Anglican Papalism is a movement, from schism to unity, with a clear idea of our starting point, and a definite sense of direction. The movement’s antecedents go back to the schism, and its future goes forward to its destiny – full communion with the Roman Apostolic See. It is the expression, in a particular historical and geographical context, of the desire for unity in accordance with the expressed will of Our Lord Jesus Christ [John 17].
The usage – Anglican Papalism – goes back scarcely a century, though what it indicates, namely, efforts to heal the break with Rome, go back to the break itself. Because of widespread misunderstanding of it, it is necessary to be clear about its precise meaning.
My dictionary gives:
- Anglican…(Anglicana ecclesia in Magna Carta)…Of or pertaining to the reformed Church of England or any Church in communion with it.
- papalism n., papalist n. & a. (a) n. a supporter of the Pope or the papacy; (b) adj. Of or pertaining to papalism or papalists.
- Romanizer n. a person, esp. an Anglican, who favours or adopts practices of the Roman Catholic Church M19.
From the above we may see Anglican Papalism as a movement of members of the Church of England or any Church in communion with it in support of the Pope or the papacy.
Thus Anglican Papalism is not to be confused with Romanizers. The former belongs in the realm of ideas, the latter in the realm of phenomena. The phenomena of Romanizers are relatively easy to perceive. The idea of Anglican Papalism requires much more application in order to begin to comprehend it.
Anglican Papalism – essential points
1. Christian unity
Unity is a fundamental concept running through the Holy Scriptures.
a) The story of Adam and Eve illustrates the essential unity of the whole human race.
b) We are created in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity, the perfect society, the model of unity in diversity.
c) The story of Cain and Abel illustrates the social responsibility aspect of the essential unity of the whole human race.
d) The struggle to establish Jerusalem as the centre of unity of God’s people over against the high places, and the focussing of this unity on the Temple, is a central theme of the Old Testament; and is still very much present today.
e) Along with this goes the emergence of ethical monotheism in God’s revelation.
f) Jesus’s concern for the unity of God’s people is expressed in various ways, particularly in John 17: ‘that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.’
g) Ephesians 1:9-10 reads: ‘For he (God) has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.’
h) From this follows the need for Christian unity. The French catholic priest Paul Couturier, who has become known as the Apostle of Unity, saw in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 the basis of his own understanding of prayer for unity, so he produced for his Week of Prayer the formula that the visible unity of the Kingdom of God may be such as Christ wills and achieved by whatever means he wills.
j) God’s will, as Ephesians says, is to unite all things in heaven and on earth, so unity also means the unity of the whole human race, through, amongst other needs, inter-religious dialogue.
k) It also means the unity of the whole creation…ecology, the ‘green movement’, and so on.
Unity is the primary motivation of Anglican Papalism. The understanding of what unity means continues to develop, but the basic motivation remains.
Anglican papalists are convinced that the fulness of the Church is to be found both in the local Church, the bishop and his people, and in the universal Church, the communion of all the Churches with the Church of Rome, the Apostolic See. It is not a case of either/or, but of both/and. Thus full communion with Rome is not just some optional extra, which might be helpful, but is essential for the fulness of the Church. Rome holds a unique place in the unity of the Church, over and beyond the fact that unity necessarily involves all Churches and ecclesial communities and, indeed, everyone of good will who professes the Christian faith.
Section 23 of the ARCIC Agreed Statement Authority in the Church I reads:
If God’s will for the unity in love and truth of the whole Christian community is to be fulfilled, this general pattern of the complementary primatial and conciliar aspects of episcope serving the koinonia of the churches needs to be realized at the universal level. The only see which makes any claim to universal primacy and which has exercised and still exercises such episcope is the see of Rome, the city where Peter and Paul died.
It seems appropriate that in any future union a universal primacy such as has been described should be held by that see.
