Marshall, “Heretics and Believers”

In June, Yale University Press will release Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall (University of Warwick). The publisher’s description follows:

Heretics and BelievesA sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation

Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.

With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.

“Great Christian Jurists in English History” (Helmholz & Hill, eds.)

In May, the Cambridge University Press will release “Great Christian Jurists in English History,” edited by Mark Hill (FTB Chambers) and R. H. Helmholz (University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Great Christian Jurists series comprises a library of national volumes of detailed biographies of leading jurists, judges and practitioners, assessing the impact of their 9781107190559Christian faith on the professional output of the individuals studied. Little has previously been written about the faith of the great judges who framed and developed the English common law over centuries, but this unique volume explores how their beliefs were reflected in their judicial functions. This comparative study, embracing ten centuries of English law, draws some remarkable conclusions as to how Christianity shaped the views of lawyers and judges. Adopting a long historical perspective, this volume also explores the lives of judges whose practice in or conception of law helped to shape the Church, its law or the articulation of its doctrine.

Belloc, “Characters of the Reformation”

In April, Ignatius Press will release a new paperback edition of Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc. The publisher’s description follows:

characters-of-the-reformationOne of the most fascinating books ever written by the great Catholic historian Belloc, he presents  in bold colors the 23 principal characters of the Protestant Reformation, focusing primarily on those figures concerned with the events in England, analyzing their strengths, mistakes, motives and deeds which changed the course of history.

Among the characters he examines are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, St. Thomas More, Mary Tudor, Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, Mary Stuart, Cardinal Richelieu and many more. Belloc illustrates how the motives of the Protestant leaders were rarely religious in nature, but usually political or economic. He underscores the fact that European Christendom was once a single united entity, under the authority of the Catholic Church, each country viewing itself as a single “province” of the whole.

Many of Europe’s Princes resented the power that the Bishop of Rome held in their own lands. The Reformation, aided by the rise of Nationalism, was a means for the nobles of Europe to shake off Papal authority and rule their territory independently. It also gave European monarchs control over the Church and all of its property in their realm, including the taxes that would normally be sent to Rome.

The nobles grew rich by confiscating the wealth of the Church, and resisted reconciliation if that meant returning the wealth to its rightful owner. In subsequent generations, the fear of this possibility gave the noble classes an incentive to remain in the Protestant camp. Belloc warns that this breakup of Christendom may still destroy our Christian civilization.

Even those who think they do not like history will be unable to put this book down as it brings history vividly to life. As usual, Belloc’s historical perspective offers timeless wisdom and insight rarely seen in modern times.

Bulman, “Anglican Enlightenment”

This April, Cambridge University Press will release “Anglican Enlightenment: Orientalism, Religion and Politics in England and its Empire, 1648–1715” by William Bulman (Lehigh University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Anglican EnlightenmentAn original interpretation of the early European Enlightenment and the religious conflicts that rocked England and its empire under the later Stuarts. In a series of vignettes that move between Europe and North Africa, William Bulman shows that this period witnessed not a struggle for and against new ideas and greater freedoms, but a battle between several novel schemes for civil peace. Bulman considers anew the most apparently conservative force in post-Civil War English history: the conformist leadership of the Church of England. He demonstrates that the Church’s historical scholarship, social science, pastoral care, and political practice amounted not to a culturally backward spectacle of intolerance, but to a campaign for stability drawn from the frontiers of erudition and globalisation. In seeking to sever the link between zeal and chaos, the church and its enemies were thus united in an Enlightenment project, but bitterly divided over what it meant in practice.

“‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited” (Keeble, ed.)

In December, Oxford University Press will release “‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited”  edited by N. H. Keeble (University of Stirling). The publisher’s description follows:

The 1662 Act of Uniformity and the consequent “ejections” on August 24 (St. Bartholomew’s Day) of those who refused to comply with its stringent conditions comprise perhaps the single most significant episode in post-Reformation English religious history. Intended, in its own words, “to settle the peace of the church” by banishing dissent and outlawing Puritan opinion it instead led to penal religious legislation and persecution, vituperative controversy, and repeated attempts to diversify the religious life of the nation until, with the Toleration Act of 1689, its aspiration was finally abandoned and the freedom of the individual conscience and the right to dissent were, within limits, legally recognised. Bartholomew Day was hence, unintentionally but momentously, the first step towards today’s pluralist and multicultural society.

