30 January 2016

Jan: 30: Beati Caroli Regis et Martyris???

What case could one make for regarding King Charles Stuart as a Beatus? Just suppose one wanted to, and just suppose an enthusiastic advocate really tried to do his best? (If the very thought of this makes you go hot under the collar, please do not read any further.)

We must start with basics.

When was Beatification invented? In a funny sort of way, Beatification came before Canonisation. This is true philologically: any who indulge in Latin liturgy will be aware that by far the commonest word in liturgical Latin for a saint is beatus, whether in the Canon or the Collects. It is also true juridically; because the essence of Beatification is: the raising of a particular person to the Altars of a particular, local Church ... not of the Universal Church. And, except for certain 'Biblical' Saints, every 'saint' began with a local cultus. Only later did he or she, perhaps, become a popular saint throughout the whole Christian world; a process which might grow naturally out of pilgrimage or the distribution of relics. It is the notion of a Universal Saint which was secondary and which gradually developed. And the declaration that someone fell into that Universal category was a natural function of a Universal Primate. You would not expect the Bishop of Lesbos to have the right to dictate to the Bishop of Lincoln who was to be honoured on the calendar of his Church. So whenever a local Church wished to enhance supranationally the status of one of its own great sons or daughters, it obtained a Bull of Canonisation from the Holy See. The first known example seems to be from 993; and the system was in full flood a couple of centuries later when, for example, Ss Edward the Confessor, Richard, and Thomas Becket were so honoured by Roman Pontiffs. These instincts contributed to a process of Roman centralisation.

But local initiative did survive the Middle Ages. According to that great and erudite Pontiff, Benedict XIV, the last known local act of locally raising a man to the Altars of his local Church was a Beatification of Boniface of Lausanne by the Archbishop of Malines in 1603 (the privileges and prestige of the great local Western Primacies took a long time to fall into abeyance). And one of the first actions of Benedict XVI was to send beatifications back to the local Churches. The preliminary processes, of course, do continue to take place under the authority of the Vatican, but the significance of the act as inherently local has been reinstated. ('Benedict' seems a papal name linked with erudition and a broad understanding that 'Tradition' means something wider than 'What we've done for the last last ninety years'!)

And what actually happened at beatification was nothing like the razzamatazz (etymology??) of the modern event. What occurred was simply that Mass and Office were authorised for use, with a clear indication of limitations. Thus S Philip Neri was beatified in 1615 simply by the granting of permission for Mass and Office to be celebrated in the Oratorian Chiesa Nuova in Rome. Pope Paul V made it clear that the privilege exended to nowhere else at all, and reminded the Roman Oratorians to celebrate Philip in a comparatively low-key way.

Charles Stuart was executed in 1649. In 1662, in the Anglican Provinces of Canterbury and York, Mass and Office were promulgated by both Church and State, and were universally used within the jurisdiction of the King of England and Ireland. So ... ... could it be argued that a cultus of Blessed Charles Stuart King and Martyr is lawful, as being completely in accordance with precedent?

(Incidentally and in passing: nobody in England claimed any authority to insist that Charles Stuart be given a cultus in Poland, Peru, or the Peloponnese. And indeed, in the forms of service which were brought into use, Charles is not, as far as I have noticed, ever called 'Saint'; while the B-word is used quite generously. Referring to him as "St" seems therefore to me to lack justification. We can only be discussing the possibility of his equipollent Beatification.)

Of course, I know the objection which will be made: that Stuart was a schismatic or worse; that the ecclesial community in which his cultus flourished was schismatic or worse; hence it possessed no canonical authority or ecclesial authenticity; and so none of all this stuff 'counts'. Waste of my time.

Believe me, I can see the force of this. 

Still ... one problem which this objection will have to counter is that beatifications and canonisations done by antipopes have sometimes 'stuck'. "Paschal III" canonised someone called Charlemagne, and his cultus has still not disappeared. And those canonised have included holy people who, in the Great Schism of the West, adhered to a prelate now regarded as an antipope. Yes; I know they wanted to adhere to the true pope ... perhaps wanted to do so quite desperately ... but, de facto, canonically, historically, they just didn't.

