Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sic Transit Benedict (inter caetera)

We know that some readers have been troubled by the non-appearance of a letter from Plumstead, worrying that we had been silenced by Royal Charter. Do not be afraid: for us the carnival is not over (though taking in the Church of England the more vernacular form of the Feast of Fools) and we will continue to tell you what to think abut the great issues of Church and State.

Not that the events of the last month or so seem to call for any additional comment. We see that the Archbishop of Canterbury regards his new charge as an extension of MI6 (or perhaps vice versa) - but readers here knew that already. Proposals for the amalgamation of the dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield and Ripon failed (as is now traditional) in one out of three synods – hardly surprising when a better proposal is on offer. And the late Richard III is to have a simple engraved memorial stone in Leicester Cathedral, thus depriving the wider church of a great mission opportunity. All of which goes to prove – if any proof were necessary – how far ahead of our time we are.

Meanwhile recusant and foreign readers (if any) will have noticed that a new Bishop of Rome has been elected. It had been widely predicted that it would be time for another Italian: presumably either Mario Monti, in the tradition of unprincipled submission to the imperium which we in the Church of England remember so well from that quarter; or Silvio Berlusconi, so as to maintain the now-traditional moral tone.

Instead the lot has fallen upon the humble and simple Cardinal Bergoglio: an Argentinian, though of Italian extraction. At Plumstead Rectory we regard this choice as very hopeful, indicating as it does the start of a Reform of the Counter-Reformation. It now seems possible that the papacy will stop its unhealthy obsession with religious and moral questions and return to its true medieval vocation: settling the sovereignty of South America.

Today is, of course, the day when the Archbishop of Canterbury (to be known from now on by the code-name 'W', or Trespassers Will for short) is enthroned in his cathedral. This will doubtless be an occasion of great evangelical simplicity.

Readers not familiar with Christian symbolism will need to know that the way to show you are humble in Rome is to wear new vestments, but at Canterbury to wear old ones. 'W' will be wearing a cope made for Dr Cundy, late Bishop of Peterborough, who was for him (as for many) a great inspiration and influence for good.

Readers will be happy to know that rumours are unfounded that W will also be wearing Rowan Williams' beard and George Carey's smile. The apostolical succession of vesture is a good tradition to start, however, and we look forward to seeing Trespassers Will in Dr Fisher's hat, Dr Runcie's gaiters, and Nicky Gumbel's pocket, as well as relaxing at home in the exact costume in which Latimer and Ridley went to the stake.

To the stake, too, went on this day W's predecessor Dr Cranmer: not perhaps the most auspicious day for an evangelical archbishop. Perhaps the day was rather chosen for the anniversary of the translation of the bones of St Benedict. Although to us this seems central to the Faith, we imagine that the average evangelical must think the distribution of relics the ecclesiastical equivalent of re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. 

Since W is clearly a man who knows more than he lets on, we suspect that either way the choice of day is a whimsical comment on our circumstances. He will do well. We are all, after all, looking for another (doubtless very different) St Benedict. Maybe this time we'll be lucky.

1 comment:

  1. A very splendid ceremony indeed, but two things were missing: 1) Katharine Jefferts Schori's mitre, and the pallium sent from Rome for +Justin!
    Locuste Iste