Saturday, May 31, 2014

Troubled Seas Ahead For The Barque of Peter, Resumed

I saw and recognized the shade of him
Who by his cowardice made the great refusal.

Boniface VIII
With these words Dante consigned Pope Celestine V to hell.  And for what reason?  Celestine’s 1294 resignation of the papacy cleared the way for the election of Boniface VIII—a pope whose insufferable pride would throw the Church into the double tragedy of the Avignon Papacy and the Great (Western) Schism.   Dante’s grievance with the Pope was more personal, however.  Boniface had turned against the White Guelfs—the political faction, the “peace faction,” in Florentine politics of which Dante was a leader; in addition, Boniface had Dante exiled from his beloved Florence—an exile which would cause him to spend the remainder of his life away from the place on earth he loved most dearly.  More and more of the Krazy Katholics are turning against Pope Francis in just the same way and for a variety of reasons but looking at the blog rolls it does seem in great part boil down to the fact that his vision for the Church threatens the political, social, and economic status quo to which so many neo-traditionalists are aligned. 
Now I am a historian and I must admit that I am skeptical of the idea that most people root their political and economic policies in their religious faith but rather I believe that they embrace a religious perspective that validates their political/economic/sociological prejudices.  In Dante’s Florence, the White Guelfs represented the interests of the Middle Classes who had no interested in going to war while the Black Guelfs represented the major guilds who saw the expansion of Florentine territory as being to their economic advantage.  You know, like Dick Cheney saw war in Iraq as a chance for Halliburton.   (You remember Haliburton, the company that gave him a 36 million dollar severance package when he retired in 2000 from his position as Chairman and CEO in order to run for vice president. ) In the English Reformation the merchant classes and the newly ennobled families who had financially benefitted from the confiscation of monastic properties saw Protestantism as more to their economic benefit than Catholicism while the old nobility and the rural people preferred the old religion because it represented the status quo with which they were familiar and which validated social hierarchy. By the 18th century that would shift and the Church of England would be called “The Tory Party at Prayer” because the working classes had pretty much gone over to Methodism or the other non-Conformist “sects.”  In Constantinople the “Blues” who supported the Chalcedonian formula came from the upper classes; the “Greens” who tended to be monophysites were those on the margins of power.  Today what really pisses off people about Francis is that he includes women in roles that had been exclusively male (though certainly not the priesthood), he does not make an issue of sexual-orientation, and he says that we shouldn’t be “obsessed” with issues such as abortion and birth control but focus on issues of Social Justice.   If you belong to certain segments of society—or wish that you did—you may not like his ideas about systemic redistribution of wealth.  His philosophy all fits together in ways that would seem to undermine the entrenched social hierarchy. 
We have seen how the Catholic Right is growing more and more alienated from Pope Francis and while I don’t expect there to be formal schism on any significant level—that is any more than already exists with the various independent Tridentine chapels and with the semi-schism of the Society of Saint Pius X—I do think that the ten percent on the right will write off Francis just as the 10 percent on the extreme left stayed Catholic but pretty much picked and chose as they liked from among the policies and teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  The key difference is that while those on the left often turned a deaf ear to the liturgical and disciplinary norms of the previous popes, they often used their social teaching to advance the liberal agenda in the Church.  The wing-nuts on the right, on the other hand, seem to find nothing at all in Francis’ pontificate that they are willing to accept and his social teaching—the idea of being a poor Church on behalf of the Poor—seems to raise their ire even more than his washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday or discouraging policies towards restoring the pre-conciliar rites. 
Speaking of the pre-conciliar rites, I think that Popes John Paul and Benedict unwittingly laid the ground work for this two-Church situation by the motibus propriis (plural of motu proprio), Ecclesia Dei (1988) and Summorum Pontificium (2007).  While, as I said in a previous posting, I believe that the 1570 Rite (including its 1962 revision) is flawed, its theological short-comings are not my primary concern.  I think the 1970 Rite is also flawed and needs some revision.)  I am a historian, not a theologian, and my concern is not for theological defects, but rather the consequences of giving the earlier rite the oxygen to keep it alive beyond its time and—even worse—to mutate into an alternative Catholicism.  I think that the two previous popes seriously misunderstood the agenda of those who were fighting to bring back, even in limited form, the pre-conciliar rites.  The issue was not, and is not, the liturgy: it is the Council and the Council’s vision of Church. 
