Sunday, 20 September 2015

More on Francis McCullagh - Catholic journalist of courage and integrity

                                        Mgr Konstantin Budkiewicz  (1867-1923)

I have been reading a very interesting book, ‘The Bolshevik Persecution of Christianity’ by Captain Francis McCullagh, published by John Murray, London, 1924. 
McCullagh (born 1874 in N.Ireland, died 1956 in New York), was a British Catholic journalist, who in the early days of the Revolution, had been imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, but subsequently escaped. He was an experienced war correspondent and a fluent Russian speaker, and early in 1923  he was commissioned by Frank Munsey, editor of the ‘New York Herald’ to travel to Russia  to obtain first -hand information on the relationship between the Bolshevik government and the Christian Churches; and this book  dedicated by McCullagh to Munsey, is the result.
                     Dedicated to Mr Frank Munsey
            Owner and Editor of the ‘New York Herald’
     who, by sending me as his correspondent to Russia,
               enabled me to obtain the facts set forth
                                 in this book.

‘I might add that no individual and no Government, and no religious, political, or other organization is behind this work, or has given any assistance towards it, or has even promised to buy a single copy.  It is published under nobody’s auspices or patronage; and both the author and the publisher could have devoted themselves to work which would be more profitable to them financially.    F.McCullagh.’   (London, September 14, 1923)

 McCullagh deals initially with the take-over and politicizing of the Russian Orthodox Church by the Bolshevik government. He then  follows this with a full account of  the State trial which opened on March 21, 1923, of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Achrida, John Cieplak; Monsignors Maletzky and Budkiewicz; Exarch Fedorov, head of the Uniat Church; eleven  priests and one Catholic layman, all charged with offences against the State; viz. refusal to hand-over church valuables- which included the Eucharistic vessels,  from churches and religious houses, to agents of the State;  also teaching  the Catholic faith to children and young people, both in church and in their homes.

The result of this travesty of a trial, held in the former ‘Club of the Nobility’ now the ‘House of the Red Labour Unions’ near Opera Square, Moscow, which lasted a mere five days from March 21 to March 25, 1923, was a finding of guilt for all the accused, with Archbishop Cieplak and Monsignor Budkiewicz sentenced to death, and varying terms of imprisonment for the remaining defendants, ranging from 10 years in solitary confinement, to 3 years; with the one lay defendant sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

Monsignor Budkiewicz was executed (murdered - shot in the head) in a cellar, during the night of 30/31 March, the night of Good Friday/Holy Saturday.  As a result of international outrage and condemnation of the trial, the death sentence on Archbishop Cieplak was commuted to one of 10 years imprisonment in solitary confinement.

 The author completes his work with an analysis of all the Christian Churches in Russia at that time, concluding with the destruction and virtual dissolution of the Russian Orthodox Church, which included the murder of 28 Bishops and 1200 priests, leaving the Catholic Church alone possessing the spiritual strength  to withstand and survive prolonged State persecution. 

The book is 400 pages long and contains a wealth of information, with a particularly full and detailed account of the Cieplak 'trial', in which I was struck by the similarities in many of the Bolshevik policies regarding the relationship of State and family, to those of our secular governments in  the West today. It seems incredible, but nevertheless logical, that Marxism would eventually synchronise with atheistic secularism, confirming McCullagh’s view that  Bolshevism and 'Big Business' are ‘natural’ allies.  

                                          Trotsky, Lenin, Kamenev. 5th May 1919.

Extracts from ‘The Bolshevik Persecution of Christianity’ by Francis McCullagh (1923)
‘The trial opened on Wednesday, March 21,1923, under the Bolshevik Judge Galkin.  The look of extreme hatred conveyed by Galkin towards the accused – ‘glances so charged with intense malignity that, if looks could kill, they would cause instant death.’ ‘The world wherein for the moment I found myself was animated by that same passionate intolerance which had led the Roman mob, the Roman officials, and even the Roman intellectuals of Trajan’s time to loathe the Christians with a fury so immeasurable as to embarrass and alarm even Caesar himself.’

