Saturday, April 27, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church X

Ruins of Saint Augustine's Abbey,
Well, back to our saga of the Anglican Church and its relationship to the papacy.  In previous entries we saw how the Church of England has two roots—one in the primitive Christianity brought with the Roman legions and colonists in the second and third centuries, the other in the missionary efforts of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, a Roman monk sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 604 at the invitation of King Aethelberht of Kent’s invitation to Christianize the Anglo-Saxon Kentish people who had settled in England after the withdrawal of those Roman troops in the fifth century.  These two Churches—the older Church which survived mostly in the north and the younger Church which Augustine brought to the south had distinctly different customs and different relationships with the Roman See and its bishop.  The older Church of the north was certainly in communion with the Roman Church but also was quite independent of it.  With its own ancient traditions and under the influence of the Irish missionaries who strengthened it during the period of the Anglo-Saxon invasions it differed in many regards from the Roman Church and its practices.  To a great extent these differences were resolved with the synod of Whitby in 664, but the English Church retained many distinct customs and rites up until the second phase of the English Reformation in 1549.  The Roman Rite was never used in England which until the First (Protestant) Prayer Book of King Edward the Sixth in 1549 followed a variety of rites including those of Sarum, Durham, York, Lincoln, Hereford, and Bangor.  The southern tradition, that of Canterbury, had stronger ties to Rome due to its origins with Augustine and his mission but also followed the uniquely English rites just mentioned.  The ties of Canterbury to Rome were symbolized and strengthened by the sending of the pallium from the pope to each successive Archbishop—a practice that would continue until Matthew Parker’s consecration in 1559 under Elizabeth I. 
During the period of Anglo-Saxon Christianity the great devotion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples to Saint Peter the Apostle built and strengthened ties between Roman and English Christianity.  In order to forge ties to Rome with the northern Church and its more independent tradition, Pope Gregory III named Bishop Ecgbert of York an Archbishop in 735, raising York to metropolitan status and thus dependent on Rome for the archbishop’s pallium, as was Canterbury.  Nevertheless Archbishops of both Canterbury and York as well as the other English bishops were almost always elected independent of papal nomination and only appealed for recognition after their election and consecration.  That would later change and while they would still be elected independently of Rome, their consecration would not occur until after papal confirmation.   One exception where the Pope did appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury was when Archbishop Wighard died in 668 on a visit to Rome to receive his pallium and Pope Vitalian uses the opportunity to selected a Greek, Theodore of Tarsus, as the new Archbishop/primate for the English Church.   
The relationship of the English Church with the papacy was strengthened by William the Conqueror who in 1066 invaded England to claim the throne after the death of Edward the Confessor.  There were two claimants to the English Throne, the Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson and the Norman Duke, William the Bastard.   After William defeated Harold and secured the English throne, he replaced the Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand (who had supported Harold) with his own candidate, an Italian monk by the name of Lanfranc who had served as Abbot of Saint Étienne in Caen.  Lanfranc was succeeded in 1093 by another Italian, Anselm, abbot of Bec. To be fair, William waited three years from his conquest before sending Stigand into retirement but it was part of the Norman policy after the conquest to replace Saxons with Normans.   The Normans had strong ties to the papacy at this period—the Normans in Italy under Robert Guiscard were protecting Gregory VII from Emperor Henry IV in their dispute over the right of Emperors to invest prelates with the insignia of office.  Ironically William was fighting a variation of the same battle when it came to William of Saint Calais—his sometime rebel bishop of Durham.  That is a story for another time, suffice it to say now that with Normans on English throne and their Italian archbishops ensconced as primates, the relationship between the English Church (the Ecclesia Anglicana) and the papacy grew even stronger.  This is not to say that the Crown and Canterbury acted in concert—far from it.  William and his successors had strong intentions to control the Church in their realms and Lanfranc and Anselm both resisted royal authority and appealed to the Pope to back them up in their disputes with the Crown.  Such reliance on the papacy increased papal influence in England.  Tensions became particularly high under William’s son, William Rufus and Anselm ended up going into exile in 1097 and again in 1105 in disputes with William Rufus and later with William’s son, Henry I.  These conflicts were anticipatory of the debacle between Henry II and Thomas Becket later in the twelfth century but we will come to that matter down the line. Suffice it to say that with the replacement of an Anglo-Saxon hierarchy by a Norman hierarchy after the conquest, the relationship of the English Church to the papacy began to evolve from a relationship of ecclesial communion to the English Church becoming a client dependent on the Roman See.  It would be a long slow process and one with reverses, especially during the Avignon papacy of the fourteenth century, but throughout the one can see throughout the Plantagenet centuries a gradual loss of the ancient autonomy of the Anglican Church and its subjection to more control from Rome.  When the Plantagenets finally lost the Crown to the Tudors, this dependency would be challenged by new views of royal authority.          

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