Prayer is very much to the fore in Anglican Papalist work for unity. The Church Unity Octave, first observed in 1908, originated with two Anglican papalists. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity developed from this. Couturier, the ‘Apostle of Unity’ was first brought to England through the efforts of Anglican papalists. Today the Catholic League is active in promoting prayer for unity. A special edition of The Messenger of The Catholic League, no. 280 October 2003 – February 2004 was dedicated to the vision of Paul Couturier as part of the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Also from the Catholic League comes the Christian Unity Prayerbook.
It is fundamental to Anglican Papalism that an essential prerequisite for full unity is agreement in the essentials of Christian doctrine. Until Vatican II this was identified in the Creed of the Council of Trent. Today the touchstone is the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994. The work of ARCIC is recognised as of great importance in the search for unity.
Lex orandi – lex credendi – lex vivendi…worship, faith, life…Christianity is all of a piece, and all the parts belong together in its wholeness. The catholic Church, as distinct from many ecclesial communities which express themselves primarily through ‘Confessions’ [Augsburg, Westminster, etc.] expresses herself primarily through liturgy. Thus Anglican Papalists give due significance to their convictions through liturgy. This is not the same as saying that Anglican Papalism is primarily about liturgy. It is not. There are many Romanizers who are most definitely not papalists; and there are Anglican Papalists who would scarcely merit the description of Romanizer. The difference between papalist and Romanizer is fundamental, yet there remains much confusion. Yet indeed many Anglican Papalists are Romanizers. Issues raised by this are dealt with in a Catholic League publication, Liturgy and Unity.
Anglican Papalists have been on the receiving end of much unjust criticism – that their position is irrational, hypocritical, disloyal, etc. Where such criticism has been just, and this seems to be very rare, the object of such criticism has been exceptional and untypical of Anglican Papalism. Geoffrey Curtis CR, not a papalist himself, in Paul Couturier and Unity in Christ [p. 163] gave a fair appreciation which questioned the charge of disloyalty. This is considered further below.
One of the most frequent grounds for the allegation of disloyalty is the adoption of practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This ground is refuted in Liturgy and Unity, already mentioned above. Another ground is that Anglican Papalists stress the importance of bishops but then don’t do what their bishops tell them to do. There is more than an element of truth in the waggish observation – unlike most Anglicans, I have a high doctrine of episcopacy, but low expectations; whereas most Anglicans seem to have a low doctrine, but high expectations; and I am the one who is least often disappointed! Put another way, I do not subscribe to a doctrine of the infallibility of individual bishops!
Pope Paul VI, who succeeded John XXIII, and had the task of seeing the Second Vatican Council through to its completion, is almost definitely the Pope with the best knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Anglicans since the ferment of the sixteenth century. He said, at the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, that on the day when the Church of Rome would embrace firmly her ever-beloved Anglican sister in the one authentic communion of the family of Christ ‘no offence will be afflicted [sic] on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England. There will be no seeking to lessen the prestige and usage proper to the Anglican Church’ [Rome and Canterbury Through Four Centuries, Bernard and Margaret Pawley, pages 341-342]. Anglican Papalists, loyal to all that is of good value in our Anglican heritage, say a heartfelt ‘Amen’ to that.
I now live in retirement in the London Charterhouse. The very first of those Forty Martyrs canonised in 1970 was Saint John Houghton, Carthusian Prior of the London Charterhouse. He was martyred, viciously, on 4th May 1535, because he refused to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church in England. To accuse Saint John Houghton of disloyalty to the Church in England because he supported the papacy would be a manifest travesty. ‘Anglican’ and ‘Papalist’ are terms that came into usage later, but Anglican Papalists today look to Saint John Houghton, along with many of his contemporaries, as true witnesses, even unto death, to the conviction which we share with him.
Anglican Papalists recognise both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England as rightfully claiming descent from the undivided Church in England before the sixteenth century schism. We do not accept derogatory epithets such as ‘the Italian Mission’ or ‘the immigrant Irish Church’ to describe the Roman Catholic Church in England.
