15 October 2021

Bishop Nazir Ali

Bishop Michael is a man of very considerable erudition. But what stands out and marks him as different from most of those who enter into full communion with the See of Peter is his links with, and ministry to, Anglicans throughout the world of an Evangelical background.

This is most welcome. S John Henry Newman, in his biglietto speech after being made a Cardinal, made clear that he saw his entire life, his theological development since his early 'Calvinist' conversion, as being a single unbroken continuum. The Enemy had always been the same: the errors of liberalism and indifferentism and subservience to the Spirit of the Age. 

Bishop Michael could make this same noble boast.

After the events of the 1990s and the invention of the Flying Bishops within the Church of England, when that mighty pontiff John Richards was gathering together a faithful remnant out of the ruins, he was proud that his Ebbsfleet Jurisdiction included Evangelicals.

In 1983, our great Anglican Catholic Magister Catholicae Veritatis Eric Mascall had written: "Stated as simply as possible, the question is thus: Is the Christian religion something revealed by God to man in Christ having an unconditional claim on our obedience, or is it something to be constructed for us by ourselves in response to our own desires and the the pressures and assumptions of contemporary culture? It is in accepting the former of these alternatives that traditional Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism stand side by side against the liberal modernist relativism and and naturalism."

A man who might be called the theological godfather of the Ordinariate, Fr Aidan Nichols O.P., wrote (both before and after the erection of the Ordinariate) of such a body as representing "not only the distinctively Catholic teachings of the Tractarians but also the emphasis of the Evangelicals on the Atonement, and in fact the Tractarians and the Evangelicals are not wholly to be separated out when we bear in mind the Evangelical roots of some of the Oxford Fathers."

Some years ago, I took part in some private theological discussions between Catholic Anglicans and Evangelicals (mostly of the Calvinist variety). One of the latter said to me afterwards "I can see why, under this present pope [Benedict XVI] you are so keen on the papacy. But what if a different sort of pope came along ...". 

It turned out to be a fair question! But I pray that, at least in the next pontificate, a vibrant Catholic-Evangelical synergeia will again become possible. In the meantime, I believe we could all benefit from a rereading of the document Dominus Iesus, in which the future Pope Benedict, Founder of the Ordinariate, asserted against all comers the unique and salvific Lordship of Christ our Redeemer.

All may be not quite perfect at the moment in the Catholic Church. But at least we can be sure that we are fighting the right battle in the right place.


tradgardmastare said...

Amen Father , well said!

Unknown said...

Fr Z suggests from time to time that traditional Catholics and charismatic Catholics (I think of Ralph Martin, author of A Church in Crisis) could join together in renewing and strengthening the Church in this truly difficult time. Your comment on the Catholic and Evangelical wings of Anglicanism and the quote from Eric Mascall are in the same direction. I read that quote and said "Amen." Thank you so much Father.

PM said...

As a cradle Catholic undertaking theological study in my mature years, I must say that I found the scholarly wing of Anglican Evangelicalism - Bauckham, Burridge, and especially Wright - much more congenial than the 'Catholic' exegetes in Germany and elsewhere who have surrendered to liberal Protestantism.

I should say the same about Nikki Gumbel and Alpha. The problem with them, for a Catholic, is what is not there, a full doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. What is there is the Christianity of the creeds. Some Catholics think Alpha is too Protestant, but I have heard'progressive' 'Catholics' denounce it as too Catholic: triumphalist Constantinian Christianity and all that.

The same is true, as Unknown and Fr Z point out, of traditional and Charismatic Catholics: for all the differences in liturgical styles, they believe that the New Testament is true.

Grant Milburn said...

Ah nostalgia...

Most of my time as an Anglican was spent in an Evangelical church. This was due more to geography than to personal conviction: the only Anglican church in my region for hundreds of miles was an Evangelical one. Great days...

I still feel uneasy if I don't read the Bible every day.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...


I can only echo the sentiments in your first paragraph. I had more than enough of that nonsesnse - for nonsense it is - at the hands of an alleged leading catholic exegete, whose fundamental problem was the same as the Germans': philosophical incompetence combined with intellectual dishonesty.


Banshee said...

Oh, good. I was looking forward to finding out what you'd say about it, came along too early, and now am a bit late.

But yes, this is a good thing and a good man.

Popes come and go. They each have a lot of opportunities to do good or evil, but they all go to face judgment at the end.

I learned the other day that, at one point in the Middle Ages, there were Roman guys who specialized in writing up fake papal decrees and such, for anybody who came to Rome desperate for a decree. (I don't know if people knew they were buying a fake, or if they just thought they were funding a guy with connections.)

Apparently one of them wrote a fake decree telling the Norse that they could say Mass without wine, and this ended up getting a big giant smackdown. I don't know if it's related to the prohibition of Norse people baptizing with beer during the winter.

Cherub said...

Thank you, Father, for this article, Apart from the very useful discussion onthe Bishop's evangelical background, it was great to once again be reminded of that quotation from the great and saintly Father Mascall to whom I owe so much in my own theological formation. I only met him once (1978), but his written works had greatly impressed upon my mind since the mid-1960s. And thank God for the Ordinariate, a great fit for this holy and scholarly man.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Make this bloke a bishop.


Peter said...

I, too, was an Anglican from birth to my 30th year. I left because I felt they were trying to be all things to everyone. In the end, they will be nothing to nobody.