The trinkets of Rome

At some point in the early 1890s the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson*, carried out the third visitation of his diocese.  His addresses to the clergy on that occasion were collected in a book Fishers of Men  (London: Macmillan, 1893), which is available at the Internet Archive.  I could not find it directly through Google Books and I was only getting the top half of each page when I tried to use the online reader (which is useful for linking you directly to a given page). YMMV.

I have not read this book, I was only flicking through it to see the context for a quotation. In Chapter 5, Archbishop Benson discusses "Spiritual Power".

The Power we speak of is of course power in relation to human life. Power to mould and to invigorate the life of man.  So the person or the institution in which spiritual power is, has gained and keeps the Divine view of life, and deals with life in the Divine method.  It is from Jesus Christ alone that the Divine view and the Divine method can be learnt (p.111).

He contrasts this with a purely mechanical method of power. From this Archbishop Benson gradually unfolds an elegant expression of the standard Protestant "corruption theory" of the medieval Church.

You may trace the rise of the mechanical system of compulsory confession in and about Orleans in the ninth century, part of the tremendous effort to raise the barbarian lords and subjects; the gradual formalising, the destruction of spontaneity, the tariff of penances, the numerous repetition of devotional formulas, the gradual assumption of more and more authority in the form of absolution, the growth of a new sacrament, the fabulous basis and mockery of Indulgence. (pp.115-116).

He even quotes St Teresa of Avila against the Church, who "again and again speaks of her directors as lowering and impairing her spiritual strength."  The doctrine of the Real Presence is seen as a way to ease the difficulty of ascending in heart and mind to God by translating God "at any moment" "into the material world" and localising Him here. "The curious application of a transient figment of philosophy [i.e. transubstantiation CCC 1374-1376] to the mystery of Communion rationalised this and pronounced it done. The very earthly flesh of Christ was brought back to be worshipped." (pp.116-117). The same materialism leads "Rome" to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. (He calls it the worship of "two Sacred Hearts", but that is just an oversight.) This devotion, he claims is the restoration of the Manichaean heresy (p.117).

The reason Archbishop Benson brings all this up is he detects some of it in the Church of England, particularly in ritualism ("solicitude for deayed usages"). In his view the end of Catholic devotions is devotionalism: "the Kingdom will be a mustard-tree no more; it will be a petty herb of mint or anise: no more nested in by all the Birds of heaven—great, swift strong winged minds, as well as the shy and tender." (p.121). He digresses briefly on the power of Anglican laymen (what Newman called the State's pattern man, in a passage denounced by Kingsley) to remedy devotional "weakness" in the Anglican clergy, and then returns to his theme. 

What a moment is this to be fingering the trinkets of Rome! The very moment when it is denying not the "power" (that would be hopeless) but the "authority" of  the church of this country with an audacity never used before. The "power" shines in dark places, and strikes to the edge of the world. So it is the "authority" which must be disparaged now. [Earlier he had distinguished between power and authority, both of which the Church possessed; the latter without the former belonging to the Prophets, the former without the latter belonging to the Pharisees]. Large-minded men may be amused, but surely not without indignation, at being assured that 1200 Roman Catholic Bishops have refused to admit the validity of English orders; as if that contained some argument—as if we did not not know what the position of thesegood men is; at being assured that a pallium  not being received here from Romeis a proof that the continuity of the British and English Church is broken; at being assuredthat England has been just dedicated as "Mary's Dowry" and placed "to-day" under the Patronage of St. Peter. Is it a time to be introducing among our simple ones the devotional life of that body? (pp.122-123).

[Reference to a power which "shines in dark places, and strikes to the edge of the world" probably means the British Empire. Of course a baby born in the course of this visitation would have been old enough to be ordained into the Church of England in 1914 just as the British Empire entered the first of two wars which would destroy it and lead to Britain's utter humiliation. Even though they won.]

So why mention this? Well the Daily Telegraph in London just published an interview with +Justin, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

“I am a spiritual magpie,” he says. As well as speaking in tongues (a Protestant practice), he adores the sacrament of the eucharist (a Catholic one).

And again: 

For his own spiritual discipline, Justin Welby uses Catholic models – the contemplation and stability of Benedictines, and the rigorous self-examination of St Ignatius. And, in a choice that could not possibly have been made since the 16th century – until now – the Archbishop’s spiritual director is Fr Nicolas Buttet, a Roman Catholic priest.

A Catholic Priest as the spiritual director of an Anglican! And not answering questions so as to clear the way for a conversion, mind. Newman would do his nut.  To be fair, Justin Cantuar:'s evocation of Catholic models could be justified in Benson's terms, for the latter seems to have some sympathy with the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila.(Although Benson could simply have been quoting a Catholic to twit the Catholics, just like I, erm, am doing here, quoting one AofC against another).

Fingering the trinkets of Rome indeed.

* (Archbishop Benson's youngest son, Robert Hugh Benson, became a Catholic in 1903 and subsequently a priest. He was the author of Lord of the World and The Friendship of Christ.)