Project Canterbury

The Catholic Movement in the Church of England

By Wilfred L. Knox, M.A.
Priest of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd

London: Philip Allan, [1923]

Part VI. Prospects and Problems


One of the main problems which at the moment confronts Catholic theology is a reconciliation of the Liberal movement in Christian thought with the traditional teaching of the Church. During the greater part of the nineteenth century Catholics, whether English or Roman, were mainly concerned with a desperate defence of the old literal interpretation of Scripture. Pusey himself failed to see the impossibility of maintaining the older point of view; in this point alone has the modern development of English Catholicism broken away from the lines he laid down. It must be remembered that his attitude was to a large extent justified by the extravagances and inconsistencies of the early critics; but in this respect the position has been radically altered. The colossal learning of Lightfoot finally discredited the more advanced theories of the earlier critics, and it is now possible to combine the findings of a reasonable criticism with the orthodox belief as to the nature of the Christian revelation. At the same time there is need of a clearer adjustment of the claims of liberty and authority than has at present been achieved. The Roman Church endeavours to meet the difficulty by pronouncements which appear to commit it to a position of complete conservatism in the matter of Scriptural criticism, but in fact are so worded as to leave to scholars numerous loopholes of escape. It cannot be said that this is a very satisfactory position, since it either conveys a false impression of obscurantism on the minds of the learned, or else it leaves the simple exposed to the shock of finding that the Church does not in fact impose on her children those views which they would naturally suppose to be implied in her official pronouncements. In general the expression of unorthodox views is prevented by a rather strict centralised discipline; but hitherto no formal attempt has been made to reconcile the claims of liberty in matters of belief with the claims of the eternal verities of the Catholic faith.

It is necessary to bear in mind that the claim to liberty of investigation in matters of religion is not confined to the text of the Scriptures, but extends to the whole range of Catholic doctrine. From the Catholic point of view there can be no possibility of accepting the view that matters on which the Christian faith has been defined by the authority of the Church can now be called in question: but it must be remembered that as a matter of fact the doctrines which have been so defined are few in number and that the definitions so laid down have as a rule been intended rather to exclude particular systems of teaching seen to be false than to define in precise and absolute terms what all Christians are bound to believe. Hence even in regard to doctrines which have been formally defined there is a wide scope for perfectly legitimate "re-statements "of the Catholic faith, intended to express the truths which the Church has always held in the terminology of modern thought. Further, there is a wide range of traditional doctrine, which has been generally accepted in the past, but need not necessarily be regarded as part of the essence of "the Christian faith" never having been formally proclaimed as such by ecclesiastical authority. It is perfectly legitimate for Christians to see in this field an opening for free enquiry. In this sphere, however, as in the subject of the criticism of the Scriptures, the Roman Church in general tends to a conservative attitude, though it should be added that there are in both fields eminent Roman theologians who are exceptions to the general rule.

Now if the attitude prevalent at the present time among Roman theologians be regarded as purely temporary and provisional, it is perfectly possible to regard it as a wise one: for it is only reasonable for the Church to content herself with discouraging speculation in general at a time when the faith is being assailed by critics, who are ready to welcome any new theory, provided that it is sufficiently extravagant. As a purely temporary measure, therefore, it is not unreasonable to wait until an atmosphere has developed in which a clear basis can be discovered for the adjustment of new and old beliefs. Certainly the Roman attitude is as justifiable as the official position of the Church of England, which is unable to interfere effectively with the enunciation of views which scarcely profess to be in any way compatible with the Christian faith. None the less in this field of religious thought English Catholics are at the moment in a peculiarly favourable position, if they only realised it. The eternal truths of the Catholic faith are embodied in the Creeds of the Church; what falls outside them is a legitimate field for theological inquiry and restatement. It is for this reason regrettable that many of them should cling tenaciously to the old belief in the literal accuracy of every word of Scripture, and the traditional interpretation of every point of Catholic doctrine, including even doctrines which have never formally been proclaimed to be part of the Catholic faith, while on the other hand another section, in a wild desire to be "liberal," is ready to accept as finally established every passing utterance of the most recent school of liberal criticism so long as it professes some kind of allegiance to the Catholic conception of religion.

