Roman Catholic/Anglican Relations

We have travelled a very long way in the last 40 years – backwards.  As the cold winds of imperial papalism sweep across the ecumenical scene, it seems hardly credible that Pope Paul VI once recognised the Church of England as “our beloved sister church”, and welcomed Michael Ramsey, 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, with the words “by entering into our house you are entering your own house. We are happy to open our door and our heart to you.”

Paul VI was an urbane, cultured and learned pope, well able to understand the intricacies of the English ecclesial scene. By contrast, John Paul II (an East European with no experience or knowledge of the Anglican Communion), and Benedict XVI (a convert from an open progressive Catholicism to a closed conservative one) have undermined further ecumenical progress. Despite painstaking work over 20 years by the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission in establishing an amazing degree of common ground on Ministry and the Eucharist after centuries of mutual suspicion, the Vatican poured bucketfuls of cold water over the whole process in 1991.

Those opposed to further progress will of course quote the problem of the ordination of women to the priesthood and (subsequently in the USA) the episcopal ordination  of persons – male and female – in committed gay relationships.  But it can equally well be argued that it was the intransigence of the Vatican’s stance, and it’s readiness to fall back into well defended trenches – whether Leo XIII’s dismissal of Anglican Orders as “absolutely null and void” in 1896, or even Pius V’s excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 – that consigned any subsequent attempt at rapprochement to the waste paper bin.

These attitudes meant that for many Anglicans there seemed to be little point in trying to meet Roman Catholics half way, and strengthening the view that all that one could do was to proceed with further reform in accordance with our own consciences. In such a climate those eager to break new ground saw little reason for restraint.

In the early 1980s, working as a parish priest in a situation where we shared our building with the local Roman Catholic congregation, we strove to do as much together as we possibly could. On Good Friday for example, we shared the Liturgy together, and then received the Eucharist from the Reserved Sacrament of our respective Communion,  each group receiving from their own priest. If each year one or two people  got themselves into the wrong queue by mistake,  we didn’t see it as an infringement likely to consign the accidental perpetrators (or even us!) to the flames of hell.

Such a robust determination to do together whatever we could, while respecting each other’s ecclesial integrity,  is unthinkable in today’s climate in which the temperature of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations has chilled dramatically.

Pope Benedict is by all accounts a gracious man, and no doubt his meetings with Archbishop Williams have been cordial, but precise actions speak louder than vague words.  By his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in 2007, with its chilling reaffirmation that Eucharistic communion may not be shared in any circumstances with “non-Catholics”, and by his outrageous attempt at ecclesial colonisation in his offer of uniate status to disaffected Anglicans (2009), Benedict XVI has revealed his furtherance of what his erstwhile kindred spirit Hans Küng has called caesaro-papalism.

Certainly in this climate there is little chance of top-down ecumenical progress. We can but hope that sufficient numbers of Christians, from all Communions, will be become so dismayed and outraged by the lack of progress shown by their leaders, that, like the people of Egypt, they will seize the initiative and effect change at grass roots level. If enough ordinary people come out on the streets, the tanks will turn back.


  1. I would assume that Pope Paul VI commenting on ecumenical relations years after his death would speed his cause for sainthood.

  2. This article is rather negative on the Catholic hierarchical response. It might have been fair to include the steps away from ecumenism the other side has taken especially since the late 1970’s. My former Bishop, Bishop Raymond Lessard, (retired) Diocese of Savannah, was very much a part of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission in the 1970’s and 80’s and hoped for an eventual full communion agreement with the Anglicans, but that became more and more less likely because of major shifts in the Anglican Communion. Bishop Lessard though did work to implement the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II allowing disaffected Episcopalian priests and congregations to join the full communion of the Church in the early 1980’s. He saw that as a very positive step.
    However, there is a grass roots ecumenical charismatic group, primarily Catholic in Augusta, GA that has done a great deal of work in the area of grassroots ecumenism. Their web site is:

  3. Thanks for this post. There’s a huge issue about cultural style. ARCIC 1 and 2 did what they did because they worked together, and the projections were gradually withdrawn. My experience as a British Roman Catholic working in the University system over here suggests that we are in some quite elusive way enriched by living our faith in a world where we are not the only players–and that seeking directly to convert our separated siblings to Roman Catholicism, though sometimes what we are called to do, is not really the default option. If you don’t actually live in the culture, and don’t have the experiences that come from daily interaction, such a way of thinking appears as cold indifferentism. I don’t regret Rome’s insistence on the fullness of Catholic truth in the ecumenical sphere; I do regret its lack of generosity, empathy and imagination.

