Supernatural is a dangerous and difficult word in any of its senses, looser or stricter. But to fairies it can hardly be applied, unless super is taken merely as a superlative prefix. For it is man who is, in contrast to fairies, supernatural (and often of diminutive stature); whereas they are natural, far more natural than he. Such is their doom.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, Essay on Fairy Stories (1947)

…for, even as Christ, in whose throne I sit in this part of the earth, is the husband to the church and the church his spouse, so I likewise desire to be your husband, and you should be my spouse; and, therefore, as it is the husband’s part to cherish his wife, to entreat her kindly, to reconcile himself towards her, and procure her love by all means, so it is my part to do the like to my people.

James I, Address to Parliament on 19th February 1623

st-michael-sword-scales

In the case of Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians decided in 1610 by the Court of Common PleasSir Edward Coke held that “in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void”. The case and the decision are controversial seeming, as they do, to contradict the doctrine of the Supremacy of Parliament in favour of the supremacy of Common Law. It has been celebrated in the United States as the possible origin of certain elements of US constitutional law. The Common Law in question in Dr Bonham’s case would be the aboriginal Common Law  from which the English Common Law derives its legitimacy the lex naturalis: the light of the Divine Countenance sealed upon human nature itselfIt is indeed the case that laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, contrary to the Natural Law are null and void (although whether the Court of Common Pleas is the competent tribunal to determine the existence of such a conflict is another matter).

How does this relate to the danger of schism in the Church at the present time? Dr Bonham’s case concerned an instance in which a (juridical) person, in this case the College of Physicians, had acted as judge in its own cause. Despite having the authority of an Act of Parliament to do so Sir Edward Coke determined that to act as judge in one’s own cause is so repugnant to reason and natural law that the statutory provisions could not stand.

Cardinal Burke has stated that, if the four Cardinals who have placed the Dubia before Pope Francis concerning Amoris Laetitia and the perennial teaching of the Church continue to receive no reply, he will be compelled to proceed to a “formal act of correction of [the Roman Pontiff in] a serious error”. According to the tradition of the Church if the Roman Pontiff is admonished twice by his proper counsellors for teaching heresy he is separated from the body of the Church and deposed. This is in accordance with the doctrine of St Paul in Titus 3:10 ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid’. The Church cannot avoid the Roman Pontiff so if she were compelled to do so in virtue of Divine Law when such a person were admonished twice he would ipso facto cease to be the Roman Pontiff at the second admonition. Therefore, if a Cardinal were to issue a formal act of correction a process would have begun against Jorge Mario Bergoglio and until the Sacred College formally voted once (if negatively) or twice (if positively) concerning that admonition they would be constituted as the judges in that process.

The Dean of the Roman Rota, Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto, has warned that Pope Francis could strip the four Cardinals of their membership of the Sacred College. There are precedents for such a degradation. However, from the moment a formal act of correction were issued by Cardinal Burke and/or any of his brother Cardinals such a degradation would be null and void. As it is contrary to natural law for anyone to be judge in their own cause, and as ecclesiastical positive law (a fortiori executive edict) cannot validly transgress natural law, it would seem the Pope cannot remove or institute Cardinals from the moment such a process had begun until it is terminated in acquittal, censure or (after a second admonition) deposition. This could, of course, create a serious problem at the next conclave if the Pope seeks to remove or, as even more likely, add members of the Sacred College during such a period.

This is because the potential is created (were the Pope to die before the hypothetical process were terminated) for the appearance of two formally distinct sets of putative Papal electors: the set of those who recognise only the Cardinals appointed prior to the formal act of correction and the set of those those who recognise those created subsequently. If the first group  (or even some of the first group) refused to sit in conclave with ‘Cardinals’ created after the formal act of correction these Cardinals (a sub-set of the first group) would have the right to sit themselves as the only true conclave.

In the midst of the imminent apostasy of the post-conciliar period a hidden schism has developed beneath the external unity of the Church. The first stage in curing any disease is recognising its existence. Perhaps this formal act of correction cannot come soon enough.

