9 November 2019

Saint John Henry Newman on the Stinking Corpse

When S Augustine came to Canterbury, he built a cathedral church In honorem Sancti Salvatoris. In other words, he gave it the same dedication as that of the papal cathedral church in Rome, the Lateran basilica, the Mother Church of the world, the festival of whose dedication we keep today. Later, just as Rome had the basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul, outside the walls because they were built on the sites of the cemeteries where the Apostles were buried (Roman burials were always outside city walls), so Canterbury was to have the great monastery of Ss Peter and Paul (vulgo S Augustine's), outside the city walls, where burials took place. And, to represent Great S Mary's in Rome, to the East of Ss Peter and Paul was the church of our Lady.

Nostalgia, nostalgia. Today's commemoration of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is marked surely with tears for those of us whose religious formation was as Anglicans. We lament the ruin of the great Ecclesia Anglicana which, from her beginning, was a beacon and monument of Romanitas in these damp and misty islands of the North, at a time when distinctively Roman Christianity had not yet spread much further that Rome herself. As S John Henry put it, Canterbury has gone its way, and York is gone, and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to nought ... but the vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of S Peter, the grace of the Redeemer has left it. That old Church in its day became a corpse (a marvellous change!) and then it did but corrupt the air it once refreshed and cumber the ground which once it beautified.

As James Joyce pointed out, S John Henry was a superb prose stylist ... you might say, the Stylists' Stylist.

Only he could have got away with calling the Church of England a Stinking Corpse, because he said it so very elegantly.


Paul Hellyer said...

Thank you Fr. John. A very nice post.

Paul Hellyer said...

Well. Don't forget that most of the English bishops apostosised under Henry VIII. So their posterity the 'church' of England deserved to decay and die eventually as Cardinal Newman described.

Paul Hellyer said...

This may be a repeat due to faulty software.
The church of England was formed from apostate bishops under king Henry VIII. They deserved over time to decay as described by St Henry Newman.
Now unfortunately the Catholic Church is apostosicing in many parts of the world. Its all part of a diabolical plan.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

In 1830 one Cobbet pointed out Anglican clergy had a definite problem with pederastic tendencies.

This could be what John Henry Newman referred to.

Since then, some other guys have had, let's put it like this, excessive ecumenism with Anglicans (not meaning Ordinariate, but the ones not joining it).