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 Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design

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whitehound
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 7:50 am

Although I'm a pagan I'm partly convent-educated and from an Irish Catholic family myself, and most of my relatives are Catholics, although my mother had left the church before I was born.

If I remember the BBC interviews correctly the death rate *among the children of unmarried mothers* at Tuam was a lot higher. Health checks on the children repeatedly described them as emaciated, and neighbours who were interviewed said that they had been aware that bad things were going on behind the wall. Of course this wasn't a new thing - the death rate among children in the Victorian workhouse was very high - but at Tuam it continued until 1965, well into the antibiotics age.

This is primarily an Irish issue rather than a Catholic issue - there was a culture of abuse at Protestant and secular children's homes in Ireland as well. However, there are more Catholic than Protestant abusers in Ireland because there are more Catholics than Protestants in Ireland, and the Catholic church in Southern Ireland was particularly toxic - probably because the social conditions meant that a lot of people were forced into the church against their will to gain status for their parents, or joined it to escape from poverty, without having any actual vocation or any natural bent for celibacy (which btw was a fairly recent innovation, introduced round about 1100 and maintained because Catholic priests don't have a set salary, they live on an expenses account, and the church didn't want to have to finance their children).

Because of geographical proximity and the mass emigration following the potato famine, a very high proportion of Catholics in the UK are (like my family) Irish emigres, and brought with them a church which had become centred on power rather than faith. "Old Catholics", those English Catholic families who survived the Reformation, are a very different quantity.

There is now a movement in Ireland for Catholics to maintain their religious beliefs and practices but to divorce themselves from the church. I don't know what the numbers are, but I imagine that the new pope has done something to reverse this trend. Imo the church shot itself in the foot when it introduced the doctrine of papal infallibility, which forces Catholics who wish to remain in the church to have to try to make themselves believe that every ruling given by some highly unsuitable pope who was elected as being the best of a bad bunch, like the last one, is divine writ, instead of regarding the pope as just the most senior (but still fallible) cardinal, as he was in Richard's day. That in itself is such a large change that it might give Richard pause for thought regarding whether this was still the same religion as the one he belonged to.

And yes, the Anglican faith was founded in a very brutal and mostly venal way, but we're talking about what church, now, would be the closest to Richard's views. As far as I know the Anglican church and church of Scotland do a lot more to help the poor in Britain, for example, and are certainly much more tolerant (although I have to say that when I had my wee pagan shop in Edinburgh we got on very well with the local nuns, who used to come in with collecting tins). Whether Richard would be strongly attached to the idea of purgatory and intercession-by-prayer which he was raised with, or would be relieved to cast it off in favour of other beliefs which didn't compel him to believe that his loved ones would burn if he didn't keep on obsessively praying for them, we can't know.

As to how his Wycliffe bible would have been regarded, I'll ask a mate of mine who has a Masters in Christian Theology what she thinks. But I don't think that the argument that had it been regarded as heretical, Henry would have made capital out of it holds water. Henry himself said very little about Richard, although he allowed and possibly encouraged his historians to do so; I don't think his own faith was orthodox so he wouldn't have wanted to invite comparisons; he was married to a strong and apparently rather domineering woman who seems to have been very fond of Richard; and if the story about Ralph Bigod is true then his mother also had become posthumously quite attached to Richard. Nor, probably, would he want to do anything which might make religious free-thinkers think that making common cause with York would be a good idea.

It it's true that Edward IV railed against Lollardy (which I hadn't heard before) that still means Richard was taking a risk by having that Wycliffe bible - even if only the risk of a family row - so that still suggests that being able to read the bible and pray in English was important to him, and that therefore he might actually prefer a service in English.
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Marie2

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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:09 am

Hi Whitehound,
I agree with a lot of what you say about the peculiarly Irish problem - my late mother was brought up in Ireland and very screwed up by the whole thing. But then my mother-in-law is an English Catholic and just as screwed up, and both were subjected to the terrifying rants of visiting Redemptorist priests when they were young.
I personally found dropping the whole belief in Purgatory and the Spy in the Sky an immense relief, but I have to say I love the Catholic practice of having masses said for dead relatives; it's still very big in the West of Ireland, and oddly comforting to have everybody come together with their prayers all centred on the person you've lost, particularly at anniversaries. I can't justify it theologically but I would say it's a basic human urge.

Richard did, of course, have the option even in his own day to not believe he had to keep praying to get his relatives out of Purgatory (not quite the same thing as preventing them burning); it was called lollardy - condemnation of the funding of prayers for the souls of particular individuals was the seventh of the Twelve Conclusions of Lollardy. How his beliefs would have transmuted over time if he'd been transported to the 21st century in 1485 and gone on living for many more years we can't say. He belonged to his own time, and he is not us.

