Mark C. on whether Catholics can have an Anglican identity

Mark C., an Ordinariate member, had a comment to this post Can Anglicans have a Catholic identity ? that is worth a stand alone post in case readers skip the comments.

Mark writes:

I think the question is not whether Anglicans can have a Catholic identity – many Anglicans have been claiming to have a Catholic identity since the Reformation, a fortiori since the Oxford Movement. For most of that time Catholics have been claiming that Anglicans were wrong in so claiming (although I will admit that there was and is much good in traditional Anglicanism).

The question is rather whether Catholics can have an Anglican identity. That is, can those who are juridically Roman Catholic, but come from an Anglican background, whether within the Ordinariates or not, claim to have an ongoing attachment to the “Anglican way.” It seems to me that there have been some attempts since the establishment of the Ordinariates to say that they cannot. Members of the Ordinariates have been told to avoid terms like “Anglican Catholic” or describing liturgy according to the Divine Worship Missal as the “Anglican Use” Mass. This is suggested for at least two reasons: first, the “avoid confusion” so that people don’t think that the Ordinariate liturgy is something other than a form of the Roman Rite, or that “Anglican Catholics” are to be confused with various Anglican continuing churches or Anglo-Catholics within the Canterbury communion; and second, I think, as an ecumenical gesture to the Anglican Communion of not using the term “Anglican” within official Catholic terminology.

I think Catholics of an Anglican background can and should rightly claim an Anglican familial identity, just as Ukrainian Greek Catholics or Coptic Catholics can rightfully claim a Ukrainian / Byzantine or Egyptian / Coptic identity within Catholicism, as much as some of their Orthodox or Oriental church brethren might be loath to admit it.

On the other hand, I don’t think the Anglican identity of Ordinariate or other Anglican convert Catholics should be exaggerated. In 2013, the CDF defined “Anglican liturgical patrimony” as “that which has nourished the Catholic Faith, within the Anglican tradition during the time of ecclesiastical separation.” While I don’t think that the Anglican patrimony should be limited to the liturgy, I think that this is a very useful definition: “that which has nourished the Catholic Faith within the Anglican tradition.” Therefore, “Anglican identity” cannot include elements of Anglican theology at odds with Catholic teaching (e.g. the Thirty-Nine Articles) and need not include elements of Anglican sensibility that are purely cultural or incidental to faith (e.g. C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers may well form part of the patrimony, but P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen not so much, Simnel cake on Mothering Sunday, great, but tea and crumpets at the cricket match are superogatory).

It is also important to note that it is those elements within Anglicanism that have nourished the *Catholic* faith which are to be preserved.

I think a useful way to think of this is that the Catholic Faith in England was to some extent broken by the Reformation, and continued in this brokenness within both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England. So while Catholic doctrinal and sacramental integrity was preserved in recusant Catholicism, it retained only an essential core, much of which had to be hidden away and exercised in private from public view for fear of persecution. Many of the public and cultural elements of medieval Catholicism (which was arguably richer in England, “Mary’s Dowry”, than in many other parts of Europe) from Christmas festivities and May crownings, to choral chant, to Oxbridge patristic and classical scholarship, to the sense of public responsibility and mission for the community as a whole, was retained by the (now apostate, or at least schismatic) Church of England. The mission then of the Ordinariate and of Anglican Catholics is to bring back together the whole of the English Catholic tradition, Hooker, Laud, Andrewes, Ken, Keble and Pusey reunited with Campion, Southwell, Challoner, Wiseman and Newman, the public expressions of Catholic faith retained in the Anglican tradition with the fidelity to Catholic teaching of the recusants and later English Catholics.

There’s a lot here.

What elements within Anglicanism that nourished the Catholic faith do you think are important?

For me, the King James Version of the Bible (with footnotes to update or correct where necessary) is an element of Anglicanism that nourished the Catholic faith —and the Christian faith of the English-speaking world.

Morning and Evening Prayer and a tradition of praying the offices among lay people, not just clergy and religious.

C.S. Lewis, definitely.

Your thoughts?

21 thoughts on “Mark C. on whether Catholics can have an Anglican identity

  1. Of course this lays the very essence of the conversion of the Blessed John Cardinal Newman. Attempting to prove that Anglicans were as Catholic as Roman Catholics, he instead proved the opposite. Hence he had no choice but to cross over the Tiber ! And the rest is OUR history …..

