John Douglass (bishop)

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The Right Reverend
John Douglass
Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Church Roman Catholic Church
Appointed 10 September 1790
Term ended 8 May 1812
Predecessor James Robert Talbot
Successor William Poynter
Other posts Titular Bishop of Centuria
Consecration 19 December 1790
by William Gibson
Personal details
Born December 1743 (1743-12)
Yarm, Yorkshire
Died 8 May 1812(1812-05-08) (aged 68)
Nationality English
Denomination Roman Catholic

John Douglass (1743–1812) was an English Roman Catholic bishop who served as the Vicar Apostolic of the London District from 1790 until his death in 1812.


He was born at Yarum, Yorkshire, in December 1743, and was sent at the age of thirteen to the English College, Douai. There he took the college oath in 1764, and defended universal divinity cum laude in 1768. He went to the English College, Valladolid, as professor of humanities, arriving there 27 June 1768. At a later period he taught philosophy. Suffering from poor health, he left Valladolid 30 July 1773, and was priest of the mission of Linton and afterwards at York.

While he was a missioner at York he was selected by the Holy See for the London vicariate in opposition to efforts made by the ‘catholic committee’ to have Charles Berington translated from the Midland to the London district. The appointment caused controversy, and Berington addressed a printed letter to the London clergy, resigning every pretension to the London vicariate. Opposition to Douglass was withdrawn, and he succeeded James Talbot as vicar-apostolic of the London district. His briefs to the titular see of Centurio were dated 25 September 1790, and he was consecrated 19 December the same year, in St. Mary's Church, Lulworth Castle, Dorset, by William Gibson, titular bishop of Acanthus, and Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District.

The Catholic Relief Act, passed in June 1791, repealed the statutes of recusancy in favour of persons taking the Irish oath of allegiance of 1778. It was Douglass who suggested that this oath should replace the oath which was proposed during the debates on the measure and warmly discussed by the contending parties. The act likewise repealed the oath of supremacy imposed in the reign of William and Mary, as well as various declarations and disabilities; and it tolerated the schools and religious worship of Roman Catholics. He was a determined opponent of the veto, and he censured the Blanchardist schismatics. St. Edmund's College, Old Hall Green, owed its existence to Douglass, with its president Gregory Stapleton settling there with his students at the his invitation from 15 August 1795, after their imprisonment during the French Revolution.

Douglass was one of the first members of the ‘Roman Catholic Meeting,’ organised in May 1794, in opposition to the Cisalpine Club. John Milner submitted his Letters to a Prebendary to Douglass for revision. Douglass erased nearly one-half of the original contents before sending it back to the author, who printed the work in its curtailed form.

Douglass died at his residence in Castle Street, Holborn, on 8 May 1812. William Poynter, who had been appointed his coadjutor in 1803, succeeded him in the vicariate-apostolic of the London district.


An account by Douglass of the state of the catholic religion in his vicariate in 1796 is printed in Brady's ‘Episcopal Succession,’ iii. 180 seq. He published some charges and several pastorals, two of which were translated into Spanish. He also for many years published ‘A New Year's Gift’ in the Laity's Directory.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Robert Talbot
Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Succeeded by
William Poynter