“We are not amused.”

Queen Elizabeth IIDamian Thompson has an interesting piece about the reaction of Her Majesty the Queen of England, who is the head of the Church, and her reaction to Pope Benedict’s Anglicanorum coetibus.

My emphases and comments:

‘Unhappy’ Queen sends Lord Chamberlain to ask Archbishop Nichols about Pope’s Anglican plan

In a surprising departure from protocol, the Queen has sent the Lord Chamberlain, the most senior official of the Royal Household, to see Archbishop Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, to discuss Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to Anglicans wanting to convert to Rome en masse.  [My first question is: When did Her Majesty hear about this?  Was this recent news to her?]

My source says Her Majesty – who is expected to meet the Pope when he visits Britain this autumn – was “unhappy” about aspects of the scheme as she understood it. So, late last year, she dispatched Lord Peel with a list of questions for the Archbishop. The nature of the questions has not been revealed, but Archbishop’s House confirms that the meeting took place and was “mutually beneficial”.

The Queen – a somewhat “Low Church” Anglican who feels it is her solemn duty to preserve the Protestant identity of the Church of England – appears to have been alarmed by press reports of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. This allows groups of ex-Anglicans anywhere to convert to Rome together, retaining aspects of Anglican worship. Some members of the Church of England have expressed interest in doing so, but are very keen to carry on worshipping in their former Anglican parish churches. Possibly the Queen felt that this process might conflict with her Coronation Oath to maintain all the “rights and privileges” of the bishops, clergy and churches of England.

My source was surprised that the Queen should ask one of her courtiers, the Ampleforth-educated but Anglican 3rd Earl Peel, to quiz Archbishop Nichols on the subject. The source felt that the meeting – thought to have been held in November [Ahhhh…. I see….  She acted back then.]  at Archbishop’s House, Westminster – could be seen as a breach of protocol: one would expect the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to represent the Church’s Supreme Governor in such a discussion[Therefore…. the head of the Church of England is perhaps not so confident in the leadership demonstrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in this matter?  Who would have thunk it.  After all, America Magazine, in an effort to prove that irony, in their regard, is redundant, gave their Campion Award to Archbp. Williams.  Right?]

There have been rumours that the Queen is dismayed by the Anglican drift towards homosexual blessings and women bishops. Perhaps she felt that she needed an adviser answerable only to her to convey information impartially – particularly given that she will probably meet Pope Benedict in Scotland, either at Balmoral or Holyrood, when he visits Britain in September. (The discussion between Lord Peel and the Archbishop is unlikely to have been about this meeting, however, since the Scottish Catholic Church is independent of England and Wales.)

At any rate, the spokesman for Archbishop Nichols insisted tonight that the meeting was a success. “It gave the Archbishop the opportunity to correct some of the misunderstandings about the Apostolic Constitution created by misreporting in the media,” he told me. “It was a very successful meeting and mutually beneficial.”  [Hmmm….]

What the spokesman couldn’t tell me – and indeed, didn’t seem to know – was why the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales should have been asked to see the Lord Chamberlain, of all people, to discuss what is essentially a theological and constitutional question.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have been asked by Rome to discuss a provisional structure for the ex-Anglican “Ordinariate” (a quasi-diocese). Archbishop Nichols is a key figure in this process, and I don’t envy him. On the one hand, some of his bishops hate the Pope’s proposal and will work to make its provisions as ungenerous as possible; on the other, he has to report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is ultimately in charge of the Ordinariate scheme on behalf of the Pope, and which does favour generosity.

Now, it would seem, the Archbishop has also to bear in mind the Queen’s early misgivings about a scheme which could see a few parish communities moving from the Church that she governs – and that she promised to protect at her Coronation – to the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

And while you are over at Damian’s place check out his extremely amusing dig at the aging hippies behind the "Stand Up For Vatican II" thingy some geriatic dissidents began.  

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dave N. says:

    What an odd, odd article!

    This wouldn’t be the first time the regent and the Archbishop of Canterbury haven’t exactly seen eye to eye.

  2. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    Maybe the reaction of Her Majesty the Queen of England to Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to Anglicans will be for her to cross the Tiber. LOL

    Seriously I think now many Anglicans will come home, I expect great things from our Holy Father’s offer.

