Vol I No. 7
Anglicans Worldwide

Drawing a line: From Gallicanist Anglicans to an Anglicanist Pope?

by sinetortus

For the Anglican eWay of June 2nd 2018



Manifestly, through most of its existence, the Church of England both before and after the Reformation has  been shaped and influenced by developments in the Continental Christianity of the West and thus Catholicism and the Reformers.  In recent times both Anglican and Catholic liturgical approaches have been influenced by parallel intellectual currents, as the post-Vatican II Eucharistic texts amply demonstrate.

But looked at from a European perspective Anglicanism can also be seen as an English expression akin to the Catholic tradition known as ‘Gallicanism’.   While particularly associated with the Church of France, naturally, it has also been influential elsewhere through reflecting deep roots in national character and local liturgical and devotional traditions; a strong sense of identity with the undivided Church of the early Fathers; and a preference for a looser, conciliar, and collegial structure in which authority is shared rather than centralised as between the Pope and diocesan bishops.   In addition to the reformed influences from Wittenberg, Geneva and Zurich, the Anglican liturgical tradition is also heir thus of older European traditions later lost to the centralizing tendencies of Ultramontane Catholicism running through from Trent to the nineteenth century.

Moreover, a certain diversity of liturgical style, even when there was uniformity in the text of our rites,  has long been a notable reality too within Anglicanism, as one commentator writes:


“In common with other churches of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the Church of England identified its own worship with that of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and of the early Church. In the aftermath of Queen Mary’s restoration of Catholicism, the Church of England’s liturgical identity was also dominated by a severe Puritan reaction against all Catholic forms. In the last decade of Elizabeth’s reign, however, an ‘avant-garde’ of clergy emerged committed to greater ceremonialism in worship according to the Book of Common Prayer. The Laudian high churchmanship that emerged from this beginning was a movement in tension, looking simultaneously to the Patristic Church, the pre-Reformation Church in England (with a strong strain of ‘gothic survivalism’) and the even more risky world of the continental baroque. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, the Church of England was conscious of affinities with the Gallican, nationalist tradition in the French Church, but at either end of this period the Tridentine baroque would also prove seductively fascinating to many Anglicans. The use of the chancel screen was frequently a touchstone of this debate.”

Texte originale:
Comme les autres Eglises issues des Réformes protestantes et catholiques, l’Eglise d’Angleterre concevait sa liturgie en continuité avec celle du Temple antique de Jérusalem et de l’Eglise primitive. Après l’expérience de restauration par Marie Tudor du catholicisme, l’identité liturgique de l’Eglise d’Angleterre fut dominée par une violente réaction puritaine contre toute forme de pratique qui rappelait le catholicisme. Cependant, dans la dernière décennie du règne d’Elisabeth Ire, apparut une avant-garde cléricale acquise à plus de cérémonial dans le culte célébré selon les rites du Book of Common Prayer. De ces prémices, naquit ensuite la haute Eglise laudienne inspirée, non sans tensions, de l’Eglise des Pères, de l’Eglise médiévale anglaise (avec un goût pour les survivances gothiques) et du baroque continental auquel elle se risquait. Du XVIIe au XIXe siècle, l’Eglise d’Angleterre était très consciente de profondes affinités avec la tradition gallicane et nationale de l’Eglise de France, mais au commencement comme à la fin de cette période, le baroque tridentin a aussi fasciné et séduit maints anglicans. La présence ou non d’un jubé était à l’époque un des enjeux essentiels.
« A la recherche d’un patrimoine liturgique : anglicanisme, gallicanisme et tridentinisme », P.M. Doll,  dansLa Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique, Centre de Recherches et d’Etudes en Civilisation Britannique, France. Vol XXII, I

What is interesting is that while the Gallican tradition was effectively submerged within Roman Catholicism by the French Revolution and the First Vatican Council, one way to look at Anglicanism is to see within it thus, a tension between the ‘Gallican’ and ‘Tridentine’ tendencies in Anglican high churchmanship down to this day.

Such a perspective has also allowed at least one commentator to see in the Gallican strands of Roman Catholicism  “characteristics [that]  bear a strong resemblance to what has been known as ‘classical Anglicanism’” whereas, by contrast,  “Tridentinism, or Ultramontanism, on the other hand, looks directly to the papacy and the contemporary Roman Church for its source of authority and identity.”

And here there is a larger irony.

For, in the nineteenth century, influential Anglican converts to the Church of Rome brought with them contrasting convictions about the appropriate architectural setting for the liturgy. So,  on the one hand  there was, for example, the architect A. W. N. Pugin, firmly committed to liturgical Gallicanism, who advocated medieval music, architecture and Sarum ceremonial, while on the other hand,  there was also John Henry Newman who, with his fellow Oratorians,  preferred a more ultramontane style

(though for a fierce rejection of Newman on that point see http://www.traditioninaction.org/ProgressivistDoc/A_141_Nw-Infallibiity-III.html .  and for further debate: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2014/11/20/what-newman-would-have-made-of-vatican-ii/ )

And now, today through the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate the Anglican tradition continues to bear witness to the diversity of the Catholic tradition within the Roman Catholic Church, though it remains to be seen how long it can successfully retain its distinctiveness amidst the tendency to relentless uniformity that is so strong in the Roman mindset.

Which brings us to the last ironic aspect, since it is highly arguable that the current Pope may, albeit through somewhat autocratic modes, end up reviving a Gallicanism of polity once again in the Roman Church, not so much in matters aesthetic and liturgical,  of which he seems impatient (in contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict for whom this aspect was what attracted him down this path) but rather in theological and philosophical domains, This is well illustrated by his strategy of devolving decisions in regard to the admission to Communion of individuals who are divorced,  radically downwards to local bishops and below.  This has proved hugely controversial insofar as it creates a grey area between an unchanged theory and potentially very changed practice in regard to the previously prevailing theological tradition. If the Pope is indeed of a Gallican persuasion this need not be too surprising since he was so much influenced and shaped by French intellectual thought, a subject to which it is intended to return under the perhaps slightly provocative title (in the coming Anglican Way print Edition)  by asking

Is the Pope Catholic ?

A.  M-R


The image above is from the CNN (video) story entitled ” The Pope’s Exile” referencing what happened after being dismissed rom his post as Superior  by the Jesuits in Argentina and sent to Cordoba — before he later became Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  It may take some scrolling through the many videos available on the web page to which the link takes one to find the cited Video referenced above.