Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.


Friday, 22 October 2010

Convert Anglican Bishops

The speculation and now some hard news about which Anglican bishops will seek to join the Ordinariate, about which Fr Blake has two good posts here and here, as has Fr Tim Finigan here.

These developments and a conversation with a friend who was an Anglican clergyman before he was received as a Catholic led me to think about the first Anglican bishop to cross the Tiber. Long before Graham Leonard, Richard Rutt, Conrad Meyer and John Klyberg there was the rather intruiguing case of Godfrey Goodman. His story is not well known, but it is an interesting one. I have edited together a biography of him from the on-line versions of those two early twentieth century reference stalwarts, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and, for a few additions, the Encyclopedia Britannica, plus a few points of my own from other sources:

Godfrey Goodman was born at Ruthin, Denbighshire, 28 February, 1582-3 and died at Westminster 19 January 1655-6. He served as Anglican Bishop of Gloucester, and passed all his public life in that church. His religious sympathies, however, inclined him to the old Faith, and when misfortune and ruin overtook him, late in life, he entered its fold. He was the son of Godfrey Goodman and his wife, Jane Croxton, landed gentry living in Wales. In 1593 he was sent to Westminster School, where he remained seven years under the protection of his uncle, Gabriel Goodman, Dean ofWestminster. He was an earnest student and when only seventeen won a scholarship in Trinity College Cambridge. He graduated from there in 1604 and was ordained by the Bishop of Bangor shortly afterwards.

His first appointment was to the rectory of Stapleford Abbots, Essex, in 1606. From this time ecclesiastical dignities and lucrative emoluments fell rapidly to his share. He was made successively prebendary of Westminster 1607, rector of West Isley, Berkshire, 1616, rector of Kinnerton, Gloucestershire, canon of St George's Windsor, 1617, Dean of Rochester, 1620-1, and finally Bishop of Gloucester, 1624-5. In addition he held two livings in Wales, at Llandyssil and Llanarmon. Even when he was a bishop, he was allowed to retain most of these appointments. He became one of the Court preachers and was chaplain to Queen Anne, wife of James I. It now seems clear that the Queen had become a Catholic before 1603, although it remained a private faith never publicly expressed.


Goodman's leaning towards Catholicity made enemies for him at Windsor. He preached an unsatisfactory sermon at court in 1626 and was reprimanded by the King. In 1628 he incurred charges of introducing popery at Windsor. A few years later he was severely blamed for having erected a crucifix at Windsor and used altar-cloths worked with a cross in his own cathedral at Gloucester, and further for having suspended a minister who insisted on preaching "that all who die papists go inevitably to hell."

Gloucester was a city with a strong puritan community, powerful in the life of the city, who had detested Laud's innovations as Dean of the cathedral from 1617. In the 1620s, however, with Laud's departure relations between city and cathedral improved. In 1625 the city lecture was preached in the cathedral and Goodman, who was consecrated bishop that year, was paradoxically on good terms with the puritan aldermen; the two sides united in their hostility to Laud. In 1629 Bishop Goodman sought to found a library in the cathedral whereby 'every private man [who] cannot furnish himself … might be supplied out of our common storehouse'; one of the librarians was the puritan John Langley.

In 1633 Goodman secured the see of Hereford by bribery, but Archbishop Laud persuaded the King to refuse his consent. In 1638 he was said to be converted to Rome; whether or not that is the case it is likely that at this time doubts were arising in his mind about the legitimacy of the separation from Rome, and he sought the society of the Catholic priests who were in hiding throughout the country. He was reported to keep a Catholic priest in his household to say Mass for him. He was frequently at variance with Archbishop Laud, and in 1640 refused on conscientious grounds to sign the seventeen Articles drawn up by him. He was thereupon arrested, but after five weeks in prison he overcame his scruples. This, however, availed him little, as he was soon impeached by Parliament along with Laud and the ten other signatories of the Articles and was sent to prison for four months.

