Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Trojan Horse in the Tridentine Mass

Franciscans of the Immaculate
meeting with Pope Francis at
Casa Santa Marta June 10
I have written before on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a group originating in the Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv.) but becoming an independent Institute of Religious Life of Pontifical Right in 1998 with Father Stefano Manelli as their Superior General. Last year Pope Francis removed Father Manelli as Superior and put the community under the governorship of Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi OFM Cap.  It is not an extraordinary gesture for the Holy See to remove a Superior General and appoint a Vicar of the Holy See’s own choosing, but it is exceptional to bring in a superior from outside the congregation itself.  It seems that the fuss is because the Franciscans of the Immaculate—or their leadership—made the decision that henceforth they would celebrate only the pre-conciliar rite known as the TLM or “Traditional Latin Mass” or the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.”  But it turns out it is far more complicated and involves the issue of whether or not the friars accept the magisterial authority of the Church as expressed in the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council.
Of course, for a religious community entrusted with parish churches and public shrines to decide that it will no longer celebrate the “ordinary” Rite of the Mass, that is the Novus Ordo, is problematic for any bishop who knows the pastoral needs of his people require the ordinary form as the ordinary every-day rite.  The bishop must provide for those of the faithful who want the “extra-ordinary form” but even more he must provide for the far greater numbers who want Mass in their own language and according to the 1970 Missal.  But it turns out that the problem runs deeper than the rite.
The Holy Father met with a delegation of Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate on June 10.  The meeting was a bit tense on both sides though all remained cordial.  What is interesting though is that after the meeting with the Pope, a considerable number of young friars who were present—novices and those in temporary profession—applied to leave the Order.  One spilled the beans, saying that he left “because he (the young friar) does not accept the Second Vatican Council.”
This is the problem—not with the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception, the majority of whom I am sure accept the Second Vatican Council, but with many who “hide out” from the Church in the TLM.  The problem is not the rite; it is the Council just as the Council is the sticking point with the quasi-schismatic Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X.  (I say “quasi-schismatic” because though the excommunication against them was lifted, they have still not been restored to the unity of the Church, and this is because they refuse to accept the teachings of the Council.)  We can no more accept in the Church those who reject the authority of the Council than we can accept those who reject the authority of the Pope.  One might disobey a Council (we do every time we kneel in a Sunday Liturgy or during the Easter Season) or one might disobey a Papal teaching (contraceptive Catholics, for example) but disobeying is not the same a rejecting the authority.  As regards the Second Vatican Council, for example, one might personally choose not to have anything to do with non-Catholics, but neither now can one deny the authority of the Church to enter into fraternal dialogue with Protestants or with non-Christians, or criticize a bishop or priest who permits non-Catholic Christians to use a church for their worship, or who participates in non-sacramental worship with them.  That, of course, is only one example but for the majority of those who reject the Second Vatican Councils, the rejection is on matters of Ecumenism or Inter-Religious Dialogue.  
The problem is not only with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  I know a parish in the Arlington Diocese which hosts a weekly TLM Mass and which permits parents to “home-school” their children according to the Baltimore Catechism rather than participate in the Religious Education program of the parish.  (The same parish does not have a Catholic School because the pastor does not want to provide an education subject to the diocesan guidelines which would require too many “concessions to modernism.”)  The Baltimore Catechism, a book which provided the basic religious education for many of us, has not been revised to bring it into accord with the teaching of the Church these fifty years since Vatican II and consequently differs from the magisterium on any number of points. 
If the TLM continues to provide an alternative Catholicism, a Catholicism without the Council, it will end up being suppressed.  There is room for a variety of Rites in the Church—we have always had a variety of Rites—but there is no room for rejecting the teachings of an Ecumenical Council.  Ultimately,  unless a conformity of catechesis is maintained across the Roman Rite, Pope Francis or one of his successors will end up suppressing the Rite and the secret schism within the Church will be forced into the open. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sacred Heart of Jesus--More Vatican II Than You Might Think

Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that while it is associated with Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque  (1647-1690) but which actually goes back much further to Saint Lutgarde (d. 1246), Saint Mechtilde (d. 1298) and Saint Gertrude (d. 1302).  It is a devotion that grew in popularity among Catholics while condemned by both the Protestant Calvinists and their Catholic “cousins”, the Jansenists, because it places an emphasis on the humanity of Christ and the universality of his mercy.  Ironically it is a favorite of many modern-day Jansenists who have interpreted the theological focus of the doctrine far more narrowly, confining the mercy to those who “are worthy” of it through their repentance and acts of penitent reparation for their sins and for the sins of others.  This stands in distinct contradiction to the prayers of the Roman Rite Missal (the Sacred Heart is not celebrated in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church) which stress the unconditionality of the Love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.  I noticed in several parishes of the Arlington Diocese that the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) or what we call “the extraordinary form” was being used for today’s feast.  This allows the “faithful” to avoid being confronted with the mystery of God’s universal and irrevocable love.  This, in turn, highlights how the TLM is used to mask the faith of the Church by removing the catechetical dimension of the Liturgy to the unintelligibility of Latin and require that it be filtered through the homiletic bias of the priest-preacher.  This allows neo-trad clergy to shape the faith of their congregants according to their own beliefs rather than let the Church speak to them directly through the Liturgy.  Doctrines—such as the unconditional love and mercy of God or the gratuity of grace—can be concealed and the faithful can be molded into the semi-Jansenism (or full-blown Jansenism) of their “pastors” rather than confronted with authentic Catholicism. 
In the homily I heard at Mass this morning, the preacher began with a quote from the March 17, 2013 homily of the newly elected Pope Francis:
I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy.
Those who want a stick with which to beat others—same sex couples, those practicing artificial contraception, those conceiving with IVF, those married outside the Church, or those who do not adhere to Church teaching on immigration, or capital punishment, or just distribution of wealth—fail to appreciate the mercy of God which is embodied in the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It is something for us all to think about.  A non-Christian source for reflection on this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but one that only confirms on a natural level what has been revealed supernaturally in the Scripture and Tradition of the Church, is the following quote from the Dalai Lama.

Finally I would like to point out that the purpose of religion is not to build beautiful churches or temples; it is to cultivate positive human qualities such as tolerance, generosity, and love.  Fundamental to Buddhism and Christianity, indeed to every major world religion, is the belief that we must reduce our selfishness and save others. [i]
This is what the Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals to us: the transformation of our hearts into his heart; the infusion in our human hearts of the Divine Compassion that fills the heart of Jesus.  As the liturgy tells us: …may we come to share in the divinity of him who humbled himself to share in our humanity.  Beautiful churches and splendid liturgies are all well enough in their place (when not meant to distract us from genuine faith), but they are not the reason that Jesus hung on the Cross for us.   That we might be crucified with Christ and that it may no longer be we who live but Christ Jesus—in all his compassion—who lives in us is the mystery of our faith. 




[i] H.H. The Dalai Lama, Spiritual Advice for Buddhists and Christians, edited by Donald W. Mitchell, New York: Continuum, 1998, p. 98

