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Thursday, 11 May 2006

Buckled shoes on trial

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In the High Court, R. v Fibulas

The principal expert witness for the prosecution is Mgr X whose identity has been witheld for reasons of national security. Yesterday morning, the prosecution established in their questioning that buckled shoes were definitely abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and that the abolition is still in force because of the clear ruling of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

This morning, we join the court as the counsel for the defence rises for the cross-examination.


Counsel - Monsignore, you were, for a number years, a senior official at the Pontifical Office for Liturgical Acoutrements, were you not?

Mgr X - Yes, that is correct.

Counsel - And that office has now been subsumed under the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Tourists, and the care of domestic animals, is that correct?

Mgr X - Yes, unfortunately ...

Counsel - [interrupts] Unfortunately? You perhaps question the wisdom of the Holy Father's decision in this matter?

Mgr X - Not at all, er, that is to say, the Pontifical Office for Liturgical ...

Counsel - [interrupts] You feel it was a wise decision then?

Mgr X - Well if I were in a position to ...

Counsel - [interrupts] Never mind! Perhaps it is not important. You have recently been appointed to the Apostolic Delegation in Mogadishu if I am not mistaken?

Mgr X - Yes.

Counsel - Would you consider that a promotion?

[Prosecution Counsel objects that the line of questioning is irrelevant]

Counsel - Apologies, M'Lud, I was merely trying to give the jury an indication of the present standing of the Very Reverend witness. But perhaps we should move on. Monsignore, you have told the court that buckled shoes were abolished by Pope Paul VI and that this decision was further underlined by the 1984 Caeremoniale Episcoporum, is that correct?

Mgr X - Certainly, they were abolished.

Counsel - Abolished?

Mgr X - Totally and completely, contrariis quibuslibet minime obstantibus.

Counsel - Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Mgr X - Absolutely.

Counsel - Monsignore, is it not the case, as indeed you made clear in your evidence, that the Roman Pontiff has universal ordinary jurisdiction?

Mgr X - That is so, it was defined at Vatican I and is clearly stated in canon 331 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Counsel - Yes, if I may quote, M'Lud "By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely."

Mgr X - Quite. Abolishing buckled shoes is a minor juridical act. He can do this quite easily and without any appeal.

Counsel - Quite so, Monsignore. Let us indeed consider the relevant text of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n.1201 which you have in front of you. Members of the Jury, you will find this text with translation in your documents. If I may read, M'Lud, the text says Calcei sint usuales, nigri coloris, sine fibulis. The translation gives "The shoes should be normal, black in colour, without buckles."

Mgr X - Yes it is very clear. I cannot see why there should be any argument about it.

Counsel - Yes, it is very clear, is it not. The shoes should be black and have no buckles.

Mgr X - Yes.

Counsel - Both of those things. Buckles and non-blackness both complete no-no's.

Mgr X - That is what it says.

Counsel - Buckles are forbidden.

Mgr X - Of course.

Counsel - And, for example, green shoes?

Mgr X - Obviously yes, what is the point of this?

Counsel - May I draw your attention once again to canon 331 referring to the supreme ordinary jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. The clause "anything to the contrary notwithstanding" could not apply to the Roman Pontiff, I assume?

Mgr X - But it was the Roman Pontiff who approved the Caeremoniale - the matter does not arise here.

Counsel - However, there is the matter of contrary custom...

Mgr X - [interrupts] No! The text is clear - anything to the contrary notwithstanding. This applies to contrary custom. It cannot overturn this positive prescription prohibiting the buckles on the shoes.

Counsel - But a contrary custom of the Roman Pontiff?

Mgr X - Well.. yes... but this is impossible!

Counsel - M'Lud, may I exhibit to the Court the photograph marked "Exhibit A" which has been published by the Vatican photographers of L'Osservatore Romano and has appeard on numerous Catholic blogs.

His Lordship - What is a blog?

Counsel - A blog, M'Lud is a "Weblog", an internet-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, most often in reverse chronological order.

His Lordship - What is the internet?

Counsel - The internet, M'lud is ... (etc. ad nauseam)

His Lordship - [finally] Thank you, do carry on.

Counsel - Thank you M'Lud. Monsignore please take a careful look at the photograph. Can you tell the jury who the person is in the centre of the photograph.

Mgr X - It is the 'oly Father.

Counsel - The Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God and Patriarch of the West.

Mgr X - No, not Patriarch of the West. The 'oly Father no longer uses ...

Counsel [interrupts] NEVERTHELESS, could you tell the court what COLOUR are the shoes that the Holy Father is wearing at this solemn celebration of the inauguration his Pontificate?

Mgr X - [mumbles] Red.

Counsel - I'm sorry, Monsignore, I don't think the members of the jury quite heard you. Could you speak up, please?

Mgr X - RED! Red, red, red red red. [collapses in witness box with shoulders heaving]

Counsel - No further questions, M'Lud.
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