Catholic London

Mulier Fortis blogs about her walk around Catholic London recently, while Fr Newman discusses liturgy at two of London’s finest churches: Westminster Cathedral and the Brompton Oratory.

Is this how you start a meme? Here are my top five places in Catholic England:

1. The Shrine of St Etheldreda in Ely
2. Westminster Cathedral
3. Quarr Abbey
4. Downside Abbey
5. Newman’s Room at Birmingham Oratory

The only rule is the place has to be Catholic. You can have ruins, but nothing that was knicked by the Anglicans.

I tag the Roving Medievalist, Mulier Fortis, Joee Bloggs, and the Owl of the Remove.

UPDATE: Fr Tim mentions a petition to Downing Street asking for an apology for the dissolution of the monasteries. Instead of that shouldn’t we actually ask for them to be re-built as they were, the return of all presently held lands, property, churches and cathedrals, the return of all medieval plate, vestments and manuscripts held in British libraries, and repayment of all the riches taken from the parish churches with interest over 500 years? While we’re at it, could we have the Oxford and Cambridge colleges too?

  • the dúnadan

    I went white at the call for the return of all the old Catholic property, but I like the idea of repayment with interest! £££ and lots of. All the better for freeing lots of holy souls in Purgatory.

  • Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    Live round the corner from The Birmingham Oratory…saw you there giving an appeal for the Barnabas society i think…God blessDon’t you just miss your council house in england?Only joking!God bless

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    There are a few things I miss about England. Walks in the country (you have to drive everywhere here)a decent pub, Oxford and my mother in law.

  • Mac McLernon

    Do the places have to be in England?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Mac: yes. Catholic England

  • Anonymous

    My paternal grandmother, a Catholic Englishwoman, when visiting a cathedral, would mutter under her breath, “Stolen property!”I don’t know any Catholic sites in England…pity. Isn’t there a statue of St Thomas More in London somewhere? Any shrines to the English martyrs?Ladyewell, in Preston (Lancs.)–just saw a program on it on EWTN. Lots of relics.OK Dwight, you are hereby commissioned to put together the tour of “Catholic England–History and Shrines” pilgrimage!If you want a literature angle incorporated, involve Joseph Pearce.kentuckyliz

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Joseph Pearce and Father Fessio do an English tour every summer from Ave Maria University. They’ve already cornered the market…

  • Stephen Wikner

    Hang on a minute, when I last looked, St Etheldreda’s shrine (or at least the memorialised site thereof) was in Ely Cathedral. Are you referring to the reliquary in St Etheldreda’s RC Church or, having lived in Ely for six years, have I missed something? I’m intrigued.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The site of the ancient shrine of St Etheldreda is indeed in Ely Cathedral. Without relics and without pilgrims it is simply the site of the shrine. The present day shrine is in the Catholic Church of St Etheldreda in Ely where (as you know) there is an image to the saint as well as the her remaining relic. The Catholic shrine is the one on my list.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Mischief managed. Five unexpected gems.

