Monday, January 26, 2015

TODAY on the Son Rise Morning Show

As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central news break to discuss the latest news on the re-burial of Richard III. Listen live here.

As I promised, here are a couple of previous posts:

On the announcement of the plans for Vincent Cardinal Nichols' participation in the ceremonies for Richard III's re-internment in Leicester Cathedral.

William Oddie's thoughts on the announcement of the plans for Vincent Cardinal Nichols' participation in the ceremonies for Richard III's re-internment in Leicester Cathedral--he thinks the Archbishop of Westminster should have required a Catholic burial service for a Catholic king, not an Anglican, ecumenical service with Catholic Mass and prayers held elsewhere:

The point is that he was the last of the Plantagenets and therefore a Catholic King, almost the last (only his usurper remained nominally faithful before the great apostasy): so he ought to be being reinterred in a Catholic cathedral. What is there about that proposition which is even slightly controversial? It may not have been politically doable for our bishops to insist on it: but it is quite clear that the way in which the whole thing is to unfold, with the tacit agreement of the Bishops’ conference, has to be seen as a defeat for the English Catholic Church: it is, in microcosm, a narrative demonstration of our current position within English culture. And I am writing this because someone needs to say that the gruesome ecumenical subservience this indicates ought now to be challenged and repudiated by all English Catholics.

As I noted yesterday, one question is: Should his re-burial be according to his faith and time or England's current religious environment? I think the former.

A Sad Anniversary: The Desecration of Oliver Cromwell's Tomb

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) comes this review of Lord Charles Spencer's latest book:

On Jan. 26, 1661, in Westminster Abbey, the tomb of Oliver Cromwell was broken open and his corrupted corpse was removed. Four days later, it was ritually hanged and beheaded at Tyburn before thousands of jeering onlookers. Cromwell’s severed head, encased in an iron cage, was then skewered on a pike and erected before the House of Lords. There it remained for a quarter century—an emblem of the wages of treason.

Nearly three years earlier, Cromwell had been interred with stately pomp. During the English Civil War he had commanded the victorious armies of Parliament against King Charles I. He had engineered the king’s public trial for treason and then his execution in 1649, eventually ruling all of Britain as Lord Protector. But this revolution did not survive his death, and in 1660 the monarchy was restored by the king’s eldest son, Charles II. Oliver Cromwell, once lionized by John Milton himself as “our chief of men,” was now the hated ringleader of the regicides.

There has been a great deal written about Charles I; somewhat less about the men who executed him. These regicides are the subject of Charles Spencer’s “Killers of the King.” The ninth earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, knows a thing or two about monarchy. The sympathies of his book incline against the institution. Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt.

Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I is published by Bloomsbury. It's one thing to charge the living with a crime, another thing entirely to desecrate the dead! Of course, the royalists thought of the king's body as a sacred thing that had been violated, so they responded in kind when they had the power. The reviewer, Jeffrey Collins, professor of history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, offers some corrections and context to Lord Spencer's views:

But this narrative of suffering valor is overdrawn. Mr. Spencer portrays Charles II as a “man of vengeance,” goaded on by royalists “baying for blood.” In truth, prudence and insecurity moved the king to moderate his reprisals. As “Killers of the King” itself demonstrates, the regicides’ worst enemies were their old parliamentary allies. Those who had fought Charles I but had avoided his trial were eager to isolate the regicides and sacrifice them as “scapegoats for half the kingdom.” Many of the regicides were captured by former allies who turned in their captives to prove their own conveniently rediscovered royalism.

This cycle of betrayal was ugly but predictable. The regicides had not represented the popular will. They had purged Parliament of their enemies and summarily dissolved the House of Lords; they were the architects of a military coup. Like most revolutionaries, they postured as a vanguard and sacrificed constitutional order to their own sense of heavenly justice. Charles Spencer captures the sincerity and the conviction of the regicides, but he cannot vindicate the justice of their actions. The regicides killed the king, but they could not kill the monarchy. Our capacity, centuries later, to be fascinated by their story is a measure of their failure.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tomorrow on the Son Rise Morning Show

Just so you know ahead of time, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow (Monday) in my usual end of the EWTN show time slot (after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central news headline break with Annie Mitchell) to discuss the petition for Richard III's reburial to be with a Catholic Mass! The Catholic Herald posted this on-line story:

Three thousand people have signed a petition calling for Richard III to be given a Catholic burial.

The petition, addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, is being organised by the historians whose efforts led to the king’s remains being found under a car park in Leicester.

