Saturday, September 17, 2022

Indifferentism and Praying for the Queen and the King

I know some traditional Catholics have misgivings about praying for the late Queen and for King Charles. 

Under the old Code of Canon Law, Requiem Masses could be said for non-Catholic Christians but these could not be publicly advertised as such. At least, this was the way Canon 2262 was enforced, though the canon referred to people who were excommunicated. Non-Catholic Christians are not usually personally guilty of the sin of separating themselves from the Church.

[Edit: Canon 1240 of the old Code / 1184 of the new are about 'Ecclesiastical burial' which is not at issue here, but in any case still have in mind Catholics who have fallen away, either 'notorious sinners' or heretics, apostates, and schismatics. See comments.]

Again, non-Catholic monarchs would not normally have the Prayers for the Sovereign said for them at the end of Mass.

Today, the first rule does not apply. On the second, permission for this was given for England and Wales, dating back to 1789.

The rules on exactly what level of communicatio in sacris (sharing in sacred things with non-Catholics) gives rise to an unacceptable risk of religious indifferentism (the attitude that all religions are equally valid) have varied over time: it is a matter not of doctrine but of discipline.

There was certainly sense in the old rules: they emphasised the wall around the Church, and this wall, this solidarity, was part of why made the Catholic community cohesive, and therefore attractive to stay in or to join. The massive rates of lapsation, and the collapse of conversions, since the 1960s, are directly connected with the breakdown of the attitudes which the old rules articulated and reinforced. We cannot, however, improve the situation by pretending that the old rules are still in force. Building up the sense of community, the sense of difference between inside and out, and the sense of urgency about the conversion of non-Catholics, is essential to the renewal of the Church, but it can't be done by gestures which lack the context which makes them make sense either to Catholics or to those outside. 

There are many things we can do instead to promote Catholic solidarity, and we in the Latin Mass Society are doing them. I hope you, dear reader, are doing them too: a concern with the Catholic content of children's education, and public witnesses of the Faith in pilgrimages and processions, are obvious examples.

Refusing to pray for Queen Elizabeth and King Charles today would look not just rude, but a failure to do what we can to give them our spiritual support, and to do so publicly. The importance of this for English Catholics in particular has been very acutely recognised by our predecessors in the Faith going back centuries, and we do well to place ourselves in the tradition they established.

Not only did they have Prayers for the Sovereign after the principal Mass on Sunday, but preceding the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 the Bishops of England and Wales ordered a triduum of Masses to be said for her. I have been sent a scan of a booklet for the final one of these Masses. It was a Votive Mass of St Augustine of Canterbury, followed by the Te Deum and the Prayer for the Sovereign. The booklet was clearly distributed all over the country, as it includes the variations on the orations used for St Augustine in certain dioceses. Special permission of course would also have been needed for a Mass in the evening, back in 1953; general permission for evening Masses didn't come until 1957.

Catholic dioceses, parishes, and organisations should all consider how best to support King Charles in prayer, particularly at the time of the Coronation. The Latin Mass Society, naturally, will be organising a Traditional Mass for this intention, as soon as the date is announced. On Monday a Requiem will be said for Queen Elizabeth in Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, in London; on the 'month's mind' of Her Majesty's death, Saturday 8th October, we will have an even more splendid Requiem Mass for her in St Mary Moorfields: full details to be announced.

This is the Preface of the booklet from 1953, by Cardinal Bernard Griffin, who died in 1956.

IN her broadcast message to her people last Christmas Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II asked us all to pray for her at the time of her Coronation. None of us can fully appreciate the immensity of the burdens which Her Majesty assumed on her accession to the throne but we c all lighten those burdens, not just by our loyalty and devotion, but most of all by our prayers that Almighty God may guide her in her appointed tasks. 

