The Catholic Revival and the Kingdom of God
Addresses and Papers Delivered at the Sixth Catholic Congress of the Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, October 22 to 26, 1933
Milwaukee: Morehouse; London: A.R. Mowbray, 1933.
The Development of the Revival
THE REVEREND FRANK GAVIN, Ph.D., LL.D.
The General Theological Seminary, New York
THE CATHOLIC MOVEMENT was far more than a revival. It was no mere repristination of what had been. Its return to quicken and re-live the past was destined primarily to reform the present and to create a future; or, as the Epistle for this week suggests, "that ye put off . . . the old man, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind . . . and put on the new . . ." (Ephesians 4: 21, 22). And though, in a sense, a "revival" of any sort is as it were a negative action, the progressive advance of the Catholic Movement since 1845 has been no mere rehabilitation or reconstruction of a dead past. It is aggressive, dynamic, and moves ever forward.
The important date which divides into two periods the modern phase of the movement is that of the publication of Lux Mundi, namely 1889. Half of the epoch of this later history belongs before, and half since that date. It is the halfway point both chronologically and psychologically. The present aspects of the movement, however, are a true development, quite different from, yet continuous with, what has preceded.
After the initiation and promotion of any idea a group of forces focus themselves upon the field of action. In religious movements of any great significance such forces inevitably appear: a reaction to hostility in two chief ways—by withdrawing from the movement or by renewal of loyalty to it; the translation into concrete terms of its ideals; the extension and application of its principles to different channels; and the investigation and presentation of its intellectual [14/15] foundations. Each of these four characteristics—reaction to opposition, the power of making ideals concrete and explicit, the extension and application of them, and intellectual justification—may be shown in the later history of the Catholic Revival. May I invite your attention to a brief consideration of the movement from 1845 to the present day, with special reference to the operation of these four factors.
Newman went to Rome in 1845. In that same year the Anglican communion reestablished the Religious Life. Each fact illustrates the reaction of adherents of the movement to hostility. Prebendary Clarke has set forth for comparison and contrast the letters written respectively by Newman and Pusey to Gladstone, which reveal the different ways the writers reacted to persecution. Newman wrote:
"I do not think I should mind the attacks if I had anything to fall back upon. But for a long time past I have nothing. I cannot fall back upon bishops or upon rubrics or upon Articles, or upon reformers, or upon the new theology, or upon usage. Nothing present, nothing past, nothing in books serves as an appeal, and thus I must stand by myself or seek external support."
So he wrote on November 12, 1844. Sixteen months earlier Pusey, who had been suspended for his sermon on Baptismal Regeneration, Wrote:
"On the whole I can bear and am of good cheer about this and all things, which concern our Church. One cannot suppose that so great a restoration as is now going on in her should be without manifold drawbacks and checks and disquietude and sufferings. No great restoration ever took place without them. But while all who are allowed any way to be concerned in it must expect their share, directly and indirectly, on the whole one must be of good courage."
Can there be any more significant symbol of the different [15/16] attitudes assumed by those who, having espoused its principles, bore the strain of hostile opposition to it? There is more than a trace in Newman's letter of what might be vulgarly called the Elijah Complex: "I only am left." The grounds of Pusey's loyalty were far different: the life of faith in the Catholicity of the Anglican communion, the "evidence of things not seen," the persuasive conviction that these unseen things could be made apparent, bore him with good cheer and courage, even when in forgetfulness of his personal discomfort he could see that no "restoration ever took place" without "checks and disquietude and sufferings."
Such reactions to difficulty, hostility, and attack there have always been within the circle of those touched by Anglo-Catholicism. Sooner or later some men and women of distinction leave us for Rome. Under the test of persecution and opposition, their faith in Anglo-Catholicism is shown to have been of too brittle a texture, to have been too inflexible to bend, and hence incapable of withstanding the peculiar strains inevitably involved.