  • Stephen Wikner

    Interesting (re St Etheldreda).However there are indeed images of the Saint in Ely Cathedral including a statue. To judge from the number a candles lit in front of this statue I wouldn’t be too quick to say there are no pilgrims. Furthermore the Cathedral celebrates both of her feast days – as is only right and proper – with considerable pomp. Of this much I am certain — but less certain of what follows. In other words I would happily stand corrected by those better informed than I.First, I am not aware that the relic in St Etheldreda’s Church is promoted as a shrine. I’m under the impression that the church, like many these days, is closed for most of the week and that as a result any of the many visitors to the Cathedral who take the trouble to locate the little church in Egremont Street are going to be sadly disappointed.I am not trying to make an anti-Catholic point here. However here is a situation in which, because of the widely regretted processes of history, it has fallen to the Church of England to maintain the honour of and devotion to one of England’s important saints. One could say the same of St Alban in his eponymous city and St Edward at Westminster, to name but two others that readily come to mind. The finest example however is the much-visited Anglican shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.And while on the subject of the Roman Church in Ely, I’d just like to record that when Pope John Paul died not only was a special vigil held in the Cathedral but the (Anglican)Bishop, Dean and many others from the Cathedral attended a mass for the intention of the Late Holy Father. And such courtesies are frequently reciprocated by the Parish Priest and his Bishop.So fellow commentators, I suggest you put away your somewhat outmoded triumphalism. Christians on the ground hereabouts are quietly getting on with one another in a spirit of mutual respect which is fully cognisant of our shared heritage and the honour due to our common foundress.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Stephen, cordial ecumenical relations are all well and good, and I am glad that Catholics and Anglicans are friendly in Ely.But I, for one, am still exercised about what happened to the Catholic Church in England in the sixteenth century. I know the Anglican version is that the Catholic church was simply ‘reformed’, and that she continues still–’Catholic but reformed’ as the Church of England.You will understand that this sanitized version of English Church history is not one that Catholics subscribe to–no matter how polite the relationship may be.Catholics see the events of the sixteenth century rather differently. They see an ancient church that was healthy and thriving taken over by a rapacious king with a revolutionary religious agenda. They see that their monasteries were destroyed, the old religion proscribed, their lands and property confiscated, their clergy and religious evicted and pensioned off, their churches forcefully stripped bare and their wealth appropriated by the crown. After that they see three hundred years of institutionalized persecution by a ruthless secular government propped up by a pretender church.We are all happy that Anglicans and Catholics are friendly toward one another, and while we view Anglicans as ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’, you mustn’t imagine that even the most cordial Catholic actually buys into the Anglican view that Anglicanism is the ‘reformed Catholic Church in England.’ This is not triumphalism, but the sad truth. I don’t pretend to know the way forward, but I suggest that Anglicans might start by having a series of public acts of repentance for what happened in the sixteenth century. This would be a gracious response to the public act of repenetance led by Pope JP2 on Ash Wednesday on the year 2000 when he led the CAtholic Churhc to repent for “sins against fellow Christians of the Reformation era.”Perhaps this has already happened, and I missed it. If so, wonderful, if not, wouldn’t it be astounding if the Dean and Chapter of Ely Cathedral (for example) were to make such a public act? It might give their attendance at a funeral Mass for John Paul 2 a bit more substance.The Catholic response to this might be an acknowledgement of the deaths of the English Protestant martyrs with a suitable act of sorrow.