In response to the Queen's request for our prayers, the Hierarchy of England and Wales has directed that the three days prior to the Coronation be observed by Catholics as a Triduum of Prayer that God may bless Her Majesty and her realms. Throughout these three days our people will pray earnestly for this great intention. Moreover, it is the Bishops' wish that the entire Catholic community in England and Wales be united in prayer for the Sovereign on the Eve of the Coronation itself. In every public Catholic church throughout the country Mass will be celebrated at 8 p.m. on the evening of 1st June, and this souvenir booklet provides the Order of Ceremonies which will be followed. The Mass will be the culmination of our Triduum. It will be the supreme moment at which the Catholics of England and Wales will be asking God's blessing upon our Queen. In the words of the prayer which we shall recite with such fervour that evening: God save Elizabeth our Queen, now by Thy mercy reigning over us. Adorn her yet more with every virtue. Remove all evil from her path.

Archbishop of Westminster 

Cardinal Bernard Griffin, centre

Support the Latin Mass Society


  1. The problem was not praying for Her Majesty when she was alive; anyone can see that prayers at the present time seem our only recourse to prevent our country from continuing on its path to disaster, and as such prayers for the King are necessary to obtain his conversion. However, praying for someone who has died outside of the Church publicly is a rather different matter. You have omitted the fact that canon 1240 in the old code and canon 1184 in the new both forbid the saying of public Requiem Masses for notorious (Meaning 'well-known' - this interpretation is borne out by the context in which the word is used in the rest of the code and by the definition of the Latin word 'notorius') heretics, schismatics, and apostates. Since the Queen was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, it is quite clear that she was a notorious heretic and schismatic, and as such a public Requiem Mass is most certainly forbidden, and frankly scandalous. Further evidence of the Catholic position is the letter which Cardinal Vaughan wrote on the death of Queen Victoria, brimming with patriotism and praise, which states quite clearly that Requiems were not to be had for the late Queen. His comments were not in the tone of prudence concerning religious indifferentism, but rather of unchanging fact. The SSPX, ostensibly with more sense than everyone else, published it here:
    Fortescue also corroborates this in his passage entitled "Service on the Occasion of the Death of a Non-Catholic Personage". Herein, he quite clearly states that Mass and public intercession for the dead are both forbidden. Kings, queens, and presidents are specifically mentioned.

    The question of having a Requiem Mass for Her late Majesty is ultimately not a question of law, but of doctrine, which cannot change. However, a Requiem for the Queen is quite clearly forbidden by even the extremely problematic new code of canon law, and arguments centred around 'old laws' are not relevant.

    1. excellent post- thankyou

    2. This is absolutely false. You have confused an Ecclesiastical Funeral, a Funeral Mass and a Requiem Mass.

      Ecclesiastical Funeral = Procession to Church, Mass, procession to the grave, burial etc.;
      Funeral Mass = Requiem Mass in the context of a funeral;
      Requiem Mass = Mass for the dead.

      You are looking at the wrong Canon(s). It’s canon 901 (new code) than you should be reading.

    3. Cardinal Vaughan's letter is interesting, but it is precisely a matter of discipline--liturigical discipline--to which he refers. This can and has changed, even by 1952 when it was clear that priests could say Mass for the late King *privately*.

      Interestingly the SSPX was on the other side of this argument over celebrating a public funeral for a former Nazi: they said he had repented, the local bishop insisted he was a notorious sinner.

    4. Page 684 of the following commentary validates my interpretation:
      (An account may be needed to look at the book, but it doesn't cost anything)

      When ecclesiastical burial is denied, then any other public Requiem Mass is also forbidden. The three-fold distinction made by Matt is therefore not relevant.

      The example involving the former National Socialist is also not relevant as he repented. The Queen gave no sign that she wanted to become a Catholic that we know of, and anyone sensible can see that it's extremely unlikely that she did so. She was also known to reject intercessory prayer for the dead, so in having Requiems for her we also go against her wishes.

    5. Augustine, this doesn’t apply. This commentary is in the context that that you have the body. You don’t, it is/was in Westminster Abbey.

    6. If a person cannot have ecclesiastical burial, then public Requiem Masses cannot be said for them, as stated in the commentary. Whether we had the body or not is not relevant.

    7. Augustine, your understanding of these canons is false.

      These canons are for determining whether an ecclesiastical funeral is to be granted or denied. The Royal Family did not request an ecclesiastical funeral. So, such a funeral has neither been granted or denied. Your argument is just a supposition: had they asked for one it would have been denied, but this is by no means certain I suspect Cardinal Nichols would have jumped at the chance.

