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 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.

Centenary of Foundation: Homily by Dr Robin Ward

At the Parish Church of St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge

July 6th, 2013

I am sure that I am not the only one in this church to have been charmed and engaged by Father John Salter’s biography of the former rector of this church and co-founder of the Catholic League, Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton.  Partly I think because Fynes-Clinton’s rather mannered eccentricity in old age was so amusingly captured by Colin Stephenson in his facetious accounts of the Anglo-Catholic Movement in its most tinselly days of glory, he has been remembered as a sort of odd totem or fetish of Papalism in the Church of England, an ecclesiastical coelacanth inhabiting a Tridentine zareba by the unpropitious Thames. 


But how fascinating to read about him as a young man: tutor in an Old Believer family in Moscow, consulted by the Archbishop of Canterbury while still a curate about relations with the Eastern Churches, instrumental in bringing to study in Oxford at St Stephen’s House students from the Serbian Orthodox Church, among who was St Justin Popovich.  Both then and now people found it difficult to reconcile his evident sympathy with the Orthodox churches and intimate knowledge of their culture and rites with his overt and systematic theological Papalism.  Fantasy about the character of belief and practice in the Orthodox churches as a sort of oriental Anglicanism is at least as old as Bishop Compton’s abortive relations with the church in what is still called Greek Street, established in 1677, from which he requested the removal of all the icons.  Fynes-Clinton particularly suffered in his work from this sort of political ecumenism, which assumed that my enemy’s enemy must be my friend, and that because the enemy was and always would be the Pope, the difference between the religion of George V and Nicholas II was simply one of detail and culture.


The degree to which this myth was and is a theological and spiritual dead end has become ever more apparent as scholarship, common sense and ease of travel demolish its tenets one after the other.  Only this year the Cambridge theologian Marcus Plested has published a work of outstanding originality and insight, Orthodox Readings of Aquinas, in which he demonstrates with real learning how important Thomas Aquinas was in the Greek theological tradition, not simply to those who wanted reunion with Rome or who opposed the doctrine of S. Gregory Palamas, but also to divines such as George Scholarios who became the first Patriarch of Constantinople after the Ottoman conquest, and Peter of Mogila, whose Kievan scholasticism was by no means the alien growth subsequent patristic fundamentalism has sought to portray.  And this should come as no surprise really: any reader of the Summa Theologiae soon encounters lavish quotation from the Greek fathers, and the Angelic Doctor’s regard for S. John Damascene as the crowning doctor and synthesizer of the Greek tradition is obvious. 


Among Plested’s most engaging discoveries is a liturgical canon in honour of S. Thomas Aquinas written by Bishop Joseph of Methone: As a star out of the West he has illumined/ the Church of Christ/ the musical swan and subtle teacher/ Thomas the all-blessed,/ Aquinas by name,/ to whom we gathered together cry:/ Hail, universal teacher!


This intellectual catharsis of the tradition we have received is particularly important as we seek to make such sense as we can of the current doctrinal and cultural decadence so characteristic of the contemporary theological scene in Anglicanism.  For we can see that in both Anglicanism and Orthodoxy the vitality of the nineteenth century revival became strangely distorted by an insularity and a nationalism that sought to exclude from the tradition influences perceived to be in some way undesirably foreign, an impulse at best wedded to myth and at worst to overt racism.


And here the root of the problem goes back inexorably to the reception in England and in Russia of the philosophy of Hegel: Hegel taught by Jowett and Green at Balliol to Charles Gore and his friends; Hegel as he inspired the principal architects of Slav orthodox particularism from Dostoievsky to Bulgakov.  As that perceptive cultural critic and old member of St Stephen’s House A N Wilson points out in his astute work on the intellectual history of this period in England, God’s Funeral, given the choice between Hegel and the Thirty-Nine Articles it is not surprising what the intelligent young found most inspiring, but the consequences for theology have been curious and unsatisfying. 


