Is this the best schism Henry VIII could come up with?
October 31, 2010 2:41 PM   Subscribe

How did I go to Anglican High Mass twice and not realize I wasn't in a Catholic Church?

Somehow I had the idea that my local church (I'm in London) was a Catholic one. I'm not much of a church-goer, but I took my Dad when he was visiting (he's an extremely devout Catholic) and we both got through the service thinking it was a Catholic mass. Today, for some reason, I went to mass again and during the Sermon the dude was talking about commemorating the Reformation, seeing as how it's in our Anglican DNA and all that. Anglican? Woah. Blew my mind.

So what gives? The responses, the confession of faith, all that stuff was exactly the same as the Catholic mass. They're fine with the Rosary and praying to Mary. Heck, they even prayed for Pope Benedict. I've only been to Evensong at Anglican churches before and there was no mistaking it for Catholicism. So I'm confused.

Is there any appreciable difference in Catholic and Anglican high mass or is my local just suffering some identity crisis? For any doctrinal experts out there: should I, technically speaking, have taken communion? Or rather: in the eyes of the RC Church, did I take communion?
posted by oneaday to Religion & Philosophy (42 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there any appreciable difference in Catholic and Anglican high mass or is my local just suffering some identity crisis?

It varies from church to church. Some Anglican churches have a strong Catholic streak running through them. This seems more common in the UK than in the Episcopal church in the US. The Wikipedia article on Anglo-Catholicism may be instructive.
posted by jedicus at 2:44 PM on October 31, 2010


I'm no doctrine expert, but the Pope has given a joint service with the Archbishop of Canterbury in an Anglican Cathedral, which has to count for something in terms of interchangeable communions.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2010


The main difference between High Mass and the Catholic Mass, if I remember correctly, is that the Anglican High Mass uses the Book of Common Prayer.

A bit of historical context: The Anglican Church didn't initially split from the Catholic Church because of disagreements over things like clericalism, indulgences, necessity of sacraments, etc. etc. etc. It split because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and annulment, which the Pope would not grant him. Thus, the Catholic Church in England was nationalized with Henry as its head, Henry was excommunicated, and it became the Church of England.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:50 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are different strains of Anglican. The more conservative strains have always had a similar ceremony as the Catholics. There are large differences between the Anglican church and the Catholic Church but they tend to be doctrinal rather than ceremonial.

When Pope Benedict visited the UK, he and the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a joint mass in which communion was given - to Anglicans and Catholics alike. That would seem to imply to me that there is a sort of "communion treaty" between them.
posted by vacapinta at 2:52 PM on October 31, 2010


My understanding as someone who was raised Episcopalian in the US is that the lines are a lot blurrier now than they used to be, because of Vatican II. Fifty years ago the difference would have been obvious because the Catholic mass would have been said in Latin, and everyone would have been wearing a head covering (or just women? I forget), and there was that thing where lay people couldn't touch the Host and had to have the communion wafer put on their tongue by the priest.

Now none of that stuff exists, and the main differences are probably more political or hazily tribal/sectarian* than theological. For instance if you ask me how I know a congregation or a service is Episcopalian rather than Catholic, I'd say that OF COURSE I'd know, because there's a good chance the Episcopal service would be led by a female minister, the sermon would be some kind of cutesy white light "God Loves Everybody" deal, there would be openly gay members of the congregation, etc. But none of that has anything to do with the Reformation or Henry VIII or what historically separates Anglicanism from Catholicism.

*Even as an agnostic who no longer identifies as Episcopalian, my first reaction to your post was not far from, "OH HELL NO WE ARE NOTHING LIKE THOSE CATHOLIC JACKASSES!" But, y'know, we kind of are. And why would I even care? Or use a "we" statement there considering I don't believe in any of it anymore?
posted by Sara C. at 2:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most Roman Catholic churches I've been to specify that only RC's are invited to take communion. An RC friend of mine will not take communion in my Anglican church-she doesn't believe that it 'counts.'

