24 July 2015

Piltdown Man and the Ordinariates

I have a lovely postcard which I bought when I was a keen little boy very interested, I can't now remember why, in Science. It came from the Natural History Museum, and showed the skull which is the final glorious proof that Men are descended from Apes; the long awaited proof of Darwinianism: Eoanthropus Dawsonii, AKA the Piltdown Man, AKA the Great Hoax. If I had time to waste being childish, I'd pin it up with a picture beside it of the mighty Dawkins.

Liturgy has its Piltdown Man; the 'Liturgy of Hippolytus'. Actually, I'm not being quite fair; Piltdown Man was a deliberate forgery; an attempt to provide the evidence for a dogma for which genuine evidence had been tantalisingly too coy to show itself. 'Hippolytus' is no forgery, but a genuine first millennium liturgical text.

But, everyone now agrees, it is not by Hippolytus, nor was it a very early liturgy of the Roman Church. And Professor Paul Bradshaw has shown good reason to think that it is not nearly as early as had been assumed. Yet this text dominated the Committee-Liturgy reconstructions of the twentieth century. It provided the basis of the Eucharistic Prayer which is by far the most commonly, and disastrously, used in the Catholic Church: Prayer 2. It was the model of the drafts which started to be considered in the Church of England in late 1960s.

Gregory Dix was among the many taken in by the then consensus that (what earlier writers had called) 'The Egyptian Church Order' was really an early form of the Roman Rite; although his instincts were too sound to swallow the idea that really early liturgy had an Epiclesis of the Holy Spirit after the Institution Narrative (he concluded that this must be an interpolation into 'Hippolytus' dating from the fourth century, when notions of Epiclesis became popular in the East).

Despite its dodgy origins, 'Hippolytus' became real politics in the C of E in 1965, and initially appeared to be productive of highly useful results. The Liturgical Commission offered a draft Eucharistic Prayer which ran "Wherefore ... we offer unto thee this bread and this cup; and we pray thee to accept this our duty and service in the presence of thy divine majesty (note the echoes of the Canon: ... offerimus ... panem ... calicem ... hanc ... oblationem servitutis nostrae ... ... in conspectu divinae maietatis tuae ...). A year later they offered the explanation "this need mean no more than 'we put this bread and this cup at God's disposal', so that he may use them to feed those who receive in faith. It can, of course, be interpreted to mean something else; but it does not assert the fully developed doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It confines itself to the simple language of the first two centuries ... Hippolytus ... Irenaeus ... Justin ... Clement ... The use of the phrase is in line with the Anglican appeal to antiquity". But a tiny 'note of dissent' followed from one Colin Buchanan: "I reluctantly dissent ... Inquiry has shown that the phrase ... is unacceptable to many Anglicans".

Buchanan was not just a single individual. He was front man for the (mostly) Calvinist extreme Evangelical wing of the Church of England. In the decades which followed, his eagle eye relentlessly spotted and vetoed (through the Evangelical block vote in Synods) any phrase expressive of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; not because he wanted to save evangelicals from having phrases they disliked forced upon them; there was no proposal or desire on anybody's part to make evangelicals use anything they didn't like - he just couldn't stand the thought that, in a long list of optional alternatives, there might be even just one on the menu which Anglo-Catholics could use with a moderately good conscience.

The poor bloke would go apoplectic if anybody pointed this out to him, but the main fruit of his long and active life was the unwillingness of many Anglican Catholics to use Eucharistic prayers authorised by the Church of England. All those decades of Liturgical Revision since the 1920s, Green Books and Orange books and 1927 and 1928 and goodness knows what,  Series One, Two, Three ... the Alternative Service Book and Common Worship ... mostly with options galore ... and you still don't have one single usable Eucharistic Prayer!

Even 'Non-Conformist' churches use 'offer' language nowadays; I've heard it among Methodists and URC: after all, it is based on a diachronic and synchronic ecumenical consensus. But not in Buchanan's C of E. Paradoxically, the 'Reformation' body which retained the most 'Catholic' doctrines and structures became, in the second half of the twentieth century, the most inflexibly anti-Catholic of the whole lot in its refusal to allow any approximation, however ambiguous, to Catholic doctrine in its Eucharistic rites. The dear old whore (I say this with great affection and in my very friendliest tones) is now extreme Liberal in ethical matters and Church Order; and extreme Proddy in the texts of her worship. For that matter, despite the resistance of the 'Catholic Wing' for so many decades, she is in full communion with Scandinavians who still permit non-episcopal ordination, and has formally agreed that her own 'orders' are identical to those of the Methodists, just as Leo XIII said they were. Name a disease, she's got it. The fastidious among you may feel it is high time she went to a clinic to be checked over for dangerous infections ... a vessel best given a wide berth by mariners who value their tackle.

We 'papalists', of course, used the rites of 'another Church'. But for those of you who turned down Pope Benedict's offer and are still hunkering down with Old Mother Damnable, the only liturgies legally available to you are perched on the extreme 'left' wing of the Reformation spectrum!

