High-Church Anglicanism after Anglo-Papalism

In the light of events surrounding the departure of many Anglicans into the ordinariates and the total side-lining of the Traditional Anglican Communion, we really do need to look yet again into the perils of following Rome in all liturgical practices. More than a century ago, Dr J. Wickham-Legg wrote:

A very little study soon convinces us of the deep division there is between the practice of modern Rome and of medieval England, and that modern Rome will only lead us astray if we trust to its liturgical decisions. Because a practice is Roman, it is not therefore of necessity good, or ancient, or Catholic.

Wickham-Legg understood that the notion of Tradition was fragile in the climate of the Roman Catholic Church since the victory of Ultramontanism. It is quite astounding to consider how so many Anglican clergy have been “aping” Rome for so long, first in the kind of Counter-Reformation-style high campery one used to find in many London and South Coast churches and then in the uncritical following of the Paul VI reform of the late 1960’s and 70’s. Critics of what has been coined as Anglican-Papalism conclude that the notion of Anglican Patrimony has no validity, since Anglicans are simply imitating Roman Catholic practice.

The fundamental difference between many high-church Anglicans appealing to the pre-Reformation English Church and Anglican-Papalists is that the first group sees the need for a kind of Catholicism different from the Counter-Reformation or post-Vatican II Church, whilst the second seeks to affirm that Anglicanism has no validity separate from Rome and that the only policy of value is to overcome the schism. This, incidentally, is the fundamental difference between most of the Continuing Anglican Churches and the TAC.

I am personally of the opinion that the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation represented as much of a hermeneutic of rupture as the Reformation and the post-Vatican II era in our own time. It is a fundamentally dialectic vision that creates absolutes and the kind of black-and-white thinking with which many of us cannot relate. The greatest dilemma Anglicans face is Apostolicae Curae and Papal infallibility, and the other greatest stumbling block is women bishops in the Church of England. The game is over. Scylla and Charybdis

For those who are not Anglican Papalists or willing to accommodate a feminine priesthood, the choice is clearly some kind of “continuing Anglicanism” (which more or less incorporates Protestant formularies from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – or a sort of Old Catholicism that refers not to Febronianism and the Kulturkampf, but to the notion of western and eastern Orthodoxy of the first millennium.

The way we celebrate the liturgy is the most visible and symbolic way of manifesting this fundamental difference. Most Anglicans not using either the English Missal or the Novus Ordo use the Prayer Book or the Book of Common Worship, an officially authorised liturgical norm, but not “traditional”. Such Anglicans would often be denigrated by the “advanced” Anglo-Catholics as not being Catholic enough or slowed down by their Protestant roots.

As recently suggested by the Bishop of London, whilst giving his instructions concerning the use of the Roman rite by Anglicans, the Anglican-Papalist movement seems to have had its bluff called by Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum coetibus and the Ordinariates. This development and women bishops will make for an extremely hostile environment for such Anglicans. The various conflicts in the Continuing Anglican world have their roots in historical rivalry in Victorian England between groups of “branch theorists”, Anglo-Papalists and Protestants. Those interested in reviving the Use of Sarum rivalled the Anglo-Papalists, and in their turn were labelled as practitioners of “British Museum Religion”. Dearmer’s Alcuin Club sought to dress up the 1662 Prayer Book Communion Service with full Sarum ceremonial. Eventually, the Anglo-Papalists would win out with the English Missal and Roman-style aesthetics, and as Rome changed its liturgy in the 1960’s, so did the Anglo-Papalists.

After Vatican II, Anglican Papalism seemed to be concerned for little more than promoting conversions to Rome. With Anglicanorum coetibus, there is no further justification for Anglo-Papalists to remain in the Church of England. It is the same with the Traditional Anglican Communion bishops who in October 2007 signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a letter saying that they believed in Papal infallibility and the Pope’s primacy of jurisdiction. Indeed Anglo-Papalists, it is generally believed, lose all credibility if they do not go over, even if some of the clergy are former Roman Catholic priests. Anglicans who have believed and practised in such a perspective can only go that way.

