Repenting for the Reformation

Having grown up in the United States, I have been steeped in a progressive view of history that sees the Reformation as a good thing.

This view permeates Protestant circles.  I remember when, as an adult, I first started to encounter Catholics and Anglo-Catholics who would joke that evangelicals believed in the early Church and then skipped the rest of Church history to 500 years ago, as if that’s all that mattered.

So, this is interesting (even though it is three months old):

C of E archbishops call on Christians to repent for Reformation split

Justin Welby and John Sentamu recall ‘damage done five centuries ago’ that saw Christian people pitted against each other.

It unleashed an orgy of death and destruction across Europe. In England alone, more than 800 monasteries, abbeys, nunneries and friaries were seized, libraries were destroyed, manuscripts lost, treasures stripped and works of art appropriated. Thousands of people were hung, drawn and quartered, or burnt at the stake for their religious beliefs.

Five hundred years after the Reformation, the religious revolution that swept across Europe, the leaders of the Church of England – itself created in the decades of upheaval – have called on Christians to repent for the divisions, persecution and death.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement on Tuesday recalling “the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love”.

I am coming to see such widely-touted-as-good historical events such as the Reformation and the Enlightenment in a different light.

The article goes on to say:

There are, however, fiercely traditionalist elements in both denominations opposed to any moves towards closer relations, let alone unity.

Welby and Sentamu’s statement also pointed to the “great blessings … to which the Reformation directly contributed.

“Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of laypeople to serve God in the world and in the church,” they wrote.

See, even this Guardian article fits the template of “Reformation=good” after all.

Reform is good. The Reformation?  Not so much.

Unity is good.  How do we restore Christian unity?





10 thoughts on “Repenting for the Reformation

  1. A major selling point in any approach to those who subscribe to the “branch” theory of Catholicism—the visible unity provided by the Primacy of Peter–is seriously mitigated by those who publically attack Pope Francis. During the papacy of St John Paul II the “more Catholic than the Pope” rhetoric was generally confined to fringe sedevacantist sites which denounced him as a “Koran kisser” and found other arcane objections. The anti-Francis (often also anti-Jesuit, but that’s another story) contingent is much more mainstream and hence more damaging, in my opinion. If people are interested in liturgy wars and conflict over teaching on sex and family they can find plenty of that in Anglicanism—no need to convert!


    • Unfortunately, the “fringe” element of which you speak was neither small nor limited to sedevacantists. Rather, the largest faction has always been the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and their adherents. The SSPX initially toned down the rhetoric some when Pope Benedict XVI offered them their own ecclesial structure within the Catholic Church, on the condition that they agree to a doctrinal preamble for a document of reunification that would renounce their heresies, but they ramped up the rhetoric again after reviewing the doctrinal preamble. The fundamental obstacle to reunification of the SSPX is that the SSPX holds the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, which is intrinsically infallible. Until the SSPX accepts Lumen gentium completely, the impasse will remain.



  2. In contemplating the stations I was struck that humility is the beginning of unity. The 10th station Jesus is stripped of his garments shows us the way to humility. Most of the wounds to the body of Christ by disunity could be healed by humility, just as relationships can be healed with humility. I am forever grateful for those who through their humility have entered the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate. The Wound of the Catholic Orthodox split is a thousand years old and can be healed if the will of human beings here right now can align their will with the will of Christ. That they may all be one.


  3. If the Archbishops of Canterbury and York truly want UNITY they should repent, enter fully into Catholic teaching, adopt the new “DIVINE WORSHIP: THE MISSAL” and submit to the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. “By their fruits you shall know them”.Matthew 7:15-17, 7:20.


    • The approach preferred by the magisterium of the Catholic Church is for leaders of separated bodies to work to heal the respective schism — that is, to reunite the whole of the Anglican Communion with the Catholic Church rather than coming into full communion individually.

      Unfortunately, there are many practical difficulties — not the least of which is ordination of women within the Anglican Communion. The recent expansion of ordination of women in the Church of England, for example, is not helpful. It will take time to find solutions.



      • In the Roman legal tradition, which encompasses Catholic ecclesial law, a “particular law” always takes precedence over the general law. Also, a diocesan bishop is both (1) a competent law-giver and (2) the regulator of the liturgy in his diocese. Thus, a diocesan bishop generally may permit a celebration of the mass or of other liturgy according to any valid rite if he judges such celebration to be pastorally beneficial.

        And there is one other special case. Canonically, any priest who is “blind” may licitly celebrate according to any valid rite. Here, I would construe “blind” to encompass any priest whose vision is sufficiently impaired to prevent him from reading the text of the approved liturgical books.

        Of course, I’m not aware of any blind priest who knows the Sarum Rite well enough to celebrate it….



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