By Patrick O'Donovan
THAT ACE investigative reporter — the Nigel Dempster of the Order of Saint Benedict — Dom Alberic Stackpole, OSB, edits an ecclesiastical scandal sheet called The Ampleforth Journal. I am told intellectuals admire it too.
If there are more references to the Black Monks than are
quite decent in this paper, which prides itself upon its universality, that is just too bad, and if you cannot guess the reason why, that is also just too bad too).
But the things they get up to there! Lecturing in York Minster, singing in Westminster Abbey, writing in The Times, dying, becoming Cardinals, appearing on television, being madly ecumenical, retiring to hermitages — nothing escapes the eagle eye of that fearless cub reporter Stackpole. In the latest edition of his mag he has this sensational item: "ARTHUR FRENCH (0 51) has been crossing swords on legal matters with PATRICK O'DONOVAN (W, 37) in the Catholic Herald over the office of Lord Chancellor who, till the 1974 Tenure of Office and Discharge of Ecclesiastical Functions Act, was debarred from holding the Catholic or any other Faith except the Anglican.
"A few years ago, noticing that Sir Peter Rawlinson, Mr Heath's Attorney-General and an Old Gregorian, stood debarred from the Lord Chancellor's office, he approached the Labour Lord Chancellor, Gerald Gardiner, who suggested that a friendly non-Catholic peer should be asked to introduce a private Bill in the Lords.
"Lord Hailsham, a former Lord Chancellor himself, oblig ed — but so quietly that not even so Catholic a champion of such rights as Patrick O'Donovan noticed."
True enough, and I did make the mistake in no other new spaper but this. However, Cousin Arthur only wrote one a firm but charitable letter. How could this Demon Benedictine have found out? Where will this end?
Incidentally, I see that the school has a new society which calls itself "The Country House Set" and, judging by their listed names, they are. Actually, they only go around looking at country houses. And since I am still bemused by my journalistic rush through Woburn, I give them my blessing.
This fearful monk, who is also a friend in a wary sort of way, seems to be one of its founders. I think T have won this little encounter. It is not the first: I suspect it will not be the last. Someone from That Place, I am told, once said of me that I'd never make a scholar, but I might just make a journalist.
And by the way, those esoteric figures after the name of me and Arthur refer to the houses we were in at Ampleforth: 0 stands for Oswald and W for Wilfred, a house of which I was head and whose housemaster profoundly distrusted me. Not for nothing is my name misspelt on the list of house monitors painted up in the refectory.
And now I think I am One Up on the Godly Gossipist, The figures after the curious initials of eccentric English Saints stand for the year in which we left the place or were piously expelled.
Last chance of a lifetime
IT IS POSSIBLE that you wonder why there are so many references to the United States in Chartcrhouse. There are several reasons. One is that the Church there runs a genuinely brilliant news agency which has the rare capacity of so laughing at its subjects that you cannot be quite certain if they are being serious. I pinch a lot from them.
Then there are certain Catholic magazines like the one called America which are superb. And after living several years in Washington I still have one dear and Catholic American friend. From time to time she sends me little gems of Americana.
1 liked her one from the outside of a Methodist Church in Dumbarton Oaks, which is a part of Georgetown, which is where the most powerful men in the world — outside of Moscow — live in small and antique houses almost as if they had retired to some small town in Hampshire. This one said: "Come in and have your Faith lifted."
May I quote this riveting piece from the Washington Post which, if you remember, was the paper that brought President Nixon down.
I print the story as it ran, and rely on old friends there not to sue me for breaking copyright. It is written with admirable restrain by Susan Antigone and 1 did not even have to make up that name. It seems: "The Layhill Community Free Methodist Church sign is missing. The Rev Wayne Lawton, 40, pastor of the church at 1,900 Bonifant Road, Silver Spring, discovered its disappearance last Friday.
"The story began two months ago when Lawton repainted the Layhill Church sign to read "Layhill Ch ch" and beneath that the question: What's missing?" The gimmick, Lawton admits, was to put the church in the public eye in order to increase membership from the 60 to 70 families now attending services.
"The idea of using signs in order to attract the attention of people passing by began about five years ago when Lawton became pastor of the Layhill Church.
"He said: 'We need a parking lot and the dirt to build it. I put Up a sign that read "This church needs dirt" and we got 500 truckloads.'
"Later another sign attracted a bulldozer to level the ground. In order to attract members Lawson once displayed a sign that read 'This church needs people' but there wasn't much of a response."
