Friday, July 26, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XXXI

Mary Boleyn
Henry married Katherine in June 1509 and the marriage was initially a very happy one.   There is no doubt that Henry loved Katherine and even after the marriage soured he seems to have had conflicted feelings towards her.  Nevertheless, it was not long before Henry began having a series of extra-marital affairs.  Katherine did not protest.  Though her own parents were probably faithful to one another in their marriage, the prevalent mores of the day not only tolerated a husband taking a mistress, it encouraged it and Katherine turned a blind eye to her husband’s wanderings.  Among the more privileged classes it was understood that sexual relations were a duty for the wife and an inconvenience at that, whereas a husband needed the release of frequent sexual outlet.  A mistress was no threat to a wife and her position.  A nobleman, much less a king, could not forsake his noble—or royal—partner for the woman of lesser status who accommodated his sexual needs.  If widowed and in old age, and with the succession secure,  he might enter into a morganatic marriage but in the years when he is expected to sire an heir, a king needs a wife of royal—or at least noble—blood.  (Kate Middleton is the first commoner to marry into the British Royal Succession since Katherine Paar, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. Elizabeth Bowes Lyon—the late Queen Mother—was the first non-royal to marry a King or potential heir to the English Throne since  wives 2m 3, and 5 of Henry VIII four centuries before.  And Bowes Lyon—as the daughter of an earl, noble but not royal, did not marry the heir presumptive but his younger brother who was expected to take a wife of higher station to provide for the succession.  It was only the abdication that put Elizabeth in the role of mother an heir to the throne.  Technically it could be argued, I supposed, that Mary Stuart, daughter and presumed heir of James II, married outside the blood royal when she married the hereditary Stadtholder  of the Netherlands, William III.  William was Prince of Orange but that was not a royal title but a noble one.  Nevertheless, William’s position as Head of State for the Dutch Republic combined with his title made  him equivalent to a royal even if his blood was not of the purple.)  All that being said about the wife of a King needing to be of the blood royal allowed Katherine to feel secure that her husband might wander from bed to bed, but would come home to hers at the end of the day.  And he did come back.   Katherine became pregannt at least seven times between her marriage and the birth of a daughter who lived only six days in 1518.  Well into the 1520’s no one thought that the marriage of Katherine and Henry was not to last.
Most of Henry’s affairs were discreet adulteries but in 1515 Henry publically took Elizabeth Blount as his mistress.  Blount was a commoner, the daughter of a knight in Henry’s service.  She was about fourteen years old and a maid of honor to Queen Katherine when she came to Henry’s notice.  Henry was about 23.  In 1519 Blount gave birth to a son, the only illegitimate child Henry was to acknowledge.  Shortly after the boy’s birth, however, Henry ended the affair and took a new mistress, Mary Boleyn.   
Mary Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st earl of Wiltshire.  The Boleyns were part of the new nobility.  They did not descend from the grand old noble families of medieval England.  To the contrary—Thomas Boleyn’s grandfather (great-grandfather of Anne and great-great grandfather of the future but as yet unborn Queen, Elizabeth) was a merchant dealing in cloths.  He was quite successful as a merchant, wealthy enough to be elected Lord Mayor of London in 1457.  The family’s wealth pushed them up into the nobility Thomas’ father married into the Butler Family who held the Irish Title of the Earls of Ormond.    Thomas Boleyn was a valuable servant to Henry serving as an envoy to the Netherlands, to France, and to the Emperor.  His position brought his daughters to the notice of the King and the King, in turn, kept heaping responsibilities and honors on the Father.  In other words, Thomas could be said to have pimped his daughters to the King.

Mary, the older Boleyn sister and the first to be sexually involved with Henry seems to have begun her liaison royale about the time of her marriage in 1520.  Henry was a guest at the wedding and it may have been at that time that he first noticed her, though she had served for several months as a lady in waiting to Queen Katherine.   Mary’s husband, William Carey, seems not to have protested the King sharing his wife’s bed and it is thought that at least one of her two children, if not both, were Henry’s children, not Carey’s.  However, after the birth of the second child, Henry, in 1526, King Henry terminated the affair.  Henry never acknowledged either of the Carey children as his own, nor did ever publicly acknowledge Mary’s role as his mistress.  Mary never benefitted from the relationship either in being give wealth or title.  William Carey died in 1528, deeply in debt.  By that time her sister Anne had come to the King’s favor and Anne arranged some financial relief for her sister.  Mary married William Stafford in 1534.  Stafford was a common soldier and the marriage embarrassed the Boleyn family and angered Henry.  Anne and her family disowned Mary.  Mary’s situation was one of dire poverty but in the end Anne relented and gave her some financial help.  The Boleyn family fell from influence with the execution of Anne  and while the Family was in disgrace and their lands confiscated, Henry sent Mary some funds that relieved the worst of her poverty.  She died in 1543, her husband lived another 13 years. 
Henry’s indifference to Mary once he had finished with her was a lesson to the younger sister, Anne.    But it also marks a change in Henry’s personality and attitude.  More about that in a future posting. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church, XXX

