Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Winter-Spring 2014 Newsletter - from the Priest Director

In July 2013, the Catholic League reached its hundredth anniversary. Founded shortly after the beginnings of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1908 at Moreton-in-the-Marsh (and New York), as well as the modern Ecumenical Movement at Edinburgh in 1910, its voice has not always been welcome. It has stood out against mere amalgamation between ecclesial institutions; it has been impatient with mere, good inter-church relations; it has resisted being a pressure group for Catholicity only within and upon the Anglican world. Each of these purposes is beneficial, but they are never enough on their own.

Ecumenism is not enough

As history has shown, without something more, each of those approaches tends to leave us where we are. In England, the merger of the Congregationalist Federation and the Presbyterian Churches of England in 1972 created the generously ecumenical United Reformed Church; but other denominations opposed to the union spun off from it, ironically meaning more institutional disunity than before; and we are still waiting for the Methodist Church and the Church of England to join it in full communion. Sadly in recent years, this noble representative of the post-Reformation “Old Dissent”, ejected from the English Establishment with the triumph of High Anglicanism following the Restoration Act of Uniformity in 1662, has been the most declining of all the traditional denominations. In the same period, despite its enduring sense of common belonging rooted in the establishment and thus the coherence of the Church of England, the international Anglican Communion has been developing into three distinct groupings at various degrees of mutual non-communion. This demonstrates how the institutions of Churches that arose out of Western Latin Christendom, following the Protestant Reformation movements in the 16th century, have not been able to summon from within themselves the forces that compel towards the Church’s Catholic unity - even when they have recovered the episcopal ministry in the Church’s threefold order, embraced renewal in liturgical and sacramental life, especially the Eucharist, and wholeheartedly undertaken close relations and ecumenical collaborations at local, national and international levels.

Settling for less

The latest report from the World Council of Churches on the shape of future unity is based on the mutual theological dialogues of the last 50 years, as well as sustained pastoral and evangelistic co-ordination, notably in the many instances of sharing church buildings, resources and ministers. The Church: Towards a Common Vision is the result of 30 years of thinking about the nature and purpose of “the Church and the Churches”, and also about where Baptism, the Eucharist and the Ministry fit in the Church overall, as well as in the personal discipleship and Church membership of individual Christians. Thus it asks how the Church as a whole brings unity and justice to all humanity, in the service and realisation of the Kingdom of God. It marks a considerable degree of mutual sympathy and theological convergence through the Faith & Order Commission (a joint endeavour between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, to which the Reformed, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Anglican and Orthodox Churches belong). It is the latest drive for mutual recognition of baptism in each other’s churches, in the hope of mutual recognition of each other’s churches as churches. The objective is that each church’s ordained ministry can become mutually recognised for the purpose of achieving eucharistic fellowship, so that, in united sacramental life, the churches can bear a common witness to the societies in which they live that is convincing. For, as the Lord himself prayed, “may they all be one, so that the world may believe that it was You that sent Me.”  But it somehow seems to be another instance of that “settling for less” on which we have often commented  – good relations, occasional eucharistic and liturgical sharing, even close collaborations; but yet without visible fullness of communion in life, faith and body, the Body of Christ.

Unchurching the Church

Meanwhile in England, the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, whose tactical prophecy has intervened unbidden in the leadership of now two of his successors, has opined that within one generation the Church of England will effectively have collapsed as a national institution. Those of us who remember his own archiepiscopate a generation ago have reason to reflect that the theological relativisation, in which there is more than one truth and several integrities; the polarisation and divisiveness that has prevented what Archbishop John Habgood of York once lovingly called “the Soul of the Nation” from cohering as a strong and still centre in England’s shared sense of values and spirituality; and the resulting secularisation of a decreasingly interested society, can each be laid squarely at his door. The Catholic League, as a fellowship of long-time friends, keeps some of this memory. Most members have roots in our Catholic life and pilgrimage together in the remarkable movement in the Church of England that inspired generations to seek above all - for the sake of the salvation of the world - the restoration of the Church’s visible unity reconciled within one, organic Body. It was with an urgent appeal not to harm the reconciliation of the Anglican Communion with the Catholic Church and its apostolic ministry that, out of love for their own church, classic Anglicans, led by the then Bishop of London, Dr Graham Leonard, left at the end of a rally at Wembley in summer 1992 to go straight to Lambeth Palace. There Dr Carey told Dr Leonard and the other bishops who accompanied him that, as each was to retire before long, their influence was passing. The following year, hundreds of Anglican Catholic priests gathered at St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, for a direct debate with Dr Carey, pleading a truly Catholic loyalty to the Anglican Church they belonged to, but reminding him of the urgency of Catholic unity and the consequence of not pursuing it: hundreds of missionary-minded pastoral clergy, he was told, would in conscience consider themselves ejected (the Shades of 1662) and compelled to resign. His response was to say - asked the likely number - that a thousand clergy could easily be replaced by newly ordained women priests. Thus having urged the departure of hundreds of loyal pastors, Archbishop Carey set a tone for the church of which he was chief pastor, characterised not by ever greater cohesion through common participation in the Truth, that once famed “Anglican comprehensiveness”, but exclusivity, making the Church less than the Church, and unchurching people from it, alien to the spirit of the classic Anglicanism so magnificently exemplified in his two great predecessors, William Temple and Michael Ramsey.

Since those days, over 700 Anglican priests and untold numbers of lay faithful have looked for the fullness of the Church’s communion in their apostolic faith through being received into the Roman Catholic Church, nonetheless still hopeful of the greater unity of Christ’s people that they had always believed in. Most recently, well over a thousand people with their priests have become Roman Catholics in the special provision of the Ordinariate, which offers one way of bearing witness to the ecumenical vision - held by the Catholic Church since Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism - that it is somehow not completely itself unless it makes space for the authentic tradition of others, so that they may belong as well. Thus a space has been cleared for a manifestation of the Anglican Tradition alongside the Latin Roman Catholic Tradition. Alongside the Byzantine and other Eastern traditions, all our Christian traditions of the one apostolic faith are needed together in concerted harmony, if the “coming Great Church” is truly to embrace, reconcile and integrate all the people of whom it makes disciples for Jesus Christ. The Ordinariate is not the whole story of Anglican Tradition, of course; but it is an attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to make sense of the indigenous English-speaking religious and liturgical tradition, and to find the authentic and fruitful points of unity with it. There are many orthodox Anglicans who in good conscience persist in their witness to Catholic faith and unity within the Church of England, even in the midst of great adversity. Their faithfulness to the apostolic faith and tradition, to which Pope Benedict recalled all English Christians on his unforgettable visit to these shores, recalls Cardinal Walter Kasper’s appeal, as President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, for Catholic-minded Anglicans to start a New Oxford Movement. People’s articulation of adherence to this historic Anglican tradition makes uneasy listening to their fellow Anglicans who oppose them, as if it were so objectionable in the contemporary Anglican Church as to justify calls for their departure, ejection or canonical inhibition. How those who say they believe in Christian unity, and who follow the Christ who said, “Let the children come to me; let no one hinder them, for to such as these belongs the Kingdom of heaven“, can call on people to “leave the Church”, or any church that constitutes it, is beyond us. The League has constantly stated its support for its members from all churches who believe the Catholic faith and thereby seek the communion of all Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome. We ask no one to leave; only, as Pope Benedict once said, to enter deep into the mystery of the Church where they are can discover that it is but one.

The Spirit of Communion; the spirit of schism

In all this, what is missing? The sole principle for which the Catholic League came into existence. This was not to promote the Catholicity of the Church of England; nor to be an apologist for the Anglican position; nor to promote interest in and closer relations with the Orthodox and Catholic Churches; nor to inculcate particularly Catholic forms of devotion or ways of life; nor even to work for Church unity as a manifestly good cause in general. These have all formed important aspects of the Catholic League’s work and witness. But the main principle is that the ultimate object of unity in the Catholic faith must always and inescapably be its first step - not the last piece of the jigsaw, but the only aim from the outset - union, or reunion, or fullness of communion (whichever you want to call it) in the Catholic faith with the successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome.