In this field of re-interpreting Catholic doctrine in the light of modern thought, and the re-investigation of the meaning and contents of the Scriptures, there lies a vast field of research for English Catholics, provided that they can avoid the two extremes which have been indicated above, neither condemning as heretics those who favour the re-interpretation or amendment of traditional beliefs nor deriding as obscurantists those who as yet see no necessity for any abandonment of the ancient ways. With a due exercise of tolerance and mutual forbearance English Catholics could do much to assist Catholic thought as a whole in arriving at a due adjustment of the rival claims of freedom and authority: it is to be regretted that hitherto they have failed to make better use of their opportunities. In part, indeed, this is due to the fact that they have been compelled to waste much energy in matters of immediate controversy, and to the fact that many Catholic scholars have been involved in active pastoral work which left no time for serious scholarship; in particular it should be remembered that there has been in the past and still survives a tendency to exclude Catholics from posts which would have provided them with the opportunities for this kind of work. For the most part, however, their failure has been due to their own fear of admitting the possibility of any need for investigation in these fields, in view of the obvious extravagances into which a certain school of Liberal Anglicans has fallen as a result of such investigations. Such a fear is manifestly unworthy of Christians who believe in the guidance of the Holy Ghost; and English Catholics, possessing in this sphere a liberty which is for the time being wider than that of their Roman brethren, should make use of it with full confidence that they will be preserved from the danger of serious error.

The limits of such investigations are clearly defined by the historical revelation of God to man given in the person of Our Lord, and the interpretation of that revelation laid down in the Catholic creeds and the Catholic system of religion. Outside these limits there is a wide sphere for free enquiry: and such enquiry is urgently needed, since many are deterred from accepting the Catholic faith by the quite erroneous supposition that it involves the acceptance of various doctrines which have never been more than the generally received opinions of Catholic theologians. It may be hoped that in future an increasing number of English Catholics will devote their energy to research in these fields rather than to the barren discussion of the controversies of the moment.


It has already been seen that the early victories of the movement were won through the devotion of the early Ritualists in ministering to the needs of the poor and outcast. Here as elsewhere Pusey was the leader. He built out of his private wealth a Church to serve the needs of one of the poorer quarters of the city of Leeds; an outbreak of cholera in London brought him to the succour of the parish clergy of Bethnal Green. The position is the same to-day; for the most part the Churches which stand for the modern development of the Catholic movement are to be found in the poorest districts of the larger English towns; it is to be hoped that this state of affairs will continue.

None the less there is a certain difference in the attitude of Catholics in these matters. Fifty years ago most priests who taught the Catholic religion in such regions were occupied very largely in working for the social betterment of those to whom they ministered, even in some cases allowing their labours in this field to interfere with their primary duty of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They supported numerous organisations for improving the material lot of the poor; and often they were vigorous partisans of some political scheme which promised a remedy for the evils around them.

