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Stephanie A. Mann (Wichita, KS USA)

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Persecution Without Martyrdom
Persecution Without Martyrdom
by Leo Gooch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Long, Forgotten Century of England's Catholics, 12 Jun. 2014
This book is a tremendous resource for understanding the status of Catholics in north-east England after the Glorious Revolution and up to the 1850 restoration of the diocesan hierarchy. The range of dates from 1688 to 1850 means that the period covered includes the Jacobite attempts to restore the Catholic Stuarts, the end of the Stuart dynasty and the beginning of the Hanoverians (1714--three hundred years ago!), and the slow restoration of freedom to worship and civil rights for Catholics, leading up to Emancipation in 1829. The first four chapters offer a compelling narrative of Catholic gentry in the northeast of England surviving the fall of James II, continuing their family's traditions and education, working for their freedom of religion and worship, and responding to the presence of the Vicars Apostolic.The last two chapters provide tremendous detail about the chapels and the chaplains established by the gentry on their estates, breaking off from the narrative of the first four chapters.

In chapter one, Gooch provides statistical surveys of the recusant Catholics throughout the period, noting the ebbs and falls of their population. He demonstrates that while they had to be careful and discrete, they were committed to practicing their faith. He notes that Catholic gentry often played down their wealth--to avoid confiscation and fines by the government--by various financial arrangements, loans, and leases. The gentry provided both the chapels and the chaplains for the celebration of Catholic Mass and the other Sacraments--and Gooch gives much more detail of these arrangements in the last two chapters.

Gooch depicts the education, travel and intellectual avocations of north-east Catholic gentry in chapter two. The Catholic gentry were better educated than their Anglican peers, because they attended the Jesuit colleges on the Continent while Cambridge and Oxford were still serving primarily as educational institutions for Anglican clergy. Catholic gentlemen traveled extensively on the Continent on long Grand Tours, collecting books and artwork. They usually were accompanied by a chaplain cum chaperone, spending Holy Week in Rome and celebrating the Feast of the Ascension in Venice.

The Catholic Question--the issue of Catholic freedom to worship and take full part in English political and social life--occupies our interest in chapter three. Could Catholics be trusted? Gooch notes that not many of the north-eastern Catholic gentry had supported the Jacobite cause, and that as the English gentry negotiated with the government, they were often ready to compromise on certain aspects like government approval of episcopal appointments or allowing the government to read official church correspond with the Holy See, just so they could be free of the fines or threat of fines for not attending the Church of England services, exempted as they were from the Toleration Act of 1689.

In chapter four Gooch discusses the Vicars Apostolic (V.A.) of the Northern District, Titular Bishops without geographical dioceses or sees, and how they changed the structures of ecclesiastical power. They had titles like Titular Bishop of Marcopolis, Bolina, Trachis, Abydus, or Samosata. The latter was the title of the V.A. of the Northern District, William Hogarth, who became the Bishop of Hexham in 1850. We have to remember that the gentry were hiring--and firing--the clergy for their private estate chapels. As Gooch will demonstrate in the last two chapters, this practice meant that if the head of the family conformed to the established Church of England, the chapel could be lost to the Catholics on the estate--or if there was some disagreement between the chaplain and family, he could be fired. The Vicars Apostolic, of course, wanted to establish a more stable infrastructure of "parish" chapels with assigned pastors. Their efforts before Emancipation and between Emancipation and the restoration of the hierarchy are what Gooch argues helped prepare Catholicism in England for the achievements of bishops and archbishops like Hogarth, Briggs (another V.A. in the north who became a diocesan bishop in 1850, of Beverley), Wiseman, Ullathorne, Manning, etc. after them. I do not think that including Cardinal Newman in the blurb was necessary or appropriate, since he was never a bishop and was named a Cardinal Deacon late in life by Pope Leo XIII as a personal honor rather than as a hierarchical office or position (he continued his work at the Oratory in Birmingham in fact, not moving to Rome as usually required at that time for a Cardinal Deacon).

The last two chapters, while providing the great wealth of detail about different estates, their families, chapels, and chaplains, really should have been placed in an appendix. After stating that the Vicars Apostolic had, as the publisher's blurb notes, worked to create a "centrally-managed organization", two chapters describing the "seigneurial rule" in such detail contradicted--at least structurally--the argument.

