Fr Michael Rear says that new provisions for the reception of Anglicans should not surprise those who are familiar with English history
6 November 2009
Years before Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, and absolved the people of England from their allegiance to her (at a stroke turning Catholics into traitors), years before the threat of a Catholic invasion and plots to unseat her, Pope Pius IV had invited the Queen to send Anglican bishops to the Council of Trent, and, it was rumoured, was willing to approve the use of the Book of Common Prayer in the English Church.
The next initiative came not from Rome but from King James I, who wrote to Pope Pius V offering to recognise his spiritual supremacy and reunite the English Church to Rome, if only the Pope would disclaim political sovereignty over kings. The offer was rejected. Too late would a new pope, Urban III, succeed to the papacy two years before James died, and declare: "We know that we may declare Protestants excommunicated, as Pius V declared Queen Elizabeth of England, and before him Clement VII the King of England, Henry VIII... But with what success? The whole world can tell. We yet bewail it in terms of blood. Wisdom does not teach us to imitate Pius V or Clement VII."
Hopes ran high under Urban VIII. Archbishop Laud of Canterbury mentions in his journal that on the very day he was appointed he was seriously offered the dignity of being a cardinal. Nothing more is known of this mysterious offer, but soon a Benedictine monk, Dom Leander, was sent to England by the pope to report on the English Church. Dom Leander, a close friend of Archbishop Laud from their student days, had been expelled on suspicion of being a Catholic from St John's College, Oxford, where they had shared a room.
Dom Leander made extensive contact with Anglican bishops and his report was optimistic and lengthy.
"In the greater number of the articles of the faith the English Protestants are truly orthodox... they contend they have been treated unworthily as heretics and schismatic; that greater differences than theirs were tolerated by the Council of Florence; and that the importance of Great Britain and its dependencies renders it an object of as much importance to reconcile her to the Roman Church, and as much worthwhile to call a special council for the purpose, as it could have been to obtain the reconciliation of the Greeks." But he did note that the Puritans were very numerous and fierce...
Read the rest in The Catholic Herald.