England (Before the Reformation)
FREE Catholic Classes
This term England is here restricted to one constituent, the largest and most populous, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Thus understood, England (taken at the same time as including the Principality of Wales ) is all that part of the Island of Great Britain which lies south of the Solway Firth, the River Liddell, the Cheviot Hills, and the River Tweed; its area is 57,668 square miles, i.e. 10,048 square miles greater than that of the State of New York, but 11,067 square miles less than that of Missouri; its total resident population in 1901 was 23,386,593, or 78.2 percent of the population of the United Kingdom.
For the history of England down to the Norman Conquest the reader may be referred to the article A NGLO-SAXON C HURCH ; its later history is treated in the article E NGLAND S INCE THE R EFORMATION . We begin our present account of pre-Reformation England with the new order of things created by William the Conqueror .
Although the picture of the degradation of the English Church in the first half of the eleventh century which has been drawn by some authorities (notably by H. Boehmer, "Kirche und Staat", 79) is very exaggerated, it is nevertheless certain that even King Edward the Confessor, with all his saintliness, had not been able to repair the damage caused partly by the anarchy of the last ten years of Danish rule, but not less surely, if remotely, by the disorders which for many generations past had existed at the centre of Christendom. Of the prevalence of simoniacal practices, of a scandalous and widespread neglect of the canons enjoining clerical celibacy, and of a general subordination of the ecclesiastical order to secular influences, there is no room for doubt. These evils were at that time almost universal. In 1065, the year of St. Edward's death, things were no better in England than on the Continent of Europe. Probably they were rather worse. But the forces which were to purify and renovate the Church were already at work.
The monastic reform begun in the tenth century at Cluny had spread to many religious houses of France and among other places had been cordially taken up in the Norman Abbey of Fécamp, and later at Bec. On the other hand this same ascetical discipline had done much to form the character both of Brun, Bishop of Toul, who in 1049 became pope, and is known as St. Leo IX, and of Hildebrand his chief counsellor, afterwards still more famous as St. Gregory VII . Under the auspices of these two popes a new era dawned for the Church. Effective action was at last taken to restrain clerical incontinence and avarice, while a great struggle began to rescue the bishops from the imminent danger of becoming mere feudatories to the emperor and other secular princes.
William the Conqueror had established intimate relations with the Holy See. He came to England armed with the direct authorization of a papal Bull, and his expedition, in the eyes of many earnest men, and probably even his own, was identified with the cause of ecclesiastical reform. The behaviour of Normans and Saxons on the night preceding the battle of Hastings, when the former prayed and prepared for Communion while the latter caroused, was in a measure significant of the spirit of the two parties. Taken as a whole, the Conqueror's dealings with the English Church were worthy of a great mission. All the best elements in the Saxon hierarchy he retained and supported. St. Wulstan was confirmed in the possession of the See of Worcester. Leofric of Exeter and Siward of Rochester, both Englishmen, as well as some half-dozen prelates of foreign birth who had been appointed in Edward's reign, were not interfered with. On the other hand, Stigand, the intriguing Archbishop of Canterbury, and one or two other bishops, probably his supporters, were deposed. But in this there was no indecent haste. It was done at the great Council of Winchester ( Easter, 1070), at which three papal legates were present. Shortly afterwards the vacant sees were filled up, and, in procuring Lanfranc for Canterbury and Thomas of Bayeux for York, William gave to his new kingdom the very best prelates that were then available.
The results were undoubtedly beneficial to the Church. The king himself directly enjoined the separation of the civil and ecclesiastical courts, for these jurisdictions in the old shiremoots and hundredmoots had hardly been distinguished. It was probably partly as a consequence of this division that ecclesiastical synods now began to be held regularly by Lanfranc, with no small profit to discipline and piety. Strong legislation was adopted (e.g. at Winchester in 1176) to secure celibacy among the clergy , though not without some temporary mitigation for the old rural priests, a mitigation which proves perhaps better than anything else that in the existing generation a sudden and complete reform seemed hopeless. Further, several episcopal sees were removed from what were then mere villages to more populous centres. Thus bishops were transferred from Sherborne to Salisbury, from Selsey to Chichester, from Lichfield to Chester, and not many years after from Dorchester to Lincoln, and from Thetford to Norwich. These and the like changes, and, not perhaps least of all, the drafting of Lanfranc's new constitutions for the Christ Church monks, were all significant of the improvement introduced by the new ecclesiastical regime.
With regard to Rome, the Conqueror seems never to have been wanting in respect for the Holy See, and nothing like a breach with the pope ever took place during his lifetime. The two archbishops went to Rome in 1071 to receive their pallia, and when (c. 1078) a demand was made through the papal legate, Hubert, for the payment of arrears of Peter's-pence, the claim was admitted, and the contribution was duly sent.
Gregory, however, seems at the same time to have called upon the King of England to do homage for his kingdom, regarding the payment of Romescot as an acknowledgment of vassalage, as in some cases, e.g. that of the Normans in Apulia (See Jensen, "Der englische Peterspfennig", p. 37), it undoubtedly was. But on this point William's reply was clear. "One claim [ Peter's-pence ] I admit," he wrote, "the other I do not admit. To do fealty I have not been willing in the past, nor am I willing now, inasmuch as I have never promised it, nor do I discover that my predecessors ever did it to your predecessors." It is plain that all this had nothing whatever to do with the recognition of the pope's spiritual supremacy, and in fact the king says in the concluding sentence of the letter: " Pray for us and for the good estate of our realm, for we have loved your predecessors and desire to love you sincerely and to hear you obediently before all" (et vos præ omnibus sincere diligere et obedienter audire desideramus).
Possibly the incident led to some slight coolness, reflected, for example, in the rather negative attitude of Lanfranc towards the antipope Wibert at a later date (see Liebermann in "Eng. Hist. Rev.", 1901, p. 328), but it is also likely that William and his archbishop were only careful not to get entangled in the strife between Gregory and the Emperor Henry IV. In any case, the more strictly ecclesiastical policy of the great pontiff was cordially furthered by them, so that St. Gregory, writing to Hugh, Bishop of Die, remarked that although the King of England does not bear himself in all things as religiously as might be wished, still, inasmuch as he does not destroy or sell the churches, rules peaceably and justly, refuses to enter into alliance with the enemies of the Cross of Christ (the partisans of Henry IV ), and has compelled the priests to give up their wives and laymen to pay arrears of tithe, he has proved himself worthy of special consideration. As has been recently pointed out by an impartial authority (Davis, "England under Normans and Angevins", p. 54) "Lanfranc's correspondence and career prove that he and his master conceded important powers to the Pope not only in matters of conscience and faith but also in administrative questions. They admitted for example the necessity of obtaining the pallium for an archbishop and the Pope's power to invalidate episcopal elections. They were scrupulous in obtaining the Pope's consent when the deposition or resignation of a bishop was in question and they submitted the time-honoured quarrel of York and Canterbury to his decision."
No doubt a strong centralized government was then specially needed in Church as well as State, and we need not too readily condemn Lanfranc as guilty of personal ambition because he insisted on the primacy of his own see and exacted a profession of obedience from the Archbishop of York. The recent attempt that has been made to fasten a charge of forgery upon Lanfranc in connection with this incident (see Boehmer, "Falschungen Erzbischof Lanfranks") breaks down at the point where the personal responsibility of the great archbishop is involved. Undoubtedly many of the documents upon which Canterbury's claims to supremacy was based were forgeries, and forgeries of that precise period, but there is no proof that Lanfranc was the forger or that he acted otherwise than in good faith (see Walter in "Götting gelehrte Anzeigen", 1905, 582; and Saltet in "Revue des Sciences Ecclés.", 1907, p. 423).
