29 September 2022

Honour a ‘Heretic’ King? The Question Facing King Charles III’s Catholic Subjects

Another take on the pearl-clutching hyper-Catholics who are horrified at loyalty to a 'heretic King' by a disciple of Sir Roger Scruton and Fr Andrew Pinsent.

From The European Conservative

By Sebastian Morello

There are inordinately excitable Catholics who believe that only a Catholic sovereign is owed their loyalty and devotion. I remind them of the commandment of St. Peter: “Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the Emperor.”

It wasn’t long after Her Majesty’s death and the immediate ascent of King Charles III to the throne, that some—far too many—Catholics started yapping away on the internet about why they didn’t like the new king, how they disapproved of his chaotic family history, his affiliation with globalists, his promotion of climate hysteria, and his false religion.

The Catholic podcaster and vlogger Taylor Marshall devoted a 51-minute-long video to explaining why King Charles III is “an anti-Christ.” Incidentally, I was surprised to discover that anyone still listened to Marshall, after his months of going weak at the knees over the Trump presidency, during which he repeatedly conflated the practice of Catholicism with support for President Trump, whom he characterised as a new Constantine providentially bestowed upon the world to bring in a new Christian age—that didn’t quite work out.

Perhaps the first lesson to draw from the Common Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, is that one should not provide an explanation that is dependent on the supernatural where a natural explanation is more appropriate: rather than saying that King Charles is an “anti-Christ,” we might say that he has at times been a poor judge. In any case, after months of Marshall preparing his followers to welcome the new Holy Roman Empire under the reign of Caesar Donaldus, it’s fair to say that King Charles is not the only one who is capable of poor judgment (careful Marshall, someone might call you an anti-Christ).

For those Catholics of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who are wondering whether King Charles, head of State and of the Church of England, with all his characteristics that they deem to be failings, is owed their loyalty and devotion, I give you the commandment of St. Peter: “Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the Emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

Pope St. Peter, chosen by Jesus Christ to be the visible leader of the Church, tells us that we must honour the emperor. Along with the imperatives to love the Church and fear God, we must honour our temporal lords. As an Englishman, King Charles is my sovereign, my head of state, and the parliamentary government that governs my country is his government—I must, then, honour him.

May I remind my esteemed readers that St. Peter, when he declared this commandment, was referring to Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Whatever the shortcomings of King Charles, they are nothing in comparison to those of Emperor Nero.

At age 17, Nero conspired with his mother to murder her husband, Nero’s stepfather, the Emperor Claudius (by feeding him death-cap mushrooms). Claudius’s son, the 14-year-old Britannicus, they then killed with a cup of poisoned wine. Nero’s murderous mother, Agrippina, clearly imagined that she and her son would rule together, a suggestion at which Nero conveyed his dissent by attempting to drown her. The murder attempt failed, so Nero sent a slave to bludgeon his mother to death. Nero married two women, and then murdered both of them. He then took a mistress, Poppaea, with whom he had a child; but following an argument with Poppaea, he kicked her to death (when she was pregnant with his second child). Later, on noticing that one of his male slaves looked remarkably like his murdered mistress—whom he’d grown to miss—Nero had the unhappy slave castrated and then ‘married’ him in what is history’s first and only pre-modern same-sex marriage. Finally, Nero likely burned down his own capital city, Rome, and then blamed the fire on the Christians. He then instigated the rounding up and slaughtering of Christians, a persecution that eventually led to St. Peter himself being crucified under the still reigning Emperor Nero. Amidst all this, St. Peter commanded the Church to honour the Emperor. Since we are obligated, according to that hallowed text inspired by the Holy Ghost, to honour the Emperor Nero, I think we can comfortably honour King Charles III.

The fact is that the British monarchy is the world’s last sacral monarchy, one of the few remaining glimpses of living tradition that we have left, enabling us to peer into the glorious, ancient world of Christian kingship. Everything about the British monarchy, and indeed the coronation ceremony itself—always organised by England’s senior Catholic layman, the Earl Marshal Duke of Norfolk—owes its existence to the medieval world of Catholic civilisation. The British monarchy is a gift to the world, and its incumbent is always owed our loyalty and devotion.

It is noteworthy that St. John Henry Newman took his Biglietto Speech—delivered at the reception of the cardinalatial honour—as his opportunity to defend the sacral nature of the British monarchy and the establishmentarian settlement of Church and State in England:

It must be recollected that the religious sects, which sprang up in England three centuries ago, and which are so powerful now, have ever been fiercely opposed to the Union of Church and State, and would advocate the un-Christianising of the monarchy and all that belongs to it, under the notion that such a catastrophe would make Christianity much more pure and much more powerful.

Newman was a true Tory. I don’t mean a supporter of the modern UK Conservative Party, which is little more than a cabal of hyper-progressivist neo-Whigs. I mean Newman was a believer in the philosophy of Toryism: hierarchy, received culture and custom, corporatism, organicism, subsidiarity, and above all the consecration of the realm by religious establishment. “Toryism… springs immortal in the human breast,” Newman wrote to the Duke of Norfolk in 1875. For Newman, the great enemy England faced was the religious sects, the dissenters, who sought the separation of Church and State, thereby seeking to undermine the entire organic constitution of these Isles. Such sects, he claimed, wanted to secularise—perhaps overthrow, as they had succeeded in doing under Cromwell—the monarchy, and de-Christianise the nation. This, Newman asserted, would be a “catastrophe.”

