of the Philippines, or of the formerly Spanish territories in Latin America -does there appear to have been widespread support for the further spread of Catholicism.
Despite the initially high hopes of some early nineteenth-century missionaries, eager to convert the world to the 'faith of their fathers', by about the middle of the nineteenth century it had become clear, even to the most sanguine, that most non-Christian peoples were either indifferent, or actually hostile, to the 'good news' being brought to them by European missionaries, whether Protestant or Catholic. The 'Catholic Revival' which followed throughout most of Europe and the New World, and which distinguished itself from earlier missionary endeavour by turning its focus almost exclusively on whites, thus came, in practice, to be a movement of significance only in those communities which were already technically Catholic.
It was to these nominally Catholic communities, often held in suspicion by the more rigidly Ultramontane clergy who had been trained in Italy or France to 'missionise' to the infidel, that the sense of a grand mission to 'convert the heathen' and 'restore' Catholicism to its full Tridentine glory was born. The Italian Passionist Fr Dominic Barberi may have dreamed and prayed for the 'conversion' of Protestant Britain, home of what was then the greatest European economic power and the centre of a vast empire; but, despite the headline conversions of prominent Anglican clergymen associated with the Oxford Movement, his successes were mostly confined to winning the allegiance of Irish emigrants who, however patchy their conformity to Catholic doctrine and practice, regarded themselves as Catholics, not Protestants, by birth.16
The Catholic Revival ofthe mid-nineteenth century, for all its disingenuous claims to have 'won' new converts to what it termed 'Christianity', was in practice largely confined to persuading the members of pre-existing Catholic communities to change their habits of devotion and worship. 'Conversion' in this sense could mean little more than going to Mass more often; making more public displays of faith; joining exclusively Catholic societies; and incorporating new or newly recommended devotions and pious practices, both public and private, into one's daily routine. Since Protestant revivalist techniques were having much the same effect on their own communities at just about the same time, it is not clear that this represented much more than a change in religious fashion, a general shift from the more gentlemanly style of piety held to have
16 Connolly, 'Catholicism in Manchester andSalford', vol. iii, pp. 5-6; Wilson, BlessedDominic Barberi, p. 262.
Was this article helpful?