Philip Jenkins on dissident Catholics


Professor Philip Jenkins, Welsh-born Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University in the United States, may be quite well known to many for his contributions to research in Christian history and criminology (no pun intended!).

Long, long ago in 2013 he alighted upon a review provided by Thomas Babington Macaulay (Lord Macaulay), a rather prominent figure in English letters and matters of state in the first half of the 19th century.

In Lord Macaulay’s said review (of a certain German scholar’s worthy attempt at the history of the Papacy – a little previous to Cambridge’s contemporary Professor Eamon Duffy’s attempt), much was said to explain the lasting power of the Catholic Church. She existed long before the rise of the royal houses of Europe and continued to show vitality and growth while the royal folk rose and fell – as the Church does still today.

Professor Jenkins (and Macaulay?) appear to attribute this to the Catholic Church’s broadness and her capacity to “absorb” dissidents and allow them to go forth, even to the extent of revering them as saints and as founders of great religious orders. This is something, according to him, our Protestant brethren are not so good at and dissidents there tend to go off and found their own “churches” instead, now numbering in the tens of thousands (that come and go largely) and nearly all of them in America or originating from there. Well, yes and no.

It’s unclear whether Professor Jenkins is suggesting that we should be more open to modern-day Catholic dissidents based on the historical data. Historical Catholic dissidents (St Francis, St Ignatius??) contributed to growth in the Church. It is hard to see our “dissidents” having this effect in our day. Quite the opposite. Would that it were otherwise.

Anyway, please read Professor Jenkin’s article. An excerpt here to whet the appetite:

In a Protestant country like England, notes Macaulay, an ordinary person is sometimes filled with spiritual power, but because the church cannot hold him, he goes off to found his own sect. In contrast, the Catholic Church not only tolerates such innovation, but wholeheartedly co-opts it for its own long-term good.

Macaulay’s Catholic dissidents





About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Catholic Culture, Church History, Church Politics, Interreligious relationship, Mission, Pope Francis, Saints. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Philip Jenkins on dissident Catholics

  1. toadspittle says:

    I haven’t a clue what Jenkins is getting at here. And, if Macaulay was “certain” of what Wesley might do, or become, in different circumstances – he was wrong.
    And who has ever regarded Ignatius as a “dissident?” Not me.
    But what do I know?


  2. Michael says:

    A splendid piece. I thought the following passage from it summed up the whole rather well:

    Just think, he says, of some of the individuals who became noted Catholic saints, and imagine if they had been raised in the Anglican system: “Place Ignatius Loyola at Oxford. He is certain to become the head of a formidable secession. Place John Wesley at Rome. He is certain to be the first General of a new society devoted to the interests and honour of the Church.”

    “Place Joanna Southcote at Rome. She founds an order of barefooted Carmelites, every one of whom is ready to suffer martyrdom for the Church; a solemn service is consecrated to her memory; and her statue, placed over the holy water, strikes the eye of every stranger who enters St. Peter’s.”

    The article reminded me as well of Bl. John Henry Newman’s image of the Church through time as a river that broadens and deepens through the ages, staying the same river all the while, but incorporating more and more life within it, able to receive many diverse tributaries precisely because it flows steadily along its own course.


  3. toadspittle says:

    “Place Ignatius Loyola at Oxford. He is certain to become the head of a formidable secession.”
    What Oxford?The one of Loyola’s time, or that of Macauley’s? I’m probably being overly pedantic here, but nobody is ever “certain” to do anything. I’m not certain to live out today. Nobody is.


  4. toadspittle says:

    What a mess. Spellings. Coding. Spacing. D’oh’ JH is right. My time is nearly up.


  5. Robert says:

    I agree with Toad. I haven’t a clue what Jenkins is getting at here. Comparing Anglicans with Catholics requires looking from a Nationalist insular Christinaity (headed by the Crown, not necessarily the monarch, more often a pagan Parliament).
    Catholic means all men, all times, universal. This means breadth and diversity.


  6. The Raven says:

    Well, Toad, in the early history of the Society of Jesus there are a whole gamut of run-ins with the ecclesiastical establishment; in his own time St Ignatius was certainly seen as dissenting from the path that the Church had followed up to that point.