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  2. A key aspect of Anglican identity in this context is the fact that, prior to our reception into the Catholic Church, we identified as both ‘Anglican’ and ‘Catholic’, and the non-Catholics elements of our history and culture (such as the Thirty-Nine Articles) were very specifically not a constitutive part of our identity. Our Anglican identity in a sense was thus contingent on the Catholic faith which, as the Oxford Movement recognized, had been to a certain obvious extent lost to us at the Reformation. So to continue to identify today as Anglicans within the Latin Catholic Church presents no difficulties for us. For us, ‘Anglican’ was a distinction from ‘Roman’, not from ‘Catholic’, and the Protestant elements of our history were an unfortunate imposition on our tradition, extraneous to our community’s true legacy of faith which merely had to be rediscovered. This Catholic ‘Anglican’ identity also permits us to fully identify with the thousand-year heritage that lies just behind the Reformation. The Holy See has now supplied what was lacking in our Catholicism through the Ordinariates, but our Anglican identity and heritage haven’t been taken from us.


  3. This is a very important posting. Thank-you Mark on what you have given us to ponder over. I would say that for me important things are the sacral language of the Prayer Book, the Coverdale translation of the Psalter, Mattins and Evensong with its orderly recitation of the psalms and significant portions of Scripture read daily and IN ORDER, for me not so much the King James Version, beautiful though it is, but the Revised Standard Version, the influence not only of the Oxford Movement – not just Newman and those who became Catholics but the theology of Pusey and the poetry of Keble, the Caroline Divines – especially for me Archbishop Laud who very nearly brought about a reconciliation between the C of E and Rome, and the witness of King Charles I even unto death. And then there is the whole way of ‘being Church’ which we understood as Anglicans – the relationship between the Vicar and his people, and the way they expected to look after his wellbeing. The tradition of scholarship as exemplified by Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Eric Mascall, the ‘Englishness’ of Percy Dearmer and his looking back to the Sarum Rite, the Anglican understanding of Religious Life – in my life I would mention the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, which was outstanding in its scholarship and in the outreach to those on the margins which in its heyday it reached through its Parish Missions. And here in England, who would doubt the great work done by Fr Alfred Hope Patten in restoring the Shrine at Walsingham, and what so many of us learned through pilgrimages there about how to be Catholic and Anglican. I could go on, but perhaps that is enough for now…

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    • Thanks, Debbie, for reposting this. I agree with almost everything on Jeff’s list. I too am personally more fond of the RSV than the KJV / AV for reading and accuracy, and it already exists in an approved Catholic edition (actually two). Considerable scholarship and theological discernment would be required to produce a Catholic approved version of the KJV, and it is difficult to see how the end result would be much different from Bishop Challoner’s KJV-influenced revision of the Douay-Rheims. Mattins and Evensong, with the Coverdale Psalter read in course and Scripture being read in continuous order is a wonderful Anglican practice, and it is encouraging to see progress being made on approving the Ordinariate form of the Office, and the judicious marrying of Anglican and Catholic texts (including readings from many Anglican divines) in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. Anglo-Catholic religious orders like the Community of the Resurrection certainly. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist (Cowley Fathers) were active here in Canada. And not to be forgotten are those communities which started Anglican but reconciled, like the Cistercian Monks of Caldey Island in England or the Atonement Friars of Fr. Paul Wattson in the U.S. Or Catholic communities founded by ex-Anglicans with Anglo-Catholic sensibilities like the Birmingham and London Oratories (and Toronto).


  4. “especially for me Archbishop Laud who very nearly brought about a reconciliation between the C of E and Rome”

    Much as I admire Laud in many respects, and whatever he may privately thought of the Church of Rome, there is no evidence of or for his having sought to bring about “a reconciliation between the C of E and Rome.” It does seem, rather, that he was embarrassed by the “Roman leanings” of his episcopal colleague Godfrey Goodman (1583-1656) Bishop of Gloucester. In Laud’s diary there is a note of his being offered a cardinal’s hat if he would support reconciliation between the Church of England and Rome, to which his response was that he could not do so until Rome “was other than she was.”


  5. It is disingenuous to equate the word “Anglican” with “Ukrainian” or other ethnic adjectives. It is a denominational descriptor, like “Orthodox”, a title which would never be used by any Eastern Rite Catholic church, despite the fact that “orthodox”, like “catholic”, also has a general, non-denominational meaning, which “Anglican” does not.

