Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Apostle of Bedford

Father John Priestley Warmoll single-handedly brought Catholicism back to Bedford in the nineteenth century. Jack Robbins calls him the Apostle of Bedford and has self-published a book on his life and times. Because the book is self-published, there was no editor to restrain the author’s exuberance. The text contains many facts and will be of interest to anyone who is fascinated by Catholic history, but not all are relevant to the main point of the book.

There are many photographs, mainly of Protestant churches: Fr Warmoll was an Anglican minister before he became a Catholic; so were a number of his ancestors, another was a Congregationalist minister.

We meet him in chapter five; in chapter eight we become aware of his Catholic life when he is baptised sub conditione by Canon Henry Edward Manning, Provost of Westminster, when he received the name of John. Mr Warmoll had previously known the Canon as Archdeacon Manning; he was later Archbishop of Westminster and Cardinal.

After attending the Pian College (now the Beda) in Rome and ordination in 1863 in St John Lateran, Fr Warmoll was appointed to the pro-Cathedral of Northampton. At the time the diocese covered seven counties, had thirty-four churches, four convents and twenty-one priests. With so few priests, the newly ordained soon found themselves in charge of missions. So it was that in the year of his ordination Fr Warmoll was sent to establish a mission in Bedford. There was only one chapel in Bedfordshire at the time.

From chapter ten, the author charts the course of the Bedford Mission. Father Warmoll arrived in the town on Christmas Eve 1863 with two pounds in his pocket. His first Christmas Masses were celebrated in the small house of one of the few Catholic families in the town. Three rented rooms in a house formed the first mission building: an ill-furnished room for the priest to live in and the other two knocked into one to form a chapel.

To provide income for the mission, he wrote to the Catholic publications, The Tablet, The Universe and The Weekly Register. He pleaded, “Not only have we no chapel, schoolroom nor house in this town, but, at present, no means of obtaining them”. Many begging letters later, he was able to build a presbytery and chapel-schoolroom and celebrated the first Mass there on 31 March 1867. The mission territory was the whole of Bedfordshire; the other chapel in the county, at Shefford, was temporarily closed the same year Fr Warmoll opened his new building. People came from as far as sixteen miles away to hear Mass.

The numbers of Catholics increased, thanks to Fr Warmoll’s efforts, and the number of Catholic children over-flowed the schoolroom. Afraid the school inspectors might close the school, he began to build the Church of the Holy Child and St Joseph beginning with the sacristy so that it could be used as an extra schoolroom.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Amherst on 10 October 1872. Donations for the building of the high altar and sanctuary were collected from children around the country, even from those of East London and of the London Oratory. The book containing their names was buried below the altar. It was discovered in 1986 during the process of re-ordering the sanctuary.

Father Warmoll applied for the high altar to be made a privileged altar. In signing the application, he described himself as formerly a student in Collegio Piano Anglorum. Jack Robbins records that the present rector of the Beda suggests ‘Piano’ was possibly a familiar term for ‘Pio Nono’, which shows how little Latin the clergy now have. It is, of course, ‘Pian’, of Pius, as in ‘abito piano’, the crimson-trimmed, purple-sashed habit, which was introduced by that pope, and is worn as undress by bishops.

In July 1873, Fr Warmoll was appointed a canon. His church was opened, partly built, the following year and completed in 1912. “The opening ceremonies began with Pontifical High Mass at 11.00 am, Bishop Amherst being the celebrant... After the Gospel, the Most Reverend Dr Manning, Archbishop of Westminster entered, ‘at once recognised from his ascetic looks’, preceded by a cross-bearer.” He preached for about forty minutes and then retired to the sacristy.

There was quite a lot of preaching: “On Sunday, sermons were preached by Rev. Prior Wilberforce, OP in the morning and by Fr Anderton, SJ in the evening to crowded congregations. Father Anderton also delivered lectures on Monday and Tuesday ‘on points of dogma and devotion on which non-Catholics had erroneous impressions.' "

Once the church was open, Canon Wamroll turned his attention to a new school.