 ‘If the Soviet government orders me to act against my conscience, I do not obey. As for teaching the catechism, the Catholic Church lays it down that children must be taught their religion, no matter what the law says. Conscience is above the law. No law which is against the conscience can bind’  (Exarch  Federov, head of the Uniat Church in Russia, defendant in the trial of Archbishop Cieplak and others, replying to government prosecutor, the Procurator Krylenko, March 22, 1923)

 ‘The worst feature of the Bolshevik persecution of Christianity is not the imprisonment and murder of priest and laymen, but the attack on family life. The new laws on marriage and on the education of children, which a Commission in the Department of Justice is now preparing, are deeply tainted by that most atrocious doctrine of radical Communism – namely, the doctrine that children belong absolutely to the State, and must be handed over to State institutions. Children who have not reached maturity (eighteen years) are regarded as belonging to no religion whatsoever, and the assertion of the parents that the child belongs to any particular Church has absolutely no force.’

 ‘The teaching of religious beliefs in State or private educational establishments and schools to children of tender age and to minors is punishable by forced labour for a period not exceeding one year’ – clause 121 of the new Criminal Code. (p53)

 ‘Moreover, apart from its frontal attack on the Church, the Soviet Government had trespassed on parental authority and on the home to an extent which no Christian prelate should have permitted without a public protest, which would have resounded throughout Europe and America  ........ I refer, among other matters, to the questionnaires on sexual questions which   are sent out by the Commissariat of Public Health. One such questionnaire was sent in the Spring of 1923, to all women and adolescent girls in Moscow, and these were required by law to fill it up. Most of the questions related to self-abuse and to unnatural vices, with which the compilers of the questionnaire had apparently no quarrel’

 ‘Catholicism is detested by autocratic rulers, which included the Tsars and the Bolsheviks. 

Writing in 1819, of the hostility of Alexander I to Rome, Joseph de Maistre says, “There is in the teaching of the Catholic Church, an hauteur, an assurance, an inflexibility which displease temporal rulers, who cannot believe that they are master, or sufficiently master, where there exists a power with which they cannot do as they please.   It never occurs to them that this pride and this independence are the natural and necessary characteristics of truth, so much so that where independence does not exist, truth does not exist. Truth is invincible, independent, and inflexible.It is said in the Gospels that the peoples who heard the preaching of the Saviour were astonished because He did not speak to them like their doctors, but as one having authority.The religion which has not this tone is human."

  'Big Business and Bolshevism are natural allies, and they are likely to come together sooner or later, for the oppression of the poor, and of those priests whose place is with the poor, as their Divine Master’s was.’

  ‘In their rank materialism, in their genuine contempt for such tenets of Christianity as they cannot utilize for political or financial purposes, in their efforts to relieve parents of the care of their children and children of the care of their parents, to interfere in the home, to put asunder those whom God has joined, to exclude religion from the schools, to reduce the workers to a state of servitude, ....to erect the State into a sort of divinity, some European governments outside of Russia are entering on the same path as that along which the Government of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (R.S.F.S.R) has already advanced’

‘On November 18, 1922, the ‘Anti-Religious Seminary’ was opened in Moscow. This seminary, which has a special anti-religious library, is intended for the careful training of ‘propagandists and agitators in religious questions’. It consists of practised propagandists from Moscow and the provinces, as well as of comrades who have only recently turned their attention to the question of anti-religious lectures.  All are, as I said before, under the experienced direction of old, anti-Christian orators, and of professors learned in natural science; and all are taught how to make their points to the best advantage from the platform and how, at the same time, to convey real information to their hearers.'

      At the Seminary, the Prospectus will be as follows:
1.    Faith and Knowledge.  2. Religion and Morals.  3. Origin and Growth of Religions.  4. History of Christianity.  5. Church and State. 6. The Reformation in the West and in Russia. 7. Natural History: a) The Universe, the Solar System, the Earth.;  b)Origin and Growth of Life; c)Origin of Man; d) Prehistoric Man. 8. Religion and Marxism.”   (Comrade Kucherin - writing in Izvestia, November 18, 1922)

NB. Unbelievably, the prospectus reads almost like that of a traditional Catholic seminary. If the reality was not so evil, it would almost be laughable!

