Sunday, April 17, 2016

Question from Fr Elijah - Monastic involvement in the establishment of the Anglican Church

I am a Roman Catholic Benedictine monk and priest. I am researching very specific questions for which I have not been able to locate materials. Any citations,source documents, or general direction would be greatly appreciated:

1-During the time of Henry VIII before his break with Rome, were there any Bishops serving who had been monks (Benedictine or Cistercian)? I realize (a) not all monks or Abbots were priests, and (b) most bishops were previously secular priests. So, I am inquiring if you know of any monastic priests who had become or were serving as Bishops under Henry VIII?

2-Based on the answer to #1, did any of those previously monastic Bishops become Anglican in support of Henry VIII?

3-Were there any previous monastics who served Thomas Cramner during the early development of the Anglican Church?

4-I know that under the reign of Mary that many monks returned from the Continent who had previously faced the dissolution. Did she appoint any monks as Bishops?

5-Based on the answer to #4, did any remain and support Elizabeth?

So, in a nut shell, I am looking to see if there was any direct monastic involvement in the establishment of the Anglican Church, its hierarchy, or the development of its Book of Common Prayer.



PhD Historian said...

While I am generally opposed to Wikipedia as a source for historical information, this is one of those very rare instances in which it may prove useful as a starting point for your research. Wikipedians love to make lists, and there is indeed a Wikipedia page that lists all the current and former English bishoprics. From there, you can access lists of the individuals who held a given bishopric. And a surprisingly large number of them do have biographical articles of varying length. You would of course need to be very careful to find other sources of a more reliable nature than Wikipedia in order to confirm whatever you may find on Wikipedia.

There were/are quite a lot of English bishoprics, and in many cases a given bishopric was held by a succession of several men between the Act of Supremacy of 1534 and the Second Book of Common Prayer of 1552. So you will have a quite long list of names to sort through. But with a little time and effort, you should be able to get the names you need in order to go further with other sources (e.g.: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, locally-held archives of individual bishoprics).

One note on terminology: It is anachronistic, and therefore incorrect, to refer to the English Church under Henry VIII as the "Anglican" Church. That term denotes a very particular system of doctrines and liturgical practices that did not come into widespread and official religious use in England until much later. The church under Henry VIII is more properly referred to as simply the English Church (*not* the "Church of England"!). The Church in England did not become known by the 'nickname' of "the Anglican Church" until the middle of the seventeenth century (see the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary for origins of the term Anglican). But even if we allow for a little latitude, it is still incorrect to refer to a "Church of England" or "Anglican Church" in any period prior to the Elizabethan Settlement.

And of course that leads directly into one of my own pet peeves, the use of the term "protestant" to refer to non-Roman Catholic Christians in the Tudor era. Like the term Anglican, "protestant" had a very particular meaning in the sixteenth century and was not yet associated with Christians who were not Roman Catholic. Its use to denote non-Catholics in a collective and general way again did not emerge until the seventeenth century. The more correct term for referring to those Christians who adhered to a doctrinal and liturgical system other than Roman Catholicism might be simply "reformers," though "evangelicals" was also commonly used in the period, as were names derived from and used to identify specific sects, e.g. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, etc.

Your research project sounds fascinating. I hope you will let us know what you eventually find.

Fr. Elijah OSB said...

Thanks so much for the insights on academic terminology and usage. I was using the specific terminology of that used in "The English Prayer Book 1549-1662--Dugmore, 1963"...Protestant, Church of England, and Anglican. For academic circles I should be more precise for the time period.

