Page 3, 18th June 1937

18th June 1937
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Page 3, 18th June 1937 — CATHOLIC PROGRESS IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
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CATHOLIC PROGRESS IN THE VICTORIAN ERA

Restoration Of The Hierarchy

Newman : The Oxford Movement

Advent Of The Catholic Press On June zo, 1837, Queen Victoria succeeded to the Throne. It was the birth of an era, the Victorian Era, and the centenary is not going unmarked. The production, in England, of Laurence Housman's Victoria Regina, a play already so successful in the States, may be regarded as the Theatre's contribution, while on the literary side more than one announced book is apposite to the hour.

In the survey below, a writer who remembers the yoked milkmaids and the " penny-farthing " looks at the Victorian Era mainly from the Catholic standpoint, discoursing on matters concerning or cognate to the realms of religion and social service.

By an Old Victorian.

If we may use the term " Victorian Era of Queen Victoria's entire reign of nearly sixty-four years, we can think of the contrast between 1837 and 1901, from the Catholic point of view, as indeed noteworthy. When the young Queen ascended the Throne our ecclesiastical government in England and Wales, for instance, remained unchanged from the position which it held in the last Stuart year, 1688, when the ruling Pontiff gave the spiritual care of the country into the hands of four Vicars-Apostolic. Four Vicars, no more, still had the land parcelled out as their field a hundred years ago. But when Victoria died, there was a vastly different state of things: a Catholic Hierarchy, longrestored, within the archiepiscopal Province of Westminster, with further developments in Time's pocket, by which three more provinces were later to be made.

Two Big Events In the earlier part of the reign two events in particular influenced the course of religious thought in the country: the Oxford Movement and the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy. The influence showed itself in almost opposite channels.

The effect of Newman's Tract Ninety, published in 1841, was to turn men's minds more and more front the traditional Protestant view, and to bring its author, with many others, into the Catholic fold. The Pope's action in restoring the Hierarchy was on the contrary the means of stirring-up a practically nationwide wave of anti-Catholic demonstration.

The Oxford Movement, as is well known, resulted in an increase of Catholic strength, by conversions, which was important both in volume and on the intellectual side. The influence of Newman himself, cast into the Catholic scale, counted for much, but so many other notable converts also are in the lists that there is perhaps a danger sometimes of losing sight of the mass in dwelling overmuch on the master. Ward's Ideal of a Christian Church was probably not less influential, in its day, than Newman's Apologia: of the former work a distinguished Catholic writer has said that it " put the Church. of England on its knees before Rome."

The 1850 Storm

With the restoration of the Hierarchy, the creation of residential sees, in 1850, we reach a point at which England fancied her

self challenged by a form of " Papal Aggression." The idea that one of the Church's prelates should he called " Archbishop of Westminster," that another should hear the title " Bishop of Birmingham," and so on, was utterly unwelcome to the British Government. They didn't like it; moreover—as a recent action by Sir John Simon shows—they don't like it even now.

But whereas the post-Victorian era in which we live to-day finds us legally free to use such titles, the feelings which frothed and bubbled indignantly against us in 1850 and 1851 led to the Act that both was and wasn't—that measure surely unique, the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which went on the Statute Book as law, but never drew a breath in practice. Its repeal, in 1871, is a more satisfactory item in the Victorian story.

If we still would dwell upon the element of contrast, it is good to think, first of all, of the attitude taken by the British Press against "Papal Aggression," in Victorian England, and then to look ai what that same Press had to say, in 1908, concerning the Government's interference with the proposed procession of the Blessed Sacrament at Westminster in connection with the Eucharistic Congress.

Or—to glance at another aspect of the matter—we may contrast the violent antiPopery of the national and official attitudes in 1850-51 with the welcome to, and the presence of, Pope Leo X111's envoy, Mgr. Ruffo-Scilla, when the Queen came to celebrate her jubilee.

The subject of the Press must not be left without a few words also as to our own Press. It is to be hoped that the existing Catholic weekly newspapers in Great Britain can justly plead not guilty to sharing in such qualities as " Victorian smugness," " Victorian complacency," and suchlike hurlings at the age; for they are every one of them Victorian products!

The Queen had not long taken to herself a husband when, in 1840, the Tablet was launched; twenty years or so later the Catholic Times and the Universe came into the field and in the 'eighties the Catholic Herald, as the Weekly Herald, printed its first number. The Victorian era thus gave birth to a succession of journals all of which have shown, by their history, that they came to stay.

