BY GERARD NOEL.
A contrasting tale of two cardinals
LAST WEEK IN Rome in connection with the anniversaries of two English Cardinals a series of momentous events occurred in which I was privileged to be involved. They began last Sunday with a special Eucharist celebrated by Cardinal Hume at The English College; and ended on Wednesday with a private audience with the Pope. The two Cardinals in question were William Cardinal Allen (d. 1594) and Philip Cardinal Howard (d. 1694).
Those attending the Mass at the English College (The "Vencrahile") included a group from England made up of Fitzalan-Howard family members and friends. Cardinal Hume, in relaxed and excellent form, gave an excellent address.
We are sometimes told that Cardinal Allen co-founder of Rome's English College in its modern form represented those English Catholics who were forced to choose between loyalty to their religion and loyalty to "a state which equated Catholicism with treason and sought to destroy it". It was not, however, the "state" which for no good reason equated Catholicism with treason; it was, rather, Catholicism which, because of a specific directive of Pope Pius V, demanded treason (to the English state) as the test for fidelity to the Roman Church.
Had the Pope not taken this fateful step excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I and absolving Catholics from their allegiance to her things could have gone on as before, with Catholics in England quietly living their Catholic private lives unmolested by civil authority, provided they did not participate in active movements to destabilise the state and procure the overthrow of the Queen if necessary by murder and thus re-establish the Catholic religion in England by force, terror and subversion.
After the Pope's incitement for this to happen, a dozen years after Queen Elizabeth's accession the plots to overthrow the monarchy became increasingly daring and extreme. Had the Pope's dream been fulfilled, and the plots been successful, the entire House of Commons would have been blown up, and all its members massacred.
The attempt to do this was the climax in 1605 of a process of activism as we would now call it which would make the IRA outrages seem like children's games. They hid been planned by fanatical, but frustrated, Catholics after the failure of the original attempt to reimpose Roman Catholicism on England by force, namely in the wake of a triumphant invasion by the Spanish Armada (1588). This is where Cardinal Allen comes most prominently into the story.
This Cardinal was irrevocably committed to the anti English crusade of Catholic Spain, raised by Mary Tudor's husband King Philip IL He was created "Cardinal of England" in 1 587 in preparation for the invasion by the Armada. When, as was confidently expected, this invasion had been successful, Allen was to have been enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The English victory over the Armada, on the other hand, was one of the most famous of all our "island victories" and the English Fleet which destroyed the Spaniards was by supreme irony commanded by a Catholic and a lineal accession of the present Fitzalan-Howard family, Lord Howard of Effingham. It is strange, now, to recall that the failure of the Spanish Armada, the last plan to take over England until that of the Nazis in 1940, was described by Hilaire Belloc as "a black day for Europe." The other Cardinal being honoured, Howard, was of a different mould, as conditioned by a different period of history. His close friend, the Anglican Bishop of Salisbury wrote of him that "he retained all the sweetness of a friar (Howard being a Dominican) amidst all the dignity of the people." It is a description which applies strictly to our present Benedictine Cardinal, except that he is a monk rather than a friar.
Cardinal Howard restored and enlarged the English College and, despite financial controversies, admirably continued and strengthened the tradition of the presence in Rome of outstanding and locally popular personalities connected in some way with relationships between Britain and the Catholic Church. Notable among current such representatives are His Excellency, Andrew Palmer, British Ambassador to the Holy See, a charming and highly professional diplomat, whose second-in-command as Counsellor, Hugh Doherty does such a good job liaising with The Vatican; Mgr Brian Chestle of The Papal Household; The veteran Mgr Charles Burns of The Vatican Secret Archives; Mgr Adrian Toffolo, Rector of the English College; and Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, whose role as (the first-ever English) Master of the Dominicans is based in Rome but takes him almost continually all round the world. It was Fr Radcliffe who celebrated the week's principal liturgical act in memory of Cardinal Howard, with Mass at The Church of Santa Maria-sopra-Minerva.
The week's events were, as already mentioned, climaxed by a private audience with the Pope. The audience differed greatly from the two previous occasions I have personally experienced. The first of these was a private meeting in 1948 with Pope Pius X11 in his study at Castel Gandolfo, remarkable chiefly for its striking simplicity. The second, in the early seventies, soon after I had become editor of the Catholic Herald, was to present Pope Paul VI with a copy of my translation of a document relating to the Holy See and the Second World War. It took place in one of rather formal rooms of the main anti-camera area which is reached after entering The Vatican by the bronze door in St Peter's Square.
On this occasion, by contrast, we came into The Vatican by the "back-door" at St Anne's Gate and so alighted at an entrance with almost direct access to the Papal apartments. The Pope looked . amazingly well. His spirit is indomitable. It was a moving experience to speak to him for a few moments, and look into his eyes, at this precise moment of history. In the best Italian I could muster on the spur of the moment, I simply said: "The whole world is praying for Your Holiness." t