Jews laudably and graciously honour as 'Righteous among the Gentiles' those gentiles whom they deem to have defended, even at personal risk, members of the Jewish race during the horrible antijudaic persections of the twentieth century. The instinct is an admirable and a generous one. During this Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, a thought occurs to me. Just suppose we in the Ordinariates ... assisted, perhaps, by our dear brethren who still linger in Welbiland ... were to form a list of those Roman Catholics who, in the years before Anglicanorum coetibus, dealt justly with Anglicans ... we could even have it engraved on big brass tablets and hung on the walls of Warwick Street ...
Firstly, of course, heading any and every possible list, there stands Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. For us in the Ordinariates, he is our great and admired Benefactor and Founder. Which is why some of us rather dislike the malevolent and spiteful way in which (some of) the German bishops and others are currently campaigning to trash his legacy.
Next, among the distinguished living, Fr Aidan Nichols is head and shoulders above the rest. The hours that man has worked, writing on our behalf, helping, advising, planning, preaching, lecturing.
Among the departed, I will mention a figure who appeared in my blog some time ago: the Cardinal MERCIER, who presided over the Malines Conversations. "The Church of England United but not Absorbed".
And another Cardinal: RAMPOLLA, Secretary of State to Leo XIII, who, in the troubled days of the 1890s, when some English RCs asserted that England would be converted if only they could persuade Rome to condemn Anglican Orders, remained a firm friend of Anglicans and of England. He absented himself from the final meeting of the Holy Office at which the formal vote was taken to condemn Anglican Orders.
For today, just one more Cardinal will suffice: GASPARRI, the great and learned canonist, who brought into being the first Codex Iuris Canonici, who, again in the 1890s (when he was not yet a cardinal), found it difficult to understand why Anglican Orders were invalid. In one of the text books he had written he had taken the view that the words in the Roman Pontifical Accipe Spiritum Sanctum [Take the holy goste was the Anglican Form from 1550 onwards] were, on their own, an adequate Form for episcopal consecration, even if the the old consecratory Prayer in the Roman Sacramentaries were not used. As a member of the Papal Commission set up on the Anglican Question, he found it hard to go further than to agree that, for the avoidance of doubt and scruple, Anglicans should be conditionally reordained.
Happily, those old controversies of the 1890s are now just History. It is far from my intention to revive them. But I hope you agree that it is right to honour the memories of good, honest and principled men who were fair to us in difficult times.