To some extent this state of affairs is changing. Catholics tend to concentrate more on the purely religious side of their mission, and are disposed to use the various organisations of an ordinary parish as a means for gaining a hearing for the doctrines of the Catholic faith rather than as a means for improving the temporal position of their neighbours. They are less inclined to commit themselves to any political programme, except as a matter of personal opinion, which may be advocated in private but not taught from the pulpit. There are several reasons for this change. In the first place the actual conditions of life have altered. Fifty years ago the state of the poorer parts of England was so monstrous that no one familiar with them could abstain from demanding immediate reforms for patent abuses, unless he were entirely without the spirit of Christianity. To-day conditions, though still intolerably evil, have been improved. The result is that the remedy is no longer so obvious. The evils that remain demand not immediate local reforms but comprehensive legislation to strike at their roots. It is only rarely that the position of the parish priest enables him to take any effective action in the direction of social reform. We may take as an example the most pressing evil, that of unemployment. Any parish priest in a poor district is acutely conscious of it; but where experts with wide opportunities of investigation differ as to the precise means for remedying the evil, it is difficult for the parish priest to do more than alleviate it in so far as it affects individual members of his flock. He may hold strong personal opinions of his own as to the proper remedy, but he cannot claim that they have the authority of divine revelation which would entitle him to teach them as matters of faith. He may for instance be an ardent Socialist; but while he may fairly claim that the Socialist ideals of liberty, brotherhood and justice are part of the divine revelation, he cannot claim that the Socialist dogma that this and other evils can only be remedied by the national ownership of land and the means of production is in the same position. He may believe it to be true: but he can hardly proclaim it as part of the teaching of Our Lord. Hence the latest phase of the Movement, while no less sympathetic towards the sufferings of the poor, is less occupied with schemes for their temporal relief, and more concerned with the salvation of their souls.

A second factor which has contributed to this change is the growth of the Labour Movement. Fifty years ago Trade Unionism was only just emerging from the days of legal oppression, and was grateful for the sympathy of Christians whose support enabled it to gain a friendly hearing from the general public. To-day the position of the Trade Union Movement is assured, and its leaders quite rightly prefer to rely for success on their own efforts and the support of the rank and file of their followers, not on outside sympathy. At the same time the small local unions have been replaced by federations covering the whole area of the country; the result is once again that the ordinary Christian lacks the means for judging as to the rights and wrongs of either side in an intricate economic dispute. Hence the days when individual Christians could intervene effectively as arbitrators in an economic dispute are over; such disputes must either be fought to a finish by national amalgamations representing the employers and workers or settled by the arbitration of those whose training and special knowledge enable them to speak with the authority of experts. It is occasionally possible for a Christian of high position to intervene with effect, but as a rule this will only occur in such industries as are still in a low state of organisation. Such openings will tend to disappear if the industrial organisation of England continues to develop on its present lines.

Thus it seems probable that in future the Catholic movement will concern itself mainly with preaching the Gospel to the poor, and will be less concerned with their immediate material welfare, which can be promoted more effectively by the methods of Trade Unionism or by governmental action on a large scale. Organisations for the material benefit of the poor will diminish; Catholic energies will be mainly concerned either with attracting to the teaching of the faith those who might otherwise drift away from it, or never hear it preached, or else with providing relief for the immediate necessities of Christians who have fallen on evil days. On the other hand the teaching of the faith must, if it is properly carried out, produce a greater willingness to listen to all sides of a case instead of judging it on the basis of immediate personal selfishness. If this could be done, it would have a revolutionary effect on the life of the nation, in view of the tendency of modern democracies to be swayed by appeals to immediate financial interests. It is to be profoundly regretted that many Catholics fail to realise that their faith carries with it the duty to judge of public matters on higher grounds than those by which the majority of voters are normally swayed, and to discriminate, so far as possible, between the truth and the falsehood of the arguments laid before the nation by political leaders. It will indeed be many years before any noticeable effect can be produced in this direction by the Catholic movement; but it is to be hoped that its teachers will realise the duty of inculcating an attitude of practical Christianity in judging social problems as against the tendency to be content with economic selfishness. Without this the Catholic revival will fail, whatever its apparent success, for it will not be preaching the whole Gospel.

