In July 2008 it was reported that three members of the Anglican clergy, distressed by the ordination of women, and more recently by the ordination of practising Sodomites, had secretly visited the Vatican. Their distress is understandable but their response is deplorable. Their actions prompted me to read a book that some years ago came into my possession - “The Secret History of the Oxford Movement” by Walter Walsh, 1898, Swan Sonnnenschein, London. It is a well researched and authoritative work. In this overview, I have included my own comments and current websites to bring things up to date. However, little has changed.
The Ritualist Movements of the 1800s.
During the period from about 1830 to 1900 numerous persons sought an increase of ritualism into the established church in Britain, the Church of England – the ‘Establishment’. A certain “deadness” had descended on that system. With a structure akin to that of the Roman Catholic system, some were leaving it because they felt that its structure and practice was far removed from that of the apostles’ doctrine. Others longed for the ritual of the Church of Rome as a means of stimulating religious feelings. The term ‘Ritualist’ was used to describe the many societies and orders that arose in that period. [We will use R.C. or Rome for the Roman Catholic system, and C of E for the Church of England.]
The Oxford Movement
John Henry Newman, later Cardinal Newman, was the first leader of this movement which began in 1833. Some of its members, among them Newman and Dr. Pusey, wrote a series of tracts called ‘Tracts for the Times’ from 1833-1841. Hence the society became known as the Tractarians or Puseyites. It is known as the “Oxford Movement” because many of its members were from Oxford University.
It was a secretive group marked by ‘Secret Teaching’. This concept came from Clement of Alexandria in the fourth century. The other method adopted was that of ‘Economy’. The first can be described as withholding the truth, the second as “setting it out to advantage”. Clement stated that “the Christian father should speak the truth, except when careful treatment is necessary, and then, as a physician for the good of his patients, he will utter a lie… Nothing, however, but his neighbour’s good will lead him to do this”.
A description of ‘Secret Teaching’ surfaced in 1838 when a member of this secretive group published a tract called “On Reserve in Communicating Christian Knowledge”. This set the whole of the Church of England in an uproar. Clement and others at Alexandria did not teach new believers all the doctrines of Christianity. Newman felt that if the Alexandrian Fathers felt justified in hiding certain doctrines of Christianity from the popular gaze, as secrets to be made known only to the initiated whom they could trust, he and his colleagues might lawfully do so. Therefore they preached from the pulpit the doctrines that the C of E had held for three hundred years, while secretly, to those whom they could trust, they taught the Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. This they dared not expose to the light of publicity. Furthermore, Clement had claimed that some of the grand doctrines of the faith were derived, but not taken directly from Scripture. So Newman’s movement took on the notion that the traditions of men were of equal status to the Scripture, and that its disciples need not look to the Bible alone for what they should believe - hence the great departure from the truth of God.
In 1834 Newman, to deceive the public, made very, very strong statements against the Roman Catholic system. But in 1845 Newman converted to Roman Catholicism. When the devil is at work, deception is always present, as Jesus said in John 8:44, “When he speaks falsehood, he speaks of what is his own; for he is a liar and its father”. As early as 1840 Newman started a monastery near Oxford, with rules of conduct and dicipline based on a strict Roman Catholic model. Newman denied that it was a monastery but the truth eventually became public.
In 1852 a book by Rev. Dr. Desanctis was translated into English. Desanctis we are told, was a man of high moral character and had been Professor of Theology, Official Theological Censor of the Inquisition and subsequently Minister of the Reformed Italian Church at Geneva. In his book he revealed that Jesuits were at work among the English clergy, arousing interest in antiquity. “This was designed to occupy the clergy in long, laborious, and abstruse investigation, and to alienate them from their Bibles”. [Desanctis, Popery and Jesuitism in Rome, page 134, quoted by Walsh, Secret History of the Oxford Movement, 1898, page 33.]
Walsh also quotes Descanctis as writing:
Desanctis reports asking a Roman priest: "But do you not think it would be for the greater glory of God, that all the Puseyites should become Catholics?" The reply to this question was: "No my son, the Puseyite movement must be left alone that it may bring forth fruit... Puseyism is a living testimony to the necessity of Catholicism in the midst of our enemies; it is a worm at the root which, skilfully nourished by our exertions, will waste Protestantism till it is destroyed" (Walsh, Pg 33-34).
The Society of the Holy Cross (S.S.C, i.e. Societatis Sanctae Crucis]
The society was founded in 1855 Chapel of the House of Charity, Soho, London, by six Anglican priests. - initially intended as a spiritual association for their own personal edification, but it soon came to be the driving force behind the Anglo-Catholic movement, particularly after the first phase of the Oxford Movement had run its course and Newman had converted to Roman Catholicism and became Cardinal Newman. Three of the original members converted to Roman Catholicism. The Tractarians or Ritualists had been exposed. The SSC was founded as a secret society and still operates.