But the biggest problem which such potential critics will have to face is this. 

FACT: Some of the Byzantine Churches ('Uniates') now in full peace and communion with the See of S Peter use Calendars containing Byzantine worthies who died while Rome and Byzantium were disunited; and, moreover, whose canonisations were enacted by "schismatic Greek Orthodox" synods. I have in mind the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch (His Beatitude is a Successor of S Peter! Surely, the most senior prelate in the Catholic Church after the Pope?). (The same, I have been told, is true of the Ukrainian Church: accurate information?). 

So: people who died in schism and who were then canonised by people in schism can have the cultus of a Saint within the Catholic Church.

To help to focus the minds of readers, I say now that I will decline to enable comments which criticise the thesis I have deployed WITHOUT taking seriously the sections above in red.

I add that I can myself think of a detail in Benedict XIV's historical exposition of Beatification which might undercut one part of this thesis; and of elements in the ecclesiology of Benedict XVI which could be used to subvert another. Readers may well be able to detect other flies in my ointment. Fair enough. I am privileged to have some extremely able and acute readers. But I am not going to give space to mere angry rants.


Claudio Salvucci said...

Fascinating topic.

I will humbly offer a Musca domestica for the ointment.

Unquestionably the Orthodox, Churches of the East, and antipope followers always had the full complement of the sacraments. Can we say the same of the Anglican church in Charles's day? Note I am not talking about where Charles's sympathies were, but solely the validity of the sacraments he received.

I can see two extreme positions here. The saints of the Orthodox and styled "Monophysite" Churches of the East generally, I think, would tend to be admitted.
But I doubt that local veneration of individuals from Fox's "martyrology"--if such a thing were done by a group seeking communion--would ever be tolerated by East or West.

I am not sure where the dividing line would fall between these poles, but could valid sacraments be the key?

Oh, and another thought...is there any local veneration of Origen? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

As I'm sure you are well aware Father, most orthodox 'cradle Catholics' regard the C of E - considered as an institution - not as schismatic on a par with the Eastern Orthodox, but as "worse", even while accepting with good grace that there have always been individuals and groupings within it who retained Catholic convictions and practices to a greater or lesser degree. I used to tease Anglican friends that far from being "Catholic and reformed" the Church of England is really Protestant and unreformed: Protestant in doctrine and practice but with all the clutter and crumbling material legacy of medieval Catholicism. I know this must be very well worn territory for you, and I'm sure you could run rings around my relatively crude knowledge of things. However, my greatest difficulty with seeing Charles Stuart as a blessed and a martyr is simply that I know of no evidence that he lived a particularly holy life, nor that he died for the sake of the Catholic faith and the love of Christ. I don't believe that kings rule by divine right, so while his execution was undoubtedly criminal and an act of bloody revolution, it wasn't by that very token a Christian martyrdom.

Anonymous said...

With trepidation… I have taken seriously the RED sections of your post…. But, oh, Father, how you love to tilt at windmills, it’s a very endearing trait. Blessed Charles Stuart, indeed. And next up, on Liturgical Notes: ”Adolf Hitler – was he really All That Bad”?

Your mention of the incorporation of Orthodox schism-period saints into the Roman mainstream reminds me that near to me there is an Orthodox community devoted to preserving the relics of one Edward the Martyr (his cultus dates from a time before the Schism). Yes, Edward, “the Martyr”, another royal personage, Edward of Corfe to you and me, who according to Stenton “had offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour. Long after he had passed into veneration as a saint it was remembered that his outbursts of rage had alarmed all who knew him, and especially the members of his own household.". He was murdered by supporters of royal rival Ethelred the Unready. There’s no accounting for taste, Father. Best of luck, boss!

KnotWilbur said...

Thank you Father. As often happens, you have presented a persuasive argument. I am inclined to say, beati, yes. Locally, yes?

Священник села said...

There once was an eastern rite Catholic parish dedicated to St Seraphim of Sarov.

James Ignatius McAuley said...