In 1643 his episcopal palace was pillaged by the Parliamentarian soldiers and in a year or two he was stripped of all his emoluments. He withdrew now from public life to his small Welsh estate at Tŷ-du at Llanberis in Caernarvonshire from 1643-7. It was at this time too, most likely, that he was converted. About 1650 he came to London, and gave himself up to study and research; he was befriended by some Catholic Royalists and lived in close connection with them till his death in 1656. Father Davenport, O.S.F., former chaplain to Queen Henrietta Maris, was his confessor and attended him in his last illness. By his will, in which he made a profession of his Catholic Faith , he left most of his property to Ruthin his native town; his manuscripts and books, however, were given to Trinity College, Cambridge. His contemporaries describe him as being a hospitable, quiet man, and lavish in his charity to the poor.

Goodman's principal works are: (1) The Fall of Man, or the Corruption of Nature proved by the light of his Natural Reason (1616); (2) An account of his sufferings, (1650), (3) The two mysteries of the Christian Religion, the Trinity and the lncarnation, explicated (1653); (4) Arguments and animadversions on Dr. George Hakewil's Apology, (5) The Creatures praying God, (1622); (6) The Court of King James the First by Sir A.W. reviewed.


However the most recent life of him, by Nicholas Cranfield in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and available here doubts if Goodman did actually become a Catholic, although the author does not give his reasons for this. It is a very interesting article and repays reading, incorporating the most recent research and insights from current interpretations of the ecclesiastical situation in the Jacobean and Caroline period.





3 comments:

  1. he "reason" for Cranfield's doubts is as he states: "There is no evidence that [Goodman] converted at his death, or earlier, to the Church of Rome".

    That's perhaps an overstatement: it would be truer to say that there is no conclusive evidence.

    The accusations that were made in Goodman's lifetime could be true, or they could be slanders. Tho' he was on intimate terms with Davenport, that is not decisive either.

    The profession of faith in the will reads as follows:

    "And here I do profess that as I have lived so I die, most constant in all the Articles of our Christian Faith, and in all the Doctrine of God's Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church, whereof I do acknowledge the Church of Rome to be the Mother Church; and I do verily believe that no other Church hath any Salvation in it, but only so far as it concurs with the Faith of the Church of Rome."


    Some have taken this as decisive, but of course it is consistent with an "Anglo-Papist" position (if you will pardon the anachronism). It may be significant that many of the provisions of the will are intimately bound up with the life of the Church of England.

    Like many North Welsh gentry families the Goodman family contained an interesting mix of Catholic-minded Anglicans, Church papists and recusants.

    Godfrey's uncle, Gabriel, the Dean of Westminster whom you mention, is a neglected figure, but has some claim to be the founding father of what became the "High Church" school of Anglicanism.

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  2. Very many thanks for these comments. It is not really my period (the historian's usual excuse!), but the life of Goodman, and its context, would appear to require further exploration.
    The point that Cranfield attempted to make should have been expanded - perhaps we should blame the ODNB editors - having worked a bit for that project I feel it left something to de desired in the way a straight-jacket was likely to be imposed on authors.

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  3. Glad you found the comments of value.

    There's no doubt that Godfrey Goodman had strong Catholic leanings, but whether he actually converted (or not) seems, on the existing evidence, to be "not proven". Further research might shed more light on the question, and would as you say be well worth doing.

    As would research on his uncle, Gabriel. As you'll know, a certain amount of work has been done on the so-called "Westminster School" of proto-High Churchmanship. This makes it all the odder that no-one has made a study of the man who as Dean for almost all of Elizabeth's reign was presumably at the centre of this school.

    He too was accused of popery (tho' in a more general way). Certainly he was no friend of puritans, and was on good terms with Catholic clergy who had not conformed (the former Abbot of Westminster lodged with him). He himself conformed as well under Mary as under Elizabeth. Some of his library survives (now at the National Library of Wales), with annotations in his own hand: he seems to have a high regard for Erasmus' writings. In the absence of fuller research one might hazard a guess that he was something of an Erasmian Catholic who promoted a "hermeneutuic of continuity" within the Elizabethan Church.

    And, as I said before, both uncle and nephew need to be put into the context of religious conservativism (generally of a conformist sort) among the North Welsh gentry. Again, a neglected area.

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