For the Russians, Slavophil insularity and a rejection of scholastic method has led some of their most original minds into the speculative obscurities of sophiology and the erection of doctrinal differences on issues like the Filioque and the Immaculate Conception into epochal fissures.  For the Anglicans, what looked to be the key of release from obscurantism and anti-intellectualism turned out to be in fact the liberty to pursue theology in characteristic splendid isolation, the long Hegelian summer that begins with Lux Mundi and ends with Christus Veritas.


It is worth looking at this a little more closely.  The first generation of Tractarians were badly educated in philosophy but were by no means insular in their theological culture, albeit within the bounds of a tradition that was somewhat inadequately resourced to counter the virulence of contemporary critiques of Christianity.  The second generation thought they had found the answer to the problems posed by biblical criticism and scientific evolutionism in the Idealist philosophy handed down from Hegel, in a way that also enabled them to assert their pristine Catholicity without having to worry too much about the unpromising hinterland the Church of England provided for this endeavor. 


If Darwin and the Germans were demolishing English Biblicism, then a free and frank acceptance of the higher criticism was a good way to make Anglican Catholicism both intellectually chic and doctrinally distinctive; if a Christology of kenosis meant that Jesus didn’t really know who he was during his earthly ministry, then neither should we be surprised if the Church which is his body on earth appears not to have a definitive sense of her own mission and teaching either.  With Gore and his disciples this is a sophisticated and brave attempt to make durable bricks with not much straw; with their less able successors, we arrive at the abject embarrassment of N P Williams’ Northern Catholicism, a characteristic product of the sinister 1930s in which we are asked to believe in the essential religious genius of the Northern peoples … of a mystical and soaring quality, appropriate to dwellers amidst the less genial aspects of Nature and beneath ‘grey and weeping skies’. 


Truthfulness about all this is fundamentally important when we come to think about what Anglican patrimony is.  True ecumenism cannot be built on crypto-racist assumptions that God in some way reveals himself more aptly to favoured nations because of the sort of weather they have or soil they till.  George Weigel in his recent Evangelical Catholicism has identified the key moment for modern Catholicism to be the agenda set by Pope Leo XIII in reviving the Thomist synthesis.  The most perceptive Anglican theologians in the Catholic tradition in the last century – Dix, Mascall, Farrer - all understood this, just as Plested’s work is beginning to unearth the same for the Orthodox. We need to have the humility to realize that fantasies of Anglican doctrinal particularity have cut us off from the much-needed irrigation this revival brings in doctrine, in apologetic and in social thought.


Henry Fynes-Clinton warned his contemporaries about this in his Oxford Movement Centenary Manifesto of 1933: On such supreme and vital matters as: the person of Our Lord, the union of the two natures in Him, the interpretation of Holy Scripture, the authority and infallibility of the Church, and the moral standards of historic Christianity, much of the teaching openly propagated within the modern Movement is in sad contrast with the orthodoxy of the original Oxford Fathers, and with the Catholic standards to which ex professo the Anglo-Catholic Movement makes appeal.  Our patrimony in liturgy and theology is only worth having and nurturing insofar as it is faithful to this deposit of faith.  The Catholic League since its foundation one hundred years ago – in Corringham where I learned the faith - has been unremittingly faithful to a two-fold loyalty: loyalty to the Oxford Revival as authentically Catholic in its content and orientation; loyalty to an ecclesial vision that has refused to embrace myth and fantasy about Anglicanism as a special dispensation of revelation.  This ascesis is all the more necessary in our current strife.  May the universal doctor and teacher pray for us, that the Church of Christ may be united in one faith and one sheepfold.

The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward
Principal, St Stephen's House, Oxford



Saturday, 6 July 2013

Centenary: Anglican Celebration Mass to Mark 100 Years since Inauguration

The League was founded on 2nd July 1913 at St Mark's, Bush Hill Park in Enfield, but it was inaugurated when a large number joined the patronal festival celebrations at the Church of St Mary, Corringham, in Essex, to subscribe on July 5th.

Representatives of the League visited Corringham for more parish celebrations of the historic centenary on July 14th, but in the meantime 40 or so members and friends gathered at St Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge, for decades the parish of which the co-founder had been the highly evangelistic Fr Henry Joy Fynes Clinton had been rector, and for many more years the spiritual home of the Catholic League.

