The secret of Anglo-Catholicism’s success

SIR – Matthew Schmitz’s cover story (February 24) is absolutely spot on. Faith cannot just be dependent on intellectual or ethical assent if it is to reach out to all people. What was lost during the “reforms” following Vatican II left many Catholics bereft, and failed to win more followers to the faith.

For a majority of people, beauty, whether in the visual arts, music or liturgy, is an essential to their lives and, without it, life can seem stripped of anything worthwhile. Someone living in poverty, working long hours in a dead-end job just to stay afloat, may have precious little access to beauty. The great Anglo-Catholic “slum priests” of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Fr Robert Dolling (builder of St Agatha’s in Portsmouth), understood this perfectly. They offered their parishioners practical help in their daily lives, and access to beauty in church buildings and worship, copying many ritual practices of the Catholic Church. This brought many hundreds, indeed thousands, of people into their churches who would otherwise have remained firmly on the outside, considering the Church to be for the respectable middle classes.

There are signs of hope, in that many dioceses now have centres where traditional practices have returned, and there is an increase in people searching out these places. The priestly congregations which are grounded in tradition and the “beauty of holiness” are attracting proportionately more vocations than the normal seminaries. However, until those in the Church’s hierarchy are willing to admit the unfortunate decisions of the past 50 years, it is difficult to see how the Church will succeed in drawing back the people who perceive themselves to be outside of “the club”.

Yours faithfully,

Sue Mawson (Mrs)

Gurnard, Isle of Wight

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