23 September 2009

The Second Meddler

(This post presupposes that you have read about the previous Meddler.)

Dr Thomas Cranmer faced, four hundred years before Dr Bugnini, the prolixity of the late Medieval Rite for the Consecration of a Bishop. As Dom Gregory Dix enjoyed pointing out, the problem with the sixteenth century 'Reformers' was that they both knew very little about early Christian worship and were very determined to throw out all the Medieval bathwater. But in their ignorance, what they generally managed to throw out was the 'primitive' Baby, and the late medieval bathwater they sedulously preserved, enthroning it for veneration with all the gleeful fervour of a medieval monastic relic-hunter. Cranmer's revision of the Rite of Episcopal Consecration falls exactly into this pattern. The late medieval Imperative Formula Take the Holy Ghost becomes the centre-piece of his rite [later Anglicans were to make it more explicit: Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God].

The old Roman Consecratory Prayer got as short shrift from Cranmer as it was to receive from Bugnini. It emphasised the significance of the vesture of the Aaronic priesthood, and both of our Meddlers undoubtedly will have felt very little enthusiasm for the typology of a lot of Hebrew needlework. In its place, Cranmer provided a prayer of his own composition. But he concluded it with a slightly abbreviated translation of the Missale Francorum interpolation into the Roman Prayer.

Neither Meddler, in my opinion, comes very well out of this. But, if you were to ask me which of the two preserved more of the traditions of the Western Church as they had received them, and moved the more 'organically' within a Hermeneutic of Continuity, I think I would have to say that Cranmer wins by a rather dodgy whisker.


Anonymous said...

I'm eagerly awaiting the dropping of the third shoe. Will there be a fourth? Toot suite, bon monsieur! S'il vous plait.

A *big* difference I see is that Cranmer was, as you point out, an historical ignoramus; whereas, Bugnini was fully aware of what he was doing - an historical alchemist. In other words, Cranmer continued to fervently trust and love Christ (albeit off kilter) while Bugnini trusted and loved himself (full tilt).

I don't recall that Cranmer was declared an heretic because of the contents of the BCP or the ordinal. Nor do I recall Cardinal Pole condemning the ordinal or depriving very many of the men consecrated with it.

In the end, Scripture lays no formula at the Church's feet. I thank God for that dodgy whisker victory! The spirit giveth life.

Fr William said...

It gives me no pleasure to say this, [*polygraph goes haywire*] – OK, it gives me quite a lot of pleasure though that's beside the point! – but the extent to which Leo XIII, in that ill-advised document of 1896, succeeded only (as our Archbishops amply demonstrated) in sawing off the branch upon which he himself was sitting, is reinforced a hundredfold when one applies Ap.Cur.'s criteria to the Bugnini rite of consecration. How is it that one can still get otherwise rational, educated people trotting out Ap.Cur. as the definitive judgement on the issue, and a credible example of the exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium?

If one takes seriously the pronouncements of the Magisterium and compares them with demonstrable historical practice (as the Archbishops did in Sæpius Officio), I'm not sure one can confidently state that there have been any valid consecrations or ordinations in the history of the church. (Which makes both the notions of "validity" and "magisterium" interestingly paradoxical.)

Independent said...

The Pope is a "rational, educated person" who backs AC. The Archbishops' Responsio seems to me to be gravely weakened by their reliance on the optional Prayer of Oblation for their argument concerning the eucharistic sacrifice. It seems also surprising that AC did not cite t Article XXV on the Sacraments as part of its attack on the Anglican Ordinal.

However I am not aware that anyone has conclusively demolished Dix's "Question of Anglican Orders".