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    • I’m glad you wrote that actually, because that’s not true at all. In fact many of the eastern Catholics do call themselves precisely that, Orthodox. Many of the Russian Catholics, Vladimir Soloviev being an excellent example, call themselves Russian Orthodox in communion with Rome. Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church spoke in Toronto recently about this very point, saying “We are an Orthodox Church, with Orthodox theology, liturgy, spirituality and canonical tradition that chooses to manifest this Orthodoxy in the spirit of the first Christian millennium, in communion with Rome.” Of course, Catholicism is the only true orthodoxy anyway, so no one can deny them this name. As for ‘Anglican’, it’s “general, non-denominational meaning” is “English”, and the fact is many of us do identify precisely as Anglicans in communion with Rome, as the Anglo-Catholic movement and the ecumenical dialogue led us to do.


      • While I am sympathetic to the use of terms like “Anglican Catholic” or “Anglican Use”, “Anglicans in communion with Rome” strikes me as going a bit far. The Church in England was always under the authority of the Bishop of Rome and part of the Roman Rite. Anglican Catholicism is, or should be, a particular flavour of Roman Rite Catholicism, not a separate church or rite like the Eastern churches.

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      • Mark, you’re quite right that the Church in England was always under papal authority prior to the Henrician schism, but the ‘Anglican’ identity has nothing to do with whether we’re a part of the Latin Church sui juris or our own independent sui juris Church. In either scenario we’d be fully Catholic, and it seems to me there’s no reason we can’t remain Anglicans in either scenario too. You’re not the first to make this connection between identity and sui juris status, but it seems to me to be an unfounded concern. Perhaps the religious orders are an appropriate parallel here: one’s identity as a Dominican, worshipping according to the Dominican rite, does not imply that one is not a member of the Latin Church or that he has his own Dominican sui juris particular Church. That same Latin Church context applies to us Anglicans as well, as that is the context from which we were split off five centuries ago.


      • Well, I think your example of religious orders makes my point. Clearly Dominicans, or Franciscans, or Benedictines, etc., are Roman rite Catholics with their own distinctives. If somebody who had not taken religious vows called themselves “Franciscan Catholic” or “Dominican Catholic” or “Benedictine Catholic” I would assume that either a) they had some sort of affiliation with the order, perhaps as an oblate, or b) that they were inspired by Dominican or Franciscan or Benedictine spirituality. And I am perfectly comfortable with using the term “Anglican Catholic” in exactly this sense. But calling oneself a “Dominican (or Benedictine, or Franciscan) in communion with Rome” wouldn’t make much sense. Of course they are in communion with Rome, what else would they be? (Although you could make a case for “Jesuit in communion with Rome” since it represents the exception, not the rule! 😉 )


      • Well played, Mark! Quite. Then again, I wasn’t referring so much to the “in communion with” bit, as to the “Anglican” bit. So just as there are Dominicans in the Roman Catholic Church, so too are there Anglicans therein, only we have our own proper ritual form and particular Churches (as in dioceses, not sui juris). Also, there are Benedictines in the Anglican world outside full communion, so the newest ordinariate religious for example are Benedictines in Manitoba now in communion with us!


    • I am reminded of the quip by Patriarch Svyatoslav (UGCC) that the Ukraininan Greek Catholic Church is in fact a true Orthodox Church — so much so that it still holds fast to the first-millennium Orthodox tradition of commemorating its universal Primate, the Pope of Rome.

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    • The Eastern rites have sui iuris churches called Syriac, Armenian, and Melkite, all of which have direct Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox counterpart churches which use the same name. So there is precedent for Catholic particular churches to have names that have parallels in other communions.

      I would say that the term Anglican in its origin is neither an ethnic adjective, nor a denominational descriptor, it was the term for the national (Catholic) church in England, the Ecclesia Anglicana (a term which the Anglican Communion website notes traces back to 1246, long before Henry VIII arched his eyebrows at Anne Boleyn). The equivalent would be Gallican, for the national Roman Catholic Church in France. Gallicanism can denote a suspiciously heretical doctrine of national supremacy above the Church of Rome, but it can also refer to the theology of people like Bossuet, La Rochefoucauld, and Chateaubriand and the liturgical distinctives of the French Church (such as the Gallican prefaces, many of which were incorporated into later Roman or Sarum missals).

