19 February 2024

The Bishop of Lamus (1)

 Edward Myers, titular Bishop of Lamus and Vicar Capitular of Westminster, sat at his desk to deal with his correspondence on June 10 1943 ... the Thursday, Octave day, after the Ascension. He was a good liturgist who wrote a small book on the Lenten Liturgy which I commend. But, on that Thursday, Stuff was Happening in the Med. The 'Allies' were interested in a little island called Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily and, therefore, a useful possible base from which to open up a front in Sicily ... and, thence, in Western Europe. The invasion of this tiny island was envisaged and planned. But it never took place.

As Myers sat at his desk, the Axis commander on Pantelleria, at his desk, was receiving permission from Rome to surrender. On Friday, the surrender came into effect. And before the end of July, Il Duce had been sacked by Italy's midget Piedmontese monarch and ... the tide of war had turned.

Yes!! I can tell you a bit about Bishop Myers' post-bag that morning! ... although it had no relation to the situation on Pantelleria. He signed the Imprimatur on a new liturgical text: nothing less than a new Commune to be gummed into your Roman Missal. 

The new Commune was for sainted Popes.

Very many of the early popes had been martyrs and sat comfortably in the Calendar. But their liturgical commemoration at the altar was performed simply by the use of the Commune of a Bishop ... either as Martyr or Confessor. Now somebody had decided that they should have their own Commune. Perhaps it was felt that a Bishop of Rome deserved better than the familiar Propers used for any old ordinary bishop!

And I have some views on the Collect of that new Mass. It is still, I think, in the 1962 Missal. It is drawn from a very old Roman collect in a very old volume ... so far so good ... but:

It begins Gregem tuum, Pastor aeterne [bone], placatus intende, et per ... . There are two versions in the Verona Sacramentary: 291 and 316. And, after per they both refer to the Apostles, because this section of the Sacramentary is a collection of Masses for the Solemnity in June of Ss Peter and Paul. So ... per [beatos] Apostolos [tuos] ...

If you look now at the 1943 Commune in your Missal, you will see that, instead, it names the Holy Pope who is being commemorated on that day. per beatum N [Martyrem tuum atque] Summum Pontificem This twists the entire sense of the rest of the prayer. Because the words which, in the original, applied to Ss Peter and Paul on their great festival, were made to apply instead to a particular day's commemorated pope.

316 goes on to say that the Apostles were totius ecclesiae ... Filii tui vicarii pastores; 291 refers to the Apostles who were [are] the same rectores, gubernatores, whom the Lord appointed to be his vicarii pastores.

The same sort of neat, slippery job we expect to find in accounts of the 1960s!

The first thing I dislike about this is that it gives a false impression: that a Pope is a superior rank in the Church's sacramental structure to that of an ordinary Bishop ... just as a Bishop is sacramentally superior to a Presbyter. And, quite simply, I do not believe that this is true. As Mascall put it in 1958, " ... whereas the episcopate is a sacramental function of the Church, which is imparted by the sacramental act of consecration, the Papacyis a juridical and administrative one, which is imparted by the administrative act of election. ... nothing can alter the fact ..."

The good news is that the guns fell silent on Pantelleria.

To be rapidly concluded.



Banshee said...

Well... pretty sure that the power to "strengthen/confirm your brethren" is spiritual in nature, not an administrative power.

Mind you, popes should use their administrative powers to shore up their brethren's spiritual strength also.

I'm not sure how you would classify "feed My sheep/lambs." It seems to be meant both as physical and spiritual feeding.

Banshee said...

I don't mean that I'm in favor of different commons for popes, but I'm not necessarily in disfavor. Either way, it's festive, and I can see why you'd want something different for that.

But obviously there were other things to do... so maybe it was intended as a special plea for the intercession of papal saints, for the safety of the Vatican and Rome?

And heck, maybe it worked. Pope Pius XII didn't get hauled off to a camp or an execution wall, and the big papal rescue network didn't get rolled up.

So even if it wasn't done in the best way, it seems like they had an excellent reason to make a big deal of papal saints, at a moment of peril.

OTOH, I guess you could argue that patriarch-bishop saints should get some special love also. I don't know where that would end, however.

Thomas said...

Indeed Father, this does seem to touch on a long-brewing problem which has now come to its head in the current lamentable papacy. I remember as a child singing that assertively Catholic 'hymn' with the rousing refrain "God bless our Pope, the great, the good!" (It's first line was routinely subverted by naughty school boys with an irreverent spoonerism). Nothing wrong with asking God to bless the pope, of course, but I know of no divine guarantee that any given incumbent would be great and good. Many modern Catholics presume that popes are somehow chosen by the Holy Spirit, although that is not Catholic teaching. The biggest problem, perhaps, is not so much the exercise of papal infallibility, but understanding the nature and implications of the pope's "universal and immediate jurisdiction", which can seem to make him a superannuated bishop, even 'though that is excluded by the official texts which state it.

PM said...

Fr Hunwicke's and Mascall's position is entirely consistent with Lumen Gentium - and, for that matter, with that of the leading medieval canonists such as Hostiensis.

That stands in sharp contrast with the views of Pope Francis' favourite - and very influential - Jesuit canonist Cardinal Ghirlanda, for whom “the power of governance in the Church doesn't come from the sacrament of Holy Orders, but from the canonical mission.” So much for reception of the teaching of the Council!