English Athanasius. But his pronounced views, often expressed imprudently, made his writings on emancipation extremely controversial. In 1817 the prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith asked him to discontinue writing articles for the Orthodox Journal. During his remaining years he concentrated on his duties as vicar apostolic. Milner published many articles and books. His two-volume History of Winchester (17981801) was scholarly as well as controversial. The End of Controversy (1818), a work of popular theology, is his best-known book. Milner had a reputation also as an archeologist.

Bibliography: j. milner, Supplementary Memoirs (London 1820). f. c. husenbeth, Life of the Right Rev. John Milner (Dublin 1862). b. n. ward, Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England, 17811803, 2 v. (New York 1909). The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 19071914) 10:315317. j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time, 5 v. (London and New York 18851902 reprint New York 1961) 5:1553. t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 13:461464.

[a. j. bannan]