The only way out of this mess is to make up our minds what we are about. If it is bringing Anglicanism into line with Roman Catholicism, then they have only to go over to Rome and follow the conditions, because for Anglican converts, the clock is turned back to the 1890’s. This is why I have opened this new blog to look at another way of seeing our identity. What was the Oxford Movement about? Newman became a Roman Catholic, but Pusey and Keble didn’t. What was the difference? There had been a similar movement in the northern Protestant Churches like the Scandinavian Lutherans – and in nineteenth-century French Catholicism to improve the liturgy. Our American Continuum friends would have a point if they were a little more nuanced and flexible in their definition of classical Anglicanism.

High-church Anglicanism was a serene and intellectual movement, and although it attempted to conciliate the Thirty-Nine Articles and the mutilated rites of the 1662 Prayer Book Eucharist rite, it did not dismiss the pre-Reformation patrimony like the Evangelicals did. The proof of this is the vast amount of scholarship on medieval uses, including that of Sarum, and critical editions of the available liturgical books. They knew the old traditions were different from contemporary Rome and its petrified liturgy replete with faults and copyists’ errors set in Congregation of Rites amber.

However, the Victorians did not dare to revive the Use of Sarum per se. They would have got into serious trouble, and also they were certainly concerned for pastoral considerations. I have not heard of Sarum Masses being celebrated in the Church of England in the Victorian era, but the hundreds and thousands of English altars with riddel posts, curtains and frontals are as many witnesses to a kind of “reform of the reform” (expression coined by Benedict XVI in our own time) movement. Various symbols came to be associated with the English movement, not only the appointment of churches but also acolytes wearing tunicles like in churches just over the other side of the English Channel in places like Rouen and Bayeux.

As it, is with liturgy, so it is with theology and spirituality in general. I see no hope for the English high-church in the Church of England any more than for the Papalists going over to Rome. It is quite surprising to see Roman usages in the Continuing Anglican Churches in America. Even the most viscerally anti-Roman wear violet in Advent and Lent, veil the statues and images only in Passiontide and in violet. When they supplement the Prayer Book, they use the Anglican Missal, which is practically a straight translation of the Pius V Roman missal. So much is taken for granted.

It is for this reason, that some of us take a tremendous amount of courage from the example of the former Lutheran Bishop Roald Flemestad and his new vision involving an older and less polemical and polarised vision of Catholicism. I say no more about this for the time being, but what is plain is that not all Anglicans are aspirant Roman Catholics or Protestants. To open a new chapter in English Catholic history, I would like to propose reading the articles on this page of Essays of Western Rite Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, very few canonical Orthodox jurisdictions are open to western rites and most Orthodox have similar attitudes to converts as conservative Roman Catholics. You can come in if you deny your entire Christian past as worthless or sinful. As far as liturgy and church culture goes, the Western Orthodox vision is of great importance and gives a credible context to the revival of medieval and pre-Reformation liturgical traditions.

I believe our task now is to complete the work of men like Dearmer and go all the way to reviving the Use of Sarum as the normal fare of some churches – which could be celebrated in Latin and also in the vernacular where pastoral needs call for it (people needing time to get used to Latin, etc.). Such work is now impossible in the Anglican Communion, and there is no sign of the Roman Catholic Ordinariates for former Anglicans taking up the challenge. The Continuing Anglican Churches on the whole seem quite hostile to something they consider as simply eccentric or dotty! I have already revived Sarum in my remote private chapel in the Normandy countryside, but I can only do so much alone.

Such an aspiration needs the vehicle of a Church communion established on the basis of Old Catholic beliefs and tenets. We have to pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on us.

