Back in those heady days in the 1960s and 70s, when most of us thought that the Council had made the possibility of Christian Unity so much easier by 'balancing' the teaching of Vatican I, Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester (one of the very few Anglican bishops to be a canonist), Visitor of Staggers and President of the Woodard Corporation and for two and a half decades my Ordinary, commented that whatever ecumenical problems there were in the teaching of Vatican I about the Papacy, they had been made very much more acute by Vatican II. Eric, I should make clear, was not a papalist: he had a soft spot for those silly schismatics, the Dutch so-called 'Old Catholics'; he contrived that two of their bishops should be aequiprincipal coconsecrators at his own episcopal Consecration.
I wonder what he really made of the complete surrender of that minute body to the Zeitgeist, women priests and all. Further, I wonder what he would have made of the two traditionalist Chartres pilgrimages of our era; because he much valued the twinning of Chichester with Chartres. When he sang Pontifical High Mass in Chartres Cathedral, they used to put out for him, his deacons and ministers, a superb gold set given to the Cathedral by (yes, it would have to be by her, wouldn't it?) the Empress Eugenie (her of the pretty feet ... you know the burglar story?). I wonder what the post-Catholic clergy of Chartres made of the reappearance of proper Catholic finery in their city! Pictures rather like the (Fr Zed phrase coming up) 'eye candy' you nowadays get in Traditionalist magazines and websites appeared in the Chichester Diocesan Magazine. Chichester clergy went over there ... and came back with whispered accounts of the corruption of the French Church ("The Chartres Chrism Mass ... the bishop consecrates the same lot of oil three times ... so there's only one oil ..."). Eric used, I think, this connection to procure a relic of S Richard of Chichester to reinstate in his own Cathedral. He was pleased to be a Canon of Chartres (I am confident that his appointment as Canon was watertight because, since nobody in Chartres knew any Latin, I was asked to compose the Letters of Appointment myself).
As the French Church continues its terminal decline, I gather that a very considerable percentage of French ordinands now come from one or other of the Traditionalist groups or from dioceses where a bishop vigorously encourages both forms of the Roman Rite. I can't help feeling that Bishop Eric might have transferred his affections from the gloomy death-wish 'Old Catholics' to these points of authentically Catholic New Life in French Christianity.
Long time readers of this blog will know of my own great antipathy, which I share with Joseph Ratzinger, towards the grossly exaggerated and false idea of the Papacy which grew up in the 1960s, and my preference, also shared with Ratzinger, for the Papacy as it was defined and limited by Vatican I. I am less than happy when I see that perverted 1960s conception of the Papacy again utilised by unscrupulous innovators today as they attempt to manoeuvre our beloved Holy Father into being an instrument of their own tired old heterodoxies.
Which is why I so dearly wish I'd asked Bishop Eric what he meant when he said that Vatican II and its aftermath had made the Papacy more of an ecumenical problem. Could it be that he was among the first to realise what so many are now belatedly coming to understand?