It was this witness that made the League the first body in England to promote observance of the Church Unity Octave, when it was seen as a dangerous Romish ruse. Now it is observed in every part of Christendom as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It was this witness that brought Fr Paul Couturier to England to see those in the Church of England, led by our co-founder Fr Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, who lived a Catholic life and ministry in it. Couturier and Fynes-Clinton both saw the urgent missionary and pastoral need for the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches somehow to achieve at last the corporate reunion that had eluded various attempts at reconciliation in the past. It was the same witness that influenced the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic movements so thoroughly that Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher - no High Churchman - could say that the Church he led had no faith of its own but only that of the Catholic Church, before in due course becoming the first Anglican leader to be able to visit Rome and see the Pope. It was witness to the same truth that enabled Archbishop Michael Ramsey to be the first to make an official visit to the Pope and establish the Anglican Centre in Rome, in order to speed the reunion of the two Churches. It was this witness that ensured that the representative fielded by the Anglican episcopate as its chief observer at the Second Vatican Council was a convinced Anglo-Papalist, the great Franciscan scholar and Bishop of Ripon, Dr John Moorman. It was this witness that helped to win over the Catholic movement in the Church of England to embrace the renewal of the Catholic continuous tradition, as it reached out to other Christians and a rapidly changing world in the aftermath of Vatican II. It was this witness that made us all think, when Blessed Pope John Paul visited in 1982, that unity was merely “one more step” away. It was this witness that has continued to fire the 50-year-old Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on its dialogue towards our re-convergence in the one faith we have in fact shared from our origins before our separateness.

Sadly, in the last few years, there have been those who mar this vision. A tiny but vocal section of the Ordinariate has denounced the Anglicanism which formed it and its own Catholic vocation, calling for the Catholic Church – and the League – to abandon its determination to achieve institutional communion - demanded by the Lord - between the two communities that are the Catholic Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion as “futile”. Turning the back on fellow Christians because of doubting their good faith, however, or making the Catholic Church exclusive of others, or unchurching those who are fellow members of the one Church through sharing the sacrament of Baptism, is not faithful to Catholic teaching; nor is it being faithful to the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis with a care for all the churches - still less his great predecessor Pope Benedict. Furthermore, by the same token, certain Anglican-Catholic voices, regardless of their deep concerns over the reshaping of the nature and purpose of the Church and its ordained ministry within their own Anglican Communion, have been arguing for the perpetuated separation of the Anglican Church over against Roman Catholicism – specifically separation from the person and office of the Holy Father - as preferable to Catholic unity, despite their beliefs in the Universal Church and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in relation to it. It has been ironic to hear some Anglo-Catholics, who otherwise sense a close affinity with the Roman Catholic Church, espouse markedly anti-Catholic sentiments. It is part of the same temptation to unchurch the other. It serves no useful purpose in promoting the Catholic faith or the Catholic spiritual life, or in serving the ministry of reconciliation, of which St Paul speaks, that is laid upon all those who desire union with God in Christ. Moreover, we have encountered a small constituency of Anglicans who are not participating in their own Church’s mainstream ecumenism in England, and yet who want something different from Anglicanism’s mainstream engagement with the Catholic Church through ARCIC. They reject the offer made by Pope Benedict (which had, after all, been made in response to Anglican requests over many years) to take part in a project – the Personal Ordinariates – that could serve to unite significant elements of the Anglican religious tradition with the Catholic Church on a basis that genuinely respects its integrity. Instead they call for a Catholic-Anglican unity that excludes “former Anglicans”, a unity of their own, on their own terms; not the Church’s, whether Catholic or Anglican, but something different. Seemingly all of us in our different Church bodies are tempted to something that is exclusive; something that views reunion as the prevailing of one viewpoint or interest ahead of another; something that prefers guarded ecumenical relations in separation; something that recoils from the call to repentance of the pain-inflicting spirit of division, a spirit that truly has nothing to do with the principles of faith that each rightly holds dear, that keep us apart and yet we seek to resolve. Our dialogue towards reconciliation cannot honour principles that we use as reasons to perpetuate division.

Fortunately, in the face of this, in our hundredth year, the members of the Catholic League, Anglicans and Catholics together, rooted in old friendships and the communion of shared origins of which Pope Paul VI once spoke, are united in witness to the only principle that matters: communion of all churches and all Christians in the single binding truth of the Catholic and apostolic faith with - from beginning to end - the successor of Peter. For this truth is the force from the Holy Spirit within the Body of Christ that compels the Church to complete unity and that bestows on it everything that is indispensable and necessary for it to be the Catholic Church in and for this land and its people.

The 106th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

2014 brings with it the 106th year of united Anglican-Catholic prayer for Christian unity, corporate reunion, institutional communion. The path is not the sweeping avenue we once hoped for, but leads through a narrow gate. We should have expected nothing less; and go to and through it all we must, because we believe, like Mary, that what the Lord has prayed for is a promise that He will fulfil. Thus we in the Catholic League, with its Apostolate of Prayer, re-commit ourselves to this true “Common Vision” of the Church, of full, visible and organic communion. Our annual leaflet of prayer for unity, based on the work of Fr Paul Couturier, an apostle and pioneer of unity that Fr Fynes-Clinton brought over to England to further the cause of Catholic-Anglican reunion, can be downloaded from our website, www.unitas.org.uk . At the forefront of our minds in the Week of Prayer is the apparent sheer impossibility of the task of achieving Catholic-Anglican unity in such an utterly changed situation. We will be thinking, “How can what we are praying for come about?” We will also be thinking of Pope Francis who is determined to make common cause with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, a man of profound spirituality, an Evangelical influenced by Catholic piety and devotion to the Eucharist, who wants to share with the Catholic Church a common approach to the problems of society - in England and around the world - where there is injustice and no peace. Surely all Christians are united in the face of the intense sufferings endured by the Church in the Middle East, parts of Africa, India and the far east. Given the exceptional persecution of the People of God by those of other religions and secularists alike, we will also be recalling that the Lord prayed for us to be one, “so that the world may believe”. More than Christian solidarity, the need for the Church’s organic and visible unity – the institutional communion between all the Churches of Christ – has never been more urgent. Those charged by you, the members, with responsibility for the League urge all our members to take this particular Week of Prayer to heart, in the confidence that, whatever appearances there are in this world and between our respective churches, nonetheless unity is a thing to be prayed for because it will inevitably happen, for no other reason than that the Lord has determined it. It is He who has said it will come. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

We know that it is not enough to say, “Of course, we are one in spirit”, or “We are of one mind”. The hymn boasts, “We are not divided; All one Body we; one in faith and doctrine, one in charity”. Nevertheless, we know that its untruth makes us ashamed and causes scandal before the world. How can we make truth-tellers of ourselves and bring about the institutional communion that has eluded us for centuries, that is far more than the mere merger of organisations, and that integrates our many Christianities in the one Body of Christ that is His Church? The League’s answer is always first to pray, and second to bear unswerving witness to the belief that there can be no unity that does not involve our reconciliation together in communion with the Bishop of Rome as successor of Peter - the depths of the Church’s one faith that comes to us from the apostles.

Centenary Publications

In 2014 you will receive several long delayed editions of our journal, The Messenger. One issue will look at reconciliation and the healing of memories, what Pope Francis has recently termed our ecumenism of blood. Another will complement our major contribution to understanding Anglicanorum Coetibus and will seek to assess the significance of the various Ordinariates in the three years since their establishment and their relation to the Church’s cause of Catholic-Anglican unity. A third will collect the splendid addresses and lectures that attended our July 2013 celebrations to mark the Centenary of the League’s history and service to principled Catholic corporate reunion, an almost solitary witness for much of its lifetime. A fourth will enable us to share with you the beautiful devotions led by Archdeacon Luke Miller in March 2013 at Walsingham, drawing on the spirituality of the Roman Catholic St Thérèse of Lisieux and the Anglican Fr George Congreve SSJE, and his Stations of the Cross.

Later in 2014 we hope to see the publication of the League’s 100-year history by the distinguished papal historian, Dr Michael Walsh. The year will further be marked by an invitation from the Third International Receptive Ecumenism Conference to address it on the League’s witness to what ecumenists now call “institutional communion”. We can be grateful to God that our century-long insistence on the integrity of the whole Church as seen together - not the piecemeal amalgamations or temporary acts of personal eucharistic sharing that have attempted and not achieved the solution to our divisions - is what draws once more the hearts and minds who long for that for which Christ prayed.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Vatican City, 7 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father met with Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council for Churches, accompanied by a delegation. The Pope remarked that this encounter “marks an important chapter in the long and fruitful relationship between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches”, and acknowledged “the service it performs in the cause of unity between believers in Christ”.

