What is Anglican Liturgical Patrimony?

This paper by Monsignor Andrew Burnham was made available during the Anglican Use Conference in Texas.

Mgr Andrew Burnham

The vigorous discussion of ‘Anglican Patrimony’, a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum cœtibus, has established two things for sure. One is that it is not only a liturgical tradition which former Anglicans bring into the Catholic Church: there is a sense in which ‘patrimony’ is far wider than that, and includes a whole cultural mindset and experience which is no less real for being hard to define. The other thing that the discussion has established is that, whatever it is, ‘Anglican Patrimony’ certainly does include a liturgical tradition, a tradition which is powerfully Benedictine, in its continued celebration of the public office, often within buildings that were abbeys and priories. It is also a tradition which, somewhat self-consciously, has adopted the Eucharist as its mainstay. This we all owe to the Oxford Fathers as much as to the Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement, which has influenced us all.

The trouble starts when we see some of the divergent directions in which the Anglican tradition has followed. One, undoubtedly, is that of the Ritualists, those nineteenth century Anglo-catholics who, believing that the Provinces of Canterbury and York had become separated from the Holy See by secular wickedness, believed that they should adopt as much of continental faith and practice as they could, living as if they were Roman Catholics. There is a whole history here, at times moderate and at times extreme and its liturgical footprints are found in the more moderate Anglican Missal and the English Missal, more ultramontane as time went on, compromising to a greater or lesser extent with the requirements of the Anglican rubrics as they celebrated what was, at its extremity, the Tridentine Mass in the vernacular. Another whole tradition, much more obedient to the Anglican heartland, could be called Prayer Book Catholic. Not so long ago, it seems, almost everyone was a ‘Prayer Book Catholic’. One endeavoured to profess the Catholic Faith but sought to express it in ways loyal to the Prayer Book. This deep loyalty to the texts characterised much Anglo-catholicism in the States. High Church Episcopalians have almost always looked askance at English Anglo-catholics and their anomalous liturgies. But many English Anglicans have also looked askance at Anglo-catholic anomy and sought to work synodically, at least from the mid-1960s, to bring about those structures and texts and emphases which more appropriately express a Catholic eucharistic understanding. Here things have been helped, as well as complicated, by the ecumenical consensus of the Liturgical Movement and we have been bewildered as much by Scottish Presbyterians lighting candles on cuboid stone altars as by Jesuits saying Mass in mufti over a coffee table. Throw into this mix the strong movement and longing, a century and more ago, for the lost age of the Sarum Use. Whether it was Percy Dearmer and the Parson’s Handbook or various editions of plainchant, there was the feeling that the English Church needed as much to recover what it had lost in a golden age of mediæval praxis and piety as to look for the reunion of Christians. Remember, in those heady days – until, really the Church of England re-invented itself as one denomination amongst many in the 1970s – ‘the Church’ in England meant ‘the Church of England’, whatever ‘the Romans’ or ‘the non-conformists’ thought about things.

The problem about all this history – and I must apologise for the rough and ready way I have laid it out, preparatory to what comes next – is that it becomes problematic to discern quite what the Pope would mean by ‘Anglican liturgical patrimony’. Ironically, he probably means not least what he witnessed in Westminster Abbey, in September 2010, and what he knows, as a good musician, of the English choral tradition. I say ‘ironically’ because this is probably the least accessible part of the Anglican tradition in terms of his ecumenical initiative in Anglicanorum cœtibus. We are not expecting a cœtus to form in Westminster Abbey nor in any English cathedral nor indeed from any major parish church. Ironically too, as our friends on the North American scene have often remarked, the English Anglo-catholics who have responded and are likely to respond to the Pope’s offer are the successors of the Ritualists, those who for many years have used the Roman Missal in English and used the Divine Office for their formation and daily devotion. But it isn’t entirely like that: a small but significant percentage of our groups are from a more avowedly Anglican liturgical background and they are looking eagerly to see what it is from Anglican sources that the Holy See will authorise for use in the Ordinariates. Watching them are others from congregations in the Church of England who are embedded in the Common Worship tradition, that is making full use of the Catholic-style ceremonies and texts which have increasingly become a feature of English Anglican worship, albeit often under-laid with a far from satisfactory doctrinal understanding of ecclesiology and sacramental theology.