1.) What is the collect for Blessed Charles?
2.) From a Roman Catholic perspective, how exactly did Charles die for the faith to merit the title martyr. To most, it will seem that he was executed as part of a constitutional political dispute having nothing to do with the faith.
3.) If Charles I may be beatified, what about Laud? I do recall one of the indictments had to do with that statue of the Virgin Mary he emplaced in Oxford.

For Americans, Charles is best remembered as a king who treated the colonies with benign neglect, that allowed them to grow as well as be a haven for dissenters. In any event, I have never read of anything that explained why Charles would be martyr for the faith similar to a Thomas More or a Pamphilius of Caesarea.

Vlad Pepes said...

A lot of Eastern saints who died without full communion with Rome are now lawfully venerated by Catholics of their respective rites. Examples: the armenian St Gregory of Narek, declared last year a Doctor of the Church; or the greek St Gregory Palamas.

Matthew Roth said...

There has never been dispute about the Orthodox Churches being churches possessing holy orders, and with holy orders comes jurisdiction. It seems that is the key difference.

Tee Pee Gee Eff said...

Were Charles I beatified or canonised the result would be that in several places the Martyrology would record thise who died in Anglia sub Carolo Primo but on 30 November it would record the same bloke as a martyr.

the Savage said...

An interesting tangent is the question of whether Charles Stuart can be regarded as a martyr, which would require that he was killed in odium fidei. Charles was not tried and executed on grounds of his catholic sympathies, but for waging war against Parliament and the people. But Charles' counter-argument, as to why he could not accept the legitimacy of the court which tried him, was essentially religious: that he was the King duly appointed by God, and resistance was impossible to a lawful king. From Charles' speech to the trial:

"There is no proceeding just against any man, but what is warranted, either by God's laws or the municipal laws of the country where he lives. Now I am most confident this day's proceeding cannot be warranted by God's laws; for, on the contrary, the authority of obedience unto Kings is clearly warranted, and strictly commanded in both the Old and New Testament, which, if denied, I am ready instantly to prove.

And for the question now in hand, there it is said, that 'where the word of a King is, there is power; and who may say unto him, what dost thou?' Eccles. viii. 4."

So if Charles' interpretation of the doctrine of the divine right of kings was correct, then killing the king as a sacred person would seem to be a form of odium fidei. Mainstream Catholic doctrine, as expounded by Aquinas, Suarez, and Bellarmine among others, would suggest that divine right of kings does not exist, and there are times when tyrannicide may be justified. But other authorities, like Bossuet, uphold the divine right of kings as true doctrine.

So it would seem to me that Charles Stuart may regarded be a martyr if there is such a thing as the divine right of kings, but if not, not.

B flat said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

How very refreshing is your raising of this question in the current climate! Bravo! My instinct and feelings agree with you unreservedly. Lacking erudition, I can add very little weight to your proposal. I have some concrete observations to offer in support, if you consider them worth reading by others.

You do not specify any particular Melkite Patriarch in your red section. The english service book published by Alleluia Press in 1969 for that patriarchate (Byzantine Daily Worship) includes Saint Sergius of Radonezh but deliberately excludes Gregory Palamas from the second Sunday of Lent, replacing his commemoration with a service to the Holy Relics, composed by Maximos III of Antioch.

Certainly regarding the schism with the pre-Chalcedonian Churches (Copts, Armenians, Syriacs) the commemoration of Saints who participated in controversy on either side must be a near insuperable problem to the other side. Yet the Orthodox Churches commemorate Isaac of Nineveh who occurs later than that schism. There are signs, therefore, that accommodation is possible, if the candidate was not involved in action injurious to the Catholic side, which I hope King Charles was not. He promoted Catholic political and ecclesiastical order in his realm as part of Christendom, and died for that, as did Archbishop Laud.

A plea I would base on your own regarding those who unwillingly found themselves in schism from the true Bishop of Rome during the Western Schism, surely has great applicability to the case of any Anglicans who believed themselves to be part of the undivided One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, even though not in communion with Rome. That is what the present day Orthodox believe of themselves, seeing any problem as lying with Rome, not with them. That was what St Sergius must have believed, or how else could he truthfully recite The Nicene Creed every day? Every Orthodox hoping to be saved does the same. Who are we to judge whether someone is in good faith, if his manner of life (excepting Communion with Rome) is consistent with the teaching of Christ and the successors of His Apostles?