Back of the phenomena that relate to those who left and those who stayed when opposition and hostility developed stand certain factors well worth considering. It is often said that Anglo-Catholicism has a Platonic doctrine of the Church, or, that Anglicans believe in a Catholic Church not yet fully realized in space and time. For example, what do you mean when you say "the Church"? Do you mean the particular Protestant Episcopal parish of which you are a member? The totality of all P. E. parishes? When we say glibly "the Church teaches," what do we mean? These simple questions point to the heart of the matter; in large part untenable, our appeal to Catholic authority and Catholic usage is unintelligible to Roman Catholic or Protestant. Each often accuses us of bad faith. But both are wrong. We think we are logical. We, too, I believe, are wrong, for ours is the vision of a Catholicism that is biological rather than logical, [16/17] organic and living rather than legal and canonically reducible, and this is a peculiar part of the Anglo-Catholic conviction of faith. It is that faith which animated our Religious and has continued to animate them since 1845. No Religious possess any canonical standing today (so far as I am aware) in any part of the Anglican communion. Not recognized, they are used; not even acknowledged, they are taken for granted! The "Regular life"—yes, but by a Rule voluntarily accepted, obeyed, and sustained—proclaimed, practised, and evinced by obedience and activity—yet no authentic authorization! Whatever else Anglican Religious are, there is little logical and no canonical justification for their continued existence. They serve a Church and her children, yet are given no status; but in that friendlier intimate world of spiritual comradeship and appreciation and of need felt and satisfied, they fulfill a unique and essential function. They are at home in the heart of Anglicanism even when its head accords them no legal position.
Down through the past eighty-eight years some have been with us for a while and then departed, often with careers almost meteoric. The brilliant coruscations of Newman's reasoning powers, the searching poignancy of his spiritual appeal, and the relentless charm of his personality—these, when removed from among us, created a void made more apparent by his absence than had been dissipated by his presence. The hidden life of a Pusey possessed little of the statuesque, the romantic, or the epic: professors of Hebrew who pray, write, and suffer in shy withdrawal are not usually regarded as "leaders." Yet such hidden ones have often been the true leaders for all that. The unnamed Religious, the dedicated lives of priests and laity, the plodding sacrificial careers of countless thousands—these, under God, supported and preserved us when the loss of some luminary appeared for the moment to obscure the scene. Such lives lead on by faith rather than sight.
 Thus the movement has been a touchstone for us all. Faith neither in ourselves, nor in an institutional embodiment (complete in all its details) of the Catholicism we believe in, nor in men who led us, but in God's promises and His Word—such faith has been purged, tested, and quickened. It was not of man's devising, nor did human plans perceive it in advance. For those to whom a tidiness of pattern was all important, the movement ultimately proved unsatisfactory. But the vast army of those espousing it were steadfast with a loyalty based on something higher than the evidence of sight, with a conviction far deeper than that of logic. Superficial indeed was the judgment that the destination of the Oxford Movement was Rome. Believed by Protestants as well as by Roman opponents, the opinion even obtained with some in the crusade itself, but their surrender to it meant their departure. For the Catholic Movement works for the proclamation of a larger Catholicism than is to be found in Rome.
The phase of the movement from the '50s to the '70s has often borne the epithet: Ritualism or Puseyism. One of the common mistakes—itself oftentimes a verdict of allegedly profound insight—is the attempt to minimize the significance of ceremonial. We often hear that the older Tractarians were not interested in externals; that when once principles are accepted that is the important thing, and the externals do not matter. The answer to this frequently "lofty" view, delivered with a rather irritating superiority of condescension, is that it isn't true. Externals do matter. An archbishop has characterized Christianity as the most "materialistic of historical religions." The unrelatedness of principles when not embodied in practice is both demoralizing and delusive. There is too often a pseudo-superiority among those who say they endorse the principles but cannot endorse their historical practice. Back of this position lies a Manicheism scarcely [18/19] ever faced frankly—a non-realistic view of man, matters, and God; and an illusion of the "spiritual" and intellectual as if they existed apart from space and time relations.
