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English Catholicism
An Explanation of the Principles and Aims of the Anglican Society

by the Reverend C.B. Moss, D.D.

An Address delivered at the seventh Annual Meeting of the Anglican Society, October, 1931.
Reprinted from The English Catholic, Vol. iv. No. 15.

We of the Anglican Society stand, first of all, for the Catholic Religion. We are Catholics, not only in the strict sense, in which all members of the Church of England are Catholics, but also in the popular or party sense. We accept the Creeds, we obey the laws, we use the sacraments, of the Church Universal, and of the Anglican Communion in particular. We are trying to live the Catholic life as it is everywhere understood. For instance, we believe ourselves bound to assist in the offering of the Holy Eucharist on all Sundays and chief Holy Days: and though we do not want to enforce our practice on our fellow Churchmen, we do, ourselves, make our confession to a priest. We hold that the Church's marriage law is of Divine command. We keep the feast and fast days, and the other rules of the Church. If anyone can claim the title of Catholic, we can.

This is where our position differs from that of the "Westminster Group." There is no opposition between us and that party; some of us, probably, are members of it. But the Westminster Group is composed, and is intended to be composed, of people of different views, agreeing to put "Church before party." We are not a combination of people of different views. We are agreed about our "views," and we are out to propagate them. Also, the Westminster Group is a party, with its own candidates for the Church Assembly. Our work does not lie in that field. We are not out to promote any special legislation, but to promote a particular outlook, a particular way of carrying out the existing laws. That is another difference between us and the Westminster Group. We are not the same kind of society.

But if we are Anglo-Catholics, why are we not content with the other Anglo-Catholic Organizations, the Church Union, S.Y.A., C.B.S., and so on. Why form a new society?

Because we think that there is a great deal in the Anglo-Catholic Movement which is neither Catholic nor "Anglo." We are inside the Anglo-Catholic Movement, not outside, and our aim is to maintain and to propagate its true principles, and to fight against, and if possible destroy, certain errors which have been foisted into it.

To explain clearly what I mean, I must go back into history four hundred and twenty years.

At that period, the eve of the Reformation, Western Christendom (let me beg you, incidentally, never to allow the phrase, "the Western Church" to pass unchallenged; there is not, there never has been, one Western Church: there is one Catholic Church, and there are local churches, some of which may be called Western)--Western Christendom, I say, was admittedly in a very bad condition. All men of good will were demanding "reform of the Church in head and members." And there were three ways in which that reform was carried out, three ways incompatible with one another, because starting from different principles.

There was the way of Luther, which was Revolution. The existing Church was done away with, the new national or sectarian bodies, without any claim to historic connexion with the old Church, were set up in its place. The standard of doctrine was the Bible as interpreted by each individual: which meant, in practice, by the great Reformers and their successors.

There was the way of Loyola, which was Counter-Reformation. The most scandalous of the abuses were removed; the existing doctrinal system, with its medieval additions to the original faith, was re-affirmed and declared irreformable: the standard of faith was asserted to be Scripture and Tradition, interpreted by the Pope: the central authority of Rome was enormously strengthened, and at the same time purified; great efforts were made to educate the clergy, to raise their spiritual level, and to identify the Catholic and Roman religion with the best learning of the time. At the same time, intellectual and political freedom were severely restrained, and the Church became identified with obscurantism and autocracy, with all that is associated in our minds with the Pope, the Jesuits and the Inquisition.

All over Europe, these two camps faced one another, as they do still, Luther and Loyola, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Bible and the Mass. We believe that both were wrong; that though each produced great saints, and though there is still much to be learned from both, both were one-sided, and therefore false, and that the lamentable state of Christendom to-day is chiefly due to these two great aberrations from the primitive faith.