Well was it for England that William and Lanfranc, without any violent overthrow of the existing order of things, either in Church or State, had nevertheless introduced systematic reforms and had provided the country with good bishops. A struggle was now at hand which ecclesiastically speaking was probably more momentous than any other event in history down to the time of the Reformation. The struggle is known as that about Investitures, and we may note that it had already been going on in Central Europe for some years before the question, through the action of William II and Henry I, sons of the Conqueror, reached an acute phase in England. Down to the eleventh century it may be said that, though the election of bishops always supposed the free choice, or at least the acceptance, of their flocks, the procedure was very variable. In these earlier ages bishops were normally chosen by an assembly of the clergy and people, the neighbouring bishops and the king or civil magnates exercising more or less of influence in the selection of a suitable candidate (see Imbart de la Tour, "Les élections épiscopales"). But from the seventh and eighth century onwards it became increasingly common for the local Churches to find themselves in some measure of bondage. From the ancient principle of "no land without a lord" it was easy to pass to that of "no church without a lord", an whether the bishopric was situated upon the royal domain or within the sphere of influence of one of the great feudatories, men came to regard each episcopal see as a mere fief which the lord was free to bestow upon whom he would, and for which he duly exacted homage. This development was no doubt much helped by the fact that as the parochial system grew up, it was the oratory of the local magnate which in rural districts became the parish church, and it was his private chaplain who was transformed into the parish priest. Thus the great landowner became the patronus ecclesi , claiming the right to present for ordination any cleric of his own choice. Now the relation of a sovereign towards his bishops came in time to be regarded as precisely analogous. The king was held to be the lord of the lands from which the bishop derived his revenues. Instead of the possession of these lands being regarded as the apanage of the spiritual office, the acceptance of episcopal consecration was looked upon as the special condition or service upon which these lands were held from the king. Thus the temporal sovereign claimed to make the bishop, and, to show that he did so, he "invested" the new spiritual vassal with his fief by presenting to him the episcopal ring and crosier. The episcopal consecration was a subordinate matter which the king's nominee was left to arrange for himself with his metropolitan and the neighbouring bishops. Now, as long as the supreme authority was wielded by religiously-minded men, princes who took thought for the spiritual well being of their kingdoms, no great harm necessarily resulted from this perversion of right order. But when, as too often happened during the iron age, the monarch was godless and unprincipled, he either kept the see vacant, in order to enjoy the revenues, or else sold the office to the highest bidder. It must be obvious that such a system, if allowed to develop unchecked could only lead in the course of a few generations to the utter demoralization of the Church. When the bishops, the shepherds of the flock, were themselves licentious and corrupt, it would have been a moral miracle if the rank and file of the clergy had not degenerated in an equal or even greater degree. Upon the bishop depended ultimately the admission of candidates to ordination and he also was ultimately responsible for their education and for the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline.
Now the fact cannot he disputed that in the tenth century a very terrible laxity had come to prevail almost everywhere throughout Western Christendom. The great monastic reform of Cluny and many individual saints like Ulric, at Augsburg, and Dunstan and Æthelwold, in England, did much to stem the tide, but the times were very evil. Worldly minded men, often morally corrupt, were promoted by sovereigns and territorial magnates to some of the most important sees of the Church, many of them obtaining that promotion by the payment of money or by simoniacal compacts. The lower clergy as a rule were grossly ignorant and in many cases unchaste, but under such bishops they enjoyed almost complete immunity from punishment. No doubt the corruptions of the age have been exaggerated by writers of the stamp of H. C. Lea, Michelet, and Gregorovius, but nothing could more conclusively prove the gravity of the evil than the fact that for two centuries the Church had to struggle with the abuse by which benefices threatened to become hereditary, descending from the priest to his children. Happily help was at hand. Many individual reformers strove to introduce higher religious ideals and met with partial success, but it was the merit of the great pontiff, St. Gregory VII, to go straight to the root of the evil. It was useless to fulminate decrees against the concubinage of priests and against their neglect of their spiritual functions if the great feudal lords could still nominate unworthy bishops, bestowing investiture by ring and crosier and enforcing their consecration at the hands of other bishops as unworthy as the candidates. Gregory saw that no permanent good could be effected until this system of lay investitures was utterly overthrown. Those who have accused Gregory of insufferable arrogance, of a desire to exalt without measure the spiritual authority of the Church and to humble all secular rulers to the dust, make little allowance for the gravity of the evils he was combating and for the desperate nature of the struggle. When feudalism seemed on the point of so completely swallowing up all ecclesiastical organization, it was pardonable that St. Gregory should have believed that the remedy lay not in any compromise or balance of power, but in the unqualified acceptance of the principle that the Church was above the State. If, on the one hand, he considered that it was the function of the Vicar of Christ to direct and, if need be, chastise the princes of the earth, it is also clear from the history of his life that he designed to use that power impartially and well.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
In England the struggle over investitures developed somewhat later than on the Continent. If, in the matter of the election of bishops, Gregory VII forbore to press the claims of the Church to extremities under such a ruler as William the Conqueror , this was surely not to be attributed to pusillanimity. The pope's forbearance was due quite as much to the fact that he was satisfied that the king made good appointments, as to the circumstance that his own energies were for the time absorbed in the greater struggle with the emperor. Even under the rule of William Rufus no great abuses declared themselves before the death of Lanfranc (1089). It is very noteworthy that William of St. Calais, Bishop of Durham, in 1088, having been accused of treason before the King's Court, questioned the competence of the Court and appealed to the pope. Practically speaking, his appeal was allowed, and he was granted a safe-conduct out of the kingdom, though only after the surrender of his fief. This was virtually an admission that a bishop held only the temporalities of his see from the crown, and that as a spiritual person he was free to challenge the decision of any national tribunal. Such an incident can with difficulty be reconciled with those theories of the independence of the English Church which commonly prevail among modern Anglicans.
