Thursday, April 30, 2009


I shall be in Scotland and unable to blog for about ten days.

May: The Month of Mary

May Magnificat

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why;
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season -

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

. . . . . . . .

Ask of her, that mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring? -
Growth in every thing -

. . . . . . . .

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

. . . . . . . .

This ecstacy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889),

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)
TitleIa Orana Maria (Hail Mary)
Oil on canvas
44 3/4 x 34 1/2 in. (113.7 x 87.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Gallery Label for this picture states:

"Before embarking on a series of pictures inspired by Polynesian religious beliefs, Gauguin devoted this, his first major Tahitian canvas, to a Christian theme, describing it in a letter of March 1892: "An angel with yellow wings reveals Mary and Jesus, both Tahitians, to two Tahitian women, nudes dressed in pareus, a sort of cotton cloth printed with flowers that can be draped from the waist. Very somber, mountainous background and flowering trees . . . a dark violet path and an emerald green foreground, with bananas on the left. I'm rather happy with it."

Gauguin based much of the composition on a photograph he owned of a bas-relief in the Javanese temple of Borobudur.

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek, 1541–1614)
The Virgin Mary ("Mater Dolorosa"), 1590s
Oil on canvas; 20 1/2 x 14 1/8 in. (52 x 36 cm)
Musées des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

Plaque with the Virgin Mary as a Personification of the Church, carved 800–875
Overall 8 11/16 x 5 11/16 x 5/16 in. (22 x 14.5 x 0.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Gallery Label states:

“The spindles in Mary's right hand often appear in depictions of the Annunciation, as she receives the news that she will bear the Christ Child. The military appearance of her costume and the cross-topped scepter she holds suggest that she should also be understood here as a personification of the Church Triumphant. The curious juxtaposition of the figure of Mary as the Virgin Mother of Christ and as the Church is unique to this ivory plaque. "

Lorenzo Monaco (c.1370-1425)
Coronation of the Virgin
15th century
Tempera, gold-leaf on panel, integral frame gabled top
Height: 195 cm; width: 154.7 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Diagram Illustrating the Christian Faith

A Diagram Illustrating the Christian Faith, in St. Anselm's 'Similitudes' And Other Works (1225)
Ink and pigments on vellum
Cotton MS Cleopatra C XI
Length: 19.9; Width: 13.5 cm
The British Library, London

The catalogue entry in The British Library says of the above:

“In [St Anselm`s] 'Similitudes', also called 'Human Morals', he compares virtues and vices.

Other texts in this volume include an account by Adam, monk of Eynsham, of a vision of purgatory and paradise experienced by his brother Edmund in 1196.

The illustrations are exceptional because they usually attempt to illustrate abstract ideas, often in pairs, such as health and sickness, or strength and weakness.

This manuscript belonged to the Cistercian Abbey of Dore, Herefordshire, by the 14th century, and it may have been written and illustrated there.

At the top of the diagram the Madonna and Child are enthroned between personifications of the Church and Synagogue; below are Christ blessing, Christ crucified, Christ carrying the Cross, and the Resurrection of Christ, and other figures.”

Iris Murdoch and St Anselm

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)

The novelist Iris Murdoch argued that modern ethics had become an abstract and arid affair, detached from a) the concrete conditions of human action, b) any overarching conception of the good, and c) from the sort of spiritual exercises that make moral transformation possible.

In the essay below, Hibbs argues that Anselm’s writings provide a neglected resource for recovering what Murdoch thinks contemporary ethics has lost.

It is not surprising that Anselm situates all human reasoning within an overarching account of the good, but what has been less obvious to readers is the way, not just in his prayers but even in his speculative writings, he never loses sight of the concrete conditions of the individual human soul, its virtues and vices.

In Anselm’s writings, Hibbs argues that we can discern patterns for practices that amount to spiritual exercises designed to bring about the moral transformation of the reader

See Thomas S. Hibbs, Iris Murdoch, Spiritual Exercises, and Anselm's Proslogion and Prayers in The Saint Anselm Journal 3.1 (Fall 2005) 62

St Anselm 2

Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Passion of Christ
(probably from the Catacomb of Domitilla):
Cross with Chi-Rho, laurel wreath, and guards at the tomb, detail of 3rd [C.] panel, mid-4th century A.D.
Museo Pio Christiano , Vatican

Eia nunc ergo tu, domine deus meus, doce cor meum ubi et quomodo te quaerat, ubi et quomodo te inveniat. Domine, si hic non es, ubi te quaeram absentem? Si autem ubique es, cur non video praesentem? Sed certe habitas lucem inaccessibilim...

Creasti in me hanc imaginem tuam, ut tui memor te cogitem, te amem. Sed sic est abolita attritione vitiorum, sic est offuscata fumo peccatorum, ut non possit facere ad quod facta est, nisi renoves et reformes eam

Come then, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek You, where and how it may find You. Lord if you are not here, where shall I seek You in your absence? If, however, You are everywhere why then do I not see You near at hand? Surely You dwell in light inaccessible...