But there is a third way, which the Church of England, half-consciously, with much stumbling and inconsistency, pursued in isolation. Here the ancient Church remained, with many of the ancient abuses: but there was no irreformable Council, and no bolstering up of medieval accretions. The standard of faith was the Bible, as interpreted, not by the individual, but by the ancient undivided Church, and, within those limits, by the Church of England. Hindered by all kinds of obstacles of which her isolation was not the least, and by the presence in her midst, and even among her rulers, of many who did not accept, or did not even understand her principles, the English Church, by the special providence of God, preserved for the modern world the Catholic Faith without medieval accretions or irreformable decrees; the Mass and the open Bible; the sacramental system with intellectual freedom.

The Oxford Movement was the late breaking into flower and fruit of what the English Church had always been meant to be, but had been hindered by too close connexion with the increasingly secular modern State.

Now it is this that we stand for: the principles, the outlook of Anglicanism, as it was developed by the Caroline Divines, as it reached its full development in the Oxford Movement, as it cams to terms with the modern world in the "Lux Mundi" group. We stand for the inheritance of Andrewes and Laud, of Bramhall and Ken, of Keble and Pusey, of Church and Moberly and Scott Holland: and our principles may be summed up thus:--

1. The supremacy in matters of faith of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Councils of the Undivided Church.

2. The right and duty of the Church to accommodate its teaching to modern knowledge, within the limits of the Catholic Faith.

3. The right of national churches to govern themselves, and to decide, for their own members, all questions of doctrine and discipline, without interference, within the limits set by Holy Scripture, the doctrinal decrees of the Councils based upon it, and the necessity of preserving the validity, or universal recognition, of Sacraments.

In saying this, we do not ignore the faults of our Church: of which the gravest is, that she has lost the English people. Historically, that loss was the consequence of the 18th century, not of the 16th: the result, not of Anglican principles, but of the fact that the Church has never had a fair chance to develop those principles on a large scale, and with freedom from political control.

The Oxford Movement is the starting point of Anglican Church life as we know it. What was the Oxford Movement? James Anthony Froude, M. Thureau-Dangin, and Mr. Spencer Jones alike assure us, that it was the belated appearance in England of the Counter-Reformation. The best authorities, however, from Dean Church to Canon Ollard, have shown clearly that the Oxford Movement had nothing to do with the Counter-Reformation, but was based on completely different principles. And what we are here to fight, by every means in our power, is the invasion of the Anglican Churches by the influence of the Counter-Reformation, founded as it is on the Council of Trent.

That Council is the basis of nearly all we call Romanism as distinct from Catholicism. It introduced a new principle, contrary to the teaching of the Fathers, when it set Tradition, as an independent source of dogma, alongside Holy Scripture, and gave Rome the right to decide what is true tradition. On this foundation it proceeded to make a number of new dogmas necessary to salvation, none of which can be proved from Scripture, and some of which are contrary to Scripture: and to settle questions of discipline irreformably, so as to limit the liberty of local churches and of individuals. It declared itself infallible, and consequently has been ever since an insuperable barrier to re-union. Our three principles which I mentioned before are all contrary to the decrees of Trent: for it has

1. set Tradition alongside Scripture as an additional source of dogma;

2. given the Pope the power to limit intellectual freedom, a power used by Pius IX in the Syllabus Errorum (1864), which declared war on all modern thought, and by Pius X in the anti-Modernist Oath, which enforced Fundamentalism in the Roman Communion;

3. made all local churches and hierarchies the slaves of Rome, so that all their affairs, even to the minutest details, are controlled from the centre.

Gallicanism became confined to the maintenance of special privileges for national churches in certain countries, and so was a mere survival after Trent, and was only kept in being by the power of the Kings of France; it was finally destroyed by the Vatican Council. The Infallibility and Universal Episcopate of the Pope, decreed by the Vatican Council, are the logical corollaries of Trent; the Old Catholics, when they rejected them, were compelled to reject the authority of Trent too, and this alone is what has made re-union between them and us possible.

Therefore, if I wanted to give you a slogan, in the best General Election manner it would be


Our repudiation of Trent, and of Tridentine principles, methods, and atmosphere, in doctrine, discipline, and devotion, must have an outward and visible sign. This we find in the English Use.

Let me be quite clear about this. We are not medievalists. We do not advocate all the ceremonial used in Salisbury Cathedral in the 14th century, still less the re-introduction of the Sarum Rite.

