Older readers will recall my distaste at "Vaughan's Folly": the big brass and brassy sheets of inscribed metal on your left as you enter "Westminster Cathedral". Long lists in two columns purport to show you the 'Chief Pastors' of the English Catholic Church matched neatly with the Bishops of Rome with whom they were, one by one andneatly in turn, so inevitably in Communion.
The whole concept was manifestly a vulgar piece of anti-Anglican propaganda. It is riddled with errors and inconsistencies ... the mistakes start, indeed, with Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, who received the Pallium ... yes! You've guessed!! ... from an antipope. When it gets on to the Great Schism of the West, it completely loses its way among the various successions of popes and antipopes and who sent a pallium to which Archbishop of Canterbury.
Another major error is that the Begetter of these lists was under the impression that the Vicars Apostolic of the London District, from 1688 until 1850, were the Chief Pastors of English Catholicism. This is not what I had thought; and, the other day, browsing again through The English Vicars Apostolic 1688-1850, by Fathers Schofield and Skinner (if you don't possess a copy, I think the less well of you) I came across the following:
"[William] Gibson[, VA of the Northern District from 1790 until 1821] hosted a number of important meetings for the English bishops ... at Durham in 1809, 1812, 1813, and 1814. Gibson was aware of his status, for much of of his administration, as the senior Vicar Apostolic in the country. During the vacancies in the Midland District following the deaths of bishops Berington and Stapleton, Gibson claimed jurisdiction, which was confirmed by Rome. In 1799 he not only issued a Lenten Pastoral with certain dispensations from fasting, but deprived Fr John Wilkes of his faculties and wrote to each of the Staffordshire clergy asking them to retract their liberal principles."
Abbot Gasquet (1846-1929), as an ecclesiastical historian, has not enjoyed a reputation for careful scholarship. Indeed, he was not another Lingard, or Tierney, or Oliver, or Rock ... or even another Messenger. He was essentially and at heart a Whig, in as far as he believed and practised a 'History' in which everything had necessarily to lead right up to a desired point of excellence which just happened to be ... Exactly Where We Are Now. Thank Providence for disposing our ecclesiastical reference points with such pinpoint accuracy!
The embellishment of a Large Church Near Victoria Station with its enormous propaganda assertions that Cardinal Vaughan was the true and only successor ... in uninterrupted and direct line ... of S Augustine, would have enormously appealed to Gasquet, poor poppet. So I wonder ... er ...
Well, the Church is in London, so when in doubt about who is the boss around the place - and neither Vicar Apostolic was formally a superior of the other - you take the one competent for London without necessarily implying.
And the point about the antipopes was that while they weren't bishops of Rome, they claimed to be. Hence, allegiance to an antipope (not one of those nutjobs calling themselves popes these days, but a "respectable", if you get my meaning, antipope of the Middle Ages) means that you're still much much *much* more Catholic than if you'd be allegiant to Henry VIII, to be silent of his successors. (Henry VIII himself at least was Catholic in almost every respect [details of Church teaching that is]... except for not being Catholic [and for looting monasteries]; but his successors were much more Protestant even on other points.)
... without necessarily implying *any more than that*.
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