One of the powerful motivations of Anglican Papalism is the Christian mission to the people of England, of whatever racial, religious or cultural background. We perceive the present disunity among Christians in England as a scandal, a stumbling block to the mission of the Church in our land. It is not just some historic scandal [Henry VIII and all that], but a continuing scandal, an actual scandal, here and now, in which the Churches and ecclesial communities in England today participate. Reunion and unity, for us, mean one visible Church in England, with a common identity, not a stifling uniformity but unity in an acceptable diversity. What that means for us has been explored in, for example, Liturgy and Unity, already mentioned above, and Reuniting Anglicans and Rome – a special issue of The Messenger of the Catholic League from October 1994.
8. Individual reception
Recognising Newman’s dictum about the primacy of conscience, Anglican Papalists see this as applying not least to those Anglicans who enter individually into full communion with Rome. The Catholic League, in recognising this, logically opened membership to all who agree with the four objects of The League and with the doctrinal basis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
9. Ecclesial communities and corporate reunion
Those Anglican churches, including the Church of England, which have formally moved away from the catholic teaching and practice of apostolic succession in holy orders [as taught in the Ordinal with its Preface accompanying the BCP 1662] are now Ecclesial Communities rather than Churches in the proper sense. This leads to a substantial change in the basis for seeking corporate reunion with the Roman Apostolic See. In no way does it diminish the need for reunion. In so far as Rome recognises ecclesial communities, then this reunion will properly be corporate.
10. Unity of creation
Unity includes Christian unity, unity with other religions and life stances, and the unity and harmony of the whole creation. This is added in as a reminder that our own particular motivations need to be seen in the overall context of God’s will for the unity of the whole creation, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
Two Classic Texts
I elaborated the above ten essential points from my own personal experience and understanding of Anglican Papalism over more than half a century. It is an understanding at the beginning of the third millennium. Basic to it are two classic texts of Anglican Papalism – England and the Holy See, by Spencer Jones in 1902; and The Church of England and the Holy See (the 1933 Centenary Tractates of the Council for Promoting Catholic Unity).
I take a glance at these two texts below, as they are critical evidence for the true nature of Anglican Papalism. A recent book and the reviews of it reveal the extensive ignorance of the true nature of Anglican Papalism, and the prejudice, misrepresentation, misunderstanding and false judgements deriving from this ignorance. The reason why so many commentators on Anglican Papalism who are not themselves Anglican Papalists are so hostile is complex. This is a challenge to Anglican Papalists. This present article merely attempts to throw some light on what Anglican Papalists themselves understand it to be.
Anglican Papalists’ true home in mainstream Christianity
Anglican Papalism is a movement from schism to unity, from the margins to the centre, from a backwater into the mainstream of Christianity. As such it is the very opposite of extreme. So how is it that it is so frequently misrepresented as extreme ? Extreme depends on what one identifies as the norm. If you perceive the Church of England to be The Norm of Christianity, with Dissent wandering off from this norm in one direction, and catholics refusing to come into line with the norm in the other direction, then clearly Anglican Papalists are out of line with this norm. The term nonconformist makes the point, having been used to describe both Dissent and catholics.
The evidence does not support the view that the Church of England is the norm of Christianity. It does support the view that the catholic Church is the norm. This is not so much because she is overwhelmingly the largest body of Christians, but more because of her faithful witness to God’s revelation down the ages. That there is a gap between the faithful teaching of the Church and all too much of the actual practice, not just of individual members but also of the members corporately, is recognised in the teaching by the model of the Church as the pilgrim people of God rather than as the perfect society.
This proper norm was recognised by the English Church down the ages until the state imposed an alternative norm in the sixteenth century. Yet the arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury to this day incorporate the Pallium, the symbol of authority conferred by the Pope, thus indicating the proper norm. The Gospels of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, probably brought to England by Saint Augustine himself when sent by Pope Gregory, being used at the enthronement of Archbishops of Canterbury, including our present Archbishop, likewise indicate the proper norm. The ARCIC process has helped to acknowledge the proper norm [e.g. Authority I.23]. The second half of the twentieth century has seen much progress in acknowledging the proper norm of Christianity, though there is still much more to be done here.