The following are irrelevant to your thesis, but arise from your posting.

1 Was it not Nicea which gave precedence among the present Patriarchal Sees to Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, with the Second Council (Constantinople I) imposing Constantinople - New Rome as second between Rome and Alexandria, removing the latter to third place, but still preceding Antioch? I believe the title Melkite was applied to those remaining loyal to the Emperor, at the time of the Schism with Alexandria, following Chalcedon, but my grasp of this history is tenuous. I believe Maximus IV (Saigh) who spoke in French at the second Vatican Council, was Patriarch of both Alexandria and Antioch.

2 In the paragraph referring to the Beatifications performed by Primates for local Churches, are you extending this concept of locality to the Province (or even Nation) covered by that Primacy? If so, how does this fit with your, and Pope Benedict's ecclesiology regarding local, particular churches and the Universal Church?

William Tighe said...

If Charles I was a martyrdom for anything, it may have been for "the divine right of kings," but that would require close argumentation, for the "divine right of kings" not only meant different things at different times, but also different things in different countries at the same time (e.gg., France, the Spanish realms, and England [not to mention Scotland] in the Seventeenth Century); see Johann Sommerville's *Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640* (Longman, London and New York 1986) and esp. its second edition, *Royalists and Patriots: Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640* Second edition, 1999. There were versions of the "divine right of kings" which were compatible with the view that kings were morally AND LEGALLY bound to obey laws which their predecessors or they themselves had enacted or to which they had assented.

Rather, if Charles was a martyr for any one thing above all else, it was the "divine right of bishops," the idea that without a "lawfull" (a word he himself used in 1646) succession of bishops, there was "no church." Or, as he himself wrote in that same letter in 1646, that (small-p) presbyterianism was "worse than popery" and "absolutlie unlawfull." In the negotiations for a settlement in 1646-48 which Charles carried on with, on the one hand, the House of Commons, and, on the other, the parliamentary army leadership (who were increasingly, and radically, estranged from one another) Charles was willing to compromise on almost everything (including being stripped of most of his royal authority and "prerogatives," so long as they would all return in full to his successor) BUT he was unwilling to compromise at all on the matter of the abolition of episcopacy, even on a temporary basis. The invaluable discussion on this is the chapter "The Man Charles Stuart" in the late Conrad Russell's wonderfully lucid book, *The Causes of the English Civil War* (Oxford, 1990).

There is also the matter of those Catholic martyrs executed under Charles I. Only two were executed between 1625 and 1640. About a half dozen were executed in 1641 and 1642 (before the outbreak of the civil war); the 13 who were executed between August 1642 and August 1646 were all executed by Parliamentary authority and command (only one was executed IN ENGLAND under Oliver Cromwell's rule; Ireland was another matter). I know nothing about the circumstances of the two martyrdoms between 1625 and 1640, but they would not have taken place (as also those 13 in 1641-42) without the king's signing the death warrants.

Anonymous said...

As the Earl of Beaconsfield wrote in his novel 'Sybil': Rightly is King Charles I called a martyr, as he died for the cause of indirect taxation.

The real question you pose, I think, which your correspondents have not addressed, is a juridical one. What was the status of the Convocations in the late 17th Century? Now it would seem that, under the last two Stuart kings who actually ruled, there was a generally Romeward direction. Had that Romeward direction not been interrupted by the dreadful events of 1688 and the overthrow of the Constitution, how would Rome have regarded the English Church? In the event of Reunion, it would seem likely that a sanatio in radice would have been applied to the acts of the Convocations. And now that Reunion has been, in some measure, achieved by the Ordinariate, could not that sanatio be applied for that reunited group, on the basis that it is the legitimate continuation of the late 17th century English Church?

Alan said...

A minor note on near-contemporary Catholic attitudes to Charles I. By chance I came across a book in my local art gallery the other day entitled "Art Under Attack". A plate and accompanying text deal with a Restoration copy of "Eikon Basilike" heavily defaced by the Portuguese Inquisition, who took particular umbrage to reference to Charles as a martyr.

