PRAYER BOOK REVISION [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] •
SIR,—The letter signed " F. J. Lys " in your issue dated 18th February is an illustration of how the whole reasoning process of an intelligent man can be vitiated by being based upon a false premise. The false premise in this case is that the Church of England is absolutely, and not merely incidentally, Protestant ; i.e., that she is not the Catholic Church in England.
This involves the historical falsehood that she is a sect, nothing more than a " National " religious community, a branch of the Civil Service for religious purposes, a creature of the State, owing her foundation to that most disreputable monarch Henry VIII. Now this is all wrong. The Church of England is not a new schismatic Church founded in the sixteenth century. The Papists assert that she is ; but one does not expect that a scholar, presumably a member of the Church of England, should allow such an assertion. For if it be true, then the Church does not represent Christ at all : her Bishops have doubtful orders and no jurisdiction ; and she has no moral right to her endowments, her cathedrals, or her parish churches.
But the truth is that the Church of England, and not the Church of Rome, is the Catholic Church in England ; i.e., the branch, in and for England, of the one and only Church founded by Jesus Christ. This truth is stamped all over the Prayer Book. She is only Protestant in precisely the same sense as, e.g., the Holy Orthodox Church of the Eastern Patriarchate is Protestant : and that body is most certainly Catholic.
Your correspondent's assumption of the absolute Pro- testantism of the English Church is the general error which leads him to argue erroneously in any particular instance. For example, the "Articles," being as they are the Articles of the Catholic Church in this country, and not of a merely Protestant body of State origin, must be interpreted in a sense accordant thereto. But it is discordant to insist upon giving to the documents of a Catholic body a Protestant interpretation.
Let your correspondent realize that there is a sound reason for the belief and the actions of the thousands of learned and devout persons in the English Church who are known as " Anglo-Catholics." Let him try using the Catholic key to the Prayer Book lock : the difficulties will vanish, and the door will open to admit him to a paradise of loveliness of which he does not seem to have much perception now.— am, Sir, &c., ll'eanrwr J. PEERS (Priest).
(M.A., Worcester College, Oxford.)