28 January 2010

S Charlemagne?

Well, No. But Blessed Charlemagne you will find in local calendars as to be observed today; you will find churches dedicated in his name; and, I am told, at Aix his relics are exposed for veneration. What is going on?

In 1165, two Popes claimed the obedience of Christians. Here at S Thomas's, we are very keen on Candidate A: Alexander III. He occupied the See of Peter (although often in exile from Rome) during the great conflict between Frederick Barbarossa and the Church. What we English often fail to realise ... so insular is the way we teach and experience History ... is that in England a small side-show was going on which mirrored the titanic struggle on the mainland of Europe: a conflict between Thomas a Becket and King Henry II. Henry was in contact with Barbarossa; and Thomas enjoyed the confidence of Alexander (to whom he resigned the See of Canterbury so that it could be regranted to him by the Papacy).

In the other corner of the ring, wearing the rossa (Ha!) pants, behold Candidate B: Paschal III. He owed his position to the Emperor.

Each Candidate performed canonisations. Alexander, in 1173, canonised the Archbishop who had been martyred at the instigation of a King. Paschal, in 1165, canonised the Emperor who had founded the Empire (and who, incidentally, was not without suspicion of heresy ... the images business ...). The politics of each act are very plain. Charlemagne was canonised as a theological and hagiographical statement of the supremacy of Monarch over Church.

You will not be surprised to learn that subsequent consensus regards Alexander as the Genuine Pope, and Paschal as an "Antipope". That means, of course, that his pontifical actions are deemed null. So Charlemagne was not, after all, lawfully canonised. But de facto the cultus of Charlemagne continued. And Popes never condemned this. Because of the long standing situation, that most erudite of Pontiffs, Benedict XIV (writing as a private theologian - another parallel between XIV and XVI is their willingness to do this and thus to subject their views to the critical examination of the scholarly world) expressed the view that Charlemagne is to be considered a beatus. And this, mark you, although Paschal's act was part of a heretical denigration of Papal authority.

Am I drawing a theological conclusion from all this? You bet I am. It is the supremacy of the weight of de-fact'-icity in this question of who is - and isn't - a Saint or a Beatus. Even if there are doctrinally iffy questions, and a little matter of schism, included in the mix.

31 comments:

GOR said...

I’m not sure I follow your conclusion here, Father. Are you saying that the de facto veneration of Charlemagne over time, led Benedict XIV to hold that he be considered a beatus and, consequently, we should hold the same?

However, two considerations: 1. as you note, Benedict XIV was speaking as a private theologian; and 2. while canonization is generally held to be encompassed by Papal Infallibility, beatification is not deemed to enjoy that guarantee. Thus we would be free to accept B XIV’s view or not.

Perhaps a compromise could be reached by referring to “Charlemagne, of blessed memory…” (though, understandably, Desiderata might not have shared that view!).

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

I think your theological position has legs. The underlying phenomenon of reunion after a "spat" is very human; Benedict XIV's private opinion is very humane (human + divine charity). The salve of charity spread like unction on the wound of human conflict.

In so many spheres, from sibling-rivalry to intra-Church "politics", Christ wants us to "love one another", even if we cannot "agree with one another" (not speaking about heresy here which probably excludes charity in the one who originates it).

I know that Pope John Paul II is not held in high esteem by some liturgical experts; his real greatness, as a man and saint, however, was his unfailing compass in favor of friendship, forgiveness,big-heartedness, and reconciliation.

Michael McDonough said...

Editorial question:

Should it not be:
de-fact-i'-ci-ty?

I mean the accent should be on the ante-penultimate, surely? I can't remember how to break English into syllables!

We should want to get this right, in case the theology makes it into the official texts, known as "Hunwicke's Rule of De Facts".

Chris said...

The apostrophe is to indicate the omission of the o, not as a guide to pronunciation.

Michael McDonough said...

Chris,

OK. I'm clearly out of my depth; signing off for the morning!

Adam said...

Might this have something do with, Charles, England's Martyr-King?

Fr William said...

… among others …

Fr William said...

… but no doubt [I having suddenly remembered the date] with particular reference to the festum perendinum.

Fr William said...

I suppose, as the clearest example of local beatification to be furnished by post-reformation Anglicanism (albeit one influenced, as with Charlemagne, by political considerations), the attitude which will in the Ordinariate be permitted/encouraged/enjoined – or otherwise – towards Bl. Charles, KM, constitutes a test case for the approach to be taken in general towards that aspect of the Patrimony; it will, in fact (as someone commented on a previous thread), indicate whether the Patrimony is to be reduced to something utterly abstract, shorn of all the patres who might actually have embodied it.

