Above: Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, Between 1890 and 1900
Published by the Detroit Publishing Company, 1905
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-009878
RICHARD WHATELY (FEBRUARY 1, 1787-OCTOBER 8, 1863)
Anglican Archbishop of Dublin
Of Richard Whately all the following statements are accurate:
- Many people opposed him vigorously.
- Many people respected him greatly.
- He was not creative.
- He was a great intellectual endowed with well-developed logic.
- He cared deeply for others and sought practical solutions to many of their problems.
- His bluntness regarding some with whom he disagreed offended them.
- He sought to serve Christ in those around him.
The London-born logician and theologian was a natural academic. He emphasized the intellectual side of faith (a natural course for an Anglican), pairing it with careful study of the Bible and culminating in personal discipleship–following Jesus. Our saint, a radical moderate–a Broad Churchman–with a direct tongue and pen, advocated for such then-controversial causes as religious toleration (Catholic emancipation, Jewish emancipation, and toleration of Atheists). Some of his quirks, such as wearing white at Oxford while walking his white dog, inspired name-calling. Yet our saint’s mind was one of his greatest assets in serving God:
[He] had no ear for music, and no sense of natural beauty, had little speculative faculty;….
—James Moffatt, Handbook to The Church Hymnary (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1927, page 540)
yet exercised his powerful intellect effectively.
Whately had been a Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford University (1811 forward), become a tutor at Oxford, taken Holy Orders in 1814, served as Principal of St. Alban’s Hall (1825-1829), then been Professor of Political Economy (1829-1831). His last appointment was as the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin (1831-1863). This was a controversial appointment:
Whately had from the beginning stood aloof from political parties, and ecclesiastically his position was that of an Ishmaelite fighting for his own hand. The Evangelicals regarded him as a dangerous latitudinarian on the ground of his views on Catholic emancipation, the Sabbath question, the doctrine of election, and certain quasi-Sabellian opinions he was supposed to hold about the character and attributes of Christ, while his view of the church was diametrically opposed to the High Church party.
—Encyclopedia Britannica (1955), Volume 23, page 558
Yet John Henry Newman, in his autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), credited Whately for teaching him how to reason at Oxford.
Whately wrote much, including:
- The Elements of Logic;
- Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte, a satire on historical skepticism regarding the canonical Gospels;
- On the Use and Abuse of Party Spirit in Matters of Religion (1822);
- Peculiarities of the Christian Religion (1825);
- Difficulties of the Writings of the Apostle Paul (1828);
- On the Errors of Romanism Traced to Their Origin in Human Nature (1830);
- Thoughts on the Sabbath (1832);
- Easy Lessons on Reasoning (1836);
- Easy Lessons on Morals (1836);
- Easy Lessons on the Mind (1836);
- Easy Lessons on the British Constitution (1836);
- Christian Evidences (1837); and
- The Kingdom of Christ Delineated (1841).
Archbishop Whately tried his best to do the best job possible. He was a skilled administrator. In 1832, out of his own funds, he endowed the Chair of Political Economy at Trinity College, Dublin. He chaired the Royal Commission on the Condition of the Irish Poor. He and his wife, Elizabeth Pope Whately (married in 1821; died in 1860), herself a religious writer, worked to alleviate the devastating effects of the Irish Potato Famine. And Archbishop Whately favored a national system of non-sectarian education. The attempt to create such a system failed when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of London vetoed the proposal.
Archbishop Whately also wrote hymns, including the following verses:
Guard us waking, guard us sleeping,
And, when we die,
May we, in Thy mighty keeping,
All peaceful lie.
When the last dread trumps shall wake us,
Do not Thou, our Lord, forsake us,
But to reign in glory take us
With Thee on high.
There is a footnote, one I wish I could develop further. One of the Archbishop’s daughters, Blanche Whately Wale, his youngest, wrote poems and hymns. She published a book of them, Songs in the Night, in 1858.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JUNE 24, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
For Further Reading:
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,
and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to help all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless,
love to the unloved,
peace to the troubled,
and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60