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing

At least ten pastors in the Diocese of Venice have written a joint letter to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, complaining of the maladministration of Bishop Frank Dewane.  According to the allegations raised by his priests Dewane has refused any oversight or transparence of Diocesan finances in violation of Canon Law that requires both a finance board and the consent of the board of Diocesan Consultors on expenses over a given amount.  Even more serious, however, are the charges that Dewane has been verbally abusive to clergy and employees and that he has  repeatedly ruled those under his authority with intimidation, the use of fear, shaming, bullying and other non-Christian behaviors.” The letter goes on to say that Dewane’s “mean-spirited demeanor with clergy make him impossible to work with.  The bishop has a reputation among staff and clergy of being a “rageaholic” who intimidates by uncontrollable outbursts of anger.  This may of have worked for him in the corporate world in the days before he was “called” to the priesthood.  (The Bishop worked for NBC and for a subsidiarity of Pepsi in his early 30’s.)  It is not becoming a successor of the Apostles. 
One particular case is that of a retired priest from a religious order who lives in a retirement home in the Diocese of Venice.  When the bishop received a letter of complaint that Father had an Obama bumper sticker on his car during the 2012 election, Bishop Dewane called the priest in and demanded that he remove the bumper sticker even though the bishop had no authority over the priest whose membership in a religious order exempts him from the authority of the diocesan bishop.  There are frequent stories of the Bishop’s high-handed and arbitrary use of power. 
Bishop Dewane, for his part, dismisses the accusations as non-credible since the authors of the letter refuse to come forward.  A copy of the letter released to the press did not include the names of the authors and when the Papal Nuncio sent Dewane a copy of the letter, the Nuncio also deleted the names of its signers.  The official response from the diocese states
Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocese of Venice in Florida take seriously all letters of inquiry. However, anonymous letters or unsigned correspondences, as such, in professional circles lack all credibility… This is a clear attempt to maliciously and publicly damage the reputation of Bishop Dewane and the Diocese of Venice.”
Of course the letter was not anonymous or unsigned but the signers asked the Nuncio not to give the bishops their names for fear of retaliation—a fear that, according to several sources in the Diocese of Venice, is well founded.  The bishop is known to be a frightened and insecure man, even on the edge of paranoia” one priest said.  Many more priests would have signed the letter but they did not trust that their signatures would remain confidential and Bishop Dewane always gets his pound of flesh. 
One of Dewane’s idiosyncrasies is his instruction that when he comes to a parish, no altar server is to be taller than he.  As he is not a tall man this can be a challenge for a pastor trying to organize a liturgy.  He also does not like women in the sanctuary or participating in an active way as readers or other liturgical ministers. 
Dewane was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to be Bishop of Venice in 2006. Along with Robert Finn of Kansas City MO, Robert Morlino of Madison WI, David O’Connell of Trenton NJ, Thomas Paprocki of Springfield IL, Michael Sheridan of Colorado Spring CO, Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix AZ, and Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco CA, Dewane is considered to be among the “old school” bishops who pretty much ignore the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council and rule as petty princes in their own kingdoms.  Unfortunately, about the worst thing that happens to bishops guilty of ineptitude or even the abuse of authority is that they don’t get promoted, leaving a Bishop like Dewane in place for many years to come—many years in which he can hunt down and move in for the kill on those whose complaints have thwarted his rising through the ranks.  Meanwhile clergy morale plummets and the energy of the Church is drained for the lack of effective leadership.
This is not the first time that priests have written the Holy See about the bad leadership being given by their bishop.  A much larger group of clergy appealed to Pope John Paul II about the maladministration of Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop of New York.  The appeal went unanswered.  There is need in the Church today for a serious system of review for bishops to make sure that they have the confidence of their clergy and faithful.  Bishops do not serve at the will of the faithful entrusted to them, but neither should they have some automatic tenure when so many abuse the power entrusted to them.  Of course, we can pray and hope that Pope Francis will give us bishops who embrace his understanding of the Church and share in his openness to the faithful, but it will take several years for him to appoint sufficient bishops to alter the direction of the Church in a sounder ecclesiology.  In the meantime, the bishops who do not “get” Francis’s direction need to be held accountable for their responsibility to be wise and loving shepherds for the flocks entrusted to their care. 
We Catholics make much—perhaps too much—of the Apostolic Succession of our bishops: the claim that through the unbroken chain of the laying on of hands, the office of bishop (and by extension, that of priest) can be traced back to the apostles.  But what good is the “Apostolic Succession” if the Gospel the clergy preach is not the same Gospel as the Apostles handed down and if the live they lead are so openly contrary to the Apostolic life.  No, we need better bishops than many of those we have been given these last thirty years or so. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let the Little Children Come to Me ...


The diocese of Madison Wisconsin—no bastion of liberal Catholicism with its very conservative bishop, Robert Morlino—recently announced a policy welcoming the children of same-sex unions for baptism.  Two months ago there was the baptism of the daughter of a lesbian couple baptized in Cordobá Argentina in which the local Archbishop claimed that baptism “was the right of every child.”  In fact, in most parishes in the United States same-sex couples are very welcome and there would be no questioning having their children baptized, but it has set off a firestorm among the neo-trads who see that baptizing the child is an unofficial sanction of the union of the parents.  
What should we do if a single parent were to bring his or her child for baptism?  What would we do if an unmarried heterosexual couple presented a child for baptism?  What would we do if the heterosexual couple married outside the Church came to have their child baptized?  In each of these cases I presume the priest or deacon would privately address the home situation and suggest solutions to the problematic relationships that would bring everyone into accord with Catholic doctrine and practice, but at the end of the day, I have no doubt that the child would be baptized and the parents treated with respect.  The suggestion that we should treat differently the child of a same-sex couple only demonstrates that the objection is not theological but gender-biased. 
I am writing this on Monday though it won’t be published until tomorrow.  The gospel this morning warned us not to judge lest we be judged and it reminded us that until we remove the wooden beam from our own eye, we cannot see clearly enough to remove the splinter from another’s eye.  This sort of self-righteous Catholicism that some neo-trads advocate is just so out of step with the words of Christ in the Gospel.  I have no doubt that we are called to challenge one another to ever greater holiness, but I have no desire to return to the Church of the super-holy, especially when it is spiritual pride that masquerades as true holiness.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Glories of Catholicism Before Vatican II --And Why I Am Not Going Back


