Professor Philip Jenkins, Welsh-born Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University in the United States, may be quite well known to many for his contributions to research in Christian history and criminology (no pun intended!).
Long, long ago in 2013 he alighted upon a review provided by Thomas Babington Macaulay (Lord Macaulay), a rather prominent figure in English letters and matters of state in the first half of the 19th century.
In Lord Macaulay’s said review (of a certain German scholar’s worthy attempt at the history of the Papacy – a little previous to Cambridge’s contemporary Professor Eamon Duffy’s attempt), much was said to explain the lasting power of the Catholic Church. She existed long before the rise of the royal houses of Europe and continued to show vitality and growth while the royal folk rose and fell – as the Church does still today.
Professor Jenkins (and Macaulay?) appear to attribute this to the Catholic Church’s broadness and her capacity to “absorb” dissidents and allow them to go forth, even to the extent of revering them as saints and as founders of great religious orders. This is something, according to him, our Protestant brethren are not so good at and dissidents there tend to go off and found their own “churches” instead, now numbering in the tens of thousands (that come and go largely) and nearly all of them in America or originating from there. Well, yes and no.
It’s unclear whether Professor Jenkins is suggesting that we should be more open to modern-day Catholic dissidents based on the historical data. Historical Catholic dissidents (St Francis, St Ignatius??) contributed to growth in the Church. It is hard to see our “dissidents” having this effect in our day. Quite the opposite. Would that it were otherwise.
Anyway, please read Professor Jenkin’s article. An excerpt here to whet the appetite:
In a Protestant country like England, notes Macaulay, an ordinary person is sometimes filled with spiritual power, but because the church cannot hold him, he goes off to found his own sect. In contrast, the Catholic Church not only tolerates such innovation, but wholeheartedly co-opts it for its own long-term good.