Under present plans Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, before the Reformation, will be buried at the Anglican cathedral in Leicester on March 26.

But Philippa Langley, leader of the Looking for Richard project, said the burial should take into account Richard III’s Catholic faith.

She said: “It seems this former king and head of state is to be treated as a scientific specimen right up to and including the point at which he is laid in his coffin.”

Dr John Ashdown-Hill, a historian who worked to identify the bones, has also called for a Catholic burial, saying: “There is a lot of evidence that Richard III had a very serious personal faith. If Richard III had not have died, maybe the Anglican church would never have existed.”

You may listen live on your local affiliate of course, but here's on-line link to the EWTN radio network. I'll post a digest of past posts on the topic tomorrow morning.

What do you think? Should Richard III be re-buried with a Catholic Mass and/or interment-site prayers or with an ecumenical service as planned (with the Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and senior clergy from both dioceses, and other Christian denominations alongside representatives of the World Faiths)? Should his re-burial be according to his times or ours?

Tract 90's Anniversary

The last of the Tracts of the Times came out on January 25, 1841 and received a very cold reaction that had nothing to do with the winter weather. The full title of Tract 90 is "Remarks on certain Passages of the Thirty-nine Articles."

In it, Tractarian John Henry Newman examined the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and argued that they had more in common with Roman Catholicism than with Protestantism: as he noted in the introduction, "while our Prayer Book is acknowledged on all hands to be of Catholic origin, our articles also, the offspring of an uncatholic age, are, through GOD'S good providence, to say the least, not uncatholic, and may be subscribed by those who aim at being catholic in heart and doctrine." Because of Tract 90, the Oxford Movement was effectively shut down; Newman soon retreated to Littlemore. The Tract was condemned and Newman barely escaped censure--it was a good time to leave town!

As he wrote later in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua:

I saw indeed clearly that my place in the Movement was lost; public confidence was at an end; my occupation was gone. It was simply an impossibility that I could say any thing henceforth to good effect, when I had been posted up by the marshal on the buttery-hatch of every College of my University, after the manner of discommoned pastry-cooks, and when in every part of the country and every class of society, through every organ and opportunity of opinion, in newspapers, in periodicals, at meetings, in pulpits, at dinner-tables, in coffee-rooms, in railway carriages, I was denounced as a traitor who had laid his train and was detected in the very act of firing it against the time-honoured Establishment.

Canterbury Press publishes the volume pictured above with many excerpts from the Tracts and from sermons by Newman and other clergy in the Oxford Movement:

What we know today as Anglo-Catholicism, a strong and distinctive strand within Anglicanism that accounts for approximately a third of all Anglicans, began with a small act of political protest in an Oxford pulpit. There in 1833 John Keble preached a sermon that gave voice to widespread and growing fears of increasing state control of the Church and erosion of its status.

At the same time, Roman Catholics were enjoying new freedoms in society and Anglicans who regarded themselves as loyal to the Catholic tradition, despite the interruption of the Reformation, saw this as an opportunity to promote Catholic theology in the Church of England.

Keble's sermon sparked an immediate and active response and the Oxford Movement sprang into life. Publications flowed from its luminaries which included John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey.

Ninety influential tracts together with Newman's legendary sermons and work by other writers, including some novels, focused on the themes that today characterise Anglo-Catholicism: a high doctrine of the Church as a divine society, the importance of the sacraments, insistence that Anglican clergy were priests in the Apostolic Succession with sacerdotal power, the quest for personal holiness.

Energised by the vitality of the old, true faith, parish life began to be transformed. Religious life revived for the first time since the Reformation, remarkable social work in slum parishes was accomplished and a distinctive liturgical style emerged.

Firmly I Believe offers a wide selection of the writings of the Tractarians and other supporters of the Oxford Movement, introduced with a useful commentary and explanation. This unique volume is both an ideal starting point for students and scholars and a rich treasury of Anglo-Catholic devotion and theology.

I only wish that it had a more robust index so that one could find, for example, Tract 90 excerpts without scanning each chapter! And I must admit that its title is ironic since it quotes a hymn written by Blessed John Henry Newman from The Dream of Gerontius, years and years after his conversion to Catholicism.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Speaking of Jesuit Conspiracies

Today is the anniversary of the first executions of Jesuits in England's Popish Plot, a vast Jesuit conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and bring the Catholic Duke of York to the throne--except that there was no vast Jesuit conspiracy and Titus Oates made it all up. You'd think this kind of stuff would be in the ash bins of history by now, but Damian Thompson writes in The Catholic Herald about an organization that still propagates these Jesuit conspiracies, including the sinking of the Titanic:

The building of the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast coincided with a meeting of top bankers at the Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, an exclusive winter retreat for the super-rich. It was here, in November 1910, that representatives of J P Morgan, the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers agreed to set up the US Federal Reserve, America’s central banking system.