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  6. Yes, and Anglo-Catholics and members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada call themselves Catholic. My observation is that this is not generally well-received by those in communion with the Pope. And they are probably less sensitive than members of Orthodox denominations, which generally have a very poor relationship with their Eastern Rite counterparts. “Anglican” originally meant English, of course, but unlike “orthodox” and “catholic” its meaning has narrowed.


    • Just because some people call themselves Catholic in a way that isn’t accepted by the Holy See doesn’t mean that those of us who are Catholic according to the Holy See can’t also do likewise. Some Anglicans may not like that we still call ourselves Anglican, but a) they don’t all think like that; b) it doesn’t change our identity regardless; and c) retaining our Anglican identity is a way of opening up the Catholic Church to many Anglicans who value their identity and fear it to be incompatible with the Catholic Church. If the meaning of “Anglican” narrowed five hundred years ago, then it has expanded once again in 1980 and 2009.


  7. Just to throw another wrench into this discussion, many of the national churches of the Orthodox Communion and the ancient oriental churches include the word “Catholic” along with the word “Orthodox> in their full names.



    • I once visited a small town (more like a village) in Northeastern Pennsylvania that sported a small Eastern church, onion domes and all, and an inscription above the front door that read, “St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.” I had to look it up online to allay my confusion and confirm that it was in fact in communion with Moscow, not Rome.


  8. Those who have read my posts and articles on the topic of the Anglican patrimony already know what I’m going to write. In a word: patristic.

    I realize this is not an immediately compelling explanation of the essence of the Anglican patrimony since the average Anglican parishioner or former Anglican parishioner, though likely literate, is not necessarily literate in patristic theology. Too, we have to be aware of the usual caveats about reducing anything as complicated as Anglicanism to one word. But if most authorities will dare to make any claim about the classic Prayer Book tradition, it is that this tradition is heavily influenced by the liturgico-theological perspective of the patristic era. (As a reminder that this isn’t my own idea, a list of considerable sources that point out the importance of patristic spirituality/theology in Anglicanism is provided below.)

    Much we regard as Anglican might simply be patristic—and monastic since a) monasticism and patristic spirituality expressed the same liturgical spirituality, and b) Benedictine monasticism (including the 12th-century Cistercian reform) was the means by which patristic spirituality thrived in medieval England and did so to a degree encountered nowhere else in the West.
     Morning Prayer and Evensong: This was Cranmer’s attempt to assure the English people retained the patristic/monastic practice of praying some version of the Liturgy of the Hours. And it proved a largely successful attempt. Continental Protestants, on the other hand, tended to dismiss the Office as a work. Continental Catholicism tended to regard the Office as the work of religious, not the laity. So the LOH tended to be compartmentalized in post-Counter-Reformation Catholicism.
     The poetic majesty of the KJV and the BCP. Many of the Church Fathers were literary stylists (their protests to the contrary notwithstanding). Medieval monasticism encouraged poetry, especially in hymnody and sermons, both of which are related to the liturgy. That the translators of the KJV and the author(s) of the BCP wanted their efforts to have literary merit wasn’t necessarily literary showmanship. It was simply what patristic liturgical spirituality expected of both Scripture and the liturgy.
     The choral tradition. I’ve argued elsewhere that many composers in the Anglican choral tradition were simply translating their own lectio divina—the approach to reading Scripture which the patristic era considered normal and which the monastic tradition privileges—into music. A celebrated passage by William Byrd on how he composed liturgical music is a description of lectio. Yes, Byrd was Catholic, but he’s also one of the foundational composers of the Anglican choral heritage.
     Many of the early English reformers, the Caroline Divines, and the thinkers and writers of the Oxford Movement were profoundly influenced by the Church Fathers. Newman’s sermons are essentially patristic.
     Even the paraliturgical festivals (May crownings and Christmas festivities) are embellishments of the liturgical year, which points back to the importance of liturgy in patristic/monastic spirituality. Since these festivals are annual one-offs, they don’t establish themselves as non-liturgical devotions in their own right.
     The pastoral spirituality of Anglicanism, which thrives in small parishes and modest numbers of regular worshipers in cathedrals. (See much of Martin Thornton’s oeuvre.) The early Church was mostly a Church of relatively small congregations, which explains the sense of direct involvement in the liturgy by the laity and the fact that sermons from the patristic era indicate the preachers knew their congregations. (Boniface Ramsey, “The Spirituality of the Early Church,” in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church, 30.) (From megaparishes that make liturgy feel like grim theatrical productions and the administration of the sacraments like an assembly line, good Lord deliver us!). Needless to say, this pastoral spirituality is on nearly every page of the Rule of St. Benedict.

