This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16 -- Feast of Saint Edmund of Abingdon

Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury
In reading about the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to which job our saint was appointed, I found this in the wikipedia: "The appointment of Church of England diocesan bishops follows a somewhat convoluted process, reflecting the church's traditional tendency towards compromise and ad hoc solutions, traditional ambiguity between hierarchy and democracy, and traditional role as a semi-autonomous state church."

Things were somewhat simpler but no more efficient back in the thirteenth century.  The English Church, still in communion with Rome, expected a certain level of autonomy.  The Kings of England felt that autonomy was not unconnected with autocracy; Pope Gregory IX agreed and therefore strove to deny the autonomy of national churches.  Of course he also thought Russia should be conquered to save it from Orthodoxy and that Jews embodied every kind of vileness.  I am grateful to Gregory for his patronage of (and personal friendship with) Saint Francis of Assisi, but I cannot praise his papacy. 

The Canterbury Chapter elected (which is really to say nominated) a monk named Walter de Hempsham to replace Cardinal Stephen Langton, who had served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207 until his death in 1228.  Both King Henry III and Pope Gregory IX shot him down.  Apparently he failed the oral exam.  Having tanked an interview a few years back (2005?), I have some sympathy for him.

King Henry III then nominated Richard le Grant (Wethershed), whom the Pope accepted.  Easy as Staples, right?  Archbishop Richard soon found himself in a pissing match with his King (as did so many archbishops) and sailed off to the Vatican for support.  He died in 1231on the way home.

Ralph Neville, Archbishop of Chichester, was then elected by the chapter.  The Pope killed the nomination on the excuse that Ralph was not sufficiently learned, but more likely because he was too tight with the King.

Okay, how about John of Sittingbourne?  The Chapter thought this good monk would be fine, but again, the Pope thought not.

John Blund?  As an Oxford philosopher, he could not be dismissed as insufficiently learned.  Likewise, he wasn't in the King's pocket.  But since the English powerbroker Peter de Roches backed him, the Pope shot him down.  The ostensible reason was suspect toleration of pluralism (an acceptance of heterodoxy).  We wouldn't want our leading clergy to model tolerance, now would we?

At which point Pope Gregory IX himself reached out to Edmund, the prebendary of Salisbury who had campaigned for the sixth Crusade. Ed was confirmed, held the seat for six years, and championed reform.  He practiced asceticism, not sleeping much, denying himself comforts, and wearing sackcloth underwear.  He prevailed in persuading King Henry III to dismiss the unpopular, misguided counselors like Peter de Roches, but was unsuccessful in persuading the Pope to support ecclesiastical reform.  He died at a monastery in France where Archbishops of Canterbury used to go to rejuvenate themselves. 

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