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, on
the site of the Palace of Placentia, principal home
to Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
I mentioned in my last post that Henry and Katherine of Aragon were married in a private ceremony in the Greyfriar’s Church in Greenwich, near the royal palace of Placentia which was at the time the principal royal residence.  The palace, which fell out of royal favor later in the reign of Henry VIII—perhaps because it was associated with his first marriage—eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 17th century during the English Civil War.  It stood on the site of the present royal naval hospital and observatory which marks “Greenwich Time,” longitude 0o, by which the world’s clocks are set. 
The Greyfriars are the Franciscans, so named for the color of the Franciscan habit in the middle ages when it was made of undyed wool.  (Today elements of the Franciscan family have returned to wearing grey rather than the brown robes we usually associate with the family of the Assisi saint.)  Dominicans were called “Blackfriars” and Carmelites “Whitefriars” for the color of the mantles of their habits for the same reason.  But the Greenwich Greyfriars were not merely Franciscans, they were Franciscan Observants.  Almost from the time of the death of Saint Francis in 1224 there had been a faction among the friars calling for a reform that would keep alive the simplicity of Francis.  The pressures of the Church for the friars to be highly educated and the pressures of civil society for the friars to become involved in civic affairs were challenging the Franciscan spirit.  Francis had wanted his sons to remain simple brothers who by their poverty and gentle spirits would witness to the humility of Christ.  In the developing economic culture of medieval Europe with the rise of mercantile capitalism and the polarization of society into a small very wealthy capital class and large and semi-impoverished working class (hmm, sound familiar) Francis felt that the witness of men voluntarily adopting the life of the working class would align the Church with true Christianity of the masses rather than being the Church being coopted by the hierarchy for the service of the wealthy.  (hmmm, and why did the current Pope choose the regnal name “Francis?”  Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Lori, and others, are you paying attention?)   This was especially true because most of Francis’ followers came, as he did, from the wealthy merchant class not from the lower working classes.  For the sons of the wealthy to embrace voluntary poverty in witness to the poverty of Jesus the Carpenter, was indeed a powerful evangelism tool, as the current Pope keeps telling us.  Nevertheless the temptations of a comfortable life were hard to resist.  Bonaventure, Francis’ seventh successor as head of the movement, pushed education.  The brothers should study at the University.  Even in Francis’ lifetime students and professors had flocked to the Franciscan movement and education is an important tool for the clergy.  Simplicity is fine, but not stupidity.  Ultimately a sound theological education would have to be part of the friars’ formation.  But education requires books and books were a very expensive luxury in the thirteenth century.  And in education you constantly talk about abstract ideas and ideals—and few are less savvy in the everyday practicalities of life than the intellectuals.  Just spend some time among university faculty today and you will see the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  It was not long after the death of the Saint that the Franciscan spirit began to slide down the slippery slope to spiritual mediocrity.  The friars, once educated, were entrusted by the bishops with urban ministries among the professional classes.  The friars were invited to build churches and convents in the better neighborhoods.  The wealthy began showering them with gifts.  “Nothing is too good for the friars…” and the friars began to believe that themselves.  They wanted to look respectable and the patched robes of Francis’ day were replaced by habits of better fabric and more elegant tailoring.  They were living in the better neighborhoods so the ramshackle barns or wattle huts of Francis’ days gave way to fine stone convents with large rooms and airy courtyards.  The occasional treats which people sent for their table for feast days became the ordinary fare ordered from the grocer.  But some of the brothers could not let go of the ideals of their saintly founder and tried to return to the original spirit.  The first movement in this direction went overboard and the “Spirituals” as they were called were condemned by John XXII and ordered to give up their extreme poverty or face excommunication.  But the spirit of reform did not die and it was not long before new reform movements, very careful to avoid criticism of the wealth of the Church lest the face the fate of the Spirituals, sprang up.  They wore simpler habits.  They lived in smaller houses, often in more out of the way towns or villages rather than in the large cities.  They did not disdain education but neither did they allow their members to give in to its conceits.  In 1517 Pope Leo X separated the “Observants” from the “Conventuals” and the various observant groups became independent of the unreformed friars.  It was to one of these “observant” movements that then Greenwich friars belonged.  The observant Franciscans were admired throughout Europe, wherever the movement spread, but they had especially strong ties to the English royal family and to the Spanish royal family of Katherine as well.  Isabella’s confessor and spiritual mentor, Cardinal Ximénez de Cisneros was an Observant Franciscan.  Indeed Ximénez and Isabella had been responsible for great reforms in the Spanish Church that purged it of much of the decay that in other countries would lead to the Protestant Reformations that would break out in Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century.  And the Franciscans at Greenwich were a sign of reform beginning in the English Church as well—reform that had it continued on a Catholic trajectory could have resulted in a very different England that would eventually come about.  But historians know you can’t play the game of “what if?” 
The Church in England, like the Church in most of Europe, was in desperate need of reform.  The Spanish Church, due to Isabella and Ximénez, had faced its decay and reversed the trend early on, creating an almost puritanical and certainly a rabid Catholicism, but a spiritually healthy one none the less.  England had potential for reform.  There was a strong and educated professional class—families of guildsmen—whose sons entered the service of the Church and the Crown—often entering the service of the Crown by beginning in the Church and then as bishops and abbots holding royal appointments.  Among the laity, the professional classes tended to be devout and had a taste for spiritual reading.  The Rhineland mysticism of Eckhardt, Ruysbroeck, Tauler and others had spilled over into England and England had its own mystics and spiritual writers in Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and others.  While most of the monasteries of England had settled into comfortable complacency there were those such as Glastonbury which had undertaken some reform and observance.  In addition to the Franciscan Observants, the Charterhouse monks (Carthusians) were known for their zeal and integrity.  Intellectual circles were alive with discussion of Church reform.  The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus spent much time in England where he was friends with Dean Colet of Saint Pauls’ in London, Bishop Fisher of Rochester who had been tutor to the young Henry VIII, and Thomas More who was later to be Lord Chancellor. 
The type of reform envisioned by Erasmus, Colet, Fisher, and More was the culture of the old fashioned pan-European “Christendom” rooted in Christian antiquity and patristics that saw the Church as a transnational Christian imperium, the ark of salvation in which all humanity could be gathered without distinction of race or nation.  This was distinctly out of step, however, with the growing national consciousness of the emerging nations of Europe where people no longer saw themselves primarily as Christians with a commonality with other Christians but as Frenchmen, or Englishmen, or Spaniards, or as Portuguese, or as Scots, or as Genoese or Neapolitans, or Franconians, or as Saxons.  (Germany or Italy would emerge as nations only much later than the French or English or Spaniards.) 
In any event, the impetus for reform from within the Church would not have time to mature in England as it had in Spain.  Reform in England would initially be imported by the universities, Cambridge in particular, from Luther’s Germany and then become of tool of the Crown for ends more political than religious.  Finally the Crown would lose control of Church Reform and it would become a tool of the landed aristocracy for self-enrichment and then of the mercantile classes to justify their self-interested commercial revolution.  In the process the Church of England would first become far less Catholic and then more Calvinist and finally attain a sui generis identity as England’s organ of moral self-validation.  This would transplant to America where the expectation of religion would be to uphold the traditional social order and, in the case of Catholicism, give us the Spellman Catholicism of the 1950’s.  But all that is in the future. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Chruch XXIX

