What Does It Mean To Be Catholic Religion Essay

2) A Presentation on “Anglican Theology in Contemporary focus.” This will be the equivalent to 2,000 words -students are encouraged to explore the possibility of using alternative forms of assessment such as artwork, liturgy, website design or other creative forms.

“What does it mean to be catholic in the Church of England today?”


The English Reformation in the 16th century was unlike the disposition of the Continental Reformation (i.e. Luther, Zwingli and French-Calvinism).

Whereas the Continental Reformation introduced changes in Church Order by eradicating the order of Bishops and priests, the English Reformation, led by the Monarch King Henry VIII, retained the order of the Church whilst embracing Reform. Henry VIII, a reformed catholic, wanted to guarantee the continuity of England’s Catholic Church and the teachings of the early Church Fathers in the Creeds.

Elizabeth I, a Protestant Monarch, looked for a moderate position, a ‘middle-way’ religion which tolerated Catholicism. This prevented division and dissent among her people and fashioned a stable English Church “where its doctrines were laid down in the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563, a compromise between Roman Catholics and Protestantism.”(http://bookoflife.org/history/europe/northern_renaissance/calvin.htm

Previous theologians in the English Church with high-church beliefs, were strongly convinced that the Church was God’s chosen instrument called forth over against the existing Protestant view that the Church was created as a convenient institute of the Christian Church body.

The ‘Oxford Movement’ (1833-1845) brought a reaction that changed everything. Key figures Keble and John-Henry Newman emphasized the importance of “the historic continuity of the church signified by the apostolic succession of the bishops and its sacramental doctrine” (Sykes. S. 1988. p.30) and were keen to go back to the pre-Reformation doctrine and liturgy maintained in “most of the revised Prayer Books.” (Jones.C.1992. p.108)

The Catholic tradition has been reinforced by the ‘Oxford Movement’. An awareness of Catholic heritage entails being part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ in its fullest expression of faith treasured and continuous from the time of Constantine through the Middle Ages to today. “It has stressed the importance of the visible Church and its sacraments and the belief that the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons is a sign and instrument of the Church of England’s Catholic and apostolic identity.” (https://www.cofe.anglican.org/about/history/

index.html) and considered essential to the Church life and the Apostolic Ordering of the Church.

Today there are many broad catholic groups in the Church of England; Anglo-Catholics, the Society of the Sacred Cross, Forward in Faith and Affirming Catholicism, These groups, however, are not always united. Their fragmentation dates to the ‘Tractarian Revival’ and involves the question of the English Church’s identity and integrity. Within the last twenty years there have been tensions over the ordination of women to the sacred priesthood and more recently, over headship and consecration of women as Bishops.

The fundamental issue is where the authority of the Church is located. Conservative and traditional Anglo-Catholics are in allegiance with Conservative Evangelicals in the Church of England over the leadership issue. Their belief is that Christ chose to ordain men (Mark 3: 13-19) and that the Apostles did not ordain women (Acts 1:12 -26). Priests, therefore, must be male to act ‘in persona Christus’ and thus retain ecumenical census. Secondly, there is the teaching of St. Paul’s “I do not allow women to teach men or have authority over a man.” (1Timothy 2:12)

There is a sense of vitality when a church is living out the five affirmed marks of mission: “proclaiming the Gospel, nurturing and baptizing new believers, transforming communities, loving service and speaking out against injustice and sustaining the earth while protecting the integrity of creation.” (www.anglicancommunion.org) Signs of growth would include eventful worship, on-going evangelism and prayer among others. However, it is important to remember that most churches will not always be firing on all five cylinders of the marks of mission.

Within Anglicanism the term churchmanship (low, broad and high) describes a distinctive comprehension of church doctrine and liturgical practices by Christians associated with the Church of England and world-wide Anglican Communion.

High Churchmanship is referred to as the Anglo-Catholic tradition; a label derived from a sub-group who, influenced by the ‘Oxford Movement,’ are part of a tradition that emphasizes the continuity with what has gone before; the Catholic tradition. Within high churchmanship there is a spectrum of catholic terminology; (Liberal/Inclusive, Traditional Anglo-Catholic, Modern / Moderate and Prayer -Book Catholics).

Traditional Anglo-Catholics

Most traditional Catholics are ‘Papalists’ who see themselves under the authority of papal primacy without actually being in communion with the Roman Church. Full communion with ‘Roman, Western and the Eastern Orthodox Church’ is desired because the Pope is seen, as being the Patriarch of the West under Roman jurisdiction.

Anglo-Catholics have a devotion to our Blessed Virgin Mary under Mary’s title ‘Our Lady of Walsingham.’

Theologically, for some Anglo-Catholics, having a devotion to the Eucharist may be more significant for their spiritual and personal prayer-life rather than the celebration of the Mass.

The Church of England teaches that only two Sacraments are necessary for salvation; Baptism and Eucharist but there are Anglo-Catholic priests who hear confessions and anoint the sick. Roman Catholicism acknowledges these as part of their seven sacraments (Confession, Marriage, Baptism, Holy Orders, Confirmation, Eucharist and Unction) but would be considered as ‘Rites’ in the Church of England.


AC doctrine believes the nature of the Church to be a divinely created instrument of God’s revelation to the world. It is sacramental in ‘her’ essence and her imperative is to outward visible unity.

Her doctrine takes note of history and ecumenical councils whilst responding to contemporary reflections. She proclaims more of a re-interpretation of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’ than a new formulation based on present fashion.

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith make clear the distinctions between Anglican and Roman Catholic comprehension of doctrine. Whilst the Articles were written so to be open to interpretation, Anglo-Catholics protect Catholic practices and beliefs as being consistent with them.

