Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: July-August 1987

July-August 1987

The Oxford Movement

Since one of your ads states that the NEW OXFORD REVIEW takes its name from the 19th-century Oxford Movement, I feel compelled to subscribe. I am a great-great-grandson of one of the founders of the Oxford Movement, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and find it immensely interesting that the Movement is still remembered today.

You perhaps would be interested to know that I am a Roman Catholic and that, as far as I know, all of Pusey’s descendants are Roman Catholics.

Robert B. Brine

Dean, Grace Cathedral

Sacramento, California

An Anglican View

Dale Vree’s review of Peter Cornwell’s One Step Enough (May) raises some important questions for me about my own views on Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Vree’s balanced and gracious review was the occasion of my learning about the current outbreak of Roman fever in England. That in itself is significant. Frankly, however, the road between Rome and Canterbury is two way.

Like Cornwell – Vree, George Rutler, and Tom Howard in this country have made journeys to Rome. I have a deep respect for them, and I miss them. We are still in the same drama, but they have moved to “another part of the wood.” But frankly, I am puzzled, since to move from Canterbury to Rome seems like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Vree outlines the woes of the Church of England (and they are real enough, since it is, in my view, the weakest link in the Anglican chain). But think what can be said about contemporary Roman Catholicism! Trading things-are-awful-over-there stories is pointless.

Cornwell “crossed the Tiber” because he wanted to join the bigger crowd. That sounds perfectly sane to me. But his other reasons (as outlined by Vree) are unconvincing, especially the appeal to “authentic authority.” Rome’s authority isn’t what it used to be, still less can it claim a theological coherence. In fact, it sounds suspiciously Anglican to me. Yes, the “heretical” David Jenkins, Anglican Bishop of Durham, is pointed to. But I find him fiercely orthodox. His trouble is that he behaves toward the media as he would in a doctoral seminar. I hope he’s learning.

I understand myself to be a Catholic already, and for me, when it comes to the question of Rome, there’s no “there” there. There is nowhere for me to go. I hope, however, to die in full communion with the ever-emerging Catholic Church. Meanwhile I am always heartened when someone finds his way to what he believes is home. But the Catholic Church hasn’t happened yet, and Roman Catholics suffer as much from Vatican heresies as we do from so-called Anglican muddle.

Christopher Derrick’s smart-alecky remarks about Anglicans’ lack of “clear-headedness” annoyed me since I find Anglicanism very clear! The fact is that Roman Catholics and Anglicans live with ambiguity and conflict in different ways. We tend to fudge it. Rome tries (more and more unsuccessfully) to present a united front.

I feel more at home with the NOR than I do with Edward Norman and his odious (and odorous!) metaphor of the dead flesh of Catholic Anglicanism. If the defrosting limb stinks, think of the stench from the whole body! Vree’s quoting the schoolboy naughtiness of Norman is like my using the ravings of a Malachi Martin as a barometer of current Roman Catholicism.

Ironically, Rome is becoming very Anglican (no doubt another Newman will write someday on this being a true development!). Perhaps that’s why Cornwell and others are going over to Rome. The question of Rome increasingly may be becoming not “Why?” but “Why not?” but now there are many Roman Catholicisms to choose from. Remarks made in fun are often revealing. I remember some years ago being in England at a time when the see of Canterbury was vacant. Our candidate at the time was (the Roman Catholic) Basil Hume! I jokingly ended a series of lectures at a Catholic university with these words: “The glory of Anglicanism is that, in the end, everyone will be Anglican. Its tragedy is that no one will know!” This remark says something of what I believe about my own place in the Catholic Church.

I very much appreciate Cornwell calling himself an “Anglican Roman Catholic” and his challenge to the Roman Church to become more catholic. I look forward to Anglicans and Romans enjoying together a fullness of Catholicity which neither has while we are separated. Meanwhile, I suspect there will be a lot of cross traffic, and if some Anglicans “cross over” in the spirit of a Peter Cornwell and others make the journey to Canterbury in the same spirit, I have no doubt that such “conversions” will bring us even closer together.

