Survival of the Catholic Idea in Anglicanism II

This is the second installment of Dr. Patrick's lecture series, the first being, Fire in the Ashes.

by Dr. James Patrick II.

II. The Golden Age: 1603-1714

The years after the accession of James I in 1603 saw the effective end of the attempt of Elizabeth and her ministers to create a National church that would gain the participation and support not only of reasonably contented Elizabethans but of Puritans and Catholics. James I of England was the legitimate heir, being the grandson of the sister of Henry VII and the son of the Mary Queen of Scots. James came to the throne after repudiating the Catholicism of his mother, whom Elizabeth had executed after much hesitation in 1587.

James was met on his way south by the bearers of the Millenary Petition which claimed to represent the plea of one thousand Puritans, mostly still within the Church of England, that they be relieved of the “common burden of human rites and ceremonies,” which meant the liturgy of the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer with its surplices and marriage rings, its feasts and fasts, and above all is communion service that in a certain light seemed reminiscent of the old Mass. This complaint would be reiterated at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, which was remarkable on many counts. One of its consequences was the publication of the Authorized Version in 1611. The Conference was also the occasion on which King James, presiding, uttered the apothegm “No bishop, no king,” which, he remarked, he had learned the hard way in Scotland. In fact the Puritans represented a growing faction whose members held that the source of authority lay in the conscience of each man, with conscience instructed not by the teaching of the Church, but by his own Spirit-inspired interpretation. This would be the opinion that would stoke and fire revolution in England, British North America, and, reinforced by Rousseau and Voltaire, in France. It also, with that wonderful ambiguity historical causes so often display, meant that England would never provide a good context for absolutism, the doctrine in fact of all the Tudors, now reinforced by the apparent success of the centralizing French polity represented by Louis XIV.

Anglicanism was, so to speak, formed and solidified by the realization of the Stuart Kings that the Puritans were in fact implacable. This process was assisted by the growing awareness that Roman Catholics were also permanently outside the national establishment. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, although the work of political Catholics whose schemes did not represent the typical recusant or church papist, and the new, punitive anti-Catholic legislation passed in the wake of the plot, were the symbols of this intransigence. With the situation thus clarified, a series of exceptional Church of England pastors and apologists proceeded to restate the Church of England as a living religion by giving over Calvinism, which in the seventeenth century was to a great degree a religion of paper and abstract principle, and taking up the preaching and practice of charity, that virtue the presence of which unites the heart to Jesus, and the encouragement of the devout life.

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The Q and A audio can be found here.

 

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