The author deals well with the matter of Catholic education. The canon opened his schools to government inspection, so a grant could be received. Although the 1870 Education Act was to provide a place for every child, voluntary schools received nothing from local taxation and were affected by the rule which allowed schools to give religious instruction, provided “no religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught.”

By the time of his death, Canon Warmoll was the Provost of the Chapter. He died on the Feast of St Valentine, 14 February 1885. His funeral, celebrated by the Bishop of Northampton, Dr Riddel, was attended by five Anglican ministers.

John Priestley Warmoll: His Life, Times and Family
by Jack Robbins, pb, £8,95
(Available from: 21 Ryston End, Downham Market, Norfolk PE38 9AX)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Corpus Christi - Triumph Over Heresy

An Augustinian prioress, a hermitess and an archdeacon, all living at Liege in the thirteenth century, are the people mainly responsible for the institution of the feast of Cor-pus Christi.Although the institution of the Holy Eucharist has been commemorated on Maundy Thursday since Apostolic times, the Church is concerned at this period with the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ which overshadows remembrance of the events of the Last Supper.

The first petition

Some of the faithful felt that a further day to honour the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar should be established. Notable among these was the prioress of a nunnery in Liege, Blessed Julienne de Retrinnes. She believed she had seen a vision encouraging her to petition the ecclesiastical authorities for such a feast. In 1230 she consulted a number of persons of influence concerning this, among them Jacques Pantalon of Troyes, who was the Archdeacon of Liege, and the Dominican cardinal and Papal Legate, Hugues de Saint Cher.

An office for the feast was composed and Robert, Bishop of Liege, ordered that the feast of Corpus Christi be celebrated throughout his diocese. Fourteen years later on 29 August 1261, Archdeacon Jacques Pantalon was elected Pope, taking the name Urban IV.

Because of the political situation at the time, Urban was never able to establish himself at Rome and lived first at Viterbo and then at Orvieto. It was not a period when the papacy excelled itself.

The feast extended

Following the death of Blessed Julienne, a holy recluse named Eve persuaded the then Bishop of Liege, Henri, to petition the Holy See for the feast to be extended to the Universal Church.

Urban IV is said at first to have been uncertain whether to institute the feast, but eventually he agreed. He may have been influenced by the reputed miracle of Bolsena. While his court was at Orvieto in 1264, it was reported that a priest in the nearby city of Bolsena had spilt a drop of the Precious Blood while he was saying Mass. He tried to hide the accident by covering the spot where the Precious Blood had fallen with the corporal.

Suddenly, it is said, the corporal, which is still preserved at Bolsena, was covered with red spots in the shape of a host. Some people suggest the priest had had doubts about the Real Presence.

Although there is no certainty that this was the reason for the institution of the feast, some say that hearing of this incident, the Pope delayed no longer. The Bull of erection, however, makes no mention of it.

Something else which may have influenced Urban was a desire to counteract the teachings of Berengarius, a writer from about a century earlier who, as Archdeacon of Angers, had attacked the teaching on the Eucharist; he denied transubstantiation and held that Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament was only spiritually conceived.

On 8 September 1264 Urban published a Bull commanding the celebration of the feast on the Thursday after the First Sunday of Pentecost. Thursday has always been consecrated to remembrance of the Holy Eucharist because that was the day of the week on which it was instituted.

St Thomas Aquinas

Urban asked both the Dominican, St Tho-mas Aquinas and the Franciscan, St Bonaventure to write an office for the new feast. Both did so, but when Bonaventure read Aquinas’s composition, he withdrew his own as being not comparable with that of the Dominican.

Although the Papal court celebrated the feast, there is some doubt as to whether the Bull was actually executed elsewhere. Soon after the institution of the feast, the Pope died on 2 October in the same year.

At the Council of Vienne which opened on 16 October 1311, Clement V, the Pope who established the Papal court at Avignon, continued Urban’s Bull and made the feast of obligation throughout the Church. His successor, John XXII, promoted the feast as did two later Popes,Martin V and Eugenius IV who both granted indulgences for it.

