The author of More On Anglican Papalism seems to have bitten off a little more than he can chew when attempting a criticism of English Anglo-Papalism. It just doesn’t seem to match what I have experienced in my native country. Admittedly, my first contact with that tendency in London only happened around 1979 and not in the time scale he mentions (1900 to 1960).
The motivating premiss is the same: those who don’t convert to “ordinary” novus ordo Roman Catholicism, like he has done, are at best insincere and trash at worst. There should be no traditionalist groups or ordinariates – just the flat boring fare of “viable” American parishes. Indeed, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.” I digress by comparing “corporate” Catholicism with Orwell’s dystopia! My world view is Romantic and Mr Bruce’s is Classical (or what has evolved from classicism).
The criticism revolves around several points:
- Anglo-Papalism was a clerical movement, not a lay movement,
- Latin was used instead of English,
- It was a refuge for gay priests,
- Anglo-Papalists were involved in the occult,
- These problems were at the root of the “disappointing outcome of Anglicanorum coetibus“.
I have the book by Michael Yelton and read it quite some time ago, so will not go into that now. I will merely rely on first-hand knowledge and memories of what I have read about the period whose last year coincided with the first of my own life.
The Church of England in all its “churchmanships” (snake-belly low to sky high) is as much of a clerical and bureaucratic organisation as the Roman Catholic Church. The ecclesiastical structures correspond more or less with the pre-Reformation Church. The laity have tended to be consulted more through parish vestries and councils. Anglo-Catholicism of all colours was more an effect of cosmopolitan city life and cultural Romanticism, not in the country where ordinary folk were (and still are) conservative. Most country churches were restored in the nineteenth century to Tractarian standards, but remained “middle of the road” in terms of liturgical services and doctrine. Anglo-Papalism is mostly confined to London, Brighton and one or two other south coast towns. In London, the main parishes involved were St Alban’s Holborn, St Magnus the Martyr near London (not Tower) Bridge and St Mary’s Bourne Street. All Saints Margaret Street was more English and less pseudo Roman Catholic. To my knowledge, only Bourne Street and St Magnus had Mass in Latin. The others were using the English Missal before adopting the Novus Ordo or the Alternative Services Book in the 1970’s.
The claim that Latin in the liturgy was widespread (other than choral music) is exaggerated. I never came across it personally in the Church of England.
Homosexuality is widespread in the Anglo-Catholic movement, and some parishes fit the caricatures. Perhaps in recent years it has calmed down somewhat as efforts are made to preserve the credibility of the parishes concerned as incumbents come and go. The celibate priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church too has traditionally been a “refuge” for homosexually inclined men, whether they were “active” or refrained from having relations with other persons for the integrity of their priestly vocation. I have known some pretty disgusting priests in the Church of England, but also in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a matter for bishops to deal with, and I am just not interested in the lives of other people if they are not causing harm or molesting children and adolescents. In the end, it seems to be a non sequitur.
As for involvement in the occult, spiritualism, communication with the dead, etc., I have never come across it in England (or anywhere else). I don’t know where Mr Bruce got this idea. Perhaps it needs to be studied. Occultism, theosophy and other related themes were in fashion in the late nineteenth century, a by-product of the darker instincts of Romanticism. I know of no formal link between such groups and Anglo-Catholic parishes. I have read conspiracy theories involving the Oxford Movement and the Catholic movement in the Church of England, something not far removed from the idea of Newman and Pusey belonging to some dastardly secret society – clearly nonsense.
These “problems” are far from being established even with Church of England Anglo-Catholicism (Papalism), and so it would be difficult to blame difficulties in the ordinariates on them. The problems came as much from the ambiguous approaches of Rome, the TAC and the former Anglican Communion clergy. For example, I have not heard of any problems due to homosexuality, since most of the clergy involved are in stable marriages with wives and families. The real problems are to be identified with the difficulties Pope Benedict XVI had with the more “conservative” elements of the Roman Curia, not to mention certain associations of “liberal” clergy now coming to light.
Mr Bruce rightly makes a distinction between Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholics, the latter using vestments and other Catholic trappings but conforming to the Prayer Book. The use of the Anglican Missal and the English Missal was more blurred and across the board than Mr Bruce thinks. This is the case in continuing Anglican jurisdictions like the ACC and the TAC.
It is interesting to note that Anglo-Papalism saw itself as a pro-uniate movement, a “turnkey” movement that had only to be recognised and regularised by Rome when the time was right. This aspiration certainly motivated the English ordinariate, since most of the clergy were of this tendency. In the Continuing Anglican world, Archbishop Hepworth, believed to be a major player until about 2011, was of this tendency – but is also a former Roman Catholic priest and not a “cradle” Anglican. Looking at it all from the outside, it seems irrelevant to all outside Anglo-Papalist circles. None of the other Continuing Churches were remotely interested. See A response from the ACC to Rome’s Offer to Former Anglicans by Archbishop Mark Haverland dating from 9th November 2009.
One thing Mr Bruce seems to have forgotten is a by-product of the more marginal tendencies of Anglo-Catholicism / Papalism – irregular bishops (episcopi vagantes) deemed to be validly consecrated according to Augustinian criteria and using their “lines of succession” to confer orders on Anglican clergy that Rome would have to recognise. These activities were going on in the 1890’s and 1900’s on account of the bull of Leo XIII Apostolicae Curae proclaiming that Anglican orders were invalid, thereby halting the uniate movement in its tracks. The ephemeral Order of Corporate Reunion still has a more or less virtual existence. Present-day independent bishops and churches come in all shapes and sizes, and I will go into this subject no further.
Certainly, these points merit research and nothing can be over-simplified.