The Pope in Westminster Abbey – the finest ecclesiastical gag ever?
So the Pope’s decision (or Mgr Marini’s suggestion) to wear what he did in Westminster Abbey was unlikely to have been without serious consideration.
He is, after all, the Pope who has restored to use the red velvet mozzetta trimmed with ermine, the camauro, the traditional red papal shoes, and one or two other Prada accessories.
And now it turns out that the stole he chose to wear on the occasion of the first ever visit of a pope to Westminster Abbey was that first worn by Pope Leo XIII.
Pope Leo XIII, for those who do not know, not only cardinalised John Henry Newman, he was the author of the 1896 encyclical Apostolicæ Curæ on the Nullity of Anglican Orders.
This is not a minor matter of obscure ecclesio-theological history. In 1998, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), issued a commentary which listed Leo XIII’s declaration in Apostolicæ Curæ that Anglican orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ as one of the teachings to which Catholics must give ‘firm and definitive assent’ (#11). It is not, he averred, ‘divinely revealed’, but one of the ‘truths connected to revelation by historical necessity’.
And the penalty for those who refuse to give this ‘firm and definitive assent’ is quite clear:
Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church (#6).
The continuing authority of Apostolicæ Curæ is not diminished or compromised in Pope Benedict’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, which introduced an apparent via media canonical structure that provides for groups of Anglican clergy and faithful to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church ‘while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony’. The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be wholly in accordance with Apostolicæ Curæ, ie, a (re-)ordination because their entire ministry within the Church of England has been fraudulently perpetrated on the basis of holy orders which are, in fact, ‘absolutely null and utterly void’.
This encyclical Apostolicæ Curæ was promulgated on the 18th September 1896.
But interestingly, Pope Leo XIII signed it:
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, on the Ides of September, in the nineteenth year of our pontificate.
The Ides of September is the 13th day.
So, in this period between 13-18 September, exactly 114 years later, Pope Benedict set foot in the symbolic ecclesiastical heart of Protestantism which has seen the coronation of every English and British monarch since the Norman conquest. Over recent centuries, its cloisters have reverberated to successive kings and queens renouncing popery, repudiating transubstantiation and swearing to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.
Benedict came to reclaim the Abbey for the Benectine monks ejected by Elizabeth I. While twice verbally reminding the congregation that he is the successor to St Peter, he symbolically reminded us that only Roman orders have validity.
So not only has Pope Benedict driven the ecumenical coach into the ditch of history by declaring the feast day of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (whom Anglicans already commemorate on the day of his death) to be the day of his conversion (ie, the day that he was re-ordained into ‘true orders’ [even before Anglican orders were declared ‘absolutely null and utterly void]). But he has seemed graciously to participate in a celebration of Anglican-Roman relations while actually slapping the Church of England in the face.
Or was it on the back?
Not knowing His Holiness, it is difficult for His Grace to tell.
But His Holiness does not strike His Grace as the sort of prelate who would make light of such a significant event. Certainly, there were pleasantries with the Supreme Governor and platitudes with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but in the symbolism of the stole was the assertion that Pope Leo XIII was right and that Anglican orders remain ‘utterly null and absolutely void’.
And yet His Holiness was content to participate in ecumenical Vespers presided over by the
Was this the finest ecclesiastical gag ever?