Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dr. Olsen asks: "What is an Anglo-Catholic?"

On rite thinking.

“What makes the language of Rite I inherently more Anglo-Catholic than the language of Rite II? Is it our equivalent of Latin, or something?” Yes. Everybody has a liturgical language. For many small-e (non-Anglican) evangelicals it's the originally Anglican King James Bible. My liturgical English is old-school Anglican.

Having "been there," because of my dad's marriage conversion before I was born, I've long asked similar questions since becoming an aspiring Anglo-Catholic 35 years ago (by the way, my dad came back; unlike me, he liked Vatican II). Is an Anglo-Catholic what he popularly was thought to be, somebody who wants to be Roman Catholic, old or new-school, like I did? Sometimes. Or like the old high churchmen and today's liberals (but not liberal like the "Enlightenment" to mid-century skeptics or Bishop Schori for that matter), someone for whom Anglican authority is the final authority? "Rome's nice, a real church with real bishops and all, but we don't need corporate reunion; we are the church at its best." So ecumenism becomes self-limiting; nobody thinks the churches will get back together, the accomplishment being that the sides are no longer trying to kill each other.

The old high churchmen really loved Cranmer's new order of things ("Catholic and reformed"; "Catholicism minus popery"); today's liberals love having women priests and same-sex blessings. The successors to the old high churchmen deny a connection.

A lot of high churchmanship in the Episcopal Church seems less related to old high churchmanship and Anglo-Catholicism than ecumenism that was fashionable 50 years ago; Roman Catholics were cool because of Vatican II and, partly based on a false notion that Catholicism no longer taught it's the true church, a lot of people thought union was right around the corner. So you started having non-A-C priests go by Father (unlike in England), weekly Communions, chasubles, and aumbries just about everywhere, along with Rite II, the Novus Ordo-fication of the Book of Common Prayer. (Trial liturgies too and unofficial official new books in England.)

Interesting how Anglo-Papalism and its Roman Missal usage have been virtually unknown in the Episcopal Church, about the only historical examples being St. Clement's, Philadelphia, and St. Gregory's Priory now Abbey. The liberals really wanting to stay Roman Catholic so pretending they are (maybe with some residual liberal Roman Catholic hostility to high churchmanship) are probably more prevalent, though a minority of Episcopalians. (As my friend Archbishop Peter Robinson says, such converts going back to Bishop Pike have been liberal and noisy but not that influential.)

A-Cism pointed the way to Rome for me and many others, so it's still hard for me to say this, but "Anglicanism is it" is the heir to the A-C moniker. You're on a back-to-basics track (away from the boomers?) paralleling Pope Benedict's renewal, credally orthodox, and unlike Roman Catholic liberals you love the traditional Mass. Thank you.

And: you adopted "and also with you" to be ecumenical based on our bad example 45 years ago. To be ecumenical now, and to be true to your own tradition, might the Episcopal Church take a step back to "and with your spirit" in Rite II to line up with Pope Benedict's reform? Or might hostility to Rome's stands on the sexes and sex squelch that? The end of ecumenism as we knew it?


  1. I don't really buy the "thesis," John: back to "Anglo-Catholic basics," but in favor of WO (not to mention SS, but set that aside)? If they favor WO, on what consistent (or even inconsistent) historical and theological basis can they insist on jure divino episcopacy? And if they don't insist on j.d. episcopacy (but are cool with dealing with ELCA Lutheran and Moravian "superintendents-calling-themselves-bishops), on what basis should they even be termed "Catholics?" In such a case, what they have become is pre-Caroline middle-of-the-road Church of Englandites with a taste for liturgy and sacraments, but no more genuinely "Catholic" than Lutherans - and arguably rather less so than Lutherans who have remained true to their historic origins.

    1. And if they don't insist on j.d. episcopacy (but are cool with dealing with ELCA Lutheran and Moravian "superintendents-calling-themselves-bishops), on what basis should they even be termed "Catholics?"

      Thanks for the reminder. I was assuming a high view of the episcopate.

  2. I think your "no hard feelings" approach toward the Episcopalians is on the one hand showing your good nature, but on the other is a serious misread of the Episcopalian trajectory. I see them only going further and further from the Catholic faith in the foreseeable future (or any kind of historical Christianity).

    On another topic, I am enjoying reading a book "Anglican Papalism",

    which I think you would also enjoy. It gives a good history of the movement in the US as well as England.

  3. I read the Yelton book some years ago, and found it of interest; not gripping enough to be "a keeper" (I passed it on to a friend), but worth reading. I just googled up "Yelton" on fr. Hunwicke's blog, and this is what came up:


  4. There is a review of the Yelton book at the Amazon.com website, from which I excerpt this delightful paragraph:

    "The ordination of women was a huge dent in this movement. (In 1945 L. E. Jack, the then secretary of the Confraternity of Unity and the last churchwarden of St Saviour, Hoxton, commented on the then recent irregular ordination of a woman in Hong Kong by the laconic comment: 'It is no more possible validly to ordain a woman than to baptise a cow.')"

  5. One more comment, "The old Anglo-Catholicism and the new."

    The old (from the Amazon.co.uk review of the Yelton book):

    "Anglo- papalists are a sub-species of Anglo Catholics who desire the corporate reunion of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church. In the early days, they were dissatisfied with the Oxford Movement because they claimed that it had been infected by liberal thinking.
    Rome was seen as the rock from which the Church of England was hewn and the Mother to whom she would return."

    The new (from a comment on the Haligweorc posting thread):

    "History is a funny thing. I’ve always sung or said the Nicene Creed, but I know it makes members of my family uneasy, and I’d be happy to do away with it at Sunday Mass. I realize that the church did without it (as a standard liturgical observance) for centuries, and it was added as a Shibboleth, specifically to exclude those who had the slightest divergence of views on Trinity and Christology; I’d be happy to see it dropped from regular use."

    Anglo-Arianism, anyone?


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