Katherine of Aragon arounhd the
time of her marriage to Henry
Well back to the saga of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and the story of Henry’s break with Rome.   As previously mentioned, Henry VII brought England out of the dynastic struggles of the Wars of the Roses and established the Tudor dynasty.  His chief policy was to make the Tudor claim to the throne strong so that the struggles did not break out again.  Henry held the throne by force but the rightful succession was not so clear.  There were a number of claimants to the throne and none had an undisputed right though several had stronger claims for royal legitimacy than Henry VII Tudor whose only claim was through his mother’s descent from a bastard line (though later legitimized) descending from Edward III through John of Gaunt’s relationship to this mistress (and later wife) Katherine Swynford.  This line, while after-the-fact legitimized by both Church and Parliament was explicitly barred from the succession, making Henry Tudor the least legitimate of the several claimants and resistance to the Tudor monarchy would continue into the reign of his son, Henry VIII.  Despite the lack of legitimacy, however, Henry Tudor held the throne by virtue of his defeat of the usurper, Richard III, suspect of killing his own nephew, the rightful King Edward V, one of the “Princes in the Tower.”
Henry was faced not only with a weak claim to the throne he had seized from the hunchback murderer, Richard III, but he also had seized a throne with few financial resources.  How could he govern without the funds needed?  Legitimacy—or at least recognition—was granted him by the most powerful and aristocratic monarchs in the Catholic World—Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile—when they betrothed their youngest daughter, Katherine of Aragon, to Henry’s son and heir, Prince Arthur.  Moreover the Spanish bride came with a dowry sufficient not only to solve Henry’s fiscal crisis but to make him financially secure in the foreseeable future.
The marriage of Katherine and Arthur was duly celebrated in November of 1501 in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London but the young prince was dead in five months.  Henry would have to send the widowed princess back to Spain and, worse, send back her dowry.  But Ferdinand of Aragon did not want this any more than Henry and so the plan was hatched to marry Katherine to her deceased husband’s brother, the prince Henry.
I find it curious that Ferdinand and Isabella did not want their daughter back under any circumstances.  They were loving parents and their parting from her had been sad, most especially from her father who doted on her.  The only thing I can figure out is that they wanted to leave their joint realm to one child and didn’t want a disputed succession. With their son, the Prince of Asturias, dead, their oldest daughter, Isabella the Queen of Portugal, also dead and her sister Maria married and presently Queen of Portugal, the thrones of Castile and Aragon could both go to child 3, Joan.  This would not only unite the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile into one nation, Spain, but join the Spanish Realm and New World Empire to the Empire of which Joan’s husband, Philip of Burgundy was heir—the Holy Roman Empire.  Joan and Philip’s child would inherit Spain, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, the Spanish Americas, what is today Belgium and Holland, Germany, Austria, and Bohemia, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and significant parts of Poland.  This was a grand dynastic plan—in fact, too grand.  It would hold together only under one monarch, the Emperor Charles V.  He would see the impossibility of it and upon his abdication break this world-empire apart once again into the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.  But it was a dream and a dream that could only be accomplished if child 5, Katherine, could be kept from a Spanish inheritance.  Katherine was to stay in England—hopefully as the bride of the next heir, but she was to stay under any and all circumstances.      
Henry the “spare” of the “heir and a spare” policy of the English royal family had been preparing for a career in the Church as a future Archbishop of York, but his brother’s death catapulted him from the clerical life to heir apparent.  He would be king.  And now his father was to force on him a royal bride to be his queen.  Henry
VII and Ferdinand appealed to Rome for the appropriate dispensations.  Katherine claimed that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated but the two Kings, leaving nothing to chance, obtained the dispensation permitting Katherine to marry her deceased husband’s brother. 

This did not please the young prince Henry.  Henry initially had misgivings about marrying Katherine.  It was not that he didn’t like her.  He was very fond of her but he was still a teenager and seems reluctant to marry young.  Moreover, she was five years older and that wasn’t terribly romantic.  The issue was still not resolved when in 1509, shortly before his 18th birthday, Henry became king.     Upon ascending the throne, Henry suddenly decided to yield to the wishes of his late father and quietly married Katherine in a private ceremony at the Greyfriars’ (Franciscan) Church in Greenwich just over a month after his father’s funeral.  (Placentia Palace, the chief royal residence, was in Greenwich and the Observant Franciscans were especially favored by the royal family for their devotion and strictness of their lives. Keep them in mind.) 
The quiet simplicity of the royal wedding was in direct contrast to the splendid coronation of Henry and Katherine in Westminster Abbey two weeks later.  Henry and Katherine processed along a route carpeted in rich fabrics to Westminister Abbey where William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury anointed them with the sacred chrism and placed the crowns on their heads.  The Court then adjourned to Westminster Hall for the traditional coronation banquet. 
The marriage of Henry and Katherine was initially—and for a long time—a happy and fruitful one.  Katherine became pregnant, but miscarried and then became pregnant a second time but miscarried at the end of January 1510.  On New Year’s Day 1511 she gave birth to a prince, Henry, Duke of Cornwall.  There were great celebrations at the birth of an heir—a son to continue the dynasty—but the prince died towards the end of February.  In 1513, Katherine gave birth to a second son, but he died within a few hours, before he could even be named.  A third son, also named Henry and made Duke of Cornwall was born in December 1514 but died within the month.  In 1516 Katherine gave birth to the one child who survived—the Princess Mary—and would eventually sit on England’s throne.  Another daughter was born in November of 1518 but lived for only six days and was never named. All in all Katherine brought six children to term and miscarried at least one more.  Only one, a daughter, survived.  This was not auspicious for a dynasty whose claim to the throne was still fragile.  England had only once before had a Queen regnant—Maud, the daughter of Henry I in the 12 century—and England had devolved into Civil War during her reign.  Could England hold together under a woman?  There were doubts—doubts that would prove to be most ironic, but that is a later part of our story.   

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Words of Peace from the Pope of Peace

Pope Francis Greets Immigrants at Mass at
Sorry for the hiatus.  I had company visiting from Africa and have been playing the tour guide and then, as if life was not complicated enough, in the move of my offices to another building on our campus I had lost my internet connection for several days.  But now we are back in business and we will return to the saga of Anglican history and pick up with the marriage of Henry VIII to his brother’s widow, Katherine of Aragon but first I have some contemporary items that I want to bring up for comment.  And the very first is the greeting of  Pope Francis to the Muslim community when he visited Lampedusa last week.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, the Holy Father had gone to Lampedusa to comment on the plight of “illegal” immigrants worldwide.  Lampedusa, an Island in the Mediterranean much closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland but belonging to Italy, is the landing point for many African immigrants finding their way into Europe illegally.  The Pope made it very clear in his homily at Lampedusa that these immigrants were to be welcomed and Europeans were to look after their welfare regardless of their legal status.  That obviously has huge impact for us Americans as well as the Holy Father’s words should not  be confined to the situation in Europe but seen as a broader statement of the rights of migrant peoples.
Wat I want to focus on today is not the homily at Mass and the stance on the rights of migrants and the responsibility of citizens towards migrants, but the Holy Father’s words to the Muslim population as the majority of these immigrants are Muslims.  The Pope’s exact words are:

"To the dear, Muslim immigrants who today, this evening, are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with wishes for abundant spiritual fruit," Francis said.   "The Church is close to you in the search for a more dignified life for you and your families".