Although the feast had an octave from the beginning, it was not celebrated with a vigil; vigils in their original sense having already passed into desuetude. The Papal decree which produced the 1962Missal abolished the octave of Corpus Christi along with most other octaves.

The feast in England

It seems to have taken some time for the feast to be adopted generally, but Corpus Christi was finally observed in England from 1318. The feast quickly became popular here and numerous guilds were established to honour the Blessed Sacrament as it was carried in procession. The custom of carrying the Most Holy Sacrament in procession had been recognised as a part of the ceremonies of the feast from the beginning.

It was the Corpus Christi guilds rather than the clergy which arranged the processions and the miracle play cycles which, in many places, also became apart of the celebration of the feast. The Corpus Christi procession became a major civic event in many medieval towns. Houses along the processional route we redecorated with hangings, flowers and lights. Such decoration is still prescribed by the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

The Council of Trent praised the feast as a triumph over heresy.

Father Adrian Fortescue in his directory of ceremonial, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, explains that the outdoor procession on this feast should be a general one for the whole town, that is to say that every church, whether of seculars or regulars, in each town should join together for the procession.

He has a footnote to the effect that the Caeremoniale Episcoporum has most elaborate directions to prevent quarrelling among the clergy as to precedence in the procession. ‘The Bishop is to settle it, and if anyone is not satisfied he shall be excommunicated.’ Not much doubt about that! Merati (an Italian writer on the liturgy), Fortescue says, ‘writes columns on the same subject. Martinucci (another liturgist) also is very much concerned about this matter.’ The note ends by saying, ‘Fortunately, such foolishness is unlikely to occur in England’!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Gordon Riots

When I was a young man working in the City of London in the early 1950s, I would walk to Bank Underground Station at the end of the day's work. Often I would follow a detachment of Foot Guards marching to the Bank of England; the Bank Picket. They had been going to stand guard over the Nation's gold every night since June 1780 - and it was all because of anti-Catholicism!

In June 1780, the City was burning, a mob was rampaging through the streets, buildings were sacked, prisons burning, distilleries and breweries broken into by drunken rioters who stormed through the streets unchecked by those whose place it was to bring them to order. The Bank of England was stormed, Catholics were being attacked and raped and their home sand chapels burned; this was London for over a week that June.

It was then a City without a police force. There were the Bow Street Runners, thief-takers employed on a sort of semi-official, commission basis by the Bow Street Magistrate (at first the novelist Henry Fielding, but by this time his brother, Sir John, "the blind beak"). The only official guardians of the peace were parish constables often appointed against their will and serving with reluctance, and watchmen most of whom were old and feeble; nicknamed "Charlies" they were generally figures of fun. They were of little use and certainly not against rioters. When things got out of hand, order had to be maintained by the armed forces of the Crown. It was not until 1829 that the Metropolitan Police Force was formed.The Solicitor General introduced a Bill to establish a London police force in 1780,but there had been considerable opposition at all levels of society to the formation of such a force which was regarded as a form of foreign, especially French, tyranny and the Bill was lost.

Riots were not unusual in England, and especially in London, in the eighteenth century, or, indeed, earlier - medieval apprentices were forever at it. For the voteless underclass, it was the only Way to protest about their lot and make their voices heard. They had rioted against the Gin Act, an act to control the sale of spirits, to the extent that the act was made unworkable, and it was only some thirty years before there had been riots against the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1752which ordained that eleven days be deleted from the year 1752 to replace the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian one, they then being eleven days out of step; the mob thought eleven days had been stolen from their lives "give us back our eleven days" they demanded. There had also been a number of outbreaks against the presence of large numbers of Irish peasantry who were thought to be ready to work for lower wages than the pitiable amounts the English received. It may be that anti-Irish prejudice was a contributory cause of the "no-Popery" riots; a public house - not an obvious choice for destruction - was smashed up in Golden Lane; its keeper was named Murphy.

At the end of the eighteenth century the hatred of Catholics by ordinary Englishmen was mostly unreasoning and largely due to anti-Jacobite propaganda by the Whigs. Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, said there were in London forty thousand stout fellows that would spend the last drop of their blood against Popery that do not know whether it be a man or a horse.