“Since its creation, the World Council of Churches has offered a great contribution to forming the sensibility of all Christians with regard to the fact that our divisions represent a major obstacle to our witness to the Gospel in the world. These divisions must not be accepted with resignation, as if they were simply an inevitable component of the historic experience of the Church. If Christians ignore the Lord's call to unity, they risk ignoring the Lord Himself and the salvation He offers through His Body, the Church: 'there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name … by which we must be saved.'”

“The way to full and visible communion is a path which still proves today to be arduous and uphill. The Spirit, however, urges us not to be afraid, to go ahead with trust, and not to content ourselves with the progress that we have been able to experience in these decades. Prayer is fundamental on this path. Only in a spirit of humble and persistent prayer can we attain the necessary farsightedness, discernment and motivations for offering our service to the human family, in all its weakness and with all its needs, both spiritual and material”.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Vatican City, 26 January 2014 (VIS) – The 47th Prayer Week for Christian Unity – for which this year's theme is “Has Christ been divided?” – concluded yesterday afternoon, the solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul, with the celebration of the second Vespers in the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The event was attended by representatives of other Churches and ecclesiastical communities present in Rome.

In his homily, Pope Francis, referring to the theme of the Prayer Week, drawn from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, observed that the Apostle was grieved to learn that the Christians of Corinth had split into various factions, and “could not even praise those who claimed to belong to Christ, since they were using the name of the one Saviour to set themselves apart from their other brothers and sisters within the community. In other words, the particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others”.

“Amid this divisiveness, Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth 'by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ' to be in agreement, so that divisions will not reign among them, but rather a perfect union of mind and purpose. The communion for which the Apostle pleads, however, cannot be the fruit of human strategies”, continued the Pope. “Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ. This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realise that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity.

“As we find ourselves in his presence, we realise all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world”. The Bishop of Rome cited the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio”, which affirms that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communities present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ were divided”, and adds, "such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalises the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature".

“We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to become a cause of scandal. And so we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity”.

“Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ. Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. ... Pope John blazed new trails which earlier would have been almost unthinkable. Pope John Paul held up ecumenical dialogue as an ordinary and indispensable aspect of the life of each Particular Church. With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople”.

He continued, “The work of these, my predecessors, enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ. We can say also that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the Successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future. As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills. And to journey together is already to be making unity!”

Finally, the Pope greeted the Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, David Moxon, the representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. “With these two brothers representing everyone, we have prayed at the Tomb of Paul and have said to one another: 'Let us pray that he will help us on this path, on this path of unity and of love, as we advance towards unity'. Unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in journeying; the Holy Spirit does this on the journey. If we do not walk together, if we do not pray for one another, if we do not collaborate in the many ways that we can in this world for the People of God, then unity will not come about! But it will happen on this journey, in each step we take. And it is not we who are doing this, but rather the Holy Spirit, who sees our goodwill”.

“Let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking; and let us remember that unity is always better than conflict! And so may he help us to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts”, the Holy Father concluded.


Thursday, 23 January 2014


Vatican City, 22 January 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience to the Prayer Week for Christian Unity, which ends next Saturday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It is a spiritual initiative in which Christian communities have participated for over one hundred years, and is a time dedicated to prayer for the unity of all baptised persons, in accordance with Christ's will “that they may all be one”. Every year an ecumenical group from one region in the world, under the guidance of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, suggests the theme and prepares the activities for the Prayer Week. This year the initiatives will be prepared by the Churches and Ecclesiastical Communities of Canada, who have proposed the question posed by St. Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “Is Christ divided?”

“No, Christ is not divided”, said the Holy Father. “But we must recognise sincerely, although with suffering, that our communities continue to experience divisions, which are a scandal. There is no other word for it: the divisions between Christians are a scandal”. Evoking the words of St. Paul, he added, “Each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul', and 'I of Apollos', and 'I of Cephas', and 'I of Christ'. Even those who named Christ as their leader were not applauded by Paul, because they used Christ's name to separate themselves from others within the Christian community. But the name of Christ creates communion and unity, not division! Baptism and the Cross are central elements in our common Christian discipleship. Divisions, on the other hand, weaken the credibility and effectiveness of our commitment to evangelization”.

In his Letter, the Apostle rebukes the Corinthians for their divisions, but also gives thanks to the Lord because the community has been enriched in Jesus Christ, “in all speech and all knowledge”. “These words are not a simple formality, but rather the sign that first and foremost he sees God's gifts to the community, for which he is sincerely joyful. In spite of the suffering of divisions, which unfortunately persist to this day, we welcome Paul's words as an invitation to rejoice sincerely in the grace conceded by God to other Christians. We have experienced the same baptism, the same Holy Spirit has bestowed grace upon us, so let us rejoice!”.

“It is good to recognise the grace with which God blesses us and, moreover, to find in other Christians something which we need, something we can receive as a gift from our brothers and sisters”, continued the Bishop of Rome. The Canadian group which has prepared this Prayer Week has not invited the communities to think about what they might give to their Christian neighbours, but rather has exhorted us to encounter one another to understand what all communities can receive from time to time from the others. This requires something more. It requires humility, reflection and continual conversion. Let us follow this path, praying for Christian unity and an end to this scandal”, he concluded.


Saturday, 18 January 2014


Vatican City, 17 January 2014 (VIS) - Today the Pope received in audience an ecumenical delegation from the Lutheran Church of Finland during their annual pilgrimage to Rome. They have been celebrating the feast of Saint Henry of Uppsala, patron saint of Finland, in this manner for 25 years now.

The Holy Father addressed them, saying: “The Apostle asks the members of the community of Corinth, marked by divisions, 'Is Christ divided?' This question has been chosen as the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian unity, which begins tomorrow. Today it is addressed to us. Faced with voices that no longer recognize the full and visible unity of the church as an achievable goal, we are invited to not give up our ecumenical efforts, faithful to what the Lord Jesus himself asked of the Father: 'That they may all be one'.”

“At the present moment, the ecumenical path and relations among Christian are undergoing significant changes due primarily to the fact that we must profess our faith in the context of societies and cultures where reference to God, and everything that recalls the transcendent dimension of life, is always less present. We notice it especially in Europe, but not only here.”

“It is precisely for this reason that it is necessary for our witness to concentrate upon the centre of our faith, upon the announcement of God's love that is made manifest in Christ, his Son. Here we find the room to grow in communion and in unity among, promoting spiritual ecumenism, which is born directly from the commandment of love that Jesus left his disciples. The Second Vatican Council also made reference to this dimension: 'This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, "spiritual ecumenism”.' Ecumenism is, in fact, a spiritual process, which is carried out in faithful obedience to the Father, in fulfilment of Christ's will, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis bid the delegation from Finland farewell, inviting them all to “call tirelessly upon the help of the grace of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, bearer of reconciliation and communion, who leads us into full truth.”


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Vigil for Syria

16 of the League's members are in Brugge for our annual pilgrimage for the Church's unity.

After a short talk on the Church in Syria from Fr John Salter, a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, at 7-15 pm, we gathered before the Beguinage monastery's icon of the Mother of God and offered the Akathist Hymn in union with the Eastern Christians of the Middle East and also with the Holy Father's vigil of prayer and fasting tonight for Syria and the spirit of Christ's peace in the world.

Lord of the Universe, remember in Your Kingdom that part of Your universe which is beloved Syria.  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony, Aidan Nichols OP - Fr Mark Woodruff responds to Fr Peter Cornwell's Tablet Review

On 17 August 2013, Fr Peter Cornwell, a married Catholic priest and former vicar of the same church as Blessed John Henry Newman, The University Church of St Mary, Oxford, wrote a surprisingly mean review in The Tablet of Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony: The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by the distinguished theologian, historian and thinker, Fr Aidan Nichols OP (Gracewing, Leominster, 2013). Fr Mark Woodruff's response in The Tablet for 24 August 2013 is below.

