Many Catholics today are unaware of the immense contributions of the Ultramontanes of the nineteenth century to the resurgence of Catholicism worldwide. Prof. Fernando Furquim de Almeida (1913-1981) studied the movement and produced dozens of articles detailing the movement’s work. We have edited these articles and will be featuring them. They highlight the actions of Ultramontane leaders in England, Spain, Italy, France and Ireland.
After The Home and Foreign Review’s failure, Lord Acton and other Liberal Catholics made no further attempt to organize a movement favorable to their ideas in England. With the shutdown of Acton’s journal, Henry Cardinal Manning could devote himself entirely to his apostolate. Father Frederick Faber, Msgr. (later Bishop) Following Pius IX’s directives, Robert Coffin, Father (later Cardinal) Herbert Vaughan, and William Ward set out to transform England into a stronghold of Ultramontanism.
In Ireland, Paul Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, also fought for his homeland’s continued allegiance to traditional Catholic principles. He was convinced that the existence of a pious and well-trained clergy was a primary factor of a fruitful apostolate. Therefore, one of his first cares was to renovate the Central Seminary in Maynooth. Like its many European counterparts, that seminary had strayed from orthodoxy. Among other deviations, it adopted Bailly’s treatise, which Pius IX had condemned, as a textbook for teaching theology. Father John O’Hanlon, a determined Ultramontane, was appointed professor of theology and replaced Bailly with books by Saint Alphonsus Liguori and Giovanni Perrone. In a short time, the seminary was transformed. Upon completing the seminary course, many students went to the Irish College in Rome, which Pius IX had founded. These priests returned prepared to guide the fundamentally Catholic Irish population within the strictest orthodoxy.
While dissenting in the political sphere, English and Irish Catholics were united in the Catholic apostolate. Under the energetic and enlightened direction of Cardinals Manning and Cullen, they promoted the resurgence of Anglo-Irish Catholicism in the nineteenth century.
Under William Ward’s direction, The Dublin Review became the standard mouthpiece of Catholic thought in both countries. Ward’s vibrant direction was a vital component of the apostolate. However, it was aimed at the educated classes and did not reach the general public.
Cardinal Manning wanted to found a newspaper that would bring sound doctrine to the entire Catholic population with more accessible articles. The occasion came in 1868 with the possibility of reforming the direction of The Tablet. Father Herbert Vaughan, the future Archbishop of Westminster, was appointed director. From that moment onward, Cardinal Manning was supported by the entire Catholic press of the British Isles.
However, one problem continued to hamper the development of Catholicism in England. It was the question of the formation of young Catholic aristocrats and members of the upper middle class. Every English parent considered the universities of Oxford and Cambridge when their children finished secondary education. Although these universities no longer demanded that their students be Protestants, the Anglican traditions of both universities constituted a danger to a Catholic formation. The matter caused concern for the bishops, especially after Father Newman’s failed attempt to found the Catholic University of Dublin. Liberals thought that Catholic students could attend Oxford or Cambridge as long as they could be protected from Protestant propaganda and practice the faith. As early as 1851, Father (later Cardinal) John Henry Newman had proposed opening an Oratory house in Oxford for this purpose and purchased land for future construction. Still, the Holy See’s distrust of Newman’s liberalism prevented that project from being carried out.
In 1865, the episcopate revisited the problem. Newman was nostalgic for his days at Oxford before his conversion. He wrote to a friend: “Of all things human, Oxford is perhaps the closest to my heart, and I cannot convince myself that I shall never again see what I love so much.” He again proposed the foundation of an Oratory in the famous university city. However, the Propaganda Fide Congregation made the enrollment of Catholics in these universities subject to several precautions. These conditions rendered Newman’s proposed solution impracticable. Discouraged, Father Newman renounced the project and even considered selling the land for his dreamed-of house.
In addition to the severe dangers inherent in attending heretical schools, the Holy See feared that Newman’s influence would dampen Catholic students’ reactions to their errors. Accordingly, the following year, Msgr. William Ullathorne asked the Congregation to relax the conditions and grant permission to found the Oratory at Oxford. Msgr. Alessandro Barnabo, Prefect of the Congregation Propaganda Fide, granted the request as long as Father Newman was not sent to the new house.
Either the condition imposed by Mgr. Barnabo was secret, or Bishop Ullathorne, hoped to obtain its revocation later. Nonetheless, he failed to inform Father Newman of the restriction when reporting that the Propaganda granted the necessary permission. At any rate, everything was quickly prepared for the foundation. When the first Oratorian, Father Neville, was to leave for Oxford, Father Newman invited him to make the final arrangements. Unfortunately, an indiscretion by the Weekly Register made the Holy See’s restriction public. On returning home, Newman found a letter from Bishop Ullathorne telling him that he could not reside in Oxford. Faced with this restriction, Newman gave up the project, and the Oxford house project died.
A year later, in 1867, Cardinal Manning reiterated his apprehension over Catholics attending Protestant universities at a meeting of the episcopate. His colleagues agreed, arguing that only a grave need would justify exposing a believer to those dangers. Their actions presented another defeat for liberal Catholics.