You have created Your image in me, so that I may recall and think of You, and love You. But the image is so obliterated by the erosion of vice, so obscured by the smoky fumes of sin, that it cannot do what it was made to do unless You renew it and reform it

St Anselm of Canterbury, The Proslogion

Monday, April 27, 2009

St Anselm: 900 Years

Giovanni Francesco Romanelli (1610-1662)
The Meeting of the Countess Matilda and Anselm of Canterbury in the Presence of Pope Urban II (1637-1642)
Oil on canvas
Galleria dei Romanelli, The Vatican

The opening of Cur Deus homo
From a 12th century copy of Anselm's works in Lambeth Palace Library, London

Portrait of Eadmer of Canterbury, (biographer of St Anselm)
about 1140–50
Benedictine abbey of Saint Martin, Tournai,

April 21st 2009 was the 900th Anniversary of the death of St Anselm (c. 1033 – 21 April 1109)

Anselm was probably the greatest theologian ever to have been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1720, Anselm was recognised as a Doctor of the Church

Born at or near Aosta in Northern Italy, he became a monk in Normandy at the age of 27

He was elected the Prior at Bec

Under Anselm's jurisdiction, Bec became the foremost seat of learning in Europe

The last sixteen years of his life were spent as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England. He is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

On 21st April this year, the Pope sent Cardinal Biffi as his delegate to the Cathedral at Aosta for the celebrations. Cardinal Biffi`s sermon is online in English translation on the website of Sandro Magister

He defended the relevance of the great Anselm: "a formidable thinker" and a man of faith among the many false teachers of doubt, absolutely faithful to the successor of Peter among the many, including bishops, who left him alone.

The Cardinal concentrated on three “gifts” uniquely suited for the present time.

First, “an extremely acute awareness of the invisible world, meaning that reality which lives and breathes beyond the showy, noisy scene of the things and events here below: this is the world where the most august Trinity reigns; it is the world full of throngs of happy creatures; it is the world that transcends us, but is also near to us and gives meaning and scope to our lives as mortal creatures ...

When we are overcome by depression and discouragement at the sight of what takes place under the heavens, both within and outside of Christianity, the most decisive remedy to this sort of disappointing spectacle lies precisely in remembering the actual extension of the universe, which also includes the invisible world; that invisible world which is already victorious over evil is already our own; that invisible world which is full and exuberant with a superhuman energy in which (even when we do not realize it) the earth is constantly bathed”

Second, “for him – and for every adequately informed Christian – faith not only is not separable from reason, and does not harm it, but is even the greatest and highest exercise of our intellectual faculty.

On the other hand, in modern culture, influenced and dominated by an absolute subjectivism, there has been a gradual assertion of a pessimistic view of natural human knowledge. Many think that man is not capable of arriving at any truth that is not conditional and intrinsically relative. ...

Anselm, however, recognizes the dignity and the effectiveness of reason. For him – and for all disciples of Jesus – reason must be honored for its own sake, as a great gift from God. Moreover, it is an indispensable element of the act of faith, and remains an indispensable element of that "understanding of faith" in which Anselm is an acknowledged master.”

Third, “never lose sight, he exhorts us, of the primary and irreplaceable function of the see of Peter. .. Anselm knew that it was to Peter and his successors (and not to others), that Jesus said, "Strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32)... the apostolic see is always the normal point of reference and the ultimate, indisputable judge for every problem concerning revealed truth, ecclesial discipline, the pastoral approach to be taken.”

Apart from his meditations, letters and a treatise on grammar, he is best known for three works: the Monologion, the Proslogion with its ‘ontological' proof of the existence of God, and Cur Deus homo, a defence of the doctrine of the Incarnation.

One hundred years ago, St Pope Pius X issued on 21 April 1909 an Encyclical on the Life of St Anselm. Communium Rerum can be viewed here

Other articles/websites which you might wish to consult are:

'Anselm as Author: Publishing in the late eleventh century', Journal of Medieval Latin 19 (2009), 1--87. It can be downloaded as a pdf: Anselm as Author: Publishing in the late eleventh century - 1.3Mb

Ian Logan 'Shooting round Corners: Newman and Anselm', which was originally published in New Blackfriars, Vol. 79 No. 934 (December 1998) 544-550

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Bishop Saint

Sir Alfred Gilbert RA (1854-1934)
A Bishop Saint
Model for the tomb of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, at Windsor
Ivory, bronze, copper and glass beads
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Of this piece, the Museum website states:

“This is a prime example of Gilbert's experimental working methods. The central core is a discarded bronze torso from another statuette. To this he has added a painted ivory head, a bronze cope studded with glass beads and a copper mitre. Though meant as a model for a tomb figure, it was sold as an independent work.”

Sir Alfred Gilbert (12 August 1854 – 4 November 1934) was an English sculptor and goldsmith and was one of the main figures in the New Sculpture movement

Prominent in his work is a decorative aesthetic and elements of fantasy, which he uses to explore the Symbolist themes of fate, love, and death

Amongst his best known works are: the memorial to Anthony Ashley-Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, in the form of a fountain surmounted by the figure of Eros (1885–93; Piccadilly Circus, London), and the polychromed, mixed media tomb of Prince Albert Victor, duke of Clarence (1892–1928; Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor Castle).

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (Albert Victor Christian Edward; 8 January 1864 – 14 January 1892) was the eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). He did not become king because he predeceased his father and his grandmother, Queen Victoria

The prince fell ill with influenza in the great influenza pandemic of 1889–1892. He developed pneumonia and died at Sandringham House in Norfolk on 14 January 1892, less than a week after his 28th birthday

The Prince is buried in the Albert Memorial Chapel close to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The tomb designed by Gilbert , is magnificent A recumbent effigy of the Prince in a Hussar uniform lies above the tomb. Kneeling over him is an angel, holding a heavenly crown. The tomb is surrounded by an elaborate railing, with figures of saints

See images of the chapel below:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

St Francis of Assisi

Giotto di Bondone b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze)
Legend of St Francis: 17. St Francis Preaching before Honorius III
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

From the Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Franciscan Family taking Part in the International “Chapter of Mats” at Castel Gandolfo Saturday, 18 April 2009

"And here we come to the point that certainly lies at the heart of our meeting.