The book is an extended essay and arose from a remarkable lecture delivered under the auspices of the Ordinariate, as part of a conference on its place and purpose with the work of New Evangelisation. Fr Nichols revisited a familiar and resonant theme of his, that proclamation and evangelisation do not concern only the personal individual but groups and traditions of people, including entire cultures and histories. This understanding, incidentally, lay within Pope Benedict's presentation of evangelisation on his visit to Great Britain in 2010. Faith alone, he said, answers humanity's profoundest questions and longings; hence the need and benefit for the constant and public dialogue of faith and reason, between the Church of Christ and society, the state, politics, commerce and culture. With this in the background, Fr Nichols observed that Catholic society in England was made of four main components: the English recusants at the core of the history from the 16th century onwards, the influx of a large Irish Catholic population to cities from Victorian era onwards, a small but influential stream of English converts to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism of whom Newman and Manning are the most symbolic but which continues to the present day, and more recently the international diaspora of the last two decades, especially from India, Africa, the Far East and Eastern Europe (including Eastern Catholics) transforming the complexion of parishes especially in the larger population centres. The one culture that seems, however, not to find expression and belonging in the contemporary Catholic Church in England is England's indigenous religious culture for almost the last half-millennium. Thus he makes the argument for embracing the liturgical, pastoral, cultural, spiritual, apologetical, homiletical, operational-organisational and academic-theological traditions and patrimony of Church-of-England Christianity, to equip the Catholic Church in England to address, take seriously, resonate with and converse with English public life and culture, as well as its citizens' religious sensibility, by means of their familiar spiritual language and sensibility.

Where necessary, of course, for reasons of clear exposition of Catholic teaching these Anglican traditions and patrimony need to be duly adapted to meet the fullness of communion within the Catholic Church, but since all internal Anglican traditions, aspects of heritage and customs have been developed and continue in existence within a conversation between the different schools of theological thought and churchmanship, and thus find ways not only to co-exist in Anglicanism's internal ecumenism but also to find clearer expression over against each other, there is something intrinsically Anglican about the adaptation needed when embracing a new setting for being in communion within the Body of Christ. Fr Nichols' 1993 book, which looks at the interplay and relationship between the Catholic and Anglican in English religion, state and culture, The Panther & The Hind: A theological history of Anglicanism remains an essential account of Classic Anglican divinity, and the most sympathetic analysis of the now largely occluded Classic Anglicanism tradition ever made by a Catholic theologian.

It is a pity that Fr Cornwell did not acknowledge this in his endeavour to portray the Ordinariate as a mere refuge for Anglo-Catholics escaping a finally uncongenial Anglicanism. Thus he missed the point that, as the Catholic League can testify, its essential form has been proposed for 100 years at least and that his has influenced Anglican ecumenism for good, spread wide what is now shared by all Christians as "spiritual ecumenism", and placed the cause of Christian Unity, to which communion with the Apostolic See of Rome is integral, at the heart of the Church's purpose in proclaiming the Gospel to the world and its cultures. After all, it is Pope Benedict who organised efforts and structures for a New Evangelisation in the struggle for the soul of Old Europe, including the societies which have in part emerged from it across the world through the 19th and 20th centuries. The Ordinariates established under Anglicanorum Coetibus and Ad Gentes are part of this New Evangelisation and represent the Catholic Church's desire, learned from half a century of direct dialogue and ecumenism, to learn and receive for itself what the providential Anglican tradition and its patrimony has to offer. None of this is for an isolated group that looks in upon its own narrow concerns, any more than Benedictinism, Franciscanism or Jesuitism is - it is something borne by some but for the whole Church - and that includes its efforts to reconciliation and unity.

While some of Fr Cornwell's comments were legitimate debate and criticism in a book review, he made two misrepresentations as to fact, which made it clear that prejudice was the ground upon which he then went on to caricature the persons - the people and priests - of the Ordinariate. It is clear that he can have met few of them. What follows is the letter submitted to the Editor of The Tablet upon submission that Fr Cornwell's affront needed a riposte. it appeared in The Tablet publised on 24 August, 2013. The final paragraph was, however, not included owing to the need to make space for a subsequent letter from Mgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate which addresses the same point more fully and better. (The term "lively conversation" reflects Archbishop Rowan Williams' attempt at a positive description of the adversarial nature of Anglican theological and constitutional decision-making in its Synods, and "treasure to be shared" is a quotation from Pope Benedict's Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.)

Fr Mark comments, "I do not lightly take issue with a brother priest in public, especially one for whom I have the highest admiration. But, since he first expressed these views in 2009 in my hearing and yet, despite eirenic argument to put his concerns to rest, persisted in disseminating them by way of attack on the true motivation and character of his fellow Catholics in the Ordinariate, it is important to say that the cause of Christian Unity is served by airing disagreement frankly towards better mutual understanding and rapprochement in a spirit of friendship, not by caricaturing people acting in good faith."
To the Editor, The Tablet, 20 August 2013
Fr Peter Cornwell says that Anglican patrimony “in truth has proved to be quite elusive”. Anglicanorum Coetibus III locates it in liturgical books, the Complementary Norms adding the tradition of married presbyters and the pastoral council for consulting the lay faithful formally. Article 10 refers to a larger hinterland of its aspects of particular value. In 2010 I collected a volume of over 30 pieces of comment and analysis, critical and supportive - Anglicans & Catholics in Communion: Patrimony, Unity, Mission. A second volume is in preparation. A Customary containing the Divine Office and Calendar was published in 2012 and permission to celebrate an Order of Mass with elements of the Prayer Book rite was issued this summer. This is hardly elusive. 
Nor is it accurate to say that Anglicanorum Coetibus came “out of the blue”. Such provision was explored by prominent Catholic-Anglicans with designated Roman Catholic figures in England and Rome in the late 1980s. And around 2008, a sizeable group of Catholic-Anglican bishops visiting Rome with concerns about the Lambeth Conference and General Synod, even discussing possible corporate reunion, did not go behind Lambeth’s back. What changed was not a papal assault upon the ARCIC method, but Anglicanism’s decision for a fundamental change within the order of bishop. Nevertheless the additional layer of ecclesial incompatibility provides a re-set ecumenical starting point. In this, some have seen a positive opportunity to think through what Anglicans believe the patrimony they offer to the whole Church’s unity in diversity is, in a manner unaddressed before. 
Fr Aidan Nichols has pointed out that the prevailing religious tradition of England for nearly five centuries is a large gap in our consciousness of being the Catholic Church for this land and culture: internalising Anglican aspects of tradition through the Ordinariate offers one way of beginning to fill it, even if late in the day. At the same time it is far from the whole story of Anglican-Catholic reconciliation: for evangelisation to be convincing, Christian unity remains unfinished business. 
Fr Cornwell’s mocking tale of narrow sectaries escaping to a “granny flat” is an injustice to the real priests and people of the Ordinariate. He will indeed find some former Romanising Anglo-Catholics, but he will also find inner city pastors, middle-of-the-road “Prayer Book Catholics”, scholars, diverse origins and backgrounds, “Vatican II Evangelicals”, country parsons, overseas missionaries – people with an ecumenical instinct who did not live apart but took part in the “lively conversation” of the Church of England, and who are proving no less willing to engage in our diocesan parish life, as much as they want to see the Ordinariate’s “treasure to be shared” make its distinctive contribution. What binds them in the Catholic Church is not shallow preoccupation with liturgical tastes, but the faith that is none other than our own, and acting upon it generously. 
Fr Mark Woodruff

Monday, 5 August 2013

Centenary Grants

During the year  leading up to the Centenary, several grants were made in thanksgiving and prayer for the Unity of Christians in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome

  • The Anglican Centre in Rome, towards its service of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission
  • The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, towards the renovation of St Augustine's House and the Marian Library
  • To the Guild of Our Lady de Salve Regina at the Parish Church of St Magnus by London Bridge. The Guild was a medieval lay movement, revived by the League's co-founder at St Magnus', by Fr Henry Fynes Clinton when he became rector. It remains a lay society in the parish, promoting Catholic unity through devotion to the Mother of God as Fr Fynes intended. There are regular devotions, an annual festival mass and lecture.
  • To the Church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, for a monstrance to promote devotion to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Not long after the League's foundation, Fr Fynes Clinton set up a Tabernacle Treasury to provide Anglican parishes with the means to promote Eucharistic piety as part of the spiritual life and renewal that would bring about unity in Catholic faith and the corporate reunion of Christians in one Church. While the last of the monstrances in the League's possession for this purpose were given away some years ago, we felt it was important to make one last award from the Treasury and that it also go to this particular Catholic Church. The first church in Britain to bear this dedication, Corpus Christi was opened in 1873 and hailed by Cardinal Manning as the national shrine of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn, Sweet Sacrament Divine, beloved by Catholics and numerous Anglicans alike, was written by Fr Francis Stanfield, who was its parish priest. The Catholic League is donating a splendid historic Monstrance that beautifully matches the art and architecture of the building, currently under restoration. It will be used for an enhanced programme of sustained Adoration and Benediction, as Corpus Christi resumes its role as a centre of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. Even though we Christians are divided at the point of receiving Holy Communion, nonetheless we can be united in devotion, honour and worship for our One Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Monday, 22 July 2013

"Impressed by Pope's Emphasis on "Synodality" in the Church" - Vatican Insider

"Impressed by Pope's Emphasis on "Synodality" in the Church" - Vatican Insider

This synodality is an aspect of the Anglican tradition of decision-making and discernment, something that has been united with the Catholic Church in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus in the way in which the Ordinariates are to govern themselves, from the consultative governance of the Ordinaries and their elected councils, and the personal parishes. This is not a question of absorbing Anglican practice in a spirit of compromise, so much as retrieving something from well within the Catholic tradition of governance and putting it into new use in an instance of reconciliation among Christians.