                                        'Salvator Mundi' - (Saviour of the World)

 The events reported by Francis McCullagh occurred nearly 100 years ago, yet although we may  no longer consider Russia as ruled by a tyrannical government, Communist totalitarianism certainly lurks beneath the surface. China and North Korea, particularly the latter, are under the iron rule of merciless Communist regimes, totally anti-Christian, where the rule of law is as bad, if not worse, than that of Bolshevik Russia. Communism is not the only threat to our Christian civilisation, consider  those countries suffering deadly persecution by Islamic extremists throughout the Middle-East, Africa, and Asia; also the growing threat from rampant materialism and ever more powerful capitalism. Increasingly, the powerful of this world turn their backs on God, ignoring His Commandments and denying His sovereignty, deliberately setting themselves up as masters of the universe, formulating their own 'morality' to suit their aims, with the power of money corrupting and leading men and nations to self-destruction and perdition. Our Lady has told us that many souls are lost through sins of the flesh, yet western governments and the United Nations are blatantly endorsing programmes  opposed to Christian moral principles:- world-wide provision of contraception and abortion facilities; promoting homosexuality and same-sex marriage; inappropriate 'sex-education' for school-children, world-wide, etc.   Poorer nations are under pressure to accept these programmes, even though they do not want them, for fear that they will be refused other vital economic aid.

Francis McCullagh died in 1956, spending the last years of his life in hospital in New York, having been found three years previously wandering the streets suffering from early dementia. Since his Russian exploits, his life had taken many turnings, including assignments as a war correspondent, in Mexico, Spain, and Tripoli, subsequently writing books on his experiences. His courage and integrity in his work, made him friends but also enemies in high places. He was strongly critical of the  Mexican government for its' brutal persecution of the Catholic population, and equally critical of the role played by the American government in supporting it. His reports were ignored by the American media whose interests they did not serve. He was equally critical of the Italian invasion of Tripoli, shocked by their treatment of the Africans, Jews, and Muslims of Libya, he accused the Italians of being, in effect, in league with international bankers, and despite his own profound religious convictions, extended this charge to the Italian Catholic Church which had enthusiastically supported the invasion. In 1911, his experience of warfare provoked a reaction and re-assessment of his own sense of values, and in a pamphlet published by the World Peace Foundation that year, he strongly criticised the emerging global armaments industry and the capitalists involved, "for their power is tremendous, their wealth almost unlimited, and their patriotism nil"

Ack. 'The Bolshevik persecution of Christianity. by Francis McCullagh.
        'Studies - Irish Quarterly Review (2009)'

NB. I hope to post again on this outstanding Catholic journalist.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Francis McCullagh (1874-1956) - War Correspondent 'extraordinaire'

‘The Polish churches, not only in Moscow but all over Siberia, were crowded with men as well as women; and I always felt better, physically and spiritually, after visiting them. They were calm asylums for the sane in a country which had gone mad.  They were altars where one could seek sanctuary from the poisoned shafts of ideas more deadly than the spears of the feudal age, from Kropotkin’s fascinating theories of licence, as well as from Lenin’s stern dogmas of oligarchic tyranny.  Even their severe Latin architecture and the plain, veritable cross of Rome on the steeple were a relief after the twisted oriental style, barbaric colours, and distorted crosses of the Byzantine churches; while, on the other hand, the warm glow of life which animated them was an equally welcome contrast to the chill of death which pervaded the ‘Reformed’ chapels. They were mute but eloquent symbols of a greater and an older International than Lenin’s, of an Institution which had witnessed the fall of the Roman Empire, which had survived the dreadful menace of Islam, which had seen many movements madder even than Bolshevism, rise and rage for a season, and then disappear so completely that the man in the street today does not know their very names.
            I had visited many of those churches during the course of my journey, and had found them open when the others were shut, had found the Catholic priest at his post when all the other ministers of religion were fleeing or had fled. The Red torrent had thundered down on them, the leaping spray had hidden them from sight, and the raging waters had cut them off, but when I came back they still stood like the rock on which they are built.  I thought with awe of that tremendous prophecy which I had seen on the dome of St Peter’s:  “The gates of Hell shall not prevail”.
            There was an indescribable comfort and reassurance in seeing exactly the same service as is to be seen in Ireland, Tyrol, Westminster, the Vatican, France, Valparaiso, the Islands of the Outer Hebrides, and every part of the orbis terrarum Semper eadem.  One heard in all these different places exactly the same Latin words leading up to that stupendous sentence pronounced at the Last Supper,  and followed by those simple, soldierly words of the Roman Captain which are engraven to the end of time on the memory of man.  Yet in each place the Church was no exotic, hothouse plant, but a national growth with its roots in the hearts of the people.  Even in Russia the congregations were made up not only of Poles but of Lithuanians, Ukrainians, White Russians, French, Germans, and Austrians.  Meeting once in Siberia a gentle young priest who had remained behind to share the fortunes of his flock, and knowing that Poles do not like to speak Russian when they can help it (though he turned out to be Lithuanian), I addressed him in the best Latin I could muster, and I shall never forget how his eyes lit up when he heard the sound of that stately tongue. Did it remind him of how Nero failed yesterday as Lenin will fail tomorrow?  Nor can I ever forget the Masses I have heard on dark, frosty mornings in isolated Catholic churches far in the heart of Red Russia, and how astonishingly the calm and dignity of the noble service contrasted with the mad roar of revolution outside.  The church was dark, save where the altar candles made the silvery hair of the priest shine like a nimbus and lit up the altar, evoking a picture of the same Sacrifice being offered in a dimly lit Roman catacomb in commemoration of Sebastian the Soldier or of Agnes the Virgin Martyr, while a tyranny as bad as Lenin’s howled itself hoarse outside.  To me the Catholic priests whom I met represented European culture, Christian civilization; and great indeed was the contrast between their scholarly discourse and the mad babble of the Bolsheviks into which I had again to plunge'.                                                  