As vacapinta says, the ceremonies are very similar. If you are visit one of the more old fashioned Anglican churches and are not a frequent churchgoer, you may not notice a difference. I'm surprised that you father didn't pick up on it though.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2010


Anglican in the UK is almost universally synonymous with High Church.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A bit surprising, but not too shocking.

When Henry VIII split the Church of English from the Roman Catholic Church he made very few changes. It wasn't until his daughter, Elizabeth I, took the crown that things began to diverge. And the Roman Catholic Church post Vatican II really brought the mass into line with more protestant traditions (that is, vernacular vs. latin).

Now you have the Pope seeking to reunite parishes that disagree with the Anglican Church's move towards being more acceptant of homosexuality in the sacraments. He's basically saying, "If you don't like where the Anglican Church is headed, why not be Roman Catholic again?"

I believe that even within the last decade, the two churches publicly announced that they had settled many of their doctoral disagreements... although I can't find the article at the moment.
posted by sbutler at 3:03 PM on October 31, 2010


Oh, and re the communion issue.

Growing up Episcopalian, I was taught that anyone who is a baptized Christian and who usually takes communion in their home church is welcome to take communion at an Episcopal service.

Then I went to my first mass at my Catholic high school. Wherein I took communion (because, see above) and was chastised by my Catholic peers because apparently within the Catholic church you have to be Catholic to take communion or you're perverting the whole thing. I have no idea how officially true that is, or what the stance in Britain is - I grew up around a lot of very conservative Catholics and have since discovered that not all Catholics are like that.

So, no idea how your taking communion at an Anglican service would be seen in the eyes of your Catholic priest, but within Anglican circles (in my experience, anyway), you were welcome to participate and if that was communion to you, then it's good enough in the eyes of God.
posted by Sara C. at 3:03 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The service linked to was a service, not a Mass, so there wouldn't have been communion (and neither of those dudes would have gone for a joint communion deal because it's really impossible). At Catholic Mass, the eucharist is consecrated and Catholics believe that it becomes the Body of Christ. In an Anglican service, communion is distributed as a symbol. That's actually a huge difference! Technically Catholics aren't supposed to receive communion at a Protestant service (and vice versa). It's weird to me that you guys didn't notice that the words were different (however similar the service was to a Catholic Mass) since your devout dad would have heard the exact same words spoken at Mass every time he went, wherever he went, week in and week out since the 1960s, but maybe he chaulked the differences up to being in another country.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:11 PM on October 31, 2010


Then I went to my first mass at my Catholic high school. Wherein I took communion (because, see above) and was chastised by my Catholic peers because apparently within the Catholic church you have to be Catholic to take communion or you're perverting the whole thing.

Apostolic Succession is a huge thing with the Catholic Church. The idea is that you can trace an unbroken line from the priest performing the mass, through the bishop that he was ordained by, and all of the bishops in history before that were ordained in the church, back to St. Peter and thus, back to Jesus himself. A papal bull was issued that declared that Apostolic Succession had been broken in the Church of England's schism, and so any sacrament received in that church is not considered valid by the Roman church. Your baptism, first communion, etc. would not be recognized.

Interestingly enough, I believe the Catholic Church will give communion to an Eastern Orthodox christian, but the Eastern churches will not give communion to a Roman Catholic.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


At Catholic Mass, the eucharist is consecrated and Catholics believe that it becomes the Body of Christ. In an Anglican service, communion is distributed as a symbol.

This is not true. Or at least not in the USA/Episcopal Church. We* also believe that it becomes the Body of Christ.

*There's that tribal we again!
posted by Sara C. at 3:17 PM on October 31, 2010


The Elizabethan settlement was basically (and very simplified) Catholic practice, Protestant beliefs. Since the practice mattered more to the Catholics and the beliefs mattered more to the Protestants, everyone could more or less live with it.

You do have High-Church Anglicans who look very Catholic, and Low-Church Anglicans who look very Protestant. It's a pretty big-tent church in terms of practice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's easy to confuse the two. The difference is, the Anglican Church is the gilt without the guilt.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've also heard this:

Anglican: Catholic Lite! 98% Less Guilt!
posted by Sara C. at 3:28 PM on October 31, 2010


This is not true. Or at least not in the USA/Episcopal Church. We* also believe that it becomes the Body of Christ.

