Thursday, 25 November 2010

Ex Fide...

The blogger Ex Fide has a very good post on the subject of High Churchmanship and Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England. Do go over and have a look. These movements began in the Anglican Church in the middle of the 19th century, and evolved out of the Tractarian Movement. They were essentially endeavours to revive a more holistic and catholic tradition within the very protestant Church of England. Few of the men involved, in either school, as my learned tutor at Heythrop counselled me, went down Newman's path. The High Churchmen sought to imbibe Prayerbook liturgy with Sarum ritual, whereas the Anglo-Catholics sought to emulate the contemporary Roman Church in her customs and liturgy (in effect giving up that which was good, wholesome and traditional in the Book of Common Prayer for the latest Roman fashion - lace cottas and Roman cut vestments for instance); probably because of some false idea that Rome is home, or the S.R.C is a good thing. There are obvious merits in both these schools. On the one hand I admire the historical and more holistic understanding of the relationship of the Prayerbook to the historic family of Rites native to this country* (in a certain sense applying a kind of hermeneutic of continuity to the much-watered-down Prayerbook). I must say I find apparelled albs with amices, Rood Lofts, Chancery Screens, tunicled Crucifers etc very impressive, and more conducive to worship than lace cottas and the big six. However very often the High Churchmen were very Protestant theologically, and it is fundamentally wrong to love schism for its own sake. The Anglo-Catholics believed in the Branch Theory, conceiving themselves related remotely to the Roman Church and subject spiritually to the Bishop of Rome - real ecumenists. I am in great sympathy to the Ecumenical Movement, it is a worthy ideal. However they erred in their zeal for everything Roman. It is praiseworthy to laud that which is good and venerable in the ancient Church of the city of Rome. But it is not good, yea it is damnable, to follow that Church down her path into the abyss; trusting to the Orcs of the S.R.C and the infallible Pope as they shamelessly cast off that venerable Tradition.

What would I have? I would have things as they were in the days of my long fathers of old, in the days of St Bede, before there was an infallible pope, or a Sacred Congregation of Rites, or liturgical books of 1962; before (or beyond?) the days when Popes were not puffed up with virtually blasphemous arrogance; to the days when Liturgy on the Lord's Day meant something infinitely more than fulfilling one's obligation. If I could attend (and possibly serve) full sung Liturgy everyday according to the ancient local Use, and using real liturgical books and real liturgical vestments, then...well, I feel not dissimilar to Gandalf as he gave his history of the Palantir to Pippin on the back of Shadowfax. I do not have my copy of The Lord of the Rings to hand but you'll find the reference towards the end of Book IV, Chapter XI - the last page but one in my favourite edition.


  1. And there are the rabid anglo-papalists who would have us believe that Cosin, Andrews etc were at heart true papalists as well, and that there be no contradiction between 'patrimony' and papal teaching. Contorsions and excuses, if you ask me. Yes, we should pray to Sts Bede and Paschasius Radbertus.

  2. Just a correction: The branch theory, the idea that Anglicanism is a principle branch of the Church Catholic along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, is more a High Church theory because it sees the achievements and automony of Reformed Anglicanism as equal to Rome, not dependent on Her. Anglo-Catholics from the very late 19th century onwards tended to view the C of E as part of the Western (ie RC) Church and did not validate the Reformation as the Branch Theorist did.

    My post uses the term High Church and Anglo-Catholic very anachronistically and inaccurately, but the broad characteristics hold. But those who went very extremely Sarum and used books like "the Altar Book" at the Altar were really Sarum Anglo-Catholics in some ways, and lots of High Churchmen made few changes to the 1662 liturgy in terms of ceremonial. Still, by the 1920s and 1930s, most High churches looked very English compared to the Baroque interiors of churches which openly used the term "Anglo-Catholic" and the AC movement became dominated by Papists to the point that even non-papists were copying Rome.

    I think the closest thing to High Church Anglicanism as was is formal Cathedral religion where they have the choir in cassocks and surplices, a tunicled crucifer for big events, and servers in apparelled albs. No maniples or birettas, and vaguely "Western" ceremonial, with traditional language BCP-based texts.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    Ex Fide, thank you for your kind remonstrance. This post was written rather rapidly before I had to go out, and so I didn't manage to say all that I could or proof read before publication. I should also have included another picture, but never mind.

    Of course the ''branch theory'' is nonsense. There is One Catholic Church of Christ, one faith, one Baptism, one ethos, and one head thereof - not two heads as a monster.

    Sadly I know little of the Tractarian Movement, or what came after - just broad strokes and what little I've read in the Parson's Handbook and the Anglican writings of Newman. You are correct about the watered-down kind of liturgy most of the High Churchmen preferred of course, which is what I had in mind when I mentioned the benefits and malefits of both streams. You can't be enamoured of traditional Catholic Liturgy and remain Protestant, without something fundamental becoming dislocated somewhere. This is void of the Spirit of God, and certainly alien to the spirit of the Liturgy.

    I think I would feel more at home in Cathedral Liturgy than Monastic Liturgy (who have retained the use of the traditional Surplice and the more correct hymnody of the Office)- but unfortunately there isn't a single Roman Catholic Cathedral church on the planet which provides Liturgy to my taste.

  4. "which provides Liturgy to my taste"

    Food for thought, this comment, no?