Seasonal Reflections

Whatever Happened to Easter?

7 July 2010


During this past Lent and Easter season, Catholics who sought any sign of respect for Christ and His Church in the culture at large did so in vain.  No positive image could be found, only smears and insults. To be sure, we saw features on TV that extolled the virtues of Buddha and Anne Frank, but none to honor the monastic or literary legacy of any Catholic saint or martyr.  Except as a rare bit in a travelogue, this part of our heritage is never mentioned in the media; instead clerical sex scandals pervade the news.  As for how and why these came to be and who was truly responsible, no one really says.  Despite the unsavory details, no factual basis of any depth is ever provided for the overall spin.  As for the timing, it seems just too coincidental that it all should erupt in time to cast a cloud over the holiest Catholic feast of the year.

Thus the PBS NewsHour for April 19 shows some Denver area Catholics, all Novus Ordo, reacting to the scandals.  First up is Gwyn Green, a 70ish cradle Catholic who an internet search reveals formerly served as a representative in the Colorado legislature.  A St. Mary’s of Notre Dame graduate, she also attended Mass regularly until she got fed up with the clerical sex abuses.  Now she insists the hierarchy deliberately covered these up, and that the pope was personally involved.  So she feels “betrayed,” like an “exile.”

Don’t we all?


But does she search for answers to the dilemma within the framework of her childhood faith? No, she has gone over to the Episcopalians.  On the air she is seen reading aloud from scripture to a congregation of theirs during a service.  Considering how closely this resembles the Novus Ordo “mass”, it’s not surprising in a way, though it makes us wonder what she learned back there at St. Mary’s.  Did they dare to teach students in her day, for instance, how Thomas Cranmer and his ilk gutted the Mass for the so-called “reformation” of the English church?  The changes, of course, anticipated those of the 1960s, which Gwyn Green apparently has accepted, unwittingly or not.

As for the Anglican Communion to which Episcopalians belong, considering its unsavory roots, how could any woman who objects to sex scandals in the church embrace that?  Only recently, Rowan Williams, “Archbishop” of Canterbury, actually stated in a sermon that Henry VIII might be roasting in hell because of his sins!  While his focus was on Henry’s part in the martyrdom of monks in his realm, the king, needless to say, erred in other ways as well.  In addition to his six so-called “wives,” for instance, he is reported to have had illicit relations with Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, and her daughter Mary, years before pursuing Anne, who was daughter to one, younger sister to the other.  Before the latter’s royal wedding, Archbishop Cranmer, defying the pope, annulled Henry’s marriage to Queen Catherine, the excuse for this being her prior marriage to his brother, i.e. “affinity”.  It did not matter to those in charge that Catherine had attested under oath that her relationship with the sickly young Prince Arthur had never been consummated.

Then, but a few years later, the same archbishop declared Henry’s marriage to Anne to be null and void.  While the reason for this was not made public, some say it too was one of “affinity,” this time involving the king’s prior relationship with Anne’s sister Mary.  How ironic!  While Catherine had outlived her annulment a few years, however, not so poor Anne.  The new non-queen was immediately beheaded — a cruel end, to be sure.  Even if she had, as officials claimed, sinned with four other men, including her own brother, we must ask why Anne had to die for the crime of adultery when, for whatever reason, she never was actually married to Henry.


But was he instead her real father?

Wild as it sounds, the story is out there, recorded in a book by 16th century English priest and scholar Nicholas Sander, who claimed that Henry’s affair with Elizabeth Boleyn had born fruit in the person of Anne herself, that she was actually the king’s own daughter!  Considering how such a tale would tend to undermine the credibility of future offspring –– and, indeed, the very foundations of the English state and Church, the latter of which Henry established and his younger — or youngest –– daughter eventually took over –– it’s not surprising to hear that Sander died during the spring of 1581 while on the run from British troops in Ireland.  There, with papal support, he had aided and abetted the Catholic resistance to Protestant rule.  His original book written in Latin was suppressed, but an English translation was published in 1877, and a TAN paperback edition of this still circulates.

Most anglophiles, of course, ignore or pooh-pooh the tale, but not all. Some summers ago, while listening to Hugh Scully introduce a segment of Antiques Roadshow UK, I was certain that I heard him allude to a palace, probably Hampton Court, where Henry VIII had met with “his daughter Anne Boleyn.” Since I was on the far side of a large room, I immediately ran up to ask two of my school-aged children, sitting in front of the TV, what they had heard, and their reports reinforced mine.  It is true that all of us heard, and remembered, the line by itself out of context and therefore assumed the word “his” referred to Henry himself.  If another name was mentioned, we did not hear it.  I myself wondered if the Brits had done DNA tests, though how and why the host of an establishment program could get away with such a glitch, deliberate or otherwise, remains a mystery.


As for Gwyn Green, her case is illuminating because it illustrates how the sex scandals, like other new developments since Vatican II, have succeeded, where centuries of persecution failed, in sending droves of Catholics over to Protestantism.  But it can work both ways, for, many members of the communion Gwyn Green has just joined have in the meantime been seeking refuge from related concerns in Anglicanism by embracing the Novus Ordo!

A closer look throws some light on the situation.  Back in Henry’s day the basic problem was heterosexual; now, as even Cardinal Bertone, Benedict’s second in command, admits, it is homosexual.  Other commentators like Pat Buchanan and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League tend to agree.  A string of writers from the late Fr. Enrique Rueda to Randel Engel and Michael Rose have written books on the subject.  Various forms of vice, mostly involving pederasty, not pedophilia, are rampant in many circles, clerical and otherwise, Catholic and Non-Catholic.

Let us also note a fine distinction between Anglican and Catholic modes of handling the problem. Whereas the Vatican, which also still forbids the ordination of women, technically frowns upon overt homosexual activity, Episcopalians have allowed both women clerics and the appointment of openly “gay” bishops, at least one male and one female. For some staid Anglican types, the sight of an avowed lesbian in a mitre, with or without a cheesy grin, is just too much. Charmed by Ratzinger’s assurances that they can keep their own so-called traditions, heretical though these may be, as part of a new corporate entity within a larger fold, they have abandoned theirs for his.

But is there really much of a difference between the two?

(Part II)

Copyright by Judith M. Gordon 2010