It is also worth saying that, while each of the churches has a system of authority, not only for decisions but for the right transmission of teaching and sacraments, each too has a tradition of concentrating authority within authoritarianism, or at least separate centres of authority, which has posed a problem for ecumenism. The Catholic Church has been seen as investing too much direct power in the papacy, while in fact no less power is in practice invested in the persons of the Patriarchs of Moscow and of Constantinople in their respective spheres. Likewise historically the Archbishop of Canterbury has enjoyed considerable delegated and direct powers from before the Reformation schism to the present age. Many of the post-Reformation churches, too,  have - at least in theory - tight systems of central discipline, not infrequently invested in the executive role of a central authority figure. What Pope Francis is appearing to do, however, is to bear witness to the Catholic truth that, in the Church as Body of Christ, all authority must be Christlike, and that therefore it is no less Christlike for the Church to be led "with authority" on the pattern of Christ and his apostles - but that, on the other hand, this is a pattern of love, service, communion and being of one accord in the Holy Spirit. This is the Catholic teaching both retrieved, expounded and developed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. It is not a template for a pseudo-democratic reworking of the order and unity of the Church, nor an accommodation to Protestant Reformation objections to the proper authority of the bishops conveying the apostolic faith in union with the prime Bishop of Rome, nor of conforming the one authority of the Church (which is Christ's authority) to diverse and diffuse centres possessing power in their own right, but of "unitatis redintegratio" (the title of the Decree on Ecumenism) - the constant process and achievement of the integration of the People of God into the Body of Christ in unity.

Shortly before his retirement, in his address to the priests of Rome on the teaching of Vatican II, Pope Benedict observed that, while Pope Pius XII developed a century's papal teaching on the nature and purpose of the Church in terms of "The Body of Christ", in his 1943 Encyclical Mystici Corporis, there were those who detected in Vatican II, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium but especially in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church Gaudium et Spes, a new conceptualisation of the Church as "The People of God". While this image is striking, with its echoes of the wandering Hebrews with the Pillar of divine Fire at their head in pilgrimage to the Promised Land, and its resonance in the mid-twentieth century in a period of transition in culture that was calling forth a fresh engagement and application of the one and same Catholic faith from the Church in a new and uncertain but hope-filled age, Pope Benedict stressed their direct continuity and mutual reference. In short, he was saying, the People of God are held together in the unity that exists among the disciples of Christ, but it is in the Body of Christ that they are together in communion with their Head in the Church.

Synodality is thus more than walking together on the road as pilgrim people from Egypt to the Promised Land, or between Emmaus and Jerusalem, or Olivet to Calvary - it is fulness of communion in the Catholic Church, a unity of spirit, or mind and of Body; a unity of and for all the baptised, with the deacons, priests and bishops in communion with Peter.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Centenary: Thanks

At the end of the July 2013 Centenary Celebrations, we would like to record our thanks to the following people:

  • Mgr Keith Newton and Fr Mark Eliot-Smith for welcoming us to the Church of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, for our AGM, first Centenary Lecture and Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Unity of Christians in the Catholic Faith
  • Mr Keith Brown for putting together a splendid selection of music for the same mass, together with all the musicians
  • Our President, Fr Michael Rear, for his Homily marking our Centenary of Foundation and 100 years of hopes and progress on the realisation of corporate reunion
  • Fr John Hunwicke for the First Centenary Lecture, on Dom Gregory Dix, the Catholic League and the Necessity of the Papacy
  • Fr Philip Warner for welcoming us to the Parish Church of St Magnus by London Bridge for our second Centenary Lecture and Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Unity of Christians in the Catholic Faith among our  Anglican members, together with his team of musicians and helpers
  • The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen's House, for his Homily at the mass marking our Centenary of Inauguration and all that the principle of Catholic unity has meant in developing the Church of England's ecumenical aspirations and the need for the whole Church's integrity in faith and order
  • Judge Michael Yelton for the Second Centenary Lecture on The Quest for Unity: 100 Years of the Catholic League
  • Archdeacon Luke Miller for this addresses at the Centenary Festa at Walsingham in March 2013, on Fr Congreve SSJE and St Therese of Lisieux
  • Fr David Rollins, vicar of St Mary's, Corringham, Essex, for welcoming representatives of the League at the celebration there to mark the historic founding of the League and the beginning of Anglican-Catholic spiritual ecumenism in their parish
  • Bishop Norman Banks for his encouraging address at the same celebration in hope of recovering Catholic unity through prayer and love for the wholeness of Christ's one Church
  • Monica's Caterers, whose excellence made the Celebrations such a convivial delight
The addresses will be gathered into forthcoming editions of The Messenger.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Centenary at Corringham: Address by Bishop Norman Banks

At St Mary's in Corringham, Essex, on 5 July 2013, the first members subscribed. It was the patronal festival and those who had formally founded the League at St Mark's Bush Hill Park on the 2nd, together with others who had planned the movement with Henry Joy Fynes Clinton at an earlier meeting, arrived from London to take part in the celebrations and to image how the League could transform the thinking of the entire Established Church - be a church within a church - and lead it into corporate reunion with the See of Peter once more.

Fr Mark Woodruff, priest director, and Mr David Chapman, general secretary, by generous invitation of the rector, Fr David Rollins, visited the parish on 14th July 2013, 100 years after the inauguration in the same building, if not quite to the day. David had been present as crucifer on the 60th anniversary and brought the pictures to show it. Fr Philip Gray, vicar of Mendlesham and past priest director, had been the thurifer. Also in the company were Fr Milburn from Brighton and Fr Dominic Pyle Bridges. At least one member of the present congregation at St Mary's had also been there for the 60th.

Presiding at the celebration was Bishop Norman Banks of Richborough, a past member of the Council of the Catholic League and vicar of Walsingham. Here follows his address at the beginning of the mass.

It is wonderful to be here with you in Corringham. I have heard so much about this Church and it is indeed beautiful. I can see it has the Laurence King touch, which make me feel I have something in common with you, because one of my Churches in Walsingham, St Mary’s, like so many much loved beacons in the Anglican Catholic world, was restored by Laurence King too (although I hope yours, unlike many of the rest, suffer from roofs with a tendency to leak whatever you do to keep them repaired).

Another reason I am so pleased to be with you is because it was 100 years ago this very month that the Catholic League was founded here. This was the result of conversations within the Catholic movement in the Church of England to bring about the unity of the whole Church, so that Christianity could once more live and worship as one and speak to the world with one voice. Those conversations have continued ever since the Catholic League’s first members were enrolled here at Corringham, and the repercussions have gone on throughout the Church, as we have prayed and hoped for unity ever since.

One little known fact about the League is that, when Fr Hope Patten established the Shrine at Walsingham, with his vision of bringing the Catholic Faith to convert the hears of the people of this land once more, it was the League that was the first to raise and send funds to support him and it was the first body to organise a pilgrimage to England’s Nazareth restored. The work not only continues to this day, but its witness flourishes.

We are so pleased the Fr Mark Woodruff and Mr David Chapman, respectively Priest Director and General Secretary of the League, are with us for our parish celebration today. They are Roman Catholics who have been dedicated to the work and cause of Christian Unity for decades and it shows that the League continues to hold people together in hope that the Church can overcome its divisions and be true to its One Lord.

There have been setbacks and even new obstacles have emerged. Part of these are due to our personal and corporate prejudices and in a moment we will confess our sins and our part in the Church’s divisions and rivalries as we seek his forgiveness and the power of his reconciliation.