This much is a matter of historical record. What isn’t widely known is that these men were acting on behalf of their paymasters, the Jesuits, who “desperately wanted a central bank in America so that they would have a bottomless reservoir from which to draw money for their many wars and other hideous schemes around the world”.

This quotation is taken from a book published by the Pacific Institute of San Diego, California, which bravely exposes Catholic conspiracies, as well as offering “astounding” interpretations of Bible prophecy. (It meets every Saturday morning at the Ramona Community Centre, should you find yourself in the area and want “conclusive proof” of its claims.)

Anyway, the Jesuits knew that the creation of the “Fed” would be opposed by powerful men outside the Rothschild/Morgan/Rockefeller cartel. These opponents “had to be destroyed by a means so preposterous that no one would suspect they were murdered”. So the Society of Jesus, displaying its trademark cunning, ordered the building of an “unsinkable” death ship that would take its plutocrat passengers – who included members of the Guggenheim and Astor families – to a watery grave.

Thompson goes on to discuss how Catholics aren't immune from creating these conspiracy theories and what we ought to do about them. The roots of the these theories about the Jesuits date from the 17th century with the Monita Secreta, a forgery that purported to be instructions for Jesuit control of Europe. Like the Popish Plot, the Monita was the creation of someone kicked out by the Jesuits, taking his revenge.

Read the rest from The Catholic Herald here.

The Popish Plot Begins to Take Its Toll

Blessed William Ireland, SJ (picture) and Blessed John Grove, a Jesuit lay brother, were executed on 24 January 1679, found guilty in Titus Oates' perjured plot: 

William Ireland (1636-1679) worked for 10 years in Flanders, waiting to return to his native England. When he was finally able to do so, he served as procurator (responsible for finances) for only one year before he became the first victim of the infamous Titus Oates plot. Ireland studied at the English College at Saint-Omer, Flanders, and entered the Jesuit novitiate at age 19. After studying theology at Li├Ęge, he was ordained in 1667. For the next decade he taught at his alma mater and was confessor to the Poor Clares at Gravelines. Finally, he was able to return to England in June 1677 and settled in London where he used the alias "Ironmonger" while he cared for the financial affairs of the Jesuit mission. 

Titus Oates was a renegade Anglican minister who hated the Society of Jesus. Along with another minister, Israel Tonge, he invented a story that the English Jesuits planned to assassinate King Charles II, overthrow the government and its established religion and reinstate Catholicism. This fabricated tale raised an angry furor and led to a renewed persecution of Catholics. Among the first to suffer was Father Ireland who was arrested along with Father John Fenwick and their lay assistant, Mr. John Grove. They were imprisoned in the Newgate and burdened with heavy chains that rubbed the flesh on their legs raw. After three months, Ireland and his companions came to trial on Dec. 17, 1678; along with them were Fr. Thomas Whitbread and Thomas Pickering, a Benedictine brother. 

At the trial Titus Oates testified that he had been present at a meeting of Jesuits in April that year and listened to plans being made to murder the king. He claimed that Ireland, Fenwick and Grove were present at the meeting, while Whitbread and Pickering had been assigned to carry out the murder. According to Oates, Ireland had been seen loitering about the royal residence during August; an attempt would have already been made but Pickering's pistol failed three times to fire. A second witness agreed with most of the testimony. Ireland had witnesses to prove that he was in the Midlands and North Wales at the time he was alleged to have loitered about the royal palace. To contradict him, Oates bribed a maid to say she had seen him in London at that time. On the basis of the false testimony, Ireland, Grove and Pickering were found guilty of high treason and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The execution was postponed for a month by royal order because Charles II never believed that the Jesuits were involved in a plot against him. Oates produced more unreliable witnesses and the king allowed the executions to take place out of fear for popular anger. 

Ireland and Grove were taken to Tyburn on Jan. 24, 1679. The people of London pelted them with stones and insults as they were dragged to the gallows. They were hanged until dead, and then cut down so their bodies could be drawn and quartered. 

They were beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chesterton Tonight: Beginning to Wade into "The Well and the Shallows"

Our Greater Wichita local group of the American Chesterton Society meets tonight at Eighth Day Books (6:30 p.m.) to begin our discussions of another book of Chesterton's essays included in volume III of Ignatius Press's Collected Works. These essays/articles were gathered into a book called The Well and the Shallows in 1935.

