Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 3

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The third President of the College was Rev. William Hart, alias Holdcroft, a native of Lancashire, whose administration, both in its immediate and subsequent results, was very disastrous. He held the office for three years, from 1634 to 1637, when he was deposed for mismanagement and recalled to England.

Dodd says of him: "He was a person of singular parts, learning and conduct."

During the period which elapsed until the Rev. Peter Clarence, who had been educated at Seville, was nominated to the dignity, Father Daniel, one of the original students from Douay who at that time was Senior Superior, supplied the place of President. Father Clarence arrived in June, 1638, but did not enter upon his duties till the following year. In the April previous to his arrival the founder of the College, Don Pedro Coutinho, died. His funeral obsequies were performed with a degree of splendour, till then unexampled in Portugal in the case of a private person. All the Religious Communities in the city, together with the majority of the Secular clergy attended, and great numbers of the poor, to whom his purse had always been open, swelled the procession. His body was interred in the Franciscan Church of St. Jozè de Ribamar, to which he had been a benefactor. It is situated on the right bank of the Tagus, about five miles below Lisbon, where his tomb may be seen with the following epitaph inscribed upon it.

Aquijaz quern foi Dom. Pedro Coutinho.
(Here lies he who was Dom. Pedro Coutinho.)

In assuming the government of the house, Father Clarence had many difficulties to contend with, owing to the misconduct of his predecessor.

The affairs of the establishment were in utter disorder; domestic discipline was falling to decay, and a heavy debt had been suffered to accumulate. In a short time, however, he succeeded by prudence and firmness in restoring the Community to its former flourishing condition.

By the Rules, the domestic economy of the house in its various branches is committed to the care and super vision of Prefects chosen from the more advanced students, a wise regulation which tends to produce in their minds a consciousness of responsibility, and develop an aptitude for management which, to some extent, prepares them for the more weighty duties which after wards they will be called upon to undertake on the Mission. For the direction of these Prefects Father Clarence drew up a variety of useful regulations calculated to prove very beneficial to domestic economy. His attention, however, was not confined to the mere material interests of the College, he was also desirous to promote its intellectual advancement, and, with this end in view, he directed his efforts, and successfully, to obtaining the necessary public permission from the Portuguese Authorities, to carry into effect the privilege of conferring degrees.

This right, both at the College and in England, was always considered to belong to the establishment: and in the course of the present sketch we shall meet with many eminent individuals who received in it the Doctor s Cap, and whose title to the distinction was never questioned. The first person thus honoured was Father Edward Daniel, whose name has already been several times mentioned, and on whom the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Divinity were conferred towards the close of the year 1640. It was during the short but flourishing rule of Father Clarence that the College had to regret the loss of Father Newman, one of its first and best friends, who may fairly claim to be considered, with Coutinho, co-founder of the establishment. Though he never filled any public office in the College, he successfully carried through at the Court of Madrid the negotiations for its foundation.

During his life-time the Residency, as it was called, of which establishment he was the Rector, was made over to the College, and at his death he left to it all the property which he possessed, which in money amounted to £250. This venerable and truly pious ecclesiastic contracted the fever of which he died by his generous attendance on the hospital at a time when a virulent contagious influence was raging within it. Besides the office of Rector of the English Residence, he also held those of Chaplain to St. George's Castle and Interpreter to the Inquisition.

Father Clarence resigned the Presidency of the College in 1642, and was succeeded in his office by the Rev. Father Daniel who thus became the fourth President, and, as the first of the sons of Alma Mater to receive that honour, he is deserving of a more detailed notice.

He was a native of Cornwall, and after completing his Philosophy and a year of Divinity at Douay, he was chosen to be one of the number of those who were sent to colonize the new establishment at Lisbon. Here he distinguished himself so much by his talents and application that at the conclusion of his studies, he was considered eminently qualified to take a leading part in the schools, and he was appointed first to the Chair of Philosophy and afterwards to that of Theology. His abilities were universally known and acknowledged. For seven successive years, he, twice annually, presided at the defence of public Theses, on which occasions the most learned members of the numerous religious Orders in Lisbon appeared as the antagonists of his pupils. During part of this period he added to the occupation of Professor those of Confessarius and Prefect of Studies.