                                                                     Light of Faith
 The above extract is taken from ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’ by Capt. Francis McCullagh, being an account of his experiences as a prisoner of the Bolsheviks from January to April of the year 1920. I recently acquired an old (1923) copy of this book and have not yet finished reading it. The writer was of Irish birth and was a journalist by profession. As a war correspondent he had covered
the Russo-Japanese war for the New York Herald, the Turkish civil war of 1909, the Portuguese revolution of 1910, various Balkan wars, hostilities in Morocco, and the Italian invasion of Tripoli.
On the outbreak of World War 1 he was sent as a journalist to the Eastern front, where he reported from the Russian side. He then enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the end of 1914, was posted to Gallipoli and spent most of the war in military intelligence. He was then posted to the British Military Mission to Siberia, which was assisting the White Russians in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. Captured by the Russians in early 1919, he persuaded his captors that he was a journalist rather than a British army officer, and was allowed to spend many months wandering around Russia before the increasingly suspicious Russian security services arrested him in Moscow. Under the 'Brest-Livotsk Agreement' he was repatriated to Britain where he wrote many newspaper articles on his experiences in Bolshevik Russia, and also completed this book ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’. 
                   Generals Sakharov and Kolchak, and McCullagh (far right)

I have been fortunate in that I have managed to obtain four books (old copies) by McCullagh namely:-
‘The Bolshevisk Persecution of Christianity’, containing a detailed account of the staged State trial of  several prelates and priests culminating in the murder in custody of Mgr  Budkiewicz, and the sentence of death passed on Archbishop Cieplak, later commuted to life imprisonment to assuage world-wide condemnation of the the trial;  
 ‘Red Mexico’ an account of the terrible persecution of the Church in Mexico in the 1920s, and the role of the United States government in aiding the Masonic Mexican government;    
‘In Franco’s Spain’ being an account of events in Spain during the Civil War of the mid 1930s;  
 'A Prisoner of the Reds',  the book I am currently reading. 
I am amazed and impressed by the achievements of McCullagh, a brave man by any standards, both physically and morally. As a journalist he was fearless in reporting the facts, with his Catholic faith shining like a beacon throughout his work. As a young man he attended a Seminary to test his vocation, but in spite of glowing reports from others, decided that he was not suited to the priesthood. Thereafter journalism  was his life. I strongly recommend these books, the early editions effectively primary source material for detail of some of the terrible persecutions of the Church in the first three decades of the 20th century.

