Sunday, May 25, 2008

Richard Waldo Sibthorpe, a Victorian eccentric
Parts 1 and 2

Believe it or not I didn’t know of him until I saw him mentioned at the beginning of Dr Lee of Lambeth where he was called ‘the tragi-comedian of the Oxford Movement’ though his interest in things Catholic pre-dated that by a few decades.

The same strange brew whence came the soon-to-be-beatified Newman (theology), Pugin (æsthetics, the romantic, mediævalwards Gothic Revival happening at the same time) and the saintly Ambrose de Lisle.

This year (14th July) is the 175th anniversary of the Assize Sermon on ‘National Apostasy’: a movement now associated mostly with ceremonial ‘dressing up’ began with something very different (protesting the state suppressing 10 dioceses), at the root theological, pointing away from Erastianism (but like the old high churchmen not keen on religious liberty) and back towards an infallible church instead.

What good did it do in the end? I’d say a working model of a Catholicism in English with tolerant conservatism for about a hundred years wasn’t bad. Despite seeing it come crashing down in my lifetime I don’t regret getting the benefit of the tail end of it.
Should it ever happen (which God avert, but we cannot shut our eyes to the danger) that the Apostolical Church should be forsaken, degraded, nay trampled on and despoiled by the State and people of England, I cannot conceive a kinder wish for her, on the part of her most affectionate and dutiful children, than that she may, consistently, act in the spirit of this most noble sentence; nor a course of conduct more likely to be blessed by a restoration to more than her former efficiency.
From Fr Michael Clifton.

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