At length after an absence from England of more than twenty years, he formed the design of returning to his native country. Such, however, was the high estimation in which he was held by all in the College, that the most determined and persistent opposition was made to its execution, every argument was resorted to, every obstacle raised, to prevent its fulfilment, and so general was the feeling, that he was at length compelled to acquiesce and reluctantly deferred his departure.

After the death of Father Newman, Father Daniel succeeded him as Interpreter of the Inquisition, and as we have seen, in the year 1640 he received the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Divinity in reward of his eminent learning and virtue. Soon after this he was permitted to return to England. After labouring one year on the Mission he was appointed to the Presidency of the College on the resignation of the Rev. Father Clarence, and in that capacity arrived again in Lisbon in 1642. He continued in the office for six years, till 1648, when he resigned, still, however, remaining in the House; for in the following year we find him occupied in teaching Theology in consequence of the ill health of Father Francis Victor the regular Professor.

In 1650 he visited Douay on his way, it would seem, to England, but was detained at that College by his intimate friend Dr. Hyde. At Douay he ascended once more the Chair of Divinity, acted as Confessarius, and on the death of Dr. Hyde, supplied the place of President until a successor was appointed. Leaving Douay, where he was much regretted, in 1653 he went to England to spend his remaining years in the active labours of the Apostolic life. Soon after his arrival he was made Vicar General of North Wales, and was one of the four pro posed to succeed Bishop Smith. He died in September, 1657.

About the commencement of the Presidentship of Dr. Daniel, took place the remarkable conversion to the Catholic Faith of Mr. Lawrence Skytts, the envoy of Christina of Sweden to the Court of Lisbon. From being the representative of one of the first Sovereigns of Europe, he became a humble lay-brother in the Order of St. Francis. This gentleman, before he entered religion, gave about £64 to the College for the purchase of books.

About the same time an event took place more immediately connected with the House, and more interesting to its members. It was the departure from the College, in 1642, of two priests who became Confessors of the Faith, and both died in prison.

These were Father William Lloyd and Father Thomas Blount. The former, son of Walter Lloyd, Esq., was born in the County of Carmarthen, Wales, in 1614, he arrived in Lisbon on October 1, 1635, when twenty-one years of age, and entered the College as convictor. Having already acquired a competent knowledge of the lower branches of literature, he commenced his course of Philosophy the year following under Father Humphrey Ellis. The Annals represent him as a promising young man, and distinguished for the abilities which he displayed in the public defence of Theses in Philosophy and Theology, but labouring under a severe indisposition from weakness of stomach. He was ordained priest in 1639, but remained in the College till June 29, 1642, when, having received the usual missionary faculties, he went first to Paris and then returned to his native country. In the year 1679, shortly after the alarm occasioned by Oates' Plot, he was apprehended, brought to his trial at Brecknock and condemned to death for having received Orders in the Catholic Church, and afterwards remaining in Great Britain contrary to the Statute of the 27th of Elizabeth. The time was fixed for his execution, but he died six days before it arrived.

The speech which he had prepared to deliver at the gallows may be seen in Bishop Challoner's Missionary Priests. In it he first proclaims his faith in which he had lived and in which he was determined to die. "Which is the only Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith and religion, that is, the very same in all points as the Apostles them selves lived and died in." He then gives the reason of his faith: " For it is said in Holy Scripture that there is but one faith, one Lord, one baptism; and St. Paul in another place saith that without faith it is impossible to please God; and every man by natural reason may know that without pleasing God 110 man can be saved … therefore, seeing none can be saved without pleasing God and that none can please God without faith; and seeing that there is no faith but one, and that one is that which our Saviour Christ taught His Apostles, it behoveth every man to find it out and live and die in it … seeing that it is of no small importance to be saved or damned for ever. And to find out the Apostolic faith without which no man can please God nor consequently be saved, we must find out the oldest faith amongst Christians which was planted by our Saviour Himself amongst His Apostles, which doth still last and will last for ever; for our Saviour promised to be with His Church to the world s end and the gates of Hell should not prevail against it."