Thus for the present it is rather in its effect on the attitude of the individual to the whole social and political outlook of the present time than in any public action on a dramatic scale that the Catholic revival is likely to affect the industrial and social evils of modern civilisation. At the same time Catholics must always remember that those evils are monstrous and intolerable, and that to acquiesce in them is to be false to the teaching of Our Lord. For while He pronounces His blessing on the poor, and while poverty is for the Christian a noble privilege, a privilege whose greatness is measured by the fact that Jesus Himself chose poverty rather than riches in His earthly life, it is only a privilege for those who choose it of their own free will, or, finding themselves poor by no free choice of their own, none the less are able to welcome poverty as a means of following Jesus. There is no excuse for a system which condemns a large proportion of the nation to the atrocious conditions in which the poorest classes of English society are compelled to live at present. Any Christian who fails to recognise that English civilisation is utterly contrary in many respects to the divine intention, and is the effect of avarice, the root of all evils, convicts himself of an utter failure to understand the elementary principles of the Gospel. There may be considerable doubt as to the exact remedy: but no true follower of Jesus will ever allow himself to be deceived into supposing that there is no evil to be remedied, or into accepting the comfortable excuses which are too often put forward to prove that no remedy is possible. In particular the Catholic who enjoys any considerable measure of wealth will always remember that he has been entrusted with a terrible responsibility. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. He will always feel distrustful lest the riches he enjoys should be the means of his losing his own soul--and they may do so by blinding him to public evils no less than by blinding him to his own personal vocation. It must be admitted that Catholics have in certain cases recently been over-willing to ignore the implications of the Gospel as to the duties of the Christian in regard to his public life: it is urgently necessary that this should be remedied, though it will not necessarily result in their binding themselves to any particular political party.

NOTE.--Ideally of course a Christian should be ready to help all who are in distress, without respect to their beliefs. In practice the evils of the present organisation of society cause such widespread suffering that in most poor districts the resources of the parochial organisations are inadequate for the relief of the necessities of Christians. Hence it is rarely possible for Catholics to do much for the relief of the temporal necessities of those who are not Christians, for the simple reason that they are unable to give adequate assistance even to those who are of the household of the faith. Naturally whenever it is possible for them to assist others as well, they will welcome every opportunity of doing so. It may be added that indirectly much is done by the followers of the Catholic revival in this direction by the assistance which they render to such institutions as hospitals, etc.


During the earlier period of the Middle Ages the Papacy made a very genuine attempt to secure for itself the position of a supreme arbiter in the affairs of Europe, which would enable it to solve the disputes of nations without an appeal to arms. It failed to do so, and became merely the tool of one or other of the contending factions in the diplomacy of Europe. Since the Reformation it has rarely been possible for any Christian organization to intervene effectually in such matters: for international quarrels have in most cases been complicated, if not accentuated, by religious divisions. In any case it is necessary to begin by recognising that the position of the Church is a difficult one. All Christians must in theory condemn the appeal to arms as a means of gaining a victory in an unrighteous quarrel: it is not so easy to condemn the appeal to arms for the defence of a righteous cause. Ideally no doubt it is better to suffer wrongfully than to resist: but in practice the vast majority of Christians are unable to live up to such a counsel of perfection. Thus the Church has generally recognised that the duty of offering no resistance to unjust oppression is limited to those who also accept the evangelical ideal of absolute poverty: there is no justification in the Gospels for the attitude of those who regard all participation in war as sinful, but see nothing wrong in the acquisition of private wealth. On the other hand, if it is admitted for a moment that Christians may take part in a righteous war, it becomes difficult for the Christian to refuse to take part in any war, or for a Christian organisation to condemn any war: since in any quarrel it is certain that both belligerents will find convincing reasons for demonstrating the justice of their cause. Thus during the European war, the Christian institutions of Europe were in the same position as organised labour, which as an international institution is opposed to war: the Christians of the various European countries, no less than the majority of the Socialists, firmly believed that the cause of their country was right: and from the available information it would have been difficult for them to do otherwise. The attempt of the Papacy to adopt a genuinely neutral position only brought it into suspicion: both groups of belligerents suspected it of sympathising with the enemy.

When, however, all these difficulties have been admitted, it remains unhappily true that the Christianity of Europe failed to act up to its profession during the recent war. Many who in private life were thoroughly devout Christians were prepared to come forward in support of blatantly unjust schemes of national aggrandisement: this reproach applies equally to Catholics and Protestants of all countries. It is hard to blame any for supporting the national cause of their country at the outbreak of the war: it is difficult to excuse those who failed to protest against its continuance.