A key principle in Spencer Jones’s England and the Holy See is that of proportion. Thus, to treat the Church of England as the norm of Christianity is to get things seriously out of proportion. To treat the catholic Church as the norm is to restore a sense of proportion. Anglican Papalism, with its conscious desire and commitment to pursue the expressed will of Our Lord Jesus Christ for unity, and our recognition that this necessarily involves full communion with the Roman Apostolic See, places our true home right at the heart of mainstream Christianity.
The loyalty of Anglican Papalists to our Anglican heritage is second to none. Spencer Jones’s England and the Holy See is a classic Anglican text, written for Anglicans by an Anglican. The overriding purpose of the Centenary Tractates of 1933 is to demonstrate that the true home of the Church of England is full union with the Holy See – which they demonstrate most effectively. The title of the series is – The Church of England and the Holy See.
The loyalty of Anglican Papalists to our Anglican roots is seen in many ways, of which the following are some:
1. Anglican Papalists have a good knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our Anglican heritage; usually better than that of fellow Anglicans. The two texts referred to above demonstrate this very clearly.
2. Anglican Papalist clergy and laity have a fine record of devoted work, often in the pastorally tougher parts of The Lord’s Vineyard. I note in The Catholic Herald of November 11, 2005, “H.J.Fynes-Clinton, one of the prime movers [of Anglican Papalism], rarely had a good congregation at St. Magnus the Martyr.”
I was a server at St Magnus from 1951 to 1959, when I went off as a student to Trinity College, Dublin, months before Father Fynes died. Latterly, I served the 8am weekday Mass, occasionally attended by local office workers, as well as the lunchtime services. I myself worked in Barclays Chief Foreign Branch just up the road. For the 8am Mass Fr Fynes would catch the underground from St James Park, near where he lived, to Monument, close by St Magnus. He was in his eighties. His GP had told him that this was too much for him, and when Fr Fynes carried on nonetheless, his GP said: ‘Well, you’re on your own.’
A good congregation? City of London parishes were viewed by many as sinecures. Fr Fynes viewed the parish of St Magnus as the very opposite, a most demanding ‘cure’ of souls. Far from being sinecures, City of London parishes are seen by diligent pastors as among the toughest pastoral assignments. Fr Fynes led the way in weekday services in the City. Our community of worshippers in the 1950s at St Magnus had a powerful influence on me, for good, as I believe; and the inspiration for this was Fr Fynes. I wish to say much more on this, but now discipline myself; except to say that the comment which provoked my response I consider to be unworthy, and ignorance is a poor excuse.
3. Our recognition that we are in schism is an honest self-appraisal, not disloyalty. Were St John Houghton and his fellow Carthusian martyrs being disloyal to the Church in England when they took their stand against the tyrant Henry VIII ? Was St Thomas More likewise being disloyal? Was St John Fisher also being disloyal? They were not Anglicans in schism. We are. But the issue is the same.
4. A true, thorough, critical evaluation of all that is good and worthwhile in our Anglican heritage is a necessary exercise of the principle of proportion.
5. The willingness to persevere in the face of misunderstanding, unfair treatment and misrepresentation is a test which demonstrated the loyalty of our forebears who were actively persecuted; and continues to be a test for us today.
6. Anglican Papalists, notably Spencer Jones and Fr Fynes-Clinton, expressed themselves very clearly
about the responsibility of bishops to exercise a ministry of unity in witnessing faithfully to God’s revelation. They were absolutely clear that the mind of the Church took precedence over the vagaries of individual bishops. For this they have been criticised as inconsistent, disloyal and undisciplined. Yelton, in Anglican Papalism puts it thus: ‘This was a fairly typical attitude to bishops by those who on the other hand sought to uphold church order, displaying one of the ambiguities which has plagued the Catholic Revival throughout its existence.’ Which prompts the question: ‘Was Athanasius wrong to confront the Arian bishops?’ Was Athanasius ambiguous? What nonsense!
When it comes to charges of disloyalty, those who have in our times changed the fundamental nature of our Anglican heritage should become aware that they are in a very vulnerable glass house.