In the first place, despite the protests to the contrary by a host of voices—including some very highly placed prelates such as Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos—the 1570 Rite was suppressed in the promulgation of the Novus Ordo in 1970.  A priest needed an indult to celebrate the pre-conciliar rites.  That means that it could not be celebrated without an explicit indult from the Congregation for Divine Worship.  These indults were given but only on the most limited basis and during the reign of Paul VI probably only a few dozen were granted.  The ex-Jesuit, Malachy Martin, always claimed that he had one, though Martin’s clerical status after leaving the Jesuits is a matter of dispute.  A group of prominent English celebrities petitioned Paul VI for some continuance of the old Rite in England.  Supposedly when Pope Paul saw Agatha Christie’s name on the petition—he was an avid fan of her mysteries—he granted the English and Welch bishops the privilege of permitting the old Rite on a very limited basis as long as it was the 1962 Missal with the 1965 and 1967 revisions issued by the Congregation of Divine Worship.  This came to be known as the “Agatha Christie Indult.”  Ironically, though she did sign the petition, Ms Christie was Church of England and not Roman Catholic.  On the other hand, priests such as the late Father Gommar dePauw of the Ave Maria Chapel in Westbury NY, were severely punished for continuing to celebrate the pre-conciliar Mass without an indult. 
The English petition—signed by such figures as Sir Kenneth Clark, Graham Greene, Yehudi Menuhin, Nancy Mitford, Malcolm Muggeridge, Joan Sutherland and Philip Toynbee—was based on two separate points.  One is the devotion of the English Catholics to the Liturgy known by the English Martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries.  The other is the aesthetic appeal of the traditional liturgy.   Here in the United States the desire for the “old Mass” was based more on a discomfort with—and in some cases even a rejection of—the Second Vatican Council.  Moreover, while the appeal of the Tridentine Liturgy in Britain was, at least at the time of the Agatha Christie Indult, to people with a demonstrated social conscience, in the United States the pre-conciliar liturgy drew and continues to draw from the most conservative factions of politics and society.  Indeed Tridentine Rite congregations tend to be conventicles of the most rabid social reactionaries because while the trap may be baited with the smells and bells of the old rite, it’s raison d’etre is the preservation of a world that has vanished these last fifty years.  This is why I think that John Paul’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and Benedict’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificium are nothing less than two more of the Church’s varied attempts at suicide.  I believe that the two Popes failed to understand the agenda behind those pushing for the revival of the old rites.  In much of Europe, and most notably in Rome itself, there is and has been little interest in the pre-conciliar rites. Of course, in Rome there is little interest in the Mass in any rite at all and this is nothing new.   For John Paul the permission given in Ecclesia Dei was primarily out of concern “for those attached to the Latin liturgical tradition.”  John Paul never gave any indication that he himself had this attachment and indeed his liturgical style could often be at the other end of the spectrum from the Tridentine Rite.  I remember the Indian dancers at the Beatification Mass for Mother Theresa in Saint Peter’s Square.   Benedict, on the other hand, did have a personal attachment to the old rites though once Pope he never publicly celebrated them as he knew it would send a wrong signal and that they were divisive of the unity of the Church.  Pope Benedict is a man of great precision and a deep love for intellectual structure.  He saw that the Latin language and the rigid rubrics of the 1570 rite gave this precision and structure.  The people whom he knew and with whom he attended various conferences at Fontgombault were, like himself, brainiacs whose intellectual and aesthetic sense prepared them to enjoy the rites, especially when carried out with full splendor.  I don’t think he ever understood the lack of sophistication—intellectual or aesthetic—behind most of those in North America who follow the old rites.  The social encyclicals of Popes John Paul and Benedict clearly show that while they, or at least Benedict, may have had some sympathy with the older forms of liturgy, they were men of the Church in today’s world.  But you can bet that Ut unum sint, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, Laborem Exercens, or Caritas in Veritate aren’t part of the adult ed program in most places that celebrate the Latin Mass.  And it is even more sure that the catechesis given to the children in these congregations does not differ from the catechesis I received in 1957 despite the fact that much in the Church has changed in the intervening years. 
