Henry Edward Manning

The English prelate Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892) was directly responsible for the efflorescence of English Catholicism in the first half of the 20th century.

Henry Manning was born on July 5, 1808, at Totteridge, Hertfordshire, into a family that belonged to the Anglican High Church. He studied at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, and became president of the Oxford Union in 1829. Graduating with high honors in classics, he entered the Colonial Office in 1830 but returned to Merton College, Oxford, in 1832 to receive Anglican orders. A deacon in 1832, a priest in 1833, an archdeacon in 1840, Manning did not become a Roman Catholic until April 1851.

As a curate at Lavington, Surrey, Manning married a daughter of his rector. When she died, Manning felt profoundly disenchanted and gave himself to a thorough reading of the early Christian Fathers of the Church. At Oxford he had known John Henry Newman, whose Development of Christian Doctrine he found to be an unassailable thesis justifying the historical development of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Roman Catholic Church. During a protracted visit to Rome in 1847, he had occasion to study the governmental structure of the Roman Church. His conversion was precipitated by a single incident. An Anglican divine, G. C. Gorham, was suspected of holding unorthodox views. The bishop refused to institute proceedings against Gorham, but the Privy Council of Laymen overruled this refusal. Manning, who abhorred all lay interference in ecclesiastical affairs, was shocked. After a short period he was received into the Roman Church by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman in April 1851, ordained a priest 2 months later, and sent to Rome to study theology.

During his stay in Rome Manning was brilliant in theology, and he successfully cultivated the friendship and the esteem of Pius IX and his cardinals. Manning grew to appreciate the Roman style of government; he liked its authoritarian character, its secretiveness, and its immunity, and he developed an almost fanatic devotion to the papal cause. On his return to England, he became provost of the Westminster Cathedral Chapter. He founded a new religious congregation, the Oblates of St. Charles (Borromeo), and became its first superior. Manning's rapid rise in power and his obvious influence with Roman offices of the Vatican provoked much opposition to him, so much so that Cardinal Wiseman had to defend Manning by letter to Rome. Wiseman's preference, Manning's obvious capabilities, and his devotion to the papacy influenced the Pope, and he chose Manning as Wiseman's successor in 1865 to be archbishop of Westminster.

Manning's policy as archbishop was extremely ultramontanist: he wished to model the English Church as closely as possible on Rome. He was an extremely authoritarian man, was deeply liked by his priests, and brooked no opposition. He clashed with the Jesuits over jurisdictional matters and with Newman over doctrinal issues, particularly the authority of Rome. For Manning the hierarchy was all-sacred, could be overridden by no one except the pope, and deserved extreme forms of obedience. Manning participated very actively in the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), being one of the leaders of the "infallibilists" (the supporters of the definition concerning the pope's infallibility), but the final definition of papal infallibility did not live up to his extremist wishes.

Created a cardinal in 1875, Manning attained much prestige in England. He was a member of the Royal Housing Commission in 1884. In his own diocese, he had particularly cared for child education and for the welfare of the homeless, building schools, orphanages, and shelters. He mediated successfully in the great London dock strike of 1889 (a goodly number of dock workers were Irish Roman Catholics). But he aroused many bitter controversies and made personal enemies among both the hierarchy and lay people by his apparent high-handedness, his resort to backstairs influence in Rome, and his extreme devotion to Roman wishes. More than any other modern churchman of the English Roman Catholic establishment, Manning contributed to the development of the conservative character that English Catholicism showed until well into the middle of the 20th century. Manning died in London on Jan. 14, 1892.

Further Reading on Henry Edward Manning

Biographies of Manning include Arthur Wollaston Hutton, Cardinal Manning (1892); Edmund Sheridan Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster (2 vols., 1896); Shane Leslie, Henry Edward Manning: His Life and Labours (1921); and V. A. McClelland, Cardinal Manning: His Public Life and Influence, 1865-1892 (1962). Manning is discussed in E. E. Reynolds, Three Cardinals: Newman, Wiseman, Manning (1958). For background see Georgiana Putman McEntee, The Social Catholic Movement in Great Britain (1927).

Additional Biography Sources

Fitzsimons, John, Manning, Anglican and Catholic, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979.

Gray, Robert, Cardinal Manning: a biography, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Newsome, David, The parting of friends: the Wilberforces and Henry Manning, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans; Leominster, U.K.: Gracewing, 1993.

Strachey, Lytton, Eminent Victorians, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England; New York: Penguin Books, 1986; New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989, 1988.