Sunday, September 21, 2014

William Oddie on Next Year's Interment of the Catholic Richard III as an Anglican Protestant

William Oddie at The Catholic Herald outlines the reasons for regretting that Richard III isn't to be buried in a Catholic church with a Catholic Mass and prayers for the dead:

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.

It may of course be that relations are not as calm as they appear on the surface. Is it my imagination, or has there, in fact, been some behind the scenes discord over all this? The reinterment will take place in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as though Richard had been rendered posthumously protestant. Cardinal Nichols, so far as I can see, will not be present. Was he asked? This is what the Cardinal had to say about the whole thing: “The death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was a decisive moment in English history. Following his death, Richard III was buried in the Franciscan Friary in Leicester, and his body lay in its grave until it was discovered in 2012. It is now fitting that his remains should be reinterred with dignity and accompanied by the prayers of the Church in Leicester Cathedral, the mediaeval parish church of Leicester. We commend all who have died to the love and mercy of Almighty God, and continue to pray for them, as we shall for Richard III and all who have lost their lives in battle.”

Now, this is strangely worded, considering who wrote it. “The death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485”, says the Cardinal “was a decisive moment in English history”. Well obviously: but why was it so decisive? Because it placed on the throne the dynasty which renounced papal authority and made it illegal to pray for the departed; which invented the Church of England with all its doctrinal baggage; and which inaugurated a persecution of English Cathoiics which lasted at least four hundred years and which in some ways (though much milder) still persists. The Battle of Bosworth wasn’t just “decisive”: from a Catholic perspective, it was catastrophic. The reinterment of Richard III by a protestant archbishop may be considered to be a triumphal demonstration of how firmly in place still is the anti-Catholic ascendancy that Bosworth made possible.

Perhaps we should view this as a re-set from Father Tomlinson's more hopeful view yesterday--Catholics and the English Catholic past are still so very foreign in England--and the Ordinariate has a lot of work to do!

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