But I want to tell you about last week at General Synod, when I had lunch with Archbishop Justin. He was not long back from Rome and full of excitement after meeting Pope Francis. Something wonderful had happened. He and the Holy Father were discussing the many values from the Gospel that they share about the needs of the poor, and the way in which the priests and the people of God ought to follow Christ. As they were discussing how the Churches can stand together in witnessing to the Gospel for the sake of the poor, the Holy Father took hold of his pectoral cross and said it was something on which “We bishops…. We bishops…” could give the lead. This moved Archbishop Justin, but he did not want to read too much into it; yet it happened again. He was immensely moved, but also encouraged and inspired by this warm gesture of fraternity and ecumenical closeness.

Francis and Justin are going to take risks for unity. They are going to be bold in order that they can work and stand together, for the sake of the world. For this, they will both rely heavily on our prayers. And the prayers of parishes like Corringham are going to be vital because, in the Anglican Catholic movement, it is parishes like yours that get it, that understand what is being prayed for. You understand that the Catholic Faith is essential to the proclaiming of the Gospel, and for that to be convincing it needs the Church not just to act as one, but to be one and to be seen to be one, if it is going to capture the hearts and minds of people and convert them to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hope and prayer for reunion between Catholics and Anglicans in one Church began 100 years ago in this very building and they remain driving forces at work among us to this day. So you know that prayer works and bring about new life and new possibilities. So pray for Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis, and the risks they will take to break down whatever stands in the way of the Church serving and proclaiming Christ in the world; pray too for their concerted efforts to answer the prayer of Christ, “that they all may be one, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”


Friday, 12 July 2013

Francis makes key amendment giving Ordinariates important role in new evangelisation - Vatican Insider

Francis makes key amendment giving Ordinariates important role in new evangelisation - Vatican Insider

Francis has added a new paragraph to the Complementary Norms which govern the life of the Personal Ordinariates, expanding membership even to non-Anglicans

The news was announced on the official website of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, set up by Benedict XVI under the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. The Apostolic Constitution was published in November 2009 to encourage Anglican clergy, faithful and parishes that were not in agreement with the liberal changes made over the past decades, to enter into communion with the Catholic Church once more. Damian Thompson, editor of Telegraph Blogs also published an article on the subject in his own blog.

Last 31 May, Pope Francis made an important modification to article 5 of the Complementary Norms, “to make clear the contribution of the Personal Ordinariates in the work of the New Evangelisation,” the website of the Personal Ordinariate of Our lady of Walshingham says. 

The text that was added reads: “A person who has been baptised in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the Sacraments of Initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelising mission of the Ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the Ordinariate and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or the Sacrament of the Eucharist or both.”
The accompanying comment explains that the new paragraph “confirms the place of the Personal Ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelisation.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - which prepared the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus under the guidance of Benedict XVI and the Congregation’s former Prefect William Levada – remarked that the criterion for admission to the Ordinariate was incomplete Christian initiation, meaning Catholics cannot become members “for purely subjective motives or personal preference.”

This shows a clear aim to increase commitment to the New Evangelisation, without altering the structure of the Apostolic Constitution and the Complementary Norms. From now on, whoever discovers their Christian faith again having not completed the Sacraments of Initiation as children, will be able to continue their experience alongside the people who helped them in the re-discovery of their faith. Even if someone was baptised in the Catholic Church and was therefore a member of it. But Ordinariates are not an alternative for Catholics who have certain liturgical and pastoral preferences: they were and still are a clearly-defined means for Anglican faithful to enter into communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Second Centenary Lecture: Judge Michael Yelton - The Quest for Unity: 100 Years of the Catholic League

The Quest for Unity: 100 Years of the Catholic League

Judge Michael Yelton, 6th July 2013. St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge

May I first of all say how honoured I am to have been asked to deliver this short address to mark the Centenary of the Catholic League, which was for many years the most important group within the Church of England supporting the cause of reunion with Rome and in later years has transformed itself into an ecumenical grouping, albeit one with the same aims. Regrettably I am neither a Doctor nor a QC, as the initial flier would have you believe, nor indeed the President of the Anglo-Catholic History Society, but I do know, I hope, a considerable amount about ecclesiastical thought in the period we are dealing with.

I well recall some 40 years ago attending a Catholic League mass in St. Mary Elms, Ipswich, at which Leslie Gray Fisher, the long time secretary and one of those responsible for the survival of the Society through difficult times, proclaimed the well worn words: “Rome is the rock from which we were hewn and the Mother to whom we will return” which is and was an appropriate slogan for the League.

It is important however since we are today marking the Centenary to look back at the beginnings of the Society. I shall concentrate on the early years as they may be less familiar to those listening, and also because I have no wish to enter into controversies involving those still with us. The First 50 Years were chronicled in a pamphlet of the same name by Brian Doolan, which was produced by the Crux Press, run by Father Clive Beresford, the then Priest Director, from his somewhat decrepit vicarage in Newborough. It did not appear until 1966 because Father Beresford intended to write it himself but then found he did not have the time to do so. The 75th Anniversary was marked by a rewriting of that history by Father Robert Farmer, whose account is shorter but still includes some additional information. Both have been very helpful to me.  

We can date with some precision the commencement of what came to be known as Anglican Papalism, a movement which was embodied in the Catholic League. In 1900 a series of addresses was delivered under the auspices of the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom, which had begun as a meeting place for Anglicans and Romans but from which Romans had been barred by order of Cardinal Manning. On the Feast of St. Peter at St. Matthew, Westminster, Father Spencer Jones, a country clergyman and relative of Keble, delivered one such address in which he strongly advocated reunion with Rome. Among the congregation was Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, then still a layman, who was both impressed and affected by what he heard. Following the delivery of the address both he and Lord Halifax, who had also been present, urged the speaker to publish it. In 1902 a rewritten and extended version of Father Jones’ address appeared as England and the Holy See. This formed one of the basic documents on which the later leaders of the Catholic League relied. A new body, the Western Church Association, usually known as the Association of St. Thomas of Canterbury, was formed, which was to have annual lectures delivered alternately by an Anglican and a Roman. 

In November 1907 Father Jones, in correspondence with an Episcopalian priest in the United States, Father Paul James Wattson, suggested the celebration of an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, running from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome (18 January ) to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25). This began in 1908 and was another important backdrop to the Catholic League.

Father Fynes-Clinton was ordained priest in 1902 and in 1906 moved to be curate of St. Stephen, Lewisham. He was an inveterate founder of organisations, some of which had a short life, others much longer: he found it much easier to be involved with societies he ran than with those run by others. Both he and the Revd R.L. Langford-James, then vicar of St. Mark, Bush Hill Park, were members of the Guild of the Love of God, one of many Anglo-Catholic  groups then in existence and after attempting to urge that a more definite line being taken by the Guild in relation to reunion, they led a secession. The two of them, with others, set up the proposed constitution of the Catholic League, and invited Father Arnold Biddulph-Pinchard, a well known priest then in Birmingham, to become the Superior General. In the event he turned down the request. Father Langford-James was then elected as Superior General and Father Fynes-Clinton as his Assistant.  

A meeting was then held at the Holborn Restaurant on Wednesday 2 July 1913 at which the League came formally into existence.  This was a huge establishment on the corner of High Holborn and what is now Kingsway.

On Saturday 5 July 1913 the League was ceremonially inaugurated at the church of St. Mary, Corringham, Essex: it seems unlikely that this venue was chosen at that late stage and much more probable that it had been suggested in advance: this is reinforced by the attendance of John Kensit junior, the well known Protestant ranter. The location was at the instigation of a founder member, A. Clifton Kelway, who was a well known writer and was a lay reader at Corringham. He wrote a book describing the work of the Society of the Divine Compassion, which had a house in nearby Stanford-le-Hope. 

Thus it was that a substantial group met for an early mass at St. Margaret Lothbury and then travelled, presumably by train to Corringham, where they joined the patronal festivities presided over by the rector, Father John Greatheed: Corringham was a family living.

There was a procession in which the participants sang the Litany of Our Lady and the Salve Regina, in Latin, and then at the high altar in the small church the League was dedicated and the Foundation Deed was signed by Fathers Langford-James and Fynes-Clinton and 95 others. The League was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Victory, of St. Joseph and of St. Nicholas of Myra. The Deed hung in Father Beresford’s study in later years and I saw it about 1972, but regrettably did not photocopy it: it has since been lost. Later Solemn Vespers of Our Lady were sung before the pilgrims returned to London. 

