Richard Challoner : biography
Richard Challoner (29 September 1691 – 12 January 1781) was an English Roman Catholic bishop, a leading figure of English Catholicism during the greater part of the 18th century. He is perhaps most famous for his revision of the Douay Rheims translation of the Bible.
Return to England
Having in 1708 taken the college oath, binding himself to return to England, when required, to labour on the mission, in 1730 Challoner was given permission to embark for England on August 18, and was stationed in London. There he entered into the work of the ministry.
Though the penal laws were no longer enforced with extreme severity, the life of many Catholic priests was still a difficult one, especially in London. Disguised as a layman in London, Challoner ministered to his flock there, celebrating Mass secretly in obscure ale-houses, cockpits, and wherever small gatherings could assemble without exciting remark. In this regard, he was an untiring worker, and spent much time in the poorest quarters of the town and in the prisons.
Recent scholarship notes, however, that the English Catholic community was not as marginalized as might be thought today, especially for those recusant Catholics whose social position gave them access to the courtly centers of power and patronage.See Gabriel Glickman's The English Catholic Community, 1688-1745, (London: Boydell and Brewer, 2009) and Steve Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 432-34. Challoner avoided the houses of the rich, preferred to live and work among the poor of London, and in his spare hours gave himself to study and writing, which ultimately enabled him to produce several works of instruction and controversy.
His first published work, a little book of meditations under the quaint title of dated from 1728. The controversial treatises which he published in rapid succession from London attracted much attention, particularly his Catholic Christian Instructed (1737), which was prefaced by a witty reply to Conyers Middleton's Letter from Rome, showing an Exact Conformity between Popery and Paganism. Challoner was the author over the years of numerous controversial and devotional works, which have been frequently reprinted and translated into various languages.
In 1740 he brought out a new prayer book for the laity, the Garden of the Soul, which until the mid 20th century remained a favourite work of devotion, though the many editions that have since appeared have been so altered that little of the original work remains.
Of his historical works, the most valuable is one which was intended to be a Catholic response to the Protestant John Foxe's well-known martyrology, Foxe's Book of Martyrs. It is entitled Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholicks of both Sexes who suffered Death or Imprisonment in England on account of their Religion, from the year 1577 1577 was the last year of the Catholic Mary I of England till the end of the reign of Charles II (2 vols. 1741, frequently reprinted). This work, compiled from original records, was for a long while the only published source on the list of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation, including the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, among others. It remains a standard work on the subject.
In 1745 he produced anonymously his longest and most learned book, Britannia Sancta, containing the lives of the British, English, Scottish, and Irish saints, an interesting work of hagiography which was later superseded by that of Alban Butler and then by more recent publications.
In 1738 the president of Douai College, Robert Witham, died, and efforts were made by the superiors of the college to have Challoner appointed as his successor. But Bishop Benjamin Petre, the Vicar Apostolic of the London District, who already had Challoner as his vicar general, opposed this on the ground that he desired to have him as his own coadjutor with right of succession. The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide had apparently already arranged Challoner's appointment as President of Douai, but Petre's representations prevailed, and papal briefs were issued on 12 September 1739, appointing Challoner to the see of Debra in partibus.
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