  • Stephen Wikner

    I’m a great admirer of the late Pope but one aspect of what he did I found at the time and still find bogus was his ‘apologies’ for past actions for which he bore no responsibility. He was and is of course not alone in this. Rowan Williams has been busy doing the same recently with regard to the slave trade. Such actions are hollow and utterly devoid of meaning. Of one’s own thoughts, actions and behaviour one can of course apologise, express remorse, contrition and purpose of amendment before asking for forgiveness. To go through the same process over thoughts, actions and behaviour that were never yours is to my mind meaningless. If my father beat my mother – he didn’t – is any purpose served by my apologising to her after his death? Of course not. What I can do is express my sorrow to her that it happened, tell her that it was an evil thing that was done to her and do all I possibly can to make good any lingering physical or psychological damage. I may be sad or angry at what happened but I cannot be remorseful because as a uniquely created human being I have a moral integrity which by definition I cannot inherit (or indeed bequeath).In the public sphere of course things are a little different not least because with time attitudes change. We take exception to an awful lot of what happened in times gone by. Feudalism, slavery, punitive mutilation, brutal corporal punishment, barbaric public executions of all kinds and many other forms of behaviour, actions and attitudes which were perfectly acceptable at various stages in the past are abhorrent to us now. We regret them, we change them and do everything in our power to ensure they never recur and then we move on. From the time of the Emperor Constantine Church and State (later Church and states) have been inextricably entwined. Even the most ecclesiastically sympathetic reading of European history will conclude that a great many of the Church’s actions were politically motivated. Every day I pass the tombs of bishops of Ely, cardinals of the Holy Roman Church and Lords Chancellor of England. Church and State were both mutually dependent and mutually antagonistic throughout the medieval period. Kings vied with popes (and vice versa) as, further down the ladder, prince bishops and abbots vied with their landed counterparts in the secular sphere. And I’m not just talking about England.What happened in England in the 1530s is, I think, these days pretty generally regretted on all sorts of grounds. However before we get too sentimental about the monasteries, it should be remembered that closure of these institutions and the sequestration of their properties by senior churchmen/statesmen had been going long before Henry VIII started to do so. Indeed such action has continued to be part of the history of continental Europe right up to modern times.As regards the slaughter of Catholics by Protestants and Protestants by Catholics where does one begin? These were brutal and intolerant times and frankly neither side comes out with much credit by today’s standards. And we do have to remember that for every Catholic or Protestant publicly butchered, probably 100 or more petty thieves or what today we would consider minor criminals suffered a similar fate.So where does that leave us today more than 400 years down the line? For a start, a great deal of what was Church land in the middle years of the 16th century even after Henry had finished his business is no longer Church land. However, I suspect that such a diminution in the size of the cake has been no greater in England than it has been in France, Germany or Italy. And then we have to consider who actually owns Church land these days? The notion that the Church Commissioners in Westminster are sitting on the title deeds of vast swathes of England simply is not the case. Take Ely Cathedral as an example I happen to know about at first hand. The dean and canons through the exercise of their decanal and canonical freeholds effectively ‘own’ the place until their retirement whereupon that freehold devolves on to others. What does that ‘ownership’ entail? Custodianship would be a better word but whichever you choose it means the same thing: the never ending headache of finding the means to keep the place standing, open and functioning as continuing place of Christian pilgrimage and worship. In such a context, the notion of ‘handing back’ such a building to another ecclesial body with many of the same organisational and financial problems as the dear old C of E really doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is in any event not going to happen.What on the other hand might happen and is indeed already happening in some places is that Christians working together at a local level as I suggested in my previous comment, might agree to share a building which is part of their common heritage. I would go one stage further and suggest that this may at some future not too distant date be the only financially and operationally viable way of keeping such churches going.

  • Stephen Wikner

    PS The Church of England already formally celebrates all the English Saints and Martyrs of the Reformation Era on 4 May. There is also litugical provision for Ss Thomas More & John Fisher on 6 July.

  • Fr Jay Scott Newman

    Anyone who has ever taken the official tour of Canterbury Cathedral has witnessed the deliberate falsification of history: At the cathedral,the docent explains with great pride that all of the Archbishops of Canterbury from Augustine to the present have yada yada yada…..An uninformed tourist could come away from Canterbury without realizing that anything unusual happened in the 16th century.Contrast this with the bronze tablets in Westminster Cathedral, London which list all of the Archbishops of Canterbury down to Reginald Pole and then comes a note explaining that England was in schism and that the hierarchy was suppressed until restored in 1850 when the primacy was transferred from Canterbury to Westminster and then the Archbishosp of Westminster are listed.Whatever else it is, the Church of England is not the Church of Augustine, Lanfranc, and Anselm, and Thomas Becket would find his heir in Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, not in Rowan Williams.Pointing this out is not impolite; rather, it is an obligation of charity.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Stephen, let’s be realistic. This was not just the closure of the odd monastic community that had reached the end of its lifespan.Not just the monasteries, but the whole medieval Catholic Church in England was plundered–raped and pillaged. The documentation is all there…from the great monasteries of Reading and Glastonbury, Rieveaulx and Fountains to the humblest parish church. From them all cartloads of booty were hauled off for the kings treaure rooms.Chalice, plate, vestments, hangings, manuscripts, libraries, rich adornments, bells, lands, buildings, properties, bequests, stipends, incomes, estates…all of it went to the King, his cronies and the newly established Church of England.The Church of England, the Royal family and the established families of England have been living off the fat ever since.We have both visited in the fine palaces of the Anglican cathedral clergy to know how they are still (literally) living in the fine medieval buildings of the Catholic Church. The canons of Ely (among others) live in splendid homes carved out of the former monastic buildings.As for JP2′s act of repentance. This was specifically not a public apology. Instead it was a spiritual act–taking responsibility for the sins of our ancestors and asking forgiveness on their behalf. This seems a perfectly logical thing to do considering the one-ness we have within the Body of Christ and the responsibility we share with and for one another. It helps to purify the collective memory.