The Episcopal/Anglican view has been that of Real Presence, which is compatible with but not the same as transubstantiation. Views held by individual adherents range from memorialism to consubstantiation to transubstantiation.

However, the Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine suggests that the Anglican Church is moving towards transubstantiation:
Communion with Christ in the eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, become his body and blood...The elements are not mere signs; Christ's body and blood become really present and are really given....Through this prayer of thanksgiving, a word of faith addressed to the Father, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit, so that in communion we eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood.
It's hard to get much more literal than that.
posted by jedicus at 3:41 PM on October 31, 2010


The big difference is that the audience participation section of the Lord's Prayer ends differently.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:51 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks guys - very interesting responses. I didn't realize there was such a spectrum within the Church of England in terms of practices. The neighborhood used to be pretty Italian so I wonder if that's why this parish leans more Catholic in style.

A papal bull was issued that declared that Apostolic Succession had been broken in the Church of England's schism, and so any sacrament received in that church is not considered valid by the Roman church.

Right, we won't be mentioning this little discovery to Pops, then. My Presbyterian Mother, however, will find this hilarious.
posted by oneaday at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2010


When my grandmother came to America from Rome in 1916 she went to an Anglican church for a couple of years without realizing it was not Roman Catholic. She was fluent in English and fairly sophisticated for a 16-year old. She said it was just like a Roman Catholic mass with more singing. Nana thought the extra singing was just an American thing.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Most Roman Catholic churches I've been to specify that only RC's are invited to take communion.

Really? The priest actually says that? What geographical area? I've been to a lot of Catholic masses, and I don't believe I've ever heard it. The closest I've seen is that during a wedding rehearsal, the priest told us how to signal him if we didn't need a snack. (Not arguing, just surprised.)

But yes, confirming that Anglican and Catholic are nearly identical. Not sure how you missed the intercessions being different though. I still flinch when I hear Pope Benedict and not John Paul.

was chastised by my Catholic peers because apparently within the Catholic church you have to be Catholic to take communion or you're perverting the whole thing.

That's because if you don't burst into flames, their faith will be tested.

But seriously, I don't think shunning is official policy. The point of it is the communal sharing of a meal. The only caveat is that they would prefer it if you have recently gone to confession. I would bet that nobody minds as long as you aren't doing it as a joke.
posted by gjc at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2010


Your baptism... would not be recognized.

Any baptism done in the name of the Trinity would be recognized.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:18 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


In most Roman Catholic churches I've been in, it says in the announcement/bulletin/order of service/missalette that only Roman Catholics are invited to join in communion. I've never heard a priest or deacon or lector announce it from the altar, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:23 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You do have High-Church Anglicans who look very Catholic, and Low-Church Anglicans who look very Protestant.

You also have few Catholic parishes -- especially ones with Oxford Movement heritage -- that are a hair's breadth away from Anglo-Catholicism: at one of them I remember being slightly surprised to hear an intercessionary prayer for the Queen. (Not that I wish ill upon her, but she's got her own denomination to pray for her.)

no idea how your taking communion at an Anglican service would be seen in the eyes of your Catholic priest

I'd imagine he'd find it moderately amusing.

98% Less Guilt!

72% More Jam-Making!
posted by holgate at 4:31 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


GJC - I was kidding/exaggerating a little when I used the word "perverting", but yes, it's true, the Catholic Church does not invite non-Catholics to participate in communion. And Catholics see non-Catholics who participate anyway as a violation, not a misunderstanding or a "well whatever you believe in, that's fine". To be frank it reminds me a little of the logic wherein gay people getting married somehow takes away from the benefit to straight people.

It's possible that the priest may have said something about it, but it's a sort of veiled euphemistic thing, "All [X] are welcome to participate in Holy Communion", [X] being an exclusionary rather than inclusionary term. As a 14 year old who was used to communion being a totally inclusive, welcoming, and fundamentally individual thing, I clearly missed the memo.
posted by Sara C. at 4:33 PM on October 31, 2010


gjc: Not sure how you missed the intercessions being different though. I still flinch when I hear Pope Benedict and not John Paul.

