The Catholic Herald:
Yesterday I was in a cathedral city in the south of England, and having time to spare, and because it was raining, I decided to visit the cathedral and stay for Evensong. I am, like so many in this country, familiar with Evensong; I find it both beautiful and alien at the same time. I both love it and hate it. I only go to Evensong to listen to it, never to take part.
Evensong’s beauties are the work of Coverdale and Cranmer, two men who led the revolt against the unity of the Church, and overthrew the great work of time, the historic faith of this country. Cranmer’s liturgical reforms were not reforms in any true sense, they were a wrecking of the monastic offices and their replacement with something superficially like yet utterly alien. The Cranmerian Prayer Book provoked rebellions in England, let us remember. The West Country rebels of 1549 protested that they found the Cranmerian service that replaced the Mass no more than “a Christmas game” . The Northern Rebels who entered Durham in 1569 tore up the Prayer Book and had the Mass celebrated in the Cathedral once more. In 1596 one of my collateral ancestors, the Blessed George Errington, was hanged, drawn and quartered at York, along with three others martyrs, because of his Catholic faith, a faith he and many others simply could not recognise in the Cranmerian Prayer Book.
Thus the experience of Cranmerian English leaves me feeling conflicted. I love it and I hate it, and I feel I ought to love it, as it is so beautiful, and because it has inspired so many of our great poets, not least among whom is T.S. Eliot.
On our trip to London years ago, we slipped in the back door at St. Martin-in-the-Fields and found a pew box , wincing a bit when the boards creaked, to hear Choral Evensong, already in progress. One of the sopranos had that sure and steady, glittering voice that carrries over all the rest of the voices, and the performance was beautiful, but of course we did not stay for their Communion service, so we snuck out the way we snuck in. So far, so good, I agree with Father Lucie-Smith--it is beautiful but we were a little uneasy.
Then he goes to say that with the Ordinariate, the Catholic Church in England can reclaim Thomas Cranmer because the Ordinariate is preparing the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, "a daily prayer book for the Ordinariate - those former Anglicans who have recently become a distinct part of the Roman Church. In creating the Ordinariate, Pope Benedict recognised the treasures that Anglicans brought with them from their own tradition and this book is replete with the riches of Anglican patrimony. It contains material from the Anglican tradition, adapted according to the Roman rite including: * an order for morning, evening and night prayer throughout the year * an interim order of the Mass * spiritual readings for the Christian year * the minor offices * calendar and lectionary tables." Thus, Father Lucie-Smith says that the Ordinariate will "posthumously reCatholicise Cranmer and reclaim him for our tradition; it will make the Cranmerian liturgy, which I find a cause of division and conflict, into something that will bring about unity. It will mean that from now on, I need not find Evensong alien. Perhaps Dr Cranmer himself would approve. I hope so! It certainly promotes the healing of a cultural and religious wound."
I think this might be a step too far; we can't posthumously proclaim that Cranmer was a Catholic underneath it all, in spite of his rejection of the Sacrifice of the Mass, of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, etc, and all the other non-Catholic doctrines he developed in the Thirty-Nine/Forty-Two Articles of the Church of England. The Ordinariate is promoting healing in the Church by recognizing the goodness and beauty that was present in the Church of England all these hundreds of years past (and is), but it can't canonize Cranmer and ignore the real hurt and wounds--the martyrs, the persecution, procecution, fines, imprisonment, torture, and the destruction of an entire culture that Cranmer set in motion by supporting Henry VIII and Edward VI, placing the monarch in the first place, at least, as the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church. Cranmer has to be allowed his own free will (although a strict Calvinist would deny it!) and maintain his own version of integrity (although I have doubts about that!); we can't change him and claim him.