I have a hardcover copy of the book from Sheed & Ward, printed in Great Britain in 1935--this is one of Chesterton's last books.

We will also start discussing promotion of the next big Chesterton event in Wichita--the Catholic Culture Conference at the Spiritual Life Center on April 17 and 18, 2015. More info here:

Join Dale Ahlquist and many Diocesan speakers for this great conference about being Catholic in the world.

The Catholic Culture Conference is an opportunity for faithful Christians to come together for formation and fellowship. The program intends to promote Catholic values in personal and family life, as well as in society at large.

The Conference will consist of multiple sessions, each geared towards some particular component of Catholic life in our modern age. A combination of large group lectures and smaller breakout sessions will give each participant the opportunity to learn more about how Catholicism relates to–and is intended to positively change-our culture.

Our Catholic Faith is not just a notional idea. It is a concrete reality with the power to open the hearts and minds of all peoples. It can make the societies in which we live flourish in the way God intended. This Conference will give participants knowledge and inspiration to go about doing just that.

Our Keynote speaker is one of th emost respected G.K. Chesterton scholars in the world, Mr. Dale Ahlquist. He will give a keynote lecture entitled "The Glorious Side of Social Decline" and a second lecture on "The Trouble with Catholic Social Teaching."

As for tonight: 6:30 p.m. at Eighth Day Books, 2838 East Douglas Avenue (refreshments will be served!!). If you are interested in Chesterton, drop by!

Mantel's More a Mistake

In the TV miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell face off again, just as they do across the fireplace at the Frick. Now that the words of a book are images on the screen, Mantel's mischaracterization of Thomas More gets another viewing. I have not read Wolf Hall and really don't intend to see the miniseries when it comes to the USA later this year, but commentators are reflecting on how historically accurate Mantel's view of More is. See this article, for example, in The Guardian.

This issue came up in 2012 when a review of Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies mentioned Mantel's presentation of More: "In Mantel’s version, More is no saint, as he almost certainly was not in real life: he’s fussily pious, stiff-­necked and unnaturally fond of torturing heretics." (Note that Thomas More does not appear as a character in Bring Up the Bodies because he was executed in the pages of Wolf Hall.) The Guardian article sums up Mantel's More thusly: "Mantel’s portrait, however, is of a torturer of heretics with a penchant for self-punishment and a misogynist to boot."

If these two summaries of Mantel's More are accurate, her portrait is entirely untrustworthy. I won't repeat the discussion of Thomas More and torture, which has been done over and over again, but it is ridiculous to say that Thomas More was a) fussily pious and stiff-necked, b) with a penchant for self-punishment, and c) a misogynist to boot.

a) One man who hated fussy piety and stiff-necked religiosity was Desiderius Erasmas, and he loved Thomas More:

For I do not think, unless the vehemence of my love leads me astray, that Nature ever formed a mind more present, ready, sharpsighted and subtle, or in a word more absolutely furnished with every kind of faculty than his. Add to this a power of expression equal to his intellect, a singular cheerfulness of character and an abundance of wit, but only of the candid sort; and you miss nothing that should be found in a perfect advocate.

and from his written portrait of Thomas More

He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He abhors games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which most gentlemen kill time. Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries. When a youth he both wrote and acted some small comedies. If a retort is made against himself, even without ground, he likes it from the pleasure he finds in witty repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing epigrams when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. Indeed, it was he who pushed me to write the "Praise of Folly," that is to say, he made a camel frisk.

In human affairs there is nothing from which he does not extract enjoyment, even from things that are most serious. If he converses with the learned and judicious, he delights in their talent; if with the ignorant and foolish, he enjoys their stupidity. He is not even offended by professional jesters. With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his own wife, he is full of jokes and banter.

No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever he sees others pleased.