I have the greatest respect for the ancient and illustrious Church of Sarum in whose cathedral, I am happy to say, the vestments are worn and the altars are all arranged according to the English Use: but it is Sarum of the 20th, not the 14th century!

The English Use is the Book of Common Prayer, with such ornaments and ceremonies as were in use in England when it was first made, and are capable of being used with it. We ardently maintain the right of the English Church to develop her rites, ceremonies and ornaments, as she chooses, and for that and other reasons most of us welcome the Liturgy of 1928: but we insist that the point at which to begin is the point which our development had reached when it was interrupted by Calvinism, namely 1549, and not any later developments in the Churches of the Counter-Reformation.

The reason that we insist on the English Use is not only that it is our duty as Catholics to obey our lawful superiors, who are in our case the Synods of Canterbury and York, or other Anglican provinces: nor only because it is far more beautiful, as well as on the whole more practical, than the ill-fitting ceremonies and ornaments borrowed from foreign models; (some of which even Father Adrian Fortescue calls "eighteenth century bad taste," and which the most intelligent Roman ritualists are trying to get rid of); but also, because the English Use is the outward and visible sign of our principles. When I see an "English Altar" with riddels and two candles on the mensa, my thought is not, "This is correct," or even "This is beautiful," but "Here they evidently believe in the principles of the Oxford Movement and not in those of the Counter-Reformation."

Is this insular, or schismatical? Only if you believe, as I fear great numbers of Anglo-Catholics do believe subconsciously, that Romanism is "the real thing," and that outside the English-speaking world all Christians worth mentioning are Romanists.

I do not want to bring re-union into our domestic controversies, but we who have friends and fellow-workers in the cause of re-union in every country from Sweden to Syria can hardly be called insular in our outlook or schismatic in our aims.

This is the way of looking at things which I think we should be propagating; and it is very different from a great deal that can be read in Anglo-Catholic literature. We have got a difficult task before us, because our opponents have got a long start; and yet I believe we are really in a majority, but the majority is unorganised, whereas the other side is highly organized and enthusiastic.

I will conclude with a few suggestions as to the lines on which we should work.

First, I think we should not lay too much emphasis on aesthetics. If people get to think we are "arty," they will never take us seriously; and if we are just a set of people who want to substitute albs for cottas and riddels for retables, we shall be justly accused of fiddling while Rome is burning. The times arc far too serious for folly of that sort. No one is keener on the English Use than I am, or more certain that we need an outward sign, a banner as it were: but we must recognise that those who hold our principles and will fight for them are on our side, even if they have six candles, yes, even if they wear birettas!

Secondly, we must fight on the field of psychology, not merely of reason. Our arguments seem to us unanswerable, yet they don't always convince; because people are very seldom convinced by argument. We have got to create an atmosphere for our arguments, and to bear in mind the psychology of the particular persons we want to convert.

Thus it is generally useless to appeal to Anglo-Catholics on the ground of obedience to rubrics. English people in general have no great love for law, except when it is a safeguard for their own liberty, or a means of restraining somebody else! In particular the Anglo-Catholic Movement, ever since the P.W.R. Act, has had in it a large revolutionary element. The men who have had most influence in it, Stanton, Holland, Bishop Weston, have been men of strongly radical outlook. Therefore, most Anglo-Catholics, unlike foreign Catholics, are progressives, if not revolutionaries, and we must not try to convince them on grounds which only appeal to conservatives.

Neither Anglo-Catholics nor Romanists carry on their propaganda by addressing the reason. It is the imagination and the herd instinct by which people are caught. We must be constantly teaching, positively not controversially, the greatness and the splendour of the Anglican position, the romance of Anglican history; we must never suffer the contempt of anything as only Anglican, which is only too common; we must use the word Catholic to mean that which is primitive, Eastern, and Anglican, and not Tridentine, in opposition not only to what is Puritan but to what is Romanist. We must be always suggesting that our principles and our practice are both Catholic and up-to-date. It is really rather Late Victorian to have six candles on the altar, and to fill your sanctuary with knick-knacks, like those in a French church, the ecclesiastical analogues of the antimacasser and the aspidistra!

