January 14 is the 120th anniversary of Cardinal Henry Edward Manning's death. The second Archbishop of Westminster died on this day in 1892, after having served as the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for nearly thirty years. His death affected many of London's poorest, who came out in force to pay their respects and pray for his soul. In fact, in terms of attendance, it is well documented that his funeral was the largest ever seen in Victorian England.

Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to write three posts on Cardinal Manning's social work - concentrating specifically on: a) his pioneering efforts within the temperance movement; b) his efforts to save poor Catholic children from the horrors of the Protestant workhouses; and c) his campaigning efforts for workers' rights.

This latter aspect of the Cardinal's concern for justice led to his hero status amongst London's dockers, and also a helped ensure a prominent place for the Catholic Church in England and Wales within the political sphere of the time. Not only did men like Gladstone warm to Catholicism's social teachings through the influence of Manning, but Pope Leo XIII even based his ground-breaking encyclical, Rerum Novarum, on the Cardinal's speeches and writings in support of a just and living wage for working men. This papal document is now lauded as the Church's first encyclical that concerns itself with modern Catholic social teaching.

Today, though, I would simply like to introduce Cardinal Manning to a wider audience. From reading the facts of his life many will probably wonder how it was that Manning's contemporary, Newman, was beatified before him. Although both were subtle rivals in life, it is possibly true to say that Manning was by far the more popular of the two at that time. On the practical and theological level, too, it is true to say that Manning had far more influence on both on the society of his time and on the Church's subsequent teachings. One wonders, then, why it is that he remains largely forgotten. Many agree, then, that it is time now that these two great men were equally honoured in death.

A Brief Biography 

Henry Edward Manning was born at Totteridge, Hertfordshire, in 1808, though spent the larger part of his childhood near Sevenoaks in Kent. His father was Governor of the Bank of England for a brief time. He was also a Tory Member of Parliament for over 30 years, representing Lymington. Manning's mother was also from a relatively well-to-do family - her brother eventually became the Lord Mayor of London and was also created a baronet. Manning's parents tended towards the Evangelical wing of the Church of England and after being raised within it, this form of Christianity remained attractive to him well into his middle age.

Henry Manning attended Harrow School from 1822 and subsequently went up to Oxford in 1827 - where he was a student at Balliol College. As an undergraduate, Manning soon earned a reputation for his debating skills, and even rose to become the president of the Oxford Union before graduating with a 1st class degree in Classics - he was immediately followed in this post by the future Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. After briefly considering a career in politics, Henry Manning eventually became a rather lowly civil servant within the Colonial Office. Within two years, though, the young Manning had left this job and was back in Oxford with the intention of being admitted into holy orders within the Church of England.

In 1832, Manning was elected a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and was ordained into the diaconate. He became an Anglican priest one year later. His rise through the clerical ranks was swift. In part, this was due to his personal holiness and extraordinary intelligence, but it also reflected Manning's prodigious work ethic. He never stopped preaching, campaigning, lecturing and visiting his flock. By the late 1830s, Henry Manning had made a name for himself as the country's leading voice in defence of Christian education. In successfully opposing attempts by the then Government, which wished to convert parochial schools into state schools, Manning became an early champion of what we would nowadays call faith schools. In later life, he was just as vocal, if not more so, in campaigning for Catholic education.

In recognition of his efforts, the young priest was appointed Archdeacon of Chichester in 1841. Never one to shirk his responsibilities, Manning immediately decided to make a visitation of all the parishes of his district - a task that he completed less than two years later. It was around this time that John Henry Newman was coming to the end of his career within the Church of England. Manning, although never specifically a follower of Newman, had by then become a supporter of the Tractarian movement. He was also a fine theologian in his own right and was often called upon to preach in Newman's Oxford church, St Mary's. Throughout the 1840s and 50s, Manning also published several volumes of sermons, which - like Newman's - were enormously popular and influential at the time. After Newman's conversion to Catholicism in 1845, Henry Manning to became his replacement of sorts. He was definitely seen as the leading voice of orthodoxy within Anglicanism throughout the late 1840s.