He then proclaimed the reason for which he was condemned. " I have been taken suspected to be a Popish priest and have been committed to prison and sentenced to die on that account, for serving God and administering the Sacraments according to the rites and ceremonies of the Roman Church and for nothing else proved against me, … I am heartily willing to suffer death, hoping to be a saved soul by the goodness and mercy of God and the merits and passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ." He proclaims his sorrow for his many and grievous sins: " And this not only for fear of being punished for my sins, but out of the hearty love I bear to my dear God, who hath created me and redeemed me with His most bitter Passion in the person of our Saviour true God and Man, and hath sanctified me with the grace of the Holy Ghost in soul and body." He denied ever having plotted against the Government or His Majesty s life, as he hoped to be saved, and declared that he was " daily wont to pray for His Majesty and his royal consort … begging of God to send His Majesty a prosperous reign whilst he lives in this world and after this miserable life, to grant them both eternal crowns in everlasting bliss: and the same everlasting happiness I wish to my own soul, I wish also to my enemies, to all that are here present, and to the rest of the world. Amen."

He was aged about seventy years.

The other Confessor of his faith, Father Thomas Blount, was the son of James Blount, Esq., and a native of Shropshire. He arrived at the College in company with Mr. Lloyd, October 1, 1635, and having, like his companion, a competent knowledge of Humanities, he commenced with him his Course of Philosophy. At the conclusion of his studies he returned to England, via Holland, in 1642. His native county seems to have been the chief theatre of his labours. After several years spent in work and dangers undergone for God and his neighbour, he was at length apprehended on account of his faith and priestly character and confined in Shrews bury Gaol. Without mentioning the time of his death, the Annals merely state that it happened whilst he was in bonds, like that of his fellow labourer and companion, Father Lloyd.

With the two above mentioned illustrious Confessors of the Faith, there arrived at the College Mr. John Robinson, a native of Lancashire, 1635. Of him nothing particular is mentioned in the records, except that after finishing his studies and labouring for some time on the Mission in England, he was sent to Lisbon in capacity of Consul General of the British Government in that city, an office which he held for five years. As to the circumstances which led to this extraordinary appointment, and how, while Catholic priests were suffering imprisonment and death in England, it became the lot of Father Robinson to hold for so long a time an office under Government, nothing satisfactory is recorded in the Annals. He afterwards returned upon the Mission.

Dr. Daniel, as already mentioned, resigned the Presidency in 1648, and was succeeded by the Rev. Humphrey Ellis, who was the sixth President, and one of the original students who, in 1628, accompanied Father Harvey from Douay. After completing his studies he successively taught Philosophy and Theology, holding at the same time the office of Vice-President. As President, Father Ellis exhibited towards those confided to his care a mildness and affection truly paternal; at the end of three years he obtained leave to resign, and, after receiving the degree of Doctor of Divinity, together with the Rev. Francis Clayton, he returned to England in 1652, where, on the death of the Bishop, he was made Dean of the Chapter, 1664.

The Venerable Dean was greatly esteemed by his brethren of the Chapter, but the position he held natu rally raised him opponents in those who disapproved of the aims and existence of the Chapter.

The Abbate Aggretti, who was commissioned by the Holy See to examine into the Ecclesiastical affairs in England, September, 1669, thus refers to Dr. Ellis in his report dated December 14, following: " The Dean Ellis is extremely anxious for the confirmation of the Chapter, and is even willing that the Pope should create a new Dean and Chapter, omitting all the existing members." But Aggretti doubted whether they would assent to this sacrifice. " Ellis is noble, esteemed, learned, and mod erate, but with all tinged with Blackloism.[1]" Dodd, Church History, 3. viii.

"The Chapter of which mention has been made, was originated by Dr. Bishop, Bishop of Chalcedon and the first Vicar-Apostolic of England, consecrated in March, 1623. Dr. Bishop had always considered himself to be the Ordinary of England and Scotland, and knowing that an Ordinary was usually aided by the advice of his Canons, he had appointed a few months before his death, December 10, 1624, a Cathedral Dean and Chapter, the latter consisting of nineteen Canons, the Dean being John Culleton, who without the name had for some time exercised the authority of Arch-priest. In the document creating the new Chapter, Dr. Bishop inserted a clause (saving the reverence and obedience due to the Holy See) and declaring his intention to petition it to supply in this act of creation or re-erection, whatever deficiency there might be in his own powers. It does not appear, however, that the Chapter was ever more than indirectly recognized or confirmed by Rome.