(Sorry to use three comments to say what could easily have been said in one!)

Fr LR said...

This isn't rocket science - or is it? There is this curious passage:

"Abraham rejoiced to see my day."

As I stated somewhere several months ago regarding Fr. Feeney: we Anglican Catholics who are preparing to make the final steps of our >there and back again< tale are already in the "Communion of Desire" with the Holy Father. What would exclude those whom we know to be our forefathers from passing over Jordan with us? That their carcasses lie in the grave is a mere formality. We are not so arrogant as to presume that all the excitement WE get to live through was because of our superiority: I don't think any of us think that. Certainly not me, obviously not Fr. Hunwicke and (I think we will soon find out) neither our Pope.

The Pope holds two keys: one opens the future, the other the past.

--------

(I know I'm rather hokey, but I think it good hoke.)

Dale said...

One should remember that it was Charlemagne who put the filioque in the creed, against the expressed wishes of Pope St. Leo III.

Perhaps he could be the patron for those who question the teaching authority of the Pope?

Kiran said...

I am not sure about Charlemagne at all... Though I do find your general principle compelling. My question would be as to what constitutes this veneration. Is there an office in his name, a shrine, and so on? I think the case of the Royal Martyr (and of Laud) is somewhat clearer. There has been an undoubted and persistent continuity of devotion to him. Another English candidate for Canonization is Henry VI, who probably would have been canonized had it not been for Henry VIII.

Tell me, Dale, is there much veneration of Constantine in the East?

Joshua said...

Constantine is indeed considered a saint by the Eastern Orthodox. I have attended Mass in honour of his dear mother, St Helena, Empress; but the old and new Martyrologies don't include her son.

Very sorry to be rude, but... Charlemagne and Constantine died in the peace of the Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome - Charles I did not. I cannot recall whether various priests and laymen were martyred under Charles I, but certainly the Mass was illegal in his reign.

Joshua said...

I would rather prefer Charles II, whose affecting deathbed conversion story rather completes the life of the Merry Monarch.

A pity his brother was so pigheaded as to lose his throne...

Joshua said...

(Charles II, upon being apprized that the priest - Fr Huddleston, was it? - had the Bl Sacrament with him, made to attempt to get out of his deathbed and kneel down... "Sire, the oblation of your heart is sufficient", said the priest, and forthwith gave him viaticum.)

Mind you, after his life of roistering, 'twas a skin-of-the-teeth job to get him into heaven!

Joshua said...

A quick search of the Martyrologium Romanum turns up neither Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus) nor Constantine. I wonder what the folks in Aix make of that!

Kiran said...

Joshua, might I point out that the Byzantine Catholics keep St. Gregory Palamas Sunday? The point has been gone over before in these forums, I believe. So, I think there is precedent for venerating saints who did not die in communion with Rome.

As for Constantine and Charlemagne, the points at issue are twofold, firstly as to whether they held to what was known to be heresy, and whether there is a consistent veneration.

Kiran said...

And Joshua, James II wasn't pigheaded in his defense of the Church. Unlike his brother, he lived a Catholic as well as dying in communion with the Pope. James simply was used by the Dutch to take over the English throne, as any good Jacobite should know...

Joshua said...

I meant that James' disastrous policy of trying to use the royal prerogative to override Parliament made all the fears people held of tyrannical sinister Roman Catholics appear all too true - hence his overthrow. If he had bided his time, accepted that Parliament would not overturn the Penal Laws, but quietly pardoned those convicted (as was his true royal prerogative), while allowing Parliament to meet, he could have maintained the status quo, without alienating everyone.

If he had died in 1701 still on the throne, and his son James III had succeeded him to reign for almost as long as Queen Victoria did in reality, perhaps over decades the fear of Catholics would have gradually died away, and the Mass could have been legalized in Great Britain not in the late 18th century (1772 or thereabouts, I forget) as in reality, but earlier.

Anyway, enough of alternative history!

Joshua said...

Charlemagne has certainly been consistently venerated, and I seem to reall seeing an Office in his honour... as for heresies, well, a Council summoned under him condemned the Iconodules - but on the basis of a faulty translation from the Greek into Latin, which led the shocked Franks into thinking the Byzantines were approving of paying divine worship to images! It was all a misunderstanding.

I'm not aware of any heresies of Constantine's, either.

Geoff said...

And in the Anglican Communion (perhaps in the Roman Catholic as well; I cannot presume to say), there is a veritable cultus of Bl. Julian of Norwich, with a shrine to her and a monastic order under her patronage.