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17 Responses to High-Church Anglicanism after Anglo-Papalism

  1. I have always believed that any form of OLD CATHOLICISM must begin pre-Trent, pre-Protestant Reformation and for English speaking peoples pre- Henry VIII (at least up to his break with Rome). Of course some things that came after, that are in a continuous line with the past can be accepted such as the vernacular Liturgies, married clergy but not Bishops, etc.

    • This is very interesting. Most Old Catholicism is based on Febronianism and the Kulturkampf, and then on Roman Catholic modernism / progressivism. There needs to be a Catholic revival as happened in northern Protestant Churches in the 20th century as part of the ressourcement movement in general. The PNCC may well be the Church that will make this dream become possible.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Fr. Anthony, I hope you’re right about the future of the PNCC. Tends to be concentrated in just a few states in USA (like Pennsylvania, Ohio, NY). Doesn’t appear to be growing significantly. And is a bit ethnic, which isn’t overly conducive to evangelism. The PNCC churches in USA that I’ve attended weren’t all that different from RCC New Order liturgics. Forget if their missal had 4 or 5 eucharistic canons. But the priest always seems to use the shortest, most modern one. Pretty modern vestments.

      • Yes, you seem to be right. I have been watching to see how the European Nordic Catholic Church would develop. Europeans are not very interested in religion and communities will remain small like the Continuing Anglican churches. I wish them well as they establish roots in southern France and Germany.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Fr Anthony, Hate to say it, but in the worldwide Kulturkampf in the developed world that results from materialism, rationalism, and modernity (post-modernity), the only two “institutions” that appear to have any real ability to maintain their religious independence and be institutionally viable are…Constantinople and Rome. Which is why both have bolstered their efforts to appeal to various groups sitting on the outside looking in. Things like our Western Rite and their Ordinariates.

        All other roads appear to lead to collaboration and surrender. Just the rate at which the jurisdiction collaborates and surrenders to the world differs. Anglicans have collapsed and are in their death struggle. Old Catholics, too, for the most part. Sadly, High Church Apostolic Confessional Lutheranism collapsed a long time ago in Scandanavia and there really was no such thing for Wesleyans! Calvinistic Reformed Churches offer some hope of strong dogma but only in regard to historic religious issues tied to Reformation, but little hope of institutional unity and are pretty low church, which is where Lutheranism is essentially today, too.

        I think PNCC will remain focused on their ties to RCC. They “like” being “mere” schismatics. This way they get to be independent of Rome but Rome recognizes their orders and sacraments. I can’t see PNCC doing much to jeopardize the “comfy” set up they have. Best of all worlds for them and the exact thing I think so many Ordinariate-bound clergy and laity really wanted (full independence with recognition of orders and sacraments).

      • My big question is how long those two Churches will remain viable. But, essentially you are not wrong.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Fr. Anthony, Speaking only for EO, so far we have “survived”…Roman persecution, Gnosticism, Arianism, Islamic conquest, Crusader treachery, Roman reunion councils, conquest and domination by Turks, Protestant patriarchs, subservience of the Church to the State, RC uniatism, Russian Revolution/Leninism/Stalinism, Ukrainian terror famine, WW II & its horrors in Balkans & to Slavs, the KGB & Cold War, and more…

        We may be bloodied, battered, and weak, but so far we’ve survived the worst Satan has thrown our way. Unfortunately, we’re always “ready” to be persecuted and proscribed by governments. The blood of martyrs…

        Not so sure with Rome. They’ve been lucky and have barely experienced persecution. English Catholics mostly just gave up, leaving a remnant. What Bismark and Hitler did paled in comparison to Soviets! Rome used to doing the persecuting and conquering (ask the French Protestants). Reformation peeled a huge mass away. Now Pentacostalism is peeling a massive amount of RCs away in C. & S. America! These areas are de-Catholicizing in front of our eyes. France, Germany, Spain, and Italy are essentially post-Christian/post-RC. Ireland and Poland hurting. Africa and Asia seem ripe for evangelicals and pentacostals.