    Here is an important quote from Boniface Ramsey’s summary of patristic spirituality. “[T]he early Christians were a ‘liturgical’ people in the sense that they were formed by and aware of the liturgy in a way that Christians in subsequent ages were not.” (Boniface Ramsey, “The Spirituality of the Early Church,” in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church, 30). As the sixteenth century set its mighty stamp on Western Christianity—both Catholic and Protestant—for the next several centuries, the Church of England and monasticism were, effectively, the only preservers of an organic, developing spirituality based on the liturgical focus of the patristic era.

    If this Anglicanism-is-patristic thesis is true, it means there are some aspects of Anglicanism that might arguably nourish the Catholic faith but that might be better suited to other spiritual perspectives in Catholicism. Cardinal Manning, for example, had no time for Newman’s patristic spirituality. I don’t know whether Manning developed this attitude during his Anglican years or after he became Catholic. He could rightly claim to be fully Catholic without taking a particular lively interest in the Church Fathers, but I would suggest that the Ordinariates might not have been his cup of tea. Similarly, I’ve known a few Anglican converts whose theological perspective is so strongly Thomist that they rightly decided the Anglican Use/Ordinariates option wasn’t for them. I would also have to be honest and state that some of Methodism’s historical expressions of individual enthusiasm in worship are pretty aliturgical and are a far cry from the gravitas of the liturgical piety of the patristic era and of monasticism. Yet similar liturgical expressions do exist in some Catholic parishes.

    Monasticism hasn’t always successfully maintained its patristic/monastic bearings. I heard a possibly-apocryphal story of a monastery that was under threat of bombs during a war. The monks moved down to the crypt to pray the office. Sure enough, the bombs came, and the sound of their explosions drew closer. The abbot said, “Brothers, let us pray,” and he and his confreres knelt and prayed the rosary. For Dominican friars, this might or might not be perfectly understandable, given the importance of the non-liturgical piety of the rosary in their charism. But for disciples of St. Benedict, this reaction is to have lost the plot, as the saying goes.

    A few years ago, a bishop or cardinal who visited an Ordinariate parish was heard to remark that these Anglican converts like to linger in their liturgy and after their liturgy. Liturgy is too important and too much about the beauty of holiness to be rushed through. “Be still [–still enough to listen–] and know that I am God.”

    Sources that mention the importance of the Church Fathers in Anglicanism:
    Chadwick, Henry. “Tradition, Fathers and Councils.” In The Study of Anglicanism, Stephen Sykes, John Booty, and Jonathan Knight, eds., rev. ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 105.
    Haugaard, William. “From the Reformation to the Eighteenth Century.” In The Study of Anglicanism, 24.
    McGowan, Andrew. “Anglicanism and the Fathers. In The Oxford Handbook of Anglican Studies, Mark Chapman, Sathianathan Clarke, and Marty Percy, eds. 2016 — accessed February 15, 2017.
    Moorman, J. R. H. The Anglican Spiritual Tradition (Springfield, Illinois: Templegate, 1983), 212.
    Aidan Nichols. Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony (Leominster, U.K.: Gracewing, 2013), 39.
    Ramsey, Michael. The Anglican Spirit (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2004), 7.
    Thornton, Martin. English Spirituality, 231–243.

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    • I have enjoyed reading your posts and articles on these topics, in particular on the Benedictine roots of Anglicanism. And thanks for a useful list of sources. I’m not sure if one can say that Anglicanism in toto is patristic or monastic, but certainly the Anglo-Catholicism which has borne fruit in the Ordinariates has patristic and monastic roots. Indeed, one might say that the aspiration of the Ordinariates should be to inculcate “an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary Oxford tone transplanted into the Church.” Only unlike Cardinal Manning, we would not preface that with “I see much danger of” but “We see much promise in”!


  9. What elements within Anglicanism that nourished the Catholic faith do you think are important?

    The prayers and the BCP are important of course but..
    For me it is the domestic and interior spirituality of Anglicanism that lends to moderation in all things. And so I find heaven in ordinarie in continuity with tradition as taught by the Church.

    But then again, isn’t that what a truly Catholic spirituality is all about?


  10. Pingback: Is Anglican Patrimony Patristic? | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

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