Wednesday, May 30, 2018

More From Guelzo On Anglo-Catholicism

I ran across another trenchant passage in For the Union of Evangelical Christendom, his history of the Reformed Episcopal Church:
The Reformed Episcopalians, like other Anglo-American evangelicals, sought to bend the weapons of reason to their own defense; Anglo-Catholicism sought to escape secularism by eluding, rather than affirming, the trammels of reason. As it turned out, neither in the long run could successfully fend away the shrinking walls of the house occupied by religion in the Victorian world. One telltale but subtle measure of the real intellectual distance between both parties occurs in the peculiar vocabulary of English and American Anglo-Catholicism. Like so many other nineteenth-century imperlialisms, Anglo-Catholicism invented a new language, full of arcana to Protestant ears, larded with "the Blessed Sacrament", "Father" as a term of clerical address, sanctuary lamps, ciboriums, crucifers, and so forth. The aggressive and provocative implications of Anglo-Catholic language are usually treated simply as one more instance of their urge to break lances with Protestant culture, and as such they leave little doubt about Anglo-Catholicism's inherent imperialism. What is more likely to be missed is how this clutter of terminology actually functioned as a short-circuit around rationality. The thicket of Anglo-Catholic religious language is, after all, strangely matched to the dearth of serious Anglo-Catholic religious speculation -- unless, of course, Anglo-Catholic language is recognized for what it was, an active and conscious repudiation of the theological rationalism so beloved of the Evangelicals, in favor of a dialect based on religious sentiment. (p 270)
I'm told that Prof Guelzo has been, at least off and on, a Reformed Episcopalian himself with definite Evangelical bias, and I attribute this at least in part to the view he takes here that Evangelicals are rationalist, which I simply don't see. On the other hand, in 30 years as an Episcopalian, I never heard anyone, clergy or lay, recommend that I read Aquinas, or for that matter (other than conventional references to the Confessions) Augustine. Certainly the appeal of Anglo-Catholicism in the 21st century is largely an emotional one, closely linked to prosperous upscale urban communities.

What Guelzo doesn't mention is that Catholic apologetics have been the most rationalist of any; I would cite only Ven Fulton Sheen, Patrick Madrid, and Bp Barron as recent examples. I would also say that Catholic priests strike me as remarkably matter-of-fact in talking of the sacraments -- the "precious Body and Blood" are generally not mentioned, but Protestant practices like feeding leftover consecrated bread to the birds are disparaged as just being kinda dumb.

And -- well -- every time I visit Fr Hunwicke's blog, I seem to hear faint strains of "Rule Britannia".