The mass was celebrated by the present rector, Fr Philip Warner. The rite was that known now as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in English translation. This is the rite that Fynes Clinton believed was the only legitimate rite canonically approved for Catholics - not because he was imitating the Roman Catholics but because of a deep spirit of ecumenical sharing in the hope of complete and corporate reunion in the Catholic faith. For Fynes Clinton, all other rites were either state imposed or the church sanctioned versions with elements of Latin rite usage bore no legitimacy either under canon law or civil statute. It was slightly ironic to worshippers that it was the Anglican centenary celebration that followed the rite of the Latin Church, while it was the Catholic celebration that followed the rite recently approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, incorporating elements of historic Anglican liturgical patrimony. Seemingly, we have got to the point where both are Anglican and both are Catholic.

The preacher was the Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen's House in Oxford. Fr Ward as a young man had attended St Mary's, Corringham, from his family home not far away in Essex. The text of his homily is in another post.

The mass began at noon by singing the Angelus to the much loved tones familiar to many Anglo-Catholics. The readings for a Votive Mass for the Unity of Christians were Ephesians 4. 1-6 and 13-21, and Jon 17, 1 and 11-23. The Prayer for the Church was offered by Fr Chris Stephenson, Priest Director of the Apostleship of Prayer and Members' Secretary.

The proper and other music were as follows:
  • Introit: Deus in loco sancto - God is in his holy habitation
  • Mass No. 8 in B flat, by Paolo Giorza - including a Gloria 23 minutes long!
  • Gradual: For all they that look for thee
  • Alleluia: The Lord hath sent redemption unto his people
  • Offertory Hymn: Thy hand, O God, has guided, by Edward Hayes Plumptre, 1821-1891, to the tune, Thornbury, by Basil Harwood
  • Communion: Amen dico vobis - Verily I say unto you.
  • Communion Motet: Beati quorum via, by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
  • Final Hymn: Firmly, I believe and truly, by Blessed John Henry Newman, to the tune, Shipston, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
At the reception lunch that followed, there were present several who had taken part in the 60th and 75th Anniversary Celebration and who had brought souvenirs of those occasions. We hope to post some pictures of them. We were also delighted to welcome Fr David Rollins, rector of Corringham.

After lunch, Judge Michael Yelton delivered the second Centenary Lecture: The Quest for Unity - 100 Years of the Catholic League. The text is given in a separate post.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Centenary of the Catholic League's Foundation: Homily by Fr Michael Rear

When Fr Mark suggested I should preach this evening I realised, rather to my horror, that I’ve been a member of the League for somewhat more than half of its history. There is a temptation for me to go back down Memory Lane, thinking about what the League has meant to me, and recalling the great men who taught me the Catholic Faith in the Church of England. If I yield to the temptation of nostalgia it is to illustrate how different times are now, and what a lot there is to thank God for on our Centenary. To recall that human efforts are futile, and that like Our Lady we must trust God. Fr Frazer, who baptised me in Christ Church, Doncaster, was under the bishop’s ban for 40 years. For those too young to remember such things it meant that the bishop never set foot in the church because it was too catholic. Then there was Fr Roger Pilkington, who prepared me for Confirmation. He had just moved into the vicarage with his elderly mother and had invited the Bishop for Supper on the evening of his Induction. Without warning after coffee the bishop produced a declaration which he forced Fr Pilkington to sign, if he wanted to be inducted. The Declaration was never to give Benediction. Struggles between Anglo-Catholic priests and unsympathetic bishops lent new meaning to the words Church Militant! Yet the persecution was rooted in fear.


Fifty years ago the Catholic League was perceived as a deeply suspect and sinister outfit. Jesuits in disguise plotting the overthrow of the country and its Established Church by their allegiance to a foreign power. I didn’t know it was such an exciting organisation when I joined in 1961. Later that same year when I began my studies for the priesthood at Lichfield Theological College, where a few years earlier the Principal, Dr Hann, had gone over to Rome I discovered there had been a Stalinist purge. Students were compelled to resign from the League or face expulsion. I was strongly advised to do the same.


