By Christopher Howse CARDINAL HUME could be breaking the law every day if the implications of a recent book are correct.
The Cardinal displays a coat of arms to which he may not be entitled, which is an offence under English law, according to the foreword to a new book by Archbishop Heim, the Apostolic Delegate*.
The foreword, by Peter Bander an Duren, the arch bishop's publisher, reveals that when the arms of Westminster Archdiocese were granted to Cardinal Vaughan by Pope Leo XIII, it was with the proviso that they should be registered with the College of Arms in London before being displayed. This never happened.
It is unlikely that a Black Maria will soon be arriving at Archbishop's House, since, although it is illegal to bear illicit arms under statute law as recent as Queen Victoria's reign, prosecutions in England are rare. The Duke of Norfolk,. as a Catholic hereditary Earl Marshall, is in charge of heraldry In England.
In Scotland, Lyon King of Arms is perfectly willing to take legal action against armorial offenders, and the Scottish bishops have their coats of arms properly granted.
Cardinal Hume has personal arms, granted in the regular way when he was Abbot of Ample forth, but he impails these with the irregular arms of West minster on his shield which hangs above the throne in Westminster Cathedral. He is not the only English bishop to bear fake arms. The Pope, as a monarch might grant arms by his own authority, but it is not the policy of the Holy See to interfere with the heraldry of foreign prelates. Leo XIII's intention was clearly to avoid trouble with the College of Heralds. His instructions were not followed and armorialists are known to be sensitive over the question of Catholic bishops' heraldic achievements.
No spokesman for Cardinal Hume this week knew about the apparent offence. But moves may be afoot to straighten things out with the Court of the Earl Marshall now that the error has been detected.
"'Armorial by Archbishop Bruno Heim. Van Duren, £22.