Unhappily it is difficult to find any solid grounds for hoping that there will be any obvious improvement in the near future. The visible re-union of Christendom might do much to lessen the danger of war by creating an international organisation for protesting against any manifestly unjust appeal to arms: but it could not entirely avert the danger. For in the first place the nations of the world are not predominantly Christian, and it might easily happen that national governments would refuse to listen to the voice of a Christian tribunal. In the second place international relations are even more complicated than the social and economic problems of one particular nation, and in quarrels it is frequently impossible to say that one side is entirely in the right and the other side entirely in the wrong: in any case only an absolutely detached critic will be able to do so. And such a critic is scarcely likely to convince the partisans of either side. Now the decision of a purely Christian tribunal can only be enforced by moral suasion and the infliction of spiritual penalties: for example the Papacy used the penalty of excommunication, by which whole nations were cut off from the Sacraments of the Church, in order to enforce its decisions in the Middle Ages. In many cases, however, this penalty was ignored: the local clergy continued to administer the Sacraments in spite of the Papal prohibition. In modern conditions it is obvious that the infliction of such a penalty would affect only the Christians of any particular nation: and it is quite probable that they would refuse to submit to such a penalty if they were convinced of the justice of their cause. Thus it might theoretically happen that the attempt to preserve peace would only result in the division of Christendom: as a matter of fact it is more probable that the central organ of a re-united Christendom would refuse to run the risk of creating such a division and would be unable to express any effective opinion in an international quarrel.

Thus it seems that even a complete reunion of Christendom could do little more than to create a general spirit of opposition to the use of war as a means of solving international disputes. A more obvious method of securing the desired end is the suggestion that Christians should support with all their ability the formation of a strong and united League of Nations to prevent the appeal to arms by any one nation in particular. There is indeed much to be said in favour of strengthening the powers of the League of Nations at present existing with this object. At the same time it is necessary to bear in mind the difficulties connected with the whole scheme of such a league. For instance a League of Nations cannot enforce its decisions on a nation which refuses to accept them except by appealing to arms; but if it does this, it becomes simply an alliance of certain nations against certain others. It may indeed be in the right as against the nation which refuses to accept its ruling: but it is very difficult to suppose that the recalcitrant nation will agree, or that the matter will be so clear that the subjects of such a nation as a whole will be convinced of the injustice of their cause. (Even if the League confines itself to economic weapons, such as a general blockade of the recalcitrant nation, it is still in effect appealing to force, although the force employed be of a modified kind.) If it has no means of enforcing its decisions on those who refuse to accept them, there is the danger that its decisions may become merely a pious expression of opinion, which no one will respect, except those who seem likely to profit by them.

Thus although Christians are bound to welcome the ideal of a League of Nations, it seems premature to hope that it will provide a certain means for the permanent ending of war. The only possibility of such an end of all war would seem to lie in the hope of a general re-union of Christendom and a general growth of Christian opinion among the nations of the world, coupled with a League of Nations which, in virtue of its general support by all men of good will, whether professedly Christian or not, commands a degree of respect in the eyes of all nations which will make any nation reluctant to reject its decisions. In such a position there would still be no theoretical guarantee of the impossibility of war: but it is at least probable that it would be found adequate in practice.