Francis’ “wishes for abundant spiritual fruit” as the Muslims begin the great fast of Ramadan is an affirmation that Islam, while lacking the fullness of Truth held in the Christian Gospel, is an authentic spiritual path.  He also said that we, the Church, support their search for a “more dignified life” for themselves and their families. 
Several months ago I saw and took issue with a particularly noxious blog called “The Tenth Crusade” maintained by a Boston crazy whose ignorance of Church doctrine is only surpassed by the arrogance with which the proclaims her own particular brand of Katholicism.  No one, even the Pope, is above her critique and she took very acerbic issue with the idea that Muslims and Christians (and Jews) worship the same God.  Confronted with papal statements to the contrary she stood her ground with the homicidal passion of a dogmatic George Zimmerman. But then why be surprised.  Cafeteria Catholics come in both the liberal and conservative stripe—those who choose their doctrines to suit their prejudices.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

The portrayal of Islam as a demonic cult by certain Katholic wing-nuts is in contradiction to the teaching of the Church.  Catholics, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God, albeit with a very different understanding because of our Christian belief in the Incarnation and the Trinity.  Muslims, like Jews, reject the Incarnation and the Trinity.  Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet—indeed one of the greatest prophets—and accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  They also have a special place in their teachings for Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  Despite these similarities, there ultimately cannot be a reconciliation of doctrine with Muslims—or with Jews—because of our essential differences in this matter but we need to acknowledge our common belief in the God Who revealed Himself to Abraham and we must learn to live with one another in respect and harmony.  Pope Francis has set a much more open tone towards Islam than did his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, returning to the cordiality expressed by Saints-to-be John Paul II and John XXIII. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XXVIII

Arthur Prince of Wales
Ok back to our story.  We have looked at the issue of “Valid Orders,” not in the context of Anglicanism but in how the issue was raised and used in the early Church and in the Middle Ages.  And we have looked at the challenges facing Henry VII Tudor in trying to establish a strong central government and a stable society in England after the dynastic struggles known as the Wars of the Roses.  Let’s go back to the marriage plans Henry VII had for his son and heir, Arthur.  I had mentioned that Henry arranged for Arthur to marry Katherine, the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, the wealthiest monarchs in Europe at the time.  Katherine’s Dowry of 200,000 silver crowns was an enormous amount of money—more than the annual revenue of the English Crown at the time.  But then Ferdinand and Isabella were rolling in gold being shipped over by the boatload from their newly claimed empire in the Americas.  And they hadn’t been exactly poor Columbus’ journeys had opened for them the wealth of the “Indies.” 
Ferdinand and Isabella had five children who lived to adulthood and Katherine was their youngest.  There was, as yet, no Spain—at least not in a political sense.  There were two Kingdoms—Castile and Aragon.  Castile was actually the union of the kingdoms of Castile and León.  León in turn had been created from the ancient kingdom of Asturias, where the Reconquista had begun in resistance to the Arab conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the eighth century.  Little by little the old Christian warrior families of Asturias pushed back the Muslim invaders, gradually expanding the Christian realm to include most of what is today Northwestern Spain.  As the Christians won back more and more land and fortified it with Castles, Castile developed its own unique identity and became an independent political unit of its own.  It was united with León in the 12th century when Alfonso VI became the King of both Kingdoms.  Aragon too was a merged kingdom comprised of the old Roman Province of Tarragona and Charlemagne’s County of Barcelona as well as the Kingdoms of Valencia and of Majorica, and the County of Provence.  This realm had pretty much solidified into the Crown of Aragon with the Marriage of Petronilla of Aragon to Ramón Beleaguer IV of Barcelona in 1137.  It would expand into a thallassocracy  (look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s) including Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, Malta and much of Provence by the time that Ferdinand II inherited the crown.  In other words, it was not confined to the Iberian Peninsula but rimmed that section of the Mediterranean and some of its wealthiest lands. In 1469 Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castile.  Each retained his or her own kingdom.  Incidentally, Isabella was not Queen of Castile, she was King of Castile—Isabella Rex.  This was not unusual at the time—Queens regnant (as opposed to the wives of Kings) were invariably called King.  Ferdinand and Isabella were given the title Los Reyes Catholicos—the Catholic Kings.  That would make an interesting blog entry itself as I think it may have only been with the rise of Protestantism that it was resented for a woman to assume the title of King.  But that is another issue.  In any event, the two Kingdoms remained distinct, each under its proper monarch.  Regardless of the great wealth of the Aragonese possessions in the Mediterranean, Isabella and Castile was the richer of the two, and together their wealth far exceeded any other European Crown.  Together they drove the Moors out of Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain.  With the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims in 1492 and the confiscation of their possessions, even more wealth was added to the immense royal treasury. 
Isabella died in 1504 and was succeeded by her daughter, Joanna (aka Joan the Mad).  Their son, John Prince of Asturias, had died in 1497.  The oldest sibling, Isabella had married the King of Portugal and died in 1498.  Ferdinand died in 1517 and Joanna then succeeded to the Crown of Aragon as well.  From her holding the crowns of Aragon and Castile jointly, modern Spain emerged, though each Kingdom retained many of its own laws and traditions down through the subsequent centuries.  Even today Spain is not a totally united nation with various ethnic and linguistic groups such as the Basques and the Catalonians arguing for autonomy if not fighting for independence. 
In addition to John, Isabella, and Joanna, Ferdinand and Isabella had two more daughters—Maria and Katherine.  Maria, after the death of her sister Isabella, married her brother-in-law, King Manuel of Portugal.  Maria died in 1517.  Katherine was betrothed to the Prince of Wales, Arthur, the son of Henry VII Tudor. 
It was a strange betrothal and I am not sure what it was all about.  England was not yet an up and coming Kingdom.  Henry Tudor was a new-comer to kingship and the blood royal ran very thin in his veins.  He would prove himself eventually—or his dynasty would prove itself—but in 1499 the Tudors were parvenus, by no means a prize match for marriage into the Spanish Royal Family, not only the wealthiest, but the most aristocratic in Europe.
For one thing, Henry VII was not a rich monarch.  England had as yet no overseas empire and it even lacked an effective system of taxation at home.  The King was expected “to live off his own”—that is the King was expected to finance the government, the military, the navy, and the judiciary out of his own personal revenues.  Parliament could be cajoled into special taxes in times of war and national peril, but it always kept the King a beggar, asking for money.  And as said in earlier postings, Henry’s claim to the English Crown was far from secure.  He won it by defeating Richard III on the battlefield at Bosworth, but there were several other candidates with stronger claims of rightful succession and there was always danger of further civil wars breaking out to topple the Tudors as Henry had toppled the Plantagenets. In fact, Katherine herself had a stronger claim to the throne of England than Henry.  They were both descended from John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III.  Katherine was descended from Edward III both through the marriages of John of Gaunt to his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, and to his second wife, Constance of Castile.  (Does this sound like a soap-opera or what?)  Henry, on the other hand, had claim to Royal Blood only through John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, Gaunt’s son with Katherine Swynford.  And to make matters worse, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset  was born to Swynford before she and Gaunt were married.  While a papal bull in 1396 legitimized John Beaufort and his three illegitimate siblings, all children of Gaunt and Swynford, and while the following year an Act of Parliament also legitimized them, they were explicitly removed from the royal succession.  Thus a marriage to the Swynford descended Tudors was not a move up the social ladder for the Princess of Aragon. To the contrary, she was marrying way beneath her status.  And to make matters completely unbearable—we are talking about England.  This Princess who had been raised in among the sunlit orange groves of Andalusia, living in the open and airy spaces of the Alhambra, was now to face the rigors of the English climate?  Did her parents hate her?  Did they want to kill this princess?  
Katherine and Arthur married on November 14, 1501.  They were both 15, though Katherine was ten months Arthur’s senior.  The wedding included the traditional “bedding” ritual in which the whole court escorted the couple to their wedding bed and tucked them in for the night before withdrawing to give the newlyweds sufficient privacy to finish the work begun in church.
Arthur was dead in just over five months.  Many authors write how Arthur had been sickly or frail throughout his life, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.  Granted Tudors tended to be anything but average.  They were either like Edward VI or several of Henry VIII’s other children who died young, weak and sickly, or they were strong like Henry himself, and like his daughters Mary and Elizabeth.  But Arthur seems to have simply been of somewhat average health, much like Henry VII.  He died of an illness, not a chronic condition.  In fact, Katherine had come down with the same illness but survived it.  They were living at Ludlow Castle on the border with Wales where Arthur was serving as President of the Council of Wales and the Marches, a sort of governor for the western reaches of the Kingdom. 
Arthur’s death caused huge issues.  Katherine was now a widow and if she returned to Spain, Henry VII would lose the dowry—money he had already spent on, among other projects, building what was to become the English Navy.  He wanted to keep the money. Moreover, he wanted to keep his son’s Father-in-law, Ferdinand, a valuable ally against England’s traditional nemesis, France.    The obvious solution: marry the widow to the surviving son and now heir, Prince Henry.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How About A "Fortnight For Compassion"

