DOM GREGORY DIX, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE, AND THE NECESSITY OF THE PAPACY
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an Englishman – or at least a proper Englishman – dislikes ‘bells and smells’ in his churches.. And it is equally well-known by proper Englishmen that ‘High Churchmen’ are obsessed with those bells and those smells. What the Englishmen of my childhood – I’m looking back to the forties and fifties – were less clear about was that those High Churchmen fell into at least two distinct groups. There were those who thought that the Church of England was pretty well the best Church on earth; it just needed a few more bells and rather more pervasive smells in order to achieve total perfection. But in the other corner of the ring, wearing the red shorts, were the Papalists: men whose evil went far beyond even the most exotic smells; men, traitors to the Church of England, who actually believed in the Pope; fifth columnists of the enemy; Quislings. Such was the Henry Joy Fynes Clinton who, a hundred years ago – a hundred years ago to this very day, the feast of our Blessed Lady’s Visitation to S Elizabeth – founded the Catholic League; and, for a hundred years, its members have remained fifth columnists. I well remember the day when, a little fellow in my mid-teens, barely out of short trousers, I signed solemnly an impressive document committing myself to acceptance of the decrees of the Council of Trent and of the Vatican; including the provisions with regard to papal primacy and infallibility. By these means I became a member of the Catholic League – God’s best Fifth Column. I remember instantly feeling safe!
You always knew where there was a ‘safe’ – that is to say, papalist – church. It was not, as the Anglican on the top of a Clapham omnibus assumed, a question of incense and little tinkling hand-bells. What a proper ‘papalist’ church advertised was: ‘Full Catholic Privileges’ and ‘Western Rite’. ‘Western Rite’ was code for what Catholic canonists and liturgists now call the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. An Altar Book called the English Missal provided for its use, God’s own Latin being accompanied by some English and some assimilation of Cranmerian formulae; its first printed edition had emerged, incidentally, just one year before the foundation of the League. Papalism was in the air. That ‘Tridentine’ Mass fed the spirituality of Fynes Clinton and his fellow papalists, clerical and lay, for more than half a century. One such papalist, the celebrated Benedictine scholar Dom Gregory Dix, wrote, at the climax of his revolutionary book The Shape of the Liturgy, “of a certain timelessness about the Eucharistic action and an independence of its setting, in keeping with the stability in an ever-changing world of the forms of the liturgy themselves ... This very morning I did this with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday after Easter in the summer after he landed. Yet this can still take hold of a man’s life and work with it.” For myself, I never feel closer to Fynes Clinton and Dix ... and to S Augustine and S Gregory and Blessed John Henry Newman ... than when I stand at an altar to say their Mass, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. But it is not about Dix and Liturgy that I want to speak today. Six years before he signed off The Shape of the Liturgy... which rests upon the bookshelves of all of you, well thumbed and worn with use ... he wrote an extraordinary series of articles in the Nashdom periodical Laudate; which, unlike the Shape, have long been out of print. They are about the Papacy. I feel that they are due for resurrection. I feel that their time has come.
The occasion of these articles was the publication in 1936 of a book called The Roman Primacy to A.D.461 by Dr B J Kidd, Warden of Keble College, Dix’s own college; a Patristics scholar then at the height of his reputation. Kidd had concluded that the early Roman Primacy “was a primacy of leadership: more than a primacy of honour, though less than a primacy of jurisdiction”. I ask you to remember that these were the days before men spoke about ‘the Petrine ministry’; a common phrase then was ‘the Papal claims’: what a typically Anglican expression; how effortlessly superior ... you can just imagine the supercilious toss of the head, the disdainful sniff ... some Italian bishop, eh, claiming too much for himself. So Kidd’s conclusion was very welcome to many high church Anglicans. Thank God: we have an alibi; we can wait until Rome modifies her ‘claims’ before taking seriously the need for unity with her. Leadership ... not too much harm in that ... but not the jurisdiction claimed in Vatican I: “A primacy of jurisdiction, ordinary, immediate, and Episcopal”. Sighs of relief emerged from the lips of men who felt that they had been let off an uncomfortable hook. Dix, rather acidly pointed out that it was “hard to understand the cheerfulness” of the reactions “in certain quarters” since it implied acceptance of the permanence of disunity. I am not sure how truthful Dix is being when he calls it “hard to understand”; I suspect he understood well enough the visceral anti-Romanism of the English psyche; a gut prejudice still with us today.
