MATURIN, EDMUND, Church of England clergyman and author; b. 1818 or 1819 in County Donegal (Republic of Ireland), son of Henry Maturin, a Church of England clergyman; d. 23 Nov. 1891 in Newbliss (Republic of Ireland).
Edmund Maturin, who received his ba from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1838, was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1843 and priest two years later. He served in three Irish parishes before accepting the position of curate at St Paul’s Church, Halifax, where he arrived on 27 Nov. 1850. Over the next eight years his work as curate won him the respect and affection of his parishioners and a reputation for both eloquence and commitment to the missionary role of the church. During his years in Halifax he continued his interest in the Oxford (Tractarian) Movement within the Church of England clergy, a movement whose sympathizers sought to introduce high church principles and ceremony into the church. Bishop Hibbert Binney*, under whom Maturin served at St Paul’s, was one of the leading local Tractarians.
Maturin also shared the Tractarians’ abiding interest in Roman Catholicism. About 1842 he had come under the influence of the writings of Nicholas Patrick Stephen Wiseman, later archbishop of Westminster, and his attraction to Catholicism gradually developed through his study of church history and eventually through a study of the Catholic Church itself. Although he remained troubled by many of its adaptations not found in the primitive church, even in the 1840s he had concluded that “the whole work of the Reformation was an act of Schism.” His interest in Catholicism was further fanned by such Tractarian writers as Henry Edward Manning and John Henry Newman, both Church of England clergymen who by the 1850s had abandoned their church for Catholicism. In October 1858 Maturin followed their path: he announced he was leaving St Paul’s and the Church of England “to return to the Communion of the Holy Catholic Church.” Early in 1859, after having been received into the Catholic Church during a visit to England, he published in Halifax The claims of the Catholic Church: a letter to the parishioners of Saint Paul’s, Halifax, Nova Scotia, a pamphlet containing details of his conversion, with a provocative defence of the Roman Catholic Church.
His conversion and pamphlet fell upon a province caught up in religious dissension. A quarrel had erupted between Joseph Howe* and the Irish Roman Catholics in Nova Scotia over Howe’s efforts in the United States in 1855 to secure Irish recruits for the British army in the Crimea. The ensuing conflict degenerated into an ugly little religious war between Howe’s Protestant supporters and the Irish Catholic population. Maturin’s publicized conversion prompted a vigorous campaign – in newspapers and pamphlets and on platforms – against his actions and his defence of Catholicism. The leading religious paper in the attack was the Halifax Church Record; the chief lay paper, the Acadian Recorder. Lectures were also given by the Protestant Alliance to counter his arguments. What particularly annoyed his critics was his admission that he had had strong Catholic sympathies since 1840, yet had continued to serve as a curate noted for his adamant anti-Catholic stance.
During the pamphlet skirmish, Maturin was elected president of the Halifax Catholic Institute, a society recently organized to promote the improvement of the Catholic young men of Halifax. He also gave several public lectures on Christianity and travelled as far as Saint John, N.B., seeking converts to Catholicism. By the fall of 1861, however, he had left the Catholic Church, made a public recantation at St Paul’s, and been received back into the Anglican fold, although the restoration did not at that time extend to the “exercise of the functions of his office.” In a pamphlet entitled Thoughts on the infallibility of the church: with especial reference to the creed of Pope Pius IV (Halifax, 1861), he attacked his earlier views and explained his conversions. He stated that he had been deceived by the seductive claims of Catholicism and that the Catholic doctrine of infallibility was “a delusion of human invention” which was being made “the foundation of the most dangerous corruptions of the Gospel of Christ, in doctrine and practice.”
With this publication the Maturin affair ended. The Church Record commented in summation, “He took no perverts away with him, he will bring no converts back, – the loss and the gain in either case are his own.” Yet the conversion and reconversion, undergone by a man of the cloth in a period of great religious tension, had touched off a wide range of public debate and added more fuel to the fire of religious bigotry in Nova Scotia.
By 1863 Maturin had returned to Ireland. After serving in various parishes in England and Ireland, in 1887 he became rector of Newbliss, where he died four years later. An obituary in Halifax’s Acadian Recorder, recalling the controversy more than 30 years before, remarked, “He will be remembered by many in this city.”
St Paul’s Anglican Church (Halifax), Parish records, Maturin to the archdeacon, 22 Oct. 1858; parish meeting, 18 Dec. 1858. J. M. Cramp, Scripture and tradition; a reply to Mr. Maturin’s letter on “The claims of the Catholic Church” . . . (Halifax, 1859). [J.] W. D. Gray, A letter to members of the Church of England, by I. W. D. Gray, D.D., rector of the parish of St. John, N.B., in reply to a letter from Edmund Maturin, M.A., late curate St. Paul’s, Halifax, N.S. (Saint John, N.B., 1859). John Hunter, Review of E. Maturin’s letter; sixth lecture, delivered before the Protestant Alliance, of Halifax, Nova Scotia . . . (Halifax, 1859). J. G. Marshall, Errors reviewed and fallacies exposed; being a Protestant’s answer to E. Maturin’s “Catholic claims” (Halifax, 1859). Read and lend (n.p., n.d.; copy at PANS). SPG Report (London), 1840–58. Acadian Recorder, 5 Feb. 1859, 8 Dec. 1891. Church Record (Halifax), 3 Feb.–31 March 1859. Church Times (Halifax), 7 June, 29 Nov. 1850; 10, 24 Jan. 1851. Halifax Morning Sun, 12 Jan., 11, 14, 18 Feb., 24–25 June, 25 July, 10 Aug., 31 Oct. 1859; 17 Jan. 1862. Novascotian, 21 March 1859. Alumni dublinenses . . . , ed. G. D. Burtchaell and T. U. Sadleir (new ed., Dublin, 1935). Morgan, Bibliotheca canadensis.