"The person selected as successor to Dr. Bishop was Dr. Richard Smith. He, like his predecessor, considering himself the Ordinary of all England and Scotland, continued the Chapter which his predecessor had founded. He afterwards even added to its powers the unusual privilege, that if after his death the See should long remain vacant, then the Chapter should without further ratification elect not only its own Canons, provided the number did not exceed thirty, but also the Dean, whose appointment usually requires, at least, the co-operation of the Bishop. January 8, 1645. The Chapter thus constituted was to last, so the document stated, until several Catholic Bishops with their respective Chapters had been appointed. Dodd, vol. iii. This seems to have been an exceeding of his powers, on the part of the Bishop, whose procedure lacked confirmation by the Holy See. However that may be, for thirty years after Dr. Smith s decease, the Chapter appears to have exercised some portion, at least, of the jurisdiction thus conferred. It was not until the appointment of the four Vicars Apostolic in the time of James II, that the Holy See interposed its authority. The moment that Dr. Leyburn, the first of these, announced from Rome that he was to act independently of the Chapter, the latter submitted, and although its members continued to meet and administer certain funds, it fell into abeyance by ceasing to exercise any sort of authority or jurisdiction." Flanagan, Church History.

The seventh President was Dr. Francis Clayton, alias Whitaker, a native of Lancashire. He received his education partly at St. Omers and partly at Rome, where he seems to have been ordained priest. On his return to England he was immediately sent to the College at Lisbon in quality of Professor of Theology, which he taught from 1642 to 1647, during which period he also held the offices of Prefect of Studies and Confessarius.

Being obliged by ill health to lay aside these occupations, he went first to England and then to Douay, where we find him acting for some time in the same capacity that he had exercised in Lisbon; but again ill health obliged him to resign. On his return to England he was made Canon and Secretary of the Chapter. In 1650 he once more went to Lisbon and resumed his former offices of Prefect of Studies and Confessarius, and on the departure of Dr. Ellis, 1652, he was nominated by the Bishop President of the College. He died towards the end of 1653, greatly regretted by all who knew him, but particularly by the members of the College who had an opportunity of witnessing his zeal and prudence in the government of the House.

By the Bulls of Institution of the College, the privilege had been granted to the Presidents of presenting their subjects to Holy Orders without any other examination except that of the Superiors.

Some objection seems to have been made by the local authorities to the exercise of this privilege, and it was owing to the exertions of Dr. Clayton that permission for its exercise was obtained from the Inquisitor and Chapter of Lisbon, and this has been the practice ever since.

Those who have completed their Course at Lisbon, will readily appreciate the benefit of this concession.

Dr. Clayton left a considerable sum of money to the College and also all his books.

In the same year in which Dr. Clayton died, 1653, we find recorded in the College Annals, a remarkable instance of special Providence in the preservation of the life of the Rev. Daniel Fitter who, after the completion of his Course, having been ordained, was returning to England via Holland, a route which for greater security in those days of persecution, our missionaries not unfrequently took. The Dutch vessel in which he sailed fell in on its passage with a Spanish Privateer. As the two nations were at war an action immediately ensued, in the course of which the powder magazine onboard the Dutch vessel caught fire and the vessel was blown up with a tremendous explosion. Father Fitter was carried a considerable height into the air together with the ship's boat which, luckily coming down into the water in its natural position, received him as he fell. One of his legs and three of his ribs were broken, but his life was saved. The Spaniards finding him to be a Catholic priest showed him every attention and took him to Ostend, from which place, after being healed of the fractures which he had sustained, he made his way to England where he lived many years in the service of the Mission.

  1. The following extract from Flanagan s Church History explains the origin of this epithet:—
    "Blacklow, or White, was a secular priest (the same who was President of Lisbon College.) He was not only a Theologian but a skilful mathematician, and was an intimate friend of both Descartes and Hobbes. When Sir Kenelm Digby, well known for his controversial correspondence with Laud, had failed to induce the Holy See to appoint a successor to Bishop Smith, he had not the humility to submit cheerfully to a decision so much at variance with his own opinion. The bitterness which he thus allowed to spring up within him he expressed in his letters to Blacklow and to Holden the celebrated author of the Analysis of Faith. This feeling instead of endeavouring to soothe and moderate, they encouraged and reciprocated, and for a time all three brooded over the adoption