A Couple of Gripes with Anglo-Papalism

I have always had difficulties in understanding certain phenomena in Anglo-Papalism. What I mean by this term is the tendency of some Anglican clergy and laity to refer to contemporary Roman Catholic norms as if they were already under Roman Catholic authority. This is the tendency that formed the backbone of the Ordinariate movement. Archbishop Hepworth was just as much affected by this what I might term an ideology as the old Forward in Faith clergy. Again, it is is not my objective to level any accusations against the Ordinariates, but rather in regard to this odd phenomenon in Anglicanism.

I have just found a blog posting that perfectly epitomises it – Tenebrae. The subject of the 1950’s liturgical reforms is discussed, citing Ritual Notes (1956):

778. Anglo-catholics are therefore now faced with the question as to their attitude to these changes. First, it should be said that, unless the original adoption of these rites by Anglo-catholics, now some generations ago, was purely an act of private judgment (and so in accordance with protestant rather than catholic principles), it implied that (a) it was permissible to supplement the Prayer Book rites as they stand, and (b) that this should be done from a source which was in its own way authoritative. There seem, therefore, to be two courses open: either to fall back on the Prayer Book as it stands for these days in all its liturgical poverty; or to adopt the roman rites (with or without adaptation*); and this will mean adopting the new rites, for the old now have no place in that Church. What seems impossible is to retain the old ceremonies and times (from which, as has been said, all authority has now been removed), unless the very un-catholic principle of private judgement is invoked; for it is hardly possible to describe these as either the authoritative or “traditional” use of the English Church [my emphases].

779.The changes in the Holy Week rites and times have not been made on grounds of antiquarianism (though they do in fact go back on the whole to the early Christian Holy Week); they have been made out of pastoral care for souls. The ceremonies of the Great Week, which had originally been the central observance of the Christian year, had, for reasons that need not be particularized, become in fact the preserve of the devout (and leisured) few who were not involved in, or who could escape from, the requirements of secular life* [my emphases]. It is of a piece with other changes of recent years in the Roman Communion as a result of the “liturgical movement,” such as the modification of the Eucharistic fast and the simplification of rubrics; and indeed goes back to the great movement initiated by Pope Pius X towards frequent and daily Communion.

I suppose the authors of this edition of Ritual Notes, a sort of Anglican Fortescue & O’Connell, went Novus Ordo in 1969 just like the Roman Catholic parish down the road. What is this so-called “authority” that disappears as soon as something new came from Rome? Fr Hunwicke is also quoted in this article (from his article Auctoritas) , giving another meaning to this term and concept:

I expect some Catholic readers may feel uneasy about the path I am treading. This is because the Catholic Church, more than most, has a deeply ingrained sense of Law. This makes it easy for Roman Catholics to underestimate of the force of auctoritas (although Benedict XVI nodded towards it when he wrote “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful”). My impression is that Orthodox, on the other hand, are instinctively influenced in liturgical matters much more by the auctoritas of a Liturgy than by the mere fact that it may have, on its title page, some windy claim to have been authorised by such-and-such a hierarch. As, I suspect, was the medieval West before the invention of printing. The Sarum ‘Rite’ spread in England more because of its auctoritas than because of any legislative enactments.

We seem to have two meanings of auctoritas, but that will be the subject of a future article when I get time to study it from a canonical point of view.

To finish this article provisionally, I mention the time when I visited St Mary’s Cable Street in the East End of London and complemented the priest for keeping the nice sober wooden altar. He told me that the altar was going to be removed and replaced by a free-standing altar for Mass facing the people. Why? – I asked. The answer was that this parish felt bound to follow Roman Catholic norms in spite of being in the Anglican Diocese of London. I shook my head, thanked him for his explanation – and was glad to be out of the church and on my way.

We in the ACC are quite Roman in liturgical externals, and our Anglican Missal is substantially the Roman Missal as it stood in the 1920’s, with re-working to make it compatible with the Sarum cycle of Biblical readings as given in the Prayer Book. Even though I use Sarum, I still have the baroque chalice and fiddle-back vestments I used when I still followed the Roman rite. I must admit, we are a little looser with rubrics and liturgical auctoritas, which I find refreshing and closer to the pre-Reformation ethos.

One last remark about the ἀναστόμωσις blog in spite of its often excellent articles, was its most recent article Between Scylla and Charybdis contrasting the recent visit of Dr Jefferts Schori to Nashota House and a visit of the American Ordinariate to Rome. The caption is given – So, isn’t this the only real alternative? No, it is one possible alternative among others. Others include Continuing Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, depending what is available in one’s country.

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One Response to A Couple of Gripes with Anglo-Papalism

  1. Rdr. James Morgan says:

    Looks like ‘liturgical anarchy’ to me. Auctoritas vs “private opinion’. Well, That is what Anglo-Catholics in the USA faced over the last century. Some went Ritual Notes, others to full O’Connell, and others to other sources for help. My own parish back in the ‘good old days’ was pure Ritual Notes (St. Mary of the Angels, Hollywood CA) They still don’t have Mass facing the people.

    Now that I’m EO I can (mostly) safely say that when services are done, clergy of various jurisdictions are comfortable with serving with each other since no one will behave as a bull in a china shop! Of course there are the underlying turf wars, but those don’t seem to much affect those of us on the ground.

    Any way, good luck to you all, and God Bless!

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