    1. Father Endean—-I don’t regret Rome’s insistence on the fullness of Catholic truth in the ecumenical sphere;–
      Agreed…Say Father, you’re a Jesuit. A while back I was in a little spat here with another contributor who characterized the martyrdom of Edmund Campion in derogatory terms while praising Cranmer as a martyr for religious freedom.

      I wondered at the time, how a Jesuit could let such a statement – contravening the fullness of historical truth-go.

      maybe you missed it.

      1. Of course Cranmer was a martyr for religious freedom. No one is being derogatory of Campion, just noting the background — Pius V’s deposition of Elizabeth I and idea that to assassinate her would be justifiable. Campion distanced himself from such treachery but the official church put him in a false position.

  4. Before we worry about the problems of relations with Anglicans we might look at the problems within the Anglican faith. The North American approach seems to be to “make it up as you go” with no sticking point on any matter. The African part of that faith rejects this so poor Rowan Williams has an impossible task to keep his faith together.
    By contrast some of the divisions within the Catholic church seem to be healing as traditionalists come back into full Communion. This confidence in the faith has attracted some Anglicans in a move that will prove an interesting experiment with different liturgies and married clergy.
    Relations with the Orthodox also seem to be improving which brings together those who recognise the mutual validity of orders.
    Looking forward it will be easier to have mutual respect for those with different faiths if we can admit openly our differences rather than pretend to paper over them. Having worked with Muslim, Jewish and Church of Scotland colleagues I have always found mutual respect greater than with those of no declared faith.

  5. I have wondered too, that the Catholic Church is becoming what the Anglican Communion once purported to be, that bridge between Catholicism and Protestantism, embracing elements of both. The Catholic Church has long done this with the Eastern Church, but only now and because of Vatican II with the Churches of the Reformation.
    Who knows, maybe one day there will be a Lutheran Ordinariate, Methodist Ordinariate, Presbyterian Ordinariate and Evangelical Ordinariate. All of these seeking full communion with the Church out of desperation concerning the collapse of traditional Protestantism and yes a desire for orthodoxy with an authority that can hold the Church together. Pope Benedict is the pope of Christian Unity.

    1. Fr. Allen, I find it very insulting to hear you predict “the collapse of traditional Protestantism.” I wonder if you realize how offensive you are being to other communions, or how little your prognostication corresponds to any of the attrition data we actually have.

      When traditional Protestantism (by which I suppose you mean the mainline churches) loses members, they generally go to the non-denominational or evangelical megachurches. Catholicism is not the mecca you seem to think it is for those disaffected from mainline Protestantism.

      In the meantime, we Catholics in the US have lost 1/3 of our own members. If these Catholics were all put together they would be the second largest denomination in the country. We are hardly in a position to wave the flag of superiority over any other church that is losing members. Is authority in the Catholic Church really “holding the church together”? Apparently not too well given these relentless statistics.

      1. Rita,

        If your stats. are correct that is quite an indictment of the period of post V2 renewal in the US. The renewal was supposed to bring us progress not decline.

        In truth, however, the Catholic Church has seen significant growth since our most recent council, it just has not been in those places where the renewal took the form many in America and Britain prefer.

      2. Jack, the “indictment” offers a lot of possible targets aside from the post V2 liturgical renewal. Birth control, divorce, etc. come in for a share in most analyses. I am not proposing a single “cause” but noting the situation is far from enviable!

        Can’t see your latter point. Africa has rocketed up, has entirely post V2 liturgy, and that is where most of the growth has occurred.

      3. While this corrects Rita’s statement on a point of fact, I think her main point — that the explosive growth of the Church in Africa does not seem to have been inhibited by the reformed liturgy — remains.

      4. That’s rather difficult to prove. There’s no control group. How are we to say it hasn’t been inhibited, but other factors have pushed its growth beyond the reduction?

        This is the same methodological problem when people study U.S. Mass attendence before and after the liturgical changes.

        Moreover, I think it’s difficult to compare the ways in which the liturgical and other ecclesial reforms were implemented in the U.S. and in Africa. I’m more familiar with what happened in Latin America. Certainly what happened there (base communities, liberation theology, social action) is very different than what happened in the U.S. I expect the situation in Africa was different than that in the U.S. or Latin America. That may leave Jack with a fair point that the growth has been in places where the “renewal [did not take] the form many in America and Britain prefer.”