Throughout the book, Gooch's attention to detail and excellent research, with tremendous notes and sources consulted, is obvious. I also wish the publishers could have included maps or some illustrations--especially the maps, which would have helped an American reader not familiar with the territory. Certainly, in spite of these minor caveats, this is a great achievement and resource.


God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England
God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England
by Jessie Childs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.96

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Focus on the Vaux Family: Recusancy and the Gunpowder Plot, 12 Jun. 2014
Rather like Adrian Tinniswood with "The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth Century England", which focused on that family's reactions to events like the English Civil War and Interregnum, in "God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England" Jessie Childs focuses on the Vaux family of Harrowden Hall (and connected families like the Treshams of Rushton) and how they, remaining true to their Catholic faith, responded to the ever-tightening restrictions on recusant Catholics during Elizabeth I's reign--and how much they knew about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

One great feature of the design of this book, which includes two insets of color images, other illustrations, a list of principal characters, and a family tree, is the map of the Midlands of England with the Catholic houses identified in each county: Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Seeing the distances (if not the terrain) between the houses, I could imagine the missionary priests moving from house to house, celebrating the Sacraments, keeping ahead of the government pursuivants. I could also imagine the government pursuivants, going from house to house, hoping to catch a priest!

By telling the story of Vaux family, as each generation continues the family's faithfulness to the Catholic Church, Childs retells stories familiar to me, of St. Edmund Campion and Father Robert Persons, St. Robert Southwell, Fathers Henry Garnett and John Gerard, and other priests and martyrs, from a different angle: how the Vaux family had sheltered and assisted the priests.

As Childs describes each Vaux generation's response to recusancy, the tension and the danger mount: fines, arrests, imprisonment, debt, danger, conflict within the extended family, and death. Trying to find a way to practice his faith and yet be an Englishman proved exhausting for William the second Baron Vaux. Recusant Catholics could "either obey their Queen and consign their souls to damnation or obey the pope and surrender their bodies to temporal punishment", as Childs sums it up. Vaux's son Henry and daughters Anne and Eleanor and daughter-in-law Eliza would be even more courageous, leading the underground network of safety for the missionary priests. The later generations of Vauxes--further and further separated from how the Catholic faith had once been practiced in England--grew more and more desperate as they found their choices so limiting: unable to take part in the leadership of their country, they fled to the Continent as mercenaries, like Ambrose, the black sheep of the family.

The Vauxes are always on the edges of the conspiracies against Elizabeth I (the Ridolfi Plot, the Babington conspiracy, the Throckmorton Plot)--and thus William Vaux spent so much time answering questions, along with his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Tresham, paying fnes, enduring imprisonment and house arrest. But at the end of the book, the Gunpowder Plot attempt to blow up Parliament with King James I, his family, and all the Lords and Commons, sums up the entire struggle. Anne Vaux feared that young men she knew well like Robert Catesby were plotting something horrible and she wanted Father Henry Garnet to tell them not to go forward with their plans. Did Father Garnet do enough? did he ask the right questions? respond forcefully enough to tell Catesby and Digby et al not to pursue whatever plot they had in mind? Those were questions he asked himself while in prison and even during his questioning. Although he did not instigate the plot or encourage the plot--he knew about the Gunpowder Plot and he did not report it to the authorities, citing the seal of the confessional.

In the Epilogue, Childs continues the story of the Vauxes: the sisters Anne and Eleanor and their sister-in-law Eliza continue their good works, focused now on the children to be raised in the Catholic faith. The family endures the long Eighteenth century and then finally enjoys Emancipation and freedom. One of the best details of this after story is that the nine Baron Vaux was Father Gabriel Gilbey, O.S.B. and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1962, 403 years after the last Benedictine served in the House (I presume that could be John Feckenham, the last abbot of Westminster Abbey).

Alice Hogge in "God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot" (2005) described the lives and deaths of the missionary priests who studied abroad and returned to England, branded as traitors for their priesthood, in her build-up to the Gunpowder Plot and its aftermath. It could almost serve as the companion volume to Childs' great story of the Vaux family. By focusing on the noble Vaux family, the lay men and women who struggled to remain true to their Church and to their nation, however, Childs has given us a great story of faithfulness and endurance. I cannot recommend "God's Traitors" highly enough: it is well-narrated and her analysis is always balanced and insightful.


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