How others see us
About thirty years ago the local council of churches decided to hold the Week of Prayer service in our church. It was their first visit. The secretary of the council came around to arrange things, and I shewed her the church. ‘The council won’t like this’, she said, as her nose twitched at a suspicion of incense in the air. ‘Shrines, candles…’ – the usual list of aids to worship in catholic churches which so upset the anti-catholic prejudice nurtured in the English since the sixteenth century. ‘But’, said I, ‘the local catholic Church is an active member of the council of churches, and you have held services there?’ ‘Yes’, she replied, ‘but then we expect such things of them. We expect you to know better.’
Even to this day we should be well aware of just how deep-seated is anti-catholic prejudice and ignorance. In so far as this has declined, this has coincided with a decline in the place of religion as a whole in our society. So, Anglo-Catholics, and Anglican Papalists even more so, are criticised because we ought to know better.
An appreciation is given by Geoffrey Curtis CR in his Paul Couturier and Unity in Christ, 1964 [p.163]:
We are beginning to see that Anglican Papalists have been unfairly judged. Abbe Couturier saw this very clearly. They are accused by English Roman Catholics of failure in logic and by many of their fellow Anglicans of disloyalty. There may be Anglican Papalists who are a law unto themselves and who ignore the force of the ordination pledges and are thus disloyal to our Church and to its bishops. There may well be an Anglo-Roman underworld as there have been Protestant and Modernist underworlds and, for all I know, an Inferno of ‘Moderation’. But the true Anglican Papalists are not of this calibre. They are a small group with a long lineage in our Church, and many are of the salt of the earth. Their particular standpoint many of them have recognized as involving a call to a life of reparation. Contrary to average opinion this small group is notable for its intellectual power as well as for its holiness. Perhaps the books of Anglican theology of this century that have been most widely read abroad have been books by Papalists – Spencer Jones’ England and the Holy See and Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy; Dr S.H.Scott’s great work, Eastern Churches and the Papacy, is used by scholars in most parts of the world.
To other Anglicans their position seems neither disloyal to our Church nor, given their convictions, contrary to the logic of charity, but rather sadly disproportioned. We believe that our own Anglican heritage possesses certain Christian values in trust and that these would be jeopardized if we were to submit to Rome as she now is.
That is a gracious appreciation, but I am greatly puzzled that Fr Curtis sees Anglican Papalists as willing ‘to submit to Rome as she now is’ [his book was published in 1964], and so jeopardize our own good Anglican heritage. Submission is the Roman Catholic approach to Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Roman Apostolic See. It is difficult indeed to see how this is compatible with the Anglican Papalist principle of corporate reunion. In number eight of the Centenary Tractates of 1933, Fr Fynes-Clinton has a section headed ‘Corporate Return’. In this he emphasizes: ‘Our schism from Rome was Corporate: the remedy must be Corporate’. Fr Corbould, in the same tractate [pages 25-26…quoted later and see previous post] lists eight Anglican aspects which might be agreeable to Rome in the cause of reunion.
Fr Curtis was clearly sympathetic to the cause of unity with Rome. This is seen in his biography of Paul Couturier. Also, Fr Curtis was a prime mover in the recognition at the London Charterhouse of the Carthusian Martyrs. What is it about Anglican Papalists that Fr Curtis found to be ‘rather sadly disproportioned’ ? He is not alone among those of goodwill who seem to misunderstand us. Does some of the problem lie with us, and our possible failure to communicate clearly what our principles are ? I remain genuinely puzzled. This is not because I believe that our movement is above criticism. Yet I suspect that some of our critics are more familiar with the fringe elements rather than with the essence – not a sound basis for fair judgement.
There is also the phenomenon, still very much with us today, of anti-papalism amongst strongly traditional Anglo-Catholics. Amongst these would be found those content to be called Continuing Anglicans.
