Fr Ray Blake raises an interesting question on his blog. He says that he would like to break communion with Cardinal Drew and Archbishop Cupich, but that he cannot since they are in communion with the Pope and so is he. The implication is that he would therefore be going into schism if he refused to give Holy Communion to either of these two prelates, were they to come and spend some time in Brighton.

But is this so? Schism is defined in canon law as “the withdrawal of submission from the supreme pontiff or from communion with members of the Church subject to him” (canon 751; incidentally, I like the fact that this canon uses the term ‘members’ – it is there in the Latin too – as this term has to a large degree vanished from modern ecclesiastical vocabulary, implying as it does that baptised non-Catholics are severed members.) So the question is, is Archbishop Cupich or Cardinal Drew a member of the Church subject to the Roman pontiff? Pius XII made it clear in Mystici Corporis that to be a member of the Church, one must among other things, profess the true faith. Therefore if the archbishop and the cardinal are no longer professing the true faith – and Archbishop Cupich’s latest remarks are totally unCatholic – then they are no longer members of the Church. In that case Fr Blake could, and indeed should refuse to give either man communion. It may be that the Roman pontiff himself continued to give them communion; but that would not cause them to be members of the Church.

It is often assumed that the practice of holding the paschal vigil on Saturday morning was an obvious anomaly, explicable perhaps by the law of fasting from midnight before Holy Communion, but sensibly changed by Pope Pius XII. In fact it makes perfect sense when one considers that our Lord’s victory has a dual character: it is a victory over sin and a victory over death. The victory over sin is primarily accomplished on Good Friday, when super-abundant satisfaction is made for the sins of the whole world. The victory over death is primarily accomplished very early on Easter Sunday when He rises again never to die any more, the exemplar for the resurrection of His faithful members.

The vigil on Saturday morning therefore celebrates the first victory, which is already achieved. The Mass of Easter day is above all a celebration of the second victory. It would be interesting to know what connexion there was between the moving of the time of the vigil and the growth of a Balthasarian view of Holy Saturday, the idea, so repugnant to tradition, that Christ’s descent into hell was a continuation and even intensification of His Passion, rather than the joyful progress of a conquering King.

I have just finished reading the Latin correspondence between C.S. Lewis and St Giovanni Calabria (1873-1954). Although it has a certain charm, both from the personalities of the authors and from the use of the ancient tongue, it is theologically rather jejune. There is very little discussion of doctrine; much of it is taken up with expressions of good will and desire for unity, and assurances of prayers. One wonders if anyone ever explained Catholic doctrine to Lewis, or if he himself ever took the trouble to read a papal encyclical or a manual of scholastic theology. Despite his great general erudition, his theology is strangely parochial: the Anglican prayer-book, odd pieces from the Anglican divines, George MacDonald and Milton tend to dominate, with some Dante thrown in. He said of himself that he was a very poor Thomist; I don’t know that he was much better as a patrologist. I don’t remember him quoting anything even from St Augustine apart from sayings that are part of general culture, such as ‘love and do as you will’. Perhaps he was warned off much theological study by Newman’s saying about what happens to those who go deep into history…

The other thing that strikes you in the correspondence is how confident Fr Calabria is about Lewis’s present spiritual position. He writes to him for example, ‘I call you blessed and shall do so in the future, because God wants to use you to carry out His works’; and again, ‘In heaven with God we shall see each other by the mercy of the Lord who has redeemed us’. This was written in 1953, not long after Pius XII had warned against reducing the axiom ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’ to a meaningless phrase. I think a little more caution would have been in order. However,  the Italian was clearly a holy man, who apparently offered his life for the pope’s recovery when the latter was gravely ill in 1954. Pius suddenly recovered and lived another 4 years.

The last line of the collection is the most moving. Lewis wrote in 1961 to Fr Calabria’s successor after the death of his own wife:-

Scio vos preces effundere et pro desideratissima uxore mea et pro me qui jam orbatus et quasi dimidatus solus hanc vallem lacrimarum peragro (I know that you pray for my wife whom I so miss and also for me, as now bereaved and, as it were, halved, I journey on in solitude through this valley of tears.)

Let us hope St Giovanni’s prophecy has been fulfilled.