I thank the NOR for all it is doing to bring us all into closer unity. I think the NOR is challenging us all to greater theological clarity and deeper social commitment – and that is a great service to the Church at large, and I am grateful.

The Very Rev. Alan Jones

San Francisco, California

The Spirit of Marthe Robin in the U.S.

Readers of Henri J.M. Nouwen’s account (May) of his visit to the birthplace of Marthe Robin, founder with Fr. Georges Finet of the Foyers of Charity, may be interested in knowing that a Foyer has been established in the U.S.

In addition to Fr. Bradley’s clear and inspiring teaching, a multiplicity of Catholic liturgical experiences (Eucharist, Angelus, Rosary, Evening Prayer, Way of the Cross, Reconciliation, Benediction) enrich the days lived “in a climate of silence, charity, and devotion” in a peaceful country setting not far from the Atlantic Ocean. (Fr. Bradley has assured me that a letter to the NOR is within the spirit of person-to-person contact by which the Foyers become known.)

Betsy Clifford

Hingham, Massachusetts

An Anabaptist View

I found Peter E. Gillquist’s account of his pilgrimage from Campus Crusade for Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy (May) at once stimulating and disturbing. Certainly his insight that the Great Commission was given to the Church, and not to “para-church” organizations, is correct. And certainly his attempt to “discover the Church” by starting with the New Testament and its earliest post-Apostolic interpreters is a laudable proceeding. Yet there is a tremendous potential for serious error if one interprets the New Testament in the light of the Fathers, rather than judging the Fathers in the light of the New Testament.

It is important to recognize that in the first four or five centuries after Christ, the majority church was transformed into something not only radically different from the New Testament Church, but in most respects essentially opposed to the teachings of Christ, the Apostles, and the earliest Fathers. From a church which abjured the use of the sword it became one which took up the sword to punish “heresy.” From a church which baptized believers on confession of faith it became a church which baptized pagans at the point of the lance. The servants and elders of the church became “princes of the church.” Caesar was embraced, and Mammon became respectable.

It is instructive to see “where the New Testament Church went,” if only to avoid the same errors that transformed the Church of Christ into the Church of the World. It is my conviction that the Church of the New Testament went “underground” during the fourth century. History knows little of it, for history is largely written by those who dominate, while the true Church of Christ is never to be found in positions of power. Nevertheless, glimpses of it appear, largely in the records of the persecution of the faithful by the majority church and its secular allies, and in the witness of such as Donatus of Carthage, Dolcino of Novara, Peter Waldo, the Poor Brothers, John Wycliff, Conrad Grebel, Jacob Hutter, George Fox, and thousands of humble believers who witnessed to their faith with their blood.

The continuity of the Church of Christ does not depend on any laying on of human hands. How often in the history of the Church have those supposedly apostolic hands been stained with the blood of the innocent! It is rather the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit upon those of humble heart which makes apostles. The Orthodox Church is to be found in no other place than where the poor in spirit have repented and believed, and have declared Jesus to be Lord by their obedience to His commandments.

Paul C. Fox

Crewe, Virginia

You May Also Enjoy

If Not Communism or Capitalism, What?

Any ef­ficient democracy must operate on the princi­ple of subsidiarity, and this holds true in the economic as well as the political sphere.

The Christian Basher's Quiz

Put on your thinking caps. Cover the Answer Key at the end.

Letter to the Editor: July-August 1990

Quality Day-Care... Polishing Hannah Arendt's Reputation... Looking Beyond the Silence of Pope Pius XII... The Story on Pope Pius XII... Missing Robert Coles... Missing Robert Coles... Mario Cuomo: Dwarfed by Thomas More... The Dulles Clan... Not "in Dutch"... Supporting John Cort... New Jargon, Old Errors