Illegal Immigrants in Lampedusa, Italy
where Pope Francis spoke on their
I know I just wrote that I wanted to stay focused on the story of Henry VIII’s break with Rome but I can’t pass up this information on Pope Francis’ visit to Lampedusa and his remarks about the migrants who are trying—illegally—to enter Europe because it has genuine import on our stance as a Church regarding the immigrants who are trying to enter our country—sometimes at the cost of their lives—illegally.  We have heard all the screaming from our bishops about how “Obamacare” is threatening our religious freedom and we have had our “Fortnight for Freedom.”  All well and good, but now how about a “Fortnight for Compassion.”  That seems as if it would be an even higher priority. 

LAMPEDUSA, Sicily (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday denounced the "globalization of indifference" that greets migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe, as he traveled to the farthest reaches of Italy to draw attention to their plight and to pray for those who never made it.
The tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, a treeless, strip of rock nine kilometers (four miles) long, is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and is the main port of entry into Europe for African migrants smuggled by boat from Libya or Tunisia.
Francis decided last week to visit Lampedusa as his first pastoral visit outside of Rome, spurred by a particularly deadly crossing in which a dozen migrants lost their lives. Despite the spur-of-the-moment decision, the island came through, building a makeshift altar out of recycled wood from shipwrecked migrants boats.
Francis greeted newly arrived migrants, and during Mass on the island's sports field, thanked the residents for welcoming so many men and women over the years. He prayed for those who died trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
"Who wept for these people who were aboard the boat?" Francis asked in his homily. "For the young mothers who brought their babies? For these men who wanted to support their families?"
"We are a society that has forgotten how to cry," he said.
Recycled wood from those vessels were used for Mass: A small, painted boat was turned into the altar, the lectern was made out of a recycled ship's helm and pieces of driftwood, and a pieces of wood were crafted into Francis' pastoral staff and the chalice used at Mass. Officials have said the simple nature of the Mass was in keeping with the express wishes of Francis.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of the year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012. It's still a far cry from the tens of thousands who flooded to Italy during the Arab Spring exodus of 2011.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Foundations of the Anglican Church XVII

Henry VII Tudor

I'm sorry about these breaks when I just can’t get to the blog but I have had company the last few days and to be honest I was having such a good time that I didn’t even pay attention to the blog much less sit down and do the research for the next entry.  And there is so much I want to get into—the proposed canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII, the recent “Fortnight for Freedom” and the agenda that drives this charade, some of Pope Francis’ recent comments about the Church and where we need to go—but I am going to stay with the Anglican story for at least three or four more entries.