However, a more tolerant attitude was beginning to creep in. Among educated people fear of Papists was starting to disappear; the Jacobite threat was reduced after 1745 and the Grand Tour had made Continental Catholicism familiar to the wealthier classes, and the Pope less of bogeyman. The eighteenth century had become more tolerant towards Catholics; Lord North's Government had already recognised the status of the Catholic Church in Canada.

It could be said that the reason for the relaxation of penal laws against Catholics was the need of the Army to recruit more men. The need for soldiers was urgent and it was desirable to remove the restrictions which prevented Catholics from serving in the Army. In 1770, General Sir John Burgoyne, soon to be Commander in Chief of British Forces in America during the Rebellion there, proposed that Catholics be permitted to join the Army after taking a modified oath of allegiance. The Bill was rejected. However, by 1775 the American Rebellion had begin and there was the further possibility of war on the European continent; the combined French and Spanish fleets were in the Channel. Much needed recruits could be obtained from the largely Catholic Scottish Highlands and from Ireland if it were not for the problem of the anti-Papal content of the oath of allegiance.

The Government sent an emissary to Bishop Hay, Vicar Apostolic of the Lowland District in Scotland, concerning a proposed Act. The Bishop advised that Bishop Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, should be approached, but the Government was unwilling to consult with "Romish Bishops" who by the laws of the time should be in prison. The negotiations were, therefore, mostly handled by laymen, chief among them Lord Petre. As a result of these negotiations the first Catholic Relief Act for England received the Royal Assent on June 3rd 1778 making it no longer a felony to be a priest and allowing soldiers to enlist without taking an oath against the Pope, just one of loyalty to the Crown.

In 1779 when it was proposed to pass similar laws for Scotland there was rioting in Edinburgh and Glasgow. A Protestant Association was established to resist any attempt to relax the laws against Catholics.

In February of the same year, a meeting was held in Coach makers' Hall, Foster Lane in London at which a Protestant Association for England was formed. In November of that year, Lord George Gordon, a younger son of the Duke of Gordon and an anti-Papist fanatic who had been active in the campaign in Scotland was invited to become its President.

Some idea of the thinking of the more hostile anti-Catholic Londoner can be gained from what John Wesley, the father of Methodism, wrote on January 12th 1780, "I consider not whether the Romish religion be true or false: I build nothing on the one or the other supposition: therefore away with all your commonplace declamations against intolerance and persecution for religion: suppose every word of Pope Pius' creed were true, suppose the Council of Trent to have been infallible yet, I insist upon it, that no government, not Roman Catholic, ought to tolerate men of the Roman Catholic persuasion".

On Friday June 2nd 1780, a hot sunny day,a large number of Protestants assembled at St George‘s Fields in Southwark. About noon they moved off and marched to the House of Commons wearing blue cockades in their hats, carrying Lord George Gordon on their shoulders and crying "No Popery". They were to present a monster petition against the Relief Act to the House of Commons. When they arrived, Gordon, who was a Member of Parliament, entered the House while the mob remained outside.

At first they did little more than jostle MPs as they came from or went to the House,but gradually under the influence of agitators they became more violent. They beset Parliament and assaulted some of its members. They turned over' the coaches of peers whom they considered most favourably inclined towards the Relief Act. The Archbishop of York was made to shout "No Popery!" and to wear a blue cockade. Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, had his coach smashed up about him as he rode in it.

For more than a week the mob roamed the streets of London clamouring for Protestant orthodoxy, had they known what that was. The Commons could not sit because of the mob. During all this, the authorities made no move to act against the rioters. The anger and violence of the mob was directed mainly against Catholics, but they also raided distilleries and breweries and robbed and looted as and where they pleased. One of the largest distilleries in London was owned by a Catholic, a Mr Langdale. The mob attacked it, got roaring drunk and set it on fire, with the result that many of them were burned to death. They' broke open the gaols, set fire to Newgate Prison and released about 300 of its prisoners. The King's Bench and Fleet Prisons and the new Bridewell were also burned.