I shall sum it up like this: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and the Life of the Friars Minor is this, that is, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ". This is what Francis wrote at the beginning of his Regula bullata (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He understood himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his fascination. This is his perennial timeliness.

Thomas of Celano says that the Poverello "always carried Jesus in his heart. Jesus on his lips, Jesus is his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all his other members.... Indeed, finding himself frequently travelling and meditating on or praising Jesus, he would forget that he was on a journey and he would stop and invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF, 115).

Thus the Poverello became a living Gospel, capable of attracting to Christ men and women of every epoch, especially young people who prefer radicalism to half measures.

Bishop Guido of Assisi and, later, Pope Innocent III recognized the evangelical authenticity of the proposal of Francis and his companions and they were able to encourage their commitment, also in view of the good of the universal Church

Here a reflection springs spontaneously to mind: Francis might also not have gone to the Pope.

Many religious groups and movements were forming at that time and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution or at least did not seek her approval. A polemical attitude to the hierarchy would undoubtedly have gained Francis many followers.

Instead, he immediately thought of putting his journey and that of his companions in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This act reveals his authentic ecclesial spirit. From the very first he had conceived of the little "we", which had begun with his first friars, as being within the great "we" of the Church, one and universal. "

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bernardo Tolomei

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787)
Blessed Bernardo Tolomei helping a victim of the plague 1745
Oil on canvas 261 x 173 cm
San Vittore al Corpo, Milan

Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348) founded the congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto (the Olivetans), giving it the Rule of St. Benedict.

The purpose of the new religious institute was a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Upon the appearance of the plague in the district of Arezzo, Bernardo and his monks devoted themselves to the care of the sick at the monastery of San Benedetto a Porta Tufi in Siena. . As a result of this charitable act, Bernardo and eight two of his Olivetian confreres themselves succumbed to the ravages of the plague.

On 26th April 2009 he will be one of the saints canonised at a ceremony in St Peters Square, Rome

His life is described in the Vatican website

There is also a blog in Italian called San Bernardo Tolomei on the life of San Bernardo and the Benedictines of Mount Oliveto

On 22nd April 2009, Pope Benedict XVI discussed greed, the world economic crisis and the monastic life.

Referring to the little known eighth-century Benedictine monk, Abbot Ambrose Autpert, the Pope said that the ascetic lifestyle of contemplative religious does not reflect a disregard for the world, creation and beauty.

Turning their backs on the world's material possessions reflects "a disregard for the false vision of the world greed presents to us," he said. And it is this greed that tempts people into thinking that having is the most important value in life "and in this way distorts creation and destroys the world," he added.

The pope said the abbot also taught that God can only be found through love.

Theological or "intellectual study may point the way, but only when we love God do we truly know him," he said.

For more about Monte Oliveto, see The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and the Crete

For more about Batoni, see Re-discovering Batoni and Batoni: The Artist of the Sacred Heart

Monday, April 20, 2009


Alphonse Osbert 1857-1939
Vision 1892
Oil on canvas 235 x 138 cm.
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

This represents a vision of Saint Geneviève

In the late 1880s, Osbert abandoned naturalistic painting in favour of a Pointillist technique like that employed by Seurat and Signac

He also embraced mystical themes and the Symbolist movement.

Art as the evocation of mystery, like prayer’ finds no better expression than Vision.

Such works were praised by Symbolist writers who considered them visual counterparts of the poetry of Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé and Maurice Maeterlinck.

A Testerian Catechism

Testerian Catechism c.1524

In the early period of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, before religious instructors had learned the languages of the indigenous peoples, they used pictorial stories describing basic teachings to spread the Christian Gospel. These catechisms were called Testerians, after Father Jacobo de Testera, a Franciscan priest who pioneered this method of teaching.

This is one of the "exhibits" in a new website sponsored by the Library of Congress and UNESCO entitled The World Digital Library (WDL)

The purpose of the site is to make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

The WDL was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with contributions by partner institutions in many countries; the support of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the financial support of a number of companies and private foundations

Sunday, April 19, 2009

La Sainte et le chardon

Odilon Redon 1840 - 1916
La Sainte et le chardon (The saint and the thistle) 1891
Lithograph on chine appliqué
Height: 285 millimetres; Width: 207 millimetres
Inscription Content: Signed in pencil, and lettered with title and '50 exemplaires'
The British Museum, London

In French iconography, the thistle is the symbol of the pain of Christ and of the Virgin.

It is also the symbol of virtue protected by its thorns.

The thistle is not the Scottish variety of thistle, but one of the many types which flourish in France.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Cardinal, the Prime Minister and the Catholic Relief Act 1926

Cardinal Bourne (in clerical dress) in public procession at The National Catholic Congress of 1929

On 13 - 17 September 1929, the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland celebrated the centenary of the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829.

Cardinal Bourne (March 23, 1861—January 1, 1935) as Archbishop of Westminster from 1903 until his death, headed the celebrations in London. See Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee: National Catholic Congress 1929

The homilist at the Opening ceremony on Friday 13 September 1926 was able to say:

"One hundred years ago, our faith was subject to all sorts of disabilities, it was despised and hated, it had to keep itself secret in order to live. Now we parade it before all the world, and scarcely anyone raises so much as a murmur of protest! What a change in the temper of the people of this country!"

One would not have been surprised if the Cardinal had found difficulty in suppressing a rueful smile: it had been a damn near thing !

Only a few years previously the Cardinal had played a major part in the passing of the Catholic Relief Act 1926. Without the passing of the 1926 Act, the celebrations in 1929 may not have been able to take place and probably certainly not in public legally.