Five years after Newman's conversion, Manning also left the Church of England to become a Catholic and enter into full communion with Rome. He did so soon after the state had intervened in 1850 to reinstate an Evangelical Anglican clergyman who denied the regenerative effects of baptism. The fact that the Anglican communion could be forced to accept heresy through the interference of the representatives of the Queen was too much for Manning. He realised then that the Church of England was unable to be a guarantor of the truth - it was based on Parliament and man-made laws, not the divine mandate of Jesus Christ.

Unlike Newman, though, Manning's conversion to Roman Catholicism seemed more complete (if I can put it like that). He embraced Rome with both arms. Whilst John Henry Newman seemed averse to what is now termed ultramontanism, and to the later doctrine of Papal Infallibility, Manning was a great supporter of the papacy and of the pope as point of unity and ultimate authority. In fact, Manning became a key-player in helping to define the doctrine of Papal Infallibility during the First Vatican Council.

In concentrating on his ecclesial journey, I seem to have forgotten another hugely important part of Manning's early life - his marriage, which I shall now cover. After being admitted to the College of Cardinals in 1875, Manning gained the unofficial and slightly affectionate title: "The Cardinal of the Seven Sacraments." He was called this by his priests because he had once been married - so had by the time of his death been granted all seven sacraments of the Church, including holy matrimony.

His wife was the beautiful Caroline Sargent, daughter of John Sargent, Manning's first rector when he was first made curate of Lavington-with-Graffham in 1833. His marriage to Caroline was a loving and happy one, even if it was tragically cut short. She died childless of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1837. Upon his death as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 1897, a locket was found around Manning's neck. It contained a miniature portrait of Caroline. He had worn this loving memento throughout his life, even as a Catholic Archbishop and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.

Now that he no longer had a wife or family to care for and having decided that the Church of England was no real Church, Manning was free to seek full communion with Rome. After spending a long holiday in Rome in 1850, during which time he personally met with Pope Pius IX, Manning decided that it was time to take the plunge. One of the deciding factors in his conversion was the knowledge, after speaking with the Pope, that Anglicans were practically "unknown ... to the Vicar of Jesus Christ." This fact made him realise how "isolated" the Church of England really was.

 Henry Manning was received into the Catholic Church by Father Brownbill SJ in early April 1851 and was tonsured soon afterwards by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman - first Archbishop of Westminster, who was keen to welcome this new and high profile convert. Within two months, on Trinity Sunday, Henry Manning was ordained into the sacred priesthood. Considering Manning's devotion to the Holy Spirit and the poor, as well as his zeal for souls, it is interesting to note that his ordination day also happened to be the Feast of St Basil (14 June), whose Mass begins with the introit: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; wherefore he hath anointed me, to preach the Gospel to the poor he hath sent me" (Lk 4:18; Is 61:1)

Soon after his ordination as a Catholic priest, Manning was sent to Rome to complete his Catholic theological and philosophical studies, Whilst there, his fellow students included his own successor as Archbishop of Westminster, the future Cardinal Hubert Vaughan. Another student, Edward Henry Howard, a relative of the Duke of Norfolk, would also become a cardinal - from the late 1870s until the 1890s there were three great and distinguished English cardinals living concurrently: Manning, Newman and Howard. Vaughan, another towering-figure in the history of the English Church, was created cardinal in 1893.

Although based in Rome for the first few years of his priesthood, Father Manning would exercise his pastoral office in London during the Summer holidays - often hearing confessions in the Jesuit church at Farm Street. In fact, it was at this church that he celebrated his first Mass on 16 June 1851. After his Roman sojourn, it seems that Manning was more happy to resume the life and ministry of a simple parish priest.

In 1857, Father Manning was asked to found a new parish and was therefore appointed the first parish priest of St Mary of the Angels in Bayswater (some people now refer to this parish as 'Notting Hill'). At this time, Manning also founded a community of the Oblates of St Charles to help him care for the parish. He was also appointed provost of the Westminster Metropolitan Chapter by Pope Pius IX around the same period. Needless to say, his sudden rise through the ranks of the clergy was both a surprise to him as well as a cause of concern for his enemies or those who had expected some form of clerical promotion for themselves after having laboured faithfully in the Westminster vineyard for several decades.

