Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Archbishop Leo Cushley's Installation

(A slightly edited version of this was published in The Scottish Catholic Observer on September 27, 2013.)

Who could deny that the episcopal ordination and installation of the second most important out of the two metropolitan archbishops in a wee Protestant, European country with a statistically almost insignificant Catholic population — Saint Andrews and Edinburgh circa 116,000 Catholics, Glasgow circa 225,000 Catholics; total population of Scotland in excess of 5,000,000 — is wholly insignificant in the greater scheme of Catholic things?

Well, me actually.

Two days before Mgr Leo Cushley formally took up his responsibilities, an interview given by his former most important boss gave rise to an excess of joy among those who hate the Catholic Church — from the New York Times to the Pink News via CNN and the National Catholic Reporter; I can’t tell you about The Tablet, I never read it now that it has ceased to be a Catholic magazine, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Our new Holiness, Pope Francis, they have proclaimed, has declared that homosexuality, abortion, artificial insemination, embryonic stem cell research, divorce and remarriage, marriage of priests — they haven’t, at least not yet, included marriage of priests to each other — ordination of women and anything and everything else you care to add, no matter how apparently absurd never mind outrageous, is now OK. That which had been taught by Pope Benedict XVI and his 264 predecessors and the man to whom they owe their lineage’s and teachings’ very existence, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary, the Christ, are oot the windae.

Halelujah. Or not, as the case may be.

For those of us now upset, confused, fearful and full of doubt  in face of this apparent massive, papal U-turn it would seem prudent that we yet again follow Para Handy’s sage advice: Let us pause and consider.

Is it at all likely that this could be true?

Fortunately, all we need do is turn to Archbishop Leo’s words as the Mass of Episcopal Consecration drew to its close on Saturday. Because he worked so closely with Pope Francis, Mgr Leo had been granted the unusual privilege for a newly appointed bishop or archbishop to be called in for a chat with His Holiness. He recalled: “One of the things he communicated then and in the coming days — Mgr Leo routinely saw him in the course of his normal duties (HMcL) — was the idea that I should be merciful in my ministry here.

“Merciful.  This has already become a key word in his pontificate, and it’s an idea that comes to him from the Gospels but filtered through his thinking about a quotation that he likes from the Venerable Bede, the famous English historian. The Pope told me to look up the Office of Readings for the day and to find his motto, the words “miserando atque eligendo”, where Christ mercifully looks upon Matthew and chooses him.

“But he explained that being merciful doesn’t mean being soft. It means being gentle but also firm at the same time. This is what the Pope asked me to be for all of you. It is also Pope Francis’s proposal for the way we priests ought to be with each other: firmly resolved to be merciful, to forgive, to be humble, to re-build, to dialogue.

“The Holy Father proposed this in his own gentle and fraternal way, but also with the strength of loving conviction and experience.”

It is worth, I think, pointing out that Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires was loath to grant interviews with the Press. It may well be either he knew of, or, had learned from those who knew of, the fact that in February of 1959, Good Pope John released for publication part of the text of a speech that Pope Pius XI had intended to deliver to his cardinals twenty years earlier, on 11 February 1939, the day after he died. It read in part:

“You know how badly the Pope’s words are treated. People read our allocutions or addresses — not only in Italy — in order to falsify their meaning, sometimes inventing altogether and attributing to us the most utter nonsense and absurdities. Recent and past history are so perverted in a certain press that it is said that there is no persecution in Germany, and this denial is accompanied by false and calumnious allegations of mixing in politics, just as Nero’s persecution used the charge of setting fire to Rome.

“Take care, dearest brothers in Christ, and never forget that there are observers and tale-bearers (call them “spies” and you will be nearer the truth) who will listen to you in order to denounce you, having understood nothing of the matter in hand or got it all wrong. They have in their favour – one must remember how Our Lord thought of His executioners – only the good sovereign excuse of ignorance.”

This, according to some controversial, interview granted by Pope Francis was conducted by Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica on behalf of several Jesuit journals from across the world. As always, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was paying his debts. As Pope, canonically he is no longer “SJ” but at heart he is.

And that word “canonically” and that word “heart” lead us directly to the pastoral, evangelical impulse behind Papa Bergoglio’s advice to Archbishop Leo (as revealed at his consecration/induction) and to the Catholic Church more generally (as revealed in his interview).

One of the great teachers of Canon Law in the Twentieth Century at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome was Servant of God Fr Felice Maria Cappello SJ, Confessor and Canonist. Professor at the Greg 1920-1959, he daily heard the confessions of brother Jesuits, secular priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals as well as of the laity of all walks of life at the nearby Church of Saint Ignatius until shortly before his death on March 25, 1962.