We have got to make it "the thing" to follow the English Use, and to suggest that anything else is not so much disloyal or heretical, as ridiculous and rather dowdy.

Thirdly, we must take steps to meet our opponents in a region where hitherto they have had all their own way. There is a large number of people whose interest in religion is not doctrinal but devotional and mystical. These people have very little to satisfy their needs but what is Roman or pseudo-Roman. The use of foreign devotional books, even more than foreign ceremonial, gives people a Counter-Reformation background. I have, for instance, read an otherwise admirable book on mental prayer, written by a member of an Anglican Religious Order. The author's whole mind and doctrinal background was entirely Romanist: of the books which he recommended, and said every priest should possess, about eighty-five per cent, were post-Tridentine Roman, to about eight per cent. pre-Reformation, and seven per cent. Anglican. Great numbers of our more devout people are given, or buy for themselves, devotional books which are either frankly Roman, or if Anglican, teach Roman doctrine. One most popular book, with a circulation of hundreds of thousands, teaches explicitly the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is not only quite meaningless to the modern theologian, but which our Eastern and Old Catholic friends condemn as formally heretical.

We have got to do something to fight this flood of foreign devotion, which we can only do by providing something better. This is where our Russian friends can help us: there is, I believe, an enormous devotional literature in Russian, which we must get translated. If we do use Roman devotions, we must adapt them, as the Tractarians did. Now-a-days, as is well known, the older Roman devotional books are not Roman enough for some Anglican publishers! We must study the mystical side of our religion in order ultimately to produce mystical literature free from the doctrinal errors, and the often obscurantist outlook, of the Roman books studied in our parishes and still more in our convents.

Fourthly, if we have any doubt that in doing this work we are really working for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, and not merely propagating our own opinions, let us remember that we are fighting for God's Truth: truth revealed in Holy Scripture; truth more fully shown to us in modern discovery; and for the liberty of the sons of God; liberty ecclesiastical, political, intellectual. The Anglican Communion, and the Anglo-Catholic Movement which is its spearhead, its only consistent manifestation, are the only hope for the re-union of Christendom and the reconciliation of the modern world to Christianity. Roman propaganda, both inside and outside the Church, is an effort to pervert and ultimately to destroy that movement. I have avoided making accusations, but I cannot but warn you, that there are very sinister elements in what we are fighting against. If there is a "Protestant underworld," as we are sometimes told, there is also an Anglo-Catholic underworld, and a very queer region it is. The use that is being made of the confessional and of the retreat movement in certain quarters, may lead to very disastrous results; and some of our smaller religious communities need watching carefully. Again, I am sure that not only the lawlessness, but the frivolity, the contempt for other Christians, and the love of intrigue, which are to be found in certain quarters, would have horrified the saints in any age of the Church. We don't want timidity, moderation, or laxity of principle, but we do need more of the seriousness, the self-control and the common-sense which were characteristic of the great Evangelicals and the great Tractarians as well as of the great Catholic saints in all ages.

Finally, I think we must always bear in mind that the principles for which we are fighting, if they are true, are true universally. We are not out to propagate a specially English version of the Faith, our principles are as true at Rome or at Geneva as they are at Canterbury. We do not want to make the whole world Anglican, or to impose the English Use on other countries: the same principle which maintains the English Use in England would welcome an Indian liturgical Use in India. But we do want to make the whole world Catholic, as we understand Catholicism, Catholic and not Tridentine, and we believe that such Catholicism is what the world needs. If then we make our boast of the Anglican name, it is not out of any Jingoistic spirit, but because we believe that the Anglican Churches, in spite of all their faults and defects, have been given, with others, the task of propagating that which the world needs. And it is in this spirit that we venture to use the lines of George Herbert on the British Church:--

"But dearest Mother, what these miss,
The mean Thy praise and glory is,
And long may be.
Blessed be God, Whose love it was
To double-moat thee with His grace,
And none but thee."

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