Social Reform

Social service can never write too rich a chapter into the story of any reign. Cer tainly it can be said of Queen Victoria's time that a great deal, even if not enough, was done in the matter of social reform, and this in all sorts of ways.

Catholics can feel glad that on the personal side they contributed a force in this direction in Cardinal Manning. That prelate's work for the labouring classes, not least in the mane: of promoting justice in industry, has never been forgotten by Labour. We had the proof of it, not long ago. when the Cardinal was posthumously honoured by the invitation sent to his successor in office, Mgr. Ilinsley, to represent Archbishop's. !louse at the dinner commemorating the great London Dock strike.

The names of many non-Catholic workers for social reform come to mind also in considering the Victorian period. Francis Place and his Chartists preached the gospel of discontent, it is true, but they had a constructive policy, over-radical for some tastes, which the younger of them lived to see very largely realized by legislation.

In their own different ways individual workers did much, either by direct philanthropic effort or by stirring the public conscience through the pen. One thinks of Frederick Denison Maurice and his work for poor men's education; of the labours of the seventh Lord Shaftesbury; of William Booth and his Salvation Army, and of the work, in a different vein, of his namesake Charles, he of the Life and Labour volumes.

There were workers, too, literary men, who " did their bit " by the humbler vehicle of fiction. Some of these are well remembered in connection with their efforts, none more so than Dickens in relation to the Poor Law. Others are today almost forgotten, as for example Henry Cockton, whose exposure of the ways of certain asylums in his day was badly needed, and in his pages was graphically and terribly set out. Charles Recede, also, some years later on. was to pull an oar in that boat

Art's Part

Indirectly, the Arts played their part not inconsiderably, in the Victorian age, on the side of religion, or at the lowest in drawing men's minds from contemplation of life's purely material side. The pre-Raphaelite movement, much as one may condemn its extravagances, was at any rate a revolt in other and deeper matters besides technique.

Romanticism touched the spiritual but lightly, but it did touch it. Moreover, we have this to remember, that in such works ar Rossetti's " Annunciation" and " Girlhood of Mary Virgin," BartleJones's "Adoration of the Magi." Holman Hunt's " Light of the World," there was a direct return to religious art as such. The influence of the Brotherhood, viewed in relation to its work, was thus an influence for good.

One of the pre-Raphaelites, James Collinson, was a Catholic, a convert, and like a number of other converts, more brilliant than himself in the field. he gave expression to his faith by the medium of poetry. Other Victorian poets whose gifts served religion— to name but a few of them—were Gerard Hopkins, Aubrey de Vete, Adelaide Procter, Coventry Patmore, Frederick Faber: all these had come into the Church; Francis Thompson, whom many acclaim as our poet par excellence; John Keble, Anglican to tho end, a sweet singer for God and holy things.

The Gothic Man Religious architecture gained its chief impetus, as all admit, from Augustus Welby Pugin. If Pugin is here claimed as a figure in the Victorian gallery, it is not to deny that he had shown the particular bent of his mind when a subject of King William; but the chief buildings associated with his name belong to the Queen's time. His effect upon the character of church building in England is not to be judged simply by his own work during a too short lifetime; for his spirit guided the hands of designers and draughtsmen long after he himself had passed from the scene.

The beginning of the Victorian age found us in a poor way, architecturally, in the matter of churches. At Victoria's death the land was studded with many handsome cathedrals and other buildings, including one great church, then nearing completion structurally, in a style far from Puginesque — Bentley's masterpiece at Westminster,

On work for religion and for the popular well-being, by Victorian prose writers, there is not space to touch, for that matter would take the pen running through a long Iist of Catholic and of non-Catholic names. The cultural influence, in their day. of individual forces, for example Ruskin; of the great Victorian novelists; and of the men and women whose work was still more deeply inspired—all this must be left as a thought.

Praiseworthy Politics

Considered from the standpoint to which this survey has been limited. the Victorian Era was one that was fruitful, politically, in many-sided good. It brought in, among other measures, the Reform Bill, and an Education Act which ranged the State as a force to supplement, but not to supplant, voluntary educational efforts. It gave to Canada the assurance of religious liberty under which the Catholic Church is a strong, free, patriotic element in the Dominion. It did an act of justice to Ireland by ending the Protestant Establishment in that country. It abolished religious tests at the Universities. It laid the foundations of those opportunities by which the workingman plays nowadays so direct and so large a part in the work of moulding and making legislation.




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