8 April 2016

Yet again, probably for the last time this year, the Pope and the Foot-washing.

This is my contribution to answering a question I myself posed on March 24, Maundy Thursday. I thought it might keep you interested until everybody gets really excited about Amoris Laetitia ...or not ... later this morning.

In this Kingdom, proposed legislation has to receive assent from each of the three Estates: the Commons; the Lords; and the Crown. A 'bill' finally becomes an 'act', and is thus law, during a ceremony in which its short title is read out by the Clerk of the Crown, and another lawyer called the Clerk of the Parliaments intones the words "La reyne le veult": this is called 'the Royal Assent'. Somebody then catches a calf (or kid) and someone else kills it and the text is written onto vellum to make sure that it is still around in a thousand years' time when all the computers have long-since crashed.

Just suppose (please try to imagine this) that our legislators decided, like those of France, to pass a law against the wearing of the burka. Suppose that, once it had successfully negotiated its Parliamentary stages, all the legislators who had passed it gathered together in Westminster Hall ... and put on burkas! Just imagine them all, male as well as female, climbing into burkas! The Queen, presumably, would have her Crown (the light-weight Imperial State Crown, of course, just a few thousand diamonds, not the gigaheavy S Edward's Crown with its massive weight in gold) balanced on her burka. The Clerk of the Crown and the Clerk of the Parliaments would probably join the legislators with their horsehair wigs on top of their burkas. I suppose they would look rather like second cousins thrice removed of Darth Vader.

As soon as all were ready, they would then process out (this is my hypothesis) into Parliament Square, where the World's Press would be waiting. The Press would be waiting because they had been specially and pressingly invited to record the event ... the passing of a law against the wearing of the burka, followed by the legislators concerned displaying themselves, proudly burka-clad, in public, in front of the flashing cameras.

Just suppose this really did happen. Being English, I find it difficult to be intuitively sure about the views and reactions of other, more ordinary, peoples. But would it be possible, do you think, that some Foreigners, benighted members of lesser races, would, in their bewildered ignorance, consider that British legislators must be stark, raving, barking, mad? That demotic equivalents of English terms such as 'bonkers' would be murmured? That they might even judge our entire legislative system to be surreally dysfunctional to the point of total and manifest insanity?

Passing a law and then breaking it! Legislators proudly, publicly, ostentatiously, breaking the law which they themselves had only just so solemnly passed?!?

Only Englishmen could do something as mad as this! Or possibly, I suppose, just conceivably, dogs out in the midday Sun.

If I were merely a poor foreigner, that is what I think I would think. Thank Heaven I am English. It helps one to accept what is ostensibly pure and total self-contradiction as if it were the most natural and obvious thing to do in all the world.

Viva il Papa! 


Marco da Vinha said...

A bit off topic, but consider the following: keeping in my mind St. Paul's teaching on Marriage in Ephesians, how could one interpret the BRIDE performing the Mandatum (not necessarily in a liturgical context, but say even before consummation)? I can understand the bridegroom performing it (with Ephesians in mind), but have some trouble with the bride.

William Tighe said...

"I thought the three Estates were the Commons, the Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual."

This was indeed the general view down to ca. 1641, but in the reaction in favor of the king against the "Puritan" radicals in Parliament occasioned by the "Root and Branch Petition" and the "Grand Remonstrance" the King's partisans and defenders presented the novel view that the "three estates" were the King, the Lords and the Commons. The idea behind it was that no statute was valid unless it received the agreement of the "three Parliamentary estates" of which the King was now conceived to be one - and so it was directed in advance against the later parliamentarian tactic of passing "ordinances" through the Lords and Commons and deeming them to possess legal validity despite the King's veto.

The "older view" had the disadvantage that it had never been the case that a bill before the House of Lords had to receive the assent of a majority of the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal, considered separately, in order to pass; indeed, the 1559 Acts of Supremacy and of Uniformity had both passed the House of Lords with every single Lord Spiritual present and voting, voting against them. In this older view, the Parliament was "the King's Parliament of England," and those comprising it sat in it as representing the King's subjects from all three estates. (And it is worth recalling that representatives of the lower clergy sat in the House of Commons until the 1330s, when seemingly they voluntarily absented themselves; and that they continued to sit in the Irish House of Commons until 1536, when they were forcibly ejected from it in order to secure the passage of the Henrician Royal Supremmacy legislation, which their opposition had hitherto obstructed.)

Anonymous said...

'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ (from Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll).

One can only hope and pray that, unlike the Humpty Dumpty of the original nursery rhyme, 'all the King's horses and all the King's men' will be able to put him back together again!