  • Stephen Wikner

    Sad though it is to admit it, it’s clear we’re not going to reconcile the two views of a common history represented by these recent exchanges. However I do think Fr Jay should appreciate that presenting the line of archbishops of Canterbury as a continuum far from being, as he implies, a dishonest distortion of the facts, is a deeply felt reality that is understood by many in this country who are also well aware of what happened in the 16th century.However, as I say, we are not going to agree because the historical situation is a good deal more complicated than either side of this exchange so far has made out and the chances of coming up with a single reading of events satisfactory to both sides is fairly remote.Ironically what is more likely – in my view – is some form of present day rapprochement based on a the shared experience and realities of ordinary people who in various ways live the Christian life side by side with one another having set aside their historical divisions. After all if the people of South Africa and Northern Ireland can achieve the degree of social (and political) reconciliation they have, it really ought not to be beyond the wit of man to achieve something similar within Christendom. Indeed it would be a scandal not to say a negation of the central tenets of the Christian gospel if we do not. But of one thing I am certain and that is that such a result will not be achieved on the basis of any of us saying, I’m right and your wrong.

  • Stephen Wikner

    Oops! The last sentence should read ‘. . . I’m right and you’re wrong.’

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Dear Stephen, you are correct that we need present day reconciliation and future co operation, but this must be based on truth and an honest assessment of the past. I agree with Fr Scott that too many Anglicans (and the English in general) cling to a very whitewashed and rather smug view of the sixteenth century that amounts to official propaganda which is still promulgated actively today.Here’s another example: In Chester where another great monastery was despoiled the cathedral has a public relations board about the history of the place which treats the sixteenth century in one sentence which reads something like, “In the early sixteenth century the monastery was re-founded as the cathedral church of Chester.”The facts must be faced: religious ‘reform’ in England was a violent, bloodthirsty and rapacious revolution by which the Catholic faith was stripped bare. Present day rapprochment must be stark, honest and humble on both sides, and for our part, we too must admit to our share of violence.

  • Stephen Wikner

    Yup! I’ll go along with you on most of what you say in your latest. There is indeed too much of the santised Reformation still about. However, as Cathoics and Anglicans get to know one another better I do detect a greater willingness to be honest about what happened. Eamon Duffy’s ‘Stripping of the Altars’ has helped a lot and one can but hope there will be more such published material demonstrating a similar willingness to break myths – on both sides.I see so much that is hopeful. I see Taize; I see the Community of Jerusalem; I see the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of Jesus to name but a handful: all beavering away in their own particular ways to proclaim the gospel.At the end of June I will be re-joining the (Anglican) Benedictine community at Alton (for good this time – as you know, Benedict gives leavers three chances!). I’ve been drawn to the place for a whole host of reasons not least because in such an environment the Church of England can ‘get away with things’ that would undoubtedly cause problems elsewhere. And people continue to flock to the place, not (sadly) to join the community – that’s as seriously difficult as it has always been – but to participate in a range of other ways. The core community stands at only six (seven with me) but there are more than 80 Oblates and with a similar number of Companions and rather more ‘Friends’, the geater community numbers more than 250. And those who visit out of conviction or curiosity number many multiples of this figure.I love to go to mass of a Sunday morning at the (Anglican) parish church in Walsingham for the simple reason that I know the place will be full of people who are there out of the conviction of a firm faith. You know what a buzz that creates. The same is true at Alton.Incidentally, I enjoyed Fr Jay’s critique of the Brompton Oratory and Westminster Cathedral. I am always torn as to which to go to whenever I’m in London. Last time I resolved the question by going to St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place. (My daughter was running in the London Marathon and it was a convenient place from which to reach Tower Bridge.) But what a treat. The rite was novus ordo but it felt like 1962 without the Oratory’s theatricalities. Finito.