Monday, 14 May 2007

Pigeonholing

I thought I would clarify an earlier post; I think I used the word 'Protestant' too freely. I think it's a Catholic bad habit, really, to lump all communions of the Reformation together as Protestant. Though many are happy with the term, not all Anglicans are, and it wouldn't be a good description anyway. If one accepts 'Protestant' as meaning one who holds the more classically Protestant doctrines, then that would be more accurate, and certainly more useful. No doubt in the past one could have classed most Anglicans that way (as evidenced in the monarch's oath to maintain the Protestant religion) but in more recent years (100 or so) I think that many Anglicans would side with us on most issues. This might not be true in other countries, however. The issue of women priests/gay clergy remains a thorny one, but the dialogue we have with Anglicanism on these subjects is quite different from the dialogue with 'classical' Protestants, who would entirely reject any notion of priesthood, and would base their arguments far more heavily on the Bible alone than would the Cof E. So I dare say it's better to write of Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics, and whether in dialogue or debate it's important to be accurate if dialogue and debate are going to be fruitful. Over-simple pigeonholing is likely merely to be offensive.

Thanks for all the comments: I've turned off comments now for this post as things were getting a little heated……

14 comments:

Henry Bloggins said...

Being Catholic is surely about being in sacramental communion with Christ, which presupposes the validity of sacraments, and above all the "authenticity" of Orders. Dominus Jesus would not even admit the Anglican communion to the rank of "a Church" but defines it as "Ecclessial Community". I am not sure that "Protestantism" is about adhering to the doctrines of Luther or Calvin, or even Cranmer or Bucer (most modern European "protestant" communities would not adhere to the classical doctrines of their founders)but about being out of communion with what has been handed on. In the Preface for Apostles there is the phrase, "from their place in heaven they guide us still", the ordination of women, gay clergy, contraception are significant but they are side issues, the central issue is are these communities in communion with the Apostles or do they "protest" against it.
Protestantism nowadays, as Newman might have suggested, is more about Liberalism, and the substition of modern social trends for the active and actual invlovement of God, through the active and actual involvement of the Apostles in the Tradition of the Church.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post - thank you and may I just say - keep on blogging regardless ;)

Anonymous said...

I read recently that 'Anglicanism as a system has been formally schismatic right from the begining, but that it only became formally heretical after the death of Henry VIII.'

Personally I do think of Anglicans as 'reformed Catholics'.

Michael Roper said...

"I think that many Anglicans would side with us on most issues."

Such as?
As a former AnglicanI suggest you obviously mean the Asumption, Immaculate Coneption, Infallibilty, Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture, the inspired nature of Tradition, the propitiary and sacrificial nature of the Mass, Indulgences, the necessity of confession, the reality of the Resurrection, Purgatory, the Virgin Birth, etc etc etc.
Or did you just mean Anglican Orders?
Now of course not even the dating of the Ascension is agreed upon.

Fr Justin said...

'Many' Anglicans, not most, Michael Roper; and indeed I do know many who would happily tick off most items in your list: I imagine you did when you were Anglican. It's just that those in the driving seat of the CofE wouldn't agree, for the most part. And, as you imply, they are in the majority.

Michael Roper said...

"I imagine you did when you were Anglican."
No Father, I did not believe these things when I was an Anglican, except in a most rudimentory sense. Nor when I sat upon my former Anglican Diocesan Council did I find many Anglicans, clergy or lay who did, except in the sense of having a committment to an Anglican memory, which seemed to me to be personalistic and subjective.
Most Anglicans, especially those "with clout" nowadays are fundamentally liberal protestants, and would adhere more to the Alpha course "tradition" than to that of the "Tradition".
I became a Catholic because as a GP I found no ethical direction for my work coming from the C of E, only the Catholic Church seemed to offer that direction and teaching.
Anglicanism is "Protestant", if we understand "Protestant" as being personalistic and subjective; there has never been a Protestant creed, only a Protestant mentality. Anglicanism seems to epitomise that mentality, and increasingly so.

philip said...