Anglo-Catholic ritualism was very close to practices in the R.C. Church and included devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, frequent celebration of the Mass, the practice of confession to a priest, the wearing of eucharistic vestments, and the use of incense, liturgical hand bells, and wafer breads. Whilst these practices had not been completely unknown in the C of E since its break with the Papacy, most of them had not been in general use for hundreds of years as the Church of England had become increasingly Protestant in its liturgical practice after the reign of Elizabeth I. Now a Catholic society, the SSC has taken a conservative line in recent isues, particularly over the interpretation of Scripture and the ordination of women.
Today, there are over 2,000 members of the Society organized into Provinces for England & Scotland, the Americas, Wales, and Australasia. See www.societatissanctaecrucis.org. Non-members cannot go past the home page which tells its own story – praying to Mary, and praying for the repose of the soul of a dead person. In April, 2005, the Society celebrated its 150th anniversary with a week-long festival, "Stand Up For Jesus". The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, addressed the gathering and the Royal Albert Hall was filled to capacity for the closing Mass. A current web site for the SSC gives the history from the Catholic side: http://www.sscamericas.org/resources/history.htm
The Society of the Blessed Sacrament was founded in 1860 by Father Eymard, a Catholic priest, to promote the Mass. Its members “devote themselves to the worship of the Holy Eucharist” - see Catholic Encyclopaedia at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14111a.htm]. Although this was a purely R.C. group, it is mentioned here because it amalgamated with the following one in 1867. Both have their own website.
The Confraternity [brotherhood]of the Blessed Sacrament (CBS) was formed in 1862. The CBS was set up for the purpose of teaching the “real presence” of Christ, the “Eucharistic Sacrifice”. Although members were not sworn to secrecy, they dreaded its documents getting into the Protestant hands. By 1894, 1682 clergy of the C of E and 13,444 lay men and women were members of this confraternity. The organisation’s manual, with its objects and regulations may be found at: http://anglicanhistory.org/cbs/manual.html
This organisation has been described as the “daughter” of the Society of the Holy Cross, aimed at propagating, within the C. of E., the sacrifice of the mass under the name of “Eucharistic Sacrifice”. Further, the members are expected, like the Catholics, to offer prayers for the dead and to worship the Sacrament. This latter is called “Eucharistic Adoration”. For some reason the third item in their list of objectives was “To promote the observance of the Catholic and primitive [earliest] practice of receiving the Holy Communion fasting”. This is amazing, since the Lord inaugurated the Supper after the Jewish Passover meal, and in the first three centuries - and even later – it was celebrated after supper. On its website, this organization cites July 14, 2008 as the day it celebrated 175 years since the beginning of the Oxford Movement.
The Order of Corporate Reunion (OCR) was born in 1876 - a society more secretive than the above SSC. It was completely Roman Catholic in its outlook. Members believed that the Pope was the head of the whole church on earth. The idea of one of the founders was to give people what they wanted of Roman teachings and practices, without them having to switch to that organisation. In 1877 three bishops of the C of E went to a place near Venice and were consecrated in a secret service, that was authorised and guaranteed by Pope Pius IX. The bishops were Dr. Frederick Lee, Thomas Mossman and Dr. John Seccombe. The aim was to get the whole of the Church of England across to Rome, not just persons converting one by one. It secretly consecrated bishops, and taught Popish doctrines, orders, and sacraments that Rome admitted to be valid, though Rome refused to acknowledge those of the Church of England. It currently admits that it first served only members of the C of E., but is now open to all. The aim is now to unite all under the domination of the Vatican, i.e. the Pope must be acknowledged as the visible head of the Church on earth – coupled with the acceptance of Rome’s practices and dogma.
The Order of the Holy Redeemer was another secret society within the C of E. Its object was to have the C of E eventually submit to the Pope. One member who held a high office in that order wrote a letter which appeared in the Barnet Times of May 6, 1892. In it, he stated that he felt that the C of E was corrupt and that “I believe no man is justified in staying within that church, except when he feels that God has called him to assist in restoring that church to its lost place … in unquestioning submission to the See of Peter, and to the authority of our Holy Father, the Pope, which is the object of the Order of the Holy Redeemer”. A truly Jesuit principle – the end justifies the means. Islam advocates the same. To deceive or be in a wrong position is allowable, as long as you have the “right” object in view. Within that Order was an inner circle called the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross.
Some of these societies, in reviewing their own history, now claim that fear of persecution drove the need for secrecy. Having one’s opinions criticized or ridiculed can hardly be regarded as persecution. Although the C of E was coupled with the secular governmen in Britain, there was never the persecution and slaughter as experienced in Spain, France, Italy, etc. where RC Church and the state were in league with each other. Make no mistake, when Satan is at work in a systematic way, there will be deceit – it is the character of the Serpent. When the Lord Jesus stood before the high priest, He answered: “I spoke openly to the world; I taught always in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and in secret I have spoken nothing”, John 18:20.
MM July 2008