They did pray for Pope Benedict! But right after praying for Rowan the Archbishop of Canterbury. That's what kind of got my brow furrowed in the first place.
posted by oneaday at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2010


Hmm, I went to Episcopal churches my entire childhood and never heard anyone pray for the Pope and I've never used a rosary - those are new ones to me.

I don't know a lot about UK Anglicanism, but here in the US the variation from church to church is amazing. I've been to very high church services with incense and chanting and whatever ("smells and bells"), but also services in a trailer where the priest wears jeans and plays the guitar. Almost anything goes. That said, the one you went to still sounds a little...off.
posted by naoko at 6:51 PM on October 31, 2010


Stuff I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The R. C. Church recognizes ALL baptisms as long as they are performed in the Name of The Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost).

The R.C. recognize the apostolic succesion within the Orthodox Christian churches; their sacraments (including the Eucharist) are valid and it permissable for a Catholic to receive them. Check with your local bishop first, m'kay?

Orthodox Christians are welcome to receive communion in a R.C. church. If you're Protestant, though, bad news. But there is a way of last resort, if you REALLY want to receive communion in a Catholic church.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:13 PM on October 31, 2010


Any baptism done in the name of the Trinity would be recognized.

Huh...wow. I guess I'm just not used to the church tolerating competition. That's kind of refreshing.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:32 PM on October 31, 2010


Hmm. I dunno. Aren't there little giveaways in the Lord's Prayer? For example, the protestant doxology: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever," should be missing in the Catholic version, I think.

Maybe also some phrases like "the quick and the dead" (Anglican) vs "the living and the dead." (Catholic)?
posted by washburn at 10:48 PM on October 31, 2010


I should perhaps clarify that I'm talking about the Lord's Prayer and also the Apostles' Creed. And it looks like the Anglicans made "the quick and the dead" part of the creed optional in 2000. Oh well.
posted by washburn at 11:03 PM on October 31, 2010


Interestingly enough, I believe the Catholic Church will give communion to an Eastern Orthodox christian, but the Eastern churches will not give communion to a Roman Catholic.

800 years later and they're still pissed!
posted by atrazine at 3:25 AM on November 1, 2010


Is there any chance that the building is shared between the RC church and the Anglican church? I know of one building in my home town that operates that way, with different services at different times.
posted by biffa at 4:04 AM on November 1, 2010


Back in my pre-atheistic days my staunchly C of E church gained a vicar who decided to take things very "High" indeed. Suddenly we were seeing (and smelling) incense from swung, clanking censers; we were "venerating" (ie kissing) the crucifix at Easter and most shocking of all, being asked to make confession.

So, as others have said, I think it very much depends on who's in charge of the church. But I'm not surprised to hear that you found an Anglican High Church with a close-to-Catholic mass.
posted by Decani at 5:07 AM on November 1, 2010


OP: They did pray for Pope Benedict! But right after praying for Rowan the Archbishop of Canterbury. That's what kind of got my brow furrowed in the first place.

Eh, this doesn't seem strange to me. I think it is helpful to think of the Anglican / Roman Catholic relationship as an oddly asymmetrical state, in that pretty much all Anglican churches and adherents see both churches as legitimate expressions of the historically-unbroken Christian Church, whereas all but the most liberal Roman Catholics (and certainly the institutional Catholic Church) believe that institutional unity with the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope) is required to be truly a part of the 'one, true, holy and apostolic church'. It's a little more complicated when you start getting into the issue of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (and the Old Catholic Churches which broke with Rome in the late 19th century) since they are, as far as I know, perfectly valid churches in the Roman Catholic understanding, but just churches that are not in communion with Rome.

Basically it comes down to the question of what it means to have an unbroken apostolic succession. Anglicans will tell you that the Church of England, Episcopal Church, &c. are led by bishops who were ordained by bishops who were ordained by bishops and so on who eventually can be traced to the early, pre-Reformation Christian Church in the British Isles, and who thus had been in communion with the bigger tradition of Western Christianity: ergo, Anglican churches are legitimately 'catholic', or 'universal'. My understanding is that the Roman Catholic Church takes issue with the fact that right after the Protestant Reformation, the particular formula used to ordain bishops was changed in a way that did not fully convey a proper understanding of the unity of the church, and so Anglican apostolic succession is invalid.

