Dr. Edward Bouiverie Pusey
Anglican Tractarian Divine
In a recent conversation, I said that Anglo-Catholics are not so much Catholic because they have submitted to their hierarchy but because they have a keen intellectual knowledge of the Fathers. This is not meant to serve as a compliment.
The Anglo-Catholic is picking and choosing just like the Anglican Evangelical or Liberal. The Low Church Anglican blushes when a Presbyterian points to the “regneration” language in the classical Anglican baptismal liturgies or in the consecrationist sounding language of the Eucharist liturgy. The Anglo-Catholic blushes when the 39 Articles are mentioned or the Gorham Case is brought forward. The Liberal every time he recites the Creed.
At the end of the day, Anglicanism was built on a compromise and thus it’s a religion for pickers-and-choosers. This has been a terrible “epiphany” for me to realize during this season of Epiphany.
The quote from J.H. Newman (recently quoted at Pontifications) shows the inherant Protestant ethos of the Anglo-Catholic use of private judgment:
What makes this stronger is, that nearly the whole of the Anglican Church repudiates Dr Pusey, and his opinions, as not belonging to them. They respect him (how can they not?) as an individual, but they think him either grievously mistaken, or at least unusually deficient in judgment and common sense. You will not find half a dozen men, who know him fairly, who would profess to go by his opinion. I know how they talk; they reverence his wishes; they are glad to use his name; but they cannot understand his arguments or his position; they only think it is a good thing that they find him on their side, however unintelligibly.
He has indeed no business where he is; he cannot name the individual for 1800 years who has ever held his circle of doctrines; he cannot first put down his own creed, and then refer it to doctor, or school before him. Dear Dr Pusey does not witness by his virtues for his Church, he witnesses for himself, he witnesses for his own opinions; and certainly, were there not a visible Church which superseded having recourse to individuals, (considering that holiness is a prima facie evidence for truth of opinion) certainly, much might be said, for implicitly believing what he taught.
But since he himself would shrink from such a conclusion, since he refers us to his Church and considers that he puts forth its doctrine not his own, I want to know what single individual that ever belonged to the Anglican Church does he follow.
Not Laud, for Laud on the scaffold avowed himself an honest Protestant;
not Hooker, for he gives up the Real Presence;
not Taylor for he blames both the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds;
not Bull for he considers that Transubstantiation ‘bids defiance to all the reason and sense of mankind;’
not Ussher, for he was a Calvinist;
not Jewell, for he gave up the Priesthood;
nor the Articles, for Dr P. puts an interpretation on them;
nor the Prayer Book, for he believes about twice as much as the Prayer Book contains.
Who before him ever joined the circle of Roman doctrine to the Anglican ritual and polity?
- Newman to Catherine Ward: 25 September 1848
Indicative of the problem is that hardly any two Anglo-Catholics are the same (just like the Anglican Evangelicals are not agreed, e.g. on the subject of women “priests” or Calvinism). Some Anglo-Catholics hold to the Marian dogmas, other do not. Some heartily assent to using the word “transubstantiation,” others do not. Some grant the properness of Eucharistic adoration, others do not. It’s a mixed bag because there is no magisterial statement on the subject for Anglicans.
Some Anglo-Catholics have reverted to Anglo-Papalism, submitting to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accepting in toto the liturgical reforms of Vatican II complete with the Novus Ordo Missal. But again this is private judgment because it is exactly that: a personal decision. These decisions have absolutely no reference to actual submission to a higher authority. The highest authority is still the beliver or the priest who decides what is what.
I must admit that as an Anglican priest, this is a very frightful situation. I look forward to comments on the matter.