*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 10th of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
There are certain characters who appear from time to time on this show that strike me as odd. And then there are those characters whose biographers- or at least fans- strike me as odd. And then there are those who pull off double duty in both being odd and having peculiar biographers. And perhaps from his name alone, you might gather that the man who called himself Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers and studied witchcraft (among other things) and believed in vampires might be a little odd. Also- he died in 1948, this is a pretty modern guy… let’s see what we can figure out about him.
He was born Augustus Montague Summers in 1880 outside of Bristol in England. He was the youngest of 7, and his father was a well-to-do banker. He Wass was raised as an Anglican in the Evangelical variety- he went to Oxford and was ordained as a deacon in 1908. But accusations of satanism and inappropriate behavior with choir boys led to him leaving the ministry.
In 1909 he converted to Roman Catholicism and is said to have been ordained as a priest. I say “is said” because we have no record of it. Some believe that he was ordained irregularly by an “old Catholic” bishop. That is, by a schismatic. Let me explain to my fellow Protestants that ordination by valid succession is a big deal. The authority of the historicity of one's connection to St. Peter is akin to the importance laid on the authority of Scripture in Protestant circles.
So to be a Catholic but with an irregular ordination would mean he could not celebrate the mass in public and was not given a public requiem when he died on this the 10th of August in 1948.
And consider this description of him:
“He wore sweeping black capes crowned by a curious hairstyle of his own devising, which led many to assume he wore a wig. His voice was high pitched, comical, and often in complete contrast to the macabre tales he was in the habit of spouting”.
In 1926 he came to some prominence with the publication of his history of demonology. He would write on vampires (he believed they existed) and translated the Malleus Maleficarum (that is, “the hammer of the witches,” a peculiar Medieval handbook for how to deal with witches). I should note that my Latin instructor in grad school also translated the Malleus Maleficarum, the difference being that my professor did not believe the text was a handy “how to” for the modern world.
Summers wrote his own work on witchcraft, from which I will quote:
“In the following pages, I have endeavored to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition”
Summers would also write on the Marquis De Sade and was a member of the Royal Society of Literature for his work in Restoration era playwrights.
To some, he was harmless, an odd man whose devotion to the church and credulousness made him a mark for eccentric ideas and conspiracies. To others, he was more than an odd duck but instead troubled and masked his indiscretions in peculiar piety and claim to be a priest.
Nonetheless, this is exactly the kind of dude I do a show on that ends up on an occultist-type message board which leads to all kinds of… interesting emails. Today we remember the self-styled priest Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers on the day of his death in 1948, a man about whom a friend said:
“He would often meet me with such an expression as Che! Che!, accompanied by a conspiratorial smile; or he would look closely at me and murmur, ‘Tell me strange things”
The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Jeremiah 33:
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of August 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man “adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organization.” He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man crowned by a curious hairstyle of his own devising, which led many to assume he wore a wig- I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.