Church of England

I was always taught that the catylist of the Anglican break from The RC Church was Henry the 8th’s desire for a divorce(He was actually given the title “Defender of the faith” by the Pope shortly before the break because of his orthodox Catholic defense against Protestantism)

If this is true and was the main cause for the break, What validity can Anglicans hold on to when they claim that there faith is the fullness of Christian faith and if they didn’t agree with this, why don’t they come back to the Catholic Church?

I Don’t mean to sound hostile to the Anglicans. I believe essentially the same as they, as does the Catholic Church, I just have always been curious about this though

I’m not sure I understand the question. “they [the Anglicans] claim that there [sic] faith is the fullness of Christian faith and if they didn’t agree with this, why don’t they come back to the Catholic Church?”

What do you mean by “if they didn’t agree with this?” Agree with what? It couldn’t be the assertion that their “faith is the fullness of Christian faith” because you had just finished saying that this is the claim they are making, so obviously they do agree with it.

If you don’t mind me putting words in your mouth, it sounds like the real question is: Why are there two separate churches, the Anglican [or Episcopal] and the Roman Catholic, when they believe essentially the same things?

You already know the answer, as you included it in your question. What you’re asking then becomes, Why don’t they merge back now that Henry VIII is long dead? To which I’d respond, Why should they? The essential characteristic of the Anglican church is in its rejection of the traditional Roman Catholic hierarchy including the Pope. If the people in the church didn’t believe that was important, they wouldn’t be Anglicans, they’d be Roman Catholics.

I think this is really less complicated than you’re making it.

This site has quite a bit on attempts to reunify the two as well as the issues that prevent it.

Henry VIII needed (for his own reasons) to make a break with the Pope. The divorce issue was certainly the catalyst, but there were a number of other factors (notably England’s relationship with Spain, which was one of the super-powers in those days) which persisted long after Henry’s death. During the reign of Queen Mary (Henry’s daughter), England reverted to Catholicism. When Elizabeth I came to the throne, alignment with the Catholic powers wasn’t part of her plans, so England became Protestant once again. It’s remained so ever since, largely because Protestantism had popular support in the country (the Roman Church being seen as power-hungry, corrupt, and biased towards France and Spain); Charles I’s flirtation with Catholicism cost him his life, James II’s open support of Catholicism cost him the throne.

So much for (a very much simplified look at) the political factors. There’s also, of course, the theological factor; although Protestants and Catholics are both Christians, there are differences in the way each one approaches the Christian faith. From the point of view of a Protestant (specifically, me), the Catholic Church places an unnecessary and unwanted importance on dogma and hierarchy; what the Church leadership says, goes, and believers must adapt their individual consciences to that. By contrast, the Protestant Church accepts the “priesthood of all believers” and emphasizes a personal relationship with God; the ordained priests are seen as guides rather than leaders. I think it’s this issue, rather than any specific points of divergent doctrine (and, as dtilque’s link shows, there are a number of those) which divides the Anglican and Roman Churches; the spiritual authority of the priesthood over the laity - ultimately derived from the Pope - is not accepted by Protestants.

That is my point of view, as a Protestant - and, as a Protestant, I don’t know what Catholics really believe, so take it with a pinch or two of salt. For that matter, other Protestants may disagree with me, too. It’s a broad Church.

IANAH (I am not a historian), but I believe Henry VIII’s original idea was to remain catholic, but separated from the Roman church… after all, he was a staunch defender of catholicism… the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ was granted him by the pope for his work in refuting Protestantism. Elizabeth is probably more responsible for C of E becoming protestant, as she was raised a prot. (or ‘prod’ to revert to my irish roots!)

As I seem to remember from my school days, it’s actually catholics who have the ‘one true church’ theory - most other churches are willing to admit that the other viewpoints have some validity, but basically, anglicism has evolved a long way from catholicism, and there are now fundamental differences in worship methods and beliefs - for example, transubstantiation and the thing that makes a lot of anglicans - myself included - uncomfortable: ‘praying to mary’ (i’m sure there is a technical term for this, and i apologise if my terminology offends anyone) which would require some unacceptable compromises to be made before anglicans and catholics could be re-united.

Ok, end of long, badly-punctuated rant! :smiley:

How strange. I was talking about this stuff last night in the pub (what a mad life i have :wink: ) and just now found this. Resources on The 16th Century English Reformation . I’m working my way through it. You may find it useful.

I always find it ironic how something as mundane as a divorce triggered such a shift in Britain that still today has profound and far-reaching consequences.

IMO it has been to our great benefit, resulting in a more secular society (much more pro-choice in terms of divorce, abortion and contraception), and given us a much greater degree of personal sovereignty, away from the papal rulings in some little foreign country.]