In the meantime it may be hoped that Christians will come to see more clearly than they have generally done in the past the duty of refusing to furnish an uncritical and unqualified support to the nationalist ambitions of secular politicians, and will insist on the necessity of applying the principles of their religion to international affairs. It must be admitted with shame that in the past hundred years they have signally failed to do anything of the kind, and that Catholics have for the most part been the worst offenders in the matter. In the case of the Roman communion there have on occasions been excuses for the failure, since in several parts of Europe allegiance to the Roman Church has been identified with loyalty to some particular national cause. Hence it has been difficult for the ecclesiastical authorities not to encourage the ambitions of their faithful, especially where those ambitions have been directed to the liberation of Catholics from oppression by "heretics," as in the case of Ireland and Poland. In theory it is hard to justify this attitude, but none the less it must be recognised that in practice it would have been difficult to avoid it. English Catholics could do much at the present moment to foster a better conception of the duty of the Church in these matters: for they possess the ideal of the Church as a body which claims a higher kind of allegiance than mere national loyalty, but are at the same time free from the political entanglements in which the Roman Church is still involved in certain parts of Europe as a result of the Schism between the East and the West and the Reformation. It is to be hoped that they will rise to the opportunity: hitherto, with a few notable exceptions, they have been content either to swallow the ordinary programme of national patriotism or to give a quite uncritical support to the ideal of a League of Nations without any realisation pf the difficulties it involves.


The Catholic Revival has sometimes been reproached with a comparative indifference to the duty of preaching the Gospel to the heathen. Whether this be true or not, it has certainly done less than the Evangelical Movement in this direction. Catholics have indeed done much; but they have done less than others. The reasons for this are various. In the first place the Revival has been very largely occupied with missionary work at home in districts quite as heathen as the darkest wilds of Africa. In the second place it has normally been relegated to parishes whose inhabitants are poor; the majority of Catholic parishes have to be supported to some extent from outside. Wealthy Catholics have always been distinguished by an amazing generosity; and it is the large demand made by parishes in England where the faith is taught to the poor that has made them unable to do more for the heathen abroad. In the third place it must be remembered that the whole Catholic ideal of dignity in worship and the use of the glories of artistic beauty for the promotion of the honour of God demands a larger expenditure of money than the Protestant tradition of worship. In the same way the Catholic ideal of the Priesthood demands a larger staff for the needs of the ordinary parish than the evangelical conception of the ministry. Finally, it may be noted that hitherto the Catholic Movement has had far fewer really wealthy followers than other elements in the Church of England.

None the less it remains true that Catholic missionary effort needs a far greater support than it receives at present. At the moment, indeed, owing to the effect of the European war both on the value of money and on the supply of men for the priesthood, several missions are in a serious position; there is, however, no reason to suppose that this is more than a temporary difficulty. A far more serious duty is the permanent enlargement of the contribution made by English Catholics to the evangelisation of the heathen. There are however ample signs that the need is fully realised; and there is no reason to doubt that means will be found not merely for the maintenance but for the extension of a work without which English Catholicism will fail in one of the primary duties of Christianity.

NOTE.--The brevity with which this subject is treated here must not be taken to indicate any lack of appreciation of the importance of the matter, but rather the reverse. It is possible to treat it briefly, because there is no theoretical problem to be discussed. The duty of preaching the Gospel is a perfectly plain one: the practical difficulties of finding men and money fall outside the scope of this book. It is however doubtful whether the authorities of the English Catholic missions would not be well-advised to investigate the possibility of greater co-operation among themselves in appealing for support. At present there are a large number of independent missions, all in urgent need of help, which are continually appealing to the general public. The result tends to be that the average layman is overwhelmed by the multiplicity of demands made upon him; he sees quite clearly the impossibility of meeting them all, and is liable to end by responding to none. The suggestion that it is not an urgent duty to preach the Gospel to the heathen can of course only be made by those who reject the whole conception of Catholic Christianity put forward in this book.


The growth of English Catholicism during the past ninety years has been essentially that of a revolutionary movement. It shows the familiar features of all such movements--the division between those who wish for a moderate degree of reform and those who will be content with nothing less than a radical change of the whole system. An outsider, witnessing the disputes of these two sections and of the intermediate sections of opinion, might suppose that the whole movement was hopelessly divided, and that it could never win any degree of success. The impression would be profoundly misleading. It has already been observed that the divisions within the movement go back to the earliest days of the Tract-arian revival: and in spite of these divisions the Revival has already affected the whole life of the English Church. Although the divisions may continue, there is no reason to suppose that they will be a bar to future progress.