With the death of Lanfranc, however, all that was evil in the nature of William Rufus seems to have come to the surface. Under the influence of the man who was his evil genius, Ralph Flambard, a cleric whom he eventually made Bishop of Durham, the king during nearly the whole of his reign set himself to undo the good effected by his father and Lanfranc. In the words of the chronicler, " God's Church was brought very low". Whenever a bishop or abbot died, one of the king's clerks was sent to take possession of all the rents for the use of the crown, leaving but a bare pittance to the monks or canons. The prelacies whose revenues were thus confiscated were long kept vacant, and no new appointment was made except upon payment of a large sum of money by way of a "relief". For the credit of one or two really good men like Ralph Luffa and Herbert Losinga, who during these bad times became respectively Bishops of Chichester and Norwich (the latter paying a thousand pounds for his nomination ), it should be pointed out that a certain pretext of feudal custom lent a decent veil to the simony involved in these transactions. The obsolete doctrine that a fief was a precarious estate, and granted only for a lifetime, was revived by Flambard, and, as a corollary, large sums of money, as "reliefs" (from relevare , "to take up again"), were demanded, when any fief, lay or spiritual, was conceded to a new possessor. But bishops and abbots were made to pay proportionately more than earls or barons, and a relief was exacted in some cases even from all the subordinate tenants of episcopal sees the moment the estate came into the king's hands (see Round, "Feudal England ", p. 309). All this only illustrates further the evils inherent in the system of regarding a spiritual office as a fief held from the king. In the case of the metropolitan See of Canterbury, no successor was appointed until four years after Lanfranc's death. Even then William Rufus only yielded to the solicitations made to him because he had fallen grievously ill and was lying at the point of death. Most providentially, this illness coincided with the presence in England of Anselm, Abbot of Bec, whom all men regarded as marked out for the primacy alike by his learning and his holiness of life. The king summoned Anselm to his bedside, and the latter extorted a solemn promise of radical reform in the administration of both Church and State . Shortly afterwards, in spite of all his protests, Anselm himself was invested, literally by force, with the insignia of the primacy, and he was consecrated archbishop before the end of the year. But though the saint's firmness secured the restoration of all the possessions which belonged to the See of Canterbury at the time of Lanfranc's death, the king soon returned to his evil ways. In particular he still clung to the theory that by accepting investiture Anselm had become his liege man ( ligeus homo ), liable to all the incidents of vassalage. When an aid was demanded for the war in Normandy, Anselm at first refused. Then, not wantonly to provoke a conflict, he offered 500 marks; but when this sum was rejected as insufficient, he distributed the money to the poor. Early in 1095 the archbishop asked permission to go to the pope to receive the pallium. Rufus objected that, while the antipope Clement III was still disputing the title, it was for him and his Great Council to decide which pope should be recognized. When asked to recognize the jurisdiction of this council, Anselm replied: "In the things that are God's I will tender obedience to the Vicar of St. Peter; in things touching the earthly dignity of my lord the King I will to the best of my ability give him faithful counsel and help." The other bishops seem to have been cowed by Rufus and to have supported the king's claim to decide which of the rival popes he should recognize. But Anselm refused in any way to surrender the allegiance which, when Abbot of Bec, he had sworn to Urban. He recognized no right of king or bishops to interfere, and he declared he would give his answer "as he ought and where he ought". These words, writes Dean Stephens (History of The English Church, II, 99), were understood to mean, that, as Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm "refused to be judged by any one save the pope himself, a doctrine which it seems no one was prepared to deny". Through the saint's firmness Urban was recognized, and the pallium brought from him to England ; but a little later Anselm again asked leave to go to Rome, and when it was refused he declared in the plainest terms that he must go without leave, for God was to be obeyed rather than man. Pope Urban received him with all possible respect, and publicly spoke of him as "alterius orbis papa", a phrase much quoted by Anglicans, as though it implied the recognition in the Archbishop of Canterbury of a jurisdiction independent of Rome.