There are in the United States approximately 460 sites that celebrate the Tridentine Mass according to the norms set down in Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificium.  (This does not count the various independent—schismatic—chapels or the SSPX sites.)  Of these about 330 have a weekly Sunday Mass.  There are some 40 that might be said to be traditional rite parishes—having at least two Sunday Masses and at least 4 Masses through the week that are celebrated according to the 1962 Missal.  The catechesis is generally the Baltimore Catechism which predates (and thus avoids teaching) the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council.  While some of these sites have the traditional charitable organizations such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, there are few—if any—with active programs on the Church’s social magisterium.  Many of the families who attend the pre-conciliar liturgies home-school their children to avoid public (and Catholic) school education.  Urban TLM sites such as Saint Mary Mother of God in Washington DC, Holy Innocents in Manhattan, Saint Agnes in Minneapolis, Saint John Cantius in Chicago, Saint Francis de Sales in Saint Louis, draw significantly from the gay community,  but the number of African Americans, Hispanics, or Asian-Americans is significantly low in most congregations.  This is because ultimately the Tridentine Mass option is not about the Liturgy but the attempts to revive the Church “of a better day” and find refuge there from the vicissitudes of life in the real world.  Pope Francis is making it harder and harder to escape into that parallel universe of the 1950’s as he confronts us with the realities of witnessing to the Gospel in an increasingly secular and secularist society.  With Pope Benedict it was possible to shut our eyes and ears to the world outside and just watch the glorious panoply of a monarchial Church unfold in this imaginary world into which the Church was increasingly being fashioned.  Not so easy with Francis.   Perhaps some neo-trad latter-day Dante will put Benedict into hell for resigning the papacy and giving us Francis.  As for me, I am profoundly grateful the Pope Benedict saw things turning toxic and resigned so that a somewhat younger man with more strength could steer the barque on a sounder course. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Troubled Seas Ahead For The Barque of Peter? cont.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical 

Patriarch Bartholomew meet at 
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
to pray together

The afternoon Pope Francis was elected I had to go to the airport to pick up an English priest who worked in Rome and whom I had engaged to give a lecture.  The first question he asked as he came through customs was “Did they elect a Pope?”  I answered  “Yes, an Argentine Jesuit who has taken the name Francis.”  Now I have a bit of a reputation for stating the improbable in jest but Father X looked at me in disbelief and it was only when he heard it on the radio on our way back from the airport did he believe it.  An “Argentine Jesuit calling himself Francis” was more than improbable, it was world-shattering.  And indeed many have found their worlds shattered by this Pope and his penchant for new models of the papacy as well as of discipleship.
I have an eye for the signals that one finds in the details. I watch papal ceremonies with a close eye.   I had noticed immediately when the new pope came out on the balcony that he was not wearing the traditional rochet and mozetta.   Hmm, I thought, this is curious.  Pope Benedict was a stickler for protocol and even had reverted to some of the archaic vesture his recent predecessors had abandoned.   And then there was the gesture of asking the crowd to “pray for him” in which he was really asking for them to “bless” him.  This is a different ecclesiology, I thought.   The next day there was a picture of him celebrating Mass for the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel where he had ordered an altar to be placed where he could face the assembly while Pope Benedict had used the old altar, celebrating in the pre-conciliar position of having his back to the congregation.  Hmm, I thought again.  Word began to spread of tension between the new Pope and his Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, whom Francis inherited from the previous Pope and who was known for retro-style worship.  While time has taught the two men to work together as a team, Francis was not budging on his determination to do things his way which reflected a return to the ‘70’s sort of less elaborate liturgy.  Francis insisted on the plainest of vestments, a definite step away from both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict who favored the most gorgeous of robes.  And then the new Pope decided not to move out of the hotel where he had been living during the conclave, but to commute in an old car to his offices in the Apostolic Palace.  This was all symbolic, but at the least it portended significant change in direction for the Church.  A few savvy souls on the right saw this and began to get very nervous.  They didn’t know what Francis was up to, but they knew he wasn’t Pope Benedict. 
They began to check out his record and discovered as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he was far from enthusiastic about the pre-conciliar liturgy.  Then they found out he was close friends with an Argentine rabbi and had not only co-authored a book with him, but had jointly led services with him.  Pictures emerged of him washing the feet of—gasp!!!—women during the Holy Thursday rituals in Buenos Aires.  The more they investigated the more anxious they became.  This guy was not on the JPII/Benedict team.  There not only was a new sheriff in town, there was a maverick in the papal office. 
The very day Francis was elected, the Restorationist blog Rorate Caeli ( launched an attack on him saying:
 Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.
A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum.
Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.
His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehavior.
He has not missed any occasion for holding acts in which he lent his Cathedral to Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and even to partisan groups in the name of an impossible and unnecessary interreligious dialogue. He is famous for his meetings with protestants in the Luna Park arena where, together with preacher of the Pontifical House, Raniero Cantalamessa, he was "blessed" by Protestant ministers, in a common act of worship in which he, in practice, accepted the validity of the "powers" of the TV-pastors.