I did draw up a list of the Bishoprics of that time period. Wiki was indeed most helpful. Even as I consulted the National Biography for each person, the other struggle is that so many of the references to the Bishops of that time do not include their past affiliations with religious communities. You are quite correct in noting that the list is quite long. Most often it merely relates that they were "ministers" previously, which as you know can mean quite a bit. It might even note that they were a "friar" but not note which community of friars. That early formation within a specific religious community (be it as a brother or later ordained priest; length of their formation; where they studied and under whom, etc.) would have been informative in understanding much of their later perspectives (with Luther and Zwingli as prime examples). My research on the continent in German and Swiss records has been very fruitful in finding information for reformation figures of that time period and location. On the English side, after scouring name by name in records, I have been able to find only this of the key figures: John Hooper was an ex-Cisterician monk, Myles Coverdale was an ex-Augustinian Friar, and Martin Bucer was an ex-Dominican Friar. Once I was able to narrow the search to a specific community, I was then able to access both the general public data, as well as the archival Roman Catholic data, to get quite a bit of information on each figure.

Anyway, thanks so much for your assistance and direction.

Fr. Elijah OSB said...

I also failed to mention that my "Go To" references have been "Henry VIII's Bishops" by Andrew Chibi and Kenneth Carleton's "Bishops and Reform in the English Church 1520-1559". Both have been invaluable in laying the broad groundwork for my initial research into those who had a background in Religious Orders.

PhD Historian said...

I had not thought about it too carefully, but now that you mention it, I can easily see how the ODNB might be less than forthcoming with detailed information on the early careers of various clerics when those careers were decidedly Roman Catholic in nature. There is, after all, a continuing anti-Catholic prejudice in the UK, though it is certainly not nearly as pronounced as it was a century or two ago. I can see how the ODNB might remain 'skimpy' when it comes to RC background details.

Have you tried the website British History Online ( It has an excellent search feature. I just did a search for Paul Bush, Bishop of Bristol from 1542 to 1554 (I chose him quite randomly from the Wiki lists), and found 23 results of varying utility. But I do see (and you probably already know) that he was a Bonshommes (English Augustinian), served as a provost in that order, and was a personal chaplain to Henry VIII in the early 1540s. And despite his continued orthodox beliefs, he retained his bishopric throughout the reign of Edward VI and the implementation of both Books of Common Prayer.

So you might try BHO, if you have not done so already. If nothing else, it has an excellent list of primary sources for religious history and provides full access to Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae. It also provides simultaneous access to Alumni Oxoniensis, which may provide some of the background detail you seek. Alumni Cantabrigienses is apparently not available through BHO, but it can be accessed through other means and may also provide detail (though Cambridge was in general more reformist in character).

Again, good luck with your research!

Foose said...

Another good source might be Eamon Duffy's The Church of Mary Tudor. Duffy notes a number of bishops with monastic backgrounds. I've summarized his list below - Duffy goes into more detail on their careers under the various Tudor rulers through Mary:
-Robert King, bishop of Oseney and Thame in 1541, bishop of Oxford 1545 "having started his career as a Cistercian monk at Rewley."
-John Chambers, bishop of Peterborough, started as monk at Peterborough and later rose to be abbot; in fact, he was the abbot who surrendered the house to the king in 1539, and was appointed bishop in 1541.
-John Capon (also Salcot) was a Benedictine promoted to bishop of Bangor in 1533, and then Salisbury in 1539.
-Henry Man was a Carthusian who became bishop of Sodor in 1546.
Anthony Kitchin was abbot of Eynsham and surrendered it in 1539, and was appointed bishop of Llandaff in 1545.
-Robert Parfew, a Cluniac monk, was abbot of Bermondsey and bishop of St. Asaph's 1535-1538; Mary Tudor appointed him bishop of Hereford.

Fr. Elijah OSB said...

Foose and PhD Historian: Thanks so much for the leads. They have already been invaluable! I have already started down the two rabbit holes!


RoseO'Shoshanna said...

Have you considered the exiles who arrived from the inquisition to the isles and were housed by monastic refuges as the primary distinction between the catholics who were inquisitioned or proclaimed "protestant" for sheltering Jews, particularly levitical translators? This was the sole purpose of the dissolution and the continuing battle between protestant and catholics which is highly regulated information to this day.
Your question seemed to probe into this very controversial issue...