“The old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church”

My attention was drawn to Fr Hunwicke’s article The Anglican Patrimony. I find most of what this priest writes as irrelevant to my life as mine would be to him, but there is something here that provokes me to comment. He is an Ordinariate priest. I am not, and as a result, my perspective is totally different.

Fr Hunwicke refers to a whole movement of scholars from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. It is such a long time since I was at university (and a Swiss one) that I have no pretence at “scholarship sublime”, but rather the quest for a new paradigm in which Christianity might survive in the future. Some of the scholars Fr Hunwicke mentions were influenced by the Romantic movement, and therefore the need to uphold the heritage of the Enlightenment whilst promoting the whole human experience, including the spiritual life. He highlights the critical sense, including criticism of criticism. I am not surprised to find the expression Hermeneutic of Continuity, which is neither Anglican nor English, but from the pen of Benedict XVI with a thought for Newman’s theory of organic development.

It is significant that the ultra-ultramontanist Cardinal Manning criticised Newman in these terms:

“I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church”.

Isn’ t that the so-called Anglican Patrimony of Ordinariate clergy? I couldn’t answer this question other than remembering that conference I attended at Pusey House in April 2018. I came away inspired by the talk given by Monsignor Burnham, but with the interior knowledge that I had very little Englishness left in me, but rather a feeling of utter rootlessness.

Fr Hunwicke and I are working from different angles, he from having been a teacher and an Anglican parish priest and now in the Ordinariate as a Roman Catholic, myself from having been virtually broken by my experiences and still limping to contribute a flickering light to Christianity in general, regardless of which institutional church it belongs to. My own thought is known by those who read this blog.

I was a cradle Anglican, but more involved with music than academia. I didn’t go to university until long after I left England. The Fathers need to be read through the eyes of a historical critic, in the knowledge that the harsh condemnations render their otherwise valuable work irrelevant for people of this age used to liberal humanism.

The ever-elusive Anglican Patrimony is also an issue in the Continuum, between the kind of Anglo-Catholicism that almost imitates post-Tridentine Roman Catholicism and those who refer to “Classical Anglicanism” or something like a romanticised version of the pre-Reformation status quo. Christianity itself is in question, and with it the basis of humanism and compassion for the weak and the poor.

I share Fr Hunwicke’s concern for the current situation under the pontificate of Pope Francis. Since 2013, I have largely banished Roman Catholicism from my mind and allowed bits and pieces of information to reach me. I have become more critical of right-wing and conservative populism as I am of the Tweedledee in the combat – identity politics and nihilism. Francis seems to be almost a “Jeremy Corbyn” of his Church and encouraging a return to an obsolete form of socialism and collectivism, but there is a spiritual foundation that doesn’t leave me indifferent.

Whether we become Roman Catholics or remain in the various Anglican churches that give us a canonical mission for our priesthood, an important antidote to sentimentalism, populism and being swept along by fashions and the masses is our study, reading and crystallising our thought into something both original and solid, the product of both mind and heart.

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