Basil Christopher Butler OSB (7 May 1902–20 September 1986), was a convert from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church, a Roman Catholic priest, the 7th Abbot of Downside Abbey, one-time Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, a bishop, an internationally respected scripture scholar, a consistent defender of the priority of the Gospel according to Matthew, and perhaps the pre-eminent English-speaking Council Father at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962–1965).
In 1928, after an illustrious career as undergraduate at Oxford University and a year teaching at Brighton College, Butler, baptized in the Church of England, was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1929 he became a monk of the Benedictine community of Downside Abbey – a House of the English Benedictine Congregation – and was ordained priest there in 1933. In 1946 the community elected him as their Abbot, which he remained for twenty years until his consecration in 1966 as Titular Bishop of Nova Barbara and Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal John Carmel Heenan in the Archdiocese of Westminster.
Defending – like his predecessor Abbot John Chapman and his fellow-monks Dom Bernard Orchard and Dom Gregory Murray – the traditionally maintained priority of the Gospel according to Matthew, Butler published a critique of the Two-document hypothesis and a study of the indebtedness of the Gospel according to Luke to the Gospel according to Matthew (cf. Synoptic Problem).
Role at Vatican II
It was in his capacity as Abbot President (1961–1966) of the English Benedictine Congregation and as an outstanding scripture scholar, that Butler was called to Rome to participate in Vatican II (1962–1965). He was one of maybe two dozen "men who made the Council", contributing, often in fluent Latin, to many of the Council's documents, e.g. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) which he regarded as their very underpinning, and subsequently was a strong proponent of the teachings of Vatican II.
Butler was a prolific writer, a bibliography of his books, articles and reviews running to some 337 titles. He was a popular guest on the BBC's radio programmes.
FLOOD, Anne T., SC, Bibliography on Bishop B. C. Butler OSB, pars diss. laur., Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America, 1981.
Complete work: Anne T. FLOOD, B.C. Butler’s developing understanding of church. An intellectual biography. Thesis-Phil. D. (Religion). Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America, 1981. (iv, 294 leaves). Bibliography is on leaves 250-290.
- Photograph of Bishop Christopher Butler in 1983
- Photograph with Pope John Paul II
- Bishop Butler and Vatican II
- Bibliography of Butler's writings and list of his guest appearances on BBC radio
- B.C. Butler’s developing understanding of church. An intellectual biography. By Anne T. Flood
This article includes information from the Vatican II – Voice of the Church website.