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Title: Anglo-Catholic  
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Subject: All Souls' Day, Afterlife, Anglicanism, Christian eschatology, Church of England, Holy orders, Kettlebaston, Priest, United Methodist Church, 1892
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"Anglo-Catholic" and "Anglican Catholic" redirect here. For the Roman Catholic Church in England, see Catholic Church in England and Wales. For Anglicans who have joined the Roman Catholic Church, see Anglican Use and Personal ordinariates.

The terms Anglo-Catholic, Anglican Catholic and Catholic Anglican describe people, beliefs and practices within Anglicanism which affirm the Catholic heritage and identity of the various Anglican churches, rather than the churches' Reformed heritage.

The term "Anglo-Catholic" was coined in the early 19th century,[1] although movements emphasising the Catholic nature of Anglicanism had already existed.[2][3] Particularly influential in the history of Anglo-Catholicism were the Caroline Divines of the seventeenth century and, later, the leaders of the Oxford Movement, which began at the University of Oxford in 1833 and ushered in a period of Anglican history known as the "Catholic Revival".[4]

A minority of Anglo-Catholics, sometimes called Anglo-Papalists, consider themselves under papal supremacy even though they are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Such Anglo-Catholics, especially in England, often celebrate Mass according to the contemporary Roman Catholic rite and are concerned with seeking reunion with the Roman Catholic Church.

In addition, members of the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans created by Pope Benedict XVI are sometimes unofficially referred to as "Anglican Catholics".[5][6]


Following the passing of the Act of Supremacy and Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England continued to adhere to traditional Catholic teachings and did not initially make any alterations to doctrine.[7] The Ten Articles were published in 1536 and constitute the first official Anglican articles of faith.[8] The articles for the most part concurred with the pre-Reformation teachings of the Church in England and defended, among other things, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of confession, the honouring and invocation of saints and prayer for the dead.[9] Belief in purgatory, however, was made non-essential.[10] This was followed by the Bishops' Book in 1537, a combined effort by numerous clergy and theologians which, though not strongly Protestant in its inclinations, showed a slight move towards Reformed positions and was unpopular with conservative sections of the Church and quickly grew to be disliked by Henry VIII as well.[11] The Six Articles, released two years later, moved away from all Reformed ideas and strongly affirmed Catholic positions regarding matters such as transubstantiation and Mass for the dead.[12][13] The King's Book, the official article of religion written by Henry in 1543, likewise expressed Catholic sacramental theology and encouraged prayer for the dead.[14]

A major shift in Anglican doctrine came in the reign of Henry's son, Edward VI, who repealed the Six Articles[15] and under whose rule the Church of England became more identifiably Protestant. Though the Church's practices and approach to the sacraments became strongly influenced by those of continental reformers,[16] it nevertheless retained episcopal church structure.[17] The Church of England was then briefly reunited with the Roman Catholic Church under Mary, before separating again under Elizabeth I. The Elizabethan Religious Settlement was an attempt to end the religious divisions among Christians in England, and is often seen as an important event in Anglican history, ultimately laying the foundations for the "via media" concept of Anglicanism.[18]

The nature of early Anglicanism was to be of great importance to the Anglo-Catholics of the 19th century, who would argue that their beliefs and practices were common during this period and were inoffensive to the earliest members of the Church of England.[19]

Caroline Divines

The Caroline Divines were a group of influential Anglican theologians active in the 17th century who opposed Calvinism and Puritanism[20] and stressed the importance of episcopal polity, apostolic succession and the sacraments.[21][22] The Caroline Divines also favoured elaborate liturgy (in some cases favouring the liturgy of the pre-Reformation church[23]) and aesthetics. Their influence saw a revival in the use of images and statues in churches.[24]

The leaders of the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century would draw heavily from the works of the Caroline Divines.[25]

Oxford Movement

The modern Anglo-Catholic movement can be traced to the Oxford Movement of the Victorian era, sometimes termed Tractarianism.

In the early 19th century, various factors caused misgivings among English church people, including the decline of church life and the spread of unconventional practices in the Church of England. The British government's action in 1833 of beginning a reduction in the number of Church of Ireland bishoprics and archbishoprics inspired a sermon from John Keble in the University Church in Oxford on the subject of "National Apostasy". This sermon marked the inception of what became known as the Oxford Movement.