As reported here by EWTN. Could it be that the Holy Father fears a majority (or two thirds) of Cardinals will admonish him orally for teaching heresy? Were they to do so it would seem only to require one more admonition for him to be deposed. The vast majority of Cardinals reportedly opposed the ‘Kasper proposal’ so it is not unthinkable.

O memorable time, when St. Aidan and the Irish monks went up to Lindisfarne and Melrose, and taught the Saxon youth, and when a St. Cuthbert and a St. Eata repaid their charitable toil! O blessed days of peace and confidence, when the Celtic Mailduf penetrated to Malmesbury in the south, which has inherited his name, and founded there the famous school which gave birth to the great St. Aldhelm! O precious seal and testimony of Gospel unity, when, as Aldhelm in turn tells us, the English went to Ireland “numerous as bees;” when the Saxon St. Egbert and St. Willibrod, preachers to the heathen Frisons, made the voyage to Ireland to prepare themselves for their work; and when from Ireland went forth to Germany the two noble Ewalds, Saxons also, to earn the crown of martyrdom!

Such a period, indeed, so rich in grace, in peace, in love, and in good works, could only last for a season; but, even when the light was to pass away from them, the sister islands were destined, not to forfeit, but to transmit it together. The time came when the neighbouring continental country was in turn to hold the mission which they had exercised so long and well; and when to it they made over their honourable office, faithful to the alliance of two hundred years, they made it a joint act. Alcuin was the pupil both of the English and of the Irish schools; and when Charlemagne would revive science and letters in his own France, it was Alcuin, the representative both of the Saxon and the Celt, who was the chief of those who went forth to supply the need of the great Emperor. Such was the foundation of the School of Paris, from which, in the course of centuries, sprang the famous University, the glory of the middle ages (‘Idea of a University’, Introductory).

Telling the truth about Ireland is not very pleasant to a patriotic Englishman; but it is very patriotic [. . . .] The truth about Ireland is simply this: that the relations between England and Ireland are the relations between two men who have to travel together, one of whom tried to stab the other at the last stopping-place or to poison the other at the last inn. Conversation may be courteous, but it will be occasionally forced. The topic of attempted murder, its examples in history and fiction, may be tactfully avoided in the sallies; but it will be occasionally present in the thoughts. Silences, not devoid of strain, will fall from time to time. The partially murdered person may even think an assault unlikely to recur; but it is asking too much, perhaps, to expect him to find it impossible to imagine. And even if, as God grant, the predominant partner is really sorry for his former manner of predominating, and proves it in some unmistakable manner – as by saving the other from robbers at great personal risk – the victim may still be unable to repress an abstract psychological wonder about when his companion first began to feel like that (‘The Crimes of England’, chapter V, AD 1914).

What are they on about?

“Philosophy is knowledge of things which are in so far as they are, that is, a knowledge of the nature of things which have being. And again, philosophy is knowledge of both divine and human things, that is to say, of things both visible and invisible. Philosophy, again, is a study of death, whether this be voluntary or natural. For life is of two kinds, there being the natural life by which we live and the voluntary one by which we cling lovingly to this present life. Death, also, is of two kinds: the one being natural, which is the separation of soul from body, whereas the other is the voluntary one by which we disdain this present life and aspire to that which is to come. Still again, philosophy is the making of one’s self like God. Now, we become like God in wisdom, which is to say, in the true knowledge of good; and in justice, which is a fairness in judgment without respect to persons; and in holiness, which is to say, in good- ness, which is superior to justice, being that by which we do good to them that wrong us. Philosophy is the art of arts and the science of sciences. This is because philosophy is the principle of every art, since through it every art and science has been invented. Now, according to some, art is what errs in some people and science what errs in no one, whereas philosophy alone does not err. According to others, art is that which is done with the hands, whereas science is any art that is practiced by the reason, such as grammar, rhetoric, and the like. Philosophy, again, is a love of wisdom. But, true wisdom is God, Therefore, the love of God, this is the true philosophy.”

– St John Damascene, The Fount of Knowledge, Chapter 3

“‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father:
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool’d:
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie! ’tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd: whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died to-day,
‘This must be so.’ We pray you, throw to earth
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
As of a father: for let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne;
And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his son,
Do I impart toward you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde to our desire:
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.”

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 2