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america magazine to honor canterbury

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 18, 2010

"You must go to the place from whence you came, there to remain until ye shall be drawn through the open City of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, be hanged and let down alive, and your privy parts cut off, and your entrails taken out and burnt in your sight; then your head to be cut off and your body divided into four parts, to be disposed of at her Majesty's pleasure."

With those words Queen Elizabeth's Lord Chief Justice dispatched the English Jesuit priest Edmund Campion to his death at Tyburn. The year was 1581. The charge was treason. Campion himself was unruffled by the verdict: "It was not our death that we ever feared. … The only thing we have now to say is, that if our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise are, and have been, as good subjects as the Queen ever had."

St. Edmund Campion, martyr, lives on as a model of cheerful, gutsy, devout intelligence disciplined toward the single goal of recovering and rebuilding Catholic churchmanship where it had lain in ruins. I was amused and delighted, therefore, to learn that the Jesuit magazine America announced that it will give its 2009 Campion Award to none other than Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The choice is a chancy one. Many will take offense at the sly malice of the Jesuits in pretending to congratulate the man who, by his elegant unfitness for the job, has done more than any living Christian to bolster the esteem of the Roman Catholic Church in the eyes of his co-religionists.

I emphatically applaud the editors' decision.

Ecumenical aspirations notwithstanding, facts are facts. And America is surely on to something in recognizing the sabotage value of international Anglicanism's Ditherer in Chief. Constitutionally allergic to closure, Williams has faced every crisis by hesitating over the decision to delay (on the one hand) or to stall (on the other). The resulting frustration created a spiritual vacuum so vast not even Anglicanorum Coetibus will fill it.

"Many innocent hands," wrote Edmund Campion, addressing Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council, "are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes."

No Campion by temperament, Rowan Williams has done much to advance Campion's cause. But stay! —a doubt assails me. Am I right to assume that America's award was ironic in gesture and malicious in motive? What if the honor were in earnest and the honorand a player on the Catholic team? Might it be that, covertly, the Archbishop of Canterbury has all along been a Campion by conviction? Have those wily Jesuits decided the time has come to acknowledge and decorate their ablest agent?  Has Uncle Di's feeble joshing been aimed inaptly at—brace thyself, Belfast! — Rowan F.X. Williams, S.J.?

The fiendish cunning!

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