Dr Edward Peters, a lay American canon lawyer, has asked the followers of his Blog to invoke Fr Cappello’s intercession for the recovery of his son, Thomas Peters, who was recently very seriously injured in a swimming accident. He makes note of the good confessor’s advice to the student priests whom he taught: “Principles are principles, and they remain firm and are always to be defended. But all consciences are not the same. In applying principles to consciences, we must do it with great prudence, much common sense, and much goodness. In your opinions and decisions never be severe. The Lord does not want that. Be always just, but never severe. Give the solution that offers the soul some room in which to breathe.”

Never be severe, always be merciful! Exactly what Pope Francis has said to Archbishop Leo and to his brother bishops and fellow priests is, then, really nothing new. Indeed, William Shakespeare said it long ago in The Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene1):

The quality of mercy is not strained
It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven
Upon the place beneath
It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that receives.

If you take the time and go to the trouble of reading Pope Francis’s interview, this is the key to understanding what he is all about: be merciful. Or, since there is nothing new under the Roman sun, as Cardinal Winning always put it: Hate the sin; but love the sinner! 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Annulment and Cardinal Heard

On Friday, January 22, 2010, I published a post on Cardinal Heard which was simply an explanation of how I had come to do a wee bit of research into the life of the only Oxford Rowing, or any other, Blue to be admitted to the Sacred College. Sadly, I did not follow it up with other extracts from my essay. This morning, reading an interesting post on Fr Ray Blake’s Blog “A Greek Practice” (http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/a-greek-practice.html)  brought to mind how Fr Theo Heard, assistant priest of Most Holy Trinity, Dockhead, Bermondsey, Diocese of Southwark, came to be called to Rome to replace Mgr John Prior on the Sacred Roman Rota. And it was all to do with one of the most astonishing annulment cases heard by the Rota in the Twentieth Century. Indeed, the details foxed the readers of The Times.

Oxford Blue, Roman Purple

An auditor

Almost inevitably, a man — Rev Fr Dr William Theodore Heard MA (Oxon), PhD, DD, JCD (all the Greg, all summa cum laude) — could not for long escape the call to Rome. Although possessed of such manifest talents, for a priest happy and fulfilled in his lot, serving in a parish and among people whom he clearly loved, and happily doing the job for which he had been ordained, it was perhaps not so much a “call”, more of an unwanted summons. Either way, in Rome, on September 30, 1927, Pope Pius XI named him a domestic prelate with the title and style of the Right Reverend Monsignor and on the following day, October 1, 1927, appointed him as an uditore di Rota, an auditor, that is judge, of the Sacred Roman Rota Appeals Tribunal.

The vacancy on the Tribunal for an Enlish language auditor had come about as the result of the death in Darlington after a long illness of Mgr John Prior, the English Dean of the Sacred Roman Rota, a former vice-Rector of the Beda College, Rome (who had worked with Mgr, later Cardinal, Merry del Val on preparing the Bull Apostilicae Curae for Pope Leo XIII in which Anglican orders were decreed to be “absolutely null and utterly void”). The Church authorities in Rome, according to Cardinal Heard’s obituarist, “looked around for some distinguished jurist from the British Empire” to replace Mgr Prior. However, language alone would not have been the only consideration. And, after appointment, because of the way that judges are allotted cases there could have been no question of his being responsible solely, or even mainly, with appeals from the English-speaking world.

The Rota’s working language, of course, was Latin, but witness statements and evidence might even in those days have been given or presented originally in other languages. Mgr Heard was fluent in English, obviously, Latin, Italian and French. It was the recollection of Cardinal Winning (who inspired my essay), who knew Cardinal Heard well, that there were also another couple of languages he would have been able to get by in, but he was not sure which. Post-Vatican II, or to be more precise post-1967, dioceses were allowed to present documents to the Vatican in the vernacular. Cardinal Heard was a member of the commission of three cardinals appointed by Pope Paul VI, in response to the earnest entreaties of the Council Fathers, to investigate the workings of the curia and to propose reforms which would make the Vatican more accessible to, and more responsive to, the world-wide, universal Church. His Eminence was a party to this recommendation on the use of the vernacular. However, in 1927, when he was appointed to the Rota, although auditors and advocates conducted their business in Latin, lay witnesses were not required to be fluent in its use.

