THE PAPACY has long respected the hereditary principle and it happily, and innocently, recognises the remarkable debt that English Catholics owe to the Norfolk family.
At a time of social insecurity in the 19th century, when Catholicism was emerging from under the penal laws, the fact that the premier Duke chose to be a Catholic was a solid comfort to the insecure.
It has lately been noticed that the 18th Duke, with his own money, built three great churches, all of which have been made into cathedrals for new dioceses.
There is the one at Arundel
dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Philip Howard (an ancestor.) which was built in 1873 and became a cathedral 13 years ago.
There is the church of St John in Norwich which became the cathedral of the diocese of East Anglia in 1976. And the same, prodigiously bearded, proud and austere Duke built the church of St Marie in Sheffield, which is likely to become the cathedral of a new diocese of Hallam and Axholme in south-west Yorkshire.
The strange thing is that they are all major works of art of their time.
The Vatican has long paid special honour to this family, and the late Duke used to represent the King in St Peter's from time to time.
Recently the present Duke headed the appeal for a million pounds for the restoration and preservation of Westminster Cathedral. This sum has been achieved and the Duke, who is not of the stuff of which figureheads are made, played a bold and dominating role in this appeal.
Last month Miles, Duke of Norfolk, with his brother Michael, Lord Fitzalan Howard, who is Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, and a large party of relations and in-laws were received with a special papal affection. This is what the Pope said to one whom the Vatican regard as a special representative of this country's adherents to the Old Faith: It is a great joy for us this morning to receive you and your family. In you we greet the distinguished descendant of Saint Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, whom we ourself canonised among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
In you we honour the noble Catholic traditions of your beloved land. and the resolve of your family and all your fellowCatholics to he faithful to the precious heritage of faith transmitted by your ancestors. For all of you, this audience takes place today under the sign of Fidelity to Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Church. We give thanks to God for the achievements of the past. We pray that all of you will continue the worthy traditions of your family, which has been so. closely linked to this See of Peter. And finally, we ask each of you to be ever faithful to the exhortation of Saint Paul: "Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:27). With Paternal affection we confirm our hopes with our special Apostolic Blessing, — Paulus, pavt.
Blunder by a Bishop
THE LORD Bishop of Winchester is one of the Lords Spiritual of England. Many of his predecessors ran the country as Chancellors of the King.
His bishopric used to be the richest in the kingdom. It has been held by a fascinating gallimaufry of saints, statesmen, reformers, crooks and nonentities. His cathedral is the longest north of the Alps, and his palace is one of the top architectural splendours of England but the contemporary equivalent of a hair-shirt with class implications to live in.
The present incumbent signs his name t John Winton. He is John Taylor, a former secretary of the Church Missionary Society, He is of the currently dominant evangelical lot, which means that his Anglicanism is carefully unadorned, based upon the bare fundamentals of Holy Scripture and cuts down on the comforts and luxuries of religion like an Irish curate and the whiskey bottle.
This is a good man who would carry any other man's cross if it would help. This is a man who is overwhelmed and humbled and made ill by the demands of his office. This is a man who is awkward and a bit rigid, and we have the same though different sort ourselves. They are not the glory, but they are the backbone of the Church.
I write all this because I think he has done a fearful thing. It is not the fact of the matter that matters, but the fact that he has done it at all. He has made a symbolically dreadful gesture, and it can only be excused by a plea of culpable ignorance. The fact that the point at issue is almost laughably obscure does not matter. It concerns the Trinity, which is the most exquisite formulation that ever men put into words and ideas, and it really could not have been done without the Holy Spirit.
14is smouldering, hand-made ecclesiastical Molotov cocktail is about the Moque clause in our Creed. He wants to drop it to placate the Orthodox. It was inserted in the Latin Creed about AD 1000. It was approved at the Council of NieceConstantinople about AD 700.
It concerns the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the difference. between Homonslon and Hornoinsion and not one in a hundred thousand Christians knows what it is about.
An Archbishop of Liverpool called Heenan, looking bewildered, once told me not to concern myself with such matters. The matter once broke the body of Christendom into two, and I don't mean the trivialities of Luther.
The Bishop of Winchester wrote in his letter to his people: "Hundreds of years ago it was inserted by the Church of Western Europe (into the Nicene Creed) into the section on the Holy Spirit after the words proceeding from the Father'.
"This was done without proper consultation with the Churches of the East, which we call Orthodox, and this action contributed very largely to the split which has existed between the Catholic and the Orthodox ever since, "It is proposed that, as a small step of appreciation and understsnding towards the Orthodox, the Churches of the Anglican Communion should drop the words 'and the Son' from their recitation of the Creed in any revised form of the Holy Communion." As a "small step of appreciation" it will not in the least impress the Orthodox. They are already appalled at the idea of ladies celebrating at the altar.
