Quae Sunt Dei

The King’s majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other of his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction … We give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments … but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all Godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoer … The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

Article XXXVII.

But we would say a word more on the history of this anomaly. The origin of the Anglican jurisdiction, like the origin of the Anglican order, was the accident of Queen Elizabeth’s illegitimacy. Cardinal Pole had, in Queen Mary’s reign, absolved the nation from schism and heresy, and restored it to the communion of the Church. But Queen Elizabeth, compelled by her illegitimacy, tore the nation once more from Catholic unity; risking her own soul, and the souls of her subjects, in order that she might reign forty years. So reluctant was the nation to return to schism, that a packed parliament could only secure a small majority of three in favor of the apostate oath of royal supremacy; all the bishops, the universities, the whole body of Catholic clergy, and all the laity who dared to speak their mind, protesting against the hideous impiety. Thus it was by act of parliament alone that the ancient faith, the ancient hierarchy, the ancient liturgy were swept away, and the present doctrines, rites, and ceremonies of the new Church were established as parliamentarily sound. It is just here that jurisdiction and holy order seem to contend for the mastery in confusion. Six of Elizabeth’s theologians being consulted as to the validity of the new orders, gave it as their opinion that “in a case of such urgent necessity the queen possessed the power of supplying every defect through the plenitude of her ecclesiastical authority as head of the Church.” In other words, these Protestant theologians maintained the perfectly original theory that true jurisdiction being wanting for the new order, a false jurisdiction must be pronounced true. The new order, they said, is certainly equivocal; we admit that it is not in the least like Catholic order; but, as we have thrown over the pontiff’s jurisdiction, which could alone decide the question authoritatively, one alternative alone remains to us: we must affirm that the queen’s jurisdiction is more divine than the pontiff’s jurisdiction; so that the queen can henceforth teach the pontiff, rebuke the pontiff, even anathematize him, “in the plenitude of her ecclesiastical authority as head of the Church.” And if it be replied, “Yes, this was the attitude of Elizabeth, but so far only as the Church of England was concerned,” our answer is: You first create a new national church, in the teeth of the opposition of the whole nation, episcopal, sacerdotal, and lay—excepting only the small crowd of powerful worldlings who had become enriched by the spoils of the Catholic Church—and having done this, you say that the new jurisdiction remained as restricted as the new church. This may be perfectly true as a political fact, but it is none the less an apostacy and an absurdity. It is an apostacy because you make the fount of all spiritual jurisdiction to be insular, civil, and lay; and it is an absurdity because you affirm of the lesser that it can rule, and ought to rule, the greater. You take from God the things which are God’s, and you give them to any turbulent Caesar. You make a civil and a lay power to sit in judgment on a divine sacrament (for not even Henry VIII., before or after his excommunication, denied that holy order was a divine sacrament), and you give to an island queen the power to “supply all deficiencies in the acts done by them” (her bishops), “or in the person or state, or faculty of any of them; such being the necessity of the case and the urgency of the time”; a power which never was claimed by any pontiff, and which every pontiff would have repudiated as an impiety. Thus you invert every process of common sense. You admit that it must belong to a divinely appointed jurisdiction to decide on faith, worship, and holy order, and yet affirm that it belongs to a queen or to a parliament to create that same divine jurisdiction whenever the “urgency of the time or the necessity of the case” seems to call for such spasmodic creation. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are God’s” is the new Anglican reading of the divine command. To pontifically define what is divine jurisdiction, and then to more than pontifically create it, was that Anglican assumption which accompanied the creation of a new church, a new faith, a new religion. Well might Montalembert say: “The Church of England was one of the most awful forms of sin and pride that has ever appeared in the world.” All other forms of heresy had been based on the assumption that divine authority had misinterpreted a divine truth; but Elizabethanism was based on the assumption that the civil power could create divine authority, and could then license this divine authority to teach whatever truths were most agreeable to its tastes or its ease.

A. F. Marshall, B. A. (Oxon.), The Correlation of Order and Jurisdiction, The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XX. April, 1895. No. 78.

Never-Realised Colonial Episcopacy

Thomas Secker, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (died 1792); National Portrait Gallery, London.
Thomas Secker, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (died 1792); National Portrait Gallery, London.

All members of every Christian church are, according to the principles of liberty, entitled to every part of what they conceive to be the benefits of it, entire and complete, so far as consistent with the welfare of civil government. Yet the members of our Church in America do not there enjoy its benefits, having no Protestant bishop within 3,000 miles of them — a case which never had its parallel before in the Christian world. Therefore it is desired that two or three bishops be appointed for them, to reside where His Majesty may think most convenient; that they may have no concern in the least with any persons who do not profess themselves to be of the Church of England, but may ordain ministers for such as do, may confirm their children, and take such oversight of the episcopal clergy as the Bishop of London’s commissaries in those parts have been empowered to take, and have taken, without offence.

Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Jonathan Mayhew, 1764.

This Virgin Alone in Ireland

The bishop (Mel) being intoxicated with the grace of God there did not recognise what he was reciting from his book, for he consecrated Brigit with the orders of a bishop.  “This virgin alone in Ireland”, said Mel, “will hold the Episcopal ordination.”  While she was being consecrated a fiery column ascended from her head.

— From an anonymous Life of St. Brigid, Bethu Brigte, Chapter XIX.

* * *

Now, I must admit, this passage is a very hard one for me.  Unlike many, I take literally and historically many of the early Lives of Irish and Scottish saints.  In most cases, I see no reason not to.  For example, in St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, there is not a single episode that I find fantastic or chiefly allegorical; I read it as a recounting of true events in the lives of Columba and those who, through his intercession, were saved.  So the notion that St. Brigid received true episcopal ordination at the hands of St. Mel is a frightening prospect, as it is an act the Church now believes Herself unable to work.

At this time in Scotia and Alba, under the Columban monastic system, while there were bishops, they do not seem to have reigned over towns or dioceses and it was the great abbots and abbesses who had the primacy.

Now we are told in this passage that, not only did St. Brigid receive the outward signs of episcopal ordination, but that there was an heavenly approbation in the column of fire that rose from her head.  Further, Bishop Mel refers to the holy virgin as having received the order of a bishop.

So, what does this mean?  Is the passage simply an hyperbolic burst of enthusiasm on the part of the writer (or those who passed on the story)?  Did the event occur?  If it did, what spiritual effect might it have had on this woman?  Was she indeed consecrated bishop?

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

I have often wondered how the Modernists, in the light of history, can defend their gutted liturgical rites as truly Catholic with a straight face.  When, in the XVI century, the handlers of Edward VI had the altars pulled down and replaced with Cranmer tables, toppled and smashed the images of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the saints, destroyed the rood screens and any sense of definition to the Sanctuary; when the Church of England eviscerated the Ordinal, commanded the use of the vernacular language in the Liturgy, invited communicants to enter the chancel and sit around the table for the Lord’s Supper, a eucharistic rite purged of all references to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; when they allowed communion under both species and reception of the Bread in the hand, and all but eliminated the Sacrament of Penance — all this was called heresy and schism.

But, when the Modernists foisted each of these innovations on the Catholic Church during and after the Second Vatican Council, it was termed aggiornamento!  This leads me to wonder: if the first Anglican Ordinal was so defective as to render Anglican Orders “absolutely null and utterly void,” how are we to be certain that the similar Ordinal of the New Rite truly makes priests?