Fr Hunwicke on the Convert problem

Fr. Hunwicke weighs in on Austen Ivereigh’s Pope Francis and the Convert Problem piece and Crux’s follow up by David Mills here.

In it, Fr. Hunwicke has something interesting to say about what Anglican patrimony provided in a proper understanding of Mary and of the Church.

Fr. Hunwicke writes:

David Mills humbly confesses that we converts will indeed always be creatures inferior to genuine, encradled, Catholics. And Mr Mills appears to demonstrate something even worse: that since he entered the Catholic Church, his understanding of Catholic doctrine has deteriorated. Two examples: (1) he appears to think of our blessed Lady as a sort of vessel which contained the Incarnate Word. Rather off-centre: the Lord took his human substance of the Virgin Mary His Mother (as the Christmas Preface in the Anglican Use makes clear); he did not merely pass through her as water does through a pipe, or as the Lord’s Blood is contained in a chalice. And (2): he calls the Church “a living body moving through History” … which is jejune. The Church is the Body and Bride of Christ. The Church Triumphant (our Lady and all the glorified Saints) and the Church Expectant (the souls whom we remember before the Father) are not within History in any natural sense of that phrase. Only the Church Militant could be described in the way David Mills does.

The habit of regarding “the Church” as synonymous with the Church Militant here in Earth is a common mistake among Roman Catholic theologians as well as ‘ordinary’ Catholics. Those of us from the Anglican Patrimony have had the opportunity of being taught (for example, by the great Eric Mascall) that the Church is something immeasurably greater than merely the Church Militant. In the words of another mighty Anglican writer, C S Lewis, she is “spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners”.

I suspect that this much healthier and more balanced understanding of “Church” may owe something to the influence which some Orthodox writers had on Anglican Catholics such as Mascall in the twentieth century. However that may be, we see the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI in calling us corporately into the Catholic Unity and urging us to hold fast to the riches which are legitimately ours.

 

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