Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cardinal Manning: is it time for a re-assessment yet ?

Cardinal Manning`s reputation is not as high as his fellow Tractarian, Cardinal Newman. Newman`s present reputation certainly dwarfs that of Manning.

One reason for the decline in Manning`s reputation lies in the publication not long after his death in 1896 of his "authorised" biography.

The "official" life of Cardinal Manning was The Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster (1896) by Edmund Sheridan Purcell [1824?-1899].

Professor Owen Chadwick described it in The Victorian Church as "Purcell`s famous but discreditable biography".

Possibly this is due to the fact that at the time it was published, it caused shock in some circles as perhaps the biographer was not selective enough in his use of the raw or primary materials and revealed what perhaps should not have been revealed or what Cardinal Manning would not have wanted to be revealed.

It comprises two volumes.

Volume 1 (Manning as an Anglican) and Volume 2 (Manning as a Catholic)

Both volumes can be downloaded on the links above.

The Encyclopedia of 1911 said of the biography:

"The publication in 1896 of Manning's Life, by Purcell, was the occasion for some controversy on the ethics of biography. Edward Purcell was an obscure Catholic journalist, to whom Manning, late in life, had entrusted, rather by way of charitable bequest, his private diaries and other confidential papers. It thus came to pass that in Purcell's voluminous biography much that was obviously never intended for the public eye was, perhaps inadvertently, printed, together with a good deal of ungenerous comment.

The facts disclosed which mainly attracted attention were: (1) that Manning, while yet formally an Anglican, and while publicly and privately dissuading others from joining the Roman Catholic Church, was yet within a little convinced that it was his own duty and destiny to take that step himself; (2) that he was continually intriguing at the back-stairs of the Vatican for the furtherance of his own views as to what was desirable in matters ecclesiastical; (3) that his relations with Newman were very unfriendly; and (4) that, while for the most part he exhibited towards his own clergy a frigid and masterful demeanour, he held privately very cordial relations with men of diverse religions or of no theological beliefs at all.

And certainly Manning does betray in these autobiographical fragments an unheroic sensitiveness to the verdict of posterity on his career. But independent critics (among whom may specially be named Francois de Pressense) held that Manning came well through the ordeal, and that Purcell's Life had great value as an unintentionally frank revelation of character.