Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXV

Nicholas Heath,
Archbishop of York
under Queen Mary
Mary was faced with the problem of getting a bench of bishops whom she could trust in her program to restore the Church of England to the Roman communion from which her father, Henry VIII had broken it in the 1530’s and to restore Catholic doctrine and practice which her brother, Edward VI, had replaced with reformed liturgy and doctrine between 1547 and his death in 1553.  The only bishop who had resisted the break with Rome was John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who paid with his head for resisting Henry’s making himself Head of the Church of England.  There were a number of other bishops whose elections to their sees had been done before the break with Rome and with papal approval—Bishops Tunstall, Gardiner, Vesey, Goodrich, and Capon—but they had all bent like wheat before the wind when Henry called for separation from Rome.  Thomas Thirlby of Norwich supported Henry in his break with Rome and was made bishop of Norwich by the King,  but never abandoned Catholic doctrine or practice, even during the reign of Edward VI and yet managed to hold on to  his see.  Mary moved him to Ely as Bishop. 
There was a considerable number of other bishops who had been consecrated without papal approval and after Henry’s final break, but according to the ancient rites which remained in force until two years after Henry’s death.  Some of these men were very staunch in Catholic doctrine and had lost their sees because they would not accede to Archbishop Cranmer’s new rites.  Among these were bishops Heath, Day, and Rugg.  There were still others such as Bishops Goodrich, Aldrich, King, and Chambers who served as Henrician Catholics, embraced Archbishop Cranmer’s Protestant reforms to keep their sees, and then willingly returned to Catholic practice under Mary.  Perhaps these last are the most difficult to understand.  They seemed to have no convictions of their own—Catholic or Protestant—but just went along with whatever they were told to do.  John Bird, Bishop of Chester was ordained under the old rites, was enthusiastic about Cranmer’s Protestant reforms under Edward, and was deprived of his see under Mary because he was married.  Though a convinced Protestant, Bird repudiated his wife and was made a suffragen (auxiliary) bishop of London.  Again: what sort of ambition does it take to wear one’s commitments so lightly?  
And of course, there were the Reformers—Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Ridley, Hooper, Latimer, and Ferrer.   HoHHThese were all convinced Protestants.  Hooper had refused consecration as a bishop until he was dispensed from wearing episcopal garb.  Mary could not keep them as bishops and the key question is why.  Was it that their consecration as bishops was invalid because of the Reformed Rites under which they were made bishops or was it because they were convinced Protestants who would not carry out her policy of returning England to Catholic worship and doctrine?  Cranmer had been ordained according to the old rites and he actually renounced his Protestant ideas—until he found out that Mary was determined to have him executed anyway.  There will be more about that later.  Latimer was convinced of his Protestant faith and was executed for heresy as was Ridley.  They were burned at the stake at Oxford on October 16, 1555.   Hooper was executed under the Heresy Acts of 1554.   Bishop Miles Coverdale of Exeter was deposed of his see but permitted to emigrate.  Barlow of Bath and Wells also emigrated rather than give up his wife.  Bush of Bristol resigned his see and was given a rectory which he held for the rest of his life, ministering as a priest though not as a bishop.  Scory of Rochester had  been consecrated in reformed rites and was deprived of  his see under Mary, but was permitted to function in the London diocese, though probably as a priest rather than a bishop.  He later emigrated and returned after Mary’s death.  Elizabeth appointed him to Hereford.  Harley of Hereford was deprived of his see, but not arrested.  John Taylor, Bishop of Lincoln walked out of the Mass that commenced Mary’s first parliament but he died a natural death before Mary could  deprive him of his see.  Holgate of York was deprived of his see and imprisoned for having married but was later released—though not restored to ministry—and died within months.  Basically, Mary restored the bishops consecrated during the reign of her father according to the old rites even if they had embraced the reforms of Thomas Cranmer.  She had those bishops who were leaders of the Protestant reform—Cranmer, Ridley, Hooper, Latimer, and Ferrar—martyred by being burned at the stake, but permitted the majority of the Edwardine bishops to function as priests or to emigrate.  Mary had to accept many bishops and priests who had gone along—and some wholeheartedly—with the reforms of Edward VI.  She had no choice.  She had to work with the talent pool she had.  What is interesting is how many of those who had gone along with the Protestant ideas under Edward, would refuse to return to Reformed practices under Elizabeth and would give up their dioceses or parishes rather than do so.  In fact, when we get to Elizabeth and how she treated the Catholics, many readers will be surprised how leniently the Queen handled her Catholic subjects. 
I realize how confusing all this might be—all these names and under which rite they were made bishops and which dioceses they held.  Is there is theme to look for?  I am amazed—and discouraged—by how many of these men just sort of bowed in whichever way the wind was blowing.  I am not so sure that we don’t have bishops of the same spinelessness today—not that they would be subject to the King or whoever in the State—but who for their own ambition sing whatever tune those in power call.  John Paul II was notorious for making loyalty to Roman authority the chief criterion for being a bishop.  While I certainly think bishops do need to be loyal to the larger Church, they also need to be accountable to the local Church of which they are the shepherd.  They need to know the people entrusted to them and listen to the voice of those people so that they can accurately gage the consensus fidelium. This doesn’t have to bring them into conflict with Rome, but Rome needs to hear, from the bishops, what is in the heart of the faithful and that means bishops need to be brave enough to speak up.  The American bishops have over the last thirty years or so failed miserably in this.  The careerism, so deplored by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, allowed them to give the petty bureaucrats in Rome free run over us whether it was the harassment of the American Religious women or the imposition of this incredibly archaic translation in the current Missal.  To the Bishops of Reformation England and to the Bishops today: grow a pair. 

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