Probably Francis’ first real bombshell was probably his famous “who am I to judge” response when asked about an allegedly gay priest in the Vatican service.  The Pope’s response went viral and while many Catholics were happy for a less disparaging response to the LGBT community, there were those who went into all out alarm on this pastoral softening attitude.  Then in September he said that some Catholics were too “obsessed” with issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and that more emphasis had to be placed on the issues of Social Justice.  Now the fire alarms were ringing among Catholics on the right.  Bad enough that we aren’t locked in on the two great moral questions of our day—abortion and same-sex marriage—but to say that we have to focus instead on the roots of poverty and injustice: that was a double whammy.  All of a sudden Francis’ call when he was elected that we should be a “poor Church for the poor” was beginning to take on some ugly consequences.  In November Rush Limbaugh—not a Catholic—attacked Francis as a “Marxist” for his “radical” ideas about social reorganization to give the poor of the world a better chance at bettering their situation.  Just a month ago or so when the Holy Father received Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and the heads of various UN economic fora and talked about redistribution of resources, Limbaugh and his Katholic Krazies fans went ballistic all over again about how wrong this Pope gets it. 
The initial attack on the Pope by Rorate Caeli spread as other self-appointed guardians of the “true faith” chimed in with their remarks rejecting the authority of this mad dog of a liberal Jesuit.  
By December one Catholic blogger was writing  (
As many concerned Catholics have expressed, the silly statements from the Pope are damaging to catechists, parents, grandparents and Catholics who are intimately aware that the mission of the Deposit of Faith is to teach the substance that gives every person right judgment about their actions as they relate to the salvation of their soul.
It is clear enough, what is happening: Francis is paving the way for a full-scale Modernist attack on the Church. He thinks, speaks and act (sic) like a Modernist because he is one of them. It is very clear that to him everything can be changed, if the “Spirit” – that is, himself – says so.
How can we, then, react to this to the best of our ability? My answer is simple: sound the alarm now, strongly and insistently. And do not refrain from exposing the man for what he is: a danger for Catholicism, a sower of confusion, and a buffoon…
Can't you see how Francis becomes bolder with every passing month? When you see huge scandal in the making, do you speak against it or do you think “oh well, the Holy Ghooost is guiding the Chuuuurch for the beeest” like an old Pollyanna?
We can't give this Pope any slack, because he has not deserved any. If anything, he has made very clear there is no monstrosity he would not put into place, if he could. With his blabbering about not closing the door to the “Spirit” he has, once and for all, thrown away the mask. The Modernist machine is now working full steam, and we must not allow this and him to go unpunished – yes, unpunished – because he is the Pope. Yes, he is the Pope. Which is why the situation is so grave, why he is so gravely culpable, and why we must see him as the worst enemy of Catholicism.
Corruptio optimi pessima. Francis is certainly not optimus for any particular virtue of him – which he does not have -, but because of the absolute preeminence of his earthly position. A Pope sabotaging Catholicism every day is what the Germans call GAU, Größter Anzunehmender Unfall or the worst possible (nuclear) catastrophe; and the nuclear plants that gave rise to the expression are very fitting for our situation, because a huge accident is about to happen in the Vatican Power Station, and mad or evil men have taken control of it.
Francis is a popularity addict. His religion is himself first, Socialism second, himself third and fourth, and Christianity nowhere. What to do?
Mock him, ridicule him, let him drown in a sea of laughter and scandal. This is what is most likely, or least unlikely, to stop him or at least put a brake on his devastation. If every day thousands of Catholic blogs were to openly ridicule Francis, this would have two very salutary effects: it would show Francis he is the Kasperle (how fitting) of the sound Catholic world, and it would contribute to cure a large part of the Catholic masses from the Papolatry that has afflicted the Church for so many decades now. In time, the phenomenon would be registered by the mass media. At that point, Francis would have failed, and he would stay there like the old dangerous or evil nincompoop he truly, truly is.
This is not your usual Pope, to which the usual rules of utter deference apply. This here is a new breed of Pope….
We are, as I have already written, at the point that Francis has brought such disrepute to the office, that to criticise the man is the only way to defend the office. Ridicule him, so that the contrast with a decent Papacy and his predecessors may become more evident. Mock him, so that his delirious novelty may be discounted before he even opens his mouth. Make of him a laughing stock, so that you will hit him where he is hurt most effectively: in his boundless vanity.
Another blog that has moved into a position of open hostility towards this papacy is Eponymous Flower (
The crazy words and deeds of Pope Francis are presently driving many believing Catholics towards sedevacantism, which is dangerous. The belief that the Conciliar Popes have not been and are not Popes may begin as an opinion, but all too often one observes that the opinion turns into a dogma and then into a mental steel trap. I think the minds of many sedevacantists shut down because the unprecedented crisis of Vatican II has caused their Catholic minds and hearts an agony which found in sedevacantism a simple solution, and they have no wish to re-open the agony by re-opening the question. So they positively crusade for others to share their simple solution, and in so doing many of them – not all -- end up displaying an arrogance and a bitterness which are no signs or fruits of a true Catholic.