    I think that you make a good point about Oxford: in St Ignatius’ own lifetime Oxford was still producing Catholic saints and martyrs; heterodoxy didn’t really get its teeth into the place until the late 1580s (part of the reason for Walsingham’s onslaught against Catholics was the consistent attraction of the best and brightest at Oxford to the True Faith). Placed in the Oxford of Macaulay, I can see his point.


  7. GC says:

    Robert @ 08:07

    Macaulay might have agreed with you:

    As the Catholics in zeal and in union had a great advantage over the Protestants, so had they also an infinitely superior organisation. In truth, Protestantism, for aggressive purposes, had no organisation at all. The Reformed Churches were mere national Churches. The Church of England existed for England alone. It was an institution as purely local as the Court of Common Pleas, and was utterly without any machinery for foreign operations. The Church of Scotland, in the same manner, existed for Scotland alone. The operations of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, took in the whole world. Nobody at Lambeth or at Edinburgh troubled himself about what was doing in Poland or Bavaria. But Cracow and Munich were at Rome objects of as much interest as the purlieus of St. John Lateran.

    Macaulay’s original (but long!) essay is here. It deals with the four greatest historical challenges the Church faced and notes she has not only survived but is still full of vigour; in 1840 anyway.


  8. Robert says:

    The Society of Jesus. I have a problem with the Jesuits. The problem is not with individuals and saints but with an Order of elitism.
    St Vincent Ferrer in his sermons points at the especial roles of the two Orders Dominicans and Franciscans plus the Carmelites (the gift of the Brown Scapular). The Order of Preachers (and the Rosary given by Our Lady) and the Order of Little Brothers (Holy Poverty).
    These three Orders raised by Heaven and Our Lady’s Prophecy given to St Dominic ” AND ONE DAY, THROUGH THE ROSARY AND THE SCAPULAR, SHE WILL SAVE THE WORLD”

    The world is in awe of science, learning and the idols of elitism! This elitism is very much associated with the Jesuits.
    But Holy Poverty, the Rosary, the Scapular were are these to be found?
    Yes I understand the Oxford scholars in exile that produced the douay rheims Bible of William Allen etc..
    The singular absence of Holy Poverty, The Rosary, The Scapular explains why materialism and pagan naturalism has such a hold in Rome.


  9. toadspittle says:

    “The singular absence of Holy Poverty,”
    I suspect that you and Pope Francis are in agreement here, Rebot. I’ve noticed both in Spain and the US, a singular lack of poverty, holy or otherwise, regarding the Church. Here, bishops still live in luxury, in palaces- literally – waited on by nuns who are unpaid slaves ( lowly, hard-up, priest friends I speak to often have very wry comments to make on all that.) The churches and cathedrals still reek of wealth. Burning them down was going a bit far, but one can see the point, especially back when the mass of ordinary rabble was dirt poor and starving in the streets.

    [Moderator: one sentence deleted. Refrain from insulting holy prelates!]

    Holy poverty? Yea, right. Indefensible, I’d have thought. But apparently not.
    Anyway, he got the elbow.
    “This elitism is very much associated with the Jesuits.”
    ….And if they team up with the Masons, we’re totally cooked, aren’t we – every blessed one of us!


  10. Robert says:

    Holy Poverty! St Francis was a brother and dressed as a brother. St Francis wasn’t a priest.
    St Pio was a priest and under Holy Poverty dressed as a priest.
    The Pope Has to have the humility to dress and act as a Pope.
    Holy Poverty in a Pope? Pius XII wearing the Triple Crown and seated on the Sedia Gestatoria./
    Sadly the Papacxy since 1960’s have indulgent themselves with worldly versions of humility and poverty and this before Vat II.


  11. toadspittle says:

    “Sadly the Papacy since 1960’s have indulgent themselves with worldly versions of humility and poverty…
    You can’t have it both ways, Regbot. You are bemoaning both the lack of poverty – and the ‘worldly indulgence’ in it – simultaneously.
    Nor can you, or anyone – “indulge” in worldly poverty – any more than you can “indulge” in worldly starvation.

    Anyway, the question is: Do you think bishops should live in palaces? Or not?
    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t care where bishops live, (or how much they eat) and Burgos cathedral is one of my favourite places in the world. Stuffed to the soaring arches with wonderful treasures. Well worth a few thousand wretched peasant’s lives.
    And it will be burned down over my dead body. (If necessary.)