                                              'The Bolshevik' (1920)  by Kustodiev

I hope to publish further posts on Francis McCullagh, in his day a renowned and highly regarded war correspondent, but now largely forgotten. He deserves to be rescued from obscurity, and  publicly recognised as the honest and fearless journalist that he was, and above all as a man who loved God and His Church and was not afraid to say so. In the above quoted passage, it is revealing to read his comments on the universal and traditional Latin Mass celebrated in the isolated Catholic churches in the heart of Red Russia, which gave him ‘indescribable comfort and reassurance’, and his experience of  'the calm and dignity of the noble service, contrasted with the mad roar of the revolution outside'. He was describing experiences of  nearly one hundred years ago, with the world a ‘maelstrom’ of bloodshed, violence, and increasing godlessness. Sadly the universality of the traditional Latin Mass is, in practice, no longer the case, and the use of the vernacular and the post Vatican 2  'Novus Ordo' Mass – with variations depending on the country and the celebrant, perhaps diminishing that sense of  'spiritual unity' once so universally evident in Christ’s Church. The world today is threatened with destruction, physical and moral, with ungodly and powerful nations deliberately following the wide road that leads to perdition, with Christ’s Church persecuted and vilified by enemies both outside and within the Church itself. The world today is as much a maelstrom of bloodshed, violence, and godlessness, as it was in 1920, but sadly the Church now seems somehow less visible, less united, and sometimes almost deferential in its attitude to the world. Nevertheless we live in certain hope that Christ will never abandon His Church, and that the gates of Hell will never prevail. Glory to God in the Highest!

'Holy Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'

Sunday, 26 July 2015

'O my God, teach me to love Thee in Time and Eternity' - Bishop Richard Challoner (1691-1781)

         Bishop Richard Challoner

 Richard Challoner, born September 29, 1691 at Lewes, Sussex, and died January 12, 1781 in London. His father, also Richard Challoner, ‘a rigid Dissenter’, and wine-cooper of that place, died whilst he was a  child, and his mother with her son, took up domestic service in  the Catholic  household of Sir John Gage, at Firle near Lewes, shortly after moving to Warkworth, Nottinghamshire, in the service of a devout Catholic widow, a descendant of the Howard family. To the influence of these Catholic households can reasonably be attributed the conversion or reconciliation to the Church of Mrs Challoner, and the reception of her son when he was about 13 years old. 
Through the services of the Rev John Gother, chaplain to the Catholic Howard family, Richard Challoner was sent at the age of 14 years to the English College, Douai, in Flanders, where he was to spend the next twenty-five years, with but one brief visit to England during that time.
 In the summer of 1708, Challenor finished the ‘Humanities’ course, and immediately began the ‘Divinity’ course, consisting of two years Philosophy and four years Theology, in preparation for the priesthood.

         On 28 March 1716, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Tournai. In the official record of ordination, the president described him in the college diary, as 'notable for learning and piety, if ever man was'.

          Now ordained and with the additional responsibility of 'Prefect of Studies', Challoner was awarded a Theology degree at the University of Douai, his thesis dealing with  the  'Infallibility of the Pope', basing his proposition  on the authoritative teachings of St Thomas Aquinas. This was a controversial subject particularly in the Europe of the day where Jansenism, Josephism, Gallicanism,  and nationalist pride in its various forms, had  support in powerful places, and this work revealed the faith, courage, determination, and intellect of Challoner, qualities that were to be continually displayed throughout his long and demanding life.

  In 1730 he obtained the President’s consent to leave for England. The College diary records that -  ‘on 18th August, set out for London and the English Mission, the Reverend Richard Challoner, here known as Willard, Doctor of Theology and professor thereof for ten years (who had taught Humanities and Philosophy for five years). Confessor and Prefect of Studies, a man well versed in every kind of knowledge, endowed with remarkable piety and inflamed with zeal for souls and the love of God and his neighbour’.

A college student had this to say about Challoner’s imminent departure:-
                   'Lest, all completed, you should now desire
                   Mov’d by a glowing zeal hence to retire,
                   Oh! With your presence bless us yet! Oh, stay,
                   And to perfection show us still the way!
                   Let Britain want a while your saving hand:
                   For howe’er great your pains, or good your heart,
                   You there can act but one Apostle’s part.
                   But here your conduct and instructions breed
                   A race of Shepherds fit Christ’s flock.'

 At this time in England:-
“By the statute of Queen Elizabeth, 27, c.2, it is High Treason for any man who is proved to be a priest, to breathe in this kingdom.”
Later a 'less severe statute' was added, which authorised a fine and short imprisonment.  However to somewhat redress the 'status quo', a statute of King William III condemned any priest convicted of exercising his functions, to perpetual banishment - a vindictive law which was nevertheless enforced at Croydon against a certain Rev John Baptist Maloney as late as 1767.