The business about the Bosworth mass has been misrepresented here. All Ralph Bigod said about that morning was that there was general stress and muddle. The lack of mass comes from Crowland, who represents it as a mistake rather than an order on Richard's part, as though God had withdrawn his favour: "... the chaplains were not ready to celebrate mass fro King Richard nor was any breakfast ready with which to revive the king's flagging spirits. The king, so it was reported, had seen that night, in a terrible dream, a multitude of demons...." It has been shown that the story of the mass that could not be got is a trope, and had been told before of other medieval leaders defeated in battle.

Henry VIII was, until Anne Boleyn came along, a very conservative Catholic, so much so that the Pope had awarded him the title Defender of the Faith. I'm sorry to have to keep repeating that Richard would not have been in danger for owning Wycliffe's translation of the NT, which is why he was happy enough to sign his name in it. If it was so wicked it would have been destroyed by Henry VII. Check this out:
https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110327142936AAxJr6G

Edward started railing against lollardy in the 1470s, even adding it to the list of crimes his oyer and terminer commissioners were supposed to investigate. He went on about his hard line on heresy in his letters to the Pope, and became very popular in Rome as a result. A lollard named John Goose was burnt at Smithfield in 1474.
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:33 am

Marie, I value your scholarship more than you'll ever know -- thanks for setting me straight on the Wycliffe NT not being enough to have Richard denounced as a heretic, and for pointing out further misconceptions we may have about Richard.

But could I please set you straight on one thing?

Marie2 wrote:

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2)...Wed, you obviously loath Catholicism and would love Richard to have been a secret lollard, but if he had been he would not have been founding chantries and colleges of priests dedicated to strings of saints, now, would he?


I don't know where you got the impression I loath Catholicism. I neither loath or loathe it.

I started with the local RCIA class last fall and was baptized Roman Catholic at Easter Vigil this year. Since Richard -- among others -- was instrumental in getting me to make the call to enroll in the first place after a number of years of refusing to have anything to do with organized religion, I'm very grateful to the man for his example of faith.


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whitehound
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:21 am

Hum. The commentators you link to seem to be agreed that the English translation of the time *was* strongly disapproved of, meaning that it was quite unorthodox for Richard to have it. Signing his name souinds like sticking two fingers up at his brother but of course *he* didn't have to worry about being called a heretic by the church - he was much too powerful to cross. And the article is certainly wrong about the Catholic church producing all Bibles prior to H8 - the Celtic church produced them too, and so surely did the Orthodox church in other countries.

I'm not sure where the story about Richard refusing to pray for victory (not necessarily refusing to have mass said, but refusing to have it said on that theme) came from originally, because I did most of my original research on Richard nearly 40 yeares ago. I'll have to try to track it down.

As to the rest of it, my problem is that the Catholic church in Richard's day was a different quantity from what it became. The excesses of the Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the suppression of Galileo had not yet happened. Despite its corruption,the English Catholic church of Richard's time was a force for good, and one with few rivals.

It promoted what intellectual life there was, ran the schools and the universities and trained the doctors and lawyers. It fed the poor, treated the sick and housed the weary traveller. It produced great music, great art, great architecture.

We cannot know how much of Richard's devotion to Mother Church was theological and how much was *because* she promoted intellectual debate, cared for the poor and the sick and produced great art - but it's at least possible he wouldn't feel the same about a church which had become known for suppressing intellectual debate, neglecting the poor and producing tacky plastic statuettes, and that he might be drawn to an Anglican service because the Anglicans have taken over as far as feeding the poor etc goes, even though they are Tudor in origin and differ on some major points of theology.
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:10 pm

Wed:
I started with the local RCIA class last fall and was baptized Roman Catholic at Easter Vigil this year. Since Richard -- among others -- was instrumental in getting me to make the call to enroll in the first place after a number of years of refusing to have anything to do with organized religion, I'm very grateful to the man for his example of faith.

Marie:
Well, I'm amazed. Obviously I apologise profusely for completely getting the wrong end of the stick. I'm really pleased for you because if you really believe the theology there is nothing better than belonging to a community of shared faith, and what contact I've had with the Church in recent years has indicated that all but the oldest generations of Catholics have passed out of that negative mindset to find something really spiritual. It's not for me because I just don't believe the whole story, although I love much of the symbolism.