A more bizarre hostility is found in a Jesuit reviewing Yelton’s book. His review takes up so much space with abuse of Anglican Papalism that he leaves himself with no room at all to substantiate his false accusations. Briefly damning with faint praise – ‘occasional intellectual brilliance’ – to heaping abuse – misconceived, travesty, dishonest, parasitic, pastorally disastrous…what is it about Anglican Papalism that draws out such unfairness? But one point above all in that review suggests that time should not be wasted on it. ‘For Catholics, papalism is a position which few will understand.’ Recall the dictionary definition of papalism – ‘a supporter of the Pope or the papacy’. A Jesuit, whose fourth vow is one of special obedience to the Holy Father in the matter of accepting missions, not understanding papalism ? Let’s move on quickly.
A completely opposite and very positive view of us is seen by many Roman Catholics. Witness, for example, the warm relations we have enjoyed for many years with our contacts in the monasteries and diocese of Bruges where we visit annually in the hope of and furtherance of Anglican-Roman Catholic unity. A key ingredient of such good relations is friendship.
Fair minded Roman Catholics acknowledge that Anglican Papalism has drawn some of the anti-catholic prejudice away from Roman Catholics. A fair number of Roman Catholics learnt their catholic faith and life in the Church of England. Amongst these only a few ‘kick the ladder away’ or ‘bite the hand that fed them’. The Catholic League, once exclusively Anglican Papalist, now has Roman Catholic members, including Officers and Council members. We are in good heart.
Anglican Papalism since 1960
I take the date 1960 from Yelton’s Anglican Papalism – A History 1900-1960 [p.16]: ‘The real undermining of the Papalist tradition came in the period after 1960, which is not dealt with in detail in this study.’ This judgement is supported by reviewers of Yelton’s book: ‘He has written a study in failure’; ‘A lost cause’; ‘the coup de grace’; and so on. So, given the precise meaning of ‘Anglican Papalism as a movement of members of the Church of England or any Church in communion with it in support of the Pope or the papacy’, consider the evidence.
On 3rd December 1960 Dr Geoffrey Fisher visited the Pope. This was the first ever visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope since the sixteenth century schism. Subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury, including our present one, have visited the Pope. Since 1960 the Second Vatican Council led to great improvement in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations. The Vatican 2 Decree on Ecumenism said : ‘Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican communion occupies a special place.’ Since 1960 ARCIC was set up, and continues to do valuable work towards unity. Pope Paul VI, from a position of considerable knowledge and understanding, expressed a most gracious and generous appreciation of our Anglican heritage.
The Catholic League took Vatican II totally on board, and subsequently took the Catechism of the Catholic Church  as our touchstone of orthodoxy. The League’s publications, including The Messenger, continue to promote the papalist cause. Notable here are two special issues – Reuniting Anglicans and Rome in October 1994; and The Unity of Christians: The Vision of Paul Couturier in February 2004.
The Congregation of the English Mission was an initiative of The League regarding corporate reunion, whose explorations for three years to 1990 are briefly described in Reuniting Anglicans and Rome. Much of the work and prayer for unity goes on at the grassroots level and doesn’t make the headlines. A good example is the inauguration of the Emmanuel Chapel in the Begijnhof guesthouse in Brugge, for which the League provided the monstrance and the icon of the Mother of God. The years since 1960 have seen some of the most positive gains in the search for unity. Sadly, the last few years have seen a significant turning away from unity with Rome on the part of the Church of England.
For several centuries the religious life of England was largely to be identified with the Church of England, hence Anglican Papalism. The continuing marginalisation of the Church of England in English society raises questions concerning the Anglican dimension of papalism. We may be moving towards a situation where the need would be better expressed as English Papalism. The 1933 text was The Church of England and the Holy See. The 1902 text, England and the Holy See, may now more accurately reflect the situation.
Whether it be Anglican or English Papalism, the movement remains as necessary as ever, new challenges notwithstanding. Seeking the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a lost cause. Failure is not an option. The coup de grace ? A tradition undermined ? Inevitable flaws ? A lost cause ? Failure? Shades of Mark Twain: Reports of our death are an exaggeration.