The site ditilque mentioned is really illuminating. In particular this page - - it shows the differences between Catholicism and Conservative Anglicanism in tabular form. Presented in such a way, the site seems to suggst that Anglicanism is far more progressive and democratic than Catholicism, and far more about personal freedom of behaviour and freedom of thought in terms of doctrine/discussion/church structure.

That said, there are obviously individual fundamentalist protestants and very liberal Catholics for whom the opposite is true.

Let’s get this one right: Henry VIII never wanted or asked for a divorce from any of his wives. He was a firm believer that divorce was unacceptable (one reason why the Anglican church, while allowing divorce, had a dim view of those who got them).

Henry wanted an annulment.

For Catherine of Aragon, he argued that their marriage was invalid because it was incestuous (Catherine was married to Henry’s older brother Arthur, who died. It was considered incest at the time to marry your brother’s widow). The pope had granted Henry dispensation, but Henry, who had been smitten by Anne Bolyen and wanted an male heir*, argued that the pope did not have the right to make that dispensation, since the relationship was condemned in the bible. Catherine claimed to her dying day that she never consummated her marriage to Arthur, thus that was not valid and her marriage to Henry was. Witnesses for Henry said that wasn’t what Arthur told them (nudge, nudge).

When Anne of Cleves came along; Henry disliked her at first sight (it had been an arranged marriage). He never consummated the marriage (as Anne inadvertantly attested**) and thus had it annulled. However, that was after the break had occurred.

Ultimately, the break was caused because the pope refused to grant an annulment, not a divorce. Henry believed himself to be a good Catholic; he refused to accept the pope’s authority, but still held on to all the other tenents of the faith.

*This sound awfully sexist nowadays, but remember, England had never had a queen at that point, and it was still a time when the ruler was expected to lead troops into battle and it was hardly likely a woman of that time would have the skills or authority.

**She told her ladies in waiting how Henry was so nice and slept so quietly with her. When they asked if he did anything else, she didn’t understand the question.

Just for the record, the “reason the Church of England separated” is about as accurate as saying “the reason we fought in World War I is because some idiot shot Franz Ferdinand of Austria” – don’t mix the manifold causes of the division and the proximate event that precipitated it.

Second, the Anglican Communion has always considered itself part of the Holy Catholic Church, along with Rome and Constantinople. All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion with us.

It was Pope Paul IV (I think – the Pope of the time) who excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I and all Anglicans back in 1570; that’s never been rescinded.

Anything further on the issue belongs in either Great Debates or the Pit, according as you want to pursue Catholic claims in re Anglicanism as matter for discussion or for polemic.

Thank you everybody for your reply’s, I am truly Humbled by the vast amount of info that comes out of this message board and I will surely be back with more questions.

Christ’s Peace

Actually, the ‘Conservative Protestants’ referred to on this site cannot be equated with ‘Conservative Anglicanism’ or indeed with most other forms of Anglicanism. These ‘Conservative Protestants’ are Protestant fundamentalists, which is not the same thing at all. Taking the list of headings, many members of the Church of England would interpret Anglican doctrine in much the same way as loyal Roman Catholics (although they might disagree about some of the details) on such matters as ‘Apostolic succession’, ‘Baptism, timing’, ‘Church structure’, ‘Non-Christian religions’ and, more debatably, ‘Authority within the Church’ and ‘Bible, status of’. Neither option under ‘Clergy, selection of’ reflects the current practice of the Church of England. For some of the other headings, the CoE would have its own distinctive, sometimes very arcane, interpretations.

Charles I was always adamant that he opposed Catholicism and most historians would now accept that the distinction he was making was a genuine one. One can acknowledge that he was a firm Anglican while nevertheless arguing that he had misunderstood what Anglicanism was. This is more than mere pedantry, as it illustrates how the question of what the Church of England is or should be has always been the subject of disagreement within its own ranks.

Again, it is not as simple as that. There have been periods when the Church of England has been every bit as dogmatic and hierarchical as the Church of Rome. Of course, in practice, the Church of England now allows considerable doctrinal latitude, but that is mainly because it is convenient to do so. One could say that the CoE has recently found it easier to fudge the implementation while leaving the theology itself unchallenged. Moreover, some Anglicans would have no problem with the notion of ‘spiritual authority of the priesthood over the laity’. What they would do is to deny that that authority derived from the Pope, but then some Catholics would also deny that and would argue that it has only been comparatively recently (the late nineteenth century) that anyone has said that it does. Not all Catholics would accept that the faith of the Roman Catholic Church has been timeless.