    Tom Lanter

  3. MargaretMN says:

    You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the Queen. She was born to uphold this tradition, such as it is, based on slender thread concocted to allow politics to have its way. It’s a little late to be asserting her prerogative now.

  4. Magpie says:

    With all due respect, I think this matter pertaining to the salvation of souls, is above Her Majesty’s pay-grade.

  5. Jacob says:

    Margaret, I agree. She’s using her office a little late in the game /and/ in the wrong direction. If she wanted to protect her church, she should have done more to voice her disapproval of those elements that have made the apostolic constitution come to be.

  6. mdillon says:

    Her Majesty, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, might now understand how Pope Clement and the rest of the Church felt when Henry VIII cunducted his own Anglicanorum skhísma.

  7. Jason Keener says:

    The Catholic Faith is the True Faith, but I do give enormous credit to Queen Elizabeth for being solicitous for the welfare of her subjects and the Church of England, which she has a solemn duty to do in her capacity as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. I only wish that Catholic heads of state would also be as solicitous in their care for the welfare of the Catholic people and the Catholic Church in their own countries.

  8. irishgirl says:

    Poor Queen Elizabeth. I’ve always admired her for her devotion to duty.

    idatom-wouldn’t be strange if Her Majesty did express the desire to cross the Tiber?

  9. Warren says:

    With regards to Her Majesty’s actions, she is a savvy person. Why wouldn’t she dispatch a personal aid to effect a precise dialogue when she, given her position and her family’s very public exposure, knows how easily the media can twist the facts? And, not only the media, but the CofE leaders who have been duplicitous with regards to how they have treated their own (catholic-minded) folk. Given Rowan William’s whine about short notice (by Rome re Anglicanorum Coetibus) and the spurious attempts by other Anglican prelates to make a mountain out of a mole hill, Her Majesty’s actions seem entirely prudent and commonsensical.

  10. wanda says:

    Chloesmom, Thank you. That needed to be said. I’m with you, you are not alone. Blessings on you for your faithfulness to Holy Mother Church, despite periods of lunacy. We’re not going anywhere!

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    The Pope responded with a letter, “Tamen regnans in excelsis.”

    Seriously, it would be fascinating to know the details of this meeting, and whether it was followed by any direct correspondence between Pope Benedict and Elizabeth. Perhaps she is concerned about prerogatives that might be given by the Pope to “her” bishops – or even her cousin-in-law, the Catholic Duchess of Kent.

  12. TNCath says:

    Her Majesty has lived to see much of her kingdom crumble. Think about it:

    1. The re-configuration of her British Empire into a Commonwealth.
    2. The ongoing misbehavior of her children and grandchildren.
    3. Her self-described “annus horribilis” of 1992.
    4. The deaths of her mother, sister, aunt, and daughter-in-law.
    5. And now, this: the disintegration of the “church” she has sworn by her life to uphold.

    Whatever we may think of Anglicanism, the Queen does take her duty as Sovereign and head of the Church of England seriously, and you can’t blame her for being concerned.

    While I do not think she would ever “cross the Tiber,” I do think she sees the handwriting on the wall. She may very well be the last of her breed, for I do not think the future “King Charles” or even his son “King William” will give a rat’s posterior about preserving the Anglican communion or any other established church, for that matter.

  13. mpm says:

    The source felt that the meeting – thought to have been held in November at Archbishop’s House, Westminster – could be seen as a breach of protocol: one would expect the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to represent the Church’s Supreme Governor in such a discussion.

    Perhaps the difficulty derived from some difficulty in determining out of which side of his mind Dr. Williams was representing the Church’s Supreme Governor?

    I do know that I myself feel challenged to comprehend what it means that 2 sacraments are the same as 7!

  14. Okay… people are taking this down a couple different tracks. I am closing one of them and editing out the irrelevant comments.

  15. jlmorrell says:

    I have a question for Fr. Z or whoever else may know:

    Who owns the Anglican’s parish/church property in England? Is it going to be possible for Anglican parishes to convert en masse with their re-ordained priests and keep the parish property?

    After the mass theft of 500 years ago, it would be a sliver of justice if several parishes could convert and keep their property.

