During a meal at Ushaw there was a conversation about Scotland and the Reformation as we quizzed one of our Scottish brethren about how it differed from that in England. During this conversation when it came to talking about James I and VI, I mentioned the proposal when he was king of England for reunification of the Church of England with the Catholic Church. No-one had heard of this and so I said I`d provide details here.
I am grateful to Mgr Gordon Read`s article in the December 2009 issue of the Canon Law Society Newsletter which in itself drew on an article in the Catholic Herald of 6th November 2009 by Fr Michael Rear.
Mgr Read writes:
Early in his reign James I wrote to Pope Paul V offering to recognize the spiritual supremacy of the Pope and to reunite the Church of England to Rome provided the Pope would disclaim political sovereignty over kings. Paul V took a tough line and condemned the oath of loyalty proposed by James I in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot. Urban VIII took a more conciliatory line: "We know that we may declare Protestants excommunicated as Pius V declared Queen Elizabeth and before him Clement VII the King of England Henry VIII....But with what successs? The whole world can tell. We yet bewail it in terms of blood. Wisdom does not teach us to imitate Pius V or Clement VII". Archbishop Laud of Canterbury mentions in his journal that on the day of his appointment he was offered a Cardinal`s hat.
Urban VIII sent a Benedictine monk, Dom Leander, to report on the state of the English Church.[....]
Leander suggested that the following measures might serve to reconcile the moderate Anglicans:
1. Communion under both kinds
2. Marriage of the Clergy
3. Liturgy in English
4. The admittance of English Protestant clergy to benefices (coming to agree in points of faith) either by conditional re-ordination or by way of `commenda`.
5. Permitting Roman Catholics to take the Oath of Allegiance to the monarch.
Later in the 1630`s Gregorio Panzini was sent to England as the Pope`s agent and negotiated for two years with King Charles I and various other parties.
The Jesuits were among those opposed to the plans! The Civil War put an end to negotiations. Charles II tried to establish religious tolerance and again there was a plan for reunification in 1663 which came to nothing. It would have allowed the king to nominate bishops, and for the Mass to be in Latin with English hymns.
I found all this very interesting in terms of how flexible the Holy See was willing to be to achieve reunification. Let`s hope Anglicanorum Coetibus is more successful than these previous attempts to accommodate an Anglican identity within the Catholic Church.