10 September 2009

ANGLICANISM

The other day, in Fr Ker's admirable biography of Mr Newman, I found a diverting error in the Index. Nothing less than a description of Cardinal Manning as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ah, the might-have-beens of History. Today, I would remind you of Manning's bad-tempered criticism of Newman; that with Newman, even after his reception into Full Communion, it was still the same old Anglican, Oxford, Patristic tone. We can do worse than recall this as we approach the beatification of that very great man. This may irritate some readers, but since this is my blog I will say it all the same: the whole point of Newman is that Manning was right; he never ceased to be an Anglican; that is to say, a superb exemplar of all that was best, God-given, grace-given, wholesome, and holy, in the life of the Provinces of Canterbury and York while in separation from the Voice of Peter. When he put off all that was schismatic, separatist, narrow, flawed, partial, heretical, in the ethos he imbibed from the Church of England, he was free to be more perfectly and fully Anglican than ever he had been before.

Because there is more to say about 'Anglicanism' than I said in yesterday's post. An Anglicanism which purports to be a doctrinally distinctive, even a superior, form of Christianity: yes, it is a diabolical mirage. But in the unhappy centuries of our separation from Peter, grace was not stopped up. A tone emerged; a style, a way of doing theology, of living the Christian life, which in itself is by no means unCatholic; a sober tone, a careful tone, a tone which read deeply and with understanding in the Fathers and looked to Byzantium and beyond as well as to Rome.

I know I surprised some readers and enraged others not long ago by describing Benedict XVI as the first Anglican Pope. But I believe it is wonderfully providential that it falls to this man to raise his fellow-Anglican John Henry Newman to the Altars of the Church. Have you read the Ordinary Teaching that this pope gives week by week? His sympathetic exposition of the Fathers of East, West, Syria? When you read his own theologising, can you avoid a feeling (I can't) that you are reading one of the Fathers; that you have picked up a volume of Migne ... you aren't quite sure whether it's from the PG or the PL, and you're even less certain which volume it might be, but anyway, that's the corner of Bodley that you're sitting in, and out of the window there's Newman's Church of S Mary, with his college of Oriel just beyond. And it is very easy to feel that it would be the most natural thing in the world to raise your head from your desk in the Patristics Room and see, in the chair opposite you, the diffident, erudite face of Professor Ratzinger, verifying a reference or two before hitching an ancient MA gown round his shoulders and scuttling through the traffic in the High back to his lodgings in Tom Quad.

Anglicanism as some self-important separatist codswallop that prides itself in its separation from the Successor of Peter: let's flush it away fast. But then the cry can go up: "Anglicanism is dead! Long live Anglicanism!"

6 comments:

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H, there certainly seems to be something distinctive about the anima supernaturaliter anglicana.

Fr William said...

Ah, all becomes clear. (I really should have waited for the promised "footnote".) Trouble is, all too many of Our People can be heard vociferously arguing in the tones that your first post seemed to be adopting – that the entire Anglican tradition is a load of tosh, contains nothing of any real value and can well be discarded without a backward glance. (Curiously enough, they show no sign of matching actions to words by vacating their rectories or refusing their stipends.)

But the idea that all that is best in Anglicanism can attain its fullness only by shedding its own limited horizons – that's another matter: Anglicanism dying, not so that the Church can carry on as if it never existed, but because "if it dies, it yields much fruit".

FrDarryl said...

Some Anglicans have been content to live 'In the Ruins':

http://www.firstthings.com/print/article/2007/01/in-the-ruins-of-the-church-sustaining-faith-in-an-age-of-diminished-christianity-29

my chosen tense being quite semantically operative:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/out-of-the-ruins-3

rev'd up said...

It seems all the isms must pass away if we are to someday avoid the hurtful things that keep us Catholics apart. Would you say that the protestant spirit in Anglican, Roman and Eastern must be purged before the other prodigals, schismatics, heathens and Jews will come to the haven of the Church? Has our diversity diminished or even eliminated our ability to solicit His grace to call these to conversion? Have we all, in fact, fallen into darkness? Have we fallen into the pit that we had laid for another?

The collect this past Sunday said "Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church:" only, what is His Church? Who now has the right to define what Church means?

Argument and intellect come short of the mark. Unification will not happen because of right reason. Only charity, which will cover the multitude of our sins, is the way forward.

As I see it, if the Pope puts forward a true plan (he is the only person to unilaterally do it) whereby East and West reunite, his plan runs the risk of fracturing the RC status quo for the sake of a broader unification. I am pessimistic that old (or rather novus ordo) factions within the RCC will abide such re-alignment unless the newbies are forced to grovel. These much prefer singular "conversions" as opposed to corporate. But if the Pope makes a corporate offer--any corporate offer: it must not be refused. Perhaps his hope is that the new purge the old?

Independent said...

Sheridan Gilley, another biographer of Newman, has some words which might seem apposite "The decline of Anglo-Catholicism seems to me a serious impoverishment of Christianity. No one who has known the High Church tradition from the inside can appreciate its seductive fascination.It took all that is best and most beautiful in the Church of England - the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer with its wonderful Cranmerian cadences, the ancient cathedrals and parish churches, a tradition of literature and a tradition of learning, gentleness and tolerance of English life, and enriched them with judicious borrowings from the doctrine, devotion, and scholarship of the wider Catholic world" .... "It seemed the perfect meeting place between Catholicity and Englishness, without the harshness and philistinism of English Roman Catholicism, which has spent a generation destroying all that was most beautiful about itself".(S Gilley, "The ecclesiology of the Oxford Movement; a Reconsideration", Nova 1.1(1996) pp 4-9)

Professor Ratzinger would undoubtedly grace either Cambridge or Oxford, and certainly displays a very Anglican temper, and one wonders what he would make of Manning. There is undoubtedly a great gulf between Newman and Manning as is clear from their respective interpretations of the First Council of the Vatican. Manning too set back the cause of catholic education in England by a good thirty years and became Archbishop of Westminster after both the removal of the man who had the right of succession and a certain amount of lobbying at Rome.His enthusiasm for social questions however would certainly have fitted him to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

AS you are of course aware Dr Gilley, a former enthusiastic member of the Prayer Book Society, left the C of E when it embraced the cause of women's "ordination".

Pedes Christi said...

Reverende pater,
Thanks very much for this post, which addresses my own self-perception as a former Anglican clergyman and a convert to the Roman church now 16 years ago. It was then Cardinal Ratzinger who was most responsible for my own conversion, and his "Anglicanness" had something to do with that. I have indeed become more aware of how those things I learned growing up as an Anglo-Catholic (we would have said "high churchman" when I was young) have contributed in a decisive way to my faith, and enriched my life. In fact, I very much doubt whether I would have much faith at all now had I been raised in the local RC parish. The question for me now is very much "whither shall we go?" The present state of the Latin Church, despite some signs of new life is overall most depressing. Many of those who have stayed in Anglicanism seem to be dangerously hamstrung by moral (usually sexual) problems, or outright scandal. This greatly impedes their ability to speak or negotiate with Rome to find a workable way for the Anglican tradition to find a place in communion with the Holy See, and I see no possible future for the Anglican Tradition otherwise. It would be a great tragedy indeed if it were to be lost, but as to how to save it---I feel the very real obligation to do so, but almost despair of the task.