And there is the fact that, hold out their arms never so long, the Orthodox in their own profound domestic disunity will continue to hate Rome and to be indifferent, through courteous to Canterbury for the humanly foreseeable future. It is not the idea of what the bishop is doing that matters; it is the fact that he should treat one of the most exquisite and delicate conceptions of Christianity as a counter, like Danzig, to be thrown away at a negotiating table. And we all know what that led to.
Deliberations on date of Easter
LAST week in Parliament, Mr Michael Shersby (C, Uxbridge) asked Dr Shirley Summerskill, Home Office Under Secretary, to have fresh talks with the Churches about the operation or the Easter Act 1928, which with legal omnipotence suggested a fixed date.
Dr Summerskill replied that successive governments had formed the view that there was a wide gap among the Churches on the issue. Clearly Dr Summerskill was out of her considerable depth but, despite the fact that she once soundly defeated my father in a Parliamentary election, no blame attaches to her.
In its day the question of an acceptable date for Easter has caused heresy, schism, national neuroses, eccentricity and death.
Mr Shersby was tramping through thickets of Christianity as if they were as plain as politics. He jested that 50 years of consultation were long enough even by ecumenical standards.
In the year 325 the Council of Nicea decided that Easter should be on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the full moon which occurs after the Spring Equinox. Rome set this equinox on 21 March. Other cities decided otherwise.
Rome decided that the calculations should be made according to the tables of Victorius of Aquitaine. This decision came when Britain was no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire and the Celtic Church kept a different date and had to be called to heel with Petrine thunders at the Synod of Whitby.
This is one occasion on which the Jews can be fairly blamed. They anciently kept a lunar year of 354 days, An antercalary year was occasionally inserted quite arbitrarily by the Sanhedrin so that the first fruits could be presented in a reasonably fresh condition.
It is quite impossible to insert this date into Julius Caesar's calendar of 46 BC, and so our Easter reels between March 22 and April 25. Pope Gregory XIII corrected this calendar in 1582, changing October 5 to the 15th.
Faint, but pursuing Protestant England conformed in 1699 and made September 3 into the 15th. This led to the interesting "give us hack our eleven days" riots. The Eastern Churches did not accept the Gregorian changes, and anyway use a calendar of the Emperor Justinian.
Christ is thought to have died on the 14th (or 15th) of Nisan, the first month. He therefore rose on the 17th (or 18th). He died on the eve of the Sabbath at the time of the Passover.
At the Second Vatican Council the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stated that the Church "had no objection if the feast of Easter were assigned to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian Calendar provided that those it may concern, especially the Brethren who are not in communion with the Holy See, agree," The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His All Holiness Demetrios 1, has said that a common date awaited only on the agreement of a PanOrthodox Congress.
The Church has always taught that the date of Easter is primarily a matter • of ecclesiastical discipline and not of astronomical science. April 9 seems the favoured date for the celebration of that day somewhere in AD 30 which utterly dominates all Christianity. If Dr Summerskill got Pius, Coggan and Carter quietly to agree — and it would not be impossible — the rest of the would would gradually conform and her fame, despite what she did to my father, would rest quite close to that of Caesar, Justinian, Gregory and a maddening ecclesiastical mathematician who keeps cropping up called Dionysius Exigu us.
Church without warm welcome
THE PARISHIONERS of the St Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale, Arizona, have decided to turn off the central heating of their church during the week. (I thought Arizona had that perfect climate to which people with diseased lungs made their way.) The money saved is to go to pay for more hot meals for needy visitors to the St Vincent de Paul Charity Dining Room in Phoenix. Fine. They are going to turn the heating up only for weddings and funerals. That is all I have been given to know.
But how many use the church during the week? How cold does it get? How long does it take to get the heat heating? (Ours takes at least 12 hours.) Do they baptise in the cold or keep the babies for Sunday Mass? How much do they save? Will the violent changes in temperature do to the Stations of the Cross what the climate of Washington: DC, did to my furniture?
Who was St Maria Goretti anyway? How do needy visitors gee to Phoenix? Do many perish in the desert or on the road? Are they illegal immigrants or worse?
Do they drink to excess? What is the parish bank balance? (It's not secret in the United States.) Why do they call it a "charity" dining room? Does it keep the numbers down? What's for lunch?
The mind of the trained journalist and foreign correspondent not only boggles easily — for it is paid to do so — but it is keenly.aware of the essentials.