  16. iudicame says:

    This queen person is irrelevant as is her chambermaid and her buffoon bishop. A good lesson stretched over the centuries with chapters in treachery, imperialism and heresy but to name a few. Hey Betty – summon this!

    m [Who won’t be commenting here anymore. Bye!]

  17. JonM says:

    A point that clearly comes up in this article, that often is deprived of its just time, is the nature of religion to various people.

    Over the past couple centuries, Protestantism became increasingly secular. In fact, it is fair to assert as many Protestants have done, that the various flavors of Protestantism should be view in a sociological sense rather than an intention of correctly worshiping God.

    Indeed, this mentality burst forth in the Church in those heady days, probably peaking sometime in the 1990s.

    This is especially apparent in Anglicanism. For some in this sect, Anglicanism is viewed as ‘growth up Catholicism:’ various rites, colorful dress, impressive buildings, but none of that silly supersticious Roman stuff.

    I believe that at the core of restoring the Church, we must root out the incorrect belief that faith is particularly sociological. Sure, we have special cultural touchstones to enhance belief (e.g., the distinct Mexican aspects of devotion to Our Lady, etc.) But that is just it, they are paths to the faith or buttresses to support it as it grows.

    We must resist what some troublemakers seek to do with the Church as has been done to broken branches lest we end up a toothless lion roaring after the damage is complete.

  18. sea the stars says:

    Her Majesty is an honourable lady who sincerely seeks to do the will of God as she knows it. I am sure she is open to the promptings of grace. Let’s commit to saying a prayer for the regent of Mary’s Dowry, shall we?

  19. TJerome says:

    I have a great deal of respect for the Queen. It is probably due to her personal dedication that the House of Windsor has survived in modern times. Perhaps what really should be happening is a national discussion about dis-establishing the Church of England and repealing the obnoxious law that forbids Catholics inherit the throne. Tom

  20. Maltese says:

    A serial wife-murdering, gout-footed drunkard declares himself “head” of the church in England, and begins persecuting Catholics (where the likes of St. Edmund Campion end up being martyred), and this act ends up, under his daughter Elizabeth, forming the Anglican church. How can an Anglican look at their history and see the hand of God? Or Lutherans for that matter (formed by another nun-marrying drunkard, who had “farting matches” with the devil: Martin Luther)? Of course Anglicanism and Lutheranism are disintegrating!

  21. thereseb says:


    with respect, and after many years holding similar views to your own, I now believe it would be a disaster for mainstream christians in England were the Anglican Church to be dis-established. Support against anti-christian legislation in the House of Lords would be watered down by the exclusion of bishops from the process. Every person in the country – including those of any religion, or none, has the right to marry and be despatched in their local C of E parish church – sometimes the only contact with Christianity and human dignity that many have. Only the hardline evangelicals, secularists and islamists would win from divorcing the church from the state.

    The repeal of the Act of Succession is a different issue – and the position of a future Catholic heir to the throne could be amended so that the next protestant in the succession exercised the role of Head of the Church on his behalf. Even if this did not happen – I would rather suffer theoretical discrimination from this petty law, than see fellow christians lose the only protection they have against the dreadful secularist oligarchy currently in charge.

  22. chloesmom says:

    Father, why was my comment removed? If you found it disrespectful, I apologize, but surely you must realize that not everyone over 60 is an “aging hippie”.

  23. chloesmom says:

    And, with all due respect, you’re the one who made the cheap shot at the close of your comments.

  24. Geoffrey says:

    I am reminded of this beautiful prayer, prayed by Catholic subjects of Her Majesty in the dioceses of England and Wales after Sunday High Mass (Extraordinary Form):

    V. O Lord, save Elizabeth our Queen.
    R. And hear us in the day when we call upon Thee.

    Let us pray. Almighty God, we pray for Thy servant Elizabeth our Queen, now by Thy mercy reigning over us. Adorn her yet more with every virtue, remove all evil from her path, that with her consort, and all the royal family she may come at last in grace to Thee, who art the way, the truth, and the life. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

  25. sea the stars says:

    I have to agree with thereseb. Disestablishing the CofE would be a catastrophic move and the only message sent thereby to British society would be that Christianity is less relevant now than in ever was.