In one point indeed these divisions are complicated by external causes. Throughout the whole of English society there has been a reaction against the general tone of dignified sobriety which was the ideal of the English middle classes during the Victorian era. The present generation finds its ideal rather in a frank outspokenness, which often distresses its elders. The merit of the older outlook on life and religion is seen at its best in the splendid solemnity of such men as Pusey: it could easily degenerate into an artificial pomposity. The merit of the younger outlook is its natural spontaneity and freedom from artificial restraint: it may easily degenerate into a rather vulgar flippancy. The effect of this purely social change has affected religion no less than other departments of life. To the older generation religion was something apart, to be spoken of only in an atmosphere of exalted seriousness: to the younger it is an integral part of life, to be discussed as one of its normal factors and in the same style as the rest. It is idle to argue which of these modes of thought is the better. The merit of the one is its recognition of the paramount importance of religion: the merit of the other is its frankness in proclaiming its faith to the world at large. The difference of outlook is indeed as old as the first days of the revival of Catholicism at Oxford: John Keble was shocked at what he felt to be the flippancy of Richard Hurrell Froude. It has, however, been intensified by the recent tendencies of social development to such an extent as to cause grave differences among the followers of the Catholic movement. There is a tendency for the older leaders to deplore the frivolity of the younger generation, and for the younger to chafe at the pomposity of the older. The difficulty, however does not end here. For the older outlook is one which naturally clings to the older tradition of Anglicanism and finds no hindrance to its devotion in the reticence and lack of variety of the English Liturgy. The younger generation tends to find them intolerably dull in themselves, and quite unsuitable for appealing to the needs of a generation which can tolerate anything but dulness. Further, for an older generation the mere discovery of the Catholic heritage of the English Church and the sacramental system of religion was a glorious adventure: it seemed almost a sacrilege to suppose that anything else could be needed. The present generation of Catholics, however, includes many who have never been anything else: and the proportion of those who know no other form of religion is necessarily bound to increase. Such people necessarily see the deficiencies of the Anglican forms of worship more clearly than their elders, who in the glory of discovering the Catholic religion had no time to ask whether the Anglican presentation of it was perfect in every detail.

In this way there arose what threatened at one time to be a dangerous divergence within the ranks of English Catholics. The quite serious question as to the extent to which it was desirable to adhere to or depart from Anglican liturgical forms was complicated by the fact that the older generation, which as a whole, though with many exceptions, favoured a conservative policy, and the younger generation which favoured innovation, were further divided by the general divergence of their outlook on life. The result was a general bitterness of tone, which seemed likely to endanger the progress of Catholicism. It would indeed be premature to say that the danger is entirely at an end. None the less there is a good deal of evidence that the bitterness with which the controversy was conducted during the second decade of the twentieth century is diminishing. It is quite clear that the course of events has finally decided in favour of those who advocate a very considerable alteration of the external forms of Anglican worship and the introduction of a very wide measure of Roman practice in matters of devotion, with the result that the only difference of opinion at present outstanding is the exact extent to which the process of modification should go. There are signs that Catholics are beginning to realise the wisdom of leaving this matter to be decided by the course of events, and the futility of the attempt to lay down in advance the limits beyond which the process cannot be carried.

