Friday, August 29, 2008

Ecumaniac memorial in Oxford

Briefing: in June this bizarre, ugly, and morally distasteful plaque was unveiled in the University Church in Oxford, to the 'martyrs of the Reformation both Catholic and Protestant'.

Of the 22 names, 15 are Catholics executed by Protestant monarchs, five are Protestants executed by Queen Mary Tudor, one, William Laud, was a 'high' Anglican executed by 'low' church Protestants, and the last, Stephen College, was a 'low' church Protestant executed by 'high' church ones.

It is sufficient to demonstrate the absurdity of this memorial to say that three of the Catholics are not martyrs: Bowldry, Joyes and Webbe were executed for their part in an uprising in protest against the imposition of Cranmer's Prayer Book in 1549. While this uprising may have been justifiable, those who take up the sword are not martyrs. All the other Catholics have been beatified as martyrs; Cuthbert Mayne, Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin have been canonised.

But it is profoundly distasteful to place on the same memorial people who would not wish to share one. The first five names were people executed, directly or indirectly, by Cranmer. John Story was Cranmer's prosecutor at the trial which led to Cranmer's own execution; having escaped to the Spanish Netherlands under Queen Elizabeth, he was kidnapped and brought back to be executed in England. To make Cranmer's victims, and Cranmer's prosecutor, share a plaque with Cranmer, is grotesque.

It is particularly shameful that Catholics were involved in the plaque: it was unveiled by Lord Patten, the first Catholic Chancellor of the University since the Reformation. Ironically, special permission had to be sought from the University since the plaque included 'heretics'. Which ones, one wonders...

For a Catholic to be involved in such a project is wrong, since - apart from the question of good taste - it is clearly a statement of religious indifferentism, a view which has been repeatedly condemned by the Church. If one can describe people of diametrically opposed views as 'martyrs', this clearly implies that one set of views is as good as the other. A proposition, of course, which the men listed here would have violently rejected: another reason against the plaque.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen