Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Becket & Patrimony
It might seem to some odd to claim St Thomas Becket as part of the Anglo-Catholic patrimony. After all, wasn't 'Anglicanism' founded on the subservience of the Church to the power of the State (or, to be fairer, on the assertion that the one is essentially not distinguishable from the other in terms of the life and governance of the realm)
Yet, Becket died for the rights and independence of the Universal Church over and against the power of the Crown. This was clearly recognised by Henry VIII in his very early despoliation of Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and the suppression of the dedications of those many churches named in honour of the "holy blissful martyr".
Similarly, the Anglo-Catholic movement in modern history can trace its beginnings to Oxford in 1833 as a protest against the arrogation to itself by the State of powers over the Church beyond its competence. Underlying this, one could argue, was itself an unease, found not uncommonly in Anglicanism's separate history, about the very rationale of a State Church separated from that Western Catholicism and the apostolic see which originally gave it its legitimacy. In terms of the Tractarians, Hurrell Froude's ecclesiology (at least his view of the reformation) was the more logical and thoroughgoing in its questioning of the entire basis of the sixteenth century schism. In Froude himself we can recognise the father of modern Anglo-Papalism and of the Anglo-Catholic ecumenical imperative.
As this momentous year comes to a close, those of us who regard ourselves as the heirs of the Oxford Movement must ask ourselves what has happened to that ecumenical imperative, to that deep unease about our continued separation from Rome, in the ecclesial bodies to which we are still attached, and which are in thrall, not so much now to the Crown or the State per se as to the contemporary mores and thought patterns common to post-Christian western societies. How exactly, for us, can Catholic ecumenism now be realised, even partially and imperfectly? You may have guessed the conclusion many of us have now reached. As for those Anglo-Catholics who may have come to another conclusion, in a spirit of genuine enquiry I would be interested to hear how they think the Lord's command 'ut unum sint' can now be followed.
O God, who for the defence of thy Church didst suffer thy glorious Bishop Thomas to fall by the swords of wicked men; grant, we beseech thee, that all who call upon him for succour may rejoice in the fulfilment of their petitions; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.
[The English Missal]