Is Pope Francis driving many believing Catholics towards sede vacantism?  I think that is a pretty gross overstatement, though not nearly as extreme as Mundabor’s rant.  These are the Katholic Krazies and they represent less than 3/1000ths of a percent of American Catholics (20,000 out of 65 million.)  I think what is more significant, much more significant, is that this same group had been ultra-loyalist during the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and now is in open contempt moving towards rebellion.  The vast majority of American Catholics are more than happy with the direction in which Pope Francis is guiding the Church.  I think the vast majority of American Catholics are also appreciative that this Pope has toned down the rhetoric on same-sex relationships and adopted a more pastoral approach to LGBT Catholics.  No one expects a doctrinal statement on the matter, but Francis has sent strong signals that the human dignity of individuals come before moral strictures, something the Pharisee party in the Church has a tendency to forget.  On the other hand, it does look like there may be a major policy change towards the pastoral treatment of the divorced and remarried.  That could send a significant number of old-line Catholics searching for a new spiritual home. It would be difficult to know where they would go because the Orthodox and even the most morally rigid of so-called Evangelicals have accommodated the divorced and remarried.  Certainly some would go to the Lefebvrists but just because people may not agree with lifting the sacramental penalties for remarriage after divorce doesn’t mean they want—or even would accept—the Latin Mass.  The greater number would most likely be divided between those who would still come to Church grumbling that everything was going to the dogs or those who would stay home on Sunday mornings because everything is going to the dogs.  On the other hand, there would be a considerable number of those who were in “irregular marriages” and abandoned Catholicism for the Episcopal or Lutheran Churches who would return to the Catholic fold.   There would also be a significant number of former Catholics who would stay in the various Protestant congregations which they joined because they had gotten used to women clergy, more welcoming and inclusive congregations, and more flexible worship.  Francis is changing the face of Catholicism, hopefully he is also changing the heart, but I don’t think it will significantly change the number of people in the pews one way or the other.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Troubled Seas Ahead For The Barque of Peter?

I love it, but not everybody's happy 

I have been concerned about the probability of a schism in the American Church for over thirty-five years.  While the first ten years or so after the Council seemed to shine favorably on a unified Church moving to implement the conciliar decrees, cracks started appearing somewhat late in the pontificate of Paul VI.  There certainly was tremendous disappointment on the left with Humanae Vitae, but that didn’t show any fissures in the fabric of the Church.  Yes there were people—including many priests—who voiced their dissent to the Pope’s conclusions and it did turn out to be the first warning shot across the progressive bow that all might not go as the liberals had hoped for in John XXIII’s aggiornamento. There were priests suspended for refusing to support the encyclical and there were many angry married Catholics who had been looking for an acceptable solution to the challenges of family planning,  but no one was talking about leaving the Church for some alternative Catholicism. But then the revised liturgy of the 1970 Missal—the Novus Ordo Missae—became as significant an issue for conservatives as Humanae Vitae had been for the left, but again no one, at least in a serious and credible position, was talking about leaving the Church or creating a parallel Catholicism.  In 1970, the year that Paul VI promulgated the new rites,  a French bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, who had also served as the General Superior of the Spiritans (Holy Ghosts Fathers), organized a “pious union” of priests and seminarians to maintain the traditional doctrines and liturgy which Lefebvre saw as under attack by the very sort of “modernist” theologians and clergy that Pius X had condemned in the 1907 decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, and Encyclical of the same year, Pascendi Domini Gregis.  Nevertheless, Lefebvre had confidence in the Church that it would regain its even keel and not abandon its historic orthodoxy.
Lefebvre had had several reservations about the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, in particular Nostra Aetate (on non-Christian religions), Unitatis Reintegratio (Christian Ecumenism), and Dignitatis Humanae (the right of religious freedom).  While he voted against these decrees, he did sign them once they had passed.  He seems to have later regretted this choice but he also seems honestly to have believed that the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church and would right the course as time went on.  This was not an unreasonable hope as Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI did significantly change the ways in which several of the Conciliar decrees have been interpreted at the time of the Council and by the Council Fathers, though not to the extent that Archbishop Lefebvre would have had it. 
