Saturday, February 9, 2008

(Anglo) Catholic

Most Anglo-Catholics have mixed feelings about the word Catholic. On the one hand, we love many of the forms and rituals that we took with us in 1533 when Henry VIII created a new church because he wanted a divorce. On the other hand, like Cardinal Newman, we tend to assume that “Catholic” (without modifiers) is synonymous with “Roman Catholic Church.”

Christians since 381 have been saying
εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν
which in Latin became
Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
In 1549 Anglicans translated this as
And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
(In 1549, the “clerk” recites the creed, so it’s not clear when the laity began the regular recitation. Of course communion and the Nicene Creed were not weekly events in the 16th or 17th centuries).

Anglican blogger Rev. Robert Hart has a great posting about how "Catholic" is really a generic term referring to Christ’s church, and how the RCC has unduly claimed a monopoly on it. One excerpt:
From the usage of the word "Catholic" in ancient times we see that it speaks, above all, of the Church and of the Faith of that Church (namely, its doctrine). This word is used by everybody in Christianity, and is the property of no one denomination.
The whole post is well worth reading by any (Anglo) Catholic.

At the other extreme, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod seems to think the word “Catholic” smacks of papism. Unlike the 1549 BCP, 1662 BCP, 1928 BCP or even the 1979 prayer book, in the LCMS liturgy the “C” word has been censored:
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


Jeff said...

You'll likely find a few folks who will take offense at the notion that Henry started a new Church.

I used to be one of them. While you could maybe argue that he didn't, its clear that it is what happened. Fr. Kelley had a wonderful article a long time ago on the word Catholic and how the proper understanding was less "universal," and had more to do with "of the same species." He used the oak tree vs. poison oak as the example.

If you use that definition, then, I think, its easier to get to a place where the C of E is a new Church. Fr. Kelley would undoubtedly disagree.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anglican (Episcopalian) and have no problem identifying myself a wholly Catholic — although my Roman Catholic friends might disagree.

Although I don't have the source in front of me right now, I remember years ago reading a very persuasive argument that, in its doctrine, Anglo-Catholicism is more "catholic" than Roman Catholicism, due to soem Roman innovations like papal infallibility and the immaculate conception, which aren't recognized elsewhere.

As to whether Henry started a "new church," this excellent post on Yahoo Answers addresses the question thoughtfully:

"First and foremost, it wasn't really Henry's intention to start a "new church". In fact, during Henry's time, the Protestants did not really view themselves as a new church either -- they just wanted to reform the "old church". Henry envisioned a kind of Catholicism without the Pope -- and how the Church of England came to be a separate, and ultimately Protestant, establishment, is the result of the struggle of many decades between the religious conservatives and the reformers.

"The immediate cause of Henry's breakaway from the Pope was so that he could get a divorce from his aging wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir. Theoretically, it was not impossible for him to get an annulment on some bogus grounds, but for purely political reasons, it was impossible. Catherine's nephew, Charles, was the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Pope had a lot more to fear from HIM than from Henry -- after all, at that time, England was a minor power, while Charles' empire was both geographically closer and militarily much stronger. The ugly fate of Boniface VIII is a stark illustration of what powerful rulers could do to a Pope who crossed them.

"The larger political reasons (perhaps less immediately urgent for Henry, but certainly very significant for his advisors) included the necessity of countering Emperor Charles' influence over European politics. In undermining Rome, Henry was also undermining Charles. The culture was also changing. The 16th century was the beginning of nation-states in Europe, and many political theorists and statesmen began to view supranational powers, such as the Pope, meddling in temporal politics and even countries' internal affairs, with great suspicion (I don't think they would like our UN, either). The idea of the Pope determining matters of royal succession was fundamentally contrary to the evolving concept of national sovereignty.

"Plus, lest we forget, the religious reformers of course wanted a break with Rome in order to wean the English church from what they saw as Roman corruption."


Jeff said...

The issue of national sovereignty was, I think, bigger than that article gives it credit. The more or less toothless parliament had, on a couple of occasions, attempted to end Roman influence on political affairs.

Of course, as to identifying oneself as Catholic - that always raised an interesting question in my mind. One everyone probably needs to answer for themselves. That is, if the members and leadership of a club declare that you're not a member - can you rightfully declare that you are? In particular, any AngloCatholic theology that I'm familiar with included a visible Church with a visible leadership capable of defining who is or is not a member. I struggled with this question for quite some time.