    Chapel of the Sardinian Embassy, London, used by the local Catholic community.

Charles Butler in his biography of Richard Challoner, had this to say:-
"From his arrival in London till he was consecrated Bishop, he was a perfect model of a Missionary Priest. He avoided more intercourse with the world than was absolutely necessary, assiduous in the discharge of his duties, with daily meditation, celebration of Mass, and reading of office; frequently visiting his flock carrying piety and recollection wherever he went; he was cheerful, and the cause of cheerfulness in others; always serene, affable, unaffected, prudent and charitable, never said anything which tended, even remotely, to his own advantage.  He reproved with the greatest gentleness, his conduct abundantly verifying the golden maxim of St Francis de Sales, ‘that a good man is never outdone in good manner’.  His visits were always short, and nothing, except the most urgent necessity, ever kept him from returning to his abode at a very early hour, that he might be in the way to hear confessions, to give advice, to catechise, to attend to the calls of the sick or dying, or to exercise any other missionary duty, for which it should be necessary or expedient that he should then be found at home…….he considered himself as particularly commissioned to preach the gospel to the poor, whose cellars, garrets, hospitals, workhouses and prisons were much more agreeable, as well as familiar, to him than the splendid habitations of the great and opulent …..”

Between 1734 and 1737, in spite of his additional responsibilities, Challoner wrote five more controversial works, as well as editing a new edition of Gother’s ‘Essay on the Change and Choice of Religion’ and providing a new translation of the ‘Imitation of Christ’. His final book of this period was entitled ‘The Catholic Christian instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies and Observances of the Church’ which for more than a century was to remain the standard work of instruction on these points.
Bishop Petre writing to Rome in 1739, had this to say of Richard Challoner:-
“many remarkable gifts of mind, his great humility and gentleness, by his assiduous fidelity in reclaiming sinners to the way of life taught by the Gospel and to the truths of our religion; by his marvellous power in preaching, in instructing the ignorant and in writing books both spiritual and controversial, he has won not only the esteem but the veneration of all who have either heard him preach or who have read his books.”
In spite of strong objections by Bishop Challoner himself, who considered himself unworthy of such an appointment, he was consecrated co-adjutor Bishop by the incumbent Bishop Petre, on 29 January 1741, the feast of St Francis de Sales.
In 1740 was published  Challoner’s ‘The Garden of the Soul: or a Manual of Spiritual Exercises and Instructions for Christians, who living in the World, aspire to devotion.’ This small and inexpensive work combined the functions of a prayer book with information, instructions and practical advice, and it proved so popular that seven editions were printed in seventeen years. The difference between the ‘Garden of the Soul’ and its predecessors was that it gave, as it were, the theory as well as the practice: it was a treatise on the spiritual life, as well as a collection of exercises therein. Other works included Memoirs of Missionary Priests, as well Secular as Regular and of other Catholics of both sexes, that have suffered death in England, on Religious Accounts, from the Year of Our Lord 1577 to1684’,  published in 1742 in two volumes, which won itself a place with his ‘Garden of the Soul’ and ‘Meditations’ in the affections of Catholics.
For those of his flock for whom he wrote, conformity would have brought all that made life in their world worth living. Their temptation was one of despair in an hostile environment, and these books and others like them, provided the spiritual sustenance and encouragement so desperately needed for their faith to survive.

he writes, "makes more for the old Religion, than an impartial view of the first origin of all these new sects of pretenders to Reformation. Every circumstance that attended the change of Religion introduced by these Reformers, demonstrates that God had no hand in their work. The motives which set these men to work were visibly bad: the means they employed to compass their ends were illegal and unchristian; and the fruits that ensued both in Church and State, and in the lives and manners of particulars, were such as a good tree could never have produced. All which things, as they are undeniably plain from history, clearly show that none of these new sects have any share in the Church of Christ; which therefore must be sought for elsewhere, viz. amongst the followers of the old Religion: there Christ left it and there alone we shall find it." (The Grounds of the Old Religion-1741)

Bishop Challoner’s pastoral responsibility covered the London District, which included Kent, Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and Jersey and Guernsey; also Maryland and Pennsylvania in the American colonies, and certain islands in the West Indies. There were about 20,000 Catholics in London itself, and in the counties which formed the London Vicariate were an additional 4/5000 souls. Bishop Challoner made various diocesan visitations in England, horseback being the usual mode of transportation, and he could be away from his residence for up to two years at a time.