To Whitehound: Yes, Wycliffe's books were banned, but there was not a ban in principal on reading prayers or the Bible in the vernacular; it was rather that, to quote Eamonn Duffy "Fear of Lollardy had made most Church leaders fearful of translations of scripture...." (Stripping of the Altars, p. 80), i.e. because the Lollards were so keen on reading the Bible in English the whole idea, which was not heretical per se, became tainted. At the same time, growing rates of literacy amongst the laity led to a huge need for English-language translations. So "the fear of Bible translations was a major weakness in the educational and devotional programme of late medieval English Catholicism, and a principal reason why serious interest in religious education could tip over into, or be confused with, Lollardy" (ibid. p 81). Duffy goes on to say that English Bible-reading was thus confined "to those who procured an episcopal licence": my feeling is that, since Richard was confident enough to sign his copies of the "Wycliffe" NT and that other volume with the few OT books bound into it, he very probably had such a licence.
I hear what you're saying about the Church of England. My brother has half gone that route. We both stopped going to Mass aged 14 but retained some vaguely defined sense of something beyond and a need to live by doing what seems right - karma, you might call it. My brother had all his kids christened in the Church of England because it was not so restrictive, and they have done likewise.
One thing I think Richard would have missed with the Church of England was the loss of contact with other European Christians. If you are a Catholic you can wander into mass in any country in the western world, and when it was always in Latin you didn't even need to worry about understanding the language. I know the Anglican community is widespread, but that is in countries Richard would never have heard of.
Initially, of course, the Reformation caused a huge loss of religious art, and the equivalent of cheap plastic madonnas were on sale at shrines in the Middle Ages too, but that clearly didn't put Richard off.
I am trying to avoid getting pushed into a polarised debate, because I do think Richard's owning of the Wycliffe NT in particular tells us something about his take on Christianity. It suggest to me that, although he enthusiastically embraced aspects of Catholicism denounced by the Lollards, he was probably disapproving of some of the attitudes of the Catholic hierarchy such as their failure to respond to the growing need for English translations of devotional material, and the poor example set by many members of the clergy in their daily lives which he denounced as king. In that sense, I see Richard's English prayer books as more of a piece with his taking his coronation oath in English and publishing the statutes of his parliament in English. He was a man who thought and cared deeply about things and defined his faith by positive principles rather than, like his brother, by the merely negative rejection of heresy. I sometimes wonder what he thought about burning of heretics as a means of protecting the Catholic Church. It had become rare in his lifetime, but had been horrifyingly common during the reign of saintly old Henry VI. What did he think about the John Goose case, I wonder.
Funnily enough, a book on Bible reading before the Reformation recommended by Duffy is written by a man called Richard Rex.
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:31 pm

I don't know about the John Goose case - what happened?

Richard's having the NT in English and his interest in St Ninian and Juliana of Norwich suggests to me the kind of small-scale, grass-roots faith which went with Passion Plays and pilgrimages rather than with high theory and heretic burning, despite his interest in theological debate. And, after all, one of his best side-kicks was a Jew - even if he *was* a convert.
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PostSubject: Re: Catholic Opinion on the New Tomb Design   Sat Jun 21, 2014 2:41 pm

whitehound wrote:
I don't know about the John Goose case - what happened?

Marie:
I honestly don't know the details. The London chronicle Vitellius AXVI, which was put together in the 1490s, records that he was burnt at Tower Hill (I think I said Smithfield, but it was Tower Hill) during the mayoralty of John Tate (Oct 1473-4). There's a story about his being given a meal in the house of the sheriff, Robert Bellisdon, before being taken to his execution, and left his house saying " I eate now a good and a competent dynner: for I shall passe a litle sharpe shower, ere I go to supper". But this comes from Foxe's 'Protestant Martyrology' which was published in the reign of Elizabeth I, so it's not what I would call a primary source. Foxe dates the execution to 23rd August 1473, which is a couple of months before Tate became Mayor. Robert Byllesdon was one of the sheriffs in the year that Tate was mayor, so Foxe must have got the date of the execution wrong. Perhaps it was 23 August, but 1474. It may be there are unpublished contemporary records of his trial, but maybe not.

Whitehound
Richard's having the NT in English and his interest in St Ninian and Juliana of Norwich suggests to me the kind of small-scale, grass-roots faith which went with Passion Plays and pilgrimages rather than with high theory and heretic burning, despite his interest in theological debate.  And, after all, one of his best side-kicks was a Jew - even if he *was* a convert.

Marie:
I don't know whether Richard thought deeply about theology or just accepted it easily, but he does seem to have accepted it. Church policy was another matter, and it was in that area that his difficulties may have lain, I think. The ban on reading the Bible in English (at least, without a licence from the bishop) was policy with no actual theological basis. The Church's failure to enforce codes of ethics on its clergy was also a failure of policy. Heretic burning was also policy rather than theology, and indeed required the connivance of the secular authorities since churchmen weren't really allowed to kill people. Richard doesn't seem to have been a fanatical Catholic, as so many were, in the sense of being paranoid about the threat from Outside.
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