This volume brings together nine original essays which on the basis of new research examine afresh the nature and occasion of the Act, its repercussions and consequences and the competing ways in which its effects were shaped in public memory. A substantial introduction sets out the historical context. The result is an interdisciplinary volume which avoids partisanship to engage with episcopalian, nonconformist, and separatist perspectives; it understands “English” history as part of “British” history, taking in the Scottish and Irish experience; it recognises the importance of European and transatlantic relations by including the Netherlands and New England in its scope; and it engages with literary history in its discussions of the memorialisation of these events in autobiography, memoirs, and historiography. This collection constitutes the most wide-ranging and sustained discussion of this episode for fifty years.

Where the Queen Prays in Scotland

crathie2

Crathie Kirk

As everyone knows, Scotland votes tomorrow on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. In Scotland last Sunday, Queen Elizabeth made a statement most have interpreted as a commentary on the situation. Scots should think very carefully about the future, she said.

I’m sure the Queen meant that Scots should vote “No.” How could she have meant otherwise? What interests me, though, is that she made the statement after services at Crathie Kirk, a parish of the Church of Scotland. In fact, she regularly worships at Crathie Kirk when she’s in Scotland, at her Balmoral estate.

Now, Queen Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican communion. The Church of Scotland is not Anglican, but Presbyterian. Relations between the two churches are cordial (though they have not always been so), but the Queen is not a Presbyterian. She’s an Anglican. So why does she regularly worship in the Scottish Kirk? Are there no Church of England parishes near Balmoral? Couldn’t she fly in a vicar from London?

As far as I can tell, this arrangement is one of those historical accommodations that have ripened into custom. The Treaty of Union of 1707 — the treaty Scots may overturn tomorrow — requires the British Monarch to preserve the Church of Scotland. The Monarch takes an oath to that effect upon accession to the throne. Sometimes the Monarch attends meetings of the Church’s General Assembly. Usually she sends a representative.

It’s thus quite natural for British Monarchs to feel that, whatever their official role in the Church of England, they have a place in the Church of Scotland as well. In the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria caused a scandal when she received communion in the Church of Scotland, but she maintained that as the country’s — that is, Scotland’s — Queen, she had every right to do so. Since then, every reigning Monarch has worshiped at Crathie Kirk.

So, there it is. In England, the Monarch is an Anglican; in Scotland, she prays with the Presbyterians. How very British. I mean that in a good way, and I use the term advisedly. After tomorrow, it may mean something else.

Richard Hooker and the “Wall of Separation”

Richard Hooker was a learned Anglican churchman and apologist writing in theRichard Hooker sixteenth century. His monumental work, “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,” is a wonderfully interesting but grossly neglected treatment of the relationship of church and state in England. Its subtle defense of both the distinctiveness and the non-separateness of church and state represents an early and elegant version of many of the arguments about the nature and scope of disestablishment that continue to circulate today.

In the following passage (from Book VIII), he defends the idea of the distinctiveness, but non-separateness, of the civil and religious spheres against the complaints of English dissenters. He resists what he calls the idea of “personal” separation. Note the particular phrase he uses!

We hold, that seeing there is not any man of the Church of England but the same man is also a member of the commonwealth; nor any man a member of the commonwealth, which is not also of the Church of England; therefore as in a figure triangular the base doth differ from the sides thereof, and yet one and the selfsame line is both a base and also a side; a side simply, a base if it chance to be the bottom and underlie the rest: so, albeit properties and actions of one kind do cause the name of a commonwealth, qualities and functions of another sort the name of a Church to be given unto a multitude, yet one and the selfsame multitude may in such sort be both, and is so with us, that no person appertaining to the one can be denied to be also of the other. Contrariwise, unless they against us should hold, that the Church and the commonwealth are two, both distinct and separate societies, of which two, the one comprehendeth always persons not belonging to the other; that which they do they could not conclude out of the difference between the Church and the commonwealth; namely, that bishops may not meddle with the affairs of the commonwealth, because they are governors of another corporation, which is the Church; nor kings with making laws for the Church, because they have government not of this corporation, but of another divided from it, the commonwealth; and the walls of separation between these two must for ever be upheld. They hold the necessity of personal separation, which clean excludeth the power of one man’s dealing in both; we of natural, which doth not hinder but that one and the same person may in both bear a principal sway.