The principal objective of the Oxford Movement was the defence of the Church of England as a divinely-founded institution, of the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession and of the Book of Common Prayer as a "rule of faith". The key idea was that Anglicanism was not a Protestant denomination, but rather a branch of the historic Catholic Church, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. It was argued that Anglicanism had preserved the historical apostolic succession of priests and bishops and thus the Catholic sacraments. These ideas were promoted in a series of ninety Tracts for the Times.

The principal leaders of the Oxford Movement were John Keble, John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey. The movement gained influential support, but it was also attacked by the latitudinarians within the University of Oxford and by bishops of the church. Within the movement there gradually arose a much smaller group which tended towards submission to the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1845 the university censured the Ideal of a Christian Church, and its author, "Ideal Ward," i.e., the pro-Roman Catholic theologian, W. G. Ward. 1850 saw the victory of the Evangelical clergyman George Cornelius Gorham in a celebrated legal action against the church authorities. A number of conversions to the Roman Catholic Church followed. The majority of adherents of the movement, however, remained in the Church of England and, despite hostility in the press and in government, the movement spread. Its liturgical practices were influential, as were its social achievements (including its slum settlements) and its revival of male and female monasticism within Anglicanism.

Recent developments

Since at least the 1970s, Anglo-Catholicism has been dividing into two distinct camps, along a fault-line which can perhaps be traced back to Bishop Charles Gore's work in the 19th century.

The Oxford Movement had been inspired in the first place by a rejection of liberalism and latitudinarianism in favour of the traditional faith of the "Church Catholic", defined by the teachings of the Church Fathers and the common doctrines of the historical eastern and western Christian churches. Until the 1970s, therefore, most Anglo-Catholics rejected liberalising development such as the conferral of holy orders on women. Present-day "traditionalist" Anglo-Catholics seek to maintain tradition and to keep Anglican doctrine in line with that of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. They often ally themselves with Evangelicals to defend traditional teachings on sexual morality. The main organisation in the Church of England that opposes the ordination of women, Forward in Faith, is largely composed of Anglo-Catholics.

Gore's work, however, bearing the mark of liberal Protestant higher criticism, paved the way for an alternative form of Anglo-Catholicism influenced by liberal theology. Thus in recent years many Anglo-Catholics have accepted the ordination of women, the use of inclusive language in Bible translations and the liturgy, and progressive attitudes towards homosexuality. Such Anglicans often refer to themselves as "Liberal Catholics". The more "progressive" or "liberal" style of Anglo-Catholicism is represented by Affirming Catholicism and the Society of Catholic Priests.

A third strand of Anglican Catholicism criticizes elements of both liberalism and conservatism, drawing instead on the 20th century Roman Catholic Nouvelle Théologie, especially Henri de Lubac. John Milbank and others within this strand have been instrumental in the creation of the ecumenical (though predominantly Anglican and Roman Catholic) movement known as Radical Orthodoxy.

Some traditionalist Anglo-Catholics have left official Anglicanism to form "continuing Anglican churches" such as those in the Anglican Catholic Church and Traditional Anglican Communion. Others have left Anglicanism altogether for the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, in the belief that liberal doctrinal changes in the Anglican churches have resulted in Anglicanism no longer being a true branch of the "Church Catholic".

Anglican ordinariates

Main article: Anglican Ordinariate

In late 2009 with the publication of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, traditionalist Anglicans were invited into unity with the Holy See. This action was in response to requests from various groups of Anglicans around the world to be received into full communion with the Holy See while retaining liturgical, musical, theological and other aspects of the Anglican patrimony.

An apostolic constitution is the highest level of papal legislation and is not time-limited. In other words, groups of Anglicans may apply for reception by the Holy See at any time and enter into what are termed "Anglican ordinariates" i.e. regional groupings of Anglican Catholics which come under the jurisdiction of an "ordinary", i.e. a bishop or priest appointed by Rome to oversee the community, which, while being in a country or region which is part of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, retains aspects of the Anglican patrimony, e.g. married priests, traditional English choral music and liturgy.