What of those holy priests who taught me the Faith? And what of the holy martyrs of Russia who were being sent to Gulags rather than deny their faith, would they have resigned from the League? Neither would this arrogant young would-be martyr. Hurtful as it often was it has to be admitted we did thrive on the thrill of persecution and enjoyed every minute of it. And behind the idealism of those Anglo-Catholic priests there was a spirituality of faithful priestly service, rather than preferment or treading carefully for one’s own advantage. Our crime was to pray and passionately believe in Christian unity, and the necessity for all Churches to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter.


One lesson we learn about the working of the Holy Spirit is how quickly and suddenly events can change. From age to age God raises up men and women to be outstanding witnesses of his love and power. Blessed John Paul II shook the rotten tree of communism and it all but collapsed. And in 1962, the year after I went to Lichfield, Blessed John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council. Suddenly, everyone was talking about unity with Rome. League members were no longer third columnists but prophets. Anglican observers rushed to the Council.


From Lichfield I went to study in Rome before my ordination and saw Archbishop Ramsey when he visited Pope Paul VI. Who could have predicted, who could have believed, the transformation that was taking place? ‘We have been like two quarrelsome sisters’, Pope Paul VI said. And the ARCIC dialogue began. We were so optimistic that the principal observer at the Vatican Council, Bishop John Moorman, said unity needed just ‘one step more’. We are now rather less sanguine, new obstacles have arisen, but we still believe ‘the Lord founded one church and one church only’[i], and the League will always witness to that. We shall never give up. ‘How is it possible to remain divided, if we have been ‘buried’ through Baptism in the Lord’s death’ appealed Blessed John Paul in an encyclical which took the League’s motto as its title, UT UNUM SINT.


There have been disappointments before, human efforts ending in failure. Some of you have seen, in St. Peter’s Rome, Bernini’s spectacular tribute to Pope Alexander VII, near the top of the left aisle? Deep in prayer, the Pope floats on flamboyant drapery of porphyry, while the allegorical figures of Justice, Prudence, Charity and Truth skip around him, as they did during his life. Charity cradles a child, and Truth – if you have seen the monument have you noticed what Truth is doing? – her left foot stands on a globe of the world. She is stamping on England.


What crime had England committed to be immortalised in marble? The Church of England had rejected thirty years of dialogue initiated by Archbishop Laud of Canterbury supported by the Bishop of Chichester. The plan was to end the schism between the Catholic Church and the Church of England by a scheme that would have allowed the Church of England to keep an English Liturgy, married priests and other patrimony. Familiar? The seeds of the Ordinariate were sown three centuries ago.


When the League was founded in 1913 it was heir to much prayer and belief that God wills all his followers to be united in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, which Jesus built on St Peter. Prayer and belief that intensified during the nineteenth century as an effect of the Oxford Movement. And now, at our Centenary, we can give thanks for the triumph of love over fear, and dwell on that. For, although we are hugely disappointed that ARCIC’s vision of full organic unity has not yet  been fulfilled, the foundation of the Ordinariates, as the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster both acknowledged, would not have been possible without the ARCIC dialogues of the past forty years. It is, as they both declared, a ‘consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion’[ii].


It seemed at first as though the ordination of women had ended the ARCIC dialogue. I suggested to Cardinal Hume when I met him at Walsingham, that Pope John Paul II must have been disappointed when the Church of England’s decided to ordain women. ‘He was angry’, the Cardinal told me. The Catholic Church had invested great hopes and expectations in the Catholic-Anglican dialogue.   Cardinal Kasper famously declared that the ordination of women bishops will lead not only to a short-lived cold, but to a serious and long-lasting chill. But this is proving to be very far from the case. The work of the Holy Spirit goes on. Unity is an imperative part of the prayer of Christ for his people.