Those with an interest in Hooker should check out this new review at the University Bookman by W. Bradford Littlejohn of a new edition of Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (in 3 volumes!), edited by Arthur Stephen McGrade. From Littlejohn’s review:

Here Hooker undertakes a systematic defense of the established polity of the English church against its puritan-presbyterian critics, laying broad and deep foundations in philosophy, theology, and political theory before meeting head-on the leading principles of the puritan platform and then refuting, point-by-point, their objections against each aspect of the English church’s worship and organization.

The Preface, in addition to expressing the purpose for the work, provides a keen analysis of the social circumstances that called it forth. Book I provides a theological and philosophical account of the different forms of law that govern human affairs. Book II critically examines the biblicist foundation of puritan epistemology, Book III the puritan assumption of a divine-law constitution for the church, and Book IV their first principle of liturgics: to depart as far as possible from Roman Catholicism. With these foundations laid, Hooker uses Book V to defend the disputed parts of the Book of Common Prayer, Book VI (unfinished) to critique the presbyterian doctrine of lay-elders, Book VII to defend episcopal jurisdiction, and the unfinished Book VIII to defend (and just as importantly, to define and delimit) the royal supremacy in the English church.

Until My Dying Day, Sir

John McGinnis passes along this delightful old recording of an 18th Century ballad about a pliable priest, The Vicar of Bray. Some of you, particularly readers in the UK, may already know the song. It concerns an Anglican clergyman who manages to survive the shifting religious commitments of the Stuart and Hanoverian dynasties by remaining loyal to one, overarching principle: keeping his job.

Under James II, for example, the vicar is a committed Catholic:

When royal James possessed the Crown, and popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I hooted down, and read the Declaration.
The Church of Rome, I found, did fit full well my constitution
And I had been a Jesuit, but for the Revolution.

He switches allegiance after the Glorious Revolution, though, to become a Protestant; then an arch, High Church Tory under Queen Anne; then he switches again under George I:

When George in pudding time came o’er, and moderate men looked big, sir 
My principles I changed once more, and I became a Whig, sir
And thus preferment I procured from our new Faith’s Defender,
And almost every day abjured the Pope and the Pretender.

 And there he plans to stay—for now:

The illustrious House of Hanover and Protestant succession
To these I do allegiance swear – while they can hold possession.
For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
And George my lawful king shall be – until the times do alter.

 No matter what, the refrain declares,

And this is law, that I’ll maintain,
Until my dying day, Sir,
That whatsoever king may reign,
Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, Sir.

The vicar of the song was apparently a real person. In a lovely essay, A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray, George Orwell wrote of seeing a yew tree he had planted in a Berkshire churchyard–more of this in a bit. Down the centuries, the vicar has been a byword for opportunism and lack of scruple, especially religious scruple. Perhaps the American Framers knew his song, which illustrates well the corruption of established churches. Not that lack of scruple is unique to clergy in established churches. I’ve heard that even professors can act like careerists on occasion.

Now that time has passed, I wonder if we shouldn’t lighten up on the vicar. Aren’t his tergiversations somewhat forgivable? Sure, you can see him as a hypocrite. But on another view, he’s a charming rogue, a man who uses his wits to navigate what he recognizes to be silly, but quite dangerous, quarrels. After all, who today takes seriously the controversies of the Stuarts? Only historians still get most of the song’s references. Wasn’t the vicar wise to avoid strong positions on matters that ultimately counted for little? One might even see him as an ecumenist, someone willing to compromise on doubtful points to maintain harmony in the church.

It’s a stretch to see the vicar as a sympathetic figure, I know. But, as Orwell pointed out, the vicar did inspire a comic song that still entertains after centuries, and he did plant that tree in the Berkshire churchyard, which gave rest to generations of tired souls. Surely those things count for something. Indeed, Orwell reflected,

It might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground. And, if even one in twenty of them came to maturity, you might do quite a lot of harm in your lifetime, and still, like the Vicar of Bray, end up as a public benefactor after all.

