8 August 2022

Roma liberanda Papa Rex (1)

The college, founded in 1848, in which I taught for so long was, unaccountably, accused in its early days of being popish; possibly because the Founder Nathaniel Woodard insisted on Confession before the reception of Holy Communion. To be fair, it is true that some of his younger collaborators did go off and become Catholics ... especially a young man called George Bampfield. And he was very popish.

As a Catholic priest, Fr Bampfield founded a number of Catholic schools in which his inculcation of the Faith was mingled with an inculcation of deep personal affection for Blessed Pio Nono. As a young priest Bampfield had been to Rome "to drink of Catholicity at its fountain head" and "had the happiness of kneeling at the feet of Pio Nono". After enlarging his church at Barnet he reopened it on the day of the Sovereign Pontiff's Episcopal Jubilee, and commemorated the occasion in stained glass. His autobiography [written in the third person] relates that "Not only once, but throughout the history of the schools, affection and reverence for the Holy Father had been inculcated and practised continually. So when the death [of B Pius IX] was announced, there was a solemn Requiem in the Church, to which the boys marched in sad procession, headed by the band playing the Dead March in Saul. Even the youngest must have felt that he had lost a friend, and, indeed, this was the truth".

One of the Prize Poems written by a pupil was entitled 'The Prisoner of the Vatican'; and a significant day came in 1874 with "a presentation of colours, worked by the Ladies Howard, sisters of the Duke of Norfolk, to St Andrew's Regiment of Papal Zouaves, for be it known that the boys were devoted to the Pope; that they marched, with band playing and colours flying, to church every Sunday, and that their drum bore the Papal arms and the regimental motto, Roma liberanda, Papa Rex".

You will not need me to tell you that Fr Bampfield had been under the influence of Fr Faber; and how the accounts of his doings bring to life the perfervid papalism of that era. How difficult it is to empathise with it now! To think that there were people who went around advocating that the Temporal Power of the Papacy be defined as a dogma of the Faith! Thank goodness we have moved on to a more balanced papalism!

But I wonder if this is quite the whole story. Perhaps there might be a rather more nuanced interpretation of the narrative.
Bampfield was the model for Fr Barham in Trollope's The Way We Live Now. To be continued.

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