Survival of the Catholic Idea in Anglicanism IV

IV. From Newman to 2000: Anglo-Catholics, Liberal Catholics, and Modernists

by Dr. James Patrick

What Newman left behind was Anglo-Catholicism, a word that first appears in 1838. If he did not invent it, he made it familiar. The very title of course assumes that the Church of England was a branch, a part of the one Holy Catholic Church, an idea as old as Jewell and still formative for the theology of Thomas Ken. Newman saw it as a movement based on the single principle of opposition to Erastianism, the theory of the Swiss theologian Thomas Erastus that the national church was a department of state rather like the Home office or Transportation.

There was always an ambivalent attraction to Rome. It was Richard Hurrell Froude who taught Newman to use the Breviary and to imagine Rome as the ultimate destination of the Tractarian movement. There was also enthusiasm from the Roman side, at least among the laity, represented most notably by Ambrose Phillips de Lisle, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who in 1838 had founded the Society for Prayers for the Conversion of England, which in 1857 became the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom. The APUC endured until 1921, being disbanded at that date because it was then that the Malines Conversations sponsored by Cardinal Mercier and tended by such Anglican luminaries as Lord Halifax and Charles Gore, portended the achieving of its object.

By then Anglo-Catholicism had a history. Its undisputed leader was Edward Bouverie Pusey, the third of the original Tractarian triumvirate, distinguished professor of Hebrew at Oxford. Religious orders in Anglicanism are descended from Pusey’s foundation of an order for women in 1845. This was not a large movement; it was liturgically and theologically conservative, responsible for nothing more radical than the more frequent celebration of the Eucharist and the use of stoles, and the optional use of the confessional. The relation between this movement, if movement it was, and the rise of what followed is not easy to document or describe.

The times were theologically tumultuous. Newman’s conversion, or as Church of England apologists would call it, perversion, had caused conversions to the Roman Church, but never the great tide some had expected. Of almost equal significance was the Gorham judgment of 1851, in which the Privy Council determined that belief in baptismal regeneration was not an essential tenet of the Church of England. It brought to Rome, among many others, Henry Edward, later Cardinal, Manning, who would come to enjoy the trust of the Roman authorities that was denied Newman. And there was Darwinism, which troubled Roman Catholics and had a devastating effect on the Bible religion of the English. The warning shot was the publication in 1860 of Essays and Reviews, edited by Frederick Temple, essentially an anti-Tractarian defense of freedom of opinion and belief which showed the first signs of what would later be called Modernism; that is, history and philosophy were used as the standard against which revelation was required to justify itself. Eleven thousand clergymen signed a statement affirming their belief in the literal meaning of Scripture, but the worm was in the apple. 

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