With the removal of this danger the prospects of the Catholic Revival will be materially improved. At the same time it will never develop its full strength until it can overcome a certain narrowness and provincialism of outlook which has hitherto tended to lessen its efficiency. The defect is due to the position of English Catholics in regard to the rest of the English Church on the one hand and the Roman communion on the other. In view of that position they have had to justify both their claim to continuity with the Church of England and also their claim to be Catholics. The necessity of doing so has led to several deficiencies in their general presentation of the Catholic religion. Thus on the one hand they have tended to assume among those to whom they make their appeal a general acceptance of certain fundamental Christian doctrines professed by the Church of England and to concentrate in a rather one-sided manner on the proclamation of those particular points of sacramental teaching on which they are divided from the rest of the English Church. Hence they have often failed to insist on the inherent unity of the Catholic system of religion and the necessity with which the sacramental system follows from a right belief in the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Similarly through fear of being regarded as "Romanisers "they have endeavoured to lay down different standards of teaching and practice beyond which it is impossible to go without disloyalty to the Church of England. The effect of this has been to produce the impression that they are more interested in denning the exact limits of what they may or may not do than in the primary task of the Catholic Church, which is to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls. It has even been suggested that certain forms of devotion, which might be of the highest value for the purpose, must not be used on account of their incompatibility with loyalty to the Anglican system. On the other hand Roman criticisms of the lack of authority in the Church of England have led them into the mistake of attempting to elaborate various theories, which will justify them either in obeying Papal authority, as if it were, at the present moment and in the present circumstances, entirely binding on all Anglicans, or in rendering obedience to some supposed theory of authority which will possess all the immediate efficacy of the Roman system without its living embodiment in the person of the Holy Father. Here the effect has been to produce an excessive concentration of attention on the nature and functions of authority and an apparent neglect of the truths which it is the duty of authority to preserve and to promulgate.

The tendency to concentrate on matters of immediate controversy is natural; but it has been a very serious cause of weakness. It is probable that far greater progress would have been made if Catholics had been more content to preach the whole Gospel, and to recognise quite frankly that the Church of England, in its present position, can never provide a permanent home for the teaching of the Catholic religion. Either it will, as all Catholics hope and pray, be permeated with Catholicism to such an extent that it will be ready for reunion with the rest of Catholic Christendom, or it will in the last resort reject the Catholic element, which it at present still manages to comprehend, and decline into the position of a purely Protestant society, holding only those elements of Christian doctrine which survive the disintegrating influence of the extreme forms of Liberalism. Naturally Catholics are bound to make use of the ordinary weapons of controversy in order to secure that the present period of transition shall end in the former rather than in the latter manner: their weakness has lain in their readiness to treat the controversial issues of the present period of transition as if they were the eternal truths of the Catholic faith. (A similar weakness is very manifest in the normal methods with which the case of the Roman Church is presented in this country.) The effect of this weakness is best seen in the fact that its chief successes have been won either among those who have been brought up in an orthodox and moderately sacramental Anglicanism, and who in fact only need guiding into a fuller desire for the sacramental system of Catholicism and a clearer conception of the Catholic Church, or to those who live in the utter heathenism of the poorer districts of the large towns of England, to whom it has been compelled to preach the Gospel from the very beginning. It has had very little success in appealing to that vague ethical admiration for the person of Jesus, which passes for religion among wide circles of English people, especially of the middle classes: and the explanation would seem to be that it has concerned itself too much with preaching the Sacraments and the authority of the Church to those who have not the remotest conception of the Incarnation and the Atonement. In the same way it has often failed to retain those whom it has brought to the Catholic religion. They have been taught to identify English Catholicism either with an untenable theory of authority or with some arbitrary limitation of the external forms of Christian devotion. In the end they have seen that the theory was untenable or the limitation arbitrary, and left the Anglican communion, which they quite mistakenly regarded as committed to these particular points of detail.

The hope of English Catholicism then lies in transcending these minor details of present controversy and devoting itself to the full preaching of the Catholic religion. If it will learn to concentrate its energies on the salvation of souls, without caring whether its methods are loyal to Anglican traditions, or whether it is able to produce an exact system of ecclesiastical authority, there is no limit to its hopes of working for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind, apart from the limit of the time when by the power of the Holy Ghost the Catholic Church is restored to its external unity. It is by preaching the religion of Jesus Christ in all its fulness that English Catholics can do most to hasten both the conversion of England and the re-union of Christendom.


Project Canterbury