The rise of anti-Anglicanism
In its Credo column on March 29th, James Mawdsley touched on a dimension of Cranmer’s very raison d’etre, in his assessment of 'The proper place of the Church in debates of state’. It is worth reading, not only because His Grace holds Mr Mawdsley in the highest regard, but because of one crucial paragraph:
Politicians listen to scientists, to the military, even to economists. If politics is to play its role in overcoming evil, then it must also listen to the Church. For 2,000 years the Church has grown as an “expert in humanity”, notably thanks to her patient listening in the confessional, in her apostolate with the sick and the poor, and in her experience of persecution. Therefore if politics would truly serve Man, and is to be an agent in reaching the common good, then politics has to open its ears to the Church.
Cranmer could not agree more. But what was profoundly saddening was the overt anti-Anglicanism which permeates the piece. Consider the opening paragraph:
Anglicanism and Islam were both founded by men who wielded total power. Under Henry VIII, politics swallowed religion. Under Muhammad, religion swallowed politics. Consequently, Anglicans struggle to defend their religious identity against a political agenda and Muslims struggle to defend their political rights against a religious agenda. Roman Catholics believe that the boundary between religion and politics is no less essential than the bridge.
It is a purposely provocative juxtaposition of Anglicanism with Islam, and it is a grotesque caricature of the foundations of both religions.
If ever anyone dared to compare Roman Catholicism with Islam, there would doubtless be cries of anti-Catholic bigotry (especially from the aforementioned more robust Catholic media), but the Church of England is deemed to be fair game. Anti-Anglicanism has not entered the vernacular, but it is, sadly, becoming increasingly pervasive.
Only a profound ignorance of 7th-century Arabia would assert that Mohammed in any sense 'wielded total power'. Any cursory reading of the Qur'an and the Hadith would establish that Mohammed acted in different ways in diverse situations because he was politically forced to do so: he understood his complex religio-political context and agreed a number of compromise treaties with people of diverse religious beliefs. Of course there were acts of barbarism, but there was also much diplomacy. While Henry VIII may have had little patience for diplomacy and compromise, neither, it has to be observed, did Queen Mary (as Cranmer is all too aware).
Any impartial analysis of the history of the Church of England will establish that it opted for a via media on the complex Church/State relationship. For The Times to convey the notion that Rome and Rome alone now has this in perfect balance and that Anglicanism is hopelessly compromised is to ignore both historical fact and present reality. It is sad indeed that when Cranmer questioned Mr Mawdsley on this, he responded that Roman Catholics can remedy their past wrongs 'by returning to their roots'. He continued: 'I am afraid that Islam and Anglicanism offer no service when they return to their roots (persecutors).'
The reiteration of the juxtaposition is confirmation of his anti-Anglican sentiment.
Yet it is not the Church of England that lays claim to theocracy: it does not believe that it uniquely holds the keys to salvation, and neither do any of its leaders claim to be infallible. It also insists that it is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, even if other Christians of another denomination insist that it is not.
‘Ut unum sint' is not remotely aided by comparing Anglicanism with Islam. Henry VIII was no saint, but he was certainly no Mohammed. And if he were, what does that make the Papacy?
And an apt PS:
It was on this day in 1533 that Cranmer was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury as a consequence of the requisite papal bulls. His Grace was the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be appointed with papal authority.