      5. Rita, you are misreading me, it’s not a collapse of Protestantism, but main line liberal Protestantism. Conservative, evangelical Protestantism is prospering. especially the more charismatic or pentecostal forms of it. Catholics who leave the Church (apart from those who become “nones” ) are leaving for the more conservative branches of Evangelical Protestantism. Their own experience of Catholicism in their own parishes since Vatican II has not be conservative enough or given them enough direction, moral or otherwise, which is in fact an indictment against the moral relativity of the post-Vatican II experience on the parish level. We have lost a goodly number of Catholics too to the Mormon religion precisely for their moral conservative, traditional values.

      6. John Allen presents an important point on this issue, namely that the real failure of American Catholicism is new sales more than failing to keep people.

        We are a dynamic religious society in which people are constantly changing denominations. To be successful a denomination has to recruit new people as well as keep its existing customers.

        Yes, the Evangelicals were successful for a couple of decades by marketing to people’s concerns about the sexual revolution in the sixties. American Grace notes they were well organized and had a message. BUT, it was only successful for a limited time. Indeed when Evangelicals got too associated with politics, it turned off a lot of people to religion period.

        Catholicism is the largest denomination and that breeds self satisfaction. We can fail to keep large numbers of people, and fail even more in recruiting new people, and yet keep even percentage wise through immigrants and higher Hispanic birthrates.

        During much of American history, the mainline Protestants dominated. Again self satisfaction likely paved the way for their decline.

        Methodism was once the dynamic growing religion, but it slowed down and became part of the self satisfied mainstream.

        The problem with both Catholic liberals and Catholic traditionalists is the same, self satisfaction with their own world views. The liberals live in the sixties and the traditionalists live in the fifties. We are starting the second decade of 21st century!

  6. This essay comes across as rather one-sided. The essay seems to suggest that Anglicans have moved further away from Catholicism since the 1970’s because Catholics have given them no reason not to move that way and, furthermore, Catholics have “chilled” ecumenical progress because they’ve reaffirmed what they already taught, believed, and published in their canon law.
    Reaffirming teachings and disciplines already existing is very different than actually changing one’s teaching and practice on holy orders. Ordaining women to the priesthood and episcopate is highly innovative, breaking the tradition of East & West. In my reading it is the Anglican communion that poured the cold water on whatever ecumenical progress that had been made, not Rome. The new ordinate proves it.

  7. Father O–Of course Cranmer was a martyr for religious freedom. —

    There you go again, Father. Let’s let the man from Campion Hall bail you out!

    St. Edmund was given the opportunity to reconvert to Anglicanism and be given his life and many other benefits. That’s the “religious freedom” system Cranmer built.

  8. Conservative, evangelical Protestantism is prospering. especially the more charismatic or pentecostal forms of it.
    Perhaps, but these churches in more recent years are also a major source of conversions to the Orthodox Church of America and the Antiochene Orthodox Church. Outside of the Mormons and Southern Baptists, there doesn’t appear to be a major protestant group that hasn’t become the equivalent of a train station. Passengers coming in and going out.
    If the Pew Research group is to be believed, dissatisfaction with the liturgy doesn’t account for most Catholic conversions to any protestant group. However, the principles expressed in “Humanae Vitae”, and the Church’s strict adherence to them, the sexual abuse crisis, and Rome’s perceived hostility to women and the gay struggle for constitutional rights figures prominently in the reasons given for these defections. Educated, professional Catholic women make up a large and an increasing percentage of this disaffected group.

  9. “St. Edmund was given the opportunity to reconvert to Anglicanism and be given his life and many other benefits. That’s the “religious freedom” system Cranmer built.”

    Cranmer, too, was given the opportunity to reconvert to Catholicism and be given his life and many other benefits. That’s the “religious freedom” system Pius V built.

    Cranmer was in doubt whether to take up the offer, and apparently it was one line in the sermon before his execution that made up his mind for him: “today we are burning a good man — but the Protestants also executed good men, like John Fisher.” Cranmer recited not an abjuration but an expression of Protestant faith, then ran to the pyre, and put his hand into the flames to atone for his wavering in faith. His act lit a holy flame in the English soul that has never been extinguished.

    1. But I accept your point that “religious freedom” was not on anyone’s agenda in that dismal 16th century. It would be more precise to say that Cranmer was a martyr of religious conscience, resisting bullying. So we can retrieve him, along with Sir Thomas More and Edmund Campion as part of the pre-history of religious freedom.

