Bishop Herbert Vaughan and the Jesuits: Education and Authority

By Rafferty, Oliver P. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Bishop Herbert Vaughan and the Jesuits: Education and Authority


Rafferty, Oliver P., The Catholic Historical Review


Bishop Herbert Vaughan and the Jesuits: Education and Authority. Edited by Martin Broadley. (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press for the Catholic Records Society. 2010. Pp. xxxviii, 248. $80.00. ISBN 978-0-902-83225-1.)

The editor has brought together from archives in England and Rome, the papers relating to a dispute in 1875 between Bishop Herbert Vaughan, subsequently cardinal archbishop of Westminster, and the English province of the Society of Jesus. The general history of the altercation has been well known for some time and addressed by a number of historians. The dispute centered on the fact that the Jesuits opened a school in Manchester, in the Salford diocese, in defiance of Vaughan's wishes. The Jesuits claimed that the privileges of the Order enabled them to act in this high-handed fashion, and Vaughn would have none of it. He went to Rome determined that he would have the authority of a diocesan bishop upheld, or he would resign his see. In the end a compromise of sorts was worked out whereby the Jesuits, in the person of Father General Peter Beckx, agreed to close the school and Vaughan agreed not to demand an investigation into the exempt privileges claimed by the Society. The dispute is of interest for a number of reasons, not least because it occurred within twenty-five years of the restoration of the hierarchy in England. But also because, as Broadley indicates in his introductory essay to the collection of documents, it was one more instance of the struggles between the Jesuits and the diocesan clergy that had been a feature of English Catholicism since the days of Elizabeth I.

In this instance the confrontation between the bishops, all of whom were dragged into the dispute and who collectively petitioned the Holy See on Vaughan's behalf, and the Jesuits would ultimately lead in 1881 to the pontifical constitution Romanos Pontífices. That document would prove to be the basis for regulating the relationship between bishops and religious orders until the codification of the Canon Law in 1917. One towering figure who, in the 1875 dispute, seemed to play only a minor, if vital, role was Henry Edward Manning, made a cardinal in that very year. …

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