25 February 2017

Regnans in Excelsis

Today is the Anniversary of the promulgation, in 1569 (1570 New Style), of the Bull Regnans in Excelsis.

Those with easy access to the Brompton Oratory will probably not need me to remind them that there is a very nice baroque statue of S Pius V on the right hand side of the pietra dura Lady Altar which originated in the Dominican Church at Brescia. (It is where I said my First Mass in Full Communion with the See of S Peter.) There is a 'Latimer-and-Ridley'-style pricket stand conveniently nearby.

Perhaps the people who organise National Celebrations should start ... now! ... preparing for the big junketings due in 2020 (450 years).

Here is what Evelyn Waugh wrote in 1935 about S Pius V and his Bull: His contemporaries and the vast majoriy of subsequent historians regarded the pope's action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of medievalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion, stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory and Innocent; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few bullets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism. That is the verdict of sober criticism, both Catholic and Protestant, and yet, as on studies that odd and compelling face which peers obliquely from Zucchero's portait at Stonyhurst, emaciated, with its lofty and narrow forehead, the great, beaked nose, the eyes prominent in their deep sockets, and, above all else, the serene and secret curve of the lips, a doubt rises, and a hope; had he, perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians; seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future; understood that there was to be no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?

11 comments:

Patrick Sheridan said...

Arguably the greatest own goal in history.

roberts said...

Wasn't Elizabeth I thus excommunicated by the Pope in the same act?

But I'm not sure she was ever baptised into the Catholic Church - given her Lutheran Mother and her upbringing - so what was the point of excommunicating her: she was never in communion in the first place.

Many thanks for learned clarifications - whether Elizabeth I was indeed baptised Catholic, and/or whether the Pope could still (meaningfully) excommunicate her even if she wasn't. Pius V did it. Sixtus V renewed it.

It didn't help the Catholic of England much at all.
And as for 'what if' history. What if Mary Tudor had been martyred effectively for the Faith (like St John the Baptist, over marriage) - at that dangerous moment when she was 18 and her life was threatened by her father, King Henry.
Perhaps she would have become a national heroine.
Ah well.

DeHereticoComburendo said...

"Whoa there just a moment, Pius. Hang on, baby. If you promulgate this Bull you’ll annoy the hell out of Elizabeth and she’ll have the Jesuits wiped out”.

“Where do I sign?”

Rubricarius said...

Interfering in the Sovereignty of other states, no lessons learnt from history as we have witnessed recently with the Order of Malta. Will the papal bullies never learn?

Confitebor said...

"But I'm not sure she was ever baptised into the Catholic Church - given her Lutheran Mother and her upbringing - so what was the point of excommunicating her: she was never in communion in the first place."

Even if there is doubt about whether the English were in schism when Elizabeth Boleyn was baptised, the English Nation was formally reconciled to Holy Mother Church during the reign of her older half-sister Queen Mary Tudor. If it was a schismatic baptism, the Catholic Faith holds that such a baptism is nevertheless valid -- we recognise the validity of all Trinitarian baptisms, even if performed by heretics, indeed even if performed by atheists who intend to do what the Church does when she baptises. Subsequently Elizabeth Boleyn was received into full communion along with the English Nation. That means that when the Pope deemed it needful to discipline her for her numerous crimes and heresy, she had to be formally excommunicated.

Anita Moore said...

Roberts, Elizabeth swore to Queen Mary that she was Catholic and would preserve the Catholic faith.

William Tighe said...


"so what was the point of excommunicating her: she was never in communion in the first place."

Some weeks into her sister's reign she asked her to have "Catholic books" sent to her, and subsequently professed herself converted. For the rest of Queen Mary's reign she attended Mass regularly, and from time to time received communion. If that does not constitute being "in communion," I have no idea what does.

Confitebor said...

"Arguably the greatest own goal in history."

Perhaps -- but then only because Elizabeth was in fact the kind of person and ruler that the pope said she was in his bull excommunicating her.

Anita Moore said...

Look, where does this idea come from that the loss of England is ultimately the Pope's fault for daring to promulgate Regnans in excelsis? What's the basis for this thinking that we mustn't call out or punish wrongdoers, because it's provocative? The notion that silence and inaction should be our default setting accounts for our current impotence in the face of evil, and surely comes straight from the Enemy. It offends both justice and charity.

The blame for the cataract of horrors that fell upon the Body of Christ in England in the wake of Regnans in excelsis falls, not on the Pope, but on Elizabeth and her minions. It was at their hands and on their responsibility. Why should we suppose that they would have acted differently if the Bull had not been published? At least the Pope visited a just punishment on Elizabeth, and provided her Catholic subjects with clear guidance amid the evils, even if he could not hope to prevent them.

John Vasc said...

It must have been perfectly clear to Walsingham, Cecil and even to Elizabeth herself, that the priests who arrived clandestinely from Douai and Rome were coming in ones and twos to provide Mass and the Sacraments secretly to the faithful, not (with very few exceptions) to plot regicide and the overthrow of the English state. These bullying, dictatorial control freaks simply did not like their attempt to re-programme the people into accepting their forcibly protestantised nu-church. The people had memories, and feelings, and as with today's PC left-liberal tyranny, many did succumb silently to conformity, but many were still sympathetic or committed to the old ways.
I suggest that Elizabeth and her ministers used the Papal Bull of Excommunication (which was perhaps incautiously framed in including the clause absolving the English from any fidelity to E I as Queen) as a pretext for the persecution of Catholics and the judicial murder of priests sent by 'the arch-enemy'. We can thank God for the courage and articulate resistance of such men as St Edmund Campion (to name only one).

John Vasc said...

I do beg your pardon: I meant to write: "These bullying, dictatorial control freaks simply did not like *any resistance to* their attempt to re-programme the people into accepting their forcibly protestantised nu-church."