Anniversary on Horizon

A passage from Waugh’s 1935 biography of Edmund Campion has been quoted on a religious website by Fr John Hunwicke (formerly a teacher and chaplain at Lancing College). This is intended to provide a context for the observance next year of the 450th anniversary of the Papal Bull (entitled “Regnans in Excelsis“) under which, in Waugh’s words, “Elizabeth was excommunicated and her subjects released from the moral obligation of obedience to her.” This was issued in February 1570 by Pius V. Here’s the quote (slightly edited) from Waugh’s book as it appears in the posting by Fr Hunwicke (OUP, 1980, p.41): 

His contemporaries and the vast majoriy of subsequent historians regarded the pope’s action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of medievalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion, stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory and Innocent; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few bullets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism. That is the verdict of sober criticism, both Catholic and Protestant, and yet … a doubt rises, and a hope; had he, perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians; seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future; understood that there was to be no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?

Why this event should be commemorated in the UK is not explained. The edict did not convince Elizabeth to change her religious affiliation. It did provide, however, a convenient pretext, as Waugh explains in the biography, for those in Elizabeth’s court, looking for an excuse to do so, to persecute Roman Catholics, and they took full advantage of it. It was as a  result of this campaign of persecution, according to Waugh, that Edmund Campion left Ireland where he had been living in hiding and travelled in disguise to the continent. Nor, so far as appears in the posting, has the hidden insight that may have motivated Pius V to issue the apparently “futile” edict (about which Waugh pondered in the quote) ever revealed itself.


This entry was posted in Anniversaries, Biographies, Catholicism, Edmund Campion, Evelyn Waugh and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.