The Bank of England was attacked, but was one of the few buildings to be defended by the authorities. John Wilkes,the Member of Parliament for Middlesex,who became Chamberlain of the City in 1774, acted with resolution against the mob, directing the Guards outside the Bank. When they ran short of ammunition, its defenders melted down ink pots to make bullets to resist the drunken crowd. The rioters were repulsed, but with heavy losses to the soldiers. As a result of this attack the picket of the Guards was nightly posted at the Bank until abolished by Harold Wilson's Government.

The "No Popery" rioters burned the Bavarian Embassy Chapel in Golden Square. They moved on to the Sardinian Embassy in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields and burned the chapel there. The Blessed Sacrament was removed from the chapel just in time and taken to the Ship Tavern in Little Turnstile. Bishop Challoner lived only about ten minutes walk away from the Embassy in which he often celebrated Mass. He was persuaded to take refuge in a neighbouring house which happily the mob failed to find. On Saturday morning, he was driven to Finchley, then a small village outside London, where he celebrated Mass the next day.

On Sunday afternoon a Catholic chapel in Ropemakers's Alley was destroyed along with a number of houses of Catholics, the chapel in Moorfields and the house of the resident priest in the same street were attacked along with the houses of other Catholics in Moorfields. The rioters stripped the priest's house of furniture and piled it up in the street together with the ornaments and vestments of the chapel, they tore out the altars, pulpit and pews and made a bonfire of them and burned most of the chapel archives, leaving nothing but bare walls. Owing to the ill treatment he suffered in the riots Mr Richard Dillon , the Missionary Rector of the Chapel, died the same year. Two more chapels were destroyed on Monday, in Wapping and East Smithfield

The Irish in Wapping formed themselves into a defence organisation for Catholic property and offered their services to the Home Secretary, but he declined the offer on the grounds it might lead to disturbance!

Because he was known to favour the Catholic Relief Act, a Protestant mob wrecked Lord Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury and destroyed his valuable library. Later, he was to preside over the trial of Lord George Gordon with conspicuous fairness. His house, Ken Wood, at Hampstead was saved from destruction by the presence of a squadron of Light Horse. Lord Petre's London house, however, was destroyed.

As the rioting continued unabated, King George III called a special meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham House at which he observed that the soldiers could not act as no magistrate was prepared to read the Riot Act. The Riot Act had been passed in 1715 and was intended to prevent civil disorder. It made it a felony for an assembly of more than twelve people to refuse to disperse after being ordered to do so and having been read a specified portion of the Act by a magistrate. The Attorney General advised His Majesty that as the mob was engaged in a felony, the reading of the Riot Act was unnecessary. The King accepted that advice and issued a Proclamation calling out the military, ordering them to open fire and bring the rioters under control.

Although there were eventually as many as ten thousand soldiers on the streets, it is probable that it was less due to their efforts that the rioting ended, it is as likely that the mob had run out of steam and things just ran down. By Friday, order had almost been restored and what Lord Petre called "the most serious public disorder ever seen in this country" came to an end.

Twenty one people of the lower classes were hanged, bizarrely one of them was a fourteen year old boy who was executed for pulling down the house of the Bow Street Magistrate. Presumably he had some assistance.

About 450 people were killed or wounded in the riots.

By June 9th, everything was about over and Lord George Gordon was lodged in the Tower of London. He was acquitted at his trial. Later, he gave up the Protestant cause and became a convert to Judaism after being refused admittance to the Quakers. In 1788 he was imprisoned for a libel on the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. No-one would stand surety for his good behaviour and he remained in prison until he died of gaol-fever five years later, in the same year the Queen he had libelled was guillotined, with her husband Louis XVI, by the French revolutionaries. Gordon was refused burial in the Jewish burial ground. The site of the Anglican church, St James', where he was interred instead now lies under Euston station.

After the riots, Catholics were compensated for the damage done to their property. They rebuilt their chapels, and the priest at Moorfields started a new register to replace what had been burned by the rioters and entered onto its flyleaf a note of all the baptisms and weddings he could remember having conducted before the destruction of the records.

When the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1829 there was no Lord George Gordon to lead violent reaction to it and it passed peaceably into law.