      1. Dear George (and everyone else), and I mean this kindly: It’s not right to draw conclusions based on someone’s not replying to your question. People don’t live in the comboxes; they have lives outside which demand their attention. Quite often someone will comment, then move on. I think it’s not helpful or fair to deduce anything–negative or postive–from this phenomenon. If we were all in the same room together, that would be different, but we have to remember the nature of the conversation and the medium in which it takes place. Thank you, all.

    2. This is anachronistic. Cranmer wasn’t a resister of bullying. He was a bully himself, and while he died for his conscience perhaps, he certainly showed signs of not respecting the consciences of others with whom he disagreed.

    3. Father O—Cranmer, too, was given the opportunity to reconvert to Catholicism and be given his life and many other benefits. —-

      Father O, You are wrong (again.) I’m getting embarrassed for you!
      Cranmer did *not* have the opportunity to save his skin.
      He was damned either way because of his roll
      in dishonoring Mary Tudor’s mother, thus declaring Mary a bastard. She was to determined to have him.

      He finally figured this out when he saw that his recantation ploy wasn’t working.

      –But I accept your point that “religious freedom” was not on anyone’s agenda in that dismal 16th century–

      Not quite, Father! Campion’s view on a Christian’s civic duty to a non-catholic Monarch was quite modern.

      You need to study him a little more and quit trying to throw him in with Guy Fawkes and Babbington…..

  10. The problem with the concept of “religious freedom” as generally understood nowadays is that it leads to relativism, whose patron saint would no doubt be Pontius Pilate:”quid est veritas?”. Cranmer died not for any notion of freedom of conscience but for the truth (as he saw it) . His earlier recantation would certainly have troubled his conscience, but all his political life he had done the bidding of his sovereign; hence his wavering. He did not scruple when he imposed the new religion on a (largely reluctant) populace because he believed, like Cromwell in the next century, that he was doing God’s work.

    From a Catholic point of view he died not for the truth but for an error, so we can pay tribute to his courage at the end and describe him as a martyr, but not of course venerate him as such.

    In Westminster Cathedral there is a plaque listing those who have led the Catholic Church in England, from St Augustine to the present day. Thomas Cranmer is the second to last Archbishop of Canterbury. Next to his name is the laconic comment “deprived for heresy”.

    1. Cranmer was no less a creature of the Crown than Gardiner; neither were heroes. Both bullied with the worst of them. For anyone who finds the current translation process to be bullying, Cranmer cannot credibly be a hero – his bullying of the English, Welsh and (very importantly but largely forgotten) Irish people far surpasses anything Rome is doing now (which is not to excuse the current translation process).

      And, however one might in our day admire Cranmer’s linguistic style, it should be remembered that it was imposed with the bloody power of the Crown and establishment behind it, at a time when the idioms of modern English were being fixed by a switch from orality to literacy, and that had a tremendous effect on how we today view elegance in our tongue. It was never a neutral thing.

  11. I don’t think you can posit post-Vatican II authentic liturgical renewal as the reason why Catholics who want to be religious join more conservative, fellowship oriented Protestant Evangelical Churches.
    However, I do think that there is a correlation between not being properly catechized about the Mass and just Who is present within the Mass in a “unique” sacramental way, both via the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist.
    If Catholics no longer believe in the unique way that Catholics and Orthodox understand these two sacraments and see no difference in terms of their participation in a more fellowship oriented denomination and their participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then I suspect the “liturgy” that does more for them in terms of “feelings” and “connection with others” is the one they will choose.
    So what may have changed in the Catholic Church and as a result of a liturgy that appears outwardly to be no different that an Anglican, Lutheran or Methodist liturgy is the foundational belief in the real presence as understood by coming about by valid Sacramental Orders and the philosophical premise of “transubstantiation.” If these two Catholic “realities” don’t keep you connected to the Catholic Church and don’t appear to be any different that what Protestants do and the evangelical style of worship is more appealing from the emotional angle, then why not leave the Catholic Church and find something that “nourishes” your emotions and need for fellowship? At least with the pre-Vatican II liturgical approach to belief and spirituality, even if the celebration was horrible on the technical side, Jesus was present in the Holy Eucharist and you could get some satisfaction out of the elevations, even if you didn’t receive Holy Communion due to various reasons that excluded you.
    I think the moral reason for people leaving today, such as Humanae Vitae are more and more irrelevant to younger people but not to people baby-boomer age and older. It boils down to orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Here’s why one former mega-church pastor joined the Catholic Church:

    1. Fr. Allan,

      The research on conversion has shown that it is more about personal relationships than about doctrine or practices.

