02 November 2014

Catholic England And Wales In 1863: An Introduction

I intend to publish a weekly Calendar from the First Sunday of Advent showing what the ecclesiastical year would have looked like for Catholics in England and Wales in 1862/3.  I hope to illustrate my belief that although Abp Bugnini is often blamed for the current state of the Liturgy, because of the major changes he coordinated in the reigns of Pope Pius XII and Paul VI, in fact the changes to the calendar introduced by Pope Pius X had already severely weakened links to the immemorial calendar of the Roman Church.  I hope to show, week by week, what worship in a normal English parish would have looked like (and, I repeat, am looking from the layman's point of view, rather than, as the St Lawrence Press does, from that of priests and religious).  I will offer a couple of introductory articles first, however, to set the weekly calendar in context.

The Church had, of course, a very different look about it in 1863, only 13 years after the reestablishment of the Hierarchy.  The Province of Westminster covered the whole of England and Wales and there were thirteen dioceses: Westminster, Menevia and Newport, Birmingham, Hexham and Newcastle, Southwark, Salford, Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Liverpool, Plymouth, Clifton, Northampton and Beverley.  Bishops were appointed for life, and were supported by a Chapter.  The Canons in the Chapter were, in Canon Law, the Bishop's Senate.  They were beneficed to allow them financial independence and the ability to resist undue pressures, allowing, for example, the Westminster Chapter to rebel against Cardinal Wiseman in the 1850s.  There was, of course, no national Bishops Conference: each Bishop was Head of his local Church.  Nevertheless, Provincial Synods were held as necessary where it made sense to take a national view, for example on seminaries, education, or on the extent to which parts of England and Wales should be considered mission territory.  Three had been held since the Hierarchy's reestablishment, in 1852, 1855 and 1859.

Passions could be high: a dispute between Cardinal Wiseman and his Coadjutor Bishop, Thomas Errington, had ended up in Rome with the Coadjutor deprived of his office and stripped of his right to succeed the Archbishop.  At issue was a major fault line in the Church in England and Wales: should it keep the same low profile and unostentatiousness it had displayed since 1745, or, emancipated and with a re-established Hierarchy, should it display an Italianate exuberance in its life?

There were 22 Catholic Peers, and 32 Catholic MPs.  The latter all represented Irish constituencies, while only one of the peerages dated from after Catholic Emancipation.  The noble families since emancipation had built and endowed churches, chapels and chantries: these were days in which it was still possible for the person endowing a benefice to retain the right of presentation of a priest to it.

A higher proportion than today of parishes were in the hands of regular clergy rather than secular diocesan priests, and at the parish level this would have affected life as the orders had their own feasts.  But what is most different in the calendar from today is the autonomy of each diocese, each having its own feasts with its own Octaves, able to transfer feasts of the universal Church which clash with diocesan patrons, and where even St George, as Patron of England might be considered as inferior, for example in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, to St Cuthbert.

Next time: how different was the Mass from the 1962 Mass which is today thought of as "traditional"?

1 comment:

Mike Cliffson said...

The laity Hmmm!
In the recently re-emerged bits of my mother's family's lost catholic ancestry 19thCentury,one prod generation , long story, but the point is that certain marriages and decisions ONLY make sense if the faithful were still in a mental universe from before emancipation let alone the reestablishment of the hierarchy - all stuff that had been as you might say decided in westminster?
Equally I can remember upper Teesedale in the fifties - the very clanny local catholic families whose constancy I honour were still in an inherited state of nursing their annoyance against the changes and "italianate ways" (includes nonlocal and probably Irishextraction catholics )at the end of the 19th century - of course 1864 with a longlived priest and a whathave you (Catholic gentry) might not have been until 40 years later.
Newspapers, etc, they had the modern world, as they saw it , not our view of them ,but what WAS E&W catholic lay mentality like ?- nor I don't think the different generations of Irish migrants were as we think , neither.