Mgr Heard was well known within the Catholic Church in England at that time for three reasons. Many younger priests knew him as a result of his having acted as Confessor to the students of the Venerabile; he would also have been known within the Diocese of Southwark and further afield through his work on the Diocesan Court; and of course he would have stood out because of his triple doctorates in canon law, divinity and philosophy. And that Rowing Blue, making it four. The Southwark Diocesan Court, with such expertise at its disposal in the body of one person, must have been the envy of every other Bishop in the country. But that notwithstanding, how did he come to the notice of the Vatican authorities? Obviously the English hierarchy would have been eager to advance the cause of one of their own (albeit he was a proud Scotsman) when Mgr Prior died and a vacancy arose in the Rota, but there was more to it than that.

The Times of Monday, November 15, 1926, in its “Telegrams in brief” column on page 13 carried a small item which was to precipitate a great storm of controversy. And the Rev Fr Dr William Theodore Heard, Officialis of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Southwark, was right in the eye of that storm. The item read:

“Reuter’s Rome correspondent says that the Sacred Roman Rota has confirmed the decree of the Diocesan Court of Southwark annulling the marriage of the Duke of Marlborough with Miss Consuela Vanderbilt.”

On the following day, Tuesday, November 16, on page 14, The Times carried a report from Reuters, New York, under the banner headline “U.S. BISHOP’S CRITICISM OF ANNULMENT” which read:

“New York, Nov.15. The report that the Sacred Roman Rota had confirmed the decree of the Diocesan Court of Southwark annulling the Duke of Marlborough’s first marriage to Miss Consuela Vanderbilt was described as ‘amazing and incredible’ by Bishop Manning in the course of a sermon yesterday.

Speaking as the Bishop of the diocese in which the marriage originally took place, Dr Manning declared that the action of the Roman Catholic Church in this case was most serious, and likely to have far-reaching consequences. The Bishop added: ‘One of the ways in which our witness for Christ is called for to-day is in regard to the sacredness and permanence of marriage.’

Dr Manning, who is Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York, is one of the leading High Churchmen of the Episcopal denomination, and is well known for his leaning towards Rome. Reuter”

On Friday, November 26, The Times reported further on Bishop Manning’s fury. From Reuters’s New York bureau:

“In the course of a Thanksgiving sermon in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, Bishop Manning, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York, again criticized the Roman Catholic Church for its annulment of the Marlborough-Vanderbilt marriage as an ‘unwarranted intrusion and impertinence’.”

If the working man on the upper deck of the Clapham omnibus had little or nothing to say on the matter, the readers of The Times had plenty. Over the weeks following the announcement of the confirmation by the Sacred Roman Rota of the decree of nullity, To the Editor of The Times became an oft-used phrase as pen was put furiously to paper.

Naturally enough, while the Episcopalians were on the one hand incandescent with rage at Roman interference in an Anglican marriage, or, more correctly, an American Protestant Episcopalian one, the Catholics on the other were quite content that the Church had done no wrong. After all, firstly, it was hardly the Church’s fault that it had never been a canonically valid marriage in the first place and, secondly, the Church only became involved when one of the parties to the marriage contract wished to convert to Rome and so sought to regularise her position. It could be argued that the Church in fact paid the American Protestant Episcopalian hierarchy a compliment by treating the matter as if the original marriage ceremony had been carried out by a cleric in good standing with Rome, one whose claim to holy orders was unimpeachable. This almost certainly would not have happened had the case come before the Rota only a few years earlier.

It is clear that the Rota were suitably impressed by Fr Heard’s handling of the whole matter. Even more lustre must have been added to his reputation with both his English superiors and Rome when the following appeared on page 15 of The Times dated February 2, 1927:

The Duke of Marlborough
The Duke of Marlborough was received into the Roman Catholic Church in the chapel of Archbishop’s House Westminster by the Reverend CC Martindale SJ at noon yesterday. The Duchess of Marlborough, the Countess of Abington, Lady Gwendeline Spencer-Churchill, and Lord Lovat were present. Cardinal Bourne received the Duke and Duchess immediately afterwards and gave them his blessing.


And so it was that Mgr Heard came to take up residence once more in the Venerabile, although only temporarily until such time as he could establish his own apartment in the city. It is not known whether any students remained in the English College, in whatever capacity, who had been there when, as an ordained postgraduate student, Theodore Heard had functioned as confessor prior to his return to England in 1921. However, even if there were none, he nonetheless received a rousing welcome from both staff and students when the Rector, Mgr Arthur Hindsley, who would later become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, officially welcomed him back to the College.