During this next few years, Manning's time was largely taken up with visiting the poor, teaching the catechism, lecturing at the local seminary, acting as superior to the Oblates and helping Cardinal Wiseman to run his Chapter. But his main priority at St Mary of the Angels seemed to have been the welfare of his poor and troubled parishioners - whom he referred to as: "my little ones, little by suffering or helplessness, or pitiable because of sin." In fact, it is obvious that he was in his element amongst the poor and dispossessed of that area of London which is now known for being affluent and fashionable. Whilst reflecting on his time in Bayswater, Manning wrote: "Hard years and full of anxiety but full of high peace and independence of the world - the happiest of my life."

 The anxieties that faced Father Manning during his years in Bayswater included an open rebellion against his leadership by fellow members of the Metropolitan Chapter. These men resented Manning for several reasons. Firstly, some seemed consumed by jealously at his sudden ordination and subsequent promotions - just like some priests nowadays resent the fast-track ordinations granted to former Anglican priests who have joined the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Secondly, others were also highly suspicious of Manning's community at Bayswater, and thought that Cardinal Wiseman was too supportive of the Oblates of St Charles - he should only concern himself with secular priests they thought. Wiseman's coadjutor "with right of succession", a man called Archbishop Errington, backed these ecclesiastical rebels. This led to Errington's eventual removal from office by Rome and subsequently opened the way for Manning to succeed Wiseman.

Needless to say, many secular clergy openly accused Manning of ambition during this time. They even accused him of having somehow arranged for Archbishop Errington's humiliation. This led to an unfair and simmering resentment by some against Manning throughout the rest of his life. One positive result of this unfortunate episode was the way Father Manning dealt with these malicious men. The fact that throughout this time his primary concern remained the welfare of his flock ensured Cardinal Wiseman's increasing support for him. Manning's obvious skills of diplomacy were also noted by Rome during this period.

 When Cardinal Wiseman died in 1865, his Chapter asked Pope Pius IX to appoint the man whom he had only recently deposed, namely Archbishop Errington. Needless to say, the Pope was not about to appoint a man who had fallen out of favour with him in such bitter circumstances. Such foolishness on the part of Westminster's Chapter reflected badly on them. At the same time, Father Manning wrote to Rome naming both Archbishop Ullathorne of Birmingham and Bishop Cornthwaite of Beverley (later Leeds) as potential candidates for the newly vacant See of Westminster. In the end, Pope Pius IX ignored the advice of both the Chapter and its provost and chose instead to appoint Manning himself as the second Archbishop of Westminster. One wonders what the Metropolitan Chapter thought of that! One wonders what Manning himself thought!

Henry Manning was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Ullathorne at St Mary Moorfields - Westminster's pro-Cathedral - on 8 June 1865. After receiving the pallium from Rome, the new Archbishop of Westminster was solemnly enthroned in November of that year. He immediately went about working for the relief of the poor within his Diocese and also began building schools, churches and setting up various types of charities. He also bought a plot of land on the site of an old prison, where Westminster Cathedral now stands. Instead of spending money to build a cathedral for his Diocese, though, Manning poured funds into education for the poor. The building of Westminster Cathedral was left to his successor, Cardinal Vaughan.

As I will shortly be covering Cardinal Manning's immense contributions to welfare projects and the Church's social teaching in other posts, I will not go into too much detail concerning these important aspects his tenure as Archbishop of Westminster. As mentioned above, I soon intend to dedicate specific posts to Manning's immense contribution to the temperance movement, to Catholic education and saving children from a sort of forced conversion in the Protestant Dr Barnardo's homes, as well as his significant influence on Pope Leo XIII and the Church's social teaching.

His writings and speeches on social justice were an orthodox and holy response to poverty and society's oppression of its most vulnerable, unlike the Marxist inspired movements that have infiltrated the post-Conciliar Church of our own day. Having said that, though, Cardinal Manning's image was often carried aloft by London's workers alongside banners depicting Karl Marx. He also reputedly said: "What you call socialism, I call Christianity." Needless to say, he meant that Catholic teaching places a greater emphasis on justice and freedom from oppression than that which is found within the truncated and often atheistic pages of Marx's Das Kapital. In that sense, with its divine and fully human aspects, Christianity is ultimately more radical than socialism could ever dream of being.