A word now about the Book of Divine Worship. We in England pay tribute to the visionary nature of this book. It was, to a considerable extent, the transplanting of the Episcopalian 1979 Book of Common Prayer into Roman Catholic diocesan life, bringing in not just the texts but much of the ceremonial dignity and infrastructure which has given such beauty to American Anglo-catholicism. The careful mixture of a ‘Catholic’ richness and obedience to official formularies had made North American Anglo-catholicism distinctive and this mixture was now being brought into the full Communion of the Catholic Church. No wonder the parishes – though small in number – flourished so wonderfully. These parishes will surely be at the heart of the new American Ordinariate. But everybody knows that the Book of Divine Worship will not quite do now. I can’t speak about elsewhere in the world, but we know that it is too North American for England, which has a different Anglican tradition, especially as regards modern liturgical revision. We also know that, with the coming on-stream of the new English texts of the Roman Liturgy, the contemporary language stream in the Book of Divine Worship would create a cacophony. And, a generation on, everyone would like a new look at the Book of Divine Worship and what should be in it.

In order to prepare for the next stage, the emergence of the Ordinariates and their worshipping life, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith convoked a working party, under the chairmanship of Mgr Andrew Burnham, one of the former Provincial Episcopal Visitors, to advise on some of these issues. The focus has been mainly on preparing for the first of the Ordinariates, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, in England and Wales, but there has been some work on the wider questions. It is not yet entirely clear whether the highly desirable objective will be achieved of establishing an international English liturgical provision for the Ordinariates. It may be that the histories are too different, the expectations and experiences too. But it is worth continuing to strive for that. Some of the work, though painstaking, is quite straight forward. No one wishes to see the disappearance of the Coverdale Psalter. Everyone seems keen to make sure that that gem of Anglican practice, Evensong, is available to the Ordinariates, to enrich the Catholic Church. There is an expectation too that, in England, something like the marriage and funeral liturgies, broadly as revised in 1928, and reappearing as ‘Series One’, should be available to the Ordinariate. These beautiful liturgies are so in-grained that, along with Evensong, they will be a powerful tool of outreach and evangelism, in a context where something at least of Anglican Patrimony is to do with the way pastoral work is done in neighbourhoods and amidst communities. There is also an enormous wealth of English spiritual writing, hardly explored as yet in the liturgical life of the Catholic Church, which may enrich a more distinctively English Calendar. Some of this – quite a bit of it – will also be there for Ordinariates elsewhere in the world, whose Anglican origins have been informed by the liturgy and spirituality of the English Church.

You will appreciate that I am not quite in a position to unveil where the working party has got to. For one thing, it was meeting only a few days ago and its deliberations will have to be fed back to the Holy See before too much is public. What I can do is mention some of the directions in which we are heading. I think we can assume that distinct liturgical provision for the Ordinariates will be almost entirely in traditional language. That heads off the emerging difficulty of more than one idiom of contemporary liturgical English in the Catholic Church. I think too that we can assume that there will be an interim stage, when material from the Divine Office and for the marriage and funeral liturgies will be further tried and tested, with the expectation that Congregation for Divine Worship will substantially endorse and make permanent what is being done. I think we can assume too that the infrastructure of Calendar and Lectionary – in respect of the Lectionary perhaps a bit closer to the Roman Rite than that in the Book of Divine Worship, which is essentially the Episcopalian one. I think we can assume too that the Initiation rites – Baptism and Confirmation – and the rites of Ordination will be those of the Roman Rite. These are important, unitive moments and none of the corresponding rites from the Anglican Communion can adequately convey the understanding of what it is to belong to, and be an ordained minister within, the full Communion of the Catholic Church.