Liberal/Inclusive Catholics

Liberal Catholics more readily embrace change and accept new insights in theology; liturgy and moral theology (i.e. issues surrounding homosexuality).

“The Liberal tradition has emphasized the importance of the use of reason in theological exploration. It has stressed the need to develop Christian belief and practice in order to respond creatively to wider advances in human knowledge and understanding and the importance of social and political action in forwarding God’s kingdom.” (https://www.cofe.anglican.org/about/history/index.html)

Liberal-Catholics seek to be inclusive and embrace the diversity of faith; rejoicing in working ecumenically and are generally more accommodating, with freedom and liberty.

Modern Catholics

Modern Catholics broadly accept the Tractarian/ Sacramental position.

Within current theological debates, liberal thinking and the ordination and consecration of women is accepted.

Prayer -Book Catholics

Prayer- Book Catholics were loyal to the 1662 Book of Common -Prayer though prefaces such as ‘Benedictus- qui -venit, Agnus- Die and prayer of oblation said as part of the canon by the priest, is preferable.

PBC lean towards the late Medieval way of ceremony, church adornment and gothic vestments.

Traditional Sarum -Rite applies an altar, set with a cross and two candles, framed by a cloth dossal and two side curtains.

Sense and Sacramental

Catholic spirituality experiences the presence and power of God sacramentally. The Holy Sacraments enable Christians to encounter the love and presence of God. Within liturgical celebrations catholic Christians use symbolic mannerisms; making the sign of the cross, incensing and anointing, genuflecting and bowing to the altar and before the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in recognising God’s presence. Participating in the Sacraments empowers a profound sacramental appreciation; where just as Christ is present in bread and wine (John 6: 51-58) many other facets of life can also be altered by God’s presence and supremacy.

Liturgical Life and Practice

“Let my prayer rise before you like incense.” (Psalm141: 2)

Liturgy is not individualistic but is an action in which the whole church participates. The liturgical life of the church is crucial to catholic spirituality; holding fast to a rigorous public discipline of prayer life through saying the daily Offices. This complements the evangelical tradition whose emphasis is on a more personal devotion. The way people pray shapes their identity but a church that lives on extemporary prayer and a non- Eucharist worship does not have a catholic or Anglican identity.

Catholic liturgy is well-ordered with the belief that liturgical worship emphasizes the meaning of being Christian within the world with the identity that “history, Church and mission go together” (Croft. A. 2008. p. 78).

Anglo-Catholic liturgy is shaped by the six points of Eucharistic practice from the Tractarian Movement; “Vestments, Eastward-facing Masses, Altar Lights, Un-Leavened bread and water mixed with the wine at Eucharist and using Incense.” (http://anglicanhistory.org/ england/misc/bell_oxford1933.html)


The nature of the Church is to be a “priestly body’” (1 Peter 2: 5, 9-10). Ordained priests are called out by the Church as priests to the priestly community. All Catholics would agree about the belief in the Communion of Saints, offering prayers for the faithful departed, asking for the intercession of Saints, the importance of priests and the impossibility of lay presidency but would disagree on the issues of women and celibacy.

Catholics believe that the ordained sacred priesthood is sacramental with some Anglo-Catholics encouraging their priests to live celibate lives. Priests are seen as a sacramental and visible presence of Christ and a high doctrine of what the Church can do as the people of God moving as the Spirit of God. The Church is the “Sacrament of Christ,” (Bunting. Ian.. 2006. p. 101) uniting us with God and Jesus Christ “through word, sacrament and the recognition of the threefold orders of ministry.” (Croft. S. 2008. p. 81) Christian sacraments offer the care and support of life from birth to death and “within this sacramental framework, the priest makes-present the divine grace at every stage and in every need.” (Macquarrie. J. 1966. p. 437)

The Eucharist

Catholics have a high sacramental view and doctrine manifesting itself in the importance of Baptism and Eucharist. The Catholic view is that on behalf of the congregation and the whole Church, the priest offers/pleads the salvific action of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 4: 14- 5:10) where Christ brings home the reality to us of the everlasting benefits of His victory (John 6: 53-57) renewing our Christian response, thanksgiving and abandonment to Him.

There is a strong belief in the ‘Real Presence’ of Jesus Christ through the consecration of the elements of Bread and Wine where, ” Communion with Christ in the Eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, become his body and blood.” (http://www.antioch.com.sg/cgi-bin/Agora-Pub/get/expressions/54.html?nogifs)

However, to understand the ‘Real Presence’ by His body and blood, must be realized within the framework of Christ’s redemptive and saving acts. This means Christ’s offering of himself for humanity to be reconciled to God the Father, in harmony and in life within Jesus Christ himself.

The Eucharist and the celebration of Eucharistic liturgy, defines the identity of being Catholic. The Eucharist is an enactment, a drama, event, participation and proclamation with every sense appealed to.


Catholics believe the Church is sacramental in being Christ’s presence within the world; called to embrace the world with the gracious and transforming love of Christ. Catholic life is energised by Christ’s ongoing presence in Scripture, in the sacramental life of the catholic tradition and within prayer and comprehension.

Being catholic pastorally takes seriously the prayer, “Let me see the face of Christ in all people” in the poor, the orphans, the destitute and through rage and anger. A catholic and global faith confirms that “the image of God is everywhere.” (http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1925)

Bishop Weston wrote, “You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums..” (+Weston -1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress) It is one thing having Christ in the Tabernacle but unless Christians engage by serving and searching for Christ in the needy and suffering and wash their feet (John 13: 1-17) then the Eucharist means nothing.

To be catholic is to be universal and embracing, taking on essentially an ‘incarnational’ view of God’s activity in the world, connecting social and Catholicism with Christ in the Eucharist and Christ in the world. This is the heart of true Catholic discipleship.

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