Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Putting the "P" back in "Anglican"

Time to repost this.

I know that you’re thinking, well some of you: “This Fr. Hart wants to make Protestants out of us. After all, since he does not want to swim the Tiber he must have descended to some sort of Low Churchmanship. We all know that the opposite of 'Catholic' must be 'Protestant,' mustn’t it? The opposite of 'Papalist' must be 'Puritan.'” Ah, but what if I am really so Catholic that I believe that the opposite of "Tridentine" must be "Patristic?"

Perhaps, just perhaps, some of the self-proclaimed Anglo-Papalists need to think about something. Maybe the definition of “Catholic” should be based on its Credal use, as we use it in the Book of Common Prayer where either the Apostle’s Creed or the Creed called Nicene are part of all the major services (Article VIII). Combined with that other Creed, Quicunque Vult, or the Creed of St. Athanasius, we say we believe the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith.

Frankly, the effort to embrace and continue the Catholic Faith was the motivation for embracing Protestantism in the time of the Reformation- or, rather, the Reformations. We believe that the efforts on the Continent of Europe threw away the baby with the bathwater, which is why Anglicans early on debated with Calvinists and Lutherans, sometimes more vigorously than with Rome. Anglicans debated as well with Puritans in England and Scottish Presbyterians.

What we find in the second wave of English secession was a very conservative and anti-innovative mind prevailing against new ideas that had formed only in recent centuries, during which their fathers had lost sight of the Patristic and Scriptural teaching of the ancient Church. It prevailed, as well, against the innovations of Puritans and other inventive Protestantisms. This via media was always a true course that avoided the errors of many extremes, not just two. It rejected the innovations of Rome, and strove against such a Reformation as Mr. Knox had up in Scotland. This was not a compromise in the modern sense. It was not simply the legislation of Parliament either. It was the result of what the bishops of the Church of England contended for throughout the times of monarchs stretching from Elizabeth I to Charles II, especially strong after the Restoration.

This effort, and what was achieved, is not appreciated by too many people calling themselves Anglo-Papalists. All too often I find that such people are quite sincere, but only know their own Anglican heritage based on the opinions presented to them by Roman Catholic polemicists instead of having actually read and learned from old Anglican sources. They take a position not due to deeply held Catholic convictions, but due to a combination of ignorance about Anglican doctrine and history with superficially held Tridentine affectations. For, when Tridentine sentiments become genuine conviction, the conscience impels one to the only logical course of action without delay.

What is truly Catholic in content was not defined at so recent and innovative a Council as Trent, and certainly not in later councils at the Vatican. It was defined in seven Ecumenical Councils (Affirmation of St. Louis), and more so in the Scriptures as embraced in every time and place where the Church was built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself the chief cornerstone.

I would indeed place the “P” of Protestantism back in “Anglicanism” to the via media degree required to make it truly Patristic, and so truly Scriptural and truly Catholic.


Bruce said...

Father, what’s so special about the number seven? Seven isn't the right number because the Affirmation of St. Louis says so. Why not four (or some other number)?

Anonymous said...


My guess (as to part of the answer) is because (properly ennumerated) it acknowledges the second Council of Nicea (787), rather than the Council Constantinople (754), as the Seventh Ecumenical Council, in contrast to some (including some overly Puritan) Anglican opinions, including (if I recall correctly) that of Richard Baxter and (I understand) that of Dr. William Cave in his Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Historia Literaria a Christo nato usque ad saeculum XIV.

Fr. Hart,

It only lately struck me to ponder the anonymous authors clothing themselves in the mantle of being 'Protestants', in the title of their attack on Hooker, A Christian Letter of certain English Protestants, unfained favourers of the present state of religion, authorized and professed in England: unto that reverend and learned man, Mr. R. Hoo. requiring resolution in certain matters of doctrine (which seem to overthrow the foundation of Christian religion, and of the Church among us) expressly contained in his five books of Ecclesiastical Polity (1599).

This seems to suggest that 'Protestant' was then a word wrestled for, within the Church of England, by various claimants to being truly 'Protestant', 'Christian', the 'Church' (and, as we would now say, 'Anglican').