Let me say—in the interest of full disclosure—that my own opinion is that despite all the talk about a “hermeneutic of continuity” several of the Conciliar decrees—including the three above named—represent a break with the previous magisterium.  I personally don’t think that is a bad thing, but I do believe to claim some sort of magisterial continuity on the questions of religious freedom, ecumenism, and inter-religious dialogue is nothing less than just downright duplicitous. 
There were some who from the beginning saw this break in continuity. A seminary dropout from Seattle, Francis Schuckhardt, who was very active in the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima—a very conservative association of people in the Catholic Church, though one safely within the bounds of Catholic magisterial authority—was convinced that the Council was heretical and went around the United States warning Catholics of what he perceived to be the "heresies" found in the Conciliar documents.  Schuckhardt built a following and founded a religious community of priest, brothers, and sisters called the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen.  He had the canonical permission of the Bishop of Boise—in whose diocese he lived at the time—to establish this new community. (Ironically this permission was the sort of freedom given to Bishops after the Second Vatican Council to establish such communities ad experimentum.) Remember that at this point, Schuckhardt was a layman. About the same time he established his new religious order,  Francis Schuckhardt  became convinced that Paul VI was a heretic and that Vatican II was a “false Council.”  He claimed that a heretic could not hold the papal office and that when a pope went into heresy, he was automatically deprived of his office.  This stance separated him from the Catholic Church.  Schuckhardt would go on to get himself ordained priest and then consecrated a bishop by Daniel Q. Brown who himself was a layman and had been ordained and consecrated by Hubert Rogers, an “Old Catholic” bishop whose orders trace back to the Union of Utrecht and through them to the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands that went into schism with the 1723 illicit episcopal consecration of Cornelius van Steenoven.  (I don’t want to go too far down this path or we will get sidetracked from our main focus—but I do promise to return at some future point about the Old Catholic Successions and Schisms.  It is sort of an ecclesiastical version of a Chinese Fire Drill.)  Suffice it now to say that Schuckhardt stood in a historic apostolic succession.  I personally won’t say “valid” though most Catholics would.  My reservations are twofold.  First I am not sure what “valid” means when we talk about sacraments; I think that it implies our imposing some degree of objectivity that permits us to tie God’s hands.  Remember, I am a historian and not a theologian, but I think the “valid” thing has somewhat expired as an effective argument and we need a new category to understand the sacraments and the way they work.  Just saying; again I am not a theologian.  Secondly, while matter and form may have been there in these ordinations—and intention to pass on the apostolic succession in the office of priest or bishop (depending on to which office the candidate is being ordained)—when a “sacrament” is celebrated with the intention of fracturing the unity of the Church…. Well, I just wonder.  Again, not a theologian but I think the theologians need to do some remodeling of the arguments here.  Just saying.  
Over the decades since Schuckardt’s renouncing the papacy as sede vacante, that is there being no (valid) sitting pope, sede vacantism has spread among the ultra-kooks in the katholic korral.  Some groups like Schuckhardt’s Congregation of Mary Immaculate or a particularly peculiar group (of 2 monks with a handful of followers) known as Holy Family Monastery in Fillmore NY, or Bishop Daniel Dolan (a Lefebvrist run-away) claim that because Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis were "heretics," there is no true pope and the see is empty (sede vacante).  Some sede-vacantists push the claim of heresy/invalidity back to include John XXIII.  There are also small groups known as “conclavists” who have decided to fill this supposedly vacant papal office by having conclaves to elect a new pope. A Kansas whack-job named David Bawden, aka “Pope Michael” who was elected “Pope” in 1990 by a conclave of six people (including his mother and father) to fill the chair of Peter left vacant by the aforementioned heretical popes, has a few dozen followers.  Bawden is not the only person who claimed a conclave to elect him pope to fill the empty seat.  The late Lucien Pulvermacher, a former Capuchin Franciscan friar disgruntled with Vatican II, was elected in the ballroom of a rural Montana hotel in 1998 and took the name Pius XIII.  (Some votes were phoned in, a progressive move way beyond the official Catholic Church.)  There are several other conclavist claimants in Europe and South America.  I had a maiden grandaunt who thought she was Empress of Austria. This sort of thing happens even in good families. 
