25 June 2020

Sir Harry Trelawny (4)

So how was the problem of Sir Harry's Orders resolved? Fr Wilson tells us that "he was eventually received into the Church, and in 1830, at the age of seventy-four, was ordained priest by Cardinal Odescalchi, Vicar of Pope Gregory XVI". This, surely, is a suggestio falsi; Trelawny became a Catholic in 1810, whereas Wilson gives the impression (without actually telling an untruth) that both conversion and ordination came at the end of his life. And it is suppressio veri, in as far as there is no hint of the problem concerning Sir Harry's conviction that his Anglican Orders were valid. But in the 1950s, when Fr Wilson wrote, there was a tendency to provide Catholic narratives with the awkward bits sandpapered away (of course, it is possible that Wilson may not have known the full facts).

De Lisle's account, which he says he had from Sir Harry and Miss Trelawny the following year, is both circumstantial and credible: " ... going on a visit to Rome, he made the acquaintance of the late Cardinal Odescalchi ... Sir Harry told the Cardinal all his convictions, and explained his reasons for believing in the validity of Anglican Orders, and therefore, of his own priesthood. When the Cardinal had heard all he had to say, his Eminence replied that he had no idea there was so much to be adduced in favour of the orders of the Anglican Church, and that he could quite understand Sir Harry's strong feelings on the subject. Still he reprersented to Sir Harry that, as the custom of the Roman Catholic Church from the commencement of the schism had always been to re-ordain those of the Anglican clergy who returned to her communion, it was was clear that the question concerning their previous orders was a very delicate one, and one that was beset, at all events, with many grave doubts, that, consequently, it was not right in Sir Harry to continue to say Mass without submitting to a conditional re-ordination. Upon this Sir Harry replied to the Cardinal that from the first he had been ready to submit to a conditional re-ordination, but that the Catholic authorities in England would not hear of anything short of an absolute and unconditional rejection of his previous orders. The Cardinal, however, said that he took a different view of the matter, and was prepared to re-ordain Sir Harry with a tacit condition, the sacramental form, of course, remaining untouched. Sir Harry gave his full consent ..."

And so the deed was done, on Pentecost Sunday 1830.

A few years later, Odescalchi ordained Gioacchino Pecci to the priesthood. I think parish clergy may have here a possible new question for a Parish Quiz Evening: "What did Sir Harry Trelawny, and Pope Leo XIII, have in common?" (De Lisle says that Odescalchi was "reputed to be a very holy man"; indeed, his Eminence later resigned his Cardinal's hat and entered the Jesuit noviciate. His family had given Blessed pope Innocent XI to the Church.)

Readers will have noticed that these events resemble the way in which S John Henry Newman's own scruples about re-ordination were handled (Ker p 321).

To be continued.


PM said...

If I may be allowed to go off on a tangent: given the modern gas for more or less automatic canonisation of pope's, why not Leo XIII? A man of unimpeachable personal holiness, and of outstanding theological judgement.

John Patrick said...

Unfortunately "the modern gas for more or less automatic canonisation of popes" only seems to apply to those who reigned post Vatican II. Why the Piuses have languished, while I expect cries of "Santo Subito" the moment we hear that the present occupant of the chair of St. Peter is recalled by the Father.