More thoughts on Anglican Patrimony

The papers delivered at a recent Anglican Patrimony conference at Oxford are now up at this website.

What is interesting is this conference included both Catholic and Protestant perspectives on Anglican Patrimony. For example, I’m told different views of Mary and of the intercession of the saints were discussed.

Some of us here in North America would like to replicate such a conference that would include thinkers from the Catholic Church, the Continuing Churches and maybe the Episcopal Church and/or the Anglican Church of Canada.   Would something like this be interesting?

Also, I had some thoughts in response to Fr. Seraiah’s post Working on the Patrimony.

Of course defining Anglican Patrimony is difficult, after all, we are speaking about something that was formed without the moorings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Yes and no.

The worst aspects of Anglican patrimony —that have led to schism, to greater and greater novelties in doctrine and practice; to a synodal approach run amok so doctrine is made up by “democratic” processes; congregationalism; and “experience,” i.e. the latest social science pet theories trumping Scripture and Tradition—I am pleased to cut loose as a Catholic.  I am rather sad to see, however, similar trends working on the inside the Catholic Church to de-centralize decision making on moral issues  to national bishops’ conferences.  We know how that kind of devolution works out.

As many of my conservative Catholic friends told me before we came into the Catholic Church,  “We need you on the inside.”

Which brings me to my second point.  The beautiful, good, and truthful Anglican patrimony we wish to preserve, while developing unmoored from the Catholic Church, at least in a juridical sense, never lost its rootedness in the faith of the Church or its Catholic DNA, otherwise, Pope Benedict XVI would not have made a provision for it and called a treasure to be shared with the wider Church.

For example, the high sacral language we have preserved in our liturgy was rebellious at the time, but one thing about Archbishop Cranmer—-he knew his Latin and he knew how to translate it into beautiful, poetic English.  He understand the importance of having prayers that could also be chanted.

When the decision was made by the wider Catholic Church to use the vernacular in the liturgy, translations were done in an era where dynamic equivalence was all the rage.

In the ecumenical wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Anglican Communion followed suit with their own “contemporary English” translations of liturgies.

Dynamic equivalence; teams of translators with tin ear for poetry; a minimalist approach in liturgy that either ignored or was ignorant of Old and New Testament resonances made for a pretty banal new Mass.  Thankfully, some of the deficiencies were corrected in the English translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass in 2011.

Those of us who retained a Catholic sacramental theology and preferred the old-fashioned Book of Common Prayer language, the Cranmerian collects; the English missal tradition for Anglo-Catholic Masses were staying in a sense more true to the Catholic sense of the Mass as sacrifice rather than a meal, Cranmer’s personal views notwithstanding.

I think our Divine Worship: the Missal is and example of what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council intended for the reform of the liturgy, far more so than the kinds of liturgical innovation that occurred in the 1970s.

Because of all the turmoil in the Anglican world on faith and morals, on sacraments, and so on, those in the Anglo-Catholic side of things had to temper their arguments and firm up their faith.   As Bishop, now Msgr. Peter Wilkinson said to me years ago about the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, “We have no other Deposit of Faith.”

So the Anglican patrimony I was introduced to was already aligning itself with the Church’s teaching.  I remember being awed by the reverence showed to the Blessed Sacrament by the priests and the faithful, and scandalized by the lack of reverence I would then see in Catholic parishes.

As traditional Anglicans we had kept up the regular praying of Morning and Evening prayer, with many lay people also praying the offices either at church or at home.  And we have beautiful translations of the canticles most of us know by heart.

I have attended evening prayer, or vespers at a rare Catholic event, and no one knows the Magnificat translation in English, so everyone has to rely on a hand-out.  Most of us know the canticles such as the Magnificat and the Te Deum by heart.

These are aspects of Anglican patrimony that were seeded by the Catholic Church before the schism and preserved there that retained a catholicity and beauty despite being unmoored.

We have work to do to unearth more of the treasures of our patrimony, including our English Catholic patrimony that preceded Henry VIII as well as the legitimate the beautiful patrimony that developed afterwards that retained Catholic faith.

We have our beautiful hymns and music; our tradition of choral singing.  All kinds of things we can be proud of as part of Anglican Patrimony, now given a home in the Catholic Church.

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