Anthony Lee, Philomena's son, with

one of the nuns at Sean Ross Abbey

I am going to take a short break from our history of the Church of England even though we probably have only two more postings on the reign of Queen Mary and the Catholic Restoration, to bring up several contemporary issues. 
A few weeks ago a horrifying news release appeared regarding a home for unwed mothers in Tuam, Ireland, where the Bons Secours Sisters allegedly had buried almost 800 infants in a disused septic tank before the home was closed in 1961.  Originally the story claimed that children in the home died on the average of four a week from a variety of causes, among them neglect and malnutrition, as well as whooping cough, influenza, tuberculosis and convulsions.  As it turned out when a number of Catholic journalists—including Father James Martin of America Magazine—pursued the story, the death records showed a loss of 22 children a year over the time period which the institution was opened from 1925 until 1961.  While this number still seems extraordinarily high,  the extreme poverty of Ireland in those years and the high infant mortality rate throughout the country must be remembered.  Local historian, Catherine Corless, who had uncovered the story and diligently searched the records, denied that she claimed that the children had been buried in the septic tank, claiming that the tank held perhaps 20 skeletons, but rather that they were buried in unmarked graves on the property.
Several films in the last few years have brought up the plight of unmarried mothers in 20th century Ireland.  The Magdalene Sisters (2002) tells stories of the incredible humiliation and pain inflicted on the inmates in one such home.  Though fictional, the story is not an exaggeration of the abuse to which these young women were subjected by nuns and clergy.  The stories also reveal how parents turned on their daughters when the daughters became pregnant out of wedlock, disowning them and even savagely beating them.    Philomena (2013), staring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, is the substantially true story of Philomena Lee, a woman sent in 1951 to Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, a home run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.  Philomena’s son, Anthony, is taken from her and given for adoption to an American family.  Despite both Philomena’s search for her son, and the son’s search for his mother, the nuns—while cordial—stonewall mother and son so that they never meet.  The son dies of AIDS before his mother can find him.   In one particularly dramatic scene—and this scene is fictional but telling none the less—an aged nun proudly declares that she has kept her vow of chastity for seventy-plus years and this puts her above the judgment of Philomena and the journalist assisting her in the search for not having revealed the whereabouts of the mother to the son who was searching for her. 
It was not only the Catholics who ran these homes for unwed mothers.  The Evangelical wing of the Church of Ireland also ran a home for “fallen women” called Bethany House and located in Blackhall Place, Dublin.  222 children died at Bethany House between 1922 and 1949, an average of a child every six weeks.  Of course Dublin was a major city with better access to health care than rural Tuam, but we see the problem of inadequate care pervaded the culture. 
What was an even bigger problem pervading the culture was the disdain for unmarried women who became pregnant.  There was a harsh and judgmental approach to women at a time they most needed help, healing, and compassion.  It was an ugly Catholicism that instead inflicted pain and humiliation on them in their time of need. 
There is a tendency among some to glorify the Catholicism of the early 20th century with its full seminaries and convents, with its great building projects of cathedral-like churches, with its elaborate ceremonies and refined music.  In fact, that Church was often the whitened sepulcher Christ spoke of in the Gospels: polished and elegant on the outside, but inside fill with the bones of the dead.  There were many good habited nuns and there were many miserable and unhappy bitches in wimples.   There were many fine priests: and there were many drunks and abusers with roman collars.  There were many pious communicants and there were many hypocrites who marched up the aisle to kneel at the rails before going home and getting on the telephone to rip reputations left and right.  Today we have—in most places—a kinder, gentler Catholicism.  I think putting the Mass into our daily language has given us all a deeper exposure to the words of Jesus in the Gospels.  Some who are unhappy that this old fashioned rigid “faith” has passed refer to the Church today as “The Church of Nice.”  They mean it disparagingly, but I think Christ must look on the Church and breathe a sign of relief that his words seem finally to be sinking in.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXIV


Martyrs Memorial, 

marking the site in 
Oxford where Thomas
Cranmer had been put
to death

I had mentioned in the previous post that Mary was savoring her revenge on Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.  Cranmer had not only supported Henry in his divorce from Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon, but he had, as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England, annulled the marriage which brought disgrace on both Katherine and Mary.  Mary was no longer Princess of Wales, nor even princess, but no more than a bastard daughter of the King, the Lady Mary.  For twenty years she was without rightful title, honors, or prospects for a royal marriage.  For twenty years she was harassed because of her loyalty to her mother and to her Catholic faith.  And while Henry was responsible, it was at Cranmer’s doing.  She not only would have her revenge, she would make him pay, toying with him as a cat might toy with a rabbit before killing it.
Mary came to the throne on July 19, 1553—twenty years and two months after Cranmer had annulled her parents’ marriage and changed the course of her life.  On September 14, of that year Cranmer was ordered to appear in Star Chamber where he was accused of treason for having supported Lady Jane Grey as Queen against Mary’s claims. He was remanded to the Tower of London as a prisoner.  When Mary came to the throne, Cranmer had advised other Protestant leaders to flee England but he himself determined to stay and fight for his reformation.  Cranmer was tried at the London Guildhall for treason—along with Lady Jane Grey, her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley and two of Dudley’s brothers.  He—and they—were found guilty and sentenced to death.  But Mary had other plans for her one-time nemesis than a traitor’s beheading.   In March 1554 Cranmer, along with Protestant bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, both of whom refused to conform to the old religion, were confined in the Bocardo Prison in Oxford where they were to be tried for heresy.  The punishment for heresy was far more dreadful than treason: being burned alive rather than being beheaded.  Cranmer and the others were allowed to sit and ponder their destiny in the Bocardo for seventeen months before being brought to trial.  All this time, Cranmer was still Archbishop of Canterbury—Mary not having deprived him of his See, though having entrusted the primate’s normal duties (such as her coronation) to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and her Lord Chancellor.  The trials of the three accused heretics began in September 1555 and all three were found guilty.  Ridley and Latimer were executed almost immediately after their trials—on October 16th 1555.  Cranmer was brought to the site of the judicial murders and forced to watch as his two faithful collaborators were burned alive at the stake for their Protestant faith.  It was only the following month, November 1555, that he was officially deprived of his See. But Mary did not act quickly.  Indeed she toyed with him—he was moved from the Bocardo to the home of the Dean of Christchurch, the Oxford Cathedral and College.  Here he was treated not as prisoner but as a guest.  A variety of Catholic academics visited him and debated with him over issues of papal authority, Eucharistic doctrines, and purgatory.  Cranmer submitted to the authority of the Queen and accepted Catholic doctrine.  He attended Mass and asked for sacramental absolution.  But then on February 14, 1556 he was defrocked from the clergy and sent back to prison.  Being defrocked left him vulnerable to capital punishment and ten days later a royal writ for his execution on March 7th was sent to the Mayor of Oxford.  Cranmer issued a recantation of his Protestant faith, accepting papal supremacy, purgatory, transubstantiation, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the doctrine that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.  He fully repudiated any Lutheran or Zwinglian doctrine.  The writ for his execution was put in abeyance.  By Canon Law, having recanted his heresy, he was to be spared.  But that would not satisfy Mary’s jealousy to make him suffer.  He was to die and it was to be by burning.   He was told to prepare a final statement affirming his Catholic faith that he was to proclaim from the pyre before it was set alight.  He did so.  But on March 21st when he was taken to the same site where Ridley and Latimer had been burned five months earlier, he departed from the prepared text, repented of his recantation of Protestantism, and cast his right hand into the fire first—his penance for having signed the recantation with that hand.  As the flames rose around him he called “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  This second phrase is taken from the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7.
