“Did you watch it?" an unfamiliar man asked me, barely able to contain his enthusiasm. He had noticed my British accent, and the event he was referring to with such glee was the coronation of King Charles III of England.
I have noticed with some perplexity the way so many Americans look at the British Royal Family with a lustful interest, especially Catholics. I can't say I fully understand the romanticization of that monarchy. Perhaps, as previously suggested to me, it's because as a British ex-pat, my tax money once supported it. I don't think that is all there is though, for I don't shirk at supporting good causes. The issue is that this cause isn't good.
Some American Catholics look to the crown with a nod to a simpler time – when leadership and order were more readily discerned. Quite simply, monarchs have a much greater historical tradition with Catholicism than American-style republics do, but we must not forget that such connections are historical, and much divorced from what we see across the Atlantic today. Almost 800 hundred years have passed since King Louis IX demonstrated pious monarchy, and over 300 years have elapsed since England had a Catholic monarch of its own.
There is beauty in the ceremonies and symbolism that are associated with monarchy, which appeals deeply to many. Queen Elizabeth's funeral too contained pageantry that is unprecedented to modern eyes. We are too often exposed only to minimalist and utilitarian displays, which leaves a thirsting for something more.
Tragically, nearly all of the trappings of a British coronation are in fact stolen imagery from the Catholic faith, adopted when the Church of England was first begun. The latter church was, of course, founded on the blood of Catholics, after Rome refused to give King Henry VIII the divorce he sought. The entire Anglican church was born for that purpose alone. So when I see an event like the coronation, I cannot help but think of saints and martyrs like Thomas More and John Fisher – slaughtered for their unwillingness to adjust the Faith to the whims of that king. That British king could control the pain that they would endure in their lives and how they were to die, but their real King would receive them in eternity. Their eyes were well focused.
I think of martyrs like St. Nicholas Owen who would be tortured to death for making ingenious "priest holes" – hiding places where priests could be concealed to avoid arrest, torture, and execution. Why would they face such extreme acts of repression? For their obedience to the Church that Christ founded.
So, now, when undeniably-beautiful ceremonies are exhibited, they seem more like re-enactments, and with their falsely asserted authority, might best be described as events of Stolen Valor. The ceremony is not theirs. The iconography is not theirs. It's all blood-soaked booty, showing a mirage of the faith – but hollowness lurks beneath. They retain the gestures, but not the sacraments, having slaughtered those ordained to provide them.
Let us not forget that the ceremony that would crown a modern British king would also make the head of the Anglican church. This ruler of an unholy see represents a horrendous assault on the rightful chair of St. Peter, and thus of the authority of Christ to delegate according to His own wishes.
In any event, the Church of England has been adrift for some time, even by its founding standards, looking less and less like the reflection it sought to mirror, now with female clergy and gay 'marriages'. King Charles III himself seems to have a fondness for tradition, for he is a member of a society to preserve the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Yet, he did not manage to get the Archbishop of Canterbury to use it for the Communion Service. Instead, the sapless version from 2000 was used instead, in what could be considered his first act of cowardly submission on matters of import.
Part of the appeal of the monarchy has to lie in the visuals – the splendor of the ceremonies, even if they are stolen. There has been a move away from grandeur in Catholic circles in recent decades, regretfully, and people yearn for it. We desire to be awed by magnificent displays and acts of devotion. The matchless Cathedrals drew people to God in part by showing them something unworldly – something glorious enough to push beyond man's capacity to fully grasp it. Of course you can worship God in a revamped warehouse, but why would we when we can do better? God deserves so much more.
Beauty draws in the human heart and causes man to see beyond himself – beyond his capacity and even his reason. Many who have grown up in a utilitarian age are seeking more. They seek beauty and reverence, not only in their surroundings but in their worship as well. We see this as people drive great distances, in the company of their small children, in order to attend the Traditional Latin Mass.
As for King Charles III's reign over government, there have been no indications that he plans to exercise his position in a way that shows himself to be an adherent of Christianity in any historically recognizable sense. Will he refuse to give royal assent to those bills that come to him seeking signature, even when they contradict Divine Law? Or will he follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and sign every bill, including those that trample rightful religious observances under foot, penalize speech that the government finds to be offensive, and make abortion as freely available as possible (even without parental consent in the case of minors)?
While the British monarch will merit disappointment upon any serious examination, we need not despair. Rather, we should remember what the long litany of British martyrs have been willing to surrender their lives for: that our rightful King reigns over all of us. When Godfrey of Bouillon successfully reclaimed Jerusalem during the First Crusade, he refused the title, King of Jerusalem, rather preferring, Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, saying, "God forbid that I should be crowned with a crown of gold, where my Savior bore a crown of thorns." He understood the rightful order. Let us revere his example, rather than the usurpation of schismatics.
"So, now, when undeniably-beautiful ceremonies are exhibited, they seem more like re-enactments, and with their falsely asserted authority, might best be described as events of Stolen Valor. The ceremony is not theirs. The iconography is not theirs. It's all blood-soaked booty, showing a mirage of the faith – but hollowness lurks beneath. They retain the gestures, but not the sacraments, having slaughtered those ordained to provide them."
Thank you for so succinctly and clearly expressing my own thoughts and feelings on this and like matters.
I feel similarly when I see something like secular oath ceremonies performed by people who don't believe in truth, or awards ceremonies that we all know have nothing to do with merit.
It would not be asking too much for the official Head of the Church of England to favor the Christian faith. That would seem to be a necessary aspect of Charles' new position as King. Charles, however, has said that he does not want to be known as the Defender of the Faith; instead, he would prefer to known as the defender of faiths. Of course, I have no objection to the new King of England taking religious liberty seriously and pledging to defend that liberty for all British subjects. That would not conflict with his position as Head of the Church or the Royal Head of State. His assistance in this regard could prove useful. After all, we seem to be having some trouble with the governments respect for religious liberty at the moment with people being arrested for simply silently praying in public. But I must confess that I don't think that King Charles will be of much use in defending the right of citizens to pray silently in public places. Consequently, I am pleased, despite what English tradition might dictate, that Christ is the real head of the Church. Despite what has happened to the Church of England in departing from the faith over the years, Charles has no ability to usurp Christ's position. For that we may be truly thankful.