Dix’s response to Kidd’s thesis has a characteristically feline quality to it. He has a talent for luring the reader into a sense of security, and then springing a deft ambush. He criticises Kidd’s Roman Catholic reviewers for exaggerating disputable factual points; he writes: “In point after point, as one turns from the documents to Dr Kidd’s summary, one cannot but envy the compression and justice with which he presents the events”. Full marks, you might think, for Kidd. So what is there left for Dix to do? “[W]hat I shall try to give is something more elusive than a sequence of events – a study of institutions in their theory and functioning”. How donnish; indeed, how ... er .... yawn-making. Surely, all a chap needs to know is whether he needs to resign his benefice, become a papist, and tell his wife (I think Eric Mascall’s verses on ‘the Ultra-Catholic’ conclude: “I would have gone last Thursday week Had not my wife objected”). Kidd has already Done the Business. Praise be to Kidd. But, after Dix has finished deploying “certain considerations which, I hope, illuminate and ‘situate’ Dr Kidd’s conclusions”, the reader will discover that the trap has been sprung and that, for those who have been led stage by stage along the path Dix has mapped, acceptance of the entire papal dogma, as defined in the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I is totally unavoidable.
Dix begins by arguing that the word and concept of ‘jurisdiction’ are anachronistic in the period before Nicaea. The ‘Early Church’ did not think in such terms. And, at this point, it is a good idea to remember three things about Dix. First: his training, and his first job as a don at Keble, were as a historian; second: his admiration for bishops – not least Anglican bishops – was ... not unqualified (this was the Dix for whom the symbol of a Bishop was a Crook; of an Archbishop, a Double Cross); third: that he had a weakness for the ad hominem argument. He loved dilemmas especially if they had really big and sharp horns. Putting it crudely, he liked seeing people wriggle. And all the more so if they wore gaiters. (Zucchetti had not at that point become fashionable among Anglican bishops.) So, when Dom Gregory questions the applicability in the first Christian centuries of the entire concept of ‘Jurisdiction’, we sense that he is moving in for a rather amusing kill. If the Early Church is to be followed in all things, then we cannot talk about papal jurisdiction. But: we cannot talk about Episcopal jurisdiction either. And Anglican bishops in those 1930s were terribly enthusiastic about their jurisdiction. Parliament had stymied their attempt in 1927/8 to discipline the Anglo-Catholic clergy by imposing a new Book of Common Prayer; and there was talk (derided by Dix in the Shape) about a bishop’s jus liturgicum (amusing, is it not, that so many folk regard the coining of a phrase in Latin or Greek as the best way of getting away with something dodgy). Episcopal authority was invoked to persecute Extreme Men; and the papalists, Fynes Clinton and his associates in the Catholic League, certainly counted as Extreme Men (you remember that when bishop Pollock objected to having his name linked with that of pope Pius XI on the foundation stone of the Holy House in Walsingham, it was the Bishop’s name which the Fynes Clinton and Hope Patten carefully obscured). Bishops did not merely dislike the Pope; they had a particular, and particularly intense, dislike of the Pope’s liturgy, the ‘Western Rite’, the Tridentine Liturgy which Dix and his fellow monks at Nashdom, together with the other papalists, used every morning. (When in 2007 Benedict XVI liberated the Extraordinary Form and his episcopal critics inside the Catholic Church started fuming and ranting, I as an elderly Anglican had a curious sense of déjà vu ... been here before, heard all this.) So when Dix argued that, not earlier than round about A.D. 390-410, Christian leaders became rulers with jurisdiction, he was in effect saying to Anglicans, ad hominem, “If you believe that bishops have jurisdiction, you can’t really make a fuss about popes having it as well. And if you dislike popes having jurisdiction, then you’ve also sawn through the branch that the Anglican bishops are sitting on.” Or, as he puts it himself, “Coming to Dr Kidd’s book fresh from a collection of early material on the episcopate ... I am a little surprised to find that his definition of the early papal primacy in the Universal Church corresponds very exactly with the estimate formed quite independently in my own notes of the local bishop’s primacy in the local church during the pre-Nicene period.” Sniggering, I am sure, up the sleeve of his monastic habit, he adds “If the comparison holds good, there is matter for serious consideration here” (this was the Dix who took the religious name Gregory in memory of Gregory VII, Hildebrand, “who deposed more bishops than any other man in history”).