It is unfair to try to sum up a life as complex as Thomas Cranmer but there are certain themes that emerge.  He was an ambitious man and while one aspect that that ambition was to advance the faith in which he believed, religious zealotry does not explain it all.   There was a certain duplicity in him.  He concealed both his having a wife and his Protestant leanings from King Henry knowing that his ideas would lead him, under Henry, at least to removal from office and possibly to the stake for his understanding of the Eucharist, of Masses for the Dead, of purgatory, and of the intercession of the saints.  Indeed, despite his personal beliefs, he had supported the Six Articles in 1539—articles that articulated a very Catholic understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass as well as confession, clerical celibacy, and other Catholic perspectives.  Moreover, in addition to the duplicity there was certain instability to Cranmer’s faith.  He was no original thinker or even a critical thinker; he began with Luther’s theological position but over the years moved towards a more radical Swiss Protestantism without ever really understanding either position in depth.  Faith to Cranmer was more a matter of intellectual stimulation, or even titillation, than inner experience.   When Edward came to the throne, he could express his Protestant views and indeed create a magnificent liturgy that celebrated that theology, but he also was disloyal to Henry’s wishes regarding the regency and broke his oath to the old King regarding as to how the Kingdom was to be administered and how the succession to the Throne was to be arranged during the minority of the new King.    When Mary came to the throne he did not flee even though he advised others to do so, but his recantation of all he had worked for and done for twenty-three years in a desperate hope to save his life, shows a certain lack of spine.  Only when he realized that he was damned either way did he stand up for his Protestant principles.  I don’t think he was insincere, but I think for Cranmer faith was more a matter of intellectual assent than personal commitment.  He has been made a hero, the closest thing they can manage for a saint, by the evangelical wing of the Church of England but in fact I think there was less to Cranmer than meets the eye.  He was too vacillating to be a hero; a martyr yes, but a most reluctant one.  It cannot be denied however that he was a master of the English language, second only to Shakespeare in the ability to create elegant and pithy phrases that draw from the depths of the human heart and can make the soul soar.  All in all, while he was most talented he was no better a man than many—most—of the bishops of his day, Protestant or Catholic, a climber, a theoretician, a man of ideas more than deeds, a disappointment.  He was not a bad man but he lacked a certain compass that a man of faith would have.  When you think about it, a self-indulgent narcissist wearing the crown and a sycophantic dilatant wearing the miter was no way to begin a Church.  But then they didn’t begin the Church of England—it was an ancient Church going back into mists of early Romano-Britain—and its rich heritage would sustain it even through the troubled times of Henry and Edward and Mary.  And to be fair, Thomas Cranmer contributed to that rich heritage by the magnificent Prayer Book that he created to replace the beautiful but archaic rites that had preceded it.  All in all then I think we have a man whose moral compass kept pointing towards power rather than towards true north and who was more articulate than intellectual, a man of his time rather than a man for the ages, but no worse than many of his contemporaries and better than most.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Foundations of the Church of England, LXXIII


