Friday, October 24, 2014

The other "Old Catholics": the English ones

Coming from the same culture as the old high churchmen, even quietly (?) dissident like the Non-Jurors, you had the English "Old Catholics" who hung in there through the penal times, not to be confused with the schismatic Old Catholic Church in continental Europe a couple of centuries later, now really Episcopalians. Recusancy was an option for the very rich such as the Tichbornes: pay the fines for non-attendance at the Anglican church, have no say in the government (before Catholic emancipation), and be left alone in your castle or manor to have Mass while the cops looked the other way. Discreet, low-profile, both by necessity and very English. I admit I don't know much about it. I understand it was swamped by immigrant Irish Catholicism in the 1800s, the exuberant, newly liberated church that ex-Anglican converts like Cardinal Manning led in Britain. (There was a huge religious revival in Ireland, led by now-maligned local clergy and nuns, the pious Irishness exported to America with Ireland's excess people, becoming the dutiful, devout but streetwise Irish of American legend and fact, from cardinals to politicians to cops to bar owners. The Irish back home have lapsed again.) These "Old Catholics" resented it and all but disappeared, at least from the national consciousness.

Same happened in America: some of these low-key "Old Catholics" came here (Maryland, for example) in colonial times (looking for relief from the Anglicans, ironically like the extremely anti-Catholic Puritans were), were swamped by Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholicism brought here in the 1800s-early 1900s (that plus Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are what Americans think of as Catholic, from St. Patrick's Day to The Godfather), and resented it. There's German Catholicism here too; has been for a long time, as exuberantly baroque and liturgical in pure form as Polish, but it seems to have blended in over here, plus some Midwestern liberals came from that. There used to be German-language national parishes here in Philadelphia, from the 1800s; long closed or turned Puerto Rican. The Matt family of The Wanderer and The Remnant are from the old German-American Catholicism. (The Wanderer was originally a then-mainstream Catholic paper in German.)

There's a snotty Anglican expression, at once anti-Catholic and asserting branch theorists' and Anglo-Catholics' claims to be THE church of the rrrrrealm, like "the Rrrrrrroman Church," "the Rrrrrromans," etc., a distortion of the Catholic claim to be the true church: "the Italian Mission to the Irish." I understand now in England it's to the Polish. There were Episcopalians who seriously believed that too, even Bishop Charles Grafton: THEY were the lawful bishops in America; the papists were interlopers.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, how quickly we forget the Old English Catholicism of Maryland and tide-water Virginia. It was very, very English, even up to the 1960's. Their small white clapboard churches look very much like tastefully done Anglican churches in the same area. I remember as a child attending one such country church in rural Virginia, all the families were of English origin with names to match. But they were swamped by the great ethnic Catholic immigration of the 1900's. It is all gone now; novus ordo with balloons and dancing girls. How many "American" Catholics even know about the Carrolls of Carrollton?


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