      People get into a personal relationship with another person or group that is more religious than they are. In the beginning its just about relationships with no changes in beliefs or practices. After awhile the person who is less religious changes to the beliefs and practices of the person or persons who are more religious.

      The Mormons convert less than one in a thousand people by knocking on doors. They convert a substantial number of people by inviting to their homes families that are new to the area (therefore lacking relationships) and who are not very religious. At their family nights, they discuss their families not church doctrines.

      Christianity is about both love of God and love of others. The Vibrant Parish Life study showed that community (i.e. love of neighbor) was right up there with worship (love of God) in importance.

      Most religious congregations and their leaders in the country act like religious education is the most important thing after worship. They neglect personal relationships in their congregation; thinking perhaps they are just about sociability.

      American Grace has shown that the well established benefits of church attendance (health, happiness, etc) come from personal relationships that are religious. These benefits do not come to people who attend church but have few personal relationships that are religious. In other words beliefs and practices without loving relationships produce nothing.(unless I have love, tinking brass, etc.)

      However praying together is not just better than praying alone it is better than bowling together. Why? I think because people experience their personal relationships in the context of their relationships to God. That is probably why less religious people over time tend to the adopt the beliefs and practices of more religious people. Its about loving relationships not beliefs and practices per se.

      1. I suspect there’s a bit of a selection bias in accounts of conversions: people whose conversion is more intellectually based are probably more likely to write about it than those whose conversion is more relationship-based.

      2. Retrospective accounts of conversions like retrospective accounts of any behavior are an entirely different matter. We are very selective about our memories, and we tap into all sorts of models about how things usually happen, or ought to happen, etc.

        There is a lot of prospective research on conversions. Cults and similar religious movements were heavily studied, often by infiltration, because of the charges of “brainwashing” etc.

        The documentary evidence is there for religious movements such as the Moonies, the Mormons spreading through personal relationships, relatives, neighbors, etc.

        Well you know the Gospel story: two brothers were called to join two brothers. Part of that was probably Mark’s point that a new “brethren”(family, one of the words used for Christians) was being formed. They were called from their original families on one side of Jesus inauguration of his ministry in the Synagogue followed by joining together in Peter’s house (another family word) on the other side.

        Given the sandwich literary form of the Gospel of Mark, it gives a nice “sociological” snapshot of the growth of Christianity as house church networks around the Synagogue, something Mark’s audience probably experienced.

  12. To return to the original posting: If Hans Kueng has in fact accused Pope Benedict of “caesaro-papalism,” this simply shows that he does not know what the term means.

    That point of fact aside, I must say that I find the tone of this article pretty insulting. The implied contrast between the “urbane, cultured and learned” Paul VI and the presumably bumpkin John Paul II from the backwoods of Poland (where a seven course meal is a kielbasi and a six-pack) is nothing more than an ad hominem.

    If Fr. Giles wants a substantive discussion of ecumenical issues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, I am all for it. But this piece does nothing to advance such a discussion. But I suspect that was not really the intention of the piece.

      1. Count me unimpressed by this sub-thread. “Bumpkin” is Fritz’s word, not Fr Giles’. Perhaps something was implied by praising one pope and declining a parallel good word for the others. Or perhaps on the ecumenical front, there is nothing good to say.

        If I wanted a reasoned argument, I wouldn’t go to a short blog post to get it.

        As for a substantive discussion of ecumenical issues, I’m all for it too. Let’s leave the beer and sausage for the dinner break, eh? There’s nothing wrong with putting a point of view into a short internet essay. If it rankles us, maybe we should look at someone in addition to the deliverer.

      2. More than venting, Richard Giles points to the current focus on papal/Magisterial authority as a cause of failure, and so it seems to me as a lay person: a lamentable failure. Granted that Christian unity poses a perennial challenge, are Christians free to reject what Christ embraced? The Vatican’s 1991 unilateral turning away from ecumenical dialogue subverts His prayer to the Father for the unity of His followers. And the focus on authority represents failure in other ways. Understandably, Roman Catholic self-identity and Vatican moral authority are re-asserting themselves now in the wake of the abuse scandals, but this process can overreach. For example, I wonder why Giles did not mention the Vatican’s statement of last July, when it dealt with sexual abuse, and reaffirmed the excommunication of anyone who attempts ordaining a woman. In a most questionable move (many asked “why?”), the Vatican additionally categorized this act as a crime against the sacrament and against the church itself, a crime equal in gravity to the sexual abuse of a child by a priest. Was there any point to this ecclesiastical overreaching except to reassure the priests of Anglicanorum Coetibus that they would never be subject to the “authority” of a female prelate? (They were leaving the Anglican Communion, of course, to avoid precisely that fate.) And if the statement even had this effect, how can it not represent a political alliance for the “culture wars,” a temporal strategy of greater polarization, exactly the opposite of ecumenism?