If you believe in the Catholic Truth you will evince that conviction by the historic external manifestations of it. The world is not made up of a mass of isolated human units. We are never more deceived than when we think of ourselves in this way, and fail to see that the essential thing about each one of us is his "relatedness." It is Humpty Dumpty who was the apostle of that childish individualism, falsely exercising an alleged right to make common terms have only an uncommon meaning. "'Impenetrability,' that's what I say!" said this wise philosopher. It is all a matter of symbol, the corporal and social term enshrining, expressing, and conveying a meaning too deep for brevity of poor words.
The development and recovery of Catholic ceremonial, it appears, has often been regarded as a declension from a high state to a lower level. It is as a matter of fact far more truly the realization of ideals than their abandonment. Still, in a sense, there is something in such a criticism. For the lover to find his ideal in a girl whom his friends think not at all remarkable may mean that he has abandoned his ideal; but it may also mean that he has found it. Any effective presentation of an ideal of any sort reduces it in part to concrete and explicit terms. But it is far more intelligible so. It is more effective so. Yes, it is more true so, if, in reference to religion, spiritual matters have definitely to do with the actual world of concrete things.
It is amusing sometimes to read of the curious forms the ceremonial revival took—of the restoration of a long lost maniple in company with a somber stole; of the vagaries of queer ceremonies; of the half-grasped theories of performance which gave rise to such quaint self-conscious absurdities. But things worked themselves out. In the '50s there were churches where the traditional vestments found complete [19/20] restoration. At first the legality of the proceedings was accepted in principle and thus defended; then, this very point of legality was challenged. By that time, in the early '80s, the potent authority of experience and use made the question of legality rather pointless. There were a few who were liturgical archeologists, and many who accepted Western Catholic tradition as normative. It depends again on one's ultimate principles. The suppression of an already current living tradition by the galvanized jerky motions of a long defunct—and highly questionable—use is hardly justifiable. Tradition, to be valuable, must be alive and vital; museum pieces of archeological ceremony may be but interesting monuments of the life that has long since departed. They are scarcely adequate means of expression of a present vitality in religious worship.
The ceremonial revival meant the enlistment of the senses in the worship of God. This cut across the spirit of the age, wherein a large dash of dualism tempered the rigors of a decorous conformity, without surrendering to the call of beauty or recognizing its relationship to the Divine. In music, pictorial art, architecture, and the art of worship the Catholic gospel came to speak a new word in God's Name to man. It involved revision of premises and demanded a new conclusion. It came with the appeal of authority. Nothing so potently expresses the difference between Protestant and Catholic Christianity as their respective types of worship; Catholic worship is God-centered; Protestant worship at best has a strong manward reference; at the worst, it aims solely at edification and is completely anthropocentric. The ceremonial revival, wherever it entered, implicitly demanded a radical type of reeducation. It was a thorough-going recasting of motives, attitudes, principles, behavior, ideas, and emotions. No wonder this phase of the movement stirred up such strife! One can often assert the principles—and easily gain [20/21] a hearing—but to alter the accepted externals of religious practice usually means a storm.
Because man is a social animal, an historical animal, a believing and a worshipping animal, he can no more get rid of religious ceremonial—which is the effective symbol in the outward world of his inmost expression in soul, by which the two are bound together—than he can discard his skin, his ancestry, his life values, or his ideals.
All religious movements are conditioned by their times and environment. The Oxford Movement is in no way an exception to this rule. The environment of thought may operate in two ways within the new movement: directly—by promoting an intensification of a selected group of factors and elements; and indirectly—by eliciting a strenuous reaction against certain things that are vigorously repudiated. In several directions this play of contemporary influences and ideals marked the Oxford Movement. One was its moralism; another, its supernaturalism. The former was in large part action of environment. The latter was a vigorous protest, in the realm of the ideal of human nature as well as in that of the nature of the Church, against dominant ideas and assumptions.