It follows from Newman’s argument that the yapping of Catholics against the monarchy and the establishmentarian constitution of which the monarchy is a part reduces the Catholic Church to little more than just another sect within these Isles, rather than the home of all the baptised that is her proper claim. Catholics of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, by adopting such a reprehensible attitude rather than demonstrating their unswerving loyalty and devotion to their new liege lord, clearly have no understanding of the damage they are doing to the Church and Her mission.

Nonetheless the Anglican Church is not the Church, I hear you exclaim, but it is precisely another sect! Well, that may be true, but the fact is that most States today constitutionally declare that there is no true religion, or at least omit the possibility of identifying the true religion. In turn, it is assumed that the State is under no obligation to identify the true religion and enshrine that religion in its constitution. This is an error—namely, secularism—that the Catholic Church condemns (though She is awfully quiet about it these days). England, however, constitutionally claims that there is a true religion and that the monarch is bound to defend it. It is of course unfortunate, from a Catholic perspective, that the State in this case has misidentified the true religion. Misidentifying the true religion, however, is absolutely preferable to denying—directly or indirectly—that there is such a thing as true religion.

But what about, I hear you ask, the fact that King Charles III is a heretic? Well, Nero wasn’t even baptised, being as he was a pagan. It is not, in any case, so clear that King Charles is a heretic. Of course, any member of the baptised who is not in full communion with Rome and holds beliefs that are contrary to the Catholic religion is heretical, but that is insufficient to say that such a person is a heretic, which entails formal commitment to heresy. One cannot be said to be a formal heretic unless that person has had his religious errors revealed to him, and it is known that this is so, and he has obstinately denied the truths that his erroneous religious commitments would require him to deny, and it is known that this is so. Without such qualifications, one cannot be said to be a formal heretic—when it comes to being a heretic, intention is key.

King Charles has met with popes, bishops, and plenty of lay Catholics; have any of them called him to the Catholic Faith? We have no idea. Nor do we know if, on having both the religious truth and his errors revealed to him, he obstinately rejected what he heard. Thus, we cannot say that he is a heretic.

There are inordinately excitable Catholics out there who believe that only a Catholic sovereign is owed their loyalty and devotion. When James Francis Edward Stuart—King James III of England and Ireland and James VIII of Scotland according to the popes and the Jacobite loyalists—died in 1766, Pope Clement XIII did not recognise the claim of James’s son, Charles ‘the Bonnie Prince’ Edward Stuart. Instead, the Pope recognised the legitimacy of George III, a Protestant claimant over a Catholic prince, and the Pope fully expected King George’s Catholic subjects to honour their king with their loyalty and devotion. Such a decision by a pope is hard to stomach for Jacobite sympathisers (like myself), but in hindsight it clearly belonged to the providential scheme of things: King George’s United Kingdom was to become the foremost safe haven for Catholic emigres, both lay and clerical, fleeing the violence of the Terror following the French Revolution.

Perhaps modern Catholics increasingly prefer republicanism. They would do well to remember that the short history of modern, secular republics has not been a happy one for the Church. Invariably, such republics were founded on the persecution of the Church’s clerical leaders, consecrated religious, and temporal lords.

The Irish example is educational. The treasonous cause for an Irish republic was always a predominantly Protestant cause, from Wolfe Tone onwards. For centuries, any Catholic who joined the rebels against their monarch were de facto excommunicated according to both the popes and the Catholic bishops of Ireland. Nonetheless, Irish rebels eventually got their way and created their explicitly anti-Catholic and aggressively secular constitution, symbolised by the tricolour flag that Ireland continues to fly. This constitution wasn’t replaced with a more Christian-friendly constitution until 1937 at the instigation of Éamon de Valera, largely under the inspiration of the Jesuit political thinker Fr. Edward Cahill. By that time, however, the damage had already been done—and now just look at Ireland, less than a century later.

Had Irish Catholics resisted being duped by their rebellious Protestant countrymen, and remained loyal to their monarch and obeyed their bishops, over the years of growing Catholic emancipation Catholicism would have likely risen to become a far more effective moral force in Ireland than it ever has been under the republic. Instead, many Catholics sided with revolution, and they got their reward: an aggressively secular Ireland that seemingly hates the Catholic religion.

Catholics should learn a lesson from what happened to the Church in Ireland and respond by heeding the counsel of St. Peter. They should honour their liege lord. King Charles, for all his shortcomings, is a dutiful man. His climate panics and enthusiasm for the ‘Great Reset’ make me as uncomfortable as any reasonably sound person. But I have never expected my King to be correct on everything, just to uphold the settled constitution. As things stand, King Charles has shown every intention of doing just that. He has my loyalty and devotion, which are the minimum that should be expected of one of his subjects.

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