The 1926 Act for most important purposes ensured legal equality for Catholics in the exercise of their religion in England, Wales and Scotland

The 1926 Act is now forgotten. In fact, if you look for it in the UK Statute Law Database, you will not find it. However there are one or two uninformative footnotes about it in the official text of the 1829 Act, which do not explain what the 1926 Act did.

However the passing of the 1926 Act became an essential matter and was bitterly contested at the time.

Why was the 1926 Act so important ?

At the turn of the century in 1900, most people assumed that Catholics did have equality.

It was felt and with reason that whatever disabilities which remained as a result of the 1829 Act were "dead letters" and of no practical significance.

However about this time a number of groups started to assert that the remaining penal provisions were not dead and attempted to breathe new life into them.

The main areas in which there were problems were:

1. Public processions of Catholics especially where the Host was exhibited and where members of the Catholic clergy dressed in canonicals.

2. The status of religious orders and their disabilities in law

Public processions.

In 1908, on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress, the main procession of the Congress involving the procession of the Host around some streets in Central London flanked by clerical dignitaries was banned by the Government.

See 2008: A Centenary of a Eucharistic Procession

After this, it would appear that the Government was chastened by the amount of criticism which it received and it was felt that no Government would again attempt such a ban.

However religious tensions in the United Kingdom became more bitter especially as a result of the problems in Ireland.

After the First World War, religious tensions in Scotland and certain areas of England became acute.

In 1923 the Church of Scotland produced a highly-controversial (and since repudiated) report entitled The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality. It accused the Catholic population of subverting Presbyterian values and of causing drunkenness, crime and financial imprudence.

John White, one of the Church of Scotland leaders at the time and later a Moderator of The Church of Scotland, called for a "racially pure" Scotland, declaring, "Today there is a movement throughout the world towards the rejection of non-native constituents and the crystallization of national life from native elements."

On the question of processions matters came to a head in 1924. The police authorities prohibited the annual Corpus Christi procession in the village of Carfin, Lanarkshire on Sunday, 22nd June 1924

The police invoked the Catholic Emancipation Act, 1829, and informed the priests concerned that they would be prosecuted for wearing their vestments in public, as laid down in the Act. The details can be seen in the House of Commons Reports:

HC Deb 02 July 1924 vol 175 c1357W

HC Deb 08 July 1924 vol 175 cc1935-7

HC Deb 15 July 1924 vol 176 cc185-6

The status of religious orders

After the 1829 Act, monasteries and convents came under recurrent criticism and attempts at regulation and suppression.

See Convents and Monasteries in Victorian Britain

From a legal point of view, Sections of the Act of 1829 provided that "whereas Jesuits, and members of other religious orders, communities or societies of the Church of Rome, bound, by monastic or religious vows, are resident within the United Kingdom; and it is expedient to make provisions for the gradual suppression and final prohibition of the same therein " (emphasis added)

The intention of the provisions was that all monastic orders would become extinct in the United Kingdom as the then e x i s t i n g members died out.

The provisions had never been put into f o r c e , and Sir James Stephens in his History of the Criminal Law said, "These provisions ever since they have been passed have been treated as an absolutely dead l e t t e r "

However in 1902 the Protestant Alliance applied to the Metropolitan Police Magistrate at Marlborough Street for summonses against three well -known Jesuits under the Act of 1829, but the Magistrate refused to grant the summonses on the ground that the Information was too scanty. He also took into consideration the fact that the Act of 1829 had been, in p r a c t i c e , a dead l e t t e r . The case was taken on a mandamus to the High Court (Rex. v. Kennedy, Law Times Reports 1903; volume 18, page 557) and the High Court upheld the M a g i s t r a t e ' s decision on the ground that he had exercised a discretion in the matter which was given to him by law, and i t was not for the Court to i n t e r f e r e.

Unfortunately therefore members of the Jesuit Order and other orders in law had no legal right to remain in the United Kingdom.

The Church was quite content to let the matter rest there.

However Lord Birkenhead, in the case of Bourne vs Keene, in 1919,pointed out that religious orders are excluded from the Roman Catholic Charities Act, 1832. Accordingly, being still illegal bodies, gifts to them for the purpose of their work were illegal, and void and invalid.

The Inland Revenue authorities therefore refused to a charity carried on by an order the relief given to all other charities by the Finance Act, 1921.

No property could be held on trust for a religious order, and accordingly their property had to be held privately by beneficial owners, with the result that on the death of the holder Death Duties became payable.

This blow to exemption from taxation enjoyed by other charities and religions would have caused severe detriment to religious orders in the United Kingdom.

In Bourne v Keene, Lord Birkenhead, whilst he said that gifts for Masses were not to be for superstitious use, did also go on to say: "That is not to say there are now no superstitious uses or that no gifts for any religious purpose can be invalid."

The law needed to be reformed: it was a matter of justice that orders should be put on an equal footing with all other religious bodies

The First Attempts at Reform: 1924

Shortly after the banning of the procession in Carfin in June 1924, and the lack of Government action following on it, a member of the House of Commons introduced a Private Members Bill entitled "The Catholic Relief Bill" into the House of Commons on 5th August 1924.

It was a relatively simple Bill as can be seen from the Bill and the explanatory notes below.

It simply wanted to repeal sections of the penal statutes and those sections of the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829 which were obstacles to the practice of ordinary Catholics in their faith.

Private members bills (then and now) without the support of the Government did and do not pass.

Further attempts at Reform: 1925

In 1925, there was an attempt to get Government support for a new Bill. It seems to have had the support of the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. He had his Private Secretary prepare a Memorandum on the Bill in Febrauary 1925. The memo is the one above.