    “The Pope Has to have the humility to dress and act as a Pope.”
    As your idea of a Pope, you mean. But not as Francis’s idea.
    And he’s got the job – not you. Thank God.


  12. Robert says:

    If you would only meditate on the Passion so much would become clearer not least the difference between this Fallen World and what passes for humility and poverty, and Heaven and the virtue of Humility and Holy Poverty.
    Remember it was Pilate as a representative of Rome that recognised Our Lord as a King and placed this title above His Cross in three languages Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
    Rome also crowned him (with thorns) and dressed him as a king and presented him to the Jews as a King.
    So there is a worldly Poverty and there is a Heavenly Poverty (Franciscan and enjoyed by the religious vow of Poverty, whereby Providence provides for what is needed).
    The Triple Crown is because of the Trinity (not a worldly crown) and then there are the two keys binding on Earth and in Heaven.
    Just as there the various Orders have their gowns etc.. and Priests their garments so and especially the Popes.
    Do the emissaries of great kings turn up in jeans and or sack cloth? Well the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and under Holy Poverty is required to dress, Act appropriate to Christ the KING.
    Away with this worldly materialism and modernism! Viva Christo Rey!


  13. Robert says:

    Lets be absolutely clear Our Lord Always placed the Holy Will of His Heavenly Father first. The First commandment means that the first fruits are offered to God. God is placed in the first place.
    To understand Holy Humility and Poverty is to place God before Man. The Pope has to do this because this is what Our Lord asks of Him. “Lovest Thou Me More Than The Rest!”
    When a Papacy places the world before God its a Rebellion a Disobedience to God.
    Our Lords Holy Poverty (Heaven provided Him with everything that He needed [sic Palm Sunday]). Holy Poverty is NOT the grinding Poverty of two thirds of the world population caused through the GREED and VICES of the Kings of the Earth who would have you believe your Father was and Ape.
    Does the Vatican place God first? Where is the evidence of this love of God before Man? The evidence is the exact reverse the love of Man place before that of God.
    If they loved God why do they NOT place God first? Or is the answer Silence?


  14. toadspittle says:

    “Remember it was Pilate as a representative of Rome that recognised Our Lord as a King and placed this title above His Cross in three languages Latin, Greek and Hebrew.”
    This is generally agreed to be irony on his part, Rogor. Including in the Gospels themselves.
    I’ve never before heard the suggestion that Pilate believed Christ was a real king.

    Given what you say, though – isn’t it a bit odd that no mention of Christ is to be found outside this book, in that time?
    (I meant to ask you the other day: How do we know about Pilate’s wife’s dream?)


  15. Robert says:

    Hi Toad.
    Your questioning now Pilate’s wife dream. Better to question the 40 days temptation of Our Lord? who witnessed that? There is a tradition of Pilate being crucified near Seville. You will be aquainted with the Pilar.
    But the Gospels are four distinct separate books by different authors. The New Testament as such was pooled together over decades before the Church declaration on the Books of the Bible. The various letters etc of Paul, Peter, John etc.. again these were hand copied and passed around. If the Old Testament is an incredible organic collection of Books over centuries the New is miraculous.
    Stop being foolish over this question of books and references. The Jews and the Authorities clearly had a policy of killing off Christianity!
    The Bible is a miraculous book. Christ indeed Mary as well is continual referenced throughout the Old Testament. His Face is mentioned 71 times in the Old Testament. As for sundry and many seers and prophets over the last 2000 years. Nor forgetting the Holy Shroud.
    Foolish to question the Kingship of Christ! You have forgotten St Joseph and his lineage through
    David. The Jews knew ‘ Of the Line of David’ The Romans would have known of Christ Toad.
    Lets start with the Magi (and what a talking point this must have been!
    Matthew 2:2
    Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.
    Each of the Gospels expressly records Pilates question
    Matthew 27:29
    And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews.

    Now son of David this was constantly directed at Christ . David king of the Jews!!
    Matthew 1:1
    The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
    Matthew 21:15
    And the chief priests and scribes, seeing the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying: Hosanna to the son of David; were moved with indignation.

