Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Red Hat For (A Once) Anglican See

Cardinal-designate Nichols
Well, despite holding the premier see in the United States Bill Lori didn’t get his red hat this time around.  In fact, no US Cardinal was named for this upcoming consistory, but Lori was the only one who had a right—if there be a right to such a thing—to expect one.  Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia might expect it in the future, but his predecessor, Cardinal Justin
Rigali, is still (barely) under 80 and Rome tends not to give the hat to two Cardinals in the same town while one still has the possibility of being a Cardinal elector in a putative conclave.  (If I were Archbishop Chaput and wanted the hat, I would start mending my ways as Chaput’s track-record is not in the Francis' style.  Chaput, when Archbishop of Denver, had a policy that children of same-sex couples were not to be enrolled in Catholic Schools and isolating children for the “sins of their fathers” doesn’t seem to be Francis’ –or Jesus’—style, not that Jesus’s style has had a lot to do with things until somewhat recently.)  Also Philadelphia has been rocked particularly hard by the clerical sexual abuse scandal and that might make Francis a little gun shy about drawing attention to the See until he is sure that it is cleaned up.  Admittedly, the Philadelphia mess wasn’t Chaput’s doing and while I am in general no fan of Archbishop Chaput, I will be the first to say that he is a man of integrity.   But we will see if integrity alone ever translates into a red hat.  Meanwhile, let’s pray for him that he get the Archdiocese cleaned up and back on track.  When one looks at the last several Archbishops of Philadelphia—well, actually one can go back to Dennis Dougherty who was named Archbishop in 1918—one sees a line of arrogant autocrats: Dougherty, O’Hara, Krol, Bevilacqua, and Rigali, that demonstrates Lord Acton’s axiom that “Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.”  We should not be surprised that Philadelphia ended up in the scandal to the level it did as there was an unbroken line of prelates that held themselves accountable to no one.  Let’s hope that Archbishop Chaput’s Capuchin/Franciscan vocation will kick in and that he can become the sort of Shepherd that Francis seems to want for the Church. 

But I hadn’t intended to get sidetracked into Philadelphia and Archbishop Chaput, but rather highlight a man who did get the red hat, Vincent Nichols—or rather highlight his See.  Nichols himself isn’t that exciting.  He is 68 years old.  His parents were teachers.  He has a couple of Master’s Degrees—including one from Loyola in Chicago, a fairly liberal place.  He was himself considered a liberal when younger but seems to have moved slightly to the right under JPII and Benedict.  He worked well with Rowan Williams when the latter was Archbishop of Canterbury and finessed the delicate matter of Anglican groups who wished to come over to the Catholic Church because of such Anglican developments as the ordination of women to the priesthood.  English conservatives have been disappointed in him for not taking a hard line against gay adoptions or sex education Catholic schools.  He also has been more open on inter-religious dialogue—especially with Muslims—than neo-traditionalists like.  While Nichols does not seem to have celebrated Mass in the pre-conciliar rite, he has given permission for it in his Cathedral on several occasions and rather than ban it, seems to have tried to make sure that those who favor the old liturgy are well catechized and conform to Church legislation and doctrine.  Over all, Archbishop Nichols is no ideologue, walks the middle of the road, but is pastorally approachable by any and all.     

What I really wanted to write about was not Archbishop Nichols but his See—Westminster.  When the English hierarchy was “restored” in 1850 there was a huge nationalist outcry.  Who was the Pope to award English titles to his clergy in the United Kingdom?  Pretending to dispense titles to Sees within the Kingdom of Great Britain was an affront to Queen Victoria’s royal prerogatives.  A law had been passed during the reign of George IV prohibiting any but bishops of the Established Church (Church of England) from using the titles of the historic sees—Canterbury, York, Durham, London, Winchester, etc.   Thus new titles were used for the newly appointed Catholic bishops.  But Westminster was an opportunity not to be missed.  There had been a Diocese of Westminster, erected by—of all people—Henry VIII, and suppressed after his death by his successor, Edward VI.   When Pius IX named Nicholas Wiseman to lead the newly restored English hierarchy, naming him Archbishop of Westminster was the pontifical way of delivering an ecclesiastical “FU” to Henry, to the Church of England, and to the Parliament that had forbidden Catholics to restore their ancient titles.   Unfortunately the old Abbey did not go along with the title as Cathedral (as it had been under Henry) and so the Catholics had to build their own.  They did.  Westminster Cathedral in the borough of Westminster in London is somewhat akin to our Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.  It is large.  It is expensive.  It is of questionable taste.  But it is a lively center of Catholic life and worship.  Unlike our National Shrine, any number of Cardinal’s hats hang from its ceiling over the tombs of its Archbishops there interred.  (Actually there are nine hats suspended over the tombs of the nine deceased Cardinal Archbishops.) 
By ceding the point and not claiming the ancient titles, Rome (probably inadvertently, though Rome never does anything inadvertently) recognized the legitimacy of the Anglican hierarchy standing in succession to the pre-Reformation Church and made “Roman Catholics” a new Church introduced into the British Isles.  I am not saying that Rome recognized the validity of Anglican Orders (it didn’t and it hasn’t), but rather it recognized the legitimacy of their hierarchy.  Church law always differentiates between validity and legitimacy.   We will eventually look at the complicated issue of Anglican Orders but in avoiding naming Catholics to the ancient sees and in creating new jurisdictions, Rome tacitly broke the historic cords and left the claim of legitimate succession to the Anglican place-holders.  This in turn leaves the Church of England able to claim that it is and remains a branch of Christ’s Church, similar to Orthodoxy.  Catholicism has always rejected this branch theology, but ceding the point of Anglican titles gives a foothold to ultimately revise our understanding of Anglicanism.

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