THOSE who opposed the definition of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council did not do so because they could not credit his infallibility but because they considered the timing of the declaration "inopportune".
In fact all the prelatical opponents of the definition except two were careful to leave Rome and go home before the essential vote was taken.
Of the two who stayed to vote against the definition, one was Bishop Fitzgerald of Little Rock, Arkansas, that overheated town where President Eisenhower forced a high school, with paratroopers and fixed bayonets to accept black pupils, and where people are respectable, rich in good works and poor in imagination. But I admire the bishop. Ile at once left his place in the transept of St Peter's and submitted.
But this fine Roman sort of word is being heard again. "Inopportune" concerns, of course, the ordination of women.
In 1975 the General Synod of the Church of England decided that there was no fundamental objection to the ordination of women, but that really it was inopportune to bring up the matter.
The bishops are going to raise it again in the 1978 Synod, and by then the I.ambeth Conference, which is a meeting of the whole Anglican Cornmunion, will have met in Canada and they may have a consensus. No, they won't. It really is infernally difficult. There are women priests in the United States, Canada and Hongkong. Australia and New Zealand are rollicking towards female ordinations. An American female priest, the Rev Alison Palmer, has already twice celebrated the Eucharist in parish churches in England.
It looks as if the two rather baroquely talkative clergymen who invited her are not to be disciplined anyway. But, goodness, I wish they would decently moderate their religious prose.
There is even talk that if subordinations become a general practice, there may be a schism within that Church. It would be shocking for any Catholic to feel any glee at such a prospect. And 1 confess I rather liked the look of the good lady in her broad stole and surplice caught in the act of the Great Doxology by the Press photographers.
And they were not there by accident. People who want people to know, who wish to trail their copes, ask such people to attend. And they were allowed to take close-ups at the altar.
But the first result of such ordinations is going to be a severe setback to the ecumenical movement. Roma has certainly locqaara, but I cannot be absolutely certain that this particular cause is finite if you see what I mean.
But the reaction of the Orthodox has been pretty traumatic. The Anglicans have a splendid Bishop of St Albans, Dr Robert Runcie, who is cochairman of the AnglicanOrthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission, an opaque version of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission which, in its turn, suffers badly from clarity.
1 know he has found his Orthodox brethren horrified at the prospect of female priests. In the game of ecclesiatical snakes and ladders we are all playing with our different Corn
munions, he has been put hack almost to the square at the bottom left-hand corner of the board.
Not that the Orthodox, except for some lay intellectuals, are very deeply involved emotionally or spiritually in any form of real union.
l'atriarch Pimen in Moscow (I have to give up apologising for the mis-spelling of such names) clearly thought that the Anglicans had bowled a bouncer in bringing that one up.
Archbishop Athenagoras, who heads the Orthodox in England and who owes allegiance to Constantinople, said of the Anglican move that the ordination of women was an "invention."
He also said "every invention causes trouble" and by that he did not mean sliced bread or ball-point pens. He meant the creative development of tradition, changes in Church discipline and the definitions of dogmas by Rome.
The really frantic propaganda for women priests seems to come from American nuns who really can be collector's items, mixing up contemplation with a sort of discipline and charity once connected with the English upper classes in Ireland, with Women's Lib, and with girls called Jennifer at gymkhanas.
They have been sending out "funny money" propaganda in the form of $l bills. They have a picture of St Theresa of the Child Jesus in place of the augustitude of George Washington.
The bills are printed in money-coloured green. You are meant to put them in the church plate. They have on them, as well as the biological symbols of male and female, the inelegant legend: "To encourage the Church to celebrate the gifts and calls of women equally with those of men in all ministries, I am withholding one dollar from this collection I have contributed to." The bread-basket is the new theological target.
St Theresa is described as a woman who wanted to become a priest. Charterhouse having done just a little reading on the subject offers its solemn advice to keep out of this controversy. Whatever happened to obedience?
Of course, it is none of my business. And I personally will not reply to any saintly or waspish ladies avid for the priesthood. I just don't know! But there are times, especially now, when I do wish people would leave well enough alone.
Game of the name
FURTHER to the problem of not being able to put a name to a face, I have had some advice from a Mrs O'Rourke of Shrewsbury. She seems to suffer the same inability to recall names that I do.