Throughout his life, Challoner showed an immense capacity for work and a clear judgement of priorities, particularly  in his writings which included prayer-books, catechisms, Saints’ lives, martyrologies, controversy or ascetical writings, whatever he considered would best serve the salvation of souls. The result might not be the absolute best, but it would be the best that he could do at the time. For him the priority was that well or less well, the work should be done when it was needed. Those who knew him spoke of "his tender compassion for the weakness and frailties of mankind; that sweetness of speech and behaviour which gained the affection of all who knew him, and by which he led them to the love of God." They spoke of the "sweetness and affability of his discourse", and say how "the mildness and modesty, which were the distinctive marks of Dr. Challoner's character, were visible in his countenance and attracted every heart to him". He was devout and prayerful in his habits, and "he made it his constant and invariable practice (which all his acquaintances observed) to renew the love of God in his heart whenever he heard the clock strike, by signing himself with the sign of the Cross, and saying, 'O my God, teach me to love Thee in Time and Eternity ' - which practice he also recommended to all the faithful, and for that reason inserted it in the Catechism which he published for the instruction of children"          

  Douai Rheims version of the Bible (contemporary publication)

There had long existed a need for a new English edition of the Douai Rheims Bible, He set out to revise the text according to the Clementine edition of the Vulgate, and to rewrite it in such English as could be understood by the people of his day. In effect he produced what was practically a new translation which was to serve not only as the basis, but also the substance of later versions. The New Testament was completed first, and after approval by two theologians at Douai, was published in 1749, with the Old Testament following a year later. In the public domain he is perhaps most  remembered for this work.

During  this same period, Challoner  urgently sought a suitable location for a Catholic boy’s school within convenient distance of London.  Lord Aston’s manor house of Standon Lordship in Hertfordshire, was eventually chosen, and  the school opened in the autumn of 1749, which as St Edmund’s, Old Hall, Ware, was later to become the Westminster diocesan seminary, reverting back to a school in the mid -1970s.                      

In 1751 Challoner published his ‘Instructions and Meditations on the Jubilee’ which had been proclaimed in 1750 by Pope Benedict XIV.  In one passage he contemplates the loss of God which is the chief horror of hell, and writes;
            “They have lost Him totally: they have lost Him irrecoverably:  they have lost Him eternally.  They have lost Him in Himself: they have lost Him in themselves: they have lost Him in all His creatures.  The lively sense of this irreparable loss, and of all the consequences of it, continually racks their despairing souls:  they cannot turn away their thought one moment from it:  it grips them with inexpressible torments.  Whichever way they turn to seek any one drop of ease or comfort, in Him or from Him, they meet with none:  all things conspire against them:  all things tell them they have lost their God.”

 When considering the perfections of God, he talks of - “His truth is infinitely charming”, and “What a joy it is to a true lover of God, to think that whatsoever may come to himself or to anything in the world, his Love at least, whom he loves without comparison more than himself and all things else, will always be infinitely glorious, infinitely rich and infinitely happy.”
From his modest Holborn lodgings, Challoner combined a life of recollection and prayer, with one of unending pastoral activity in his work for the poor, the sick and those in prison. The situation was aggravated by the widespread suspicion of all things Catholic, with prisons filled with those suspected of supporting the unsuccessful Jacobite revolt of 1745.

 'March of the Guards to Finchley' by William Hogarth.  (Satirical depiction of troops mustered to defend London from the 1745 Jacobite uprising)
For priests the threat of arrest and denunciation by paid informers was very real, and continued for many years.  Charles Butler, in his short ‘Life of Challoner’, writes, "In all these transactions Dr Challoner conducted himself with great prudence and firmness.  Scanty as was his income, he was the chief refuge of persecuted priests.  The expenses attending the prosecutions of them, their imprisonments, removals, concealments and other vexations were almost always discharged by him; he defrayed them with kindness, and in a manner that showed how greatly he honoured the sufferers in their sufferings and wants.”