      But if you actually give thought to these canons rather than trying to twist them it should become obvious: Supposing a case existed where a family was considering a ecclesiastical funeral, but the circumstances surrounding the deceased would have meant the case being referred to the local ordinary (as envisaged in point 5). In the end the family decided not to request an ecclesiastical funeral and went ahead with some non-Catholic service. Some time later a family friend (living in a different diocese and in a different country) requests a requiem Mass for the deceased, what then? Following your supposition logic the local ordinary would need to be contacted and asked, “if he had been approached by the family would he have granted or denied an ecclesiastical funeral?” And what if the local ordinary had move on or died? You see the absurdity in your argument.

      No, in such a case Canon 809 would have been used with due regard for the prescription of Canon 2262 (old code).

  2. "Of public religious services for the dead the Catholic Church knows of none but such as she has instituted for the souls of her own children. For them the Requiem Mass, the Solemn Absolution, and the Catholic Funeral Office, form the only Memorial Service for the dead in her liturgy.

    No one would feel it to be right that, in our grief, we should so far forget ourselves or the proprieties due to her deceased Majesty and to the official position she filled, as even to appear to claim her as member of our Church, which we should be doing were we to perform in her behalf religious rites that are exclusively applicable to deceased Catholics. Of other rites for the dead the Church has none." - Cardinal Vaughan, 1901

    1. There seems to have been different reactions since the Canadian Prime Minister at that time, Sir Wilfred Laurier, attended a Requiem Mass at the Catholic Cathedral in Ottawa. It was also reported that there were Requiem Masses in Montreal, Victoria, BC and Cape Town, and that Cardinal Vaughan’s brother, Fr. Bernard Vaughan, also celebrated a Mass for the Queen. I’ve read that a number of bishops in France lead public prayers on the death of the Tzar Alexander III.

    2. None of that addresses Cardinal Vaughan's argument.

    3. What it does is illustrate the fact that it is discipline, not doctrine.

  3. Thank you for this balanced piece and for this paragraph in particular:

    'The rules on exactly what level of communicatio in sacris (sharing in sacred things with non-Catholics) gives rise to an unacceptable risk of religious indifferentism (the attitude that all religions are equally valid) have varied over time: it is a matter not of doctrine but of discipline.'

    This strikes me as the key distinction here and many might be able to put their scruples aside if they only realised it.

  4. Let's not equivocate between general prayer for the dead and a Requiem Mass. The latter is not a "gesture" whose meaning is dependent on social context. The texts quoted by Augustine Pinnock clearly differentiate between praying privately for deceased Protestants and offering a Requiem for them, and I thank him for sharing them.

  5. The Catholic Church in England publicly celebrate Requiem Masses every year for non-Catholics. The second Sunday in November is known as Remembrance Sunday and priests celebrate a Requiem Mass for all the war dead - not just the Catholic war dead. In deed I suspect the majority of The Fallen were non-Catholic.

  6. Canon 1240 of the old Code / 1184 of the new are about 'Ecclesiastical burial' which is not at issue here.

    In any case, non-Catholic Christians, as I noted, are generally not 'notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics'. Those born and raised as Anglicans have not apostacised, rejected the Faith in heresy, or gone into schism. The suggestion is ludicrous.

    Come come, Augustine, this is childish stuff.

  7. Schism is an objective state apart from any question of ill will in an individual--and though I am not a canonist, I find it hard to believe "notorious" here means anything more than "publicly recognized." The titular head of the C of E is publicly and formally associated with a schism. That's a simple fact, not a judgment of character or intent.

    The strict dichotomy offered above between discipline and doctrine is the sort of simplification one usually expects from unreflective critics of Catholic traditionalism. The question here, as in so many cases, is whether the traditional discipline is grounded in doctrine. This would seem to be the case here if the practice was based on a belief that it was wrong to abuse the Church's limited authority to offer public worship for particular souls. Dr. Shaw, I can appreciate that an argument could be made against this position, but it is wrong to gloss over it so glibly.