The "cathedra" of Saint
Augustine, the seat of
the Archbishop of
Canterbury in his
cathedral. 

Reginald Pole was the grandnephew of Edward IV and Richard III, the great-great-great-great grandson of Edward III and one of the few Plantagenets to survive the War of the Roses.  His mother, Margaret Pole—through whom he had the royal blood—was the 8th Countess of Salisbury and one of only two women in 16th century England who were peers in their own right (as opposed to sharing their husband’s titles.)   He was born at Stourton Castle on March 12, 1500.  He was educated by the Carthusians at Sheen and matriculated at Magdalene College, Oxford where he received his BA in 1518.  Although not yet ordained a priest (he would not be ordained for many years to come) he was given a number of prelacies by Henry VIII, including the Deanery of Exeter Cathedral and a canonry at York.  He studied Law at Padua where he fell in with a group of ecclesiastical reformers including Peter Martyr Vermilgi who would be one of the chief advisors to Cranmer in the English Reformation.  Henry VIII financed his studies and in return Pole represented the King’s cause for divorce from Queen Katherine to the faculty of the Sorbonne. 
While Pole was willing to argue in favor of the required annulment of the King’s marriage to Katherine, he saw early on where the royal policy was headed.  When Wolsey fell, Henry offered Pole the choice between the Archbishopric of York (the number 2 Churchman in England) or the Bishopric of Winchester (the richest bishopric), but Pole declined and went abroad for more studies.  He did return briefly but in 1536, realizing that he was going to be required to foreswear his loyalty to the Pope, he left England into voluntary exile.  Pole saw the problem—and saw it correctly—as the King’s fracturing the Unity of the Church and while he might support the royal divorce and other policies of Henry, he could not go against the unity of the Body of Christ.  Henry took revenge on Pole whom he regarded as ungrateful for all the King had done for him.  His older brother Henry, Baron Montagu, and his mother, Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, were both executed for treason, their only “treason” being Reginald’s refusal to accede to the King’s claim to be Head of the Church.  The Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, tried to arrange for a marriage between Henry’s daughter, Mary (the grand-daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella and niece of Chapuys’ master, Charles V) and Pole which—given Pole’s royal descent and Plantagenet blood—would have had great dynastic legitimacy: more than any other child of Henry’s could claim.  Pole was not interested however as he saw his future in the Church.  Moreover, it was all theory as Henry would not allow Pole to return to England and he would not permit Mary to go abroad.
Paul III made Pole a Cardinal in 1537, though he was only in deacon’s orders.  He was commissioned to try to organize support for the “Pilgrimage of Grace,” a popular uprising against Henry’s suppression of the monasteries and break with Rome.  The “Pilgrimage” was a desperate failure and this was probably the cause for Henry’s vengeance on Henry Pole and the Lady Margaret.  Henry tried, unsuccessfully, to have Pole assassinated.
Reginald Pole, meanwhile, was appointed one of the three papal legates for the Council of Trent.  His support for the doctrine of justification by faith led to accusations of heresy, but nothing came of the charges.  Indeed in the conclave of November 1549-February 1550, Pole was almost elected Pope, being only two votes short of the required 2/3 majority.  As it turned out, the opposition of the French King and his cardinals, moved the election in another direction, but Pole maintained his influence and reputation—especially given the scandalous behavior of Cardinal Giovanni del Monte who had been elected as Julius III. 
Pole had been appointed Papal Legate to England as early as 1537 but was unable to take up the post as Henry had broken communion with the See of Rome and was not interested in having a legate.  Moreover, Pole’s role in supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace had left him attainted for treason as well as costing his mother and brother their lives as we have seen.  However with the death of Edward in 1553 and Mary’s accession to the Throne, Pole was now welcome in his native land to reconcile it to the Church.
Well, actually, welcome but not quite yet.  Mary and the Emperor Charles V both feared that Pole would oppose—and try to block—the marriage of Mary to Charles’ son, Philip, which, as we saw in an earlier post, was part of Mary’s strategy to provide a Catholic heir in place of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth.   Mary and Charles were correct in their estimation and Pole was opposed to the marriage, but the Queen was successful—with Charles’ help—in delaying Pole’s ability to reach England until November 20, 1554: sixteen months after Mary’s accession and four months after the marriage. 
As Legate Pole had extraordinary authority.  He was no mere nuncio but had quasi-papal powers, a sort of vice-Pope for England.  The major roadblock to reconciling the Church of England to the Roman Communion involved the extensive properties Henry had confiscated from the Church, especially in the suppression of the monasteries.  These lands had been handed out to the King’s political allies and the powerful magnates who now held these lands did not want to loose them.   They would never support a return to Rome if the price came at the loss of their estates.  Pole knew he had to cut his losses and accept the fact that the great wealth of the Church had been severely reduced.  He also believed that in time the Church would regain land and wealth as new bequests were made.  Had Catholicism taken root in England again that may have been the case, but the Marian restoration was all too short. 
On November 30, 1554, ten days after his arrival back in England, the papal legate lifted the excommunications and restored the Church of England to the Roman Communion.  It would last less than five years. 
Mary, for her part, was savoring her revenge on Archbishop Cranmer who was imprisoned but whom had not been deprived of his See of Canterbury.  In November Mary had him deprived of his bishopric and named Pole as his successor.  Pole, though a Cardinal, was not yet a priest.  He was ordained on March 20, 1556 and on the 22nd was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mary was ramping up her persecution of Protestants by this time and Pole cautioned her to moderation, but without much success.  Pole himself tended to be very lenient with those accused of heresy, pardoning those whose appeals reached him but Pole’s health was failing and his tenure as Archbishop was not marked by an aggressive approach to Catholic restoration.