It is sad to say that Cabinet support was not forthcoming

The main opponent seems to have been the Home Secretary of the day, Sir William Joynson-Hicks

As Home Secretary, he had a reputation for strict authoritarianism.

Popularly known as "Jix", he was seen as a reactionary. However it should be said that he was also responsible for piloting the Equal Franchise Act through Parliament in 1928, which allowed women to vote on the same terms as men.

In religious matters he was a very strong Low Church Evagelical Anglican. Prior to the First World War he had been a strong opponent of Irish Home Rule. He was a leader of the Evangelical laity and President of the National Church League

In 1927-28, he was one of the leaders of the movement against the revision of the Anglican Prayer Book which led to Parliament throwing out twice the proposed revision to the Prayer Book. See Wikipedia: The Book of Common Prayer: Further attempts at revision

However bearing in mind the composition of the Cabinet, there were others who perhaps were not well disposed to further attempts to liberalise the law.

Lower down in party ranks, there was some anti-Catholic feeling:

"Some party members of Protestant conviction, especially in north west constituencies, grew suspicious that there were Catholic sympathies in the higher echelons of the party. A Conservative Central Office agent for Lancashire and Cheshire, H. R. Topping, wrote to a Baldwin aide that there was ‘strong disapproval amongst individual members of the party’ regarding the bill, and that the ‘ultra Protestant atmosphere’ in some areas had already resulted in the loss of a few municipal seats. He suggested that, for many Low Church voters in Lancashire, ‘this was just the type of question which might prevent those who are wavering politically at present from definitely identifying with our party’.

Pembroke Wicks, a party worker close to Baldwin, feared that there might be a violent Protestant reaction in some quarters, most probably in areas such as Preston and Birkenhead. For some MPs in less sectarian constituencies, there was apprehension that their stance could equally lose them Protestant or Roman Catholic voters. Thus, religion was already a cause of heightened tension within the Conservative party by 1927. Protestant organisations were able to stockpile an arsenal of polemical ammunition to fire at the Baldwin administration, which was now open to the accusation of being ‘soft’ on the Catholic issue."

(From John G. Maiden,
The Anglican Prayer Book Controversy of 1927-28 and National Religion: Chapter Six; Nation and Religion: The Parliamentary Debates )

In response to the Prime Minister`s Memorandum, the Home Secretary also prepared a Memorandum. It is dated 6th February 1925. It is below. He was against Government support for the Bill.

Unfortunately it was the view of the Home Secretary which prevailed when Cabinet met on 11 February 1925. See the Cabinet Minute below

In 1925, the Bill was introduced again. Petitions were presented in favour of the Bill. But without Government support, the Bill was effectively killed off in 1925.

See the relevant House of Commons proceedings:

The Bill was introduced again on 2nd March 1925: See HC Deb 02 March 1925 vol 181 c40

Petitions presented were 3rd May 1925 See HC Deb 03 May 1925 vol 13 cc361-2 361

But to no avail.

It was only in 1926 that the tide began to turn.

1926: The Tide Turns: The Prime Minister backs Reform

Bassano (floruit 1902-1979).
Francis Alphonsus Cardinal Bourne (1861-1935), Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
Whole-plate glass negative, 19 November 1925
The National Portrait Gallery, London

After the Bill was sidelined in 1925, there was another attempt in Parliament to introduce the Bill.

This time the Bill was sponsored and introduced into the Commons by Alan Herbert (an Anglican) on 10th March 1926

See HC Deb 10 March 1926 vol 192 cc2305-8

The Bill passed First and Second Readings and then went to the next stage, Standing Committee at the end of March 1926, where it was expected to languish, wither and die off.

But from reading the papers, it would appear that something happened.

In accordance with the previous decision of 1925, the Home Secretary wrote to the Whips to say that the Bill would be blocked. However the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin let it be known that he had no objection to the Bill. The Whips therefore did not block the Bill.

The Prime Minister then brought the matter back to Cabinet in April 1926.

There then followed a dispute at Cabinet level which lasted until the end of July 1926 as to whether the Government should support the Bill and if so on what terms and conditions.

Considering that this period covered the period leading up to The General Strike and its aftermath, it is noteworthy that what should have been a relatively uncontroversial Bill occupied a great deal of Whitehall time at the highest levels during a particularly serious and important time in the country`s history.

On 27th April 1926 the Home Secretary produced a Memorandum for the Cabinet on the issue. It is reproduced below. He set out his opposition to the Bill in the strongest terms.In particular he was against the provisions for public processions and those allowing religious orders.

The next day 28th April 1926 Cabinet considered the matter. Before the matter could be considered, Baldwin absented himself to attend negotiations involving the Coal Dispute which were threatening to escalate into a General Strike. In his absence Cabinet considered whether or not to support the Bill. The Home Secretary addressed the Cabinet no doubt in terms of the Memorandum which he submitted.

It would appear from the Cabinet Memorandum below that the discussion was lengthy. Apart from certain provisions which were definitely excluded, the Cabinet agreed to further consider the matter.

One does wonder if the absence by Baldwin was "diplomatic" and prevented him from coming into open conflict with his Home Secretary at such a crucial time.

There no doubt followed further negotiations and discussions. It is clear that Cardinal Bourne was involved with corresponding with the Prime Minister, Baldwin on the matter.

Certain agreements were reached. The provisions about religious orders and the taxation of these as charities appear to have been reached.

But it was clear that there were certain issues on which there could not be agreement. One of the issues was the issue of Catholic processions.

On 19th May 1926, Cabinet had a further discussion. Its position was set out in the Memorandum below. There were to be no processions, nothing to affect the law in Norther Ireland and nothing to allow a Roman Catholic to become Lord Chancellor. If there were, the Bill was to be blocked.

