27 June 2020

Sir Harry Trelawny (5)

Bad news: hitherto, I have shared with you an evidence-based story. Now, however, for some Conspiracy Theory. As if Coronavirus doesn't give us enough of that ...

So who were those "Catholic Authorities" in England who had objected to Sir Harry celebrating Holy Mass by virtue of his Anglican Orders; who adamantly refused him conditional Ordination? I have a candidate.

Step forward the handsome, elegant figure of Peter Augustine Baines, Bishop of Siga. You might have called him Bishop of Bath, because that is where the Western District was then centred. It included Wales and Cornwall. And, before he was made Vicar Apostolic, Baines had pastored the Mission there, appointed at the age of 31 ... suspirium, one imagines, puellarum. At 34, he was Vicar General of the Vicar Apostolic; in 1823, aged only 36, he was consecrated as coadjutor of the long-sick Bishop Collingridge. From 1829 until his death in 1843, he was Vicar Apostolic. If Sir Harry's 'problem' did receive consideration, it is, surely, inconceivable that Baines knew nothing about it.

Edward Norman, of the Ordinariate, in his The English Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century, concludes his account of Baines with the phrase "He was a very great prelate". I am unsure how much irony there may be here! Baines certainly disagreed violently with a lot of people. Wiseman disliked his Liverpudlian accent, but everybody agreed that he was an excellent preacher. His portrait, reproduced in The English Vicars Apostolic of Fathers Schofield and Skinner, appears to show a Regency dandy. "[I]n the summer of 1826, Baines' health broke down and he was advised to spend the winter in a warmer climate" (yes! We've been there before!). So, from the end of August 1826 until December 1829, Baines was in Rome. He "made many friends, attended the most fashionable salons and enjoyed the special favour of Pope Leo XII, who paid him an annual pension, appointed him an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne and apparently considered raising him still further to the the Sacred College." But his Holiness died in February. His successor Pius VIII renewed the offer; Baines declined it. So perhaps Norman's summary does hit the nail upon the head!

Baines, however, was an 'Old Catholic'. He disliked what were to prove to be the dominating and defining devotional fashions of nineteenth century Catholicism: devotion to the Sacred Herart; and to the Immaculate Conception. And, poor fellow, the Austin Ivereigh of his day, he very much disliked converts, "condemning their lack of humility".

Imagine a man such as Bishop Baines handling the case of a convert layman who masqueraded as a priest and gave lectures on the doctrines of Holy Order and Sacramental validity.

So I wondered whether, during his three-year-plus gossipfest in the Eternal City, Baines might have set in motion processes which led to the little chat between Cardinal Odescalchi and Sir Harry Trelawny.

Brother priests reading this ... Fathers, I am grateful to you for your indulgence and your time  ... will be wondering "Who on earth did the old boy get to teach him how to say Mass?"

1 comment:

Fr SImon Heans said...

Bishop Baines spent another sojourn in Rome which does not seem to have been so agreeable. In his pastoral letter at the beginning of Lent 1840, he attacked Pugin and other recent converts accusing them of "an enthusiastic turn of mind". Pugin's patron, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was very upset and sent a copy of the Pastoral to Rome. "As a result", Pugin's biographer Rosemary Hill explains, "Baines was summoned to Rome, where he spent ten uncomfortable months trying to account for himself."