Better join the Ordinariate. We have a nice rite. It's more-or-less what all the Right Sort of Chaps were using from 1912ish down to the 1960s. And we still have fun. Do you remember 'fun'?


Paul Hellyer said...

Fr. You are a pleasure to read. I don't 'get' everything you say. But I read you every day almost, and enjoy it. Thank you.

S Thorfinn said...

It would be useful to cross-reference this post with the ox-and-ass nativity commentary -- perhaps when Mutual Enrichment is collected and republished in a finely bound collector's edition?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

With Illegitimi non carborundum as the subtext/motto of all action, some quality cabernet, and blogs like this, life is not just bearable, it is pleasing.

Jesse said...

I recall your saying this of Bishop Buchanan in the past, Father. (I do read your blog every day!) I have yet to read his memoir of his long experience of General Synod (Taking the Long View). It would be interesting to have his own reflections on that process. I have found his other writings extremely useful (especially What Did Cranmer Think He Was Doing?, which has been endorsed in the lengthier studies of Cranmer by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Gordon Jeanes, and Ashley Null.)

It's funny how the language of offering made such heavy going in debate over liturgical revision when the Archbishops writing in Saepius officio interpreted the 1662 BCP's Communion rite in precisely those terms:

We make provision with the greatest reverence for the consecration of the holy Eucharist and commit it only to properly ordained Priests and to not other ministers of the Church. Further we truly teach the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice and do not believe it to be a "nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross" an opinion which seems to be attributed to us by the quotation made at the Council [of Trent]. But we think it sufficient in the Liturgy which we use in celebrating the holy Eucharist -- while lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and when now consecrating the gifts already offered that they may become to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, -- to signify the sacrifice which is offered at that point of the service in such terms as these. We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ, who is our Advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our sins, according to His precept, until His coming again. For first we offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; then next we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord’s Passion for all the whole Church, and lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things which we have already signified by the oblation of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the Priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Notice how they exactly parallel the two-stage oblation of the Roman Canon: first "creatures" are offered, then the "sacrifice of the Cross" is "represented". I must confess that I have always found Cranmer's "Canon" entirely satisfactory in this regard: he may have wished, personally and magisterially, to disavow the Eucharistic Sacrifice, but precisely by crafting a liturgy stitched together from all the New Testament's references to the Eucharist, he was unable to keep the idea out!

Charlesdawson said...

Actually, Father, there is a school of thought which believes that Piltdown was not so much a serious attempt to forge the Missing Link as an initially lighthearted attempt to make a lot of very important and learned gentlemen look silly. Probably the perpetrator (you pays yer money and you takes yer choice as to who this was, from a large and varied cast including (ahem!) a Roman Catholic priest) intended to explode the joke at some convenient time, but did not, either because he died or because he lost his nerve. Ronald Millar wrote an entertaining account of the whole saga in Piltdown Men (1974) in which he suggests that incompetence on the part of almost everone involved in verifying the discovery was what really ensured the success of the hoax.

Mike Hurcum said...


Not a comment but an item you may like Fr.

Matthew Roth said...

Professor Bradshaw is excellent on so many things. I used his article on the Cranmerian office for a term paper on the English Reformation.

Common Worship uses a form of EPII. I ducked into the University Church of S. Mary the Virgin on my trip to Oxford. (I should have waited, because the service was ghastly even for a weekday...)

Unknown said...

"Gregory Dix was among the many taken in by the then consensus that (what earlier writers had called) 'The Egyptian Church Order' was really an early form of the Roman Rite; although his instincts were too sound to swallow the idea that really early liturgy had an Epiclesis of the Holy Spirit after the Institution Narrative (he concluded that this must be an interpolation into 'Hippolytus' dating from the fourth century, when notions of Epiclesis became popular in the East)." ]

Might you be so kind as to give a reference for this? I am writing something on this at the moment and it would be very helpful.

In Christo,
A Seminarist.

William Tighe said...

The rejection in 1965, and again in 1967, of the eucharistic prayer proposed by the Liturgical Commission, a castrated version of which ultimately appeared in the "Series 2" eucharistic rite of 1967, had one significant effect: it led to the decision of on of the leading Church of England liturgical scholars, Edward Craddock Ratcliff (1896-1967) to leave the Church of England and to become Orthodox, a decision forestalled only by his sudden death on 30 June 1967. Ratcliff had held high academic positions at Oxford, London, and Cambridge, culminating with that of Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge from 1958 to 1964; and he remained a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, at the time of his unexpected death.

That other great liturgical scholar, Geoffrey Grimshaw Willis (1914-1982), resigned from the Liturgical Commission for similar reasons in 1965, but his clerical career was parochial rather than academic, and he never gave any sign of an intention to leave the Church of England. I do recall, however, of having read some tracts which he produced of blistering denunciation of both the "Series 2" and the subsequent "Series 3" rites as ignorant botches.