6 January 2011

Bishop Graham Leonard

Bishop Graham departed this world on the Feast of the Epiphany, 2010. It is as if, grieved that the Feast of His Epiphany should have been expunged from the calendars of great swathes of the Latin Church, the Lord decided to grant Bishop Graham the Beatific Vision upon this great day. We hope and trust that his prayers avail for those who now seek to follow his lead into regularised canonical union with the See of Peter, and for all those who seek to enter more fully into the Theophany.

It is not for me to attempt to say, about Bishop Graham, things that others who knew him better than I did have said already and said rather better than I could. I would like to make just one point.

Our ecclesiastical culture, in a mirror image of its secular counterparts, abhors loose cannons; that is to say, those who disregard the unspoken conventions of the club. In particular, there is lofty disapproval of those who, having been granted admission to 'management' status, pay insufficient attention to the overriding imperative of keeping cosily snuggled up to all the other Great Men.

Bishop Leonard certainly achieved 'status': he was Bishop of the second see in his province and Dean of the Chapels Royal. But despite this he acceded to the request of a persecuted American group to give them pastoral support, in disregard of diocesan boundaries. By so doing, he broke every rule of the Top Chaps' Club. In this he was very strikingly like the Cardinal Ratzinger who ignored all the niceties of the Ecumenical Establishment, not to mention the Vatican's own dicasterial structures, to send a telegram of support to 'dissident' Anglicans meeting in America; and who, after being elected Pope, set up his Ordinariates with a cheerful and engagingly stylish disregard for vested interests ... which had assumed he would never dare. Unclubable, by God!, the pair of them. Great men, the pair of them.

There are more important things in life than easing one's companionable buttocks on to the red leather of the club fender in the Athenaeum. Perhaps this is one important message which we Anglican Catholics, with our long and immensely proud history of being troublesome counter-cultural Loose Cannons, can contribute to the Benedictine vision of renewing the youthful vigour of the Wider Church.

1 comment:

William Tighe said...

Late in 1981 I was taken to dinner in the Athenaeum by the distinguished, and by then very elderly, Art Historian John Nevinson, with whom I had initiated a correspondence concerning an article he had published some years before on a topic directly relevant to the subject of my doctoral thesis research at the time. After dinner we went upstairs for a drink, and he promptly fell asleep in his chair for about 15 minutes. During that time I became aware of a heated, but subdued, almost sotto voce, exchange between two gentlemen in the chairs directly behind Nevinson, which faced in the opposite direction. When Nevinson awoke we had a very pleasant and civilised conversation before going out own ways. As we were readying ourselves to depart, the occupants of the two chairs who had been having the "discussion" arose, and they proved to be Dr. Leonard and Dr. Runcie.

My one other entry to the sanctum of the Athenaeum occurred barely a month later, when the Blessed Eric Mascall took me to supper. There was no such unintentional "entertainment" on that occasion and, happily, there were no slumbers on the part of my host, either.