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February 14, 2005

If Only King Henry VIII Could Have Waited for Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and Keith Cardinal O'Brien

by Thomas A. Droleskey

The news in ecclesiastical circles just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. I could have entitled this article "They Caricature Themselves." However, I used that title for an article describing how self-professed liturgists were selling "do it yourself liturgy kits" to promote vocations to the religious life. Well, here is the news item that prompted this particular article, one of a spate I am writing before I resume recording lectures for my Politics II course at Christ the King College:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Cardinal Keith O'Brien both issued statements in response to the news of the Prince of Wales's forthcoming marriage to Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles yesterday.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said: "The Royal Family, with their unique role in our national life, are always assured of the goodwill and prayers of the Catholic community. I know that Catholics will join with me at this time in praying for the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker-Bowles and in wishing them every happiness."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said: "I hope that the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker-Bowles will find future happiness together. As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, I am saddened to think that were Mrs Parker-Bowles a Catholic, the Prince of Wales would by marrying her, automatically lose his right to accede to the Throne - as would his heirs.

"As the Scottish Executive currently, is quite rightly focusing attention on eradicating the blight of sectarianism, the time may be opportune to assess the impact of existing blatant anti-Catholic legislation and the extent to which its existence hinders progress in this effort."

Source: Archbishops House/Scottish Catholic Media Office

Apart from Cardinal O'Brien's recognition of anti-Catholic legislation that still exists from the era of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, the statements by the two leading prelates in the United Kingdom are at total variance with their duty as bishops and priests to remonstrate with public sinners and to remind their own people that one who is divorced and lacks a decree of nullity may not even consider dating, no less announce an engagement to be re-married. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony ends only with the death of one of the spouses. Prince Charles, though he was divorced from his late wife, Princess Diana, in 1996, had his marital bond end with the death of Diana in 1997. Camilla Parker-Bowles is divorced from Andrew Parker-Bowles. She has no decree of nullity. She is thus not free to marry. Catholic cardinals should not be extending any sort of congratulations to Prince Charles or Mrs. Parker-Bowles. They should be reminding Catholics that the clear admonition of Our Lord is immutable: he who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. This is a teachable moment for the bishops of the United Kingdom. Once again, a teachable moment passes without it being used to help to reinforce the indissolubility of a ratified and consummated (ratum et consummatum) sacramental marriage.

Some might protest in this particular instance by objecting to the validity of marriages officiated by Anglican "clergy," who are nothing other than laymen having a terrific masquerade party. Alas, it was during the pontificate of Pope Saint Pius X, in 1910, that a decree was issued to affirm the validity of all marriages contracted by baptized Christians who are not impeded by blood relations or by an existing marriage, including those marriages that take place in civil ceremonies. It is the man and the wife who give each other the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. A Catholic priest merely officiates as they administer to the sacrament to each other. Remember, the persecuted Catholics of Japan who lived in the underground, so to speak, for nearly 250 years between the time of the crucifixions of St. Paul Mikki and his companions to the re-opening of Japan to the West in the 1850s had only two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Matrimony, during that long span of time, both of which were administered without priests. This is a long way of saying that Mrs. Camilla Parker-Bowles is still a married woman, in other words. If Mrs. Parker-Bowles wanted to marry a Catholic, therefore, she would have to go through a solemn trial annulment to determine if there were any pre-existing conditions at the time she entered into her marriage with Andrew Parker-Bowles in the 1970s that negated the sacrament from the first moment it was attempted to be contracted.

Some will protest that Prince Charles and Mrs. Parker-Bowles are Protestants and are thus not bound by Catholic strictures about re-marriage. Au contraire. The binding precepts of the Divine positive law concerning the prohibitions of re-marriage of divorced persons while their spouses are still alive have been given to us by Our Lord Himself. They are immutable.

This fact is not lost on the Anglican "hierarchy," such as it is. In its own typically contradictory and complex way, the Church of England is "uncomfortable" with the re-marriage of divorced persons whose spouses are still alive but nevertheless has "guidelines" for such re-marriages: Consider the following from an Associated Press report of February 10, 2005:

The civil marriage [between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles] will be followed by a service of prayer and dedication at St. George's Chapel within the castle walls. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Church of England, will preside.

Williams said the wedding service plans "have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage.

The archbishop's approval and participation could help allay concerns of those with questions about the fitness of the divorced Charles to be supreme governor of the church when he becomes king. In general, the Church of England, the established faith of the nation, disapproves of remarriage of divorced people in church.

"In general, the Church of England, the established faith of the nation, disapproves of remarriage of divorced people in church." In general? Why not? After all, the "Church of England" was started by a chap named King Henry VIII of the House of Tudor who wanted to be rid of his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and sought a decree of nullity from the Pope so that he could marry his mistress, Ann Boleyn. The rest, as they say, is history, and very bad history at that. Henry VIII took England out of the Catholic Faith, starting a fierce persecution of Catholics who remained steadfast in their loyalty to Rome and to the Mass of Tradition in 1534 that saw over 72,000 Catholics, nearly three percent of the population of England at the time, slaughtered by the brute force of the State by the time that Henry died of a certain contagious disease in 1547. Monastery and convent lands were seized, under cover of law, you understand, and the properties re-distributed to both reward Henry's political collaborators and to bribe others to be beholden to the Crown at all costs. The poor who had lived good and holy lives as perpetual tenants on these lands were eventually thrown off, creating the conditions for economic injustice and misery that blighted England for centuries thereafter. Oh, yes, "in general." Indeed. As is the case with everything else in the land of Protestantism, theological relativism and the contradiction of one statement made after another rules the day with Anglicanism now as it did in the 1530s. Sort of sounds like the conciliarist ethos, doesn't it? You get the point.

