Berington, CHARLES, titular Bishop of Hiero-Caesarea, b. at Stock, Essex, England, 1748; d. June 8, 1798. His life is a continued story of disappointed hopes and expectations. At thirteen he was sent to the English College at Douai, where his abilities at once showed themselves; but he never applied himself to his work. His progress was so unsatisfactory that four years later he was removed and sent to St. Gregory’s Seminary, Paris. According to his cousin, the Rev. Joseph Berington, he did very little better at Paris than at Douai, though he succeeded at last in taking his doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1776. On his return to England, he became chaplain at Ingatestone Hall, a few miles from his birthplace. After travelling for two years with young Mr. Giffard of Chillington, on his return, Berington was appointed coadjutor to Bishop Thomas Talbot, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, becoming at the same time titular Bishop of Hiero-Caesarea.
The Midland District, one of the four into which for ecclesiastical purposes England was then divided, was at that time the stronghold of “Cisalpine” opinions. With these Charles Berington was in full sympathy, in consequence of which, in 1788, he was elected a member of the Catholic Committee, who were then agitating for the repeal of the Penal Laws, for which end they were unfortunately willing to minimize some of their Catholic principles. Two other ecclesiastics were elected at the same time, the Rev. Joseph Wilkes, O.S.B., and Bishop James Talbot, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, though the latter’s appointment was merely nominal, for he never attended the meetings. Berington took a leading part in the disputes which followed between the Committee and the bishops, and though his sympathies were chiefly with the former, he exerted a restraining influence on them, and was ever trying to bring about an understanding between the two contending parties. Nevertheless, he did not scruple to sign his name to the most extreme documents which appeared in the official publications of the Committee known as the “Blue Books”, and he defended the oath intended to be imposed by the legislature on Catholics, which was afterwards condemned by the Holy See. In the midst of these disputes Bishop James Talbot died, and endeavors were made by the Committee to secure the appointment of Berington in his place, so that he might reside in London and exert the influence attached to the position. These endeavors failed, and Dr. Douglass was appointed Vicar Apostolic. Some of the more extreme laymen, however, maintained that they had a right to choose their own bishop, and called upon the Catholic body to disavow the prelate appointed by Rome, and to rally round Berington; but on this occasion the latter showed his sound sense by publishing a letter in which he refused to have anything to do with these machinations, by which action he practically put an end to them.
Bishop Thomas Talbot died in 1795, and Charles Berington succeeded as Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District. Again he appeared to have a career before him. Before giving him his special faculties, however, Rome called upon him to withdraw his signature from the Blue Books. For several years he demurred, being still under “Cisalpine” influence. At length, through the intervention of Monsignor Erskine, who was living in England as an informal papal envoy, Berington was induced to sign the necessary retractation, on October 11, 1797. After some delay due to the disturbed state of Rome, his faculties were sent, but they never reached him, for he died suddenly of apoplexy while riding home from Sedgley Park.