... 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.