  In 1760, Challoner founded a school for ‘poor girls’ at Hammersmith.  At about the same time, and acting on his own initiative and in the face of opposition from the Catholic gentry who were afraid of provoking a Protestant backlash, he founded Sedgeley Park School, near Wolverhampton, later to become Cotton College.

 A spirit of worldliness pervaded the whole of the 18th century, inevitably casting its shadow on all Catholics, particularly those who, due to circumstances, had little opportunity to practise their faith. Challoner himself, in spite of constant endeavours to sustain the faithful, was not immune to a sense of helplessness and even failure, in the ceaseless struggle against the tide. In a letter he wrote to his friend Bishop Hornyhold just before Christmas 1769, thanking him for his kindness and good wishes, he continues,’O dear brother, for Our Lord’s sake, earnestly pray that in His great mercy he would forgive me my innumerable sins, and prepare me for that great appearance, in which I have reason to dread the account I must give not only for myself but for so many others who through my fault or neglect, are walking on in the way of perdition. Oh! ‘tis a melancholy thing to see the great decay of piety and religion amongst a great part of our Catholics, and God grant this may not be imputed to me by reason of my sins and negligences’.

Now in his early eighties. yet always seeking ways of instructing and encouraging his suffering and scattered flock, Challoner turned his attention to the Douay Catechism which had been in use by Catholic children for over a century. He decided to make certain revisions, and to enlarge it, and in 1772 his revised popular catechism was published at St Omer, entitled ’Abridgement of Christian Doctrine: Revised and enlarged by R.C.’ This updated work was to be the standard work for English Catholics for generations to come.                  

In 1778 the Catholic Relief Act came into being, politically motivated by the English parliament in order to induce men from the largely Catholic Scottish highlands to join the army in the war in the American colonies. The Relief Act was nevertheless hugely beneficial to all Catholics throughout England and Scotland, but provoked fierce opposition from Protestant factions leading to the infamous Gordon Riots of 1780 which led to many deaths and widespread destruction in London, with Bishop Challoner himself a principle target.

          'The Gordon Riots'  by  John Seymour Lucas (Wikipedia)     

On January 10th, 1781, at 25 Gloucester Street, London, Bishop Challoner suffered a stroke, and two days later he died, with his chaplains in attendance. He was buried in the family vault of a friend Mr Bryan Barrett, at Milton, Berkshire where according to the legal requirements of the time, the parson had to read the Anglican burial service.
The plate on the coffin was inscribed “Right Revd. Doctor Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra”, and in the Parish Register, the presiding clergyman wrote,
“Anno Domini 1781, January 22. Buried the Reverend Richard Challoner, a Popish Priest and Titular Bishop of London and Salisbury, a very pious and good man, of great learning and extensive abilities”.   (N.B. The reference to Salisbury was a mistake by the Anglican authorities)
In 1946, the body of Bishop Challoner was interred and removed to the chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine in Westminster Cathedral.
In many ways the great revival of the English Catholic Church in the 19th century, owed much to the apostolic zeal for souls and the pastoral care of this holy Bishop. His writings particularly, kept the flame of Catholicism burning  in an England steeped in Protestantism; writings which provided  spiritual counsel, encouragement, and learning, on all matters Catholic, a constant source of sound spiritual direction for those of his own time and generations to come. He and his fellow Bishops and Priests laboured in rocky soil, but not in vain. By their labours and prayers and with the grace of God, the Catholic religion survived in England, enabling others to later reap the rich rewards of Catholic emancipation and the full re-establishment of the Church in the 19th century.

The cause for the beatification of Bishop Challoner seems to have been rather at a standstill for many years, although some  years ago the Dean of Birmingham Cathedral expressed an interest in reviving it. The object of this post, inadequate though it may be, is with God's blessing, to revive and honour the memory of Bishop Challoner with a view to encouraging devotion to this cause,  to the glory of God, and to the immeasurable spiritual benefit and encouragement of us all, particularly the Catholic faithful in England, and indeed in Scotland, to which people he showed great practical charity through his friendship with  Bishop George Hay, co-adjutor Bishop in Scotland.
Prayer for the Beatification of Bishop Challoner
'O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the blessed in thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in Heaven, for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Tomb of Bishop Richard Challoner in the chapel of  St Gregory and St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral.
Click on the links below for more detailed information on the life and times of Bishop Challoner  

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