But the whole lesson of Anselm's life centred in his belief that it lay with the pope to decide what course was to be followed in matters affecting the Church even at the risk of the king's displeasure, and despite any pretended national customs. Neither does it appear that the rest of the English bishops maintained the contrary as a matter of principle, though they considered that Anselm's attitude was needlessly provocative and uncompromising. There are not wanting signs that Eadmer's desire to exalt his own beloved master has led him to be somewhat less than just to Anselm's suffragans and to the Holy See itself. The archbishop remained in exile until after the death of Rufus, when Henry, who succeeded, made generous promises of freedom to the Church, explicitly renouncing any sort of payment or relief for the appointment of new bishops or abbots, and promising that church revenues should not be seized during vacancies. He recalled Anselm to England, but came into conflict with him almost immediately over the same old question of investitures. At the Councils of Bari (1098) and Rome (1099), at which the saint had personally assisted, anathema had been pronounced on those bishops or abbots who received investiture at the hands of laymen. Anselm accordingly refused either to do homage himself for the restitution of the possessions of the archbishopric or to consecrate other bishops who had received ring and crosier from the king. Eventually, by the consent of both parties, the matter was referred to Rome. In three different embassies that were sent, the pope upheld Anselm's view, despite the efforts made by Henry's envoys to extort some concession. Then Anselm himself went to Rome (1103) while a fresh set of royal emissaries were dispatched to work against him at the Curia. Nothing was settled, for Henry still held out, and Anselm accordingly remained abroad. But at last, when Anselm was on the point of launching an excommunication against the king, the latter, being in political straits, accepted such modified terms as his envoys could obtain from the Holy See . Anselm was allowed to consecrate those who had previously received investiture, but the king at a great council (1107) renounced for the future the claim to invest bishop or abbot by ring and crosier. On the other hand it was tacitly admitted that bishops might do homage to the king for the temporal possessions of their sees. This settlement of the investiture question in England was fifteen years earlier than that arrived at on very similar lines between Pope Callistus II and the Emperor Henry V. The importance of the struggle can hardly be exaggerated, for, as already pointed out, the whole ecclesiastical order was in danger of being reduced to the status of vassals sharing all the vices of secular princes. Moreover this resolute stand made by St. Anselm and the popes was not without its political importance. The clergy as a body had now become sufficiently independent to take a leading part in that resistance to despotism to which the people during the next two centuries were to owe their most fundamental liberties. During all this time England as a whole was in no wise in sympathy with the monarch in his quarrel with the pope. As Dr. Gairdner writes of a later period, "It was a contest not of the English people, but of the King and his government with Rome. . . . As regards national feeling, the people evidently regarded the cause of the Church as the cause of liberty" (Lollards and the Reformation, I, 6). Nothing contributed so much to win the confidence of the nation as the independence shown by the Church in such struggles as those that are associated with the names of St. Anselm, St. Thomas Becket , and Cardinal Stephen Langton.
St. Anselm died peacefully at Canterbury in 1109, but Henry I lived on until 1135. During the remainder of Henry's reign and throughout the anarchy which prevailed under the rule of Stephen (1135-1154), good bishops were for the most part elected. The chapters were ostensibly left free in their choice, though they no doubt responded in some measure to the known preferences of the king. In any case simoniacal compacts are no longer heard of, while the Holy See had generally much to say to the final acceptance of the archbishops and of the more important prelates. A certain impatience of dictation from Rome, shown, for example, in occasional unwillingness to receive a legate or to allow appeals to the pope, may be noted at this as at other periods, but the principle of papal authority was never disputed. For example, the pallium, "taken from the body of Blessed Peter", a symbol of archiepiscopal jurisdiction which still appears in the arms of the English Sees of Canterbury and York, was personally fetched from Rome or at least petitioned for by every archbishop, as it had been in the Anglo-Saxon Church from the very beginning. In cases when the pall was brought to England instead of being conferred at the papal court, archbishops like St. Anselm and Ralph d'Escures went to meet it bare foot. To legates of the Holy See, notwithstanding the fact that their presence was not always desired, extreme deference was shown. Even a mere priest like Cardinal John of Crema, when he came to the country as papal legate , took precedence of the two archbishops in the Council of Westminster (1125). More over, when protests were made against the sending of legates, it was not so much that the presence of a papal representative in England was resented, as because men believed that such legatine powers, by old tradition, ought to be conferred on the Archbishop of Canterbury, as had been done, for example, in the case of Tatwine, Plegmund, and Dunstan. As Eadmer reports (Historia Novorum, p. 58), "Inauditum scilicet in Britanniâ . . ., quemlibet hominem supra se vices apostolicas gerere nisi solum archiepiscopum Cantuariæ" (It was surely an unheard-of thing in Britain . . . that any man should bear the Apostolic delegation over him except only the Archbishop of Canterbury ). In the spirit of this protest Archbishop William de Corbeil almost immediately after Crema's departure eagerly sought the office of legate for himself, and from that time, though Henry, Bishop of Winchester, was made legate by Innocent II in 1129, the Archbishop of Canterbury was usually constituted legatus natus (native, or ordinary, legate ), a term used in contradistinction to the legatus a latere dispatched on extraordinary occasions "from the side" of the sovereign pontiff in Rome. But in any case the significance of the ordinary legatine appointment, first associated with the person of William de Corbeil (d. 1136), is unmistakable. It was, as Dean Stephens truly observes, "an acknowledgment of the supreme authority of the Pope. The primate shone with a reflected glory, his preeminence was not inherent but derivative" (Hist. of the Eng. Church, II, 142).