      3. Count me unimpressed by this sub-thread.

        Sorry to leave you unimpressed, but I see nothing wrong with pointing out a lack of reasoned argument. I don’t think it took too much of a leap to catch the implication that JPII and Benedict cannot match Paul VI in urbanity, culture and learning. Of course the claim is on its face preposterous, but people make claims all the times — for example, the claim that Benedict’s papacy is accurately characterized as caesaro-papalism (I should note that the claim is particularly amusing coming from a priest of a church whose head is also the monarch of a nation state).

        Would it be out of bounds to propose for discussion the question of of why Kueng (and Giles) would make the claim, preposterous though it be, that Benedict’s Papcy is an example of caesaro-papalism? Is it simply a case of caesaro-papalism = bad : Benedict’s papacy = bad ; ergo Benedict’s papacy = caesaro-papalism?

      4. Fritz,

        I think it was a pretty big leap. Well-reasoned or not, I prefer to let people’s words speak for them, not my connecting the dots to what I hope (or not) they’re saying.

        Perhaps Fr Giles would have been better served to point out that within the church, pre-papacy Paul VI was a diplomat, JPII was a pastor, and B16 was a professor. That, and their nations of origin tell us a good bit about their personal emphases in their papal ministries.

        Sausage and beer? C’mon; that one was all on you, my friend.

  13. It is true that the English bishops, with the exception of St John Fisher, followed Henry VIII into schism but to be fair they probably regarded the break with Rome as a temporary political expedient. Years later, one of them remarked ruefully: “Would that I had stood with my brother Fisher!” They did have the decency to resign after Elizabeth’s restoration of Protestantism, with the sole exception of Kitchen of Llandaff.

    Pius V’s bull Regnans in Excelsis was unnecessary since the queen, as an apostate, had already excommunicated herself. It made things difficult for missionary priests like Campion who made it clear that their mission was not political, but most historians are agreed that the persecutions of the 1580s would have happened anyway, in the light of the domestic and international situation at the time.

    Anglicans tend to forget that whereas the schism between the Eastern and Western churches developed over quite a long period of time, their particular schism resulted from Acts of Parliament which are still on the Statute Book, and is further complicated by the adoption of heretical doctrines in the 16th century. I have studied the ARCIC documents but they are at best a bureaucratic fudge on the key issues of doctrine and authority.

    There are plenty of Romophobes in the Catholic Church – some of them post on this site – who see everything in terms of Vatican intransigence. When they finally wake up to the fact that the Church is not going to conform to their liberal-relativist image of it, I suspect they will leave (but they will endeavour to cause as much mischief as possible before they go).

    1. Eamon Duffy’s recent work on the Marian proto Catholic Reformation (a must-read) is already causing a major re-assessment of standard attitudes about that period. Among several what-ifs, were it not for an epidemic disease, things might have played out very differently for Elizabeth.

      1. But Duffy’s work, Fires of Faith, is surely an occasion of scandal. He argues that Mary’s burning of heretics, much as we would disapprove of it today, was working, and that if she had been given a free hand England would be Roman Catholic today. A jolly good thing, to be sure: to build your church on the burned bodies of its opponents. Mary’s husband presided over lots of burnings in Spain — and we thank the immortal Schiller for pinning him down for all time in Don Carlos (with kudos to Verdi also). If you really care for freedom of religion you will honor martyrs of conscience like Cranmer, More and Campion, though they may not have belonged to organizations that respected that freedom, and you will not honor the organs and agents of state repression, be they Mary or Elizabeth, Philip II or Calvin (in his execution of Servetus), Louis XIV (revocation of the Edict of Nantes) or Robespierre. The growth of religious freedom in modern civilization is something to be rejoiced in, not worried about — Bayle, Voltaire, l’Abbe Gregoire, Lamennais, Montalembert, Courtney Murray, Vatican II have won that battle, and it is no use sighing for the authoritarian days of De Maistre, Gregory XVI, Pius IX and other integralists.

