Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Do We Mean When We Say "Anglican Patrimony?" -- IV

A visitor has very helpfully and generously been sending me a series of reading recommendations that are beginning to amount to a graduate seminar on certain aspects of Anglicanism, for which, and for whose personal insights, I am deeply grateful. One of his recent suggestions is Peter Nockles's The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship 1760-1867. What would we do without Amazon used books?

In the past several posts, I've referred to three strains of Anglicanism, High, Low, and Broad, but these strains can be further subdivided, and their emphasis changes over time. Just one of Nockles's points is that prior to the Oxford Movement, the High Church faction was not dormant, and it was represented by groups like the Henley Phalanx and the Hutchinsonians. (A web search on both comes up completely empty, showing the limits of even our latest technology.)

Nockles traces the roots of the Oxford Movement in part to controversies within the High Church faction over how to react to both the American and French Revolutions, which led in turn to controversies over the Reform Acts of 1828-1832, which, by providing civil rights to Catholics and Protestant dissenters, raised questions on whether the Church of England could still be considered, either de facto or de jure, established. These questions either had different applications, or were completely irrelevant, in countries like Scotland and the US, where the Church of England had never been established.

Nockles also brings up a fascinating contrast between Oxford thinkers and earlier Latitudinarian thinkers of the 18th century, especially William Paley, whose watchmaker analogy has been revived as part of the Intelligent Design controversy. The Tractarians offered some disagreement to Paley, very much like the contemporary Thomist philosopher Edward Feser. This discussion could conceivably be helpful in moving the theistic case against scientific naturalism forward. It seems to me that this is just one example of how complex Anglican thought has been over time and the contribution that might be made in bringing Catholic thought into closer contact with it.

This could potentially offer some insight into the question of what "Anglican patrimony" really is. My main difficulty is that the Ordinariate figures I've encountered here just recently, from Bartus to Hunwicke to Wolfe, strike me as utterly incapable of addressing anything like these issues. Recent ordinands or candidates seem to have, if anything, still lower mental capacity, which has probably been a point in their favor with the Houston clique. The one Anglican cleric I know of interested in the Ordinariate who is fully capable of a discussion on issues like this, Fr Christopher Kelley, doesn't appear to have equivalent prospects.

A strong case can probably be made for something besides an ugly and unwieldy liturgy that can legitimately become Catholic as "Anglican patrimony". The question is whether the current collection of hacks and careerists who seem to be running the Ordinariate show in the US and Canada can deal with it.