13 July 2008

Catholic Anglicans

I am sure that many readers have grasped the point I have been allusively suggesting in the last few posts.

Put briefly, it goes something like this.

1. The Cof E claims to be the Church founded by S Augustine in 597; indeed, that is what the Law of England also states (Halsbury, Laws of England, 3rd edition, Volume 13, p33). In law, it was not founded or invented by Henry VIII. Rowan Williams claims to be, and in law is, successor not only of Cranmer and Parker, but also of Augustine and Pole.

2. We do not believe that the period since the Reformation is somehow the 'normative' period for our doctrine or practice. We do not believe that any one period since 597 is uniquely normative. We do not believe in something called 'Anglicanism' which can somehow be distilled from English theologians who wrote later than 1559.

3. As a matter of fact, the English Reformation was not a theologically coherent series of events in the way that the Reformation may have been in some other countries. We have no 'normative' theologian (we are not Cranmerians; quoting Cranmer has for Anglicans never resolved any matter of doctrine or law). There is nobody that occupies for us the place that Luther and Calvin respectively occupy for Lutherans and Calvinists. Some years ago, I became aware that even those among us who most admire the Reformation are not in agreement; in theogical discussions it became clear that one member of the 'Reform' side of the table thought of himself as Lutheran, another believed that Calvin's Institutiones were well-nigh irreformable. And in fact this lack of coherence means that we are not a 'Confessional' church. Even Archbishop Fisher (not a Catholic Anglican) famously said 'The Church of England has no doctrines of her own'.

4. The formulae that the Sixteenth Century bequeathed to us, deriving from the different stages of the Reformation and its different conflicting power-groups, do not provide a coherent theological structure at variance with Catholic doctrine. We believe that Providence preserved the Church of England in the Reformation period from formally taking up theological positions irreconcilable with the defined doctrine of the Catholic Church.

5. For its first millennium, the Church of England was overwhelmingly 'papalist'. We do not believe that fact is any less normative than the fact that for the last four centuries it has been predominantly non-papalist. (One of our theologians, Eric Mascall, acutely observed that those attached to the Reformation changes are not logically well placed to argue that a status quo is irreformable.)

6. Even since the Reformation, there have been papalists. Even James I declared that he accepted papal primacy (although not any papal claims to secular power over sovereigns!). Papalism became quite popular in the 1630s, when reunion seemed to be a real possibility; and since the Catholic Revival there has been a succession of clergy and laity who have accepted the full papal doctrine of Vatican I. Dom Gregory Dix was perhaps the best known of these.

7. Although, like most people, we use the shorthand term 'Church of England', strictly speaking we believe that what we belong to are two provinces of the Western Latin Church, in a canonically anomalous relationship with the rest of that body. We pray for the healing of that anomaly.
8. Our ecumenical programme is that of the Malines process of the 1920s; 'The Church of England united, not absorbed'. Regretfully, many of us now accept that the corruption of the very structure of the Apostolic Ministry among us since 1992 means that we have to scale down our aspirations to a hope for a group solution for the orthodox remnant in Anglicanism.

9. Required reading is Fr Aidan Nichol's book The Panther and the Hind, in which a distinguished and traditionalist Roman Catholic theologian indicates the need for such an outcome, as the climax of his survey of Anglican traditions since the Reformation.


Nebuly said...

Very interesting Father.

You say 'Two Provinces" what of that of Wales - formerly part of the Province of Canterbury?

And the United Provinces of Armagh and Tuam and Dublin and Cashel, formerly part of the United Church of England and Ireland (1800 - 1870) whose union sparked the Catholic Revival in the form of keble's famous sermon.

Where do they fit in your scheme?

frd said...

The "Articles" you outline, while an interesting Anglo-Catholic self-justifying wish list, are nevertheless a million miles from the reality of the Church of England today. Or ever, for that matter. They exist only in the embattled Anglo-Papalist mind. The game is up for the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England and everyone knows it. Let the protestants get on with it. The real question for any catholic-minded protestant (for that is what your constituency surely remains, after all the theologising) is this: Catholic or Heretic? Do you want to be in the Church or out of it? It's an old question and one that a long line of saints and heretics throughout the history of the Church have faced. Now it's your turn to do the right thing. Jump into the Barque of Peter!