Unknown said...

With regard to some denizens of the Roman Martyrology, Msgr. Frederick G. Holweck pointed out 90 years ago in his Biographical Dictionary of the Saints (1924), p. v:

"S. Nicetas, the Goth (15 Sept.), S. Sabas, the Goth (12 April), S. Elpidius, the Courtier (16 Nov.), St. Artemius, the “Dux Augustalis” of Egypt (20 Oct.) and others were Arians. The great S. Lucian of Antioch (8 Jan.) is the founder of the system which afterwards found expression in the heresy of Arius. St. Elsebaan, King of Ethiopia (27 Oct.), the Hymerite Martyrs with their leader Aretas (24 Oct.) and Eutychius of Carrhae (14 March) were Monophysites. The bishops S. Flavian II of Antioch and Elias of Jerusalem (both 4 July) had signed the Henoticon of Emperor Zeno and died in exile under excommunication. Achatius of Amida (9 April) was a Nestorian. Still they are all to be found in the Roman Martyrology. The gallant battle which they fought for Christ and their glorious triumph caused the ancient Church (and in some instances also Baronius) to overlook the defect of their orthodoxy."

Thomas Wood said...


I speak as a Catholic former Anglican, with great personal respect for King Charles and his cause. I wish to put the following observations / questions to you:

1. What is possible and what is desirable are two separate things.

What benefit would there be in erecting a cult to King Charles, besides flattering the sensibilities of former Anglicans?

What bad effects might flow from such an action? "Pushing the envelope" is no doubt sometimes a valuable intellectual exercise, but is there a good reason to indulge in this kind of speculation, when indifferentism is so endemic in the Church?

2. The Roman martyrology has been reformed, expurgated, and revised several times. It has been found to contain people it shouldn't have contained (e.g. Antipope Felix II and, possibly, the Buddha), and people who never existed.

The fact that a given class of person is represented here and there does not by itself constitute a firm basis from which to argue that such persons SHOULD be there, or that others in the same category should be added in future.

Never mind the saints of the Great Western Schism. Everyone knows they were Catholic, and their sanctity was demonstrated through abundant miracles. You need in Charles' case to demonstrate that it is an acceptable thing in principle to promote the cult of someone who - very patently - was never a Catholic.

3. That a thing may be shown to be barely justifiable as a necessary expediency, for instance, in the case of those schismatic saints venerated among the Eastern Catholics (if such things do indeed go on), under certain conditions, is not sufficient to show that it should be perpetuated or extended.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Wood

The Flying Dutchman said...

I sympathize, but how do you deal with the fact that Charles I is already mentioned in the Roman Martyrology in the ablative rather than the genitive, for example August 28, no. 12: Lancastriæ item in Angliæ, sancti Edmundi Arrowsmith, presbyteri e Societate Iesu et martyris, ex eodem ducatu oriundi, qui post plures annos in patria curæ pastorali addictus, cum sacerdos esset et ad catholicam fidem multos induxisset, ipsis protestantibus loci invitis, sub Carolo regi Primo fune suspensus occubuit. Now add beato in front of Carolo and see if the entry makes any sense.

The Flying Dutchman said...

"could it be argued that a cultus of Blessed Charles Stuart King and Martyr is lawful, as being completely in accordance with precedent"

Again, with all my sympathy for the late king, the anwer is negative, I think, if his presumptive cause is evidently against the sensus fidelium seeing the unfortunate Charles I as a tyrant persecuting Catholics rather than a just martyr for the Catholic faith. How do you argue for the heroic virtues and martyrdom of Charles I in this context? Did he publicly convert like Saint Paul? Or was his death ultimately political? Also, what was the standing in the Catholic Church of the convocations of York and Canterbury at this time? Was it anything at all like the Synods of the Churches of Antioch, Alexandria or Constantinople not in full communion with Rome? I do not think so. Clearly, there are too many doubts for there to be any claim to legitimate canonical precedent.

The Flying Dutchman said...

Make that Anglia, please. Sorry!