  14. Father O—But Duffy’s work, Fires of Faith, is surely an occasion of scandal. —-

    Have you read it, Father? I haven’t.

    This is the same question I put to Paul Inwood when he held forth to tell us what Bishop Schneider’s book, Dominus Est, was all about…… never got an answer. I hope he’s read it by now!

    1. I read enough of it to get the general argument, which includes what Karl Saur gives above. Mary would be remembered as a successful monarch if bad luck had not prevented her from carrying through her already successful policies. Considering that the policy she is best remembered for and that is commemorated in the rather indecent title of the book is the burning of heretics, how would this differ from an argument that Hitler would have been seen as a success if he had succeeded in carrying through his policies? An Irishman who sets himself up to correct what he sees as English Protestant prejudice should tread more carefully. He seems to have crossed a line here that he did not cross in his famous earlier book, The Stripping of the Altars.

      1. Read it more carefully the next time.

        Recall that other monarchs of the period are considered “successful” despite their ruthlessness and bloodiness. The burnings, in Duffy’s read, were along with the Spanish marriage part of the most counterproductive part of the Marian counter-Reformation. Success is not an applause line for Duffy the way you imply. And Duffy attributes more “success” anyway to the preaching, propaganda and choice of strong generally reformist bishops who, however, largely died to to epidemic disease and gave Elizabeth an more open hand than she would have had otherwise.

      2. I have a colleague and dear friend who is a devoted Scotist. Alongside his many virtues, he has the unfortunate habit of picking up a book, finding Duns Scotus in the index, reading the passages concerning Scotus, and judging the book accordingly.

        As Francis Bacon said, some books are to be tasted, some are to be swallowed whole, and some are to be thoroughly chewed and digested. My experience of Duffy’s work is that only tasting them often gives a distorted view of the argument he is making.

      3. Father O–I read enough of it to get the general argument —

        Father! Forgive me, but I think -given the vagueness of your answer-that I should be allowed a quantitative followup. Kind of like when a procrastinating student turns all of his required book reports in together on the last day school!

        How long is Duffy’s book? and how many pages did you read? e.g. Did you read half of it?

  15. “My experience of Duffy’s work is that only tasting them often gives a distorted view of the argument he is making.”

    No doubt — but unfortunately a book that is presented as a rehabilitation of Bloody Mary and that advertises her chief crime in its title is bound to lend itself to such a non-nuanced interpretation, and has done. NOT a good advertisement for Catholicism today.

    1. Imagine how offended Catholics would be by a book that celebrated Elizabeth’s success with a title like “How the Papal Threat was suppressed”. In general, historians have been frank about the blemishes in Elizabeth’s policy — at least in these non-imperialistic times — the spy network, the execution of Mary Stuart, the ferocity of the suppression of Catholic missionaries, the plantation of Munster; there is enough to celebrate not to need to whitewash anything. Poor Mary left so little to celebrate that Duffy is unable to take his eyes off the baleful spectacle of the burnings. That good theologians and bishops were involved is not consoling — why did they not speak up against the importation of Spanish fanaticism?

      1. Actually, there is a Marian record on religion other than the burnings, and Duffy pays more attention to it than most other historians have, and to Duffy’s credit, he gives credit to the historians who preceded him in this regard.

        And, there are still plenty of historians writing today would consider Elizabeth’s suppression of the papal threat a “success”.

    1. Concerning my reference to 1991, above: The break in the ARCIC dialogues actually came in 2003, when Pope John Paul II’s Vatican withdrew following the Episcopal Church’s consecration of Eugene Robinson as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. History here: . I mistakenly took Giles’ 1991 date as representing this break, and it actually is the date of Vatican response, as Karl Liam Saur has already noted. I should have checked!

      Discussions of ecclesiastical authority occupy much space in the ARCIC documents. From the ARCIC’s “The Gift of Authority (Authority in the Church III)” of 1998:
      “The exercise of authority can be oppressive and destructive. It may, indeed, often be so in human societies and even in churches when they uncritically adopt certain patterns of authority. The exercise of authority in the ministry of Jesus shows a different way. It is in conformity with the mind and example of Christ that the Church is called to exercise authority (cf. Lk 22.24-27; Jn 13.14-15; Phil 2.1-11). For the exercise of this authority the Church is endowed by the Holy Spirit with a variety of gifts and ministries (cf. 1 Cor 12.4-11; Eph 4.11-12).”