Evil as were the times during the first half of the twelfth century the English Church was by no means lacking in vivifying influences. This was the period of the chief development in England of the Cluniac Order (see CLUNY, CONGREGATION OF), a great Benedictine reform already alluded to, of which the first English house, that of Lewes, had been established by William de Warrenne and Gundrada his wife c. 1077. But the priory of Lewes later on became the mother of several other Cluniac priories, of which the best known are those of Wenlock, Thetford, Bermondsey, and Pontefract. Still more intimately associated with England was the Cistercian Order, another Benedictine reform of which the virtual founder was a Somersetshire man, St. Stephen Harding . His fame has been eclipsed by the glory of St. Bernard, the last of the Fathers and the founder of the Abbey of Clairvaux, but it was Stephen who received St. Bernard and his comrades at Cîteaux in 1113, and who gave them the white habit prescribed by the Cistercian rule. The first abbey of the order in England was that of Waverley in Surrey (1128), which itself became the mother of several other foundations. But Waverley was eclipsed by the Yorkshire Abbey of Rivaulx established (c. 1133) by monks sent directly from Clairvaux by St. Bernard. Among the earliest recruits of Rivaulx was St. Ælred, perhaps the most eloquent of pre-Reformation English preachers. The foundations of the white monks throve and multiplied exceedingly. By the year 1152 there were fifty Cistercian houses in England (Cooke in "Eng. Hist. Rev.", Oct., 1893), of which the best known are Fountains, Tintern, and Meaux. Unfortunately, this rapid development seems to have been followed before long by some relaxation of primitive austerity and fervour, but the movement while it lasted must have contributed greatly to the diffusion of more spiritual ideals and to the correction of the manifold moral evils of the times. The Carthusian rule, the most austere of all, was not introduced into England until somewhat later -- the first house, that of Witham in Somerset, was founded by Henry II in 1180, one of the indirect results of the martyrdom of St. Thomas. Probably the extreme rigour of the life prevented the Carthusian foundations from ever becoming numerous. But the Charterhouse at Witham gave to England one of her greatest and holiest bishops, St. Hugh of Lincoln (d. 1200), and the Charterhouse of London at a later date played a noble part in the resistance it offered to the first stages of Henry VIII's revolt from Rome.