        All we can do is pray for all confessing, believing Churches: EO, RC, Anglican, Lutheran, PNCC, Old Catholic, Methodist, Reformed, etc. God have mercy on all of us! And none of us deserve it.

  2. You really need to take a serious look at the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC). You seemed so focused on England and the TAC as the continuing Anglicans but with scanty eyes miss the value of a “restored” Anglican (English) Catholic Church in the ACC. In many ways this Church is devoid of the reformation issues, thirty nine articles, etc. Why would one want to be servants of the Roman Catholic Church when one is already Catholic. It is unfortunate that EO seem more focused on being Orthodox and not Catholic. The word orthodox is not even in the Creeds. Bless their hearts but frankly they are only a shadow of brotherly christian love and respect for a sister Chruch. The ACC is a western rite Catholic and orthodox in faith Chruch.

    • It is unfortunate that the Anglican Catholic Church itself has remained largely stuck with Anglo-Papalist trappings such as birettas, the Big Six, tabernacles on the altar, statues bought from Roman Catholic convents, violet Lenten (Passiontide) veils, etc. I’m not attacking or denigrating, merely observing that many things have been taken for granted. I’m sure some ACC parishes are more “English” in style, but I know of very few.

      • Well, it is true, Father, that many of us are biretta wearers but we are very varied in practice. There is a breadth to the ACC in the UK, even though there are not very many of us. I’m curate at an Anglican Papalist Parish (as you might expect from an unashamed Anglican Papalist as me!), but today I went to Mass at a Mission where the priest is very Anglican Orthodox and refuses to say the filioque. Our parish in Salford is very English saying BCP Mattins on Sundays; our Bishop uses the 1549 Canon. It’s as broad in its practice as the CofE used to be, but we are very united in our commitment to the principles of Continuing Anglicanism and restrict ourselves only to permitted English liturgies. I’m not sure of the position of Sarum use. That would need an authority beyond my own little understanding such as my comrade Bishop Lerow above.

        There is more that is English to us than Birettas and the Big Six, I can assure you! *{]:-D

  3. FrGregACCA says:

    I have been saying for some time now that Anglicanism’s real vocation, it’s Divinely-issued mandate, is to become an indigenous, expression of Orthodox Christianity in the West, free of some of the more distracting issues which tie up Eastern Orthodoxy, such as the matter of the calendar and an insistence on the use of leavened bread.

    • The ideal is that a part of Anglicanism would move beyond confessional Anglicanism and into an Old Catholic ecclesiology. It would retain a distinctly western and medieval ethos and not have to be adapting itself to Byzantine theology and culture, still less adding epiclesis prayers, using leavened bread as you say and yet again conforming to Byzantine norms. It is like Rome requiring traditionalists to adopt the Paul VI calendar, the three-year lectionary, Mass facing the people, etc. So the best thing is a respected form of Old Catholicism (that doesn’t ordain women, etc.) as a vehicle for such a vision.

      • FrGregACCA says:

        Exactly. When I say an “indigenous, Western expression of Orthodoxy”, I am explicitly excluding customary “Byzantine norms” that are not essential to the Faith as well as norms connected only with other Eastern cultural manifestations of Orthodoxy, both chalcedonian and otherwise, and advocating what you call “Old Catholicism” but as a Western Orthodoxy that is truly both Western and Orthodox. It seems to me that Old Catholicism has struggled with this vision as much as Anglicanism has, albeit in somewhat different ways. Perhaps the “Union of Scranton” will be able to fully embrace this vocation.

  4. ROCOR’s western rite missions in England have a new website http://westernriteorthodoxuk.org.uk/index.html

    • All very excellent, if they would soften the “one true Church” rhetoric a little. There is a pastoral approach to Roman Catholics and Anglicans without calling them heretics!

