Friday 16 September 2022

Fidei Defensor

The King is Charles III after all, rather than King Arthur or whatever else he had hinted at calling himself, and he is also Defender of the Faith. Like the Succession itself, these things just happen.

Pope Leo X did confer the title Fidei Defensor on Henry VIII, but the present title derives from its conferral by Parliament on Henry’s son, Edward VI. It tellingly remained part of the Royal Title of the Irish Free State throughout that State’s existence. Not that it has ever been peculiarly British or English; various monarchs have used it in various times and places, and Popes have conferred it on a number of people.

For example, Catherine of Aragon was a Defender of the Faith in her own right. A generation into his revolt, Martin Luther supported Catherine against Henry VIII. As did William Tyndale, who effectively went to the stake at Vilvoorde rather than return to an England that he did not regard as having really become Protestant at all.

Like Luther, Tyndale had no truck with some king who wanted to get divorced because he had got his bit on the side pregnant. The robustly Protestant supporters of Lady Jane Grey sought to write Elizabeth as well as Mary out of the Succession. People who took Protestantism seriously, including as an international movement, ended up losing a Civil War in England, although they have accounted for at least half of England’s non-Catholic churchgoers ever since. Think on.

Although the Tudors were tyrants and torturers, they did not go that way when they became, after their own fashion, Protestants. They had always been like that, especially after the death of Elizabeth of York, when numerous of her relatives remained alive, all with far better claims to the Throne than her widower had ever possessed.

The people who think that the issuing of Regnans in Excelsis was one of the most important things that Pope Saint Pius V ever did, or even in his Top 20 Greatest Hits, are like the people who think that Apostolicae Curae ranks anywhere close to the writings of Pope Leo XIII on supernatural evil, on Catholic Social Teaching, and on Thomism. Indeed, they are very often the same people.

All in all, the position of Defender of the Faith would seem to have been vacant in both the Catholic and the Protestant senses for a very long time. Any suggestions? Any volunteers?