  26. TNCath says:

    “Disestablishing the CofE would be a catastrophic move and the only message sent thereby to British society would be that Christianity is less relevant now than in ever was.”

    I think the message is already being sent, without necessarily disestablishing the Church of England.

    According to reporter Ruth Gledhill, the document “Religious Trends,” published by Christian Research in 2008, estimates the following:

    “By 2035, 1.96 million Muslims — double the number attending today — will be attending mosques. They will outnumber Christians who attend churches.
    bullet Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the ‘Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable.’ By 2030, the number of Anglican churches in the UK will drop to 10,000 with an average attendance of 35 persons.”

    Her Majesty seems to be between a rock (THE Rock–Petrus) and a hard place. Ownership of property and legal titles to churches aside, Henry VIII’s experiment is coming to an end.

    Finally, does anyone else see a similarity here between the Church of England and the LCWR-friendly religious orders? Both are facing crises in membership, identity, and belief. At the same time, Rome is reaching out to both groups in an attempt to rescue them from extinction: Anglicanorum coetibus and the Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious. Yet, the “old guard” of both these institutions are resisting and trying in vain to remain the way they are. Very interesting!

  27. One of the titles of the British monarch is Defender of the Faith. What is odd about this is that it was given by the then pope to young Henry VIII who had written a tract condemning the writings of Luther (the first to break with the Church at that time). The Faith he defended, of course, was Catholicism. Anglicanism evolved under Henry and Elizabeth, especially after the pope wrote to the Catholics of England that Elizabeth was illegitimate, and therefore, not their true sovereign. Elizabeth saw the pope as a foreign power and therefore all Catholics true to the pope were suspected traitors. I have engaged in many conversations with Episcopalians (American Anglicans you do recall that when the Colonies revolted against George III he was the head of their church as well!) and they consider themselves as Catholic as we are. We are all in the same Church, they argue, and therefore there is no reason to convert. By the way, they ask, which Catholicism would they convert to: Novus Ordo, FSSP, SSPX? TAC?

  28. shane says:

    William, Pope Paul III revoked that title but Parliament later confered it on Edward VI, but for precisely the opposite reasons. The current title has no connection with the Henrician one, on the contrary it represents its very inverse.

  29. TJerome says:

    I freely admit I do not live in England, so I do not know the dynamics on the ground there. I would point out, then when a Church is an arm of government or functions as a public utility, it generally does not flourish. Maybe this is a naive thought, but wouldn’t the Church of England enjoy greater respect as an independent body not dependent on a government for its daily bread? Although Churches in the US are not flourishing as much as they once were, they’re hardly on life support like the Church of England. Perhaps there is something positive about separation of Church and State. Just a thought. Tom

  30. Tim says:

    Tom, you are absolutely right that the status of a “state church” like the Church of England creates many problems. BTW if the Queen meets the Pope in Scotland it will surely be irrelevant for Anglicanism. Whilst in Scotland, she is the head of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. You see how ridiculous the whole situation becomes.

  31. Supertradmom says:

    What is important to remember is that the Queen as part of her coronation oath, promised to defend the Anglican Church. This is a serious task and one taken seriously by the Queen. The same type of oath was taken by the Emperors of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, such as the Blessed Karl, who will someday be canonized. He spoke frequently about his role as defender of the True Faith, which is why he never abdicated, but was forced into exile by those who wanted a modern government, which led to Nazi hand-holding. That the present Queen takes her oath seriously is a relief, as some previous monarchs were less keen on religion. I think that only good can come out of discussions. The Archbishop of Canterbury is “under the monarch”, which is hard for Americans to understand. But the idea of monarchy is one held sacred by many Catholic Englishmen and women even in the twentieth and this century.

    As to discussions with Vincent Nichols or his staff, I applaud all discussions, as there still exists in England prejudice against the Roman Catholics.

    Not an “odd” article, but one showing the real relationships in the Anglican Communion.

  32. shane says:

    Tim, she is not head of the Church of Scotland when north of the border, merely a member. The coronation oath requires her to uphold it as the established religion of Scotland. The crown is represented at the Kirk’s General Assembly each year by a Lord High Commissioner.

  33. shane says:

    The coronation oath to uphold the Protestant religion and the established church(es) has been conveniently set aside a number of times.

    As for the institution of the monarchy itself I tend to agree with Brendan Clifford:

    “Britain is a democratic republic with a hereditary monarch as ceremonial head of state. It has been a republic implicitly since the 1688 revolution. It was an aristocratic republic in the 18th century, a bourgeois republic in the 19th century, and it is a general democratic republic in the 20th century. No political tendency of any substance has bothered its head about the monarchy for two hundred years.”

    Thankfully the British state is on an inexorable road to fragmentation. I for one will be toasting its ruins when the glorious day arrives.

  34. An American Mother says:

    Dear me, shane, that’s rather unkind.

    Whatever Britain’s failings may be (and by and large they are not that different from ours), she has given us the concepts of common law, constitutional government, the bill of rights, and guarantees of individual freedom. True that many of those concepts were transmitted from the old Germanic polities through Britain, but Britain preserved them.

    That’s not to mention the brilliant literature and the splendid music.

    I am sorry to see that Britain has fallen on hard times. I am sure that Her Majesty is doing what she can to stave off the evil day, and she is certainly worthy of our respect and not our derision, whatever our personal political inclinations.

  35. shane says:

    American Mother, you are clearly a subscriber to the Whig view of history, a theory which is as inaccurate as it is chauvinist. The Glorious Revolution, for which the Bill of Rights cemented, replaced the rule of a Catholic king with tolerant notions with a materialistic but religiously sceptical Whig obligarchy; the Bill of Rights, an explicitly anti-Catholic document, is furnished with earlier puritan and Whig imputations of ‘arbitrary rule’ to Catholics.

    There is nothing that especial about English music; traditional English music seems to have been largely destroyed at the Reformation. As Kevin Myers recently said: “The English do not really have any traditional songs — the title ‘folk-song’ was a 19th century, cod Anglo-Saxon term invented by English cultural nationalists — because to know songs, you have to have a group-memory. Most English have none. English ‘folk-songs’ are dead two hundred years. Any musical portrayal of the East End of London will feature ‘My Old Man’ and ‘The Lambeth walk’: and that’ll be that. Over. In my Leicester childhood, my father would lie in bed on Sunday morning singing Irish songs: ‘The Rose of Tralee’, and ‘The Kerry Dances’, ‘I Met Her in the Garden Where the Praties Grow’. It was inconceivable that the fathers of my little English friends would have known any English songs of a comparable vintage.”

  36. An American Mother says:

    Oooooooo . . . . My Jacobite ancestors would be spinning in their graves if they knew I’d been accused of being a Whigamore!

    But regardless of the anti-Catholic bent of much of the 17th century in England (not to mention the U.S. up to the present day), and the flaws in the legal system (most notably that the Bill of Rights had no teeth), the fact remains that the U.S. legal system and Constitution owes a great deal to the British common law and concept of charter rights. For that we owe them a debt of gratitude. To reject the whole thing out of hand because it wasn’t perfect is as wrong-headed as to reject the U.S. Constitution because it did not deal with the question of slavery or women’s rights as some today say it should have. “Ged is don’ an Donas . . . ”

    I don’t know who Kevin Myers is, but he’s dead wrong. I used to teach folk music to the little kids at summer camp, and there is plenty of extant English folk music from less than 200 years ago. You have to watch out for the twee descendants of Cecil Sharp who are far too apt to find folk music (like King Charles’s head) in the most unlikely places, and of course the baneful influence of the phonograph, radio, and more lately television is everywhere (I have personally spoken to old codgers in the Appalachians who sang ‘authentic folk songs’ that were taken straight off the old Okeh 78 records from the 1920s.) The Scots are more careful of their heritage, but there’s good English material there, although it fades out after the interwar period.

    And you can’t be serious in claiming that there’s no good English church music after the Reformation. Nobody dared touch Tallis or Byrd, though they were practicing Catholics. The 18th century was sort of a dead zone (too much looking back to Handel in my opinion), but there’s plenty of good English church music more recently, e.g. Vaughn Williams, Holst, Howells, Stanford, and more recently Britten, Tavener and even Rutter. And while you may not LIKE the Wesley brothers, their contribution to hymnody was substantial, valuable and lasting.

    Let’s be fair.

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