The acute reader, however, might ask whether Christians should in any case be obliged de fide to accept – as Vatican I requires – a formulation of the Petrine ministry in terminology and in categories which, as Dix has freely admitted, were known little or not at all in the first three centuries. Here again, his answer has an ad hominem flavour to it. Anglicans – particularly Anglicans with patristic instincts – have always had a great regard for the first four Ecumenical Councils, and especially for that of Nicaea, at which the foundations were laid of the Creed which Latins, Byzantines, and Anglicans have all traditionally used at Sunday Mass. But “the Council of Nicaea ... define[d] the Godhead of the Son in terms of Greek metaphysics ... and the New Testament was not written by metaphysicians”. So, if you take your Christology decked out in a metaphysical cope by Nicaea, you can hardly complain about taking your Papal primacy arrayed in the underpants of Canon Law by Vatican I. “They were in both cases the only terms practically available ... it at least arguable that in both cases the Council succeeded in preserving the whole of the original truth, while putting it into a quite different dress from that in which it was originally presented. No one would deny that there has been development in both cases. But it is a true development, as I see it, bringing out only what was implicit and in germ in the original conception, and guarding it from misunderstanding and error.”
Dix’s most spectacular tour de force comes when he discusses the pope’s ‘primacy of jurisdiction, “ordinary, immediate, and Episcopal”’ in every diocese in Christendom. He entices us to toy with dissent: “It is so unlike the powers we Anglicans concede to a primacy!” However, you know your Dix by now; he is clearly preparing to pounce.
He goes on: “But is it?”. He tells the story of “a bishop in the Province of Canterbury [who] refused to institute a priest to a benefice, for reasons which were found upon question to be illegal ... The priest was ultimately instituted by the Archbishop as Primate. That was an act of jurisdiction in another man’s diocese. It was an act of ‘ordinary’ jurisdiction, since the Archbishop had an indisputable right, in the circumstances, to do it. It was an act of ‘immediate’ jurisdiction, since he did not act as the bishop’s delegate, but against his protests. It was an act of ‘episcopal’ jurisdiction, since it conveyed cure of souls”. Dix may be referring to a fairly recent case involving Archbishop Lang and the extreme modernist Bishop Barnes of Birmingham, but I prefer to think that he has in mind a cause celebre of the Victorian period. In 1847, the High Church Bishop of Exeter, Henry Phillpotts, refused to institute an Evangelical clergyman , the Revd G C Gorham, to a benefice in his jurisdiction, because Gorham did not believe in the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration expressed in the formularies of the Church of England. Upon appeal, the Privy Council found for Gorham, and Archbishop Sumner instituted him, over the head of Phillpott’s protests (and even his threat to excommunicate anyone who should institute Gorham). Notice the exquisite ironies here. Dix is deftly reminding us that it was an Evangelical who caused an Evangelical (and indeed anti-Catholic) Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise the “ordinary, immediate, and episcopal” jurisdiction which Vatican I attributed to the Roman Pontiff. (It was this scandal, incidentally, which caused the future cardinal Henry Manning to become a Catholic.) But Dix also has the ‘non-Papal Catholics’ in his sights. These people held what has sometimes been called a ‘Cyprianic’ view of the episcopate: namely, that each bishop is supreme in his diocese and not subject to interference from any bishop whomsoever wherever else. Dix is saying: “If you can’t accept the decrees of Vatican I which give the Pope ordinary immediate and episcopal jurisdiction in another man’s diocese, how can you accept the polity of the Church of England – which gives precisely the same to the Archbishop of Canterbury?” He concludes: “In other words, the whole Vatican definition of a primacy is latent in the harmless Anglican conception, for use when needed. It is the minimum definition, in juridical terms, of a power of effectually representing the mind of the whole towards a part. Less than that could hardly be predicated of the admitted ‘norm’ of Christian belief, once juridical conceptions of Christian authority had been admitted”.
