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Fr. Hunwicke on Anglican Patrimony

posted Sep 2, 2014, 7:11 PM by Rochester Ordinariate
Spot on!


What is that Anglican Patrimony which we are supposed to have brought into the Ordinariates? I feel that it must be more than just a few little liturgical goodies, favourable though I am to the BCP structure of the Divine Office (although not, sadly, to the totally un-Anglican and non-traditional lectionary which has been tacked onto it here in England) and to the Anglican Use Eucharistic Rite, with its BCP and English Missal components (I would be reassured to be told that the Sunday propers which BCP inherited from Sarum, and thereby from the early lectionaries of the Roman Church, were going to be authorised, at least optionally, for the Ordinariates; it will be another tragic missed opportunity if they are not).

A few weeks ago I was putting together a talk on 'Modern Biblical Scholarship', that tired old construct of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I decided to formulate my critique exclusively through the insights of writers who were Anglicans or who, if they became Catholics, had been Anglicans when they wrote. I gathered together R A Knox, C S Lewis, Dorothy L Sayers, E L Mascall. (I think I also mentioned Austin Farrer and Abbot Butler; and that towering champion of Catholic Truth E B Pusey and some of his contemporaries.) I found in these writers a coherent critique, although I discern no links of indebtedness between them. They wrote, not as members of the cosy self-referencing and self-affirming club of European or North American Protestant "Biblical Scholars", but as people trained in literary criticism (in Mascall's case, Mathematics and Logic!) who brought their own rather different skills to the task of exposing the non-existence of the Emperor's Clothes, aka "the assured results of modern scholarship". "That", I triumphantly concluded my talk, "is the contribution which the Ordinariate is called by God to make".

A similar methodology could be extracted from Dix, Jalland and Mascall for expounding the Petrine Ministry; from Dix, Ratcliff, Willis, Moreton for critiquing "Modern Liturgical Scholarship". In so many cases, the Anglican input would have the result of questioning assumptions which some more recent "Catholic" "Scholarship" has gullibly borrowed from necrophiliac Protestant Modernism. In a recent post on this blog, I revealed my own surprise at discovering a close similarity between an exposition given by C S Lewis, and a treatment of the same subject by Archbishop Lefebvre. Such an 'Anglican' input would make a valuable contribution to vindicating a Hermeneutic of Continuity; to insisting that the documents of Vatican II must be understood, and understood only, in reference to and in subjection to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium over the two preceding millennia. Its value would rest partly on the sheer intellectual distinction of such writers as I have mentioned, but also on the fact that they wrote at times when a Catholic, advancing the same arguments they were advancing, would have had to listen to the accusation "Ah, but you have to say that because you're a Roman Catholic".

I think the most succinct summary I know of what the Anglican Patrimony must mean is in a phrase which Cardinal Manning used in condemnation of Blessed John Henry Newman."I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church"*. Exactly. That is precisely what we are, and what we have brought into the Church packed into our luggage. I pray that we may be able to make our own powerful contribution to the essential reconstruction of a Catholic Church which has been so weakened, and much of its life so corrupted, by the heterodoxies and heteropraxies of the last half-century.
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*Gary Bennett, in his 1987 Crockford's Preface, saw our distinctiveness in "the conservative theological tradition of the English universities with their strong links with the Church of England. Even into the mid-twentieth century it was received opinion among continental Protestant theologians that Anglican academics lived in a world of their own and set up a firm resistance to the kind of biblical criticism which was commonplace in European theological faculties. English scholars tended to do their theology through a study of church history and it was hard to deny that most of their work was done within the usual Anglican assumptions about the authority of Scripture and the normative character of patristic usage". Indeed. Knox and Lewis made the same sort of dismissive remarks about 'German Scholarship' that Pusey had made half a century or more before.

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