All these various groups—the Congregation of Mary Immaculate People, the Holy Family Monastery folk, the Pope-in-Kansas crowd don’t add up to much over a thousand people.  Even the Lefebvrist faction, the Society of Saint Pius X, are really not a force to be contended with seriously, having perhaps 20,000 followers in the United States and perhaps another 30,000 worldwide. With Pope Francis in the Chair of Peter, the left seems mollified.  Actually they seem delighted as many felt they were being edged out of the Church in the previous two papacies. (Indeed there were a small number of people who went into groups that formally rejected Church authority such as Spiritus Christi Church or Holy Wisdom Monastery or the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes in Santa Barbara, and a much larger number—in the hundreds of thousands who joined Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist and other congregations because they had grown disillusioned with a Catholicism they perceived as having backed away from the Second Vatican Council.)  But after the pax benedictina there are grumblings on the right again as there were in the days of Paul VI.  Will it come to schism?  I would think probably not in the formal sense of a mass movement to an alternative Catholicism, but marginal groups like the Society of Saint Pius X and the more moderate schismatic networks that maintain the old rite and the old catechism will probably draw several thousand of the more neo-traditionalist crowd that find Francis’s directions increasingly troubling.  If Pope Francis makes any move limiting the pre-conciliar rites, or permits local bishops to suppress the TLM, that number would be considerably higher though there are probably less that 200,000 American Catholics who regularly attend the Tridentine Mass.  A more serious threat would be any significant change on the status of the divorced and remarried.  That would be a huge opportunity for the sede vacante groups which I would not be surprised to see triple in size—or even more. 
I plan to continue this question of the growing tension between the Catholic Right and the Catholic Left in a few more postings and in particular to look at how Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI laid the groundwork—unwittingly—for the divide

Friday, May 23, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXIX

Bonner's Cathedral of Saint Paul's
London--this cathedral was 
destroyed in the Great Fire of 
London in 1666 and replaced by 
Christopher Wren's masterpiece.
Another bishop on whom Mary depended in her program to restore England to the Catholic faith was Edmund Bonner.  Bonner had pretty humble beginnings.  His father was a woodsman or a lumberman in Worcestershire.  He studied law—not at the Inns of Court, which was common for a person who intended to follow a career in law, but at Oxford, earning degrees in both the Civil and Canon Law.  He was ordained quite young—perhaps as young as 22.  He was in the employ of Cardinal Wolsey and loyally stayed with him when he was arrested and accompanied the Cardinal on his trip to London to face the wrath of Henry (a wrath fanned into fury by Anne Boleyn who resented Wolsey’s attempts to break her ambitious relationship with the King.) It was a dangerous thing to do—to stay with the Cardinal in his time of disfavor.  Wolsey was fortunate enough not to make London but to die on the way—at Leicester Abbey, an Augustinian foundation just about halfway from Wolsey’s See at York to London where Henry—and the Tower—awaited him.  Bonner was with the Cardinal when he died. 
Cromwell scavenged the remnants of Wolsey’s service for what talent could go for the King’s work and Bonner found himself in the royal employ.   He was sent to Rome in 1532 to try to forestall action against Henry in the Roman Curia and in a 1533 meeting with Clement VII at Marseilles (where the Pope was conferring with Henry’s current foe, Francis I of France) Bonner threated the Pope with appealing over the Pope to a General Council for an annulment for Henry.  Clement was furious and Henry never got around to the appeal, choosing schism instead.  Bonner served Henry on embassies both to Charles V and to the French court and he made contact with the German Lutherans with whom he showed some doctrinal sympathy.  As an ambassador, Bonner could be quite abrasive and his tendency to get in altercations with his hosts did not help him achieve his diplomatic goals.  Yet this didn’t displease Henry who had a particular antipathy for the French.  Bonner also went out of his way to alienate Stephen Gardiner who had preceded him as ambassador in Paris and about whom he, Bonner, filed a highly critical report. 
Bonner oversaw the printing of “The King’s Great Bible” at Paris while ambassador to the French Court.  Myles Coverdale, later Bishop of Exeter and strong proponent of Protestant doctrine and worship in the reign of Edward VI, had provided this English translation under the sponsorship of Henry for use in the services of the Church of England.  (Henry had retained the Latin Mass throughout his reign, but much like the first introduction of the vernacular in the Catholic Church at the time of the Second Vatican Council, the custom of reading the Epistle and Gospel in English—after they had been read in Latin—was to pave the way for greater changes yet to come.)  Henry (and his Protestant-leaning minion, Thomas Cromwell) were quite impressed at Bonner’s performance with getting the Bible printed and rewarded him with the Bishopric of Hereford.  As he was still in France, however, he could neither be consecrated or take possession of his see and Henry moved him to London in 1540 where he was consecrated according to the old rites which would remain unaltered in the time of King Henry. 
Bonner had been trained in law, not theology, and he had never shown much interested in the finer points of doctrine. Indeed, if anything he seemed to lean towards a version of Lutheranism.  Yet once in his diocese he became an implacable religious conservative.  When the wind blew in a more traditionalist direction after the execution of Thomas Cromwell, and Parliament passed the Six Articles, Bonner began an earnest persecution of all those in his diocese who did not adhere strictly to Catholic Doctrine on Transubstantiation, on purgatory, and on the cult of the saints. 