There is one difference of emphasis between Gregory Dix and Henry Fynes Clinton which has always intrigued me. Clinton, despite his robust and unbending papalism, had a very soft spot for the Byzantine Orthodox. I have not seen any evidence of how he reconciled in his own mind his own ecclesiology with the anti-Romanism of quite a few of his Orthodox friends. But Dix, although fond of Orthodox and respectful of their witness to Christian truth, did not share the romantic attachment to the East felt by many Anglicans (particularly by those who found the ‘non-Papal Catholicism’ of the Orthodox a useful stick with which to beat Rome). He certainly had no sympathy with sentimental Westerners who believed that the Orthodox Liturgy was somehow more ancient and venerable than that of the Roman Rite. He had little inclination to make a fetish of an Epiclesis of the Spirit in the Eucharistic Prayer. He once wrote about the Traditional Roman Rite which he passionately loved as “so venerable, and so poetic yet so usable” ; about the preservation in the Roman liturgical books of “an incomparably larger body of genuinely primitive – and by this I mean not merely pre-Nicene but second and even first century – Christian liturgical material ... than any
other extant liturgical documents”. He also had little time for the commonplaces of Orthodox anti-Roman polemic. He disposes of the claim that the Roman Primacy had anything to do with the status of Rome as the imperial Capital, and points out that this theory is not found before the foundation of New Rome at Constantinople made it convenient(“the pedigree of [Constantinople’s] bishops from St Andrew .... had not yet been forged. [It] owed its position solely to the Caesars ...”). Among Orthodox, Anglicans, and ‘liberal’ Catholics, Conciliarism is sometimes offered as an alternative to Papalism; Dix’s account of Nicaea begins with the statement that it “came before the Christian world of its own day with no background of theory concerning the infallibility of ‘General Councils’” and ends thus: “[T]he whole superstructure of theory concerning ‘General Councils’ and their place and authority in the government of the Church, which was afterwards built up by the Eastern Church and by the Conciliar movement in the West, was simply non-existent in A.D. 325”. (I wonder what Dix would have made of the view of Paul VI that Vatican II was “more important than Nicaea”.) It is the premise of his Laudate articles that the Papacy was there, and active, and delivering great services to Christendom, long before the bogeys of Caesaropapism and Conciliarism enter Church History. (A modern parallel occurs to me: while the second Vatican Council was rearranging the deck-furniture on the barque of S Peter, and sending out to the ‘World’ messages of cheerful optimism, it was left to the Papacy, in Humanae vitae, to spot the iceberg and issue a defence of Christian sexual ethics.)
In 1993, a great Pontiff Benedict XVI, at that time Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent to the Catholic Bishops a document called Communionis notio, in which he wrote: “[C]ommunion with the universal Church, represented by Peter’s successor, is not an external complement to the particular [local] Church, but one of its internal constituents ...” The Communio Petri is not something which merely binds the individual Churches together as a federation and operates on each one from outside, but a factor which belongs to the inherent internal structure of each Church. Dix expressed this idea in a paper, unpublished and undated, in the following words: “No one, I think, will deny that the papacy, by whatever title, has consistently exercised a great external directive influence upon the actual course of Christian history, greater than that of any other single Christian force. But it has also exercised a more subtle though no less powerful influence upon the internal life of the Church, comparable with that of a gland in the life of a body.” Glands, of course, were a more fashionable talking point among Thirties intellectuals than they are nowadays. But it is clear what Dix – and Ratzinger – mean. Just as every part of our bodily constitution is affected by our kidneys, our livers, our pancreas, so the papacy has a direct effect upon every member of Christ’s Mystical Body. To Fr Maurice Bevenot SJ, Dix explained : “[W]hat I am trying to get at is the fact that the Papacy is organic to the Church”. I feel that this is an important perception. One might link it with Dix’s fascinating demonstration, in the same paper, that so many of the epithets which S Ignatius of Antioch attributes to a Bishop in the local Church, are assigned to the Roman Church in the context of the Universal Church. What the diocesan Bishop is to his own Church, the Roman Church is to the Oikoumene.