There were protests from Cardinal Bourne to the Prime Minister.

However it would appear that there was a section of the Cabinet who had drawn "red lines" about certain matters. If the red lines were breached, there would be a block on the Bill.

Further negotiations ensued.

On 23rd June 1926 the Prime Minister brought the matter before Cabinet again "as a matter of urgency". He advised Cabinet that some of the provisions which had been objected to had been removed. There followed another long discussion. It would appear that the opponents of the Bill were now trying to delay further consideration of the Bill and to "kick it into the long grass". It would appear that the Solicitor General, Sir Thomas Inskip also had reservations "about the detail" of the Bill.

The reference to Inskiip is quite interesting. He later became Lord Chancellor (Lord Caldecote) and during the Second World War, Lord Chief Justice. At the time he was Vice-President of the Protestant Truth Society.

He was one of the diehards who opposed the Bill throughout its passage. In November 1926 he wrote to Baldwin advising that the Government`s stance could equally lose them Protestant or Roman Catholic voters. (T. Inskip to Baldwin, 26 November 1926, Baldwin Papers, Vol. 52/P3, Roman Catholic Relief Bill, Cambridge University Library, 30-31) . When the Bill did eventually come up for a vote, he led thirty members, against the bill

Cabinet backs the Bill

In any event, Cabinet instructed the Home Secretary to enter negotiations with the promoters of the Bill and see if agreement could be reached.

On 30th June 1926, the Home Secretary on the instructions of the Cabinet met with the promoters of the Bill. He managed to achieve agreement with them to allow the Bill to go forward. They accepted the red lines. See the Cabinet Memorandum of 30th June 1926 below

Bourne holds out and presses for further Reforms

However someone obviously forgot to tell Cardinal Bourne. When he was told, he was not pleased. He wrote to the Prime Minister. He protested that there was still to be a ban on Catholic processions. He pleaded for justice and equality.

On 7th July 1926 Baldwin raised the matter again in Cabinet. He read out sections of the Cardinal`s letter protesting about the continued ban on Catholic processions. Eventually Cabinet agreed to allow a free vote on the question and support the Bill. Rather surprisingly Ministers were to be allowed a free vote on the question in the Commons. This breach of collective Cabinet responsibility indicates the degree and strength of opposition to the measure within the Government. The licence to opponents was highly exceptional. See the Cabinet memorandum below.

One would have thought that with the Government`s blessing, the Bill should have swiftly proceeded. However it was not dealt with until December 1926. It would appear that there may have been some rearguard attempt at seriously delaying the progress of the Bill until 1927. There was a heavy Government schedule of Bills but for some reason the placing of the Bill seems to have consistently moved down the list of priority.

The Bill goes through Parliament

In any event, the Bill along with other Bills appears to have gained priority and on 3rd December 1926, the Bill came out of Committee and was debated again on the floor of the House.

The important debates and divisions were:

Clause 1:HC Deb 03 December 1926 vol 200 cc1581-3

Clause 3:HC Deb 03 December 1926 vol 200 cc1584-95

Schedule: HC Deb 03 December 1926 vol 200 cc1595-642

For some reason opposition in the Commons was not great and the Bill went through the Commons that day.

Catholics could have processions with priests in high canonicals, amongst other things.

However the debates are interesting as they throw a great deal of light on the temper of the times.

The attempt to exclude the provisions of the Act from Scotland came to nothing, fortunately.

The Bill then went to the House of Lords. There it received the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the English Anglican bishops. No speaker dissented or opposed the Bill. It was passed that day without a division.

The House of Lords debate can be accessed here:HL Deb 10 December 1926 vol 65 cc1487-96

On 15th December 1926 the Bill received Royal Assent and became law.

The two indispensables: Cardinal Bourne and Prime Minister Baldwin

Amongst the many promoters of the 1926 Act who deserve praise for the passage of the Act, two stand out: Cardinal Bourne and the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin

Without either of them, there would have been no legal equality for Catholics in the 1920s.

Bourne had been Archbishop of Westminster since 1903. His public actions in the First World War as well as Catholic casualties in the Great War strengthened public toleration for Catholics.

His rejection of the idea of a Catholic University and a Catholic political party and his promotion of the idea that Catholics should mix with non-Catholics and not be separate encouraged toleration.

Protestants were alarmed by the successes of Anglo-Catholicism, which by the 1920s was the most dominant Anglican Church party. The fear of Rome was heightened by ecumenical conversations at Malines between Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic representatives from 1921-5. However Bourne was not at all encouraging towards the Malines Conversations.

On social issues he was a conservative. He was a blunt patriotic Englishman who seems to have seen things in simple black and white terms. On 9th May 1926, during the dying days of the General Strike, Cardinal Bourne declared in a sermon during High Mass that:

"It is a direct challenge to lawfully constituted authority and inflicts without adquate reason, immense discomfort and injury on millions of our fellow countrymen. It is therefore a sin against the obedience which we owe to God who is the source of that authority."

He obviously found an admirer in Baldwin. He shared similar characteristics with the rather 'plain blunt man' : Baldwin. His lobbying of Baldwin on the issue of the Bill was successful. One does wonder if any other Archbishop of Westminster would have been able to persuade Baldwin of the necessity of the measure despite all the other major problems affecting the Government: the onset of modern democratic politics, the rise of Labour, chronic economic depression, the General Strike, persistent newspaper attacks, imperial discontent.

From the above narrative, it is quite clear that without the support of Baldwin for the measure, the Act would never have been passed.

