10 February 2015

Fr Longenecker ...

 ... is a very fine writer with whom I nearly always agree. But it seems to me that he can be a trifle careless ... as, I am sure, I often am. Recently he wrote about how, since 1534, the Church of England has been Protestant.

Firstly: this appears to forget the Reign of Good Queen Mary. It would have been safer, surely, to write "Since 1559 ...". And the assertion that from 1534 until 1547 the Church of England was Protestant is only sustainable given a very narrow and unusual definition of what 'Protestant' means. Henry VIII was still, I believe, burning Protestants.

But more: did S Thomas More refuse the Sacraments before he died, on the grounds that he ought not to hold communicatio in sacris with heretical schismatics? (Roper tells us that it was his custom to go to Confession, to Mass, and to be houselled before major events; before, for example, his arrest.) If he did receive the Sacraments before execution from a priest who had followed Henry Tudor into schism, doesn't that fact make S Thomas himself, according to a rigorist viewpoint, a schismatic? And that is a conclusion which the Roman Magisterium implicitly denied when he was canonised. And there is the question of the 1549 'Prayer Book' rebels, about whom I wrote this back in 2008, before we entered the Ordinariate.
"We had a lovely fortnight in West Cornwall; and I was intrigued to see a monument on the outside wall of the RC church in St Ives commemorating those from the town who died in the genocidal massacres of the Tudor dictatorship after the rebellion of 1549; provoked by the parliamentary attempt to impose Protestant worship.

"I applaud such commemoration. Since History tends to be written by the Whiggish victors, events like 1549 are denied a place in the official memory. But the implication that these were RC martyrs seems to me to need explanation, at least on the part of those RCs who believe that you have to be in full visible canonical union with the See of Peter in order to count as a 'Catholic'. For those who died in the aftermath of the 1549 were not in that full communion. Indeed, in the Articles they produced they did not demand restitution of links with Rome; the rebels tended to emphasise - one can see why - that the status quo bequeathed by Henry VIII upon his death should not be varied during the minority of his son. What they rebelled for and what they died for was the traditional worship of their Parish Churches."

I have written several times about the ambiguities which make it difficult to be rigidly black and white about relationships between Latins and Byzantines in the second millennium. Things were more fluid .... more, if you like, messy. And with regard to Anglicanism, I do not see (happily, looking at it now from a perspective within Full Communion) how the sort of rigidity which says "They were Protestant after 1534" either fits snugly and logically into all the historical facts, or serves to improve relationships.

Benedict XVI made it clear that we were to bring into Full Communion within the Ordinariates what God did with us and through us and in us during the centuries of schism. (Not, of course, what the Devil did with us and through us and in us during those centuries.)

I think this inspired policy on the part of a great pontiff deserves a generous hermeneutic.


Woody said...

Come now. What's 25 years between friends when there are centuries involved?!

austin said...

Since joining the Ordinariate (and worshipping exclusively in archdiocesan parishes, since we have no group where I live) I have come to a similar warm respect for the Catholic faith I learned as an Anglican. When still an Anglican, I tended to think that the whole CoE and daughter church experiment had been a disaster.

Now, recalling how careful we were to sustain and revive Catholic practices, how alert we were to Protestantizing tendencies, how we often had to resist unfriendly bishops and archdeacons in order to live a fully Catholic life, I see something we can bring to the wider Catholic Church.

I our archdiocese, I see many faithful Catholics who have become "accommodationists" and tolerate all kinds of questionable practices because they are ordained by their superiors. We Anglo-Catholics, in our prime, would have quietly ignored, or resisted, them.

A tendency to test the spirits and be bloody-minded in defence of orthodoxy is not such a humble gift of the patrimony, especially if delivered with the self-deprecation and good humour that many of our lot were famous for. Not least among them, of course, the estimable Fr H.

austin said...

And a brief addendum. Fr Longenecker, by his own admission, was never an Anglo-Catholic. Not surprising, then, that the humble treasures in that tradition are unknown to him. But they were there.

Athelstane said...

Agreed: it's one thing to say that something decisive happened in 1534, and another to say that this decisive event also clearly demarcates the change of the Church of England from Catholic to Protestant.

I think that the history noted carefully by Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae is very much on point here. As the old Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

The Bull points out that orders received in the Church of England, according to the change introduced into the Ritual under Edward VI, were disowned as invalid by the Catholic Church, not through a custom grown up gradually, but from the date of that change in the Ritual. Thus, when a movement was made towards a reconciliation of the Anglican Church to the Holy See in the reign of Queen Mary (1553-58), Pope Julius III sent Cardinal Pole as Legate to England, with faculties to meet the case. Those faculties were "certainly not intended to deal with an abstract state of things, but with a specific and concrete issue." They were directed towards providing for holy orders in England "as the recognized condition of the circumstances and the times demanded." The faculties given to Cardinal Pole (8 March, 1554) distinguished two classes of men: "the first, those who had really received sacred orders, either before the secession of Henry VIII, or, if after it and by ministers infected by error and schism, still according to the accustomed Catholic Rite; the second, those who were initiated according to the Edwardine Ordinal, who on that account could not be promoted, since they had received an ordination that was null."

Link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01644a.htm

In short, those clerics who were ordained under the traditional form in the 1534-1549 period were still rooked in with the former group, and not with those ordained under the Edwardine ordinal (though it seems that such clerics were probably examined further on a case by case basis).

Thus, while it may be fair to say that the civil government and the Church government in 1534-1549 were objectively in a state of schism (and some members of which may have been formal heretics to boot), it's not quite fair to characterize the entire Church as "Protestant" - certainly not in the way we would have characterized the emerging Lutheran state church in Denmark-Norway after 1536. Certainly Leo XIII did not seem to think so, given that he observed the same distinctions in his bull that Julius III had in formulating Cardinal Pole's mission.

In this entire period, only 1549-1553 might be a period where we could perhaps characterize the CoE as "Protestant," even while acknowledging that some clerics still retained valid ordinations and still celebrated valid Masses. The Marian Restoration obviously changed matters. From 1559 onward, however, the situation stabilized, and not in a good direction.

fr. Thomas said...

I do think, salvo meliori iudicio, that there is always a definite answer to the question of whether someone is a Catholic or not, and that canonical union with the pope is a necessary condition of being one. In the case of the clergy at the time of St Thomas More, perhaps one could say that the grave fear under which the clergy acceded to the king's demand left a reaonable doubt about whether their act was canonically imputable. With regard to the men of 1549 those of 16 or over would certainly have been baptised Catholics and need not have posited any schismatic act by this point. Once one has bishops and other clergy who have freely decided to become such while knowing about the breach with Rome, and laity who are baptised by such clergy, then I think one must say that they are non-Catholics.

fr. Thomas said...

'Meliore' mihi scribendum erat. Saepe eheu hac in re delinquo.

John Nolan said...

Surely St Thomas More would not have regarded the English Church as being in schism since he denied the competence of parliament to change Divine Law. The King might claim to be the supreme head of the ecclesia anglicana, but in More's eyes he was no such thing. The English Church remained part of Christendom under the pope.

The final Act of Parliament severing ties with Rome was passed in 1536, the year after More's execution. But it is still probably incorrect to say that Henry founded a separate Church. What we know as the Church of England is better understood as resulting from the Elizabethan settlement.

On those grounds it can be maintained that the Church of England was founded as a separate Protestant entity. As such it is correctly described as an ecclesial community. Notions of the English Church 'breaking away' from Rome in the years 1530-1536 are in my view misleading.