The houses of the Austin Canons, or "Black Canons", were more numerous and of earlier date than those of the Carthusians. Their first foundation was that of Colchester, in 1105, and they possessed two great establishments in London : St. Bartholomew's Smithfield, and St. Saviour's Southwark. At Carlisle they formed the cathedral chapter, the only exception to the rule that all the cathedrals which were not served by Benedictines were in the hands of secular canons. And here we may conveniently notice the fact that, owing, probably, to the initial impulse of St. Dunstan and the monastic sympathies of Lanfranc, who virtually reorganized the English Church after the Conquest, England stood almost alone among the nations of Europe in the number of her cathedrals that were served by monks. Canterbury, Durham, Winchester, Rochester, Worcester, Norwich, Ely, Coventry, and Bath all had Benedictine chapters. If this arrangement led to some gain in point of piety, there was also a proportionate disadvantage in the additional friction that was likely to result when it came to the election by religious of successors to the see. The Benedictines, the "Black Monks", were of course always the most numerous monastic body in England, and, while they had been firmly established in the country from the very beginning, there was at all times a pretty steady increase in the number of abbeys and cells which belonged to them. Bound specially by their rule to show hospitality to strangers, and being for the most part good farmers and good landlords, they formed a great element of stability and peace throughout the country, helping to bind district with district through their relations with their dependent cells and with one another. They were also the great centres of learning, more particularly in the collection and multiplication of books, and they were not only patrons of art but they provided in many cases the nearest approach to schools for architecture, painting, sculpture, embroidery, and other useful works. If their revenues were vast, so, it must be also remembered, were their charities. Neither would it be easy to imagine a more worthy object upon which to expend the superfluous wealth of the country than in the erecting of those magnificent abbeys and churches which the monastic builders left to posterity. Speaking of the religious orders generally, it may be said that no more misplaced charge was ever made than that which describes their members as idle and useless. Of all the sections of the community they almost alone in that day were profitably busy. The industrious man-at-arms, the industrious lawyer, the industrious forester, huntsman, or jongleur were too often only a scourge to the land in which they lived. For this reason we conceive that a quite unnecessary outcry has been raised by a number of Anglican writers against a practice which undoubtedly became very prevalent in the twelfth century, namely that of making over -- technically called "impropriating" -- to religious houses the tithes or other sources of revenue of the parish churches. By this arrangement the monastery so benefited received nearly all the funds properly belonging to the parish, but supplied for the religious needs of the parishioners, either by deputing one of the monks to act as parish priest or by paying a small stipend to some secular vicar. No doubt this practice was open to abuse, and various synodal decrees were passed to keep it under control accordingly. Thus as early as 1102 the Council of Westminster laid down the principle that monasteries were not to impropriate churches without the consent of the bishop, and required that churches should not be stripped so bare of revenue as to reduce the priests who served them to penury. Later synodal legislation insisted that "perpetual vicars " should be appointed (i.e. priests who would not be liable to removal, and who would consequently have a permanent interest in their cure), and that "competent stipends ", for which a minimum amount was determined, should be paid them for their services. Where, however, these and similar precautions were observed it is certain that many of the wisest and holiest of the English prelates regarded the impropriations of churches to religious communities with no disfavour. St. Hugh of Lincoln made many such grants (see Thurston, "Life of St. Hugh ", p. 463), and it seems indisputable that in the then condition of the secular clergy, who were far, as yet, from having recovered completely from the state of ignorance and demoralization into which they had fallen in the preceding century, the churches for which some monastic community made themselves responsible were likely to be spiritually better cared for than those livings to which the crown or some secular magnate presented at will. Strange to say, it is precisely those writers who declaim against the degradation of the medieval clergy, and against their general neglect of the canons enjoining celibacy, who also are loudest in denunciation of the scandal that monks should enjoy the revenues intended for the parish priests. -- Can it be supposed that the possession of larger incomes would have tended to make the secular clergy more zealous or more continent? -- That there were two sides to the question has, however, been recognized by more thoughtful Anglicans and one such writer, for example, remarks with point: "The secular priests living in solitude on a remote country benefice had more temptations to sink into ignorance and indolence, if not vice, than the member of a brotherhood, who was responsible to it for the discharge of his trust, and might from time to time be refreshed by a visit to the monastic house, or by visitors from it." (Stephens, Hist. Eng. Church, II, 272.)
With the accession of Henry II, in 1154, England, after years of strife, once more passed into the hands of a strong and capable ruler. Without being a whit less selfish or more patriotic than other princes of that age, Henry had the sense to see that good government meant stable government. His legal reforms and the new machinery of justice which he brought into being are of the highest possible importance to the jurist and to the student of constitutional history, but they do not specially concern us here. Henry at the beginning of his reign seems to have been well viewed in Rome, and believing, as the present writer does, that the Bull "Laudabiliter" is unquestionably genuine (see ADRIAN IV , and cf. "The Month", May and June, 1906), the religious mission entrusted to the king, no doubt upon his own representations, in the proposed conquest of Ireland, bears a close resemblance to the pretext advanced for William the Conqueror's invasion of Great Britain. In both cases, also, the Roman pontiff seems to have claimed dominion, granting the land to the invader as a fief upon payment of a certain tribute. The fact, that, according to the Bull
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- Hail Mary
- The Our Father
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Infant Jesus of Prague Novena Prayer
- The Apostles' Creed
- A Guide for Confession
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.