Via Media

Via Media

The Cardinal’s Hat

I finally finished reading this book, while waiting at the DMV or whatever they call it here (I actually don’t mind experiences like that – the DMV is the great leveler. Everyone’s there, because you can’t have your nanny go get your driver’s license on your behalf. I sat next to a Latina who was talking to someone on her cel phone about the hurricane, and, as a former South Florida resident, with great energy about why Miami is, in her view, such a horrible place to live – don’t take your purse, she said, if you go out. Don’t wear any jewelry. They won’t come back with you. The little family sitting across from me was a married couple and their three extremely well-behaved children. They were earth Mama and Daddy, in Birkenstocks, long hair (both of them), and she in some t-shirt proclaiming she’d climbed some height in Australia. As I said, the children were so sweet and they seemed so content with each other that it was a delight to sit there and (secretly) contemplate one more happy family, in a time when all you hear about is the unhappiness.)


So anyway, I finished the book, which is about the daily life and times of Ippolito d’Este, a 16th century nobleman and prince of the Church, researched from the quite complete ledger of purchases, expenditures, travels and even gambling debts, not to speak of letters, left behind and discovered by the author:

It fell to Mary Hollingsworth, a British student of the Renaissance, to "stumble upon" this archive during an unplanned stay in Modena. She immediately recognized the importance of Ippolito’s papers, from which she has fashioned this exceptionally interesting book. Not so much a conventional biography as a study of daily life in the court of a 16th-century Italian prince, it is the result of scrupulous research (including, of course, the translation of handwritten Renaissance Italian) and meticulous collation of an immense amount of material. Hollingsworth’s narrative is seamless and her prose agreeable, though one wishes her publisher had taken the trouble to Americanize some of the Anglicisms to which she is (understandably) prone.


The real protagonist of Hollingworth’s tale is not Ippolito but the household over which he presided. While still in his twenties, Ippolito was the supreme authority in a household to which the word "extended" quite literally applies…

Well, it’s sort of interesting, until you get past the first 50 pages and get the routine: The guy had A LOT of stuff and his managers were VERY BUSY taking care of him and BUYING HIS STUFF. There’s plenty of family context, but not nearly enough religious context because the average reader will certainly be puzzled that a man who was a Cardinal and held two Archbishoprics by the 1530’s wasn’t ordained a priest until 1564. That merits much more explanation than a sentence about the "secular Renaissance Church."

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Michael Tinkler

posted August 26, 2005 at 11:58 am

A sentence about “things haven’t always been as they are now” won’t do it either — but that’s the simple truth. People who project the 19th/20th century Church back into the past are endlessly surprised with how very differernt things have been for a *majority* of Christian history. The current thing is the exception, not the rule; this is why I find the tendency to identify gold ages in the past difficult to justify.

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Don Boyle

posted August 26, 2005 at 12:03 pm

Bl. Pius IX’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, was a deacon, not even a priest (let alone a bishop). I believe that he was the last of the “lay [sic] Cardinals.”
Having Cardinals who are not priests might do something for those who feel that the Conclave needs to be more representative of the whole Church, not just of the clergy. Since we’ve had lay Cardinals in the past, this would not be a break with tradition, but really a return to (a) tradition.
If you really want to think big: I read an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger somewhere in which he mused about the possibility of having women Cardinals (candidates would be, for example, heads of major women’s religious orders). Interesting notion . . .

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posted August 26, 2005 at 1:10 pm

What do you know and/or think about a book called The Historian? I know nothing about it, just had it recommended as an interesting read. Thanks!

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bruce cole

posted August 26, 2005 at 2:12 pm

“DMV or whatever they call it here”- I moved from a state (Oregon) where it was DMV to a state (Maryland) where it was MVA. I worked in hospitals for years and “MVA” had only one meaning: Motor Vehicle Accident. So that took some getting used to. Anyway, Don Boyle, where was this interview about women cardinals?? Interesting.

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posted August 26, 2005 at 2:13 pm

Can someone explain to me how is it possible to hold two archbishoprics and yet not be a priest? I thought bishops (including archbishops) had to be priests? If not, then why can’t women be archbishops?

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posted August 26, 2005 at 3:00 pm

Here in progressive SC we can renew via the computer. No more DMV for me!

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posted August 26, 2005 at 3:18 pm

Same in Michigan, unless you procrastinate until your birthday.

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Sandra Miesel

posted August 26, 2005 at 3:25 pm

“Commendatory” bishops and abbots could be laymen in the Good Old days.
It’s the BMV in Indiana. At least you can talk while waiting, which isn’t allowed at North Carolina branches, I hear.

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posted August 26, 2005 at 4:23 pm

So if tradition be our guide, then women can be “commendatory” bishops?

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Don Boyle

posted August 26, 2005 at 4:24 pm

I should’ve known I’d get called on that interview reference. I remember it very well, but can’t seem to find it. It was probably in Salt of the Earth or God and the World. I stress that it was just an acknowledgement of the possibility, and that he didn’t indicate that he would push for such a change.

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Henry Dieterich

posted August 26, 2005 at 4:27 pm

In Michigan, the Secretary of State does driver’s licenses, while in Massachusetts it’s the Registry of Motor Vehicles, always abbreviated to simply “the Registry.” (The Registry hands out driver’s licenses like penny candy, or at least they used to, which is why Massachusetts residents pay so much for insurance. The guy from the Registry who gave me my driving test for my first license back in 1968 told me, as he signed the form, that I couldn’t drive very well.)
On the serious topic of unordained prelates, a number of the medieval prince-bishops of Liège were lay noblemen, some of whom gave up the see to marry when they inherited secular lordships. (If I were where my books are, I could tell you which ones.) The sacramental functions of the position were carried out by auxiliaries who were often members of religious orders.

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Fr. Totton

posted August 26, 2005 at 6:37 pm

I remember growing up in MI, my mom would talk about going to the “secretary-state” (at least that’s how I remember her saying it).
In Missouri, Motor Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License matters are handled by the Department of Revenue! (MO-DOR).
I once read about a nun (I think it may have been Sr. Maureen Fiedler of “We are Church” fame) who had a red hat already waiting for the day when women were named cardinals!
As far as the archbishoprics – we are talking about simony and (perhaps) lay investiture – two things which were rejected as having a legitimate place in the Tradition of the Church – aberrations if you will.
Individuals holding such positions (usually in an absentee manner) were not actually possessed of the Apostolic Succession. Such archbishoprics were seen as benefices from which the individuals profited monetarily.
Thanks for the reminder, I need to put the new tags on my car – I was at the DOR last month (a month ahead) and they are still in my glove compartment – the current tags expire Wednesday!

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Marv Wood

posted August 26, 2005 at 7:04 pm

In Indiana it is the BMV.

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James Kabala

posted August 28, 2005 at 7:04 pm

In Massachusetts it is indeed the RMV, but I know a lot of people who call it the DMV anyway.
Is there really data about which states have the least demanding testers, or that is a subjective judgment?

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