Those who have written recently on the progress of the movement have not been slow to designate as one of its constituent elements the strong moralism of its leaders. It is as marked in Pusey as in Neale and Liddon. There is a potent ethical ideal, virile and aggressive, throughout the teaching, preaching, and behavior of its exponents in the '50s and '60s. It was as if to say that the contemporary world, which on the whole was inclined to find in ethics the essence of Christianity, was right in so doing, but not right enough; Christianity does present itself as an ethic, but the moral ideals of the [21/22] age were so warped and narrow, so pitifully inadequate, that the movement proclaimed to its generation: "You are so inadequately right as practically to be wrong!" Ethics and morality were commonly deemed to be primarily individual and personal, but Catholicism peered deeper: there can be no "personal" ethics because no one is a person by himself. Man achieves himself only in society. Furthermore, the basic sanctions of all ethics must be theological—not the arid and thin theology, the intellectually narrow-tempered dogma or the sentimental non-dogmatism of the Victorian era—but the full vibrant ripeness of mature Catholic doctrine.
The leaders of the movement held forth to men a moral ideal which far transcended ordinary devout aspiration. Man, they said, was far worse than he would let himself imagine; yet nevertheless his aspirations should wing themselves far higher than they had been allowed to go! The Tractarians and their successors affected a transformation in ethics by a release in both directions—deep into penitence, aloft into the vast reaches of supernatural vocation.
At a fairly early period in the second phase of the movement, men realized that Catholicism meant not only the full faith of the tradition, but a profoundly complete outlook on God, man, and the world. There is such a thing as conceiving of religious faith in terms of formulated dogma. It is even possible to be orthodox—and yet to be inadequately Christian. For every doctrine of Catholicism means and implies so much more than it says, that by holding solely to the statement without perceiving deductions and implications one may essentially belie the truth affirmed. Furthermore, all controversy distorts a situation. Single dogmas argued and fought over are seen in totally untrue perspective—partly because they have to be isolated from their context in order to be dissected and discussed, and partly because their relative importance and significance is obscured by the act of [22/23] isolating them. Moreover, emotions are not only poured into the controversy, but even come to cleave to its subject-matter; and the result is that symbolic value is attached by association to incidental matters. It is hard to restore proportion after a controversy. Reducing the swelling is no easy task, and with a loss of the sense of proportion that nice balance which is the essence of Catholicism may easily vanish.
It is extraordinarily difficult to quicken a dead controversy and make it live again. The Jerusalem bishopric, the Gorham Judgment, the Colenso controversy—all seem now to be as defunct as the dodo after the passage of even these few years. Yet astounding amounts of printers' ink, vituperation, rejoinders, passionate speeches—not to mention heartaches, bewilderment, disastrously radical actions—were all involved in each of them, to call back from the past but a few of such controversies. The advantages, however, were upon the side of the upholders of the Catholic Movement. Controversies make men pay attention, and even if they do not think as deeply as they feel, sooner or later, they discover that new ideals have become domesticated in their souls.
The second phase of the Oxford Movement was also marked by a progressive broadening of its range and compass. It realized, extended, and made effective implications of old truths, latent conclusions, and applications already involved. Stewart Headlam, in the slums of London, began to perceive what was implied in the theory as well as in the necessary practice of Catholicism with regard to its social teaching, and social radicalism entered the stream of the Catholic Movement. An infinite ideal of the capacities of human nature, and of its yearnings, aspirations, and needs, is of the essence of the Catholic doctrine of man. But two other fundamental dogmas further illuminate this view of man: first, that man was made in God's image and likeness, and second, that God is Triune. If God be a Society of Selves in Unity, then [23/24] man is essentially not only by nature but also by grace a social animal. If one cannot separate, save logically, Father from Son or Spirit, a man's personality cannot (save logically) be sundered from the society of other selves of which he is a part. But if society as it is now is wrongly constructed —economically, intellectually, or politically—so that the Christian realization of selfhood cannot be affected, every Catholic becomes a rebel: for The Divine Society (to borrow the titles of two of Fr. W. G. Peck's books) involves The Divine Revolution.
This line of thought and action is distinguished for the multitude of varied and rich personalities it has displayed. Headlam, Dolling, Lowder, Stanton, Mackonochie, and the St. Mary's Somers town clergy on the side of the practical revolutionaries, and Scott Holland, Adeney, Gore, and the Oxford Summer School of Sociology on the side of the theory as well, are exponents of this phase of the Catholic Movement.
