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Bp. Christopher (Basil Christopher) Butler (1902-1986)

ARCJPC (Member) and ARCIC-I (Member, 1970-1981)

The following biography of Bishop Butler appears in the Durham University Library Special Collections Catalogue:

“The prominent Catholic theological scholar and ecumenist Basil Edward Butler was born 7 May 1902 at Reading, Berkshire, and took the name Christopher as his name in religion upon his novitiate at Downside Abbey in 1929.

“He was the second of four sons and the third of six children of William Edward Butler and his wife Bertha Alice Bowman. He was educated at Reading School, and then St John’s College, Oxford, ultimately holding a tutorship at Keble College as a clerical don in 1925. (He was made an honorary fellow of St John’s in 1966.) He went on to teach classics at Brighton College (1927-1928), and then at Downside School, Somerset (1928-1929).

“During these latter years Butler’s faith increasingly moved toward Catholicism, in which Church he became a communicant in 1928. Entering the Benedictine community at Downside the following year, he was ordained on 10 June 1933. Butler remained at Downside for many years, serving as headmaster of the school from January 1940 until his election as abbot on 12 September 1946, an office he held until 1966. He was president of the English Benedictine congregation from August 1961-1966, and in this pre-eminent role his was an influential voice at each of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). At this Council he was a member of its commission for doctrine, and also participated in the debate on war and peace, with particular reference to nuclear deterrence.

“In 1966 he was appointed auxiliary bishop to Cardinal J. C. Heenan, being consecrated bishop of Nova Barbara in Westminster Cathedral on 21 December 1966. As auxiliary he became the first area bishop of Hertfordshire, last resident president of St Edmund’s College, Ware, and vicar capitular of the archdiocese in the sede vacante between Cardinals Heenan and Hume. Latterly he served on the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission, and was co-chairman of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee (1970-1981). From 1972 he was a member of the editorial board of the New English Bible. In February 1980 he was appointed an assistant to the pontifical throne by Pope John Paul II.

“Butler’s writings and thoughts were widely published and broadcast from the 1950s onwards. He died in London on 20 September 1986.”

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