Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XII

Let’s talk about the rivalry between the Sees of Canterbury and York that I mentioned in the previous post as the contested claims of the two Archbishops will drag the papacy more and more into the internal affairs of the English Church.  
A Celebration of the Holy
Eucharist in York Minster
You may remember from earlier entries that the See of Canterbury was established when Pope Gregory I sent Augustine as a missionary to the peoples of Kent, a southern English kingdom at the request of King Aethelberht in 597.   Gregory was sent as an Archbishop who would not only establish himself at Canterbury, but establish suffragen sees as well.  Augustine did establish suffragen sees at Rochester and London.  The issue of London is a bit tricky because there had been a Christian bishop there back in the days when Britain was a Roman colony.  Whether Augustine revived a lapsed See (which is the more commonly held idea) or simply appointed his disciple Mellitus bishop of a surviving Romano-British See, London became suffragen to Canterbury.  Later other Sees were established such as Dorchester (later moved to Winchester), Selsey (later moved to Chichester), Hereford, Leicester, Lindsey (later Lincoln), Dunwich (later moved to Norwich), Sherborne (later moved to Salisbury), and Worcester.  (These were in the Anglo-Saxon period; a considerable number of other Sees were added later, particularly in the Reforms of HenryVIII and then again in the Victorian era.  Canterbury was the Metropolitan See (an Archbishop’s See with supervisory rights and duties over the suffragens) for the South of England.
Now here is where it gets tricky.  York was a much older See than Canterbury, though it was not an Archbishopric until the eighth century.  Bishops of York were present at the Councils of Arles (314) and Nicea (325).  York is in the north of England where the faith was maintained and strengthened during the Anglo-Saxon invaders by Celtic missionaries from Ireland and Scotland.  Here again there is a dispute.  Did the See of York survive the Anglo-Saxon years or was it revived when Paulinus, a disciple of Augustine of Canterbury, became its bishop in 626?  Paulinus had accompanied Aethelburg, the sister of King Eadbald of Kent, who was sent north to marry King Edwin of Northumbria.  Paulinus was given the mission of converting the Northumbrians to Christianity and he established himself as Bishop at York. Again—there had been a Christian community and bishop in York in Roman days, but by the time of Paulinus and the seventh century, the majority of the population were Anglo-Saxon-Jutes who had migrated from what is today Denmark and northern Germany and were still pagan.  Paulinus had come to convert them.  As Bishop of York he filled an ancient See but there is a dispute as to whether he succeeded to that ancient See or re-founded it.  The question is important because if York had been in continuous existence from Roman days it could claim to be the oldest English See and thus the (arch)bishop could claim to be primate.  If it was refounded, then Canterbury had seniority and better claim to the title of primate of England. 
You may also remember from earlier entries that northern British Christianity differed from Roman and Continental Christianity on many points of ritual and Church calendar.  The melding of the northern and southern English Churches was not an easy task and was only accomplished by the Synod of Whitby in 664.  In fact, while the northern and southern Churches came to agreement on the date of Easter and several other contentious points, there would remain long after Whitby two distinct English Christian traditions, each a little suspicious of the other.  The fact that the northern Churches had their own rites—that of York and of Durham—and the South followed, for the most part, the Sarum rite (with Hereford  and Lincoln maintaining their own rites), one might ask to what extent the English Church ever did meld.  As the northern Church always looked to York for leadership and the southern Church looked to Canterbury, a rivalry grew up between these Sees. York was raised to an Archdiocese in 735 by Pope Gregory III but had only one suffragen See—Durham.  Carlisle would be added to the province in 1133 and Sodor and Man in 1154.  (Again, considerable new dioceses were created for the province of York by Henry VIII and again in the Victorian and early 20th century periods.)  York was always resentful of Canterbury, a much larger and more influential jurisdiction and when Lanfranc of Canterbury demanded that Thomas of Bayeaux submit to the authority of Canterbury before, he, Lanfranc, would consecrated Thomas as Archbishop of York in 1071, not only did Thomas refuse but the clergy of York demanded that no such submission be made. 
Thomas and the York party claimed that Pope Gregory had given Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, jurisdiction only over the southern kingdom of Kent and not over the entire British Church.  Moreover, York’s claim to being the older See—going back to Roman times—made it senior to Canterbury and if anyone were to have the honor of primacy it would be York.  There was, in fact, no mention of Canterbury being the primatial see in the letters of Gregory the Great, but William the Conqueror, for political reasons, supported Lanfranc’s claim to primacy.
The issue surfaced again when Lanfranc died and Anselm succeeded him.  Anselm demanded to be installed not simply as Metropolitan of Canterbury but as Primate of England.  Thomas of Bayeaux, Archbishop of York, resisted the claim.  They appealed to the Pope.  This, of course, give the Pope another toehold in the English Church but both Anselm and Thomas were more anxious to keep the King—William II Rufus—out of Church issues than to keep out the Pope.  Pope Pascal granted the primacy to Anselm, but only granted it to him personally and not to his successors at Canterbury. 
The dispute broke out again after the deaths of Thomas and Anselm when Thurstan—elected in 1114 to take Thomas’ place as Archbishop of York, refused to swear obedience to Anselm’s successor Ralph d’Escures.  Thurstan was about to appeal to the Pope when Henry I stepped in and forbad an appeal to Rome.  This was an attempt by the king to check growing papal power in England and makes these issues be resolved within the realm to preserve what shreds of autonomy were left to the English Church.  Henry called a council of English bishops to resolve the matter.  Pascal II, however, seized the initiative and wrote Thurstan commanding Ralph to consecrate him (Thurstan) without any such oath of obedience.  Interestingly, even though the letter supported Thurstan’s claims of independence from Canterbury, Thurstan concealed the letter and instead resigned his claims to the See.  Here Thurstan too seems to have wanted to check growing papal interference in the English Church. 
Although Thurstan had resigned his claims to the See, the King, his fellow bishops, and the chapter of his own Cathedral continued to recognize him as the rightful (though unconsecrated) Archbishop.  Thurstand and Ralph both attended the Council of Reims in 1119 where Pope Callixtus II personally consecrated Thurstan.  Henry saw this as  papal interference in the English Church and was so angry he exiled Thurstan, not permitting him to return to England.  Callixtus, for his part, issued a papal bull, Caritatis Bonum, making it clear that York was not subject to Canterbury.  That did not put an end to the question however.   
When Ralph d’Escures died and was succeded by William of Corbeil, Thurstan should—as ranking English bishop—have consecrated him but William refused to have Thurstan as consecrator unless Thurstan acknowledged William as primate.  (One can only wonder what Jesus would have thought about all this arguing over who is the greatest.  It seems that these were not the first prelates to get into this catfight).  In the end William was consecrated by three of his suffragens as Thurstan was not about to concede any rights or honors to his rival.  William went to Rome with claims to the primacy but in 1126 Pope Honorius II decided that the documents William presented were forgeries and York’s independence was upheld.  More in the next posting.

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