Thomas More was not fussily pious and stiff-­necked--Erasmus would not have been his friend if he had been and More would have certainly been the target, not in on the joke, of The Praise of Folly.

b) Yes, Thomas More wore a hair shirt, fasted, used the discipline, and otherwise practiced self-denial. These are all common to saints who do rather extraordinary penance--but More kept those matters secret and did not flaunt or advertise them. Thomas Cromwell should not have known about it--there is that famous story about Thomas More's hair shirt peaking up under his outer garments and him stuffing it back out of sight, but otherwise, it was unknown. He gave his hair shirt to this daughter Meg just before his execution, meaning that he wore it in the Tower of London while he was preparing for death, natural or judicial, but did not want it revealed when he was taken for execution. Mantel's Cromwell perverts More's private penitential practices--and for a 21st century public that made the "50 shades" books best sellers, it's just too twisted that it now judges Thomas More as some sort of sado-masochist (torturing both heretics and himself).

c) Thomas More was not a misogynist if that word has its usual meaning. Does a misogynist educate his daughters as well as his son and rejoice in one daughter's academic accomplishments? The relationship between Thomas More and his daughter Meg, depicted in John Guy's A Daughter's Love, puts the lie to Mantel's misogynistic More. More married the eldest Colt sister in spite of being in love with one of the younger--he thought of her feelings above his own. A misogynist does not do that. There is also the story of his father-in-law reminding his daughter Jane, that More could by rights punish her in ways other than teaching her to read and write, again demonstrating that More was unusual for his time in how he treated women. 

Why does Mantel pile on Thomas More so much? Is it because he is Catholic hero and saint? Aren't all of us, past and present, an inconsistent mixture of goodness and sinfulness? No one is perfect, not even Thomas Cromwell, yet Mantel's Cromwell seems to have all the postmodern virtues and Thomas More all the medieval vices (in the modern view). For Mantel to create such a caricature of Thomas More, especially in historical fiction where it has so much reach and influence, is both bad history and bad art.

I'm working on some interviews, presentations, and articles during the US broadcasts of the series on PBS in April/May; it's a good opportunity to explain what the Church means when she canonizes a saint and talk about the history of the English Reformation!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pope Francis on Benson's "The Lord of the World"

Pope Francis talked about more than rabbits on his flight back from the Philippines. He mentioned Robert Hugh Benson's The Lord of the World in the context of discussing "ideological colonization" when first world countries offer funds to third world countries with strings attached:

There is a book, excuse me but I'll make a commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization and wrote in that book. It is called "The Lord of the Earth," or "The Lord of the World." One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. I advise you to read it. Reading it, you'll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization.

What Pope Francis is referring to is really the claims of secularization to create a perfect society imposed on the world. Pope Francis has referred to Benson's futuristic novel before, as Frances Philips of The Catholic Herald noted in 2014. She then cites Monsignor Robert Barron's analysis on Benson's novel:

Barron writes that it is the story “of the cataclysmic struggle between a radically secularist society and the one credible alternative to it, namely the Catholic Church.” Some people bridle at this claim, yet it is significant that innumerable converts cite it as the single most important reason for their conversion to the Church.

Barron points out that it is impressive that Benson “saw as clearly as he did the dangerous potential of the secularist ideology. By this I mean the view that this world, perfected and rendered convenient by technology, would ultimately satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.” Benson’s bleak vision shows the “anti-Christ” – a charismatic personage called Julian Felsenburgh – winning all his battles against the Church with deadly efficiency, except for the final confrontation which takes place, not surprisingly, at Megiddo, “sometimes called Armageddon.”

Then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger also urged his listeners at a speech in 1992 to read The Lord of the World in response to then President George H.W. Bush's talk of a "New World Order", saying that Benson's book depicted "a similar unified civilization and its power to destroy the spirit. The anti-Christ is represented as the great carrier of peace in a similar new world order.".

Father John McCloskey offers an introduction to the book and its author here. Although there are many reprints available, you can also read it online here.

Blessed William Patenson, priest and martyr

According to the Tyburn Convent:

He was a native of Durham and became an alumnus and priest of Douai College during its residence at Rheims, and was sent on the English mission a year after his ordination. He came to London to seek counsel in order to rid himself of the scruples of conscience with which he was troubled. On the third Sunday in Advent, 1591, the house where he was staying was searched by constables and churchwardens and sidesmen of the Protestant Parish Church with the object of finding which of the inmates did not attend the services. Father Patenson was seized and condemned at the first session held after Christmas. The night before his execution he was put into the “condemned hole” with seven malefactors who were to suffer with him on the following day. He converted six of them and helped them to make their peace with God. The persecutors were so enraged at the profession of the Catholic Faith they made on the scaffold, and the constancy with which they accepted an ignominious death in satisfaction for their past crimes, that the Martyr was treated with more than usual barbarity.

Since execution by hanging, drawing, and quartering was already pretty barbarous, that last statement makes me wonder. He was probably fully conscious after they hanged him and the butchery afterwards must have been done as roughly as possible. Father Patenson was martyred on January 22, 1592 and beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Tyburn Convent updated their website in 2013.