One might ask why, when so much ink has been spent for so many centuries discussing, on all sides, the ‘Papal claims’, we should take much notice of the writings of one Anglican theologian and a comparatively small group of Anglican Papalists. I can think of two answers. Firstly, in the case of Dix, his perceptions seem to me often brilliant, often to suggest approaches which have not occurred to anybody else before or since. My second response would be this. Until the age of Hans Kueng, it was expected that Roman Catholic writers would defend the papal doctrines; that non-Catholics would attack them. If you told me that a Catholic theologian had defended the Papacy, my reply might have been rather like that of Miss Mandy Rice-Davies during the Profumo scandal – when told in court that Lord Astor had denied her allegations – “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”. Similarly, that non-Catholics should deny the claims of the Roman See and should dispute the evidence for its primacy in the first centuries would hardly seem shatteringly strange. But that Anglicans – or some of them – should come to an acceptance of the whole Papal package, as defined in 1870 under Blessed Pius IX by the First Vatican Council, must, surely, be noticeable. A Roman Catholic theologian (at least before the age of Hans Kueng) might be thought to have advanced his reputation or even his career by a particularly adept defence of the prerogatives of the Roman See. But the Anglican Papalists, by their witness to the Petrine Ministry, rendered themselves unpopular; and by their adherence to the liturgical rites of the Roman Church, they invited – and received – episcopal persecution and detestation. Their witness was strengthened by the fact that they had nothing to gain – and a great deal to lose – by adopting it. I suggest that this is still as true. I think many of us were moved when his Grace Archbishop Mennini spoke, after our last Chrism Mass, about the sacrifices many priests and laypeople made in order to achieve the ultimate aim of the Catholic Revival, Unity with the See of S Peter, in the Ordinariate.
I hope you will forgive me for suggesting that the Papalist movement which led to the foundation of the Catholic League by Fr Fynes Clinton one hundred years ago today, was not the first such movement in the Church of England. The records of the two or three decades leading up to the Canterbury Convocation of February 1559, three months into the deplorable reign of Elizabeth Tudor, (‘Bloody Bess’, as I think of her) afford remarkable parallels to events in the Church of England since 1992. Perhaps I could remind you of the situation. Convocation was meeting in S Paul’s Cathedral, under the presidency of Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London (the See of Canterbury being vacant). A few miles up the Thames, Parliament was dealing with a government agenda which involved dismantling the entire reconstruction of the English Church left in place by Reginald Pole, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, and by Good Queen Mary. Presumably, the Bishops commuted by barge up and down the river between the City and Westminster. Rarely can the stakes have been as high; rarely can English Churchmen have been faced by such uncomfortable dilemmas. And rarely have English Bishops and Clergy conducted themselves with as much courage and principle as did the bishops in the Upper House, and the Proctors of the Lower House, on this occasion. I think it is worth remembering why.
Bonner had been a crony of Henry VIII; one of those clerics who supported him in his matrimonial enterprises and helped to provide backing for his breach with Rome. Elizabeth Tudor, indeed, angrily asked him why he could not be as helpful to her as he had been to her father. Bonner and the accommodating clergy of Henry’s reign did not have the advantage of hindsight. English kings had tangled with popes before. English kings had cast covetous eyes upon the Church’s estates before. It was not the end of the world. And, at first, things moved gradually. There was, arguably, never one exact moment at which it was clear that men of principle could no longer tolerate the government’s policies. Even S Thomas More, it appears, had to spend quite some time buried in his books before he felt completely confident in his mind that the Petrine Ministry was a matter of principle, a matter of divine institution. But in the reign of Henry’s successor Edward VI, things moved faster. In came the 1549 Prayer Book; Bonner had had enough and left Fulham Palace for the Marshalsea prison. But another ‘Catholic’ bishop, Stephen Gardiner, struggled on, claiming that ‘1549’ adequately expressed the Catholic Faith. So ‘1549’ was replaced by ‘1552’ and its more explicit blasphemies. What the ‘Henrician Catholic’ bishops thus learned – and learned the hard way – was that one thing leads to another; that deserting the Bishop of Rome is not some little thing that does not really make much difference to ordinary parish and diocesan life. The legislation of 1533 led inexorably to the stripping – and, indeed, the dismantling – of the altars.