For now, though, I would like to reflect mainly upon Henry Manning's role as defender of the papacy and promoter of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

 Manning happened to be present in Rome when the convocation of the First Vatican Council was announced during the celebrations for the eighteenth centenary of SS Peter and Paul. He was subsequently invited to participate in the Council and returned to Rome in 1869, arriving for its opening ceremony on 8 December. Manning was placed on the "De Fide" committee, which in March 1870 was given the responsibility of dealing with the specific issue of Papal Infallibility. Cardinal Manning was an influential advocate of the Successor of St Peter's infallibility in matters of faith and morals. And by the middle of the following July, the committee issued the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor aeternus, which defined the doctrine that when speaking ex cathedra and with a proper intention, the Roman Pontiff speaks infallibly.

On his return to England, Manning had to deal with the exaggerated and frankly over the top response of the British Government to the First Vatican Council's decree on Papal Infallibility. The Prime Minister and Manning's contemporary at Oxford, William Gladstone, had even threatened to send a British gun-boat down the Tiber to stop the Council when he had heard about the issuing of Pastor aeternus. Gladstone had also openly questioned the loyalty of those Catholics throughout the British Empire whom he now thought would be drones of the Pope.

 In response to this hysteria, Henry Manning immediately published three pastoral letters under the title Petri Privilegium. These letters not only restored sanity to the debate, but also eloquently answered both Gladstone's concerns and even helped many Catholics to properly understand the decree on Papal Infallibility. In 1878, Cardinal Manning also published "True Story of the Vatican Council", which countered the false and rather bizarre statements about Vatican I that had by then obtained credence within the British press.

A few years before his own death, Pope Pius IX summoned Manning to Rome in 1875. During this time Manning was created a cardinal. He was given the titular church of SS Andrew and Gregory - which had once been the home of Pope St Gregory the Great. It was from this church that St Augustine of Canterbury had been sent with the mission of converting the English.

After Pius IX died, Cardinal Manning took part in the 1878 conclave that elected Pope Leo XIII. It seems that he himself had also been also been one of the contenders for the Throne of St Peter, and it is known that he received at least a few votes. As I will discuss in a later post, Pope Leo greatly admired Manning. He would often rely on his counsel and he himself referred privately to his greatest encyclical as really being "Manning's". At the time, Bishop John Hedley OSB of Newport and Menevia even declared openly that Rerum Novarum "owes something to the counsels of Cardinal Manning."

A poster from the 1889 London Dock Strike
(source: Wikimedia Commons)


Cardinal Manning's busiest time in terms of hard graft came towards the end of his life, when, for example, he became a pivotal figure in the London Dock Srike of 1889. It was at this time, too, that his missionary zeal for saving souls from the ruin of alcoholic addiction came to fruition - he held four annual total abstinence parades in London, which attracted more crowds than anyone had ever seen before. He also continued to build up the Catholic Church in England and Wales, ensuring that all Catholic children, and especially the poorest, were given every opportunity to practice their faith without being coerced into Protestant penal institutions designed for the impoverished working and under classes.


Manning's tomb, Westminster Cathedral
(photo credit: Dylan Parry)

After an illness that lasted two years, Cardinal Henry Manning died peacefully on 14 January 1892. Thousands of London's poorest thronged to his house near where Westminster Cathedral now stands to pay their respects and to see him lying in state. It also seemed as if the whole of London came out to his funeral Mass at the Brompton Oratory - the only church which was then big enough to deal with such numbers (the then pro-Cathedral in Kensington would have been inadequate). Tens of thousands also crowded along the way that led to Manning's resting place in Kensal Green cemetery. His body was later moved to Westminster Cathedral, where he now lies buried in the crypt next to Cardinal Wiseman.

One of the Church's lesser known traditions is that cardinals are often buried with their galeros (red hats) hanging above their tombs. The idea being that the disintegrating symbol of ecclesiastic honour mirrored the rotting of the man's corpse sealed within the sepulchre below. A little tradition also arose that the interred cardinal's soul would have completed his time in Purgatory and entered Heaven once his hat had turned to dust. It is interesting to note that of all the galeros that hang in Westminster Cathedral, Manning's the the only one that has practically completely rotted away.

Spero columnist Dylan Parry resides in the United Kingdom and writes at AReluctantSinner.



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