Another reason why the Anglican church doesn’t merge with the Catholic one is because it isn’t Catholic, it’s Protestant. When Henry VIII became defender of the faith, it was Catholic but not Papist. His son, Edward the VI made the Church of England strictly Protestant. When he died, Queen Mary made it Catholic again and tried (I think) to re-establish links with the Pope. When Elizabeth I came along she tried to establish a more moderate church and published a prayer book, and so on, but it was Protestant again (she got a load of Catholic priests burned). The religion has wavered a bit ever since but it’s mostly remained Protestant. Note though, that its similarity to Catholicism really depends upon the parish (and therefore, the vicar). Some parishes are very ‘high’, ie, the services are very similar to Catholic ones, Saints’ days are celebrated, incense is used, the priest makes the sign of the cross, etc; some are very ‘low’, ie similar to evangelical or Methodist churches (communion services have to take place each week but are less important than praise services, the vicar may not wear many robes, etc.) You can see this in the service books – there are loads of bits you can opt out on. That’s why I happen to like Anglicanism – it’s very flexible (of course, this does mean that’s it’s become more of a culture than a doctrine).

Well, of course, it would be foolish to deny that the Anglican Church can be, and has been, rigidly doctrinaire and authoritarian… but authoritarian-type Protestants have problems with Roman Catholicism too, just different ones from liberal wishy-washy types like me. The rejection of dogma in favour of sola scriptura leads to Fundamentalism and Biblical literalism by a pretty short route. But a Fundamentalist is unlikely to admit the authority of the Pope - in fact, you don’t have to look very hard to find Fundamentalists who won’t even admit Roman Catholics are Christians.

And, of course, it would be equally foolish to deny that the Roman Church is a broad one too… as a liberal Protestant, I for one have a lot more common ground with liberal Catholics than I do with Fundamentalists. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, join a Roman Catholic church, so long as current RC dogma stands. I don’t have a problem, though, seeing both Protestant and Roman Catholics as parts of the “Catholic Church” we talk about in the Creed.

I’ve always found, by the way, that specific observances don’t make people any more (or less) Roman or Anglican. I know numbers of people who are very “high” in their practices, but thoroughly (according to a conservative Catholic acquaintance, “irredeemably”) Protestant in their theology.

I don’t have a problem, though, seeing both Protestant and Roman Catholics as parts of the “Catholic Church” we talk about in the Creed.

That’s ‘catholic’, you know, Steve.

I mean, I know it says ‘Catholic and Apostolic’ because it’s old fashioned English, but they mean catholic not Catholic. (Sorry, I forgot quote marks.)

Well, the problem is, there are several meanings of “catholic”; online dictionary gives me the following:-

And then there are the secular meanings of the word… but, if you want to use “Catholic” for a., and “catholic” for b., c., and d., go right ahead; at least it’s a system, which is more than I’ve got :).

APB makes some valid points. Unfortunately, they’re ones debatable on the basis of one’s religious convictions – which is why I firmly urged taking this into GD.

bifar, while common usage (in America at least) uses the term Catholic, with capital C, as synonymous with “pertaining to the Roman Catholic Church,” it has a longstanding usage in English as meaning something much broader. The Apostles’ Creed as I learned it in childhood Methodism and use in adult Anglicanism refers to the Holy Catholic Church; we have never had any intent of meaning exclusively the Pope’s denomination when we refer to it. (As Steve suggests, you’re welcome to your own distinction, and I can respect it – but I submit that history and dictionary alike are against your understanding of it.)

What you guys have to understand though is that when the Creed was formally established in the 4th Century, there was only one Christian Body, The Catholic Church. It stayed like this untill the 16th century when groups broke off of the one church and established their own, that one church is still the Catholic church, which is not only roman but also byzantine, Ukranian and about 20 other rites all united by the headship of the succesor of Peter, which makes up the Catholic Church.

…and at the risk of sending this thread careening into GD or even the PIT:

Where the hell is ANY of this crap in the Bible? Do good, be good to others, be humble.
Everything else is spin-doctoring.

I apologize for hijacking this thread, but I need to ask Polycarp a question as a co-religionist*.

In recent years, the Lutherans, the Roman Catholics, and the Episcopalians/C of E’s have been making reunification noises. Sometimes it was the L’s and E’s, sometimes the L’s and C’s, sometimes E’s and C’s, etc. (Then there was that ugly Espisopcal Church schism thing.) Frankly, I stopped paying attention, and just went to church on Sunday.

As I understand it, we have the following divisive issues:

  1. Papal Infallibility
  2. Transubstantiation
  3. Celibate clergy
  4. Married clergy
  5. Veneration of saints
  6. Clerical allotment of absolution.

None of these seem insoluble, so do you think that we could all finally get along at some point in the forseeable future? Did I miss something? Am I completely stupid?

*[sub]Heh. I bet you haven’t seen that word anywhere outside of a lousy romance novel set in the 17th Century.[/sub]