There are one or two lesser questions, upon which little progress has yet been made – such as ministry to the sick and dying – but the main area of work outstanding is, of course, the Mass. It is not that work has still to be begun in this area. Rather it is that the Congregation for Divine Worship, to whom the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has entrusted this task, needs to take time to study the issues carefully. Let me just remind you of what some of these issues are. One issue is the Sarum Use. At the Reformation, the Sarum Use was the predominant Use in England and, like the Ambrosian and Mozarabic liturgies, had not only local importance but also, as viewed by the criteria established by the Council of Trent, a long enough history to be regarded as having a permanent place within the Latin Rite. Now, as we know, the Sarum Use was suppressed not by the Catholic Church but by the Henrician Reformation. Broadly, does the Catholic Church regard that suppression as a final and fatal piece of iconoclasm or, in more propitious times, should something like the Sarum Use re-emerge after a long sleep? There are momentous consequences, including pastoral ones, in encouraging the adoption de novo of a liturgy largely unfamiliar to the worshippers. Then there is a second issue. What should be done about that rich Anglo-catholic tradition of using the Anglican Missal or English Missal? Here we are looking at the preferences of Continuing Anglicanism which, appalled by some of the trends in twentieth century liturgical reformulation and doctrinal revisionism, has found its liturgical life in these missals. What view should the Congregation for Divine Worship take of these missals, neither of which has been an authorised liturgical book in Britain, America or Australia, despite their frequent use in these territories. Thirdly, there are the Anglican liturgical books and resources which are authorised and used. This was broadly the area that the Book of Divine Worship has explored, taking the 1979 Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer and, essentially, dropping in the Liturgy of the Eucharist of the Roman Rite in place of the Protestant provision. That could be done with the Church of England’s Common Worship. There are no doubt similar strategies that could be adopted with regard to Australia and for former Anglicans in Africa and India. There are some obvious complications: just as the American Book of Divine Worship is often strange from an English vantage point, so Common Worship would seem strange in some other parts of the world. Or, rather, it may seem confusingly similar to the emergent English translation of the Roman Rite.

As you will see, these three issues – the Sarum Use, the Anglican and English Missals, the contemporary versions of Anglican liturgy – take us back into the early history of the Oxford Movement. There were strong arguments then for restoring the Sarum Use. There were strong arguments then for aligning faith and practice with the contemporary Catholic Church. There were strong arguments then too for attending loyally to the agreed Anglican texts and for seeking to revise them to strengthen their ability to convey Catholic teaching. The working party began work with the last two of these three issues dominant in the minds of its English members. Surely something should be built on the close co-relation of the contemporary language Eucharist in Common Worship with the Mass of Pope Paul VI: after all, here was the nexus explored and exploited by Anglo-catholics. Here was the opportunity at once to build on the Anglican liturgical experience and to align faith and practice with the contemporary Catholic Church. As became clear, however, the very similarity of eucharistic orders would lead to muddle and to the cacophony referred to earlier. It was decided also that the place of the Anglican and English Missals tradition, particularly in relation to North America and Australia, needed further study and consideration. Meanwhile the first tranche of texts submitted by the working party incorporated substantial elements from the Use of Sarum. Imagine liturgical history, so the conceit goes, had the emerging vernaculars of the Renaissance period not been vehicles of theological polemic. Imagine how things would have emerged had Dr Cranmer been a loyal servant of the Church, the Annibale Bugnini of his age. At worst, this conceit is a harmless game. At best, it might yet lead to the emergence of a fine Ordinariate eucharistic rite, including, after five hundred years’ torpor, some of the jewels of traditional Catholicism as found in the Use of Sarum.

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21 Responses to What is Anglican Liturgical Patrimony?

  1. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I used to despair at the BBC, especially ‘Newsnight’ and its seeming obsession with Anglican affairs. There are many more faiths in Britain than Anglicanism, and other countries in the Union than England, yet we are/were all forcefed this stuff, like those poor geese destined for foie gras.

    I hope the same thing isn’t happening here, I thunder.


  2. Rebrites says:

    Anglican liturgy is full of the beauty of holiness as well as some of the most rich and delicious prose ever written in English, IMHO. I think these people are very wise to consider how such a treasure can be adapted and kept lively in its new/old setting.

    As for being “force-fed,” I can´t see what you are getting at. This blog touches on a wide range of faiths and religions and topics, this is just one of dozens that are arcane as can be, but very relevant and interesting to the arcane people who make up CP&S´ readership.

    But do rumble on, Whippy. Just don´t choke on your Coverdale.


  3. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    And rumble on I will.