      From the Vatican’s response, “When it comes to the question of Authority in the Church, it must be noted that the Final Report makes no claim to substantial agreement.”

      1. As I understand it, the ARCIC discussions were set up with specific issues in mind. When the first set of issues led to reports(1981), a second session (ARCIC 2) was scheduled. These completed their reports is 2002, at which point a break from doctrinal dialogue was scheduled to develop more opportunities for working together. ARCIC-3 is now commencing after a break of about 10 years.

        Also, it should be noted that 1991 was not the end of the ARCIC I. ARCIC-2 issued some “Clarifications” that met many of the objections in the Vatican’s final report. The Vatican accepted those clarifications as the basis for prayer together at St Gregory’s Rome completed by a joint message from Pope and the Abp of Canterbury affirming “the signs of progress provided in the statements of ARCIC I ”

  16. Some of us who comment frequently and at length are not at our computers for much of the day, do not read the comments in real time even when we are at our computers, and do not catch up on everything once we get back into the commenting mode.


    Why in recent days are comments at the end of comment list being placed at odd places in the list? as this one just was instead of being the last numbered comment (i.e. 51 after you comment 50)?

    1. Jack,

      I have noticed the same thing and have asked our tech person. He was away yesterday but has promised to look into it as soon as he can. Thanks for noticing. It’s not just one or two of us experiencing this problem!

      1. Rita, in terms of technical things, when I write a comment, in the box, the words in the right margin disappear as I’m typing until it returns to the left margin, so it is hard to see mistakes, in other I’m typing blindly–then I have to edit my comments after posting them to see them in total–is that my computer or a technical glitch with the blog?

      2. Fr. Allan, you may be able to fix that problem by running “compatibility view” at the top of your screen if you are using Internet Explorer. (The icon looks like a zigzag-cut page between the web address and the “refresh” icon.) I am no computer expert, but I used to have the problem you describe and this fixed it. I’ll be happy to consult our computer adviser too, if this proves fruitless.

      3. Fr Allan

        I asked that question in the first month of the blog and was ignored, so I thought I was the only one. The way I deal with it is to input some comment, submit and then edit afterwords. It works much better. I use Firefox (or Safari, same problem). I don’t deal with IE, don’t have it, like many who avoid that browser.

      4. Karl, do you have “compatibility view” or its equivalent in your Firefox browser? I am sorry to be so ill equipped to reply more helpfully. Maybe this deserves its own thread! 😉

      5. Rita: Here is a solution for the issue with the reply textbox.

        Just add the following line at the bottom of the style.css file:

        .comment textarea { width: 90% }

        This will insure that the text box can’t exceed the size of it’s container.

        Hope this helps!

  17. “there is a Marian record on religion other than the burnings” — of course, but even the fact that the only good things we can remember about her are religious confirms her fanaticism. A Monarch has to be more than a religious zealot, indeed should not be a religious zealot at all. And as I already pointed out, the religious merits of Fisher et al. are gravely compromised by the smell of burning flesh.

    I notice that Amazon’s blurb for Duffy’s book confirms my impression of its thesis: “Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press. Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved DEVASTATINGLY EFFECTIVE. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, thereby changing the course of English history.”

  18. Unsurprisingly, many readers at are shocked and enraged by Duffy’s book, which one calls “evil.” Stephanie Mann has a detailed favorable review. The book does not let Cardinal Pole off the hook for his role in the burnings. “Pole was very much concerned with guiding popular opinion at the burnings, with preachers there to admonish both the heretics and any in the crowd who might share their errors.” Arguing against the thesis that the campaign of burnings did not work; and that the pro-protestant crowds were repelled by them, “Duffy contends that the campaign to extirpate the protestant heresy from England was working.”

  19. There is a favorable Guardian review, which informs us: “Mary’s regime decided to put Thomas More forward as ideal martyr. More was perfect: persecuted by the previous regime, he was a learned man who had remained true to the faith and been executed for his beliefs. A Life of More was duly written by John Harpsfield, but Harpsfield had been careful not to lay any stress on More’s own career as interrogator of heretics. His eagerness to avoid the whole subject showed some unease with his own activities.”

    So maybe Duffy is indeed exploring the heart of Catholic darkness, as the reviewer claims.

    There is also a SECOND favorable Guardian review:

  20. Richard:
    Please email me! I’ve lost your address and want to correspond with you. I’d rather not inquire for it this side of the pond. It took me ages to figure out to look for a blog from you. Looks like all is well, and feisty as ever!

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