Scott Holland's publications, and the books of power and distinction, arresting, provocative, and aggressive, that have appeared since his day, all appeal in the name of the Catholic faith for a Christianization of the whole social, economic, and political order.
Ever since the Reformation the instincts of greed and private gain have been unchecked in their new release and have been more or less sanctioned by religion. Held in leash by Catholicism, they have for three centuries increasingly become the motive power and incentive as well of business as of politics. We have allowed the social and economic order to go on unevangelized and unbaptized. Individual Christians by the millions have tolerated uncritically that organization of political and economic life which, translated into terms of personal and individual ethics, would speedily have been perceived to be un- and anti-Christian. [24/25] Few in our generation have followed worthily and fearlessly the trail blazed by our courageous and daring Fathers in the Faith. Above all, we of the American Church have been notably lacking in awareness of issues, in realization of the full implication of Catholicism as a Social Gospel, and in the application of the full faith to the ills of society. Certainly to be in the current with the sweep of the Catholic Movement, we must take to mind and heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy politics, economics, and sociology.
The Catholic Gospel is not only for all men everywhere, but for the whole of each man anywhere. It is a sublime mystery, not hidden but revealed; a heavenly secret, not preserved but clamoring for proclamation far and wide. Of its enemies, smug self-satisfaction is one, and cowardly retreat from the obligations and evangelizing the mind, is another. Sometimes these two defects co-exist in the same people: often it is conducive to smugness and pious self-satisfaction to rule the intellect out of court and to be inaccessible to its complaints. There is also a fear of thinking which distinguishes smug piety and false satisfaction in general. Hooker once wrote: "A number there are who think they cannot admire as they ought, the power of the Word of God, if in things divine they should attribute any force to man's reason." This comment of the judicious Hooker might almost serve as the motto to the intellectual activity which has been the fruit of the later, as of the earlier, Anglo-Catholics. The God whom we worship as Beauty and Goodness is also Truth. Revival of the ministration of beauty and repristination of the moral and ethical ideal went hand in hand with the steady and unremitting effort to commend the Faith by, through, and to reason. For, as Bishop Lightfoot [25/26] said: "The abnegation of reason is not the evidence of faith, but the confession of despair. Reason and reverence are natural allies."
Before the publication of Lux Mundi with its momentous significance in this regard, Hancock in 1872 had made the appeal to the truth of religion its primary criterion of validity. A brief sentence of his has profound meaning in it, though seeming to echo a platitude: "A really religious man must love the truth above everything." This note of robust virility, of stalwart outspokenness, is badly needed in our times as well as in those of our fathers. Today we are being told that religion is but one of many refuges from reality, that the "religious" person is but seeking an escape from truth. Seven years after Hancock's utterance, that vivid person, Stewart Headlam, in one of his penetrating sermons said: "Take nothing for granted. . . . Use your reason; the Church does not ask for less than that, but for very much more." In this same vein are the words of the giant of the Lux Mundi days, the radical in the pioneering work of social revolution, and the founder of a Religious community of an innovatory type, the late Charles Gore: "It is the test of the Church's legitimate tenure that she can encourage free inquiry into her title deeds."
It would not be difficult to forge a catena of quotations from Anglo-Catholics of this same quality from Hooker to the recent Bampton lecturers, from the Caroline divines to A. E. Taylor, K. E. Kirk, and Fr. Thornton. The Catholic Movement speaks with the conscience of the Anglican Church and the mind of that communion in the rational appeal to all men everywhere.
The redemption of conduct and behavior, of man's relationships with God and his fellows in society, of reason—these are some of the elements in the progress forward of the Catholic Revival. As of old, God said through Moses to [26/27] his people of the Old Covenant: "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward," so today He calls to us: to go forward and redeem men's yearnings from despair of infinite accomplishment, to validate hope by a renewal of faith; to proclaim and exemplify the heroism of supernatural sanctity; to move onward in the divine revolution of society, and revindicate reason as the strong ally of Him who is Truth.