18 September 2019

The Anglican Patrimony

What is that Anglican Patrimony which we are supposed to have brought into the Ordinariates? I feel that it must be more than just a few little liturgical goodies, favourable though I am to the BCP structure of the Divine Office and to the Anglican Use Eucharistic Rite, with its BCP and English Missal components. And to the translations made by John Mason Neale of Patristic hymnody.

Some five years ago, when I was putting together my annual paper for the Gardone Riviera Conference, I resolved to talk about 'Modern Biblical Scholarship', that tired old construct of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I decided to formulate my critique exclusively through the insights of writers who were Anglicans or who, if they became Catholics, had been Anglicans when they wrote. I gathered together R A Knox, C S Lewis, Dorothy L Sayers, E L Mascall. (I think I also mentioned Austin Farrer and Abbot Butler; and that towering champion of Catholic Truth E B Pusey and some of his contemporaries.) I found in these writers a coherent critique, although I discern no links of indebtedness between them. They wrote, not as members of the cosy self-referencing and self-affirming club of European or North American Protestant "Biblical Scholars", but as people trained in literary criticism (in Mascall's case, also in Mathematics and Logic!) who brought their own rather different skills to the task of exposing the non-existence of the Emperor's Clothes, aka "the assured results of modern scholarship". "That", I triumphantly concluded my talk, "is the contribution which the Ordinariate is called by God to make".

By a happy coincidence (although S John Paul pointed out that with God there are no coincidences) these insights are exactly what the Church Militant needs at this particular moment in its sad passion.

This similar methodology could be extracted from Dix, Jalland and Mascall for expounding the Petrine Ministry; from Dix, Ratcliff, Willis, Moreton for critiquing "Modern Liturgical Scholarship". I have written before about the wise sentiments of Bishop Gore in his cruel, incisive paper on the question of Contraception. In so many cases, the Anglican input would have the result of questioning assumptions which some more recent "Catholic" "Scholarship" has gullibly borrowed from necrophiliac Protestant Modernism. Such an 'Anglican' input would make a valuable contribution to vindicating a Hermeneutic of Continuity; to insisting that the documents of Vatican II must be understood, and understood only, in reference to and in subjection to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium over the two preceding millennia. Its value would rest partly on the sheer intellectual distinction of such writers as I have mentioned, but also on the fact that they wrote at times when a Catholic, advancing the same arguments they were advancing, would have had to listen to the accusation "Ah, but you have to say that because you're a Roman Catholic".

I think the most succinct summary I know of what the Anglican Patrimony must mean is in a phrase which Cardinal Manning used ... I'm afraid ... in condemnation of Blessed John Henry Newman."I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church"*. Exactly. That is precisely what we are, and what we have brought into the Church packed into our luggage. I pray that we may be able to make our own powerful contribution to the essential reconstruction of a Catholic Church which has been so weakened, and much of its life so corrupted, by the heterodoxies and heteropraxies of the last half-century.
*Gary Bennett, in his 1987 Crockford's Preface, saw our distinctiveness in "the conservative theological tradition of the English universities with their strong links with the Church of England. Even into the mid-twentieth century it was received opinion among continental Protestant theologians that Anglican academics lived in a world of their own and set up a firm resistance to the kind of biblical criticism which was commonplace in European theological faculties. English scholars tended to do their theology through a study of church history and it was hard to deny that most of their work was done within the usual Anglican assumptions about the authority of Scripture and the normative character of patristic usage". Indeed. Knox and Lewis made the same sort of dismissive remarks about 'German Scholarship' that Pusey had made half a century or more before.


PM said...

One might think also of the learning, patient scholarship and straightforward good sense of biblical scholars such as CF Evans and CFD Moule, who were a pleasure to read after the silly excesses of some 'Catholic' scholars across the channel. Moule's Origins of Christology stands up very well forty years late; who, by contrast, takes The Myth of God Incarnate seriously these days?

One occasionally has to make allowance for his Evangelical biases, but it seems to me that NT Wright carries on that tradition of sound scholarship and good sense.

Christopher Uhl said...

Question: Are Ordinariate priests only obliged to say two offices a day (Morning and Evening Prayer)? Or do they say the same Daily Office as all other Latin Rite priests?

Oliver Nicholson said...

For R.H Charles in his International Bible Commentary on Revelation written during the First World War, German scholarship was, IIRC, the second horn of the Beast.

frjustin said...

"The usual Anglican assumptions about the authority of Scripture and the normative character of patristic usage" are to be found in "The Expositor's Bible", a series of volumes published in the late 19th century by Hodder and Stoughton. In principle, every OT and NT book of the Bible has a separate volume, and the approach may be illustrated by the preface to "The Book of Exodus" by the "Right Rev. G.A. Chadwick, D.D., Lord Bishop of Derry and Raphoe", published in 1903:

"Much is now denied or doubted, within the Church itself, concerning the Book of Exodus, which was formerly accepted with confidence by all Christians.

"But one thing can neither be doubted nor denied. Jesus Christ did certainly treat this book, taking it as He found it, as possessed of spiritual authority as sacred scripture. He taught His disciples to regard it thus, and they did so.

"Therefore, however widely His followers may differ about its date and origin, they must admit the right of a Christian teacher to treat this book, taking it as he finds it, as a sacred scripture and invested with spiritual authority. It is the legitimate subject of exposition in the Church".

Archimandrite Simon said...

Many of us use the standard Western Divine Office. For those who use an Ordinariate pattern then Morning Prayer combines the Office of Readings (vigils) and Lauds; Evening Prayer combines Vespers and Compline; thus with one daytime office the cycle is complete. (As I understand it).