Some have drawn parallels with the Eastern Catholic churches, but though there are some commonalities, Anglican ordinariates are intended to be part of the Western or Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, as they had been before the breach with Rome following the reign of Mary I of England.

The first Anglican ordinariate, known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, was established on 15 January 2011 in the United Kingdom.[26] The second Anglican ordinariate, known as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, was established on 1 January 2012 in the United States.[27] The already existing Anglican Use parishes in the United States, which have existed since the 1980s, will form a portion of the first American Anglican ordinariate.[28] These parishes are already in communion with Rome and use modified Anglican liturgies approved by the Holy See. They will be joined by other groups and parishes of Episcopalians and some other Anglicans.

Practices and beliefs


What Anglo-Catholics believe is fiercely debated, even among themselves.

In agreement with the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglo-Catholics — along with Old-Catholics and Lutherans — generally appeal to the "canon" (or rule) of St Vincent of Lerins: "What everywhere, what always, and what by all has been believed, that is truly and properly Catholic."

The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles make distinctions between Anglican and Roman Catholic understandings of doctrine. As the Articles were intentionally written in such a way as to be open to a range of interpretations,[29] Anglo-Catholics have defended Catholic practices and beliefs as being consistent with them. Because of the Articles' harsh tone, however, they have generally not been held in high regard by most Anglo-Catholics. A recent trend in Anglo-Catholic thought related to the Thirty-Nine Articles has included the New Perspective on Paul.

Anglo-Catholic priests often hear private confessions and anoint the sick, regarding these practices, as do Roman Catholics, as sacraments. The classic Anglican aphorism regarding private confession is: "All may, some should, none must."

Anglo-Catholics are more likely to offer prayers for the departed and the intercession of the saints than low church Anglicans. C.S. Lewis, often considered an Anglo-Catholic in his theological sensibilities, was once quoted as stating that, "Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?"[30]

Anglo-Catholics share with Roman Catholics a belief in the sacramental nature of the priesthood, the sacrificial character of the Mass and, in some cases, the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Roman Catholic version of the doctrine of the Real Presence. A minority of Anglo-Catholics also encourage priestly celibacy. Most Anglo-Catholics encourage devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, particularly under her title of Our Lady of Walsingham, but not all Anglo-Catholics adhere to a high doctrine of Mariology.

Liturgical practices

Anglo-Catholics are often identified by their liturgical practices and ornaments. These have traditionally been characterised by the "six points" of the later Catholic Revival's eucharistic practice:

  • Eucharistic vestments.
  • Eastward-facing orientation of the priest at the altar instead of at the north side, the traditional evangelical Anglican practice. Many Anglo-Catholics now prefer "facing the people".
  • Unleavened bread for the Eucharist.
  • Mixing of water with the eucharistic wine.
  • Incense and candles.

Many other traditional Catholic practices are observed within Anglo-Catholicism, including eucharistic adoration. Most of these Anglo-Catholic "innovations" have since been accepted by mainstream Anglican churches, if not by Evangelical or Low Church Anglicans.

Various liturgical strands exist within Anglo-Catholicism:

Preferences for Elizabethan English and modern English texts vary within the movement.

In the United States a group of Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church published, under the rubrics of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican Service Book as "a traditional language adaptation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer together with the Psalter or Psalms of David and additional devotions." This book is based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer but includes offices and devotions in the traditional language of the 1928 Prayer Book that are not in the 1979 edition. The book also draws from sources such as the Anglican Missal.


See also

Catholicism portal
Anglicanism portal





External links

  • Anglican Catholics in Lincoln Diocese
  • Anglican Catholic Christianity Various links and resources
  • Society for Sacramental Mission (Anglo-Catholic Mission)
  • Anglican texts at Project Canterbury
  • Affirming Catholicism website
  • Anglican Breviary
  • Anglican Religious Communities
  • Anglo-Catholic Socialism website
  • A Guide to Solemn High Mass
  • What is Anglo-Catholicism?
  • What is an Anglo-Catholic Parish?
  • The Anglo-Catholic Vision
  • Forward in Faith website
  • Archdiocese of the Southwest - Traditional Old Anglo-Catholic Church

Further reading

  • , xiii, 254 pp.
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