QAB Book Review: SUPREMACY AND SURVIVAL, by Stephanie A. Mann
“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.” — Thomas Paine
Several of the earliest English and Welsh settlers in the “New World”, developing over time to the United States of America, left their homes in the search of religious freedom — perhaps not religious freedom for all, but at least religious freedom for them. Why take such huge risks? After all, the sea journey and settlement establishment themselves were laden with danger. As just one example, forty five of the original one hundred two settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts died the first winter, the remaining owing their survival to the assistance of their Wampanoag neighbors. One could argue their dangerous choices were based on tenacious adventurism, but the reality was America’s earliest English and Welsh settlers were escaping the persecution of the religious state that was once Great Britain, a nation whose monarchy and government legislated what, where and how people worshiped. The Church of England and it’s doctrine reigned supreme, and those who were not Anglican were criminalized, heavily fined, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and even martyred — and as Stephanie A. Mann powerfully and succinctly teaches, no one more so than Roman Catholics.
Supremacy and Survival, How Catholics Endured the English Reformation is a triumph of comprehensive brevity. In a mere 149 pages, Stephanie A. Mann tackles head-on and convincingly from a Roman Catholic point of view the Henrican and Protestant Reformations of England and later Great Britain, beginning with the way of life of Roman Catholics living prior to Henry VIII’s decision to annul his marriage to Catalina de Aragon straight through to the British Roman Catholic Emancipation of the 19th century and beyond. Just how does Mann pull off this seemingly impossible feat? Stephanie A. Mann is an educator, and like any great teacher, she sticks to the facts, points to the obvious and allows her reader to absorb what for many will be a true enlightenment. Our English historical heroes were not as religiously tolerant as we thought. Our English historical villains were not so condemnable as we were led to believe. They never taught us any of this in history class or Sunday School. Who knew?
Stephanie A. Mann’s premise is a simple one, the very concept of the American founding fathers, the very essence justifying the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States. When the government of a nation dictates the religion of it’s populace and legislates religious belief systems, tyranny and persecution results. This is basic Political Science 101, a fact most teenagers can grasp quite easily. What makes this book well worth the read, though, isn’t the ultimate conclusion that comes from the historical and religious philosophical accounting of the Mann’s research, but instead the journey — the fascinating and often heroic journey of English and Welsh Roman Catholics that resulted in the ultimate and initially near impossible survival of Roman Catholicism in Great Britain. As a side bonus, readers are treated to the remarkable stories of little known English and Welsh Roman Catholics, and facts about the more famous that are rarely taught in history class. For example, from my strictly Anglican belief system and sensibilities, I knew Saint Thomas More with the blessing of Henry VIII persecuted and burned Lutheran heretics. I also knew Saint John Fisher dissolved monasteries before Thomas Wolsey or Thomas Cromwell did to fund his new college at Cambridge. What I was quite clueless of, however, was how diligently driven both men worked to reform any and all Roman Catholic abuses from within. I found that very simple fact stunning and thoroughly thought provoking.
If you are looking for an apologetic view of English and Welsh history, you will not find it in Supremacy and Survival, How Catholics Endured the English Reformation . If you are Anglican or even if another Protestant denomination, you may find some of what Stephanie A. Mann teaches unsettling. Read the book anyway. Learn English history through the eyes of of the Roman Catholic experience. You will hear the voices of English and Welsh Roman Catholics, hundreds martyred for their faith alone, clear and strong — and for many of you, perhaps for the first time. Hear them roar.
Stephanie A. Mann is a religious scholar who holds a BA and MA in English Language and Literature from Wichita State University. She is an accomplished instructor, teaching English and History at Wichita State University and Newman University. Beyond this, Stephanie taught RCIA Ministry and Spirituality Core courses and the Spiritual Life Center in the Religious Studies Program, and various topics in the RICA program at her home parish, Blessed Sacrament. Stephanie blogs extensively about the Roman Catholic experience during the English Reformation, and she her expertise is exceptionally noteworthy. For more information about Stephanie A. Mann, visit her outstanding blog at http://supremacyandsurvival.blogspot.com/.
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Supremacy and Survival (How Catholics Endured the English Reformation)