The Editor of the Catholic Herald insists upon offering a prize to the last person who can write in and supply the missing letters. The prize will be a one way ticket to the Sinai desert, This, in the United States, is called "open-ended". In England it might be described as a package tour, the package being quite empty.
From our book of memories
SOMEONE going through the old files in the Catholic Herald has come up with some cards which I suspect are somewhat out of date.
There is the address and telephone number of the chairman of Harrods Catholic Society.
Under Hair Shirts, there is the news that these are not stocked, but can be made to order by the house of Van Heems at 47 Berners Street, London, WI. This, of course, is the shop which clothes monks and curates. Prelates and Norman St John-Stevas get their kit at Gamarelli in Rome. There are the essential details of the Henry VI Society and, under Horses, those of the Blue Cross Horse Protection Fund, and that seems to include Our Dumb Friends' League.
There is the Guild of Priests' Housekeepers and — judging from a letter I got lately — it is, or was, a very necessary organisation. Almost no provision is made for retired priests' housekeepers.
This letter was really rather a cr1 de coeur. We are not any longer a generous laity. That generosity seems to have died out with the grinding and ground-down poverty of the working classes. Priests do have homes for the elderly, although they are referred to by priests as "dogs' homes". There is nothing for housekeepers.
Under Norway, the card says "Friday abstinence is observed, but not very vigorously. If travelling, living with or visiting non-Catholics, no need to abstain. Very few holy days. St Peter and Paul is not one."
There are the Perseverantes, who are lay Catholics who recite the Divine Office. There is the Association of the Philangeli. There is the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. In Ireland they are the people who wear little badges of the Sacred Heart in their lapels.
Once in West Cork, I went into a bar and found it full of them — well away. And it's no good writing to me to say that this is not true. Irishmen who wear little gold rings in their lapels are not proclaiming their sobriety, but the fact that they can speak Irish. On the whole it is important not to get them confused.
There is the Pilgrims' Catholic Scooter Club, the Royal Stuart Society, the Legion of St Pius X. The card about Poles says "see attached list". There is none. The list of exiled organisations in fact is long, intolerable and utterly unfunny. But under "Woollens" there is the Deshury Demolitions Ltd and it goes on: 1/3 per pound, any weight, cash return by post. A good dash of Faith of our Fathers there 1
Architect of disaster
IT WOULD NOT be true to suggest that the British greatly mourned the death of the Metropolitan Makarios of Cyprus. It was not so much that he had wrested freedom from us in a small civil war of peculiar nastiness, or that he had made fools of our politicians, or that he played footsie with Moscow: it was that he was a cleric.
Now the English do not like to see officers walking about in uniform in the streets, and they do not like their prelates to dominate politics. And since the murderous execution of Archbishop Laud, none has tried to do it.
When the present Archbishop of Canterbury suggested active and practical sanctions against that bloodstained clown in Uganda it left a faint and ancestral unease.
Of course this is to forget the vast role in politics that prelates like Archbishop Becket and the Cardinals Beaufort, Morton and Wolsey and Pole once played. But really Makarios could hardly have behaved any other way. Cyprus is in a peculiar position. It first came under the Patriarchate of Antioch. But the Council of Ephesus gave it ecclesiastical independence in 431.
This was much disputed in that special Middle Eastern manner. But in the same century their doubtless saintly Archbishop discovered the body of the Apostle Barnabus. He, of course, was a native of the island. The discovery happened as a result of a vision. The body was found to be clutching a copy of St Mark's Gospel. Metropolitan Anthimus may have been holy; he was certainly fly. He sent the Apostle's remains to the Byzantine Emperor Zeno in Constantinople. In return, there was no more nonsense from Antioch, The Church of Cyprus became autocephalous. Its Metropolitan received the right to wear the Imperial purple, to carry a sceptre, and to sign his name in red ink.
I notice that some of the journalists at the last Commonwealth Conference thought it was rather vulgar of the Archbishop to use red ink. In fact its use was as grand and exclusive and ancient a use as that of a crown.
Also himself of Cyprus took precedence immediately after the five (or six, depending on your allegiance) great Apostolic Patriarchs.
The Cypriots very seldom got to rule themselves. The Latin Crusaders and their churchmen behaved abominably and once hanged 13 of their monks. The Catholics regarded them as wilful schismatics, and their bishops had to live in small villages.
It came about almost as a liberation when, in 1571, the island fell to the Turks. "Better the Turban than the Tiara."
Though it lasted well, the Turkish Empire was a ramshackle affair. They were ruthless, impatient and inefficient in everything but war. They lacked charm. The Greeks, in fact, became their best businessmen and civil servants. But they kept their Faith and culture, though not their cooking.