We left off with England being in a period of political fragility as Henry VII Tudor tries to bring order out of the chaos of the Wars of the Roses and securely establish his new dynasty as legitimate heirs to both the Lancastrian (Henry’ own faction) and Yorkist (his wife Elizabeth’s family cause) titles to the Crown.  Henry was not the most rightful heir—several others had stronger claims by strict right of succession—but he was the most powerful and certainly the most capable.  In fact he, and his heir (also Henry, Henry VIII) was able to break the feudal power of the nobles and build a strong central national government established on the monarchy.  Thus the Tudors would create the English State out of the various baronies and fiefdoms of Medieval England.  This was the same time that Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon were creating Spain out of their diverse holdings and that the French monarchy was centralizing their power under the Valois dynasty.  Other “nations” such as Germany or Italy would remain broken up in dozens, or even scores, of dukedoms, principalities, prince-bishoprics, and other entities for three or more centuries. 
Let me make one comment about the British monarchy before we proceed further.  We think that a King holds the Crown because he, as first-born (or at least as oldest surviving) male heir has inherited it from his father, the previous King.  Such is the illusion.  In fact, the Crown of England is and always has been elective.  That is to say that the Crown belongs to whomever is recognized as having the right to wear it.  Who does that recognizing can be a bit tricky and that weighed heavy on the Tudor consciousness. 
Let me explain what we cannot say that, strictly speaking, the Crown is hereditary.  We all know that Prince Charles will inevitably succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth, to the Throne.  The Queen succeeded her Father, King George VI.  But that is an illusion—not the fact. This principle of the Crown being held as a gift of Parliament was firmly proven in 1688 when Parliament deposed James II in favor his son-in-law and daughter, William and Mary.  James fought it but Parliament’s choice prevailed in the Glorious Revolution.  
Here is a more recent example.  When the government ministers decided in 1936 that Edward VIII could not be King if he married the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, Edward was given no choice but to resign the Crown and his brother Albert (known publicly as George)—the Father of the current Queen—replaced him.  Edward was shocked that he had to resign the crown but the government gave him no choice.  Had he not voluntarily resigned, a bill to depose him would have been introduced in Parliament and passed.   Even then there was talk of passing over George for his brother, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, because of George’s difficulty in public speaking.  Parliament was free to make the choice.  (Incidentally, the untold story is that the Government waned Edward out not because of his marriage to a divorced woman—Prince Charles will get away with that—but because Edward was quite favorable to German National Socialism and Chancellor Hitler and men like Churchill, seeing the inevitably of war, needed to make sure they had a trustworthy king.) 
As we will see, Henry VIII had Parliament enact various acts of succession to guarantee the access of his children to the Crown, an access the right to which was very muddled due to his complex marriage situations (as we shall also shortly see).  Even so, at the death of Henry’s childless son, Edward VI,  there was an attempt to have Parliament recognize not Henry’s daughters—Mary and Elizabeth—but a grand-niece of Henry, Lady Jane Grey.  It was unsuccessful—the Royal Council gave their ascent but Parliament never did.  (The Council did so—in part, at least—to prevent the Catholic Mary from becoming Queen and restoring Catholicism.  Lady Jane was championed by the extreme Protestant cause, a sort of sixteenth-century Tea Party faction.)
Going back further, in Anglo-Saxon England, the Witenagemot—the assembly of nobles and prelates—elected the King from among the nobility.   Even after the Conquest, several kings were chosen by election.  By the rules of primogeniture, Richard the Lionhearted should have been succeeded by Arthur of Brittany, the son of his deceased brother, Geoffrey Plantagenet.  Arthur was only twelve at the time, however, and the nobility of England felt that they could not afford to have a minor on the throne and so chose Richard’s younger brother, John.   Arthur could hardly have been less bad a king than John, of course, but that is not the point.  The point is that consent of the nobility—and later Parliament—trumps the rules of primogeniture.  In 1399 Parliament deposed Richard II and chose Henry Bolingbroke—Henry IV—as King even though the next in line to the throne was the five year old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March.  The argument was again made, that England could not afford to have a child on the throne at such a critical time. In fact it was the success of Bolingbroke’s rebellion against the wimpish Richard that won support for this taking the Crown.  While today the Crown is legally in the gift of Parliament, that was a constitutional development that had not been solidified by the time of Henry VII and the establishment of the Tudor Dynasty. 
All this is to say that the succession to the crown was never taken for granted.  It had been usurped too often—sometimes by violence, sometimes by law, sometimes by a combination of both—and Henry Tudor needed to cement the succession.  He had two sons who lived to adulthood, Arthur and Henry.  Arthur was the older brother, Henry the younger.  A third brother, Edmund, died in infancy.  Two sisters, Elizabeth and Katherine also died in infancy.  Two sisters lived into adulthood, one marrying the King of Scotland; the other marrying the King of France. 
There are claims that Arthur was a frail child while his brother Henry was strong and buff.  Arthur’s frailty is probably exaggerated.  Henry’s strength is not.  While Henry would make the greater King, there was no reason to suspect that Arthur would not have a normal adulthood and be a capable ruler.  Their father, Henry VII, himself was not the athlete that Henry the son was, but he was a most capable king.  In any event, having “an heir and a spare” gave Henry VII the peace of mind that his dynasty would continue.  Arthur was educated for kingship; Henry was prepared for a career in the Church where he would be named Archbishop of York. Would that not have changed the course of things?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Foundations of the Anglican Church XXVI

As stated in the previous post, the chief challenge facing the new Tudor dynasty after Henry VII Tudor seized the Crown from Richard III, was creating the political stability that would bring an end to the dynastic struggled that had divided England throughout the fifteenth century. 
The major threat to Tudor power and the peace of the realm came from the old nobility.  The peerage was comparatively small.  Many of the noble titles had become extinct when their holders had perished in the One Hundred Years War with France or in the subsequent dynastic Wars of the Roses. Others had lost their titles for being on a losing side as the Crown shifted back and forth during the struggles between the Lancastrians and Yorkists.  Sometimes titles were restored; sometimes they weren’t.   In 1500, there were the Dukes of Norfolk, Buckingham, York, and Cornwall—but these later two were held by the heir to the Crown and so were royal title as differentiated from title of nobility.  That leaves two dukes among the nobility.  The remainder of the peerage consisted of approximately one marquess, ten earls, three viscounts, and seventy barons. 
The nobility was a small group but very proud of their family lineages and anxious to preserve their traditional power and influence.  Henry Tudor, on the other hand, was anxious to centralize power in the Crown in order to create a modern English nation state out of the competing and rival feudal holdings.  It was a time when Kings in France and Spain were consolidating royal power at the expense of the old nobility and Henry Tudor was a man with his eye on the future. 
An important tool in the balance of power between King and nobility was the Church.  The nobility sat in Parliament as the House of Lords.  But they were not the only members of that august body.  Two archbishops and fourteen bishops also sat as Peers.  They were joined by approximately forty-five abbots and mitered priors. 
The nobility found that while their legislative role increased, their personal power diminished during the reign of Henry VII and this made them restless.  They wanted to preserve the old feudal order and could not understand Henry’s vision of an English nation.  Henry, for his part, was anxious to compete with the major European powers which were the Spain, Portugal, and France.  As France was a long-time foe of England, he decided to throw his lot in with the emerging nation of Spain—then a confederation of the Kingdoms of Castile (ruled by Isabella) and Aragon (ruled by her husband, Ferdinand.)  Henry was anxious to marry his older son, Arthur, to Katherine, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella.  This would not only cement an alliance of England with the rich and powerful Iberian Kingdoms, but Katherine would bring a heavy dowry to England—something that the cash-strapped Henry could use as he tried to develop his realm, all but impoverished by a century of war, into a modern nation state.  On November 14, 1501 Arthur and Katherine were married.  The dowry was 200,000 crowns worth about ₤85,000.  Now, ₤85,000 was a fortune in 1501.  This was a world in which a well to do merchant might earn ₤100 a year and live handsomely on that.  It is never precise to convert money over a five hundred year span because it is a question of buying power rather than exact conversions.  But let us say that a merchant could live comfortably on   ₤ 100 a year and that today a businessman to have a comparable life would need an income of $85,000.00.  That would render the value of Catherine’s dowry at approximately seventy million modern dollars.  In fact, it was probably worth much more as it exceeded the annual income of the English Crown in 1501.  Henry could not afford to lose this dowry.  But it would ultimately demand a high price. 