    Rebrites creatively misreads my post which made no mention of liturgy at all: nada, nix. Such liturgy may well be all that Rebrites says it is, but she is barking up the wrong tree. There was no comment made whatsoever, positive or negative, about Anglican liturgy.. You slipped that in all by yourself.

    The forcefeeding refers to what I clearly said it referred to – BBC coverage ad nauseam about the Anglican church to the exclusion of other faiths in the UK – Catholic, Presbyterian, and the rest. I refuse to become invisible to suit a patronising monoculture.

    I too am arcane, like you, and like you I have something to say. When you’ve read accurately, I am interested in your comments however critical.

    Just don’t become wall eyed by not using your reading glasses


  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Rebrites refers to “the most rich and delicious prose ever written in English”. My dear Rebrites, this is straight from the wine tasting school of literary criticism.

    I don’t go for that.



  5. joyfulpapist says:

    I’m with Rebrites on this one. The prose of the Book of Common Prayer, as used when I was a young Anglican woman, was rich and powerful. The Prayer of Humble Access is one of the treasures of the English language.


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Joy seems to follow the school of lit crit known as “The answer’s in the soil”.

    It may be.


  7. manus says:

    Hardly. “Rich, …, powerful, …, treasures” – could apply to many things. William and Kate anyone?

    As for delicious: “Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.” Virginia Woolf, who knew a thing or two about literature.

    I’m not sure anyone is setting themselves up as a critic here, but we appear to have a resident critic’s critic, making work for himself. So I’ll just settle in as the critic’s critic’s critic, if that’s OK.


  8. Rebrites says:

    here I thought I was just saying how much I love the BCP. Always have, always will. It is one of the things I miss most about Anglican worship, now that I live deep in Catholic country. The prayer book, and the appreciation for good music. Rich and delicious.


  9. Frere Rabit says:

    One of the remarkable misconceptions that Catholics have about Anglican liturgy is that it is less than Catholic. (Never mind Papal authority, stay with liturgy.) The Prayer Book – as conceived by the reformers – was not only a manual of public devotion but it contained the fullest statement of the teachings of the Church. Its authority is always the twin pillars of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. It was one of the great glories of the Anglican tradition that the BCP provided inspiration for Evangelicals and Catholics alike.

    However, those Anglo-Catholics who have become part of the Ordinariate include many who have only ever used the Roman Missal! Yes, in these circles, that is standard use. So where on earth is the so-called ‘Anglican patrimony’? One of the early Anglican negotiators with the Holy See, involved in the discussions since the late 1980s, which finally led to the Ordinariate, is a friend of mine. He says the question of ‘Anglican patrimony’ is simply a ‘spin’ phrase with no substantial meaning whatsoever. It will disappear within five years.


  10. The Raven says:


    I can only hope that you are mistaken, as I would dearly love the Church in England to adopt an orthodox version of the prayer book: Cranmer’s theology may have been damnable, but his English was impeccable; and it would be good for English Catholicism to recover our Sarum roots.


  11. joyfulpapist says:

    We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. – (Book of Common Prayer 1662)


  12. joyfulpapist says:

    And the general Act of Contrition also from the BCP:

    ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father;
    We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
    We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
    We have offended against thy holy laws.
    We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
    And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
    And there is no health in us.
    But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
    Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults.
    Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.


  13. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Manus m’boy,

    Virginia Woolf chucked herself in in a sluggish stream. Part of the Bloomsbury set, and obnoxious to many. But you love the ‘canon’ and think it means the ‘best’.

    You are ill at ease with those like me who dismiss the winetasting school of criticism, where texts are “rich, balanced, lovely” and all the rest of that subjective, arbitrary, useless language, so beloved of elitists, and intended to make mysterious the language of criticism, and indeed literature itself. It has long been old hat.

    It is of a top drawer class and their hangers-on, those do-nothings who prepare themselves for a life of twittering, which has now come to pass.

    I fear you have never recovered from the hanging you expected, but were denied.

    On a cheerier note! it’s good to see a lot of discussion here on CPS, perhaps encouraged by a little bit of controversy from several quarters. I like that.