The death of Henry and the accession of King Edward changed everything.  Within a few months of the new King’s accession a set of injunctions had been drawn up for reform in the Church and the bishops were entrusted with the task of seeing that they were carried out in their cathedrals as well as in the parishes of their diocese.  The injunctions required
1.    all images were to be taken down
2.    stained glass, statutes, and shrines were to be dismantled
3.    rood screens, their lofts, and the rood beam with its cross and figures of John the Apostle and the Virgin Mary were to be destroyed
4.    vestments were abolished and were to be burned or sold
5.    sacred vessels were to be melted down and replaced by pewter or silver cups and tankards
6.    processions were banned
7.    the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday, Palms on Palm Sunday, and candles on Candlemas was done away with
8.    chantries (mortuary chapels) with endowed masses for those buried there were abolished
9.    masses for the dead were abolished.   

The bishops were responsible to see that these directives were carried out in their respective dioceses, but the Council appointed visitators to go around the kingdom to make sure the changes had been carried out.  Bonner refused to implement the changes and resisted the idea of visitors coming to his diocese.  As London was the national capital, the Council could not afford dissent there. He was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Fleet Prison.  There he changed his strategy and gave in to the visitation so as to be released and take his seat in Parliament where he could fight the new laws.  His resistance to the Prayer Book of 1549, however,  led to his being deprived of his see and imprisoned for the remained of King Edward’s reign.
Mary, on her accession, freed him and restored him to this See.  Bonner vigorously sought to restore Catholic doctrine and practice but had a rough time of it.  During his imprisonment, Edward’s Bishop of London, Nicholas Ridley, had pretty thoroughly destroyed what elements of Catholicism were left.  Not only had the stone altars been smashed in the London churches, the crosses and crucifixes torn down, the images of the saints ripped from their niches, but more important, Londoners had been well catechized in the Reformed Religion. 
Protestantism appealed to the merchant class and London was a merchant citu.  Protestantism was a religion that showed an appreciation for critical thinking and intellectual pursuits.  It was not a matter of blind authority and ancient traditions that no longer made sense.  Protestantism was rational, a thinking man’s religion.  There was no room for superstition.  Moreover it was economically rational. One didn’t put good money into silk vestments or silver crosses or gold chalices.  One gave to the poor.  One endowed schools.  And one re-invested one’s money for greater profit.  This was a religion for Londoners.  And when Bonner came back to his diocese after an absence of six years, the damage had been done.  Bonner did what he could do to repair the churches for Catholic worship again but he never won the confidence of the Londoners.  Even worse, he undertook a fierce persecution of Protestants, searching them out, trying them in ecclesiastical courts, and subjecting them to torture and being burned at the stake.  He was responsible for some of the worst excesses of “Bloody Mary’s” reign. 
Unlike Gardiner who predeceased Mary, Bonner lived well into Elizabeth’s reign.  He refused to swear to her supremacy over the Church.  Although he sat in her first Parliament where he spoke against her policy of reintroducing Protestantism, he was deprived of his See and imprisoned by the end of her first year on the throne.  Although many called for his death in retaliation for those martyred under his authority for their Protestant faith, he was never executed.  He remained imprisoned under somewhat genteel terms and every four months was given a new opportunity—which he always refused—to swear to the royal supremacy.  He died eleven years into Elizabeth reign. 
I notice that I have quite often used the term “Protestant” here and I need to clarify that term as I am not using it in the somewhat generic sense that we use to cover everything from a Swedish Lutheran to a Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite.  The problem is that the other-than-Catholic movement in the Church of England was not stable through this period.  Phase I which might be thought to be 1520-1540 leaned towards Lutheran thought.  Phase II, which we shall mark as 1540 to the accession of Elizabeth in 1558 leaned more to the Swiss model but I wouldn’t say “Calvinist.”  It was sort of a generic Swiss/Strasbourg variety influenced heavily by Martin Bucer, the Strasbourg reformer who had taken refuge in England between 1549 and 1551, but also drawing on Bucer’s friends among the Swiss, especially Zwingli.  Phase III which will be the reign of Elizabeth will see a real struggle between the Puritan party who are definitely Calvinist and the more moderate party which would have favored the more middle of the road sort of theology typified in the reign of Edward VI.  The Puritan party was to win out, though Elizabeth herself was definitely a theological moderate.  But all that is still away off in our entries.