The Foundatios of the Anglican Church XXV

Henry VII Tudor
Well, our story of the Church of England is coming to its crunch—the break with Rome.  We have seen that there has been an uniquely English Church since at least the second century with the early Christian communities in York, Chester, London, and other Roman towns.  These local churches were in communion with the Church at Rome but, given the geographic distance, were quite independent of it.   While they maintained the same beliefs as Christian communities throughout the Empire, they selected their own bishops, developed their own liturgy, and maintained their own practices. At this point of history, the Church at Rome and its bishop served as a focus of unity and orthodoxy among Christians around the known world but did not in any way supervise the vast network of Christian communities stretching from India in the east to Britain in the west.  This English Church only marginally survived the Anglo-Saxon invasions and did so with an infusion of leadership and vitality from the Irish Church which also has an ancient and very distinct (from the Continental Churches, most especially from the Roman Church) history.  This is not to say that the English or Irish Churches were not in communion with Continental Churches but it is to remember that they had their own peculiar customs and rites as well as a hierarchy that was not influenced (much less appointed) by Rome.
We also saw that with Augustine’s mission, sent by Gregory the Great, a second strain of Christianity, one that was influenced by Rome, was introduced into Britain and that it took a while for the these two strains to join together and that in their joining together the English Church retained its ancient rites of Sarum, York, Hereford, and Lincoln as well as a variety of distinctly English customs and usages.  And while the devotion of the Anglo Saxon kings and faithful to Saint Peter strengthened the bonds of England with the papacy, the policy of later kings such as Henry II, John, Edward I, Edward III and Richard II, was to enact legislation limiting papal power in England.  Note, “limiting” not “eliminating.”   The royal policy was to protect the rights of the King in England against intrusions whereby appeals were made over the King to Papal authority both in secular and ecclesial matters.  The Kings saw themselves as governors of the Church as well as of the State, but remember in the Middle Ages, Church and State were inextricably joined in the reality of the nationhood. 
One of the crucial areas where papal and royal authority came into conflict was over the naming of bishops.  While bishops were “elected” by their Cathedral Chapters, both the Crown and the Papacy demanded a voice in the election.  Nominations to a See were usually carefully negotiated so that both King and Pope were satisfied.  However, with the 1393 Statute of Praemunire (there was a 1353 Statute of the same name and a 1306 Statute of Provisors that provided a foundation for these later acts) it was explicitly claimed to be the right of the King alone to “present” candidates for ecclesiastical preferment.  Moreover, the same act declared that "… if any purchase or pursue, or cause to be purchased or pursued in the court of Rome, or elsewhere, any such translations, processes, and sentences of excommunications, bulls, instruments or any other things whatsoever ... he and his notaries, abettors and counsellors" shall be put out of the king's protection, and their lands escheat.” It was forbidden by these various statutes as well for any Englishman to pay any tax or fees to powers outside the realm.   While such was the law, Rome expected its due and in fact the Crown looked the other way while English churchmen applied for their appointments to be confirmed by Rome and while they, the English churchmen, paid the appropriate (or at times, inappropriate) fees to the Roman Curia.   So what we in fact have is a dual allegiance of the Church to both Crown and Papacy and, while the law claimed, or attempted to claim, one thing, in fact the relations of the English Church and Rome were quite cordial and correct.
There was political trouble in England, however.  In 1399 Henry Bolingbroke seized and deposed his cousin, Richard II and claimed the throne for himself.  Richard was a weak and vacillating man at a time when England needed a strong king and Bolingbroke was strong; nevertheless, Bolingbroke—now Henry IV—did not have as strong a claim to the throne as did Edward Mortimer and England entered a period of political instability and civil war.  Henry IV’s grandson, Henry VI, himself was overthrown by Edward Duke of York, a descendent of Edward III.  This was the period known as the Wars of the Roses—the conflicts between the House of York (the white rose) and the House of Lancaster (the red rose).  The Wars of the Roses came to an end when in 1485 Henry Tudor (a Lancastrian) defeated Richard III (of York) who himself had seized the throne by murdering his nephew, Edward V, a boy of twelve. 
To cement the peace, Henry (a Lancastrian) married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV.  (A curious side note:  The portrait of Elizabeth of York is the model for the four queens of playing cards: Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, and Hearts.)   
The point of all this is that England, after 1485, was in a newly found and yet unstable peace.  HenryVII Tudor was on the throne but there were other claimants whose rights, by strict rules of primogeniture, were stronger.  Civil War was always a possibility.  England was still a feudal state with a strong nobility and should leading men of that nobility desert King Henry for another claimant such as Edward Plantagenet, the Earl of Warwick or the brothers Edmund and John de la Pole, Dukes of Suffolk, Henry could have been in deep trouble.  In fact, well into the reign of Henry’s son, Henry VIII, the House of Tudor had to worry about maintaining their hold on the Crown.  Political stability was the chief policy of all the Tudors.  And it was the need for political stability in England that would eat away at the bonds of union between the Church of England and the Catholic Communion.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XXIV: Crying Wolf: The Question of Valid Orders, continued

In the previous post we looked at the issue of the “validity” of sacraments and I mentioned that while claims that the sacramental systems of rival groups within the Church (and without) were invalid stretch all the way back into the third and fourth centuries, the criteria we use today—matter, form, minister, and intention—emerge in the Middle Ages with the switch to scholastic theology from the patristic theology of the first millennium. 
We looked at “matter” and “correct minister” in that earlier posting.  Matter is the material—bread and wine for the Eucharist, water for baptism, etc. necessary for the sacrament.  The correct minister is the person having the authority to administer the sacrament—in some cases a bishop, in others a priest, in the case of baptism and matrimony, a lay person can be the minister of the sacrament.  In this post, we will look at “form” and “intention.”  The “form” are the words used, the formula for administering the sacrament.  The “form” of baptism is “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”   In Penance, or Reconciliation as it is sometimes known, it is “I absolve you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 
There can be much variety in form.  In the Eastern Rites, followed by Byzantine Catholics (among others) as well as Orthodox, sacramental formulae are usually in the passive voice: “The Servant of God, N., is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Ever since the days of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the form for the Eucharist has been: This is my Body; This is the Chalice of my Blood…”  But about twenty years ago a question came to the congregation of Rites regarding an ancient Eucharistic Liturgy, the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari used in the East Syrian Tradition since apostolic times, in which there are no such “words of Instiution.”  That is to say, the bishop or priest never says: “This is my Body; This is my Blood.”  Faced with an apostolic tradition to the contrary, the Catholic Church backed down about the necessity of having these words for a “valid” Mass.  Moreover, while the Western Church had claimed that the Words of Institution were essential to the Eucharist, the Eastern Church—Catholic and Orthodox, always claimed that the Epiclesis, the Prayer calling down the Holy Spirit, was the actual consecratory prayer.  The various approved Rites of the Church do not all follow the same formulae in administering the sacraments so we need to be clear that there is no one set of words required for a sacrament—any sacrament—to be valid.  There is legitimate variety in sacramental form. 
As for “intention”—this is the trickiest of all criterion.  If a priest says the right words, but does not intend to forgive the penitent, is the penitent forgiven?  If a priest says “This is my Body” but does not himself believe that in the Eucharist the bread becomes the Body of Christ, does the bread remain only bread?   If a priest, in his dotage, goes into a bakery and says: “This is my Body,” does all the bread in the bakery become the Sacrament of the Eucharist?
Here is the real rub that we must consider: if a bishop, in ordaining a priest, intends to ordain him for preaching but not for offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice, is the man validly ordained?   And what, if in addition to not intending to ordain a sacrificing priest, the bishop uses words that do not mention that the priest is being ordained to offer sacrifice—does the “form” prove to be insufficient for validity?  And what if, the bishop himself is not a validly ordained bishop—is then the priest not a validly ordained priest?   Keep these questions in mind as they will become very important points of dispute between the Anglican and Papal parties and continue today to be unresolved points of dispute.
It will take a while for this issue to surface.  When Henry VIII separated the Anglican Church from Communion with the Papacy, he did not change any theology.  Nor did the liturgy—including the rites of Ordination—change in Henry’s day.  The bishops and priests ordained under Henry were validly ordained. No one disputes that.  But after Henry’s death, during the reign of his son, King Edward VI, there were changes in the ritual and changes in the doctrine that raise serious questions about the continuation of sacramental life in the Anglican Communion.   

