The Anglican Papalist: a personal portrait of Henry Joy Fynes-Clintonby A.T. John Salter ; available from and published by the Anglo-Catholic History Society
Fr John Salter’s book delivers precisely what it claims to provide; a personal account of the priest who was for half a century the dominant figure in the Papalist movement within Anglicanism, and Founder of the Catholic League. It is not a work merely of scholarship ... not a half-baked spin-off from a DPhil thesis; you will search in vain for the detailed footnotes of a youthful scholar covering his back. Far more - for, in compensation, you will find yourself personally immersed in a period and in a person both known intimately to the author.
Anglican Papalists are often written up very engagingly and with due tribute to their eccentricities – as a body of people who appeared to pretend that they were Roman Catholics and whose deep sense of obedience to authority led them to disobey every maxim of the ecclesial body which paid them (perhaps unjustly, I have felt that this is the picture which emerges from the writings of Michael Yelton). Salter does not make this mistake. He perceives the deeply doctrinal significance of Fynes-Clinton’s life, and brings out what is creatively unusual in his witness. FC, for example, believed strongly that the See of Rome is the divinely appointed centre of unity; and that the decrees of the [first] Vatican Council are normative. But this in no way diminished his affection for the Orthodox East. Commonly, anti-papal Anglicans use Orthodoxy as a convenient weapon with which to attack the Papacy, while ultramontanes regard Orthodox as schismatics or worse. FC admired the Orthodox and secured their affection (and honours) by his unceasing hard work, especially for the troubled Serbian Church. But his ‘Romanism’ brought him into conflict with Canon J.A. Douglas and Mr Athelstan Riley and led to his removal from leadership in an Anglican-Orthodox society of which he had himself been one of the founders. FC instinctively realised the truth later to be expressed in the CDF document Communionis notio (1993): that, although ‘wounded’ by their separation from Rome, the Eastern Churches are true ‘particular churches’. He even planned for Hagia Sophia to be recovered from the Turks and handed over to the Orthodox rather than to Eastern Christians in communion with Rome! The little Orthodox chapel in the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham is an initiative of FC, just a few feet from the foundation stone of the Holy House, with its ‘papalist’ inscription (full text in Salter) which so infuriated the Bishop of Norwich. FC’s balanced stance, so obviously right to our way of thinking, represented in the inter-war years a rare combination.
Of very considerable importance – and relevance to our own times – is a document which Salter prints in full. Towards the end of 1932, in anticipation of the anniversary of the Catholic Revival, FC and Fr Robert Corbould composed a manifesto to which hundreds of papalist clergy subscribed. “In the modern Anglo-catholic movement much of the enthusiasm over the observance of the centenary cloaks a marked departure from the original Oxford principles ...” The authors describe the creeping influence of Modernism in matters Christological; the growth of Relativism (“mutual toleration of opposed teaching”).They disclaim the popular misconception that Catholic identity is assured “by revival of ceremony”. Firmly, they “reprobate the toleration and even positive support by certain Anglo-Catholics of the immoral sanction of artificial contraception given by many bishops at Lambeth”. Here are the authentic tones of S Pius X (Pascendi Dominici gregis) and the affirmation of Christian sexual mores by Pius XI (Casti conubii) and Paul VI (Humanae vitae). This manifesto anticipates by sixty years the current distinction between real Catholicism, resolutely counter-cultural, and the flaccid conformities of ‘Affirming Catholicism’. Inevitably, it concludes that “the real and essential goal is reunion with the Apostolic See of Rome ... the existence of the Church of England as a body separate de facto from the rest of the Catholic Church is only tolerable when it is regarded as a temporary evil”.
Salter’s book is to be unambiguously commended. By its pages you will live through the days when exiled East European royalty enlivened the social life of London, and you will be reminded by the heroic figure of St Elizabeth of the New Martyrs of the Communist Yoke of Russia, alias Her Imperial Highness Grand Princess Elizaveta, that Ruritania was not entirely a land of fopperies. You will meet the mysterious, little-known figure of the Jesuit bishop Michel d’Herbigny, who flutters through the period sabotaging ecumenism, playing off Greeks against Rumanians and Serbs against Russians and Catholics against Orthodox; who attempted unsuccessfully to infiltrate and sabotage the Malines Conversations. You may get some surprises: did you know that the Holy See was lobbying the British Government to stop Russia liberating Constantinople from the Turk and handing over Anatolia to Orthodox Hellenes? You will be shocked, I suspect, to know that Paul VI returned to the Turkish government the Ottoman flag captured at Lepanto. As our own day watches the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria being killed or driven into exile by a Western-encouraged ‘Arab Spring’, you may feel some sympathy with FC’s rhetoric about “the black trail of the Turk ... so hateful to the Englishman sickened with the massacres of Christians in these last years”. We who have been told so little about the realities of the ‘Kosovo’ problem, or the ‘enormity’ (FC’s word) of the Zionist appropriation of Palestine, may gain a more rounded understanding of how so many current problems arise from this little known yet comparatively recent period of history.
Should mainstream schools give up their endless courses about Nazi Germany and adopt Salter as the text-book for a new course enabling the kiddies to understand the world they are actually living in? No ... it would be too topical and too raw ... ‘Hitler’ is as safely irrelevant a syllabus as the Wars of the Roses.