Thursday, December 20, 2012

More on Edward Norman

Any reader of Blessed John Henry Newman's works will recognize the title Edward Norman used for this 2004 book, which Damian Thompson covered in his blog on The Telegraph website: "In fact, his book, Anglican Difficulties: A New Syllabus of Errors, is one of the most ferocious assaults ever launched on the Church of England. It is all the more deadly because its author is not a traditionalist quote-merchant, but a leading Church intellectual."

The website for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham posts more about Edward Norman's conversion a couple of months ago, publishing an article originally in The Catholic Herald:

Now the main difference between Catholic Christianity and Anglicanism is the nature of the Doctrine of the Church itself. It is not that Catholicism has one understanding and Anglicanism another; it is that Catholicism has such a doctrine and a very clear one and that Anglicanism does not really have one at all. Far too much was left unattended at the Reformation, when English Christianity was detached from the centre of unity and from the Magisterium of the universal Church, leaving the Church in England without a means of determining its own doctrines. No one could have foreseen at the time that the split with Rome was to prove permanent. And so for the next three and a half centuries doctrine in the Church of England was determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Some of the most unsuitable aspects of this state of affairs have been modified, yet the essential position has remained; Anglicanism has no basis for its authority which links it to a universal body. The consequent effect has been that every section of it and, in these days of spiritual individualisation, every person in it feels free to make up faith for themselves and deem the result to be “Christianity”. How can the “Church” be the body of Christ in the world when its confession varies from place to place and person to person, not only in minor but in the most essential teachings about faith and morals? At the centre of Anglicanism is a great void.

Catholic readers will perhaps find this all very obvious. It is not. However, the way things are seen in the Church of England – where there is actually very little consciousness of any need to think about the authority of Christian teaching at all. Moral issues are determined, where they are determined at all, on the basis of data furnished by media presentation or the findings of surveys of opinion. Doctrinal questions do not in reality get much airing, largely because there is so little common ground for precise formulations or any stomach for debating them – and, anyway, there is no authority for determining the basis of authority, short, one supposes, of legislation in Parliament. As for Christian morality, there is a procession of tawdry public controversies. With every compromise the truths of which the Church of England purports to be the guardian mean less and less.

Seeking to join the Catholic Church, after the experiences of years of exposure to these ecclesiastical inconsequences in the Church of England, induces not only a feeling of coming home but a sensation of cleansing. Humanly speaking, nevertheless, gratitude to Anglicanism is still experienced, and a large degree of lasting affection. The Church of England provides a masterclass in equivocation; it also, however, is the residence of very many good and faithful Christian people who deserve respect – for their perseverance in so many incoherent spiritual adventures. To leave their company is a wrench; to adhere to the Catholic faith is to join the encompassing presence of a universal body of believers in whose guardianship are the materials of authentic spiritual understanding. After lengthy preparation I have immense gratitude.

Read the rest here.

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