Joshua said...

She's a good woman, indeed.

If only Englishmen would start praying to saints and getting them to work miracles - it took some Yankee cleric to petition Newman, it appears most folks in England were too embarrassed to try.

Ask and ye shall receive...

Kiran said...

Joshua, Constantine is commonly (and to my mind reasonably) thought to have been a semi-Arian.

Joshua said...

Golly.

Michael McDonough said...

A while back someone spoke about being being "hokey".

"The heart has its reasons that reason knows not". -- Pascal

Perhaps that's the sort of hoke you had in mind?

Kiran said...

Charlemagne also had several wives and concubines (Cf. GOR's comments above). He usurped various papal prerogatives, in large part is responsible for the division of Christendom, wrongheadedly sided with the Iconoclasts (though that was an error for which - in large part - he is probably not himself to blame). So, on the whole, I remain unconvinced, about both Charlemagne, and Constantine. I might be wrong of course...

My point in comparing Charles and Laud favourably to Constantine and Charlemagne, is also that, at least on the face of historical knowledge, it seems that the former two could legitimately be described as heroically virtuous, which seems to me to be much more difficult in case of the latter.

As to the alternative history, that is an interesting speculation, but I suspect that with the Parliament that James II inherited, unless he was going to be untrue to his conscience, just about anything he did do would suffice as provocation. Some of the problems he also inherited from his brother. James was in many ways pigheaded, but in a way in which one would oneself like to be.

silurist said...

In S. Mary's Shrewsbury there are two images of Charlemagne in stained glass - the oldest inscribed 1479 in a window from Treves - with Our Lady and S Helena, wearing a closed imperial crown with an blue halo. The banderole from the mouth of the donor ( Canon Theodoric de Kellenbach ) says 'ora pro no...'. Kellenbach is certainly addressing Charlemagne as he also appears at the feet of Our Lady imploring her aid. Charlemagne is labelled S Carolus Mag. Imp. in the glass.

The other figure of the emperor in the church glass is of 1847 by David Evans, and he is here in the company of King Alfred, King David and King Edgar, who made S Mary's a royal peculiar in 964. Charlemagne here has a white aureole.

Fr LR said...

Yes, Michael, I think that gets it. "The heart has its reasons that reason knows not".

Full of sentiment yet not sentimental. Like the Wide World of Sports "agony of defeat." The heart suffers more than the ruined body.

For those who don't know what the "agony of defeat" is see here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNqps7GN7CA&feature=related

Dale said...

Kiran, Yes Constantine is considered a saint in the East, both by Greek Catholics as well as Greek Orthodox. His feast day is combined with that of his Mother, Helen...finder of the true cross.

One might be inclined to ask what this has to do with Charlemagne...but not for me.

William Tighe said...

I agree more with Joshua than with Kiran about James II.

James was a sincere believer in a wide degree of religious toleration; that is clear from the way he forced the colonial legislature in his New York colony to accept it, over their violent objections, and also from his public protest in 1685 against Louis XIV's revocation of the Edict of Nantes, to which Louis's response was to cease paying James that secret annual pension that he had been paying to Charles II since 1670 and which Charles had persuaded him to increase in 1681 to give him a comfortable annual budgetary surplus, and so to make due withoput parliamentary taxation grants.

But James was also a hypochondriac: he was persuaded that his reign would be brief, the more so as Charles II had died unexpectedly of a stroke in his 55th year after enjoying robust good health. Mary of Modena had miscarried three pregnancies in the 1670s, and by the time he became king in 1685 James was convinced that he would be succeeded in due course, and that sooner rather than later, by his Protestant daughter Mary (with william the real ruler) or his furiously Protestant daughter Anne -- so whatever it was he wished to accomplish (esp. the repeal of all religious penal legislation) he believed that he had to do quickly, or his work would be in vain; and he could not afford to be scrupulous about the means and the friends through which he accomplished it. By the same token, however, most of James's opponents were prepared to wait him out for the same reason, that whatever he managed to accomplish would be reversed by his successor.

It was the birth of the future James III on June 10, 1688 that started the landslide, although it may be that Dutch William had already begun to sound out the support for a descent upon England by that date. Had Charles II lived to 1690, James's accession might have met with a greater degree of resistance than it did in 1685, but had he come to the throne with a living son to succeed him he might have proceeded towards his goals with less haste and more prudence, and his efforts met with success. And the three realms would have been blessed after 1701 with perhaps the most winsome and admirable monarch since England's Alfred the Great.

Kiran said...

Dr. Tighe, thank you. That is fascinating.