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Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales

Roman Catholic women's congregations are an enigma of nineteenth century social history. Over 10,000 women, establishing and managing significant Catholic educational, health care and social welfare institutions in England and Wales, have virtually disappeared from history. In nineteenth-century England, representations of women religious were ambiguous and contested from both within and without the convent. This book places women religious in the centre of nineteenth-century social history and reveals how religious activism shaped the identity of Catholic women religious. It is devoted to evolution of religious life and the early monastic life of the women. Catholic women were not pushed into becoming women religious. On the basis of their available options, they chose a path that best suited their personal, spiritual, economic and vocational needs. The postulancy and novitiate period formed a rite of passage that tested the vocation of each aspirant. The book explores the religious activism of women religious through their missionary identity and professional identity. The labour of these women was linked to their role as evangelisers. The book deals with the development of a congregation's corporate identity which brought together a disparate group of women under the banner of religious life. It looks specifically at class and ethnicity and the women who entered religious life, and identifies the source of authority for the congregation and the individual sister.

languish in limbo. Seizing the initiative, the 1645 Assembly published the regulations, no doubt in the dawning awareness that papal endorsement would not be forthcoming then or in the future. In fact, it had never been likely that Rome would approve decrees that so trenchantly defended episcopal authority at the expense of papal authority. Successive popes perceived the Déclaration as an act of serious disobedience by French bishops, especially since the episcopate presented it as a piece of finalised legislation rather than as a catalogue of suggestions which would

in Fathers, pastors and kings

orders’ unseemly because they performed their work outside the cloister and in public spaces.3 Given the importance of a non-cloistered existence to her teaching sisters, Billiart wished to protect them from the caprice of episcopal authority.4 The conflict over authority and governance5 that arose between Julie Billiart and Bishop Demandolx was not particularly unique; stories of similar conflicts are part of convent tradition in many religious institutes.6 Active congregations of women operating in nineteenth-century England and Wales provided a different setting for

in Contested identities

overlook the limitations of the colonial diocesan revival. Bishops may well have gone out with ambitious plans but once in the colonies they found themselves confronting lay communities who were more interested in protecting the rights of pew-holders than in taking on board Tractarian lessons about episcopal authority. Furthermore, like their counterparts in Ireland, colonial bishops found that it was difficult to enforce

in An Anglican British World
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voluntarism with ecclesiastical authority: Irish prelates in particular had to find a way to harness the energy and enthusiasm of evangelical religion without compromising their own authority or the distinctive principles of the Anglican faith. 9 But the problem was particularly acute in the colonial world. As we have seen, Robert Gray had difficulty asserting his episcopal authority in a colony where lay communities tended to see

in An Anglican British World
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its instigators made significant and widely adopted contributions. While their primary interest was the improvement of standards among the lower clergy, their teachings could not but influence contemporary conceptions of episcopal authority and hierarchical status. Ideas on episcopacy were disseminated in both oral and written form, through informal conversation, oratory, correspondence and reflections as well as through published texts. Obviously, bishops like Camus and Godeau were in the best possible position to express their opinions on, for example, episcopal

in Fathers, pastors and kings

. In this particular case, the canons justified their resistance to the bishop’s jurisdiction by pointing to a papal bull of 1458 which, they claimed, exempted them from episcopal jurisdiction. When the bishops’ masons arrived to dispose of the altar, the canons imprisoned them in the cathedral until Sourdis, in a grand gesture of episcopal authority, swept into the church, denounced the canons, released the masons and personally oversaw the altar’s destruction.9 This episode was unusual, however, for two reasons. In the first place, the chapter pointed to a papal

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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French clerical reformers and episcopal status

curial government within the church, and his conception of hierarchy was designed to guard against such democratisation of ecclesiastical discipline. As a result, from the beginning of his career as a reformer he concentrated on developing the notion of episcopal authority and dignity and in doing so, justified his claim that priests should render obedience to their bishops. This principle was in place as early as 1610. Bérulle’s ‘Projet’ for the establishment of the Oratory clearly enunciated the Congregation’s reliance on the authority of bishops: ‘[The Oratory] will

in Fathers, pastors and kings

they did not seem to be Anglican at all – indeed he dismissed them all as ‘Plymouth Brethren’. But there is also a sense in which the Anglo-Indian community were threatening to build a voluntary Church that operated more as a network than as an institution or hierarchical structure. The Church envisaged by this community was one without any clear centres of episcopal authority. It was also one where

in An Anglican British World
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The case of Hincmar of Laon in the Annals of St-Bertin

Charles at the meeting of the royal court at Pîtres: Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims took Hincmar of Laon with him and went with other bishops to the king at Pîtres. Using written texts and oral arguments, he showed what great prejudice both episcopal authority and the universal Church were suffering through such a judgment.29 The attitude of Hincmar of Rheims is clear: it is a matter of responsibilities, the separation of the spiritual and secular spheres, and an appropriate procedure. Bishops have to pass judgment on their fellow bishops, and the king must not. Hincmar

in Hincmar of Rheims