All this to say, I wouldn't find it weird to pray for other churches in church -- in fact, in my parish we usually offer prayers not only for our sister Spanish-language Episcopal congregation, but also for the Lutherans around the corner, the Evangelicals down the street, and the churches in our neighbourhood generally. This would be more problematic in a Roman Catholic church because it is my understanding that the Roman Catholic Church sees Protestant sects as 'ecclesial communities' at best -- that is, nice little groups where people get together and talk about God and maybe read the Bible and pretend to enact certain things like the Eucharist... but basically, not actually Christian churches.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:56 AM on November 1, 2010


For example, the protestant doxology: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever," should be missing in the Catholic version, I think.

Actually, this may be another cause of confusion—although the doxology is not included when RCs pray the Our Father outside of Mass, during the order of Mass, the Our Father is prayed (by everyone), followed by a short embolism by the priest ("Deliver us, Lord, from every evil...") , which is then followed by a doxology (by everyone) which is not unlike the Protestant one, though not identical: "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever." So it would be easy for an RC to miss the difference at an Anglican Mass if not paying close attention.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2010


BTW, The ex-friar in me is thrilled by the liturgical nerdery of this thread. I don't get to have conversations like this anymore (that's what I get for no longer believing in an afterlife, I guess).
posted by KingEdRa at 4:23 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, since you're not supposed to take communion in a Catholic mass even if you're Catholic if you haven't had a confession taken recently, then no - not really the done thing to do so if you're from a Protestant church.

In all the years I was intermittently dragged to churches and masses when younger, I never once heard this said aloud from the front during mass. But since then I've never not heard it at weddings and funerals, which'd likely be the only time they were likely to have other communion-taking Christians in the building anyway.
posted by genghis at 8:11 PM on November 1, 2010


It split because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and annulment, which the Pope would not grant him.

Brendan Behan supposedly summarised it thus (though I believe the rhyme was popular before he quoted it):

Here's a health to the Protestant Minister
And his church withou meaning or faith
For the foundation stones of his temple are
The bollocks of Henry the Eight.


Henry had earlier been named Fidei Defensor by Pope Leo for writing a defence of the sacraments under the tutelage of St Thomas More. So as noted, it wasn't doctrinal issues which led to the spilt. IIRC it was under the reign of his son, who died before reaching adulthood and had been given a strongly Protestant upbringing, that significant reforms took place.
posted by Abiezer at 6:10 AM on November 2, 2010


Having a check on t'Internet, the rhyme was Behan's version of the original Irish of Antoine Raiftearai, last of the wandering bards.
posted by Abiezer at 6:41 AM on November 2, 2010


OK, a rather funny coda to this story for any still reading.

I happened to go to this debate tonight, and one of the speakers for the motion was George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury until 2002. Saw him milling around after the debate so I decided to ask him my question. Figured if anybody'd know, it would probably be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

His take was that post-Vatican II the two churches have worked together and lined up their liturgy very closely. Then he got distracted by somebody he knew and told me to keep going to church.

It's good to go to the source, but frankly ya'll were really more helpful.
posted by oneaday at 4:54 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is there any appreciable difference in Catholic and Anglican high mass or is my local just suffering some identity crisis?

No, there isn't much, particularly if the church you went to used the Nicene Creed vs. the Apostles' Creed. (A lot of Anglican/Episcopal churches use the latter; almost all American Catholic churches use the former.)

For any doctrinal experts out there: should I, technically speaking, have taken communion?

According to the Anglicans: you're good. According to the Catholics: you're bad. Talk about this at your next Confession.

Or rather: in the eyes of the RC Church, did I take communion?

You didn't. The Anglican church doesn't believe in transfiguration. To the Catholics, this is the most essential part of that particular sacrament.
posted by timoni at 1:02 AM on November 5, 2010


*transubstantiation, not transfiguration.
posted by timoni at 1:05 AM on November 5, 2010


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