Monday, July 1, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XXIII The Ecumenical Impact of Crying Wolf

Before we continue our story on the development of the Anglican Church and in particular deal with its parting of the ways with the Roman Communion, we need to look at the topic of “validity of orders” so that when we get to the second phase of the English Reformation we will be able to put the decisions of papal authorities about the “validity” of Anglican Orders into an intelligible context.  The issue of “validity of orders” did not arise with the Reformers of the sixteenth century but is rooted in the struggles of the “Great Church” with various sects in Christian antiquity. 
So what do we mean by “The Great Church?”   Historians use the term “Great Church” to speak of mainline Christianity (as distinguished from the heretical sects that separated before the East/West schism of the eleventh century split it into what we today call Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In antiquity there were many groups which separated from mainline Christianity over doctrinal questions—the Novatianists, the Montantists, the Donatists—and the separations were bitter events, marked by polemics on both sides.
They say that history is written by the winners.  There is truth to that. In the same way, Orthodoxy is defined by the winners, or at least by the survivors.  Today we look on groups such as the Donatists or the Collyridians or the Ophites as “heretical,” but in their day they were viable communities of men and women fighting for what they believed to be true doctrine.  No one is a heretic in his own understanding.  Some groups we define today as heretical—the Arians come to mind—came very close to winning the battle to claim orthodoxy. Politics, History, and Economics—as well as personalities—play a major role in defining religious orthodoxy.   
One of the strategies used in these contests for the faith of the masses was to deny the legitimacy of one’s opponent’s access to the Divine.  “God does not hear their prayers…”  Claims and counter claims were made by all parties regarding the legitimacy of the baptism, of the Eucharist, and of the sacramental orders of their rival groups.  These arguments were not made over any substantial defects such as “form” or “matter” that would be used in later and more sophisticated arguments.  It was simply asserted that since the “faith” held by the opposing party was “wrong,” obviously the life of grace had no hold on them and their sacraments were void of any effective means of God’s grace. 
Such arguments commit a sort of lèse majesté against God—presuming that we have the ability to turn the faucet of grace off and on according to our whims, but then Jesus did say that we what bind on earth is bound in heaven.  Nonetheless, the historian must look differently on this than the theologian and see the crudeness of the ruse such allegations employ to win adherents  by undermining the credibility of the ranks of one’s opponents. 
We have looked at the rival claims to the papacy in the late ninth and early tenth centuries.  (cf January 15, January 24, June 6, June 8, June 18, August 5, December 7, 2011;  February 14, 2013).  Here too the issue of “valid orders” came into play as various popes declared the ordinations performed by their predecessors “invalid” or “validated” the ordinations of earlier predecessors—all depending on which political alliances they represented.  Such declarations that “orders” were “invalid” removed all of one’s predecessor’s allies from positions of power—annulling cardinals and bishops and archdeacons and permitting the new pope to replace potential enemies with his own allies.  These claims were often used in the various anti-pope crises of the twelfth century but the introduction of the scholastic method of theology in the twelfth and thirteenth century demanded an explanation that was both more explicit and more rational than simply polemic rantings. 
Scholastic Theology and in particular the work of Thomas Aquinas gave those who held power in the Church the tools they needed to disempower those with whom they disagreed.  Thomas’ work neatly defined sacraments in categories of “matter” and “form” and spoke of the “intention” of the minister.  All the ducks had to be lined up in a row. The exactly right matter had to be employed.  There had to be bread, for example, for the Eucharist and it had to be wheat bread.  And there had to be grape wine.  For baptism there had to be water—not beer, nor wine, nor even iced tea—but water, pure and simple.  Confirmation required chrism.  Penance required a sinner with sins to be forgiven.  Matrimony required one man and one woman, neither of whom had been properly married before.  Ordination required man eligible for ordination. (Among other requirements, he had to have two intact hands and [at least] two intact testicles.  I am not sure why the later was an essential requirement but it did prevent the ordination of eunuchs.) 
One had to have the right minister for the sacrament.  While a priest or deacon was ordinary for baptism, anyone could do in an emergency.  (There was, at times, argument over this with some insisting that only an ordained priest or bishop could baptize.)  After 1215, the Church taught that only a priest or bishop could absolve sins.  Only a Bishop or Priest could preside at the Eucharist or anoint the sick.  In the Western Church it came to be held that the husband and wife ministered the sacrament to each other; in the East it required a priest or bishop to minister the sacrament.  It would be debated up until the Council of Trent—and even afterwards as not all theologians have agreed—that only a bishop could ordain another bishop, a priest, or a deacon.  There also has been disagreement over whether a priest can confirm or whether it requires a bishop—contemporary Catholic thought permits it to the priest under certain circumstances but this was not always the case in the sixteenth century.  In the Eastern Churches the priest is the ordinary minister of “chrismation” as the sacrament is often called. 
We need to consider all this background and debate because at the time of the Reformation the Catholic Church will begin to claim that the various groups that break from it have “invalid orders.”  They will give a rationale for that claim—a lack of form or matter or intention.  But the historian always looks at it a bit skeptically, hearing the little boy who cried wolf.