Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reginal Cardinal Pole, lay minister

Reginald Pole was definitely pushing the boundaries of lay ministry. Of course, he represents a different era when such things were not quite as unusual. He was on an ordination track, you night say. And Pole was appointed to several benefices (an office of clergy which carried with it a living, i.e., salary) before his ordination.

He was appointed as a lay canon of Salisbury and York and lay Dean of Exeter Cathedral in 1529 when he represented King Henry VIII in Paris, persuading the theologians of the Sorbonne to support Henry's annulment from Catherine of Aragon. He broke with Henry in 1536 on the issue of the annulment and was made a Cardinal and Papal Legate to England by Pope Paul III in 1537.

In 1542 he was appointed as one of the three Papal Legates to preside over the Council of Trent, which began in 1545. After the death of Pope Paul III in 1549 Pole, at one point, had nearly the two-thirds of the vote he needed to become Pope himself at the papal conclave of 1549-1550. His personal belief in justification by faith over works had caused him problems at Trent and accusations of heresy at the conclave. Pole returned to England in 1554 as Papal Legate.

POLE WAS FINALLY ORDAINED a priest on 20 March 1556 was and consecrated and enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury two days later. He served in that office until his death in 1558.

Let's review here: starting in 1518, as a layman, he was a pastor on the staffs of large churches, then he was a lay cardinal (and nearly pope), then he served as Papal Legate in England which required him to sit in judgment on priests and bishops in order to restore papal catholicism in England. At last, after 38 years of official lay ministry, he was ordained and concluded his life with two years as Archbishop of Canterbury. A little out of order?

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