Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Anglican Article of Religion XXII and the Protestant Character of Anglicanism

Anglican Article of Religion XXII. Of Purgatory.
"The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."

Since the publication of John Henry Newman's ingenious but false interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles in Tract 90, there have been purported Anglicans who have denied the essentially Protestant character of Anglicanism. Such interpreters try to escape the plain facts of history and the plain meaning of the Thirty-nine Articles, especially Article XXII. They like to claim that the word "Romish" does not refer to official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, at the Council of Trent, or since. They sometimes maintain that "Romish" merely refers to abuses that Thomas Cranmer saw in the 1530's and 1540's when he first started to formulate his theology and compose the Articles.

However, in fact, no one of any theological perspective really viewed the Articles that way until the development of an extreme Anglo-Catholic party among some supporters of the Oxford Movement during the 1840's. Neither Elizabethan Anglicans who modified and published the Articles in 1563 and 1571 nor Tridentine and post-Tridentine Catholics understood the plain meaning of the Articles or general Anglican teaching in that way. Anglicans (high, broad, and low), Roman Catholics, and various Protestant observers from the 17th century onward all knew that Article XXII was a rejection of Roman Catholic doctrine (official and unofficial) on issues such as purgatory, indulgences, images, relics, and the role of saints.

Even John Henry Newman came to realize that his interpretation was forced. He acknowledged that Anglicanism was and intended to remain Protestant, and he had the integrity to leave the Anglican Church for the Roman Church.