VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Led by a “re-married” Freemason, over 30 Anglican clergymen celebrated “Mass” in the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran this week, sparking outrage among faithful Catholics.
On April 18, a group of Anglican clergy from the Anglican suffragan Diocese of Fulham, England, were granted permission to celebrate a liturgy in the historic Basilica of St. John Lateran. Led by their bishop, Johnathan Baker of Fulham, over 30 clergymen took part in the event, which was held at the altar of the cathedra in the basilica.
Footage from one of the participants shows the clergymen processing up to the altar, kissing it, and then moving across to the choir stalls. Baker, who has led the Anglican see of Fulham since 2013, can be seen leading the “Mass.”
St. John Lateran is traditionally known as the “Mother of all the Churches of Rome and of the world” and is the seat of the bishop of Rome, the Pope. The basilica is thus technically ranked as more important for Catholics than the Vatican.
– (pope) Bergoglio has allowed Anglicans to ‘say Mass’ in the Lateran, the Mother Church of the Catholic Church
Would he allow the SSPX to celebrate Mass at the Lateran or even allow the traditional Latin Mass?
I think not.
Bergoglio is a liberal Protestant, not a Catholic pic.twitter.com/sxbMxr8H05
— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) April 19, 2023
Baker’s clergy are part of the more conservative Anglican wing — commonly known as Anglo-Catholics. They are marked out by their customary use of more traditional style liturgical vestments, along with somewhat of an adherence to more traditional customs, including a rejection of women’s ordination in the Church of England.
His clergy are currently in Rome for a tri-annual retreat and are based at the Villa Palazzola, which is owned by the Venerable English College (VEC) in Rome — the Catholic seminary for English speakers that dates to 1579.
It is unclear how the Anglican clergymen received permission to use the Catholic basilica for their liturgy.
The Pontifical Council (now Dicastery) for Promoting Christian Unity noted in a 2020 document that “[w]here the diocesan bishop discerns that it will not cause scandal or confusion to the faithful, he may offer other Christian communities the use of a church.”
The Dicastery added that “[p]articular discernment is required in the case of the diocesan cathedral. The Ecumenical Directory (§137) envisages such situations in which a Catholic diocese comes to the aid of another community which is without its own place of worship or liturgical objects to worthily celebrate its ceremonies.”
However, even with this permissive prescription from the Dicastery — which reflects the current trend of promoting unity at the apparent sacrifice of the Catholic faith — the permission for Baker to hold a liturgy in the Basilica is still perplexing.
The Anglicans have their own Anglican Center and a designated church in the city of Rome, thus negating any need to look for another venue to hold a liturgical ceremony. The number of Anglican clergymen was relatively small, around 30, and would have been easily accommodated by the Anglican church in Rome.
LifeSiteNews contacted the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the Anglican Center, asking how Baker and the 30 clergy came to celebrate “Mass” in the significant Catholic basilica. LifeSite also asked if the Anglican clergymen used the Basilica’s sacred vessels for the ceremony. An answer was not received by time of publication.
Baker a divorced Mason
Baker, while heading a so-called traditional wing of the Anglican church, is in fact a Freemason. Upon his elevation to the Anglican see of Ebbsfleet, Baker’s membership of the Masons became known. He joined the secretive, anti-Catholic group while a student in Oxford.
Baker, speaking in 2011, stated “for many years I have been an active member and I continue to be a member” and rose to serve as an assistant Grand Chaplain.
Days later, he claimed that he had left the Masons in light of his appointment to the see of Ebbsfleet but continued to describe the Masons as “an organization that is wholly supportive of the Church.”
The Anglican clergyman is also divorced and “re-married,” which caused consternation among more conservative Anglicans at how such an individual was supposed to represent their traditional views.
Anglican’s receive warm welcome in Catholic Rome
The Anglican clergymen have, as part of their current retreat in Rome, been warmly welcomed by other Catholic dignitaries. They were addressed at an event by former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who reportedly “spoke about the need for a robust Christian anthropology in the face of the challenges of post-modernity.”
They were also received at the VEC, where the rector delivered a lecture to the Anglican clergy in the seminary martyr’s chapel. This was the chapel in which Catholic seminarians would sing the Te Deum when they heard of one of their former classmates, then ordained, having been martyred at the hands of the Protestants during the centuries of Catholic persecution in England.
The group then met with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and were personally greeted by Pope Francis after his weekly general audience.
But responding to the footage of the Anglican clergymen holding “Mass” in St. John Lateran, prominent liturgist Dr. Peter Kwasniewski slated the decision to grant such permission:
I am not by any means rabidly ‘anti-Anglican.’ Heck, some of my favorite writings of all time are Cardinal Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons, about which I will be speaking this Saturday. But it is absolutely inappropriate for the Pope (or someone acting with his clearance) to grant permission to Anglicans to ‘have Mass’ in the Lateran Basilica, the Bishop of Rome’s cathedral, when Rome’s own venerable rite has been hounded out of churches and driven from the side altars of St. Peter’s. Will the absurdity never end?
Kwasniewski added that he did “not believe in any intercommunion between ecclesial bodies that do not confess the same doctrine, priesthood, and morals. I am good friends with a number of Anglicans and Orthodox and Protestants, but we do not share the same altar and the same vessels.”