She suggests you say: "I'm so sorry, but I have forgotten your name." If the person replies by giving his or her Christian name, you say quickly: "Oh, 1 know that as well as my own. It's your surname I can't recall."
And, of course, this could work the other way round. But, really, there is no cure for this disease.
Strand church reeks of Rome
A GREAT Scotsman was born near Aberdeen in 1682. He went to school in that city and then went to Rome to study architecture.
This was James Gibbs. He had a large practice in England. Most of his country houses have been pulled down, but he built Derby Cathedral, which is an open and cheerful church.
He built the great rotunda of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, which is a majestic centrepiece to one of the most enchanting squares in Europe.
He also built the silvery Senate House in Cambridge, which without being pompous is one of the most joyouslooking buildings in England much too good to act as a
backdrop for the demonstrations of overprivileged undergraduates being rude to visiting dignitaries.
But he also built the great Church of St Martin-in-theFields in Trafalgar Square, the church of St Mary-le-Strand and the tower of St Clement Danes. All lie on the processional route from the Palace to St Paul's Cathedral.
Come to think of it, if the Queen stopped to say a prayer at every church on her way to the City, she'd never get anywhere at least on this earth!
St Mary-le-Strand has now put out an appeal a pretty urgent one. Its sides its front has been cleaned up are literally black with corrosive soot. Its stone is diseased and must be replaced.
Thomas Becket used to he a lay rector of a church close by. There used to be a maypole in the Strand here once and the first cab-rank ever was started on the site of the church in 1634.
It cost .£16,341, in 1717, to build, which was a great deal of money for a comparatively small church. But it is a sumptuous little building, of the High Renaissance and, if you will allow the expression, it reeks of Rome, particularly its side elevations and its ltalianate ceiling.
its interior fittings are. of course, decently Anglican. Some idiot reformer took out its box pews in which a burgher could once decently dose away the sermon or pray unostentatiously into his hat. In fact Gibbs must have been one of the most influential architects ever. Whenever a rich and respectable American parish wanted to put up a church, whether in New England or the Deep South, they used to use a variant of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
That is to say, they built a pillared portico, with a pediment on it. And on the pediment they put a tower and steeple. Such a conception is really an architectural solecism. But it has been used wherever the English versions of Protestantism have flourished. The odd thing is that Gibbs, at least in theory, was a Catholic. But I do not think he allowed this to interfere with his career.
Bitten priest forgives Satan
I READ that something dreadful has happened in Sidcup in Kent. Fr Robin Duckworth has been bitten by a dog, the dog was called Satan, and I bet the good priest is heartily sick of the story by now.
Fr Duckworth was clearing up after a do at St Lawrence's Church. The police brought their Alsatian along to see what was going on: nothing, except for a 32-year-old priest doing layman's work.
Father gave the dog a friendly pat and the dog, trained to he aggressive though not to respect the cloth, hit him in the face.
The police said the priest had been warned and that "the result was only natural." Fr Duckworth has forgiven Satan, and the police-dog handler. Another agonising triumph for the Christian way, and a nice work-out for Satan.
Missals in retirement
SOME TIME ago the Catholic Herald received a query about what to do with old missals, Latin missals, Latin and English missals, "Gardens of the Soul'', outmoded breviaries, Mass books for the altar, various ordinals and rituals.
Most Catholic families and all presbyteries must have them around. There are several possi ble solutions. You could pack them all up and send them CoD to Archbishop Lefebvre. I do not think that would be quite nice.
You could burn them, but it is surprisngly difficult to get a book to burn properly.You could leave them by accident on purpose in a church and let the priest cope, but that would be less than kind.
The Jews have a law that the Scrolls of the Law must never he destroyed. They go to heroic lengths to try to save them in cases of fire or persecution. But we have no such prohibition.
You cannot really put them in the dustbin. Personally I have kept all mine and my father's. They make a dignified line on my bookshelves. They remind
me of my youth. I use them sur
prisingly often as works of reference. They are in dignified retirement.
No one's house is so crowded with books that he cannot give an honoured place to such works. But it is certain that there is no point in keeping them on the grounds they will come hack into use sonic day. A large number of them are in themselves singularly handsome works of printing. I would suggest nothing drastic: honourable retirement with an occasional affectionate dusting,