So, where do we go from here? Can the Catholic League be prophetic again? Vatican II, in the Constitution of the Church, spoke of the Holy Spirit ‘bestowing upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts’.[iii] Many homilies this last weekend have been preached suggesting that Peter, the rock and leader, represents the hierarchic gifts of the Church, and Paul, its outstanding preacher, the charismatic. The ARCIC discussions have dealt almost exclusively with the hierarchic gifts, with doctrine, ministry, sacraments, the Petrine ministry, authority. And remarkable agreement and consensus has been achieved as a permanent legacy. The Catholic League has played her honourable part in promoting and explaining ARCIC’s Agreed Statements.


But the Council spoke of ‘charismatic’ gifts as well as ‘hierarchic’. It put new emphasis on the Priesthood of the Faithful. And since the Council we have witnessed the formation and flourishing of new ecclesial movements, over 200 of them in the Catholic Church, and some in the Anglican Church too. Preaching to 280,000 members, gathered in St Peter’s Square on Pentecost 2000, Pope John Paul II said, ‘The movements and new communities, providential expressions of the new springtime brought forth by the Spirit with the Second Vatican Council, announce the power of God’s love which in overcoming divisions and barriers of every kind, renews the face of the earth to build the civilization of love’. They are at the heart of the new evangelisation. I think the future growing into unity between our Churches will increasingly focus on the charismatic gifts, ‘overcoming divisions and barriers of every kind’.


Now, following all these new movements we even have an ‘evangelical pope’, a pope who shows that you can be both catholic and evangelical, a good friend of fellow-Argentinian Luis Palau, the successor to Billy Graham, who relates, ‘Whenever we pray together he says “lay your hands on me and pray for me, that God will keep me as servant”… He’s really centred on Jesus and the Gospel, the pure Gospel’. At his Wednesday audience a fortnight ago Francis told the crowd that he had spent 40 minutes that morning praying with an evangelical pastor. Pope Francis has spoken of preaching the Gospel of grace, warning that ‘when we leave grace a little to one side in our proclamation, the Gospel is not effective... Evangelical preaching flows from gratuitousness, from the wonder of the salvation that comes; and that which I have freely received I must freely give’.


In recent years Anglican evangelicals have become notably less hostile to the Catholic Church, which once they regarded as the scarlet woman.  Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal preacher, is a welcome preacher at Holy Trinity Brompton, and Cardinal Koch, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spent time there. Nicky Gumbel went to the Synod of New Evangelisation in Rome last year at which Archbishop Rowan Williams was invited to speak, and Alpha is spreading widely in the Catholic Church. Archbishop Welby and his wife are deeply involved with the new Catholic Movements, and spent a weekend before his enthronement with the Chemin Neuf Community in Switzerland. And when he met the Pope Francis they spent time praying and speaking of what God had done in their lives.


This is a new dialogue, a new ecumenical development, typical of the way in which the Holy Spirit surprises us. Pope John Paul II went so far as to say, ‘certain features of the Christian mystery have at times been more effectively emphasized’[iv] by those with whom we are not yet in union. There has never really been a spiritual dialogue between Anglican Evangelicals and Anglican Catholics, but now the opportunity is arising.  A spiritual dialogue, a dialogue of prayer; for the deepening the spiritual life is one of the objects of the League. And Jesus showed us in his prayer to the Father that prayer, not human effort, is the way to unity, and prayer for unity has always been at the heart of the League. The new movements in the Catholic Church illuminate this way and give us confidence, and my hope is that just as the Catholic League has for a century pioneered and continues to  lead the Anglican Church into a deeper understanding of the hierarchic nature of the Church, and the necessity of unity with the See of Peter, so it will now help the Church to grow into an ever-deepening appreciation of the charismatic gifts the Holy Spirit bestows upon us all, ‘building bridges from all sides towards reconciliation through the Catholic faith’[v]

Michael Rear, President
Catholic Church of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, LONDON
July 2nd, 2013

[i] Vatican II Unitatis Redintegratio, para. 1.

[ii] Joint Statement by the Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury, 20 October 2009.

[iii] Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, para. 4.

[iv] John Paul II, Ut unum sint, para. 14.

[v] Catholic League, Our Work, Catholic Ecumenism, para. 1.