The Turkish Imperial technique was different from that of the British. in some ways it was almost tolerant. But they made the leaders of the various Greek communities responsible for the good behaviour of their people. So the Archbishop of Cyprus became the Ethnarch, the raceruler.
As late as 1821, four Greek bishops in Cyprus were executed for the rebellion of their people. A Patriarch of Constantinople was hanged at the entrance to his tiny cathedral courtyard. A top bishop in that world had to be wily and guileful and political and an acceptor of the vulgarities of secular political authority. The Greeks survived, and that was a drawn-out, centurieslong victory as real as that of Marathon. In fact the mainland Greeks also rather despised the Cypriots. There is no more reason for this than that Hampshiremen should look down on Yorkshiremen.
In fact, without hatred, Makarios performed his ancient dual role. Personally I do not think he was a sensitive or prudent politician.
He used to be strangely unworried about the condition of the Turkish minority or the
power of the Turkish mainland 40 miles away across the sea, He was bemused by the dream of the Christian Greeks, of The City and of its dreadful end by siege.
In Cyprus, you could tell when you were in a Turkish village because, like Catholic villages and farms in North Island, they looked poorer. The retribution that came for this neglect was terrible.
But then, ever since they won independence, the contempt of the Greeks for the Turks has been suicidal. Makarios' great legacy was not independence from a withered British Empire but a terribly divided island. The Monastery of St Barnabus — near, I think, Famagusta — was a pleasant place. The Church was large. The ikons uninteresting. The monastic buildings modern and elegant. The booths for food and semi-lethal drink in front of it were charming.
All the monks have moved out and the area is now Turkish. Whatever they pretend, the treatment by the common Muslims of a Christian Church which is at their mercy is so ugly and only to be forgiven by a sort of brute ignorance common in the Crusades.
And at that time it was the Osmanli Turks who showed the grace and (within bounds) mercy rather than did our Palladia Richard Coeur de Lion. I find the plight of Cyprus infinitely sad, but it was not pure aggression on the part of the Turks.
Makarios was one of the chief architects of the disaster. But he built the disaster for the most proud and holy motives.
A fearful accusation
A KINDLY CONVERT, in a letter, took me to task for not understanding "the working class" — a fearful accusation that might easily lead to my ending, distorted around the neck on a lamp-post. No, I do not understand the working class, nor do I understand Protanotaries Apostolic, or Regius Professors of History at Oxford, or politicians who chose to run for office because they liked office more than goodness, or people who despise journalists, or priests who quit the Church to get married, or Ulster Protestants of the more weird sort, or Archbishop Lefebvre, and least of all Fr Morgan of that poor good man's persuasion. Nor do I understand myself.
No man has a right to claim really to understand anything, except perhaps love or an account sheet.
I write this because lately and long I have seen priests in hospital helping the sick. The enchanting nurses, who arello better than anyone else and. some of whom even drink gin, welcome them.
Some sad Catholic patients fear the priests lest they come as a sort of presage of death. It looks the most deadly dull work there is. But of course it is the best thing a priest can do even better than giving alms to the poor. This is their job. I was put in my place by one recently when I suggested the job might be routine and dull and treadmill. One thinks of a politician with a live vote to gain. The good priest thinks of a soul to help or a very frightened person to save or a drugged creature to dignify. I have been most kindly treated in the past by the noblest of priests in hospital. I do not understand the working classes; it looks as if I do not understand the nature, the essential sacramental nature, of the priesthood. But then, only a very coarse man would ever say that he understood anything completely.
The mystery of the skull
I HAVE heard more about the mysterious skull found at Darrynane Abbey (or Derrynane), in Co Kerry. There seem to be two ways of spelling the place that was once the great Daniel O'Connell's country house.
The house, semi-ruinous, was taken over by a Save Derrynane Committee in 1949. The skull was then presented to the Franciscan Friary in Killarney.
It was presumed to be the skull of Francis O'Sullivan, Provincial of the Irish Franciscans. He was killed by Cromwellian soldiers on the nearby island of Scarriff in 1653.
The skull originally arrived about 1933 by registered post from England, but the name of the sender was never found. So no one can be quite certain of the identity.
The house is now in the care of the Irish Commissioners of Public Works. The local legend is that the friar was killed with a sword and not hanged in the conventional manner. If you just happen to know anything about it, you should write to Professor Maurice O'Connell at Western Lodge, Derrynane, Caherdaniel, Co Kerry.