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A Church Without Bishops: Governance of the English Catholic Mission, 1594–1685

  • Nicholas Schofield (a1) (a2)

The Catholic community in early modern England was not only a persecuted minority but full of factions, each playing off the other, expressing themselves in a war of words, and even, on occasion, canvassing for support in the very establishment that was trying to eliminate them. To a large extent, these tensions were focused around the vexed question of what sort of ecclesiastical government should fill the vacuum left by the Reformation and the extinction of the Marian hierarchy. Various canonical solutions were tried: rule by archpriest, vicar apostolic and chapter of secular clergy. Each of these resulted in ongoing disagreements between secular and regular clergy, between those who viewed the English Catholic community as being in continuity with the pre-Reformation Church and those who thought circumstances required something new and creative. Added to this was a complex web of canonical jurisdictions, often without clear definition, and Rome's reluctance to act decisively and offend the Elizabethan or Stuart regime. This article, originally delivered as the Lyndwood Lecture, outlines the key personalities and events and examines the central issues that were at stake in this ‘church without bishops’.

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1 Hughes, P, Rome and the Counter Reformation in England (London, 1942), p 287.

2 Pollen, J, The Institution of the Archpriest Blackwell (London, 1916), p 1.

3 Anthony Kitchin, Bishop of Llandaff (previously Abbot of Eynesham).

4 Phillips, G, The Extinction of the Ancient Hierarchy (St Louis, MO, 1905), p 274.

5 Hughes, Rome and the Counter Reformation in England, p 293.

6 Stanfield, J, ‘The archpriest controversy’ in Miscellanea, Publications of the Catholic Record Society 22 (London, 1921), pp 132186 at p 140.

7 Pollen, Institution of the Archpriest Blackwell, p 2.

8 Stanfield, ‘Archpriest controversy’, p 141.

9 Pastor, L, The History of the Popes, trans Kerr, R, vol XXIV (London, 1933), p 21.

10 Pritchard, A, Catholic Loyalism in Elizabethan England (Chapel Hill, NC, 1979), p 75.

11 Tierney, M, Dodd's Church History (New York, 1971), vol III, p 48, n 1.

12 Pastor, History of the Popes, vol XXIV, p 24.

13 Stanfield, ‘Archpriest controversy’, p 141.

14 Pritchard, Catholic Loyalism, p 123.

15 The decision came in May 1600: the Appellants were not schismatic.

16 Meyer, A, England and the Catholic Church under Queen Elizabeth (London, 1916), p 416.

17 Act for the Better Discovery and Repressing of Popish Recusants 1606.

18 Stanfield, ‘Archpriest controversy’, p 145.

19 Tierney, Dodd's Church History, vol V, p 158.

20 Sergeant, J, An Account of the Chapter Erected by William, Titular Bishop of Chalcedon, and Ordinary of England and Scotland (London, 1853), p 32.

21 Bradley, R SJ, ‘Blacklo and the Counter-Reformation: an inquiry into the strange death of Catholic England’ in Carter, C (ed), From the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation: essays in Honour of Garrett Mattingley (London, 1966), pp 348370 at p 349.

22 A List of the Members of the Old English Chapter (np, 1979), p 1.

23 Pastor, History of the Popes, vol XXIV, p 304.

24 Bossy, J, The English Catholic Community 1570–1850 (London, 1979), p 54.

25 Pollen, J (ed), Unpublished Documents Relating to the English Martyrs, Catholic Record Society Record Series 5 (London, 1908), pp 396397 .

26 Pastor, History of the Popes, vol XXIV, p 305.

27 Bradley, ‘Blacklo and the Counter-Reformation’, p 357.

28 Hughes, Rome and the Counter Reformation in England, pp 409–425.

29 Williams, J, Catholic Recusancy in Wiltshire 1660–1791, Catholic Record Society Monograph Series 1 (London, 1968), pp 9596 .

30 Sergeant, Account of the Chapter, p 89.

31 Ibid , p 90.

32 Birrell, T, ‘English Catholics without a bishop 1655–72’, (1958) 4:4 Recusant History 142178 at 162.

33 Sergeant, Account of the Chapter, p 98.

34 Birrell, ‘English Catholics without a bishop’, p 168.

35 Sergeant, Account of the Chapter, p 109.

36 Hughes, Rome and the Counter Reformation in England, p 423.

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Ecclesiastical Law Journal
  • ISSN: 0956-618X
  • EISSN: 1751-8539
  • URL: /core/journals/ecclesiastical-law-journal
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