Friday, July 04, 2014

Classic Anglo-Catholicism: well meant but intellectually dishonest

A conversation among me, another Catholic layman, and a conservative independent Anglican bishop:

The question regarding Anglicanism is whether the crack-up began in 1930 over contraception or with the "Enlightenment," when most English Protestants seems to have lost their Christian faith, or, as Catholics believe, with the "Reformation." Is Hooker's "reformed Catholic" doctrine a sure foundation or is it man-made so its collapse was inevitable? Catholics believe one thing; the Continuum and Global South another.

BISHOP: I tend to see the crack-up as coming in the 1840s when the bishops did not back up their condemnation of Tract XC with a few judicious disciplinary actions. Instead the mischief went unpunished and after a few years became unpunishable.

CATHOLIC LAYMAN: IIRC John Henry Newman authored Tract XC. Do you recall if he ever renounced what he wrote after he became a Catholic? I'm not sure of this, but in my dim, dark past, I thought I had read something that said he had done so. ?????

BISHOP: He eventually repented of the deed. He was smart enough to realise that it was an intellectually dishonest piece of work.

Right; the conservative Anglican argument that the Anglo-Catholics were using the same dirty tactics as the Modernists, deconstructing the formularies to twist their meaning the same way Catholic Modernists twist scripture and doctrine. Even though the A-Cs' intentions were good, their means weren't, opening the Pandora's box of liberalism in Anglicanism.

CATHOLIC LAYMAN: So the current Church of England's "liberalism" (I am trying to be kind and irenic here) is A-C in origin and not from the broad or low Church?

Indirectly, yes; A-Cism was trying to fight the Broad Churchmen's unbelief but aggravated it.

BISHOP: Newman borrowed his method off Samuel "the Arian" Clarke - probably without realising. I am not sure that Newman ever read Waterland, but if he had he would have realized that he had simply flipped Clark's method so as to use it to approximate the Articles to Trent, rather than Clark's semi-Arian point of view. Dean Stanley, Queen Victoria's favourite liberal, definitely saw the Anglo-Catholic Movement as a Trojan Horse by which he could liberalize the C of E.

One of the origins of liberal high church, which, like classic A-Cism, is like us Catholic traditionalists, credally orthodox and ecclesiologically and liturgically high, except they don't believe in church infallibility so they're socially liberal: women priests and gay marriage. Unknown among Catholics (those liberals are anti-high church), dominant among Episcopalians.


  1. I don't think that the "dissing" of Newman's Tract 90 will bear the weight put upon it in this "thesis." It was certainly not a unique effort. There was the huge tome produced by the Catholic Franciscan Francis Davenport in 1634, *Deus ... Natura ... Gratia,* which attempted to reconcile the 39 Articles with Catholic doctrine (Davenport had a brother, John Davenport, who was the first minister of the New Haven colony in 1640 and just about as extreme a clerical Puritan as one might find; the Davenport brothers were one of the two cases of brothers who in early 17th-Century England who ended up on opposite extremes of the religious spectrum), although Davenport concluded that they were irreconcilable in a few respects; and as recently as 1933 Henry Edward Symonds of the Community of the Resurrection, an Anglican religious order, published a scholarly book, *The Council of Trent and Anglican Formularies,* with the same purpose. Fr. Hunwicke adduced other, lesser-known, attempts along the same lines on his blog a few years ago.

    I recently reread Symonds book, and while it is an honest and intelligent effort by an Anglo-Catholic who was not a "papalist," I came away from it with the feeling that Symonds' attempt to square this particular circle succeeds (and on its own terms it does succeed) more because of the ambiguous wording of the Articles themselves, than for any other reason. (And he does pass by Article 29, which on the face of it condemns both Catholic and Lutheran views on the Eucharistic Presence, rather quickly.) If one rules out any privileging of an "original intent" reading of the Articles (as, arguably, the Royal Declaration of 1630 prefixed to the articles by order of Charles I does), then the Articles can be read in any number of opposed and contradictory ways. Anglicanism was Erastian from the beginning, and that Erastianism has proved to be a rich compost heap for the germination of liberal beliefs and practices to pass themselves off as genuinely Anglican.

  2. "the Davenport brothers were one of the two cases of brothers who in early 17th-Century England who ended up on opposite extremes of the religious spectrum"

    The other pair were the Raignold (or Reynold) brothers, the Protestant one of whom, a Calvinist Church of England divine, was one of the translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible (along with, among others, the Ven. Robert Tighe, Archdeacon of Middlesex - not one of the Irish Tighes of Co. Cavan, patres mei, but of the Anglo-Norman family of Deeping St. James, Lincs., which, however, ended up as Anglo-Irish landowners by jumping aboard Oliver Cromwell's bandwagon in 1649, only to sell up and return to England in the 1920s).

    In both the Reignolds' case and that of the Davenports there is the "family legend" that each brother started out with religious predilections opposite to that which he eventually embraced, and that this denouement was due to each brother successfully converting the other to his original views.


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