Upstream in Westminster, the surviving Primate, Archbishop Hethe of York, defended in Parliament the Primacy and authority of the Roman See. In doing so, he admitted that that the current Pontiff Paul IV, Giovanni Pietro Carafa, was a very unpleasant person; indeed, Carafa had hindered, one might almost say sabotaged, the Marian restoration of Catholicism in this country. Cardinal Pole had died stripped of his Legatine Commission and summoned to Rome on a suspicion of heresy by a Pope who described Pole’s associates as an ‘apostate household’ little better than Luther; Queen Mary had died at war with the Papal States. Yet Archbishop Hethe manfully upheld the doctrinal and religious necessity of Communion with the Holy See. He, and his fellow bishops, so supine under Henry VIII, had learned from their experiences and, we might say, had acquired backbones. So, on Saturday February 25 1559, the very day when the House of Commons sent up to the House of Lords a Bill designed to enact both the Royal Supremacy and the restoration of a Prayer Book, the Canterbury Convocation enacted its own legislation: what we might call the Five Articles of the Church of England. The first three Articles unambiguously asserted the doctrines of Transubstantiation and of the Sacrifice of the Mass; the Fourth Article declared that “to Peter the Apostle and to his legitimate successors in the Apostolic See, as to Christ’s Vicars, has been given the supreme power of feeding and ruling Christ’s Militant Church, and confirming his brethren”. And Article Five? It engaged explicitly with Parliament and declared that “The authority of dealing with and defining about those things which concern the Faith, the Sacraments, and the Discipline of the Church has hitherto always belonged and ought to belong only to the pastors of the Church, whom the Holy Spirit has placed in God’s Church for this purpose, and not to laypeople”. The Anglican Papalist Convocation of 1559 deserves to be better remembered for its heroic martyrion to the Truth; never in English history has a Convocation so fearlessly stood up to a government.
I want to suggest to you that there are uncanny parallels between these events and the happenings in the Church of England since the early 1990s. Again, error and apostasy have won the day by the gradualism with which they have advanced. It has seemed difficult to pinpoint the exact moment at which it becomes impossible for men and women of principle to stay where they are. In 1992, General Synod legislated for Women Priests; some distinguished figures left (including the prophetic figure of Bishop Graham Leonard), but most of us stayed and waited to see “what the leaders of the Catholic Movement will do”. Only gradually did it become clear that those ‘leaders’ had no rabbit and, to be quite frank, not even a hat to hide one in. So the women were canonically ordained to sacerdotal ministries; and we made do with PEVs, with assurances, and with the ‘principle’ of ‘discernment’. Gradually, it became clear that the assurances, although given in good faith, could not withstand the pressure which was building up against them. And the gradualist movement towards the admission of women to the Anglican episcopate became more and more determined. Moreover, within our ‘constituency’, a gradual change was taking place. Clergy and laypeople who were not particularly well-known for their adherence to the full red-blooded Papalist agenda as mapped out by Fr Fynes Clinton and maintained by the Catholic League, began to understand, from their experience of General Synod Religion, that we need what Blessed John Henry Newman called the remora of Rome; Rome as a breakwater against the incursion of error; Rome as a protection against disordered innovation. Some quite surprisingly ‘moderate’ High Churchmen seemed to grow quiet and thoughtful ... and murmured in your ear that they “had submitted their dossiers to Rome”. They had learned the same lesson that Bishop Bonner had learned between 1533 and 1559. Then came our ‘February 1559’ moment, when Bishop Andrew Burnham, a member of the Catholic League, called upon the Holy Father Pope Benedict for help; and help was indeed not denied. Pope Benedict had witnessed the events of the 1990s when our hopes and labours for a ‘corporate solution’ were unfulfilled because of influences nearer home less sympathetic than his. Benedict had learned the lesson of the 1990s; now he kept his own counsel while he worked quietly and with determination until his solution was ready. Then, as Universal Pastor, he gave it to us and to the Universal Church; and waited for the commotion to begin.