Only one bishop, the Bishop of Rochester, Saint John Fisher, opposed King Henry VIII's re-marriage and his declaration to be the supreme head of the Church in England ("as far as was possible). He lost his head in 1535 for his brave defense of Catholic Truth and the primacy of the Successor of Saint Peter. So did the prominent layman, the former Chancellor of the Realm, Saint Thomas More. However, Saint John Fisher was the only bishop out of about one hundred who remained faithful to the point of death. True, about thirty or so remained faithful when Elizabeth I took England out of the Faith for a second time thirty years later. John Fisher, though, was the only bishop who resisted King Henry VIII and who would not let the exigencies of personal expediency nor exaggerated nationalism get in the way of doing his Catholic duty. Cardinals Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien have followed the easy path of Saint John Fisher's cowardly colleagues, including the infamous Thomas Cranmer.

The giddy expressions of congratulations extended to Prince Charles and Mrs. Parker-Bowles are not without precedent in this country. Oh, far from it. Richard Cardinal Cushing, the long-time Americanist Archbishop of Boston who catered to every whim of the Joseph P. Kennedy family, said in 1968 that Mrs. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was "entitled to all of the happiness she could find" (the statement is found in Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's memoirs) when it was announced that the widow of President John F. Kennedy was going to marry the divorced Greek Orthodox tycoon, Aristotle Onassis. Cushing had no concern for his parishioner's immortal soul. He only wanted her to "be happy" in this life, no matter the licitness of her proposed marriage. And it was just two years ago that Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, was mute when former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had obtained one annulment from his first wife to marry his second wife, Donna Hanover, announced he was going to marry his companion, the divorced Judith Nathan. A teachable moment to remind the Catholics of the New York area that Giuliani had no freedom even to consider dating, no less marrying, was lost, and loads of Catholics in New York were thus not reminded of the fact that political prominence and/or the performance of one's duties in times of a crisis do not exempt one from the binding precepts of the Divine positive law concerning marriage. "If Rudy can get hitched after a divorce, so can I!" might have been the refrain of more than one Catholic in the New York area, who would have judged the former mayor's sacramentally illicit marriage plans through the eyes of sentimentality and emotionalism rather than the Faith precisely because of the silence of the shepherds.

Saint John the Baptist did not want to curry favor with the rich and powerful. He did not want to popular. He denounced King Herod the Tetrarch for the bigamous and adulterous marriage he had contracted with his brother Philip's wife, Herodias. As would be the case some 1,503 years later (assuming that Saint John the Baptist was put to death about the year 32 A.D.) with Saint John Fisher, Saint John the Baptist wound up losing his head because he spoke the truth without equivocation and with a sincere desire for the sinners, Herod and Herodias, to repent of their sins and to change their lives. The ethos of conciliarism has robbed most, although not all, of our shepherds of the ability to think in terms of the eternal harm done to the souls of those who are enabled to persist in their sins unrepentantly to the point of their deaths. This ethos, which is enshrined in the Novus Ordo Missae but predates it as a species of Modernism, accepts the lie that a "compassionate" God sends no one to Hell and that it is wrong to make people feel bad about the "choices" they make in their lives. Pope Saint Gregory the Great said shepherds who do not remonstrate with their sheep are like dumb dogs. Indeed.

The chastisement that Sister Lucia spoke about cannot be far off in the future, and I am not one to speculate about end times at all. However, the pace of abominations and outrages has certainly quickened in recent months. (I am not even considering here what has now become the annual celebration of perversity at my Master's alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, this past week.) One has to think that the prayers and the intense sufferings of Sister Lucia held back the wrath of God for all the years she lived and prayed and suffered in her cloister. A man in California, upon learning of Sister Lucia's death, said, "Uh-oh," knowing that dark times may be ahead of us as Sister Lucia was promised that she would die before the chastisement. In a way, though, as attorney James Bendell noted in an e-mail of a few days ago, bad priests and wicked shepherds are a sign that God is utterly angry with His people. A chastisement is thus very much upon us. Consider the quote below from Saint John Eudes that was provided by Mr. Bendell:

The most evident mark of God's anger, and the most terri-ble castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of de-voted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world and, in their saintly call-ing of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is vis-iting His most dreadful wrath upon them.

As a traditional priest who hails from Montana is wont to say, "It's time to get prayed up." We have nothing to fear if we remain in a state of sanctifying grace. We must make certain, though, that we are in a state of sanctifying grace! What better time than Lent to become re-fortified in spiritual combat in order to make reparation for our own sins--as well as to make reparation for the sins of the whole world, including the silence and acquiescence of our shepherds in the face of the very thing that caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity on the wood of the Holy Cross--sin--by offering all to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is our refuge and our strength, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. We must run to her in these troubling times. It is our loving Blessed Mother who can lead us safely to the shelter provided by her Divine Son.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Saint John Fisher, pray for us.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us.

Saint Edmund Campion, pray for us.

All of the English Martyrs, pray for us--and pray for the Bishops of England and Scotland.







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