Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Anglo-Papalists: we DID talk to them


Reunion Revisited: 1930s Ecumenism Exposed by Mark Vickers. Don't let the unfortunate secondary title scare you; this isn't about false ecumenism, the kind today, indifferentism, but its opposite.

The author, an English Catholic priest, does a good job demolishing many readers' expectations brought in from the narrative about these things.

This is much of the story of Anglo-Papalism, which outsiders think or used to think Anglo-Catholicism is but arguably its opposite. This faction of Anglicans claimed to believe everything our holy mother the church teaches and wanted to come in, except they thought Apostolicae Curae isn't doctrine (to their credit, they didn't want schismatic Dutch orders; that junk's for liberals) and hoped against hope for a corporate union, fancy talk for the whole Anglican Communion becoming Catholic. (Apostolicae Curae: We take Anglicanism at its word. The framers said in their Articles, "No Mass." We say, "Fine. No Mass means no orders.") Anglo-Catholicism is Anglican; Anglo-Papalism actually anti-Anglican, or rather, Anglo-Papalists claimed, implausibly, that would-be Catholicism is authentic Anglicanism. The Pope, not the Articles! Fr. Vickers seems to date the start of Anglo-Papalism with the Rev. Spencer Jones in 1898, in England, and it was a largely English phenomenon, a small but noisy faction among them virtually unknown in the Episcopal Church (but wait, there's more), but I date it earlier. Anglo-Catholicism actually started as a defense of Anglicanism against Free Church Protestants, unbelievers, and us! Its first sermon, at Oxford in 1833, protested an effect of Catholic emancipation in Ireland, suppressing Anglican dioceses nobody went to; it claimed Anglican dioceses there and everywhere else have divine authority. But there was always a faction that was what most people thought it was, exploring by private correspondence a reconciliation with us. I think the older F.G. Lee in the late 1800s was one of the first Anglo-Papalists: before Apostolicae Curae he admitted the church is right about Anglican orders; after his episcopal consecration, which he didn't really keep a secret (I think he really was a Catholic bishop and supposed to remain secret about it), Anglo-Catholics shunned him (he went from heroic ritualist slum priest to pariah), and he died openly Catholic.

Anyway, here are a few tidbits to get you interested; I don't make anything if you buy the book but you can donate to me through the button so named at the right of this page if the spirit moves you.

  • The narrative: the bad old Catholic Church before Vatican II cold-shouldered/slammed the door on dialogue with such people. The point in the book is this is resoundingly false. Not long after the slightly better known Malines Conversations, when the saintly Viscount Halifax, Cardinal Mercier, and some establishmenty Anglicans tried to talk, the church was very interested in the Anglo-Papalists and in the early 1930s held top-secret but officially approved talks with them. An archbishop who was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Westminster was in the Catholic delegation; the Anglo-Papalist clerical one included the eccentric aristocrat Henry Fynes-Clinton of St. Magnus the Martyr, London (God love Anglo-Catholic personal eccentricity, and egalitarianism is rubbish), and the respected scholar Gregory Dix of Nashdom Abbey, Catholics in almost all but name. (Nashdom, like some Anglican parishes in London, did the traditional Mass in Latin. Not only were there Anglo-Papalists but Romanizers, who didn't accept all our teachings but were interested in union, with the Roman Rite as a part of that.)
  • The results, much like with the ordinariate, were underwhelming; few converted. One fellow was received as a layman. These movements are always mostly clergy, aren't they? We end up with a few good converts like Newman and that's it.
  • The Catholic Church didn't turn against the talks. Establishment Anglicanism, the Church of England, did. The archbishops of Canterbury and York did NOT want to talk to us and only half-heartedly did, to try to look fair; they really wanted to fraternize with other Protestant denominations. I dare say if these chaps were alive now they'd call us sexists, homophobes, and child molesters for good measure.
  • The man who started the talks was neither Catholic nor Anglican but a former Anglican layman turned Presbyterian minister, Sir James Marchant, awarded by the King for his moral good works, who wanted fame from the success of this endeavor. Nobody remembers him.
  • Anglo-Papalism was almost all English but had few adherents. But Fr. Vickers writes at length about one of its American movers and shakers, an eccentric Episcopal priest, Henry K. Pierce, and his sister. After decades of freelance work for union (I think he was independently wealthy), he did come into the church and was ordained, then put on the retired list so he didn't have to do parish work and could continue his unusual apostolate. He ended up a monsignor.
  • In 1908 at their General Convention (which can change not only policy but doctrine, a power the Pope doesn't claim) the Episcopalians passed the Open Pulpit Canon allowing other Protestant ministers to preach in its parishes. A number of their few outlier Anglo-Papalists, such as Fr. Paul James Francis Wattson, Mother Lurana White, and their Franciscan friary and convent at Graymoor, NY, came into the church the next year. With them they brought the wonderful Chair of Unity Octave, which it should still be. Even though another Catholic priest came up with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it's an indifferentist sellout. Fr. Vickers writes of Graymoor's conversion and the Octave but not the immediate reason they converted. Also not mentioned: in Philadelphia the Open Pulpit Canon led to the conversion of the Rev. William McGarvey, all his curates, and much of the congregation of St. Elisabeth's Episcopal Church; he also ended up a monsignor.
  • I was ready to read that the Anglo-Papalists were over the moon about the high point of Anglo-Catholicism, the Anglo-Catholic Congresses in the 1920s and '30s. (I met someone who had been.) Wrong, and I don't think it was eccentricity or being holier than thou. They knew that most Anglican high churchmen didn't really understand Catholicism and only liked the trappings.

The mother country had this movement because it is a Catholic land that's been defiled; the English are still hurt and confused. America's a Protestant land where lots of Catholics live.

My Episcopal to Catholic conversion: "I became a Catholic when I realized I wasn't one." The Episcopal Church today: imagine if the United Church of Christ pretended to be us.

Tridentine Anglo-Catholicism is my Western religious practice, not my allegiance of course. Thank you, gentlemen. And I'm chuffed to be in the church.

Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray.

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