It had been blocked by the Cabinet. Yet he overruled the block and brought it back to Cabinet.

When his very strong Home Secretary succeeded in blocking the Bill again, it was Baldwin who brought it back again for further consideration until he got his way.

When Cabinet and the promoters of the Bill agreed on a way forward for the Bill, it was Baldwin who overruled his Home Secretary again (and his Cabinet) to get the issue of Catholic processions debated yet again by the Cabinet until the Cabinet agreed to allow a free vote by the Commons on the issue.

All of this was against his political interest and the interest of his party and its grassroots.

The three-times premier was the most important politician in interwar Britain.The reputation of Baldwin was high when he left office but plummeted during his lifetime with the onset of the Second World War. He was blamed for the lack of preparedness of the British forces to fight Hitler earlier and for the policy of appeasement. His critics, including Churchill and “Cato”, unjustly claimed that Baldwin had put party before country on this vital matter.

Why did Baldwin do it ? He was primarily a One Nation Conservative. Social cohesion was his philosophy rather than social divisiveness. His political speeches emphasised the theme of “England”. He articulated a pastoral, moral vision of England, which offered comfort and security to a nation scarred by war. His philosophy was of a moral policy and of a harmonious society. Before 1914, Unionists had been preoccupied by Ulster. The establishment of the Irish Free State and partition of Ireland in 1922 meant that Conservative policy had to look forward and put the old battles behind them. Baldwin wanted to construct an amorphous, broad-based coalition, going well beyond the frontiers of his own party. He was eager to transcend the divisions of class and interest reflected in party conflicts. He was intent on including all men and women of goodwill in a warm, purportedly non-political embrace. Baldwin sought to depoliticise government, to damp down ideological controversy and class conflict, and to convince the electorate that common sense pointed in one direction only and to insist that duties came before rights. His reward was nearly 20 years of Conservative hegemony.

It would be fanciful to think that perhaps Baldwin was motivated by personal considerations. His niece, Monica Baldwin joined an enclosed Roman Catholic convent in 1914. It was only in 1941 that she obtained a rescript from Rome and left the convent.

The Susan Boyle Phenomenon

It is only a week since Boyle, who lives alone with her cat, walked on to the stage of Britain’s Got Talent. She has already won the hearts of audiences across the world with her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from the musical Les Misérables.

More than 25 million have logged on to YouTube to see the clip of her audition and to find out, as the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle put it: “Just who is the singer Susan Boyle?”

According to The Mail Susan, a devout Catholic, has lived in Blackburn all her life, and is the youngest of nine siblings (five girls and four boys).

"Her mother, Bridget, was a shorthand typist before she had her children; her father, Patrick, worked as a storeman at the British Leyland factory in Bathgate.

The factory closed a few years ago, contributing to a decline in the Bathgate area. As they grew up, Susan's brothers and sisters left the family home one by one.

Most of her siblings stayed in the area, but one brother moved to Australia. Susan alone stayed with her parents. She had suffered mild brain damage after being starved of oxygen at birth.

Recalling her childhood, she said earlier this week: 'I was born with a disability and that made me a target for bullies.

'I was called names because of my fuzzy hair and because I struggled in class. I told the teachers but, because it was more verbal than physical, I could never prove anything.

'But words often hurt more than cuts and bruises and the scars are still there.'

Yet, bullied though she was, there wasn't anyone in Blackburn who could deny that Susan had an amazing voice.

She was a musical child and, at the age of 12, her mother placed her in the choir of her local Catholic church. 'I also sang in musicals at school, lots of them, I can't remember what.' "

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A President Meets the Pope

We never really get a picture of what is said by the powerful and famous during the times that they are active. Sometimes many years later we get a fragment or glimpse as to what people really believe and say outwith the glare of set speeches and the public relations machines.

The United States National Archives has a fascinating on line exhibition which amongst other things features the first visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States in 1979.

On October 6,1979 President Carter welcomed him to the White House where the two men met privately in the Oval Office for an hour.

President Carter’s notes from that historic meeting are shown here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rome Resurgent

Rupert Shortt, Religion editor of the TLS has written a review entitled Resurgent Rome: There are now almost as many Roman Catholics as citizens of China – why?

It is a review of Ian Linden GLOBAL CATHOLICISM Diversity and change since Vatican II 256pp. Hurst. Paperback, £14.99. US: Columbia University Press.

I do not agree with a number of points but I found some of the article fascinating.

Here are a few snippets:

***"A generation ago, mainstream Christianity was widely dismissed as démodé. This verdict itself looks old-fashioned today. Whether you view recent developments with relief or unease, it is clear that the Catholic Church, in particular, remains remarkably robust. There are now almost as many Catholics as citizens of China. Secularists might be surprised to learn that the Church is the largest single supplier of health care and education on the planet, the principal glue of civil society in Africa, the strongest bulwark of opposition to the caste system in India, and a leading player in global campaigns for sustainable living. It provides almost the only charitable presence in Chechnya, and other blackspots often forgotten by the rest of the world."

