Bishop Charles Grant
Former Bishop of Northampton
1906-1989 Died 24 April 1989
The following obituary was written by Monsignor Graham Adams: 15 May 1989.
Charles Alexander Grant was born at Cambridge on October 25th 1906, the only child of Anglican parents. He became a Catholic as a boy and was educated at the Perse School, St Edmund’s College, Ware and Christ’s College, Cambridge where he read mathematics. He studied for the priesthood at Oscott College and was ordained a priest on 16th June 1935. He then went for further studies to the Gregorian University in Rome and gained a licentiate in Canon Law. He was then appointed as an Assistant Priest in his home parish of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge in 1938; and in 1943 was put in charge of the parish of Ely. Then in 1945, he was appointed as Parish Priest of Kettering where he remained until 1961. In 1955, he became Vicar General and Officialis of the diocese and was created a Domestic Prelate in 1960. It was no surprise when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Northampton in 1961, with the titular see of Alinda. At that time, the diocese of Northampton was the largest in England and Wales, encompassing also the present diocese of East Anglia.
He became the second President of the Canon Law Society following Mgr. McReavy.
In 1962, he became the first Chairman of CAFOD and he was also the first president of the Commission for International Justice and Peace. During the Second Vatican Council he spoke out strongly against weapons of mass destruction. In 1967 Bishop Leo Parker, was the first Bishop in England and Wales to submit his resignation to Pope Paul VI on reaching the age of 75 years, and to his immense surprise it was accepted. No one in the diocese was surprised when his Auxiliary was appointed the eighth Bishop of Northampton a few months later on March 25th. In the following years Bishop Grant was faced with difficult decisions in regard to priests who were too progressive and found it difficult to accept “Humanae Vitae” or unable to accept the liturgical changes arising from the Vatican Council. In all such cases he acted with gentleness but firmness and endeared himself to all his clergy. He was also active on the ecumenical scene and in 1970 the first purpose-built shared Church for Anglicans and Catholics was opened at Cippenham, near Slough.
In 1976, he oversaw the division of his large diocese by the creation of a new Diocese of East Anglia and he was delighted that his own Auxiliary Bishop Alan Clark became its first Bishop. Five years later, on reaching the age of 75 years himself, Bishop Grant tendered his own resignation to the Holy Father and when the late Bishop Francis Thomas was appointed the ninth Bishop of Northampton in 1982, he retired immediately to St John’s Convent, Kiln Green, near Reading. On his own appointment as Bishop in 1967, he had had his predecessor still living at Bishop’s House for several months, which did not make his life easy, as Bishop Parker found it difficult to accept that he was not still the Bishop. He was determined that this should not happen for Bishop Thomas. During his seven years of retirement he was always delighted to be visited by his many priest friends and he remained alert to the very end, reminiscing over his long and varied life both as a priest and Bishop in the Diocese of Northampton. He was called to his own reward on April 24 1989, the day before the twenty-eighth anniversary of his Episcopal ordination. Cardinal Hume presided at his funeral Mass in Northampton Cathedral on 2nd May in the presence of many of his brothers in the episcopate and a very large gathering of priests of many dioceses. He was buried in the cemetery of the Catholic Church at Woburn Sands,
The late Cardinal John Wright once described Bishop Grant as the “Gentleman of the English Hierarchy”. He was indeed a gentleman and a gentle man and will always be remembered with love and affection by all those who were privileged to know him. May he rest in peace. [Edited from CLSN 78, June 1989]