9 June 2009

Is the Prayer Book legal?

In 1959, the Anglican Catholic priest and writer Dudley Symon summed up what so many of his predecessors had said and written since the Catholic Revival. He spoke of "the right of the Church of England to the Roman Mass and its use", and went on: "Clearly the moral and spiritual case, apart from any matter of State law, is extremely strong. The Mass was never canonically abolished by the Church in this country, each of the successive Prayer Books of 1549, 1552, and 1559 being imposed by State action pure and simple ... on strict canonical and moral grounds it has no claim to loyalty either external or internal".

He could have pointed out that at the very time the government in 1559 was bullying Parliament into passing the Act of Uniformity, Convocation and the Universities solemnly declared "The authority of handling and defining concerning the things belonging to faith, sacraments, and discipline ecclesiastical, hath hitherto ever belonged, and ought to belong, only to the pastors of the Church; whom the Holy Ghost for this purpose hath set in the Church; and not to laymen".

Symon - and such earlier writers who had pushed the same argument (notably Fathers Baverstock and Hole) - was dead right. Goverment acted ultra vires and such acts as that Uniformity do not oblige in conscience. The Roman Rite - in some shape or form - is the lawful rite of the Ecclesia Anglicana.


Nebuly said...

Since 1870 in Ireland and 1970 in England we have degraded the calling of the clergy and enthroned a vocal and politicised group of lay people. These things should have remained with the Convocations and not given to the quasi parliamentarian Laity of the so called General 'Synod'

Steve said...

What did Dudley Symon make of what happened in the 1640's, when all the liturgy of the Church of England was abolished, and in the 1660's, at the Restoration?
(As a matter of interest, this is a question that the extreme Protestants in the C of E, who likewise adduce the argument of history, but in support of their claim that the C of E is Protestant and not Catholic, also duck!)