6 January 2019

Bishop Graham Leonard

I first published this in 2011, just as the Ordinariates were starting up. Bishop Leonard's portrait hangs in the study of Mgr Newton, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham.

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 London, 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 ... interests which had assumed he would never dare to break ranks. 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 joyous Benedictine vision of renewing the youthful vigour of the Wider Latin Church.

6 comments:

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.

John Nolan said...

Who was the last Catholic priest before Dr Leonard to have been a Privy Counsellor?

frd said...

Lest the hagiographers remain too smug, Leonard, for all his orthodoxy, laid hands on 70 women “deacons” in his cathedral of St Paul in London. Nuff said ...

motuproprio said...

Probably the last Catholic priest to be a Privy Councillor before Mgr Graham Leonard was Sir Edward Petre SJ

Unknown said...

Fr Paul McDonald writes:
Better a loose cannon, than a loose Canon!

Cherub said...

Still G Leonard cosied up to the establishment by ordaining more than three score women and ten to the diaconate. Somehow he thought that the early Church had women deacons (as distinct from deaconesses), and that if you threw the Mow Mow terrorists a bone they wouldn’t want the whole carcass. He was a man whose inconsistencies were many and confusing. Still, he did become a Catholic, and he did many fine things as an Anglo-Catholic bishop, one of which you have mentioned. Neither he nor Eric Kemp, however, provided the outstanding leadership of the earlier group of Anglo-Catholic Fathers who were not only shunned by the establishment but persecuted by them. Kemp and Leonard were very much establishment, company men.