It’s winter here in New York just now. Come spring, I’m going to start planting trees.

Religious Division and Identity – Richard III and the Rest of Us – Part III

In Part I of this case study of sorts, I wrote a bit about the theological complexity of debates over religious identity, as illustrated by the (very) minor fracas over whether it be somehow wrong to reinter the bones of Richard III in an Anglican rather than a Catholic ceremony.  In Part II, I asked how historians might look at the question of whether Richard was a “Catholic” in our sense of the word, or even whether they would reject the question as too vague or even meaningless.

I’ve suggested that theologians and historians will look at these sorts of problems through different lenses.  But do they also have something to say to each other?  This is a much larger question than I can try to tackle in a blog.  But I’ve been thinking a good deal about the problem of religion and history in my study of the jurisprudence of Jewish law (which I hope to discuss later this month), so let me at least throw out one tiny observation here, focusing again on Richard III.

First a distinction — between history and historical consciousness.  Historical consciousness is the distinctly modern conviction that history is not just a chronicle of events.  The past is actually a very different place than the present, and those differences are deeply bound up in specific context and assumptions and world views.  History is important to intelligent thinking about current religious belief and practice, but historical consciousness necessarily frustrates any effort to easy easy, straightforward, conclusions from that history.

So back to Richard III.  Assume for a moment that the authorities did decide to hand the King over for a Catholic funeral service.  Some Catholics of a “traditionalist” bent — the supporters of the traditional Latin Mass (one version of which Pope Benedict XVI dubbed the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) — have argued that it’s not good enough for Richard III to be given a Catholic service.  As a pre-Vatican II Catholic (by many centuries), he should merit a traditional Latin requiem mass.  And, as an anointed King, he really deserves the special traditional service for the burial of a King.  That is, after all, what he would expect and want if he had a say in the matter.

The problem here is obvious, though.   Continue reading

Religious Division and Identity – Richard III and the Rest of Us – Part II

Thanks again to Mark and Marc for inviting me to guest blog this month.  I hope to use this opportunity to think about a range of questions, and also introduce a bit of my own work.

Back in August, I posted Part I of some mediations on religious division prompted by the minor kerfuffle over whether the newly-discovered remains of Richard III should be reinterred in a Catholic or an Anglican ceremony.  That post looked at the question from a bit of a theological lens. I want now to say a bit about the same problem from the perspectives of history.  (I’ll have one or two more parts to this discussion, so stay tuned.)

So let’s go back to our test case: Was Richard III a “Catholic” in the modern sense of the word that would exclude his membership in the “Church of England”?  For that matter, is the contemporary Church of England in some meaningful sense Catholic and not merely catholic?

Historians, I think, would resist these questions from the get-go. For one thing, they would want to be more contextual and specific.  There is no one answer to the religious identity of either Richard III or the contemporary Church of England.  Are we talking about formal belief structures, lived spiritual premises, personal devotion, liturgical practices, institutional relations, personal networks, political allegiances, or something else?  How does the civil war that Richard fought and lost figure into the equation, if at all?  What about the radically different technology of the time, with its implications for travel and communication?  What about the long, complex, and often violent history of relations between King and clergy that long predated Henry VIII’s split from Rome?  How would Richard III himself have understood the question?  Would he have understood it?

For that matter, historians might find the question too essentialist to begin with.  Yes, categories such as “Catholic” are real and important.  But time is change.  Richard III could not be “Catholic” in the sense we understand the term because nobody in his time – before the Reformation, the Enlightenment, England’s split from Rome, the rise of secularism, and for that matter the advent of modern forms of communication and transportation – was “Catholic” in the sense we understand the term.

All this interests me, not because I’m a historian, but because the question of historical consciousness (and its limits) strikes me as deeply important to all sorts of other puzzles and challenges I’ll be taking up this month.

For now, though, I will leave to the next post or two some thoughts about the possible further theological implications of what I’ve just said about history to the fate of poor Richard III and about how law (this is a law blog, after all) fits into all this, both specifically and more generally.

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