At that time, Essex was in the Diocese of St. Albans. The Bishop, Edgar Jacob, came to hear of what had happened and inhibited the Superior and his Assistant from officiating in his Diocese. He then threatened disciplinary action against Father Langford-James unless he resigned his office and indeed his membership, which he did. Father Fynes-Clinton was certainly forced to step down, although whether he was made to resign his membership is not clear and if he did it was only temporarily. Clifton Kelway’s licence was withdrawn.

In place of those forced to resign, the League elected as its Superior General Father Edward Secker Maltby, who had with his own resources erected his church of St. Mary, Bermondsey, now covered by the Millwall football ground.

On 25 October 1913 the League’s first annual festa was held at the long-since disappeared church of St. Michael, Bingfield Street, Islington at which the preacher was the brilliant Father Ronald Knox, soon to leave on the Rome Express. The parish priest of St. Michael, Father J.H. Boudier, was a member of the League and in later years he had an audience with the Pope in which he seems to have given the impression that the entire Church of England was ready and willing to accede to the Vatican’s control. Would that it had been so.

It was one of Father Fynes-Clinton’s characteristics that he not only founded many organisations, but founded them as offshoots of others. Thus with the Catholic League. On 17 February 1914 he and Father Maltby set up the Sodality of the Precious Blood, under the patronage of St Charles Borromeo. Membership was restricted to celibate priests without connection to freemasonry and who were prepared to say the Latin Breviary daily. These requirements excluded many prominent Papalists who were married and some, such as Father Hope Patten, who had no command of Latin, probably because he was dyslexic.

The Sodality reflected Fynes-Clinton’s essential view, which was also reflected in the League. He believed that the Church of England was truly part of the Catholic Church, and that reunion should be corporate and should be effected by an internal revolution within the Anglican Communion, so that all its priests subscribed to Roman doctrinal and liturgical ideas. In her penetrating book on the Benedictines of Nashdom, Dr. Peta Dunstan remarks that Abbot Martin Collett's insistence never to deviate from the Roman way of doing things was "a profound sharing- not, as his critics would have it, a slavish mimicry. It was an ecumenical deed more powerful than pages of words".

Father Maltby did not have the time available to run the League and soon resigned, to be replaced by the then retired Father W.J. Scott, who had set up the first Back to Baroque altar in his church at Sunbury Common and was an authority on railways. Father Maltby remained Director of the Solidarity and Father Fynes-Clinton was secretary.

No member of the League had ever been consecrated to the episcopate, although in 1914 Father G. Bown, the Principal of St. Stephen’s House, was appointed as Bishop of Nassau. However he died before being consecrated.

In 1913 a monthly magazine known as “The Catholic” began: this ceased at the outbreak of the War but from 1915 the “Messenger” took its place.

In late 1914 Father Fynes-Clinton moved to be curate of St. Michael, Shoreditch. He regarded the move as releasing him from the earlier inhibition and was reappointed as Assistant Superior. He almost immediately set up a new community for women, which was also integrated with the work of the League. This was the Community of Our Lady of Victory. This was not to prove his most successful venture, and, after a period of wandering, in 1928 the two sisters who persisted had a bungalow built in the grounds of the convent of St. Mary of Nazareth at Edgware. It ceased to exist with the death of the original sister, Mother Mary St. John Watson, in 1961.

The COLV was responsible for the Apostleship of Prayer, which involved daily decades of the Rosary known as the Living Crown of Our Lady of Victory. It also organised the Tabernacle Treasury to raise funds for the provision of monstrances for poor churches.

Father Scott resigned in 1916 and was replaced by an anonymous group, from which Father Fynes shortly emerged as sole Priest Director. The League was thereafter run for many years essentially in accordance with his views.

In addition to the groups already mentioned, the structure of the League was complicated by a number of sub-groups, the product of Fynes-Clinton’s fertile brain. There was a Spiritual Treasury, the Women’s and Men’s respective Retreat Organisations, the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Chantry Fund, and probably others. Some were short lived, whereas others, such as the Tabernacle Treasury, lasted for many years.

In 1920 the League for the first time held its festa at the Convent of the Paraclete at Woodside, Croydon, which had been founded by the imprisoned ritualist, Father Tooth, who after his release was unable to find a living.  During the day, Father Fynes-Clinton received the profession of a brother of the Society of St. Augustine (later the Servitors of St. Mary and St. Austin), a Community founded by him in 1911, which rather like that of the exotic Father Nugée in the Nineteenth Century, took in men who worked in the world but transformed themselves into monks when they left the office each night. It had a priory in Walthamstow for some years, but failed to prosper. In 1925 the annual function moved to Otford School, which was also a foundation associated with Father Tooth, and continued there for many years.

On 23 October 1920 yet another sub-group of the League was founded, when at Holy Trinity, Hoxton, the Rosary Confraternity was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary: the sisters of the Community of Our Lady of Victory were living in the parish at that time.

Two other significant developments in the progress of the Catholic League took place in the same year. The first was the adoption by it of the Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent. In its explanatory booklet the League said:

“Our present circumstances, then, in these two provinces of Canterbury and York, are very similar to those of the Western Church as a whole before the Council of Trent, only that it is with a very much more advanced and virulent form of the disease that we are beset...So the Catholic League adopts as its profession of faith THE CREED OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.”

The second such development was the formation of the Church Unity Octave Committee, which was at that stage another sub-committee of the League. From 1918 onwards the Church Unity Octave had been supported and here we see early moves by the League towards unity: it was the first organisation in the Church of England to promote the Octave. The Committee was chaired by Fynes-Clinton It then absorbed the pioneering Association for the Promotion of the Reunion of Christendom, which was apparently wound up by Athelstan Riley at a meeting on 27 January 1921, on the grounds of the absence of Roman Catholic involvement, but without, apparently, any consultation with the wider membership.

As these developments were occurring, Fynes-Clinton finally acquired a living of his own, and after his institution in 1921 St. Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, where we are today, became the centre of the League’s spiritual activities: from 1923 until the Second World War it also had an administrative centre in Finsbury from which correspondence came. In 1924 Leslie Fisher, already mentioned, became general secretary, a post he held for many decades. He was efficient and well organised although the subject of some mirth because he travelled in ladies’ underwear- as an occupation not a fetish. In 100 years, the League has only had four General Secretaries.

In 1922 Fynes-Clinton revived the Fraternity of Our Lady de Salve Regina, which dated originally from 1343, and which held devotions at midday every day, and in 1924 he aggregated it to the League, thus providing yet another associated and interlocked group.

In 1926 pilgrimages to Walsingham began and were held annually.

On All Saints’ Day 1926 a completely new body, the Confraternity of Unity, was founded by four priests at St. Mary the Virgin, New York. Its aims were similar to the Catholic League, although the emphasis was almost exclusively on reunion.

On 5 November 1928 Father T. Bowyer Campbell, one of the four, who was later to become Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, addressed the Sodality of the Precious Blood at St. Magnus, and it was agreed that a secretariat should be opened in England to promote the Confraternity. On 3 February 1929 this opened at the presbytery of the church of St. Saviour, Hoxton, with Father Basil Joblin, then a curate at the church, as its representative in this country. The Confraternity was correlated with the Catholic League.

Fynes-Clinton joined the new body, but was never very enthusiastic about organisations which he was not himself running. On the feast of St. Matthew, 1925, the Council for Observance of the Church Unity Octave was formed, with Spencer Jones as its President, and on 14 June 1926 this seems to have become transformed into the Executive Committee of the Church Unity Octave. In order to bring together the various groups, in 1930 Father Fynes-Clinton formed the Council for Promoting Catholic Unity, on which were represented the Catholic League, the Sodality of the Precious Blood, the Confraternity of Unity, the Association of St. Thomas of Canterbury and the Catholic Propaganda Society, which had been run by Father Alban Baverstock.

Father Fynes was also less than enthusiastic about some of those responsible for the 1933 Oxford Movement Centenary- he regarded many of them as being the contemporary equivalent of Affirming Catholicism, or in other words not being sufficiently committed to the true principles of the Catholic Revival and to reunion in particular. It was to counter what were seen as these liberal tendencies within the wider Anglo-Catholic movement that the leaders of the Papalist Movement issued their Centenary Manifesto (dated 1 October 1932) and then the League arranged for the publication of a series of Oxford Movement Centenary Tractates, entitled The Church of England and the Holy See.

