Brown, Thomas Joseph (DNB00)

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BROWN, THOMAS JOSEPH, D.D. (1798–1880), catholic bishop, was born at Bath on 2 May 1798. His education began at a small protestant school in that city, while his religious instruction was entrusted by his catholic parents to the care of Ralph Ainsworth, then the priest in charge of the Bath mission. At Ainsworth’s instance he was sent in 1807 to Acton Burnell, near Shrewsbury, where the Benedictine monks had opened a college. There he remained for seven years, towards the end of which time he received the Benedictine habit, on 19 April 1813. Early in 1814 he accompanied the community on their migration to their new home at Downside in Somersetshire. At the new college of St. Gregory’s, Downside, Brown remained in residence for more than a quarter of a century. He was ordained to the priesthood on 7 April 1823 in London, and almost immediately appointed professor of theology at Downside. That office he held for upwards of seventeen years. Throughout that period he conducted the dogmatic course invariably in Latin. As Bishop Hedley says, in his funeral sermon (p. 5), ‘Unwearying study, extreme pains in collating author with author and passage with passage, and unfailing accuracy of memory-these, in his best days, were the characteristics of his class lemons.' In 1829 he was sent to Rome as socius with Fr. Richard Marsh, then president-general, to conduct a most delicate case before the Roman Curia. Three years before this Brown had published ‘A Letter to the Very Rev. Archdeacon Daubeny, LL.D., exposing the Misrepresentations of his Third Chapter on Transubstantiation,’ 1826. On his return to England, Broum attained a tposition of great eminence, both on the pla orm and in the press. For five days together, in 1830, he, with five of his coreligionists, confronted three members of the Protestant Reformation Society in the riding school at Cheltenham, in the presence of four thousand people. The fifth day’s controversy closed with a scene of riotous confusion. Soon afterwards appeared 'Substance of the Arguments adapted by the Roman Catholic Advocates in the recent Discussion at Cheltenham on the Rule of Faith, collected from Notes taken during the Discussion by the Rev. T. J, Brown, S.T.P.,’ 1830, In 1833 a controversy sprang up between Brown and two protestant clergymen, the Rev. Messrs. Batchellor and Newnham. Brown’s argument was published as ‘ Catholic Truth vindicated against the Misrepresentations and Calumnies of “Popery unmasked,"' 1833. Before the close of that year Brown was appointed cathedral prior of Winchester. Early in 1834 he took part in the controversy long afterwards memorable as ‘The Downside Discussion.' It arose, on 10 Jun. 1834, at the Old Down inn, out of a meeting of the Protestant Reformation Society, at which the two principal speakers were the Rev. John Lyons and the Rev. Edward Tottenham. A friend of Brown‘s having formally challenged those gentlemen to a disputstion, six meetings were soon afterwards arranged to take place in the college chapel at Downside. These meetings came off in 1884, and in 1836 appeared the ‘Authentic Report of the Discussion which took place in the Chapel of the Roman Catholic College of Downside, near Bath. Subjects: the Rare of Faith ana on Sacrifice of the Mass' Soon afterwards, in the same year, was published ‘Supplement to the Downside Discussion, by the Rev. T. J. Brown, D.D.' Brown had been elected, 18 July 1834, prior of Downside, and had received six days afterwards, 24 July, his cap as doctor of divinity. Immediately utter his election to the priorship he resumed with unabated energy his teaching labours as professor of theology. In July 1840 the vicars apostolic in England were increased from four to eight, VVales, until then included in the western district, being formed into a separate vicariate. Gregory XVI, who as Cardinal Cappellari had years before then learned to appreciate his ca acities, named Brown at once the first Riisho of the Welsh district. He accepted the dignity at last with profound reluctance. His episcopal consecration by Bishop Griffith took place on 28 Oct. 1840, in St. John’s Chapel, Pierrepoint Place, Bath, the title assumed by him being Bishop of Apollonia in the Archdiocese of Thessalonica. The newly created diocese embraced the twelve counties of Wales, with Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. His vicariate was very extensive and extremely impoverished. It included within it only nineteen chapels. Eleven of these belonging to Hereford and Monmouth, no more than eight in all appertained to the dozen Welsh counties. On the formation of the catholic hierarchy Brown was translated, on 29 Sept. 1850, to the newly constituted see of Newport and Menevia. His jurisdiction was thenceforth restricted to the six counties of South Wales, with the shires of Hereford and Monmouth. Towards the close of that year he wasdrawn into the last of his more noteworthy theological discussions, It began on 3 Dec. 1850, in a corrm ndence which was not completed until 13 1852. Immediately upon its conclusion it appeared as ‘A Controversy on the Infallibility of the Church of Rome and the Doctrine of Article VI of the Church of England, between Bishop Brown and the Rev. Joseph Baylee, M.A., Principal of St. Aidan's College, Birkenhead,' 1852. Besides this and the works already enumerated, Brown published ‘Monita Confessariorum,’ and in the 'Orthodox Journal' very many articles and letters signed with his then well-known initials, S[acre] T[heologiæ] P[rofessor]. In 1858 he obtained permission from the holy see that his cathedral chapter should be formed exclusively of Benedictine monks. He thus succeeded in reviving under the new hierarchy one of the most remarkable and distinctive features of the pre-reformation hierarchy of England. On 29 Sept. 1873 John Cuthbert Hedley was consecrated bishop auxiliary, and seven years later was his successor in the see of Newport and Menevia. Before the close of his life Brown was for many years the senior member of the English catholic episcopate. For forty years together he was in a very literal and primitive sense a bishop in poverty. Rising all through his long life invariably at 5 a.m., he persistently travelled, preached, wrote, saved, and begged for his flock. And with such good effect did he spend himself in their interests that, instead of the nineteen chapels and nineteen priests he had found in his huge vicariate of the Welsh district, he left in his comparatively much smaller diocese of Newport and Menevia fifty-eight churches and sixty-two priests. Brown died on 12 April 1880, shortly before the completion of his eighty-second year, at his resiaence in Bullinham, Herefordshire.

[Snow's Necrology of the English Benedictines from 1600 to 1883, p. 174; Men of the Time, 10th ed., p. 153; Maziere Brady's Episcopal Succession, pp. 337, 354, 424–6 ; Oliver's Colluections illustrating the History of the Catholic Religion, &c., pp. 262, 253; The Downside Review, No. 1, July 1880, Memoir, pp. 4–16; Annual Register for 1880, p. 160; Tablet, 17 April 1880, p. 498 ; Weekly Register, 17 April 1880, pp. 241,246.]

C. K.