30 January 2010

Jan: 30: Beati Caroli Regis et Martyris

This post follows on from my piece a couple of days ago about the status of Charlemagne. It was written before the comments on that post were put there by readers who guessed whither I was going.

I sometimes find myself belaboured simultaneously from two standpoints. Extreme Ultramontanes attack me for the liturgical observance of King Charles I, who has never been beatified or canonised by a Roman Pontiff. For extreme Cismontanes, my error is in not calling the gentleman "Saint". Oh dear! Can Fr H never please?

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 the former 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 translation of relics. It is the notion of a Universal Saint which was secondary and gradually developed. And the declaration that someone fell into that 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 Liege 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. And, as I pointed out a couple of days ago, "Paschal III" canonised Charlemagne.

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 legal processes, of course, continue to take place under the authority of the Holy Roman Church, 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 two or three centuries'!)

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 Provinces of Canterbury and York, Mass and Office were encouraged by both Church and State, and were universally used. This is why I regard a cultus of Charles as lawful. It is completely in accordance with precedent.

But the two English provinces of the Latin Church never claimed any authority to insist that Charles Stuart be given a cultus in Poland or Peru. And indeed, in the forms of service that came into use, Charles is not, as far as I have noticed, ever called Saint; while the B-word is used quite generously.

Hence, Blessed Charles Stuart. Beate Carole Rex et Martyr, ora pro nobis.


Joshua said...

"You would not expect the Bishop of Lesbos to have the right to dictate to the Bishop of Liege..."

— so a Lesbian ought not presume to order about a Liegeman?


Sui Juris said...

Hear, hear, Fr H: a very clearly explained example of the proper relations between the particular and the universal in the Church.

Joshua said...


I wasn't aware that the Vicars Apostolic of England made any attempt to beatify Chas. I...

Joshua said...

It brings to mind certain Eastern groups professing much admiration of St Nestorius and St Theodore of Mopsuestia. Alas, the Universal Church has thought otherwise.

It helps to be in communion.

Joshua said...

No, I can find no Mass and Office for this person in the supplements to the Roman Missal and Breviary containing the proper feasts for England.

There are, however, a large number of Masses and Offices for certain other Englishmen and Welshmen who were Martyrs during the period from 1535 to 1679.

Perhaps the Catholic Church in England and Wales referred the question of the cultus of these persons to the Holy See for judgement?

I can find no reference to any such suggestion being forwarded by the relevant Vicars Apostolic in relation to the late king Charles I.

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

The paragraph commencing "When was Beatification invented?" is very helpful to your view, which I find compelling.

Very much the same thing can be noted regarding (St.) Beothius (+525), layman and martyr, who having written so many well known and helpful documents for the future of Western Christendom, was murdered in prison by Arians. He is now buried in Pavia, along with Augustine and one of the Longobard kings. He had a local cultus from the time of his death, but due to the vagaries of Church attitudes and politics, the celebration of his feast was eclipsed.

"The local cult of Boethius at Pavia was sanctioned when, in 1883, the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed the custom prevailing in that diocese of honouring St. Severinus Boethius, on the 23rd of October." (Catholic Encyclopedia (online)).

Little Black Sambo said...

"Can Fr H never please?"
If you were the BBC you would be saying, "So we seem to have got the balance about right".

(Provision for St Charles KM is very thin in the Anglican Missal (as I discovered too late this morning) and in the English Missal non-existent. You need one of those pages that you can stick in.)

Joshua said...

Some inconvenient truths: this King Charles has to bear on his conscience the fact that, while he was king, he allowed the execution of several Catholic priests – most of whom were subsequently beatified or canonized as martyrs (see below); and in March of 1641 he issued a proclamation banishing all priests under pain of death…

Saint Edmund Arrowsmith, priest and martyr – hung, drawn and quartered on 28 August 1628;

Blessed William Ward, priest and martyr – hung, drawn and quartered for the crime of being a priest, on 26 July 1641;

St Ambrose Barlow, O.S.B., priest and martyr – hung, drawn and quartered on 10 September 1641;

Blessed Edmund Catherick and Blessed John Lockwood, priests and martyrs – their death warrants were signed by Charles I, albeit after some vacillation, and their execution was carried out in York while the King was in residence there – on 13 April 1642;

St Hugh Green, priest and martyr – appallingly gruesomely put to death (the butcher employed took half an hour to chop out his living heart) on 19 August 1642.

Of course, Charles was trying to appease and compromise with his MP's during most of these cruel crimes...

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

The elephant in the living room as you write today's piece is the pending beatification of John Henry Newman, in England, in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI (whatever the nuances of "by the Pope", "in the presence of the Pope", etc). However it transpires, it will be done correctly, of that I'm sure.

I cannot not believe that this will "catapult" Blessed John Henry, before too many more years, onto the Universal Calendar, whence he may be able to give a "leg up" to such men as Blessed Charles! This would not be "politics" either; politics cannot produce a second miracle!

Joshua said...

Then again, Saul stood by and entirely approved of St Stephen being stoned.

One trusts the martyrs' prayers did for Charles what Stephen's did for the future Apostle.

Michael McDonough said...


I take it you will not be lighting candles to Blessed Charles anytime soon! That's your right.

I would caution you about assuming that crimes occuring during the reign of a public figure can, and ought, to be attributed to that public figure. Not all public figures are themselves unconstrained.

Should the 1945 thermonuclear devices exploded by the Allies over Japan be used as evidence that Pius XII was no saint? I know that is far-fetched, but it's still only a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.

Michael McDonough said...


"One trusts the martyrs' prayers did for Charles what Stephen's did for the future Apostle."

Yes. Exactly. The communion of saints.

Joshua said...

I wasn't aware that it was the Holy See that nuked Japan.

Talk about lighting a candle!

Joshua said...

Is THAT whence we get the term "Roman candle" for a firework?

But I am getting mischievous now... ;-)

William Tighe said...

Sadly, in a sense, I think I agree with Joshua here, in that Charles I most likely signed the death warrants of those priests knowing full well that although they were "traitors" according to the law, they were hardly guilty in the eyes of God.

Charles II did the same thing, of course, in allowing the deaths of so many priests and Catholic laymen (some of whose death warrants he signed personally) during the years of the "popish plot" of 1679-81, in his case knowing full well that some of them (such as Viscount Stafford) had been among his most loyal Catholic supporters. But, then, nobody is proposing Charles II for veneration.

Joshua said...

Charles II at least died at peace with the Church. I'm glad to say it was his Spanish mistress, a very devout lady, who realized that the poor man needed a priest - not one to condemn, but one to save, in every sense. (The Italian and French mistresses obviously hadn't listened to what the good nuns had been trying to teach them at convent school about when to call for a priest.)

Little Black Sambo said...

"Charles II at least died at peace with the Church."
Joshua, you remind me of a headline in a local paper when I was young: "School sports: Catholic wins 100 yds."