In 1559, the English diocesan bishops and most of the senior clergy declined to conform to the Elizabethan establishment (it was to be a little like that in 1689). Exile and prison became their only options. But many of the lower clergy stayed on. They had seen successive governments making changes in the national religion which sometimes only lasted months, and they lacked the hindsight, which we enjoy, of knowing that this change was permanent. They stayed on, and they grumbled on. It is not fair to call them Vicars of Bray or to regard them as unprincipled; but those of you who have read Eamon Duffy’s The Voices of Morebath will be familiar with the figure of the good Parish Priest who bunkers down and waits for better days, serving his people as faithfully as he can under an alien regime, hoping against hope that Henry’s bastard daughter will either die young or marry a Catholic Prince or change her views. And the process and problems of Gradualism are still at work in the Church of England today. Will the point of principle for Catholic Anglicans be reached when General Synod has legislated for Women Bishops? Or when the first women are consecrated? Or when the first women diocesans are appointed? Or when my own diocesan is a woman? Or when some set of ‘Assurances’ is modified? Or when some Code of Conduct is abolished? Or when ordinands are turned away unless they undertake to collaborate ‘collegially’ with women pastors? Gradualism carries many people along in modest comfort and ensures that their journey is never that little bit too bumpy; and thus the kairos for decision and departure seems never to present itself quite explicitly enough.
We naturally remember our fathers – and mothers – in Faith who have faced dilemmas before; in 1559, perhaps, or after the Dutch Invasion, or because of the Jerusalem Bishopric, or the Gorham Judgement, or the Church of South India question which so preoccupied Fr Fynes Clinton and Dom Gregory. In a sense, those crises prefigured the problems of the 1990s. The difference, of course, is that those periodical crises did not as radically disorder the claim of the Church of England to possess the Catholic Ministry (and thus to be an association of true ‘particular churches’) as does the integration of women into the three ranks of the Sacrament of Order; which must inevitably be as irreversible as the processes involved in constructing an omelette. So, here we are in the Ordinariate; and, from our new vantage-point, surely we are free to see the Carolines and the Non-jurors as beloved parts of our Anglo-Papalist, our Ordinariate Patrimony whom we take with us; and the Tractarians; and that great Separated Doctor of the Catholic Church Edward Bouverie Pusey; and the ‘slum priests’ who went and built the churches and the congregations in the squalor of the Victorian slums. Today we particularly celebrate the devoted witness of the priests and people of the Catholic League, who maintained ‘Full Catholic Privileges’ and the ‘Western Rite’ from 1913 onwards. We owe them the most immense debt of gratitude for their work and their sufferings. One thinks of figures like Fr Bernard Walke, at S Hilary in Cornwall, standing in front of his tabernacle as a Protestant mob menaced it and him with pickaxes; and Fr Sandys Wason finding the decaying corpse of a donkey dumped on his doorstep. More recently, we recall the labours by which Bishop John Broadhurst, and my own friend the late Bishop John Richards, in a time of desolation built up a people for the Lord. We thank God that Admiral Ratzinger appointed one Keith Newton to be Captain of the good ship Ordinariate ... a pocket battleship? An Aircraft Carrier?
And – I have tried to suggest to you – we have what Colin Buchanan called the “mischievous, maverick, learned perversity” of Dom Gregory Dix. Dix has bequeathed to us his distinctive, and distinctively Anglican, account of why the Petrine Ministry is an essential and central part of what it means to be a Catholic Christian. I believe that this account is his and our gift to the ecumenical process.