I'm not sure I would agree that, for example, Bishop Lindsay would characterise himself as a 'liberal protestant' - more as an Anglo-Catholic.

I would, however, agree that Anglicanism is a broad church where a number of 'interpretations' appear to be acknowledged and absorbed.

Understandably, variety is not for everybody. At least in the Catholic Church we are told what the absolute truths are, so everyone can conform without question or deviation.

Anonymous said...

Anglicans seem happy to call me a "Roman Catholic", or simply a "Roman". Why should they object to being calling "Protestant".

A bit of incense and few vestments, a purloined rite, it don't make ya Catholic! but having a Supreme Governor who takes an oath to defend the Protestant Religion and who would define herself as Protestant does!

Anonymous said...

I though Bishop (emerritus of Lindsay of Hexham and Newcastle) was a Catholic.

fr will said...

In my experience, Anglican dislike of being labelled by others as "Protestants" is roughly comparable to Catholic dislike of being labelled as "Roman Catholics". The term "Protestant" is not to be found in any C of E liturgy, foundational document, formulary or canon law. (Its use in the Monarch's coronation oath is a red herring, as that is a state ceremony rather than a C of E liturgy or formulary, and in any case the monarch has no authority whatsoever to determine doctrine, so whether or not Her Maj thinks of herself as a Protestant has no bearing on the ecclesiological self-understanding of Anglicanism.) Insisting on carrying on defining others using terminology which they themselves reject is not exactly the most constructive way of conducting dialogue - assuming, that is, that one thinks dialogue is preferable to name-calling.

As an Anglican priest, I would say that it is simultaneously the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of Anglicanism that it allows an enormous breadth of belief to exist under the one roof - it generally shuns any tendency to dogmatic definition and anathemas. So I happily believe and teach most if not all of Michael Roper's list (above), while accepting that my Evangelical colleague in the next parish would baulk at some of them. (I am, however, surprised at MR's inclusion of the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth - though there are certainly Anglican clergy who disbelieve those doctrines, and even teach others to do so, they can be in no doubt that in so doing they are placing themselves firmly beyond the bounds of normative Anglican faith.)

ARCIC's exploration, over the years, of the various controverted matters between our two communions shows that there is, at the very least, a significant proportion of Anglicans who do "side with [Catholics] on most issues", even if there is in some cases a lot of historical baggage bound up in use of particular terms (e.g. Infallibility and Purgatory) which manages to obscure the extent to which the essence of the concepts is actually held in common. I doubt very much whether the Catholic Church would find the same to be true in dialogue with other churches of the Reformation. That is why I believe that applying to Anglicans the label "Protestant", unless very heavily qualified, is simply inaccurate, unhelpful and overly simplistic, and (as Fr Justin says) "likely merely to be offensive" [my emphasis].

fr will said...

"Now of course not even the dating of the Ascension is agreed upon." I am very happy to say that Anglicans are in complete agreement with Rome on this matter (and incidentally also with scripture and tradition - both of which do actually matter to us!) If this means that we are sadly not in agreement with our Catholic brothers and sisters in England and Wales and the USA, may I suggest that this is something they may wish to take up with their own bishops' conferences?

Anonymous said...

Well said Fr Will!

btw there is a Bishop Lindsay in Sussex who may fit the Anglo-Catholic bill.

John said...

Fr Will, orthodox Catholic blogs are not about 'dialogue' with other 'traditions'. If you read the previous post I think you will find 'its not about ecumenism its about conversion'.

Henry Bloggins said...

"in any case the monarch has no authority whatsoever to determine doctrine,"
This is a bit mendacious, through Parliament the monarch gives ascent doctrinal issues. The ordination of women being one issue, the ratification of the official books of worship being another. Surely these are doctrinal.
I am not sure what place the the 39 Articles or the Book of Homilies has in the Church of England today but these too I think were given Royal Assent.