***"A Protestant view of the papacy is likely to concentrate on the damaging effects of Vatican authoritarianism. As is often pointed out, the absolute power enjoyed by popes over the past 150 years was only made possible by the railways. Before the spread of modern communications, ideas about the universal reach of papal jurisdiction could be more a matter of theory than of practice. On the other hand, Catholics might reply with some justice that a major part of papal history in recent centuries has consisted in a necessary and reasonably effective bid to protect the Church from secular interference. The example of Russia and other Orthodox countries, where religion has long been locked in a suffocating embrace with nationalist forces, goes some way to vindicating Vatican policy. "

***" The author was formerly director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, a respected think-tank, and has a fund of knowledge to put the concerns of Europeans and North Americans in perspective. As he remarks tartly at one point:

The bioethics that matter [in the developing world] are not stem-cell research but whether governments will find enough money to put in their health budgets for mothers to survive childbirth and their children to reach the age of five years old. Preoccupations are more mundane: clinics too far away with no drugs, police and officials who are crooks, land reform, drought, dirty water and crop failure. "

***"Two further points add texture to Linden’s discussion. The first concerns the ongoing contradictions within Joseph Ratzinger himself. He did not simply mutate from warm liberal to chilly conservative. Even as the “German Shepherd” of popular mythology, he sometimes displayed a wholly different private face. One of his sillier statements, issued in 1989, warned Catholics against yoga and Eastern meditation practices.

But it is still little known outside academic circles that in 1992, the then Cardinal donated a large sum from his personal resources to finance a German translation of the Lotus Sutra. The sentiment behind this initiative was underlined when he told an interviewer that Hermann Hesse’s great Buddhist-inspired novella Siddhartha was one of his three most treasured books alongside the Bible and Augustine’s Confessions, and that there are as many paths to God as there are human beings.

As Pope, operating as pastor rather than policeman, he has made some positive moves. The cult of personality associated with his predecessor has been jettisoned, he has avoided witch-hunts, and revived a more traditional papal style. This has caused sufficient consternation among hardliners for one American pundit to have complained that the cardinals “voted for Ronald Reagan, but ended up with Jimmy Carter”.

The shrill source of this comment could not see that Jimmy Carter has been more effective as a man of God than as a politician."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Antonio and Paolo Francesco D`Alessandri, (?)
From St Peter's Square, Easter Day 1865 circa

Papal Benedictions on Easter Day stretch back a very long way

The above shows the crowds in the third quarter of the nineteenth century with all the carriages lined up in St Peter`s Square.

Today in his Easter Message, Pope Benedict XVI said a great deal. Here is a report of a section of his speech:

" [T]he Pope said that the Resurrection was "not a fairytale" and attacked the "emptiness" of materialism and atheism. He said that thanks to the Resurrection of Christ "death no longer has power over man".

"Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of Evil, He still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm His victory using His own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love...

At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope".

He added: "Let no-one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ's Resurrection".

He said that Easter raises "one of the questions that most precoccupies men and women: what is there after death? To this mystery today's solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because life will be victorious at the end."

(Source: The Times )

Friday, April 10, 2009

Responding to the Consultation about the advertising of abortion

The new Archbishop of Westminster wants the 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales to take a stand against proposals to allow abortion services to advertise on television and radio.

He urged Catholics to respond to a consultation exercise on the proposed changes. The country would not expect abortion to be advertised “alongside a packet of crisps”, he said.

“I would appeal to Catholics to respond to the consultation."

How does one respond ?

It might be helpful if someone published a step by step guide as to how to respond to the consultation.

Why ? Well if you go to the website where the draft Codes and proposals are, it is not easy to see what proposal one should object to, and how to respond.

It seems to be a consultation for advertising professionals and insiders only and not easily accessible for ordinary members of the public.

As far as I can make out (and I hope people will correct me because I found the request for consultations page of the website very confusing):

1. Responses should be addressed to The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, c/o Advertising Standards Authority, Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6QT, United Kingdom. The deadline for responses is Friday 19 June 2009

2. If you respond to the BCAP consultation, you must include a consultation response cover sheet available for download at

3. The proposals are set out at BCAP Code Review Consultation

4. You should read the section entitled How to respond to consultations

5. The question to be responded to would appear to be as follows:

"Family planning centres

Question 62

i) Given BCAP’s policy consideration, do you agree that it is necessary to maintain a rule specific to post-conception advice services and to regulate advertisements for pre-conception advice services through the general rules only?

ii) Given BCAP’s policy consideration, do you agree that rule 11.11 should be included in the proposed BCAP Code? If your answer is no, please explain why."

6. The relevant pages of the Consultation document referred to in the Question would appear to be as follows:

7. It would appear from the above that the principle of allowing advertising for "post-conception advice" has already been conceded by BCAP. Therefore the wording of any responses to the consultation would need to be carefully considered.

I am not a legal expert. But I wonder if the authorities have considered obtaining a legal opinion as to whether the proposed change is legal. There seems to be a great deal of technical and complex law surrounding the matter of advertising.

One does wonder also if the British Government have or will need to issue a derogation from the European Directive mentioned above ?

If a derogation from the Directive has been made by the Government, it would be interesting to know when the derogation was made.

I also hope that Mr and Mrs Tony Blair will lend their public support to the Archbishop`s call for a campaign against the proposed changes.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Thomas Eakins 1844-1916
The Crucifixion, 1880.
Oil on canvas. 243.8 x 137.2 cm (96 x 54 in.).
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Eakins was inspired by Velázquez’s Crucifixion (1632) now in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Eakins hung this huge work in the hall of his house. It was the first thing visitors saw when they entered.

This was Eakins's only religious work. However he did return to the subject of The Crucifixion later as there are studies for a Crucifixion done about 1888.

It depicts Christ in his last moments on the Cross.

One of his art students (J. Laurie Wallace) posed for the figure of Christ, strapped onto a cross outside. The sagging weight and exhaustion derive from an actual observation.

It is a powerful and dramatic work and lacks sentiment. It is entirely realistic.

The cringed and clawing hands, the anatomical details, the dirty feet and nails that have seen the dust of the road, were bitterly criticised at the time as “unreligious.”

Note the ugliness and agitation of the Greek and Latin scrawl above the head of Christ.