  14. manus says:


    You had me going for a minute – I thought you were serious! Swaggering with the very elitism you condemn – hilarious! But might I suggest that your self-contradictions, entertaining as they are, are becoming just a little too obvious and frequent? And these projections of yours onto my cultural opinions – based on what, precisely? That I googled for a delicious quotation and found Virginia? Aren’t we stretching it a little?

    This is a blog for people to exchange views on Catholicism, pure and simple. Not culture, not style. It has global readership, and we want to encourage more participants. The last thing we need is a self-appointed guardian of stylistic expression.


  15. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    My goodness Manny, I responded initially to a post which involved itself with lit crit in an Anglican liturgy.(this Anglicanism wasnt Catholicism, but you raised no objections)) Then you came along with V. Woolf.(which wasn’t Catholicism, pure and simple either) You invoked culture, personality and style.

    None of this is any excuse for your bitter posts. I want you to be relevant and nice, like most here. If you are sometimes not relevant, well that’s OK; I won’t pursue you. Everybody does that now and again. Mr Manus, recently I made a booboo, and took my licks from some on the forum. It was a fair cop, they got me bang to rights. Can’t you also try to accept your howlers? – it’s not too painful.

    I’ll try not to upset you, but you must help me. If there’s anything you don’t want me to say, then tell me beforehand, and I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Tho’ I can’t guarantee anything.

    I’m by no means a self appointed anything, but you are, I think. Your last paragraph gives the evidence to that.

    Now cheer up and listen! Have you enjoyed the current heat of debate here on the forum? I have. I find (do you?) that differing views are interesting. Join with me please in reading what is posted, even if you don’t always agree with it. Above all, don’t be angry with those posts.

    You say, and I agree, that this site wants more readers. You will have liked my siding with those who wanted to post but didnt because of what were called ‘liturgical wrestlers’. Do you think your last post to me will encourage

    I forgive you.


  16. Mr Badger says:

    Disputes between people who post on a regular basis are great fun for the participants (especially in this case I imagine as nothing of any importance is at stake). But they can be toxic if you’re trying to attract new pople. I think Mr Whippy should apologise for calling Manus a “dweeby poo-face” and Manus should apologise for throwing his pencil case. Back to work!!


  17. Mr Badger says:

    Whoops, that’s how the Pope looks, I meant people 🙂


  18. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    You are quite right Mr Badger in all you’ve said above.


  19. Mr Badger says:

    I’m sure Mr W would agree that the language of the BCP has the elegance and subtlety of a Château Lafite Rothschild which has been cellared for three years and is ready to be savoured in all its delectable fineness. The the rich tannic depth of doctrinal orthodoxy is beautifully combined with the fruity vibrancy of English poetry in full bloom. Or to put it another way, the BCP goes well with venison.



  20. manus says:

    Mr Badger,

    I recognise a much-needed kick in the rear when I get one. Well done sir. And Mr Whippy, as you have so kindly forgiven me, then I’d better offer you the anticipated apology. I therefore apologise for my intemperate tone.


  21. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Mr Badger – your response couldn’t be bettered! I am aware too, that the nocturnal badger has a terrible bite, and likes to be left in peace.

    Manus, let’s not forget that forum posting is an odd thing. None of us presents more than a facet of what we are. I certainly don’t . Sometimes we feel like tickling the other, and get tickled in return. Because we’re anonymous,we sometimes say things we wouldn’t normally. But in the end none of us should be irritated by someone with a stupid name (whoah, Wally) who we’ll never meet and anyway who cares? Please don’t apologise, I ‘m not offended. But I have kind of apologised to others here, when they caught me in a gross stupidity, and let me say, it’ll happen again. You are right on the money when you say I am inconsistent – only I know how serious is that problem; I will admit it when caught, but not before. But I am human, and some say, strangely handsome, to continue the alliteration.

    Please feel free to have a go at my comments in the future, without fear or favour; it’s ok. Sooner or later , you’ll have me bang to rights guvnor.

    And if anyone feels like giving someone a tickle, then have a go at Toad,


    Whap eyed Mr Wallaby

    This post was a struggle; for it was made in an interval of the family feast of a friend, with lots of lovely wine (hic) but far, far too many kids screaming and howling and seeking attention. Personally, I’d banish them to the garden where they could do what they liked to each other, as long as they cried silently.

    So I slipped away……


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