    Perhaps the greatest intellectual advance of the traditional movement in recent years is the growing realization that the corruption of Catholic life began gradually well in advance of the 1960s. Let's not undo this by carelessly assuming that novel customs grown up in the twentieth are enough to settle an argument about moral theology.

  8. Schism is an objective state. Being a schismatic is a subjective state.

    Again, heresy is an objective thing. Being a heretic is subjective. Non-Catholics are taught what is heresy, and believe it. They are not ('formal') heretics because they haven't committed the sin of heresy, which is rejecting the Faith.

    This is very important distinction; don't believe me about this, look it up.

    Of course the old rules were founded on doctrine, but the doctrine didn't determine them: other rules are compatible with the doctrine. I don't even say necessarily that the new rules are better. I'm just saying that the new rules are, currently, the rules.

    1. One used to also see a distinction between the sin of schism and the state of schism. This seems to be a different distinction from material-formal, unless perhaps one is a Catholic in the normal sense, where material heresy can exist due to ignorance. Membership in a sect that purports to be distinct from the RCC surely covers the "formal" side whether or not an individual is culpable. If I belong to--or even more, if I head up--a body that officially adheres to a set of principles, I can be assumed to subscribe to those principles, ceteris paribus. Schism from Rome is an official policy of the C of E. In this case, then, any subjective variation would have to apply to culpability rather than schism as such.

      As far as I can see, and until a competent canonist weighs in, the question of the current rules remains at best ambiguous. At a purely moral level, I don't see how the practice under discussion is defensible, even if tolerated, under traditional views of ecclesiology.

    2. The sin of ('formal') schism is the sin of separating oneself from the Church. She never did that. She stayed in the same ecclesial body into which she had been born. That body is, in fact, schismatic, so we could call her materially schismatic. But that is not a sin: sin is always a matter of the will.

    3. I carefully avoided attributing to her the sin of schism. I did claim that belonging to a formally schismatic sect makes one formally schismatic.

    4. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on schism, for instance, only seems to envision the possibility of purely material schism where someone adheres in good faith to an antipope. This is a different rubric from adherence to a body that rejects papal primacy per se.

    5. Furthermore, whether or not formal schism and the sin of schism are identical (and I am not convinced they are, either in mente or in re), the Queen was a cultured and educated woman, who came of age before the ecumenical revolution in Catholic teaching was complete. There is no reason to think she was unaware of the Catholic claim of papal primacy. Thus, by accepting her role as head of the C of E, and worshipping as such, she implicitly rejected that claim, whether in good faith or bad. Only reasonable basis for a purely material schism here would be a level of ignorance that is unreasonable to assume.

    6. You seem confused on the meaning of 'formal' in Catholic theology. Look it up. Being in a schismatic ecclesial body implies *material* not *formal* schism. Formal schism is the intention to *go into* schism and she did not do that.

    7. OK, granted that for an individual the difference between material and formal schism is the presence of good faith, it's still standard parlance to call a schism formal when it has been formally declared as such. I don't suppose I'll get any argument that the Anglican schism as such is a formal schism. And that makes the question of good faith in an individual case such as we are considering a red herring, because there are no canonical grounds to assume it here, nor would it be canonically relevant. Let's look at Ott on heresy, which tracks schism in this case and, per St Thomas, always: "Public heretics, even those who err in good faith (material heretics), do not belong to the body of the Church, that is to the legal commonwealth of the Church."

      An assumed possibility of good will does not mean we can conclude someone adhering to a formal schism--she didn't spend her life as a newly baptized infant; we can assume that as an informed adult, she willingly held to Anglicanism--is a purely material schismatic. That is between her and God; from a canonical point of view, she died in schism. If we deny this, we also deny the position of, for instance, the dubia cardinals--for at issue there is whether the Church's law w.r.t. intrinsically sinful acts can be suspended because of hypothesized good faith, and whether this is a matter of divine law or merely positive eccelsiastic law.

  9. Augustine, the Anglican clergy officiating at the Queen's funeral obviously wete not aware of your claim that she "was known to reject intercessory prayer for the dead", as several times during the ceremony they prayed for the repose of her soul, and invited all present to do the same.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.