Info

'timid', 'apologetic' or 'incomplete',9 the implication being that only fully 'Roman' Catholicism was true Catholicism. Gerard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire, many of whose arguments have been presented in English by Ralph Gibson, have likewise written with regret of the replacement of a multitude of idiosyncratic French saints - whose images were often associated with curative and semi-magical powers - with the anodyne, mass-produced plaster and terracotta statues of Counter-Reformation saints for sale near Saint-Sulpice church in Paris.10 Historians of Australian Catholicism have echoed the refrain in their presentations ofthe community as having abandoned more ecumenical traditions in order to become, in the infamous words of the English convert Henry Manning, 'more Roman than Rome' and 'more ultramontane than the Pope himself',11 while historians of American Catholicism remain divided over the extent to which distinctively American Catholic features were replaced by 'Roman' ones.12

However compelling arguments for an 'Ultramontane' triumph over 'Liberal Catholicism' or 'Gallicanism' in the nineteenth century may at first appear, their very functionalism ought to put us on our guard: real life is seldom so tidy as to consist merely of the straightforward imposition of 'power' by one group over another. On paper, the Catholic Church may indeed appear as a tightly structured hierarchical organisation with a chain of command not unlike that which exists in an army. In practice, however, the model is highly misleading, since pope, cardinals, bishops and priests can hardly impose their tastes on their flocks, who remain perfectly free to ignore the spiritual recommendations of their clergy; to change churches; to set up their own devotional societies or, ultimately, to cease to be involved in them altogether.

The nineteenth-century Catholic Church, whose missionary endeavour overseas had fallen well behind that of the Protestant churches during the latter half of the eighteenth century, was not likely to make such an elementary mistake as to confuse theoretical authority with actual power. In India, Catholic missionaries who had been sent out with the blessing of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide (revived in 1817) were generally met with resistance and suspicion, not only from the Hindu elite, but also from native 'Thomas' Christians, the East India Company and rival, Protestant missionary organisations. Although there were renowned instances in which whole villages

9 Bossy, The English Catholic community, pp. 297, 364-5.

10 Cholvy and Hilaire, Histoire religieuse; Gibson, Social history of French Catholicism, pp. 154-6.

11 Cited in Altholz, The Liberal Catholic movement in England, p. 212. On the Australian case, see Molony, The Roman mould of the Australian Catholic Church.

12 See e.g. 'An American Church' in Morris, American Catholic, pp. 134-5, and Taves, The household of faith, pp. 113-33.

0 0

Post a comment