    Once you see and understand the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and see in the Passion Genesis rerun then you will begin to see the difference between Holy Poverty and Humility and its worldly equivalents.
    There are Kings and Queens canonised who had Holy Poverty!
    The priesthood is set apart from the world a man consecrated to serve God and in return God’s Providence provides for him.
    The Pope has to submit humble to the trappings of His Office! That’s Holy Poverty. He is called out of the world and must Love God before the rest!


  16. toadspittle says:

    “The Romans would have known of Christ Toad.”
    You would certainly have to think so. Pity they never mentioned him.

    “Better to question the 40 days temptation of Our Lord? who witnessed that?”
    Roger, you read my mind. Yes – who indeed? And look what the Devil tried to tempt God with!
    Rubbish! Didn’t Satan know who he was dealing with? Offering God ridiculous, worldly things, as if God was Donald Trump?
    Doesn’t make any sense, does it?

    “The Pope has to submit humble to the trappings of His Office! “
    No, he doesn’t. The “trappings of His Office,” are worthless, worldly, things, and he’s entitled to reject them if he likes, even without consulting you first.
    And I think Francis is right to do so.

    “Stop being foolish over this question of books and references.”
    1: It’s not foolish to me.
    2: It’s a bit late to stop now.
    (You’d burn any books that didn’t suit your book, wouldn’t you?)


  17. Robert says:

    Originally the hand copied books of the New Testament were keep at the Churchs (private and secret dwellings). It was only later that the Church collated these and decided which were canonical. The Gospels had to have been written earlier rather than later because of the dispursement of the Apostles. New Testament books were destroyed if found.
    The story of the Bible itself is miraculous.
    Satan didn’t know! How could Satan know Toad? Don’t give to much credit to Satan. Satan knows nothing of Heaven and curiously only knows Dogma once its been defined by Peter.
    What Satan does have is knowledge of the world and its sciences. However Creation and its History is an act outside of time!
    The Pope and Holy Poverty. Each and every Pope is bound by prior Popes, sacred Tradition and Public Revelation.
    Formal Dress and conventions exist throughout the world and history sic soldiers and their ranks, police, nurses etc.etc.. Does a General dress as a layman?
    The Popes have to dress and behalf not according to Papacy.
    Toad you are thinking and applying worldy logic and this is subject to a Fallen world. Even in worldy terms you are wrong.
    Popes have to have the Humility to obey the vestiges of their Office.


  18. toadspittle says:

    “Satan didn’t know! How could Satan know Toad? Don’t give to much credit to Satan. Satan knows nothing of Heaven and curiously only knows Dogma once its been defined by Peter.”
    How could Satan knew? Better ask him, Robot, not me.
    I bet Satan knows more about Heaven than you do. He used to live there, I’m told.

    Nor have you answered your own question, Robert. Who did tell what happened between Jesus and Satan in the desert? Not Satan. So Christ .But who did Jesus tell? Must have been someone. Didn’t that someone think the revelation worth mentioning?

    [moderator – two comments run together here!]


  19. Robert says:

    The only angels who entered Heaven were those under St Michael who didn’t rebel in peri heaven.
    Satan chose Hell! and as an Angel He will never change his Mind. Satan has never been nor ever will enter Heaven. The Damned choose Hell sadly and the choice is Eternal.

    Compromising Gods Commandments is preaching the broad road to Hell.
    The road to Heaven is narrow and uncompromising.

    A Masonic Vatican will preach wordly compromise and this is SIN. False charity, false humility and false holy poverty.

    What happened between Our Lord and Satan in the desert? You will find the answer in the Gospels and also in the lives of the saints (Not I but Christ) sic St Patrick, St Francis. The lives of the saints are the living witnesses to the Truth of the Gospels. The Church recreates the Life Of Christ.

    The world wants evidence of the Gospels. The saints and the Church are the living proof of the Gospels.


  20. toadspittle says:

    Listen, Robert – this isn’t all that hard to grasp.

    [Moderator – Enough. It’s time to leave Robert in peace.]


  21. johnhenrycn says:

    Yes, let Robert rest in peace.


  22. agentb Flinn says:

    Romans were not particularly concerned about what at first seemed a little sect of the Jews. Even so, to give a couple of non-Christian early references to Christ, Pliny the younger refers to Christians and Christ around the 100’s ad, Josephus, who was a somewhat romanized Jew, mentions Jesus Christ specifically before 100 ad. Jesus is actually one of the best attested figures of ancient history.


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