    • Dale says:

      One of the real issues is that, especially in England, the western rite is considered as non-Orthodox by the leaders of the Orthodox Church, and is considered to be only temporary. This is what Abouna Gregory Hallam has to say about the western rite in his own jurisdiction (He is dean of the British Antiochian Greek jurisdiction in England):

      “These are the reasons we don’t use the western rite(s) …

      (1) They are nothing more than the old American Prayer Book and a pre-Trent rescension of the Roman rite. Both are archaic, theologically deficient and poorly supported by seasonal mnaterial.
      (2) The unchurched in the UK are neither put off by nor attracted to ANY particular rite … provided it’s Orthodox in ethos. Those yearning for Sarum Redressed are a very limited constituency of existing Christians … not those who have not yet heard the gospel.
      (3) There is nothing alien about the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the vernacular. If it’s good enough for South Africans, the Innuit and the Japanese it arguably travels well and is good enough for us as well.
      (4) Redressing old western rites is an archeological exercise … it does not connect with a living rite right now.”

      He goes on to say:

      “Who are “those who need it” beyond a certain shrinking class of former Anglicans who mourn the passing of the Prayer Book? That seems to me to be both an impoverished idea of evangelism (which means reaching those who have no acquaintance with the Christian Eucharist whatsoever) and a very uncertain strategy for helping former Anglicans to become Orthodox. The jolt to the system I think on the whole is rather good. This is definitely not “ole time relijun” in Orthodox dress.

      And yes, I am familiar with western rite material and it doesn’t come anywhere matching in breadth or scope what we already have.”

      And further:

      “My objections to the western rite (AS THEY STAND) are theological and liturgical. I am not against the principle of the western rite per se … just not THESE western rites and not without a major expansion and development of associated liturgical materials.”

      In Australia, where all western parishes have already adopted the greek rite, Fr D’Alton has readily, and honestly, admitted that the western rite is only a stepping stone until the full Greek rite can be adopted (this is in regards to the western rite in the Philippines, where the largest numbers of western rite Orthodox can be found):

      “Any concern over current liturgical practices should be seen in perspective of a temporary transition toward the proper St John Chrysostom liturgy. ”

      He goes on to say:

      “Any concern over current liturgical practices [the western rite] should be seen in perspective of a temporary transition toward the proper St John Chrysostom liturgy.”

      (http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15199.385/wap2.html & http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15199.390/wap2.html)

      And in an officially approved text from the Antiochian Archdiocese in the United States we find this interesting tidbit ( “These Things We Believe,” by an Antiochian deacon, Ezra Ham, who serves at St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. ):

      “Western Christianity, in all its expressions (whether Catholic, Protestant or so-called Western Orthodox) shares the same ontological and dualistic ecclesiology. Following Plato’s dualism, Western Christianity speaks of a God outside the box and creates a church inside the box. For the West, the Kingdom of God exists in heaven, but it is men who create the Kingdom of God on earth.
      Western worship, regardless of whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Western Orthodox so-called, is man-made.”

      Please notice that I have only posted writings by members of the Orthodox Church in positions of authority, so please realise that none of this in my personal opinion, it is, as it were, from the horse’s mouth. In the end for a “western” tradition to be acceptable amongst them, it must be so completely hellenised that it would cease to be western, so why bother. As another posted mentioned, the Byzantines seem very fixated upon being Orthodox, but Catholicity amongst seems woefully lacking. And finally, if there was real support for the western rite, even in Antioch, why are such people appointed to positions of authority. The so-called western rite in the Russian Church is so completely Russified that it is hardly western at all.

  5. Rubricarius says:

    What I find so interesting about Dr. Wickham-Legg is that he could clearly see what was happening in the RCC, and what was most likely to happen in the future, in terms of the liturgical debacle of the twentieth century. Dr. W-L understood the underlying processes and the destructive consequences for the liturgy of Ultramontanism and cetralized control of liturgical rites. Sadly, very few shared his intuition and understanding.

    (@Dale – I hope you are well – sorry not to have responded to your message, mea culpa etc)

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