The eighth was the work of Father Fynes-Clinton (Part I) and Father W.R. Corbould, vicar of Carshalton, (Part II). Entitled What are we to say? it gave an unequivocal answer, namely that the Church of England should accept the claims of Rome and move towards union as soon as possible. Father Fynes-Clinton declared confidently:

“We have to insist, against all the insular prejudices carefully fostered by an interested officialdom, that the Church of England has no legitimate existence except as part of the Catholic world and therefore dependant on the Holy See.”

The main activity of the League in 1933 was the organisation of a pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the Holy Year. The pilgrims first went to Turin, where they attended the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Shroud, and then went on to Rome where they followed the prescribed course of visiting the four major basilicas: they then had a special audience with Pope Pius XI during which they presented him with a copy of the Tractates, elaborately bound. On 22 January 1934 there was a meeting at the Caxton Hall under the slogan: “Modernism the Enemy: Rome the Remedy.”

In 1934 Father Maltby died and was replaced as Director of the Sodality by Father Wilmot Phillips, rector of Plaxtol, but he died a year later and was replaced by Father Fynes himself.

1935 was also notable for the publication, albeit not under the auspices of the League but of yet another group, the Society for Catholic Reunion, of Catholic Reunion: an Anglican Plea for a Uniate Patriarchate and for an Anglican Ultramontanism, written by Father Clement (J.T. Plowden-Wardlaw). He argued for the recognition by Rome of an English Uniate Patriarchate, probably with a celibate priesthood, and probably also leaving behind “modernists, irreconcilable protestants, and those obsessed by the state connection.” The book is interesting in that the author, who was a prolific pamphleteer and vicar of St. Clement, Cambridge (calling his letters Clementine Tracts), envisaged that reunion with Rome might envisage a split in the Church of England, a prospect many did not feel able to contemplate. Do we see in that the beginnings of an idea which has led in more recent times to the establishment of the Ordinariate?  

In 1936 there was a further reorganisation among the reunion Societies. The Council for Promoting Catholic Unity set up the Society for Promoting Catholic Unity which thereafter published The Pilot. The SPCU was responsible also for the Council of the Church Unity Octave, which was particularly appropriate since the new Society had been set up during the Octave of 1936. Father Corbould became the President of the SPCU, the many-hatted (perhaps many-birettad?) Fynes-Clinton the Treasurer.

Although the leaders of the Catholic League had taken no direct part in the Malines Conversations in the mid 1930s the leaders of the Papalist party began to correspond with Abbé Paul Couturier in France: he was in touch with Father Jones, Father Fynes-Clinton, and Abbot Martin Collett of Nashdom. In 1936 Dom Benedict Ley, the novice master of Nashdom, visited the Abbé in Lyons and then went to Ars and to Paray-le-Mondial, the scene of the apparitions to St. Margaret Marie Alacoque; four months later Fynes-Clinton himself went over to France together with Dom Gregory Dix of Nashdom, and they were able to speak in French at various meetings they attended. The following year Couturier returned the visit, and was met in London by Fynes-Clinton, who acted as his host throughout. Fynes-Clinton asked the elderly and infirm Father Spencer Jones to lunch at St. Ermin’s, Westminster, where he lived in a service flat, and the Abbé was delighted to meet him. Couturier came again to England in 1938, and on this occasion broadened his contacts into those who were not wholly committed to the Roman cause.

These contacts appear retrospectively to be rather unimportant in the life both of the Church of England of the Roman Catholic Church but their significance is that they happened.

In 1937 the Shrine Church at Walsingham was extended. The League was short of money, as it had been throughout is existence, until left a generous legacy shortly after the War by a founder member, Miss Evelyn Few (known as “The Faithful Few”). Father Fynes-Clinton therefore suggested that the chantry chapel he was endowing should also be the chapel of the League and in turn it was decided that a statue of Our Lady of Victory, patroness of the League, be erected in it: however this did not take effect until 1949.

Bombing in the war destroyed a number of League centres and St. Magnus itself was badly damaged. However the witness of the League continued much as before, and finances were much eased by Miss Few’s legacy.

In 1950 the Holy Year was celebrated with a pilgrimage to Rome by Fathers Fynes-Clinton and Ivan Young, accompanied by Mr. Fisher. The two priests were received in private audience by Pope Pius XII, who blessed the work of the Council for the Church Unity Octave. It is not clear how influential visits such as this were in Rome: it is however apparent that in that year there were very few other contacts with the Church of England.

It now seems clear that there was a lack of impetus behind the movement for union under the Pope in the years following 1950, and before the mood in Rome began to change. After the South India controversy, which took up a great deal of time to little avail, Anglo-Catholicism was on the back foot, responding to initiatives from others with which its adherents disagreed, but not setting forward a positive programme which would attract new support.

Father Fynes-Clinton was getting older. He resigned as director of the Sodality in 1953 in favour of Father Joblin, as director of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1955 in favour of Father Peter Sanderson of Poundstock, Cornwall, and as chairman of the Church Unity Octave Council in January 1958 in favour of Father Mervyn Pendleton of Wollaston, Northamptonshire. Then on 4 December 1959 he died: an era had ended.

Although an age had come to an end, there was an unpleasant episode shortly before that, following the death of Father Corbould and then a spat between Bishop Mervyn Stockwood of Southwark and one of the League’s longest serving members, Father Rice Alforth Evelyn Harris, whose views were such that he had never held a living in the Church of England. This embittered many.  

Father Fynes-Clinton was replaced by Father Clive Beresford, a man for whom the word eccentric seems an understatement. I am indebted to one of his successors, Father Philip Gray, for telling how when processing on a very hot day, the glue with which he had attached various decorations to his cope began to lose its hold and the ornamentation began to curl. He did however devote a great deal of time to the League (to the detriment of his parish) and in particular raised its profile outside London. He also used his printing press to great effect, starting a strongly worded newsletter entitled Crux.

By this time the Church Unity Octave, with its uncompromisingly Papalist position, was being overtaken by the much more widely-based Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which had been backed by Abbé Couturier and more surprisingly by Gregory Dix. The annual Call to Prayer for Unity, which was issued to coincide with the Octave, was made for the last time in 1964.

It is ironic however that in 1960, the year after Fynes-Clinton’s death, Pope John and Archbishop Fisher finally met face to face. The propaganda of the Catholic League had almost certainly had more effect on the former than the latter, as it was reported that the Holy Father knew all about the revival of the Walsingham pilgrimage, an interest which Fisher did not share.

In 1962 Father Beresford and 11 other priests of the League and Sodality met Pope John in private audience in 1962 then Fisher’s more sympathetic successor Michael Ramsey met the Pope in 1966, and was received warmly. In 1970 Pope Paul VI said at the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales: “There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and usage proper to the Anglican church when the Roman church...is able to embrace firmly her ever-loved sister in the authentic communion of the family of Christ.” Then in 1982 Pope John Paul II came to England and was received by Archbishop Runcie at Canterbury.

Those events would have seemed inconceivable to Father Fynes and those who with him had laboured so long and with so few tangible results for reunion between Rome and Canterbury. The two churches have never appeared closer than at the time of the Papal visit in 1982, but this proved to be a missed opportunity. The Anglican episcopate had a lack of vision and no willingness to take bold steps: rather their reaction was constantly to retreat into the suffocating committee structure of the Church of England.

The reform of the liturgy by Rome also left many Anglicans, including initially perhaps the League, lacking direction. In due course however the tradition of following precedents set down by the Pope prevailed in the Catholic League and the new forms were adopted after an initiative by Father Raymond Avent, who became priest director in 1974 and was one of a new generation.

I have deliberately not dealt with some of the more recent developments within the League but the most far reaching has been the transformation of the Society from an Anglican Papalist pressure group into an ecumenical group.
The League was one of many organisations which offered strong resistance to the deeply flawed proposals for union between the Anglican and Methodist churches. However once that dragon had been slain, far more worrying proposals began to be aired. The ordination of women, which was irregular by standards of orthodoxy, meant that in the foreseeable future corporate reunion of the Church of England with Rome became impossible. While the Catholic League’s witness remains, it is now only possible to do that which Father Plowden-Wardlaw suggested so many years ago: in other words to persuade only those who have continued to hold, in the face of great pressure, the historic discipline of Christianity, that the Unity of all Christians is an important, indeed vital, objective.