Discussion following Andrew Chandler

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Andrew. We do have time for clarification questions to Andrew about this. Whilst you think of your own questions, can I just ask one that occurred to me on re-reading this Report? It relates to the social context of the time. I felt that Catholicity could possibly have been written in 1910 as much as in 1947, but I could not imagine it being written in 1990 or 2000. You are a historian. Why?

DR ANDREW CHANDLER: One of the dangers of being even a bad historian is that one is in danger sometimes of facing unhistorical questions! I think that if there is a crucial element within the intellectual fabric of Catholicity, it is a response to particular contexts. I agree that in many ways the superstructure of the thing could belong to 1910, though I suspect it would have been more vigorously written, and there would have been greater opportunities for a slightly high-flown prose in particular ways, but I think that the significance of Catholicity is not confined within the immediate context, although it does owe a great deal to it – and the context had shown specific signs that were very much those of the late 1940s.

I think Dix himself, who may have been dogmatic in all kinds of ways, but whose correspondence reads very attractively, was a figure who found the discussion over the Church of South India wounding, and I think Fisher found the debate over South India actually drew out of Anglo-Catholic opinion something that needed to be faced, and needed at that particular point to be converted into something creative.

So whilst the contours of the argument may belong to quite a broad chronology, the specific phrases and the specific priorities that emerge within it – and some of the perspectives too – are undoubtedly contextual. That dense chronological pattern between 1945 and 1950 is, I think, very present, and you can sense it in almost all the documents produced at that time.

FROM THE FLOOR: You spoke a little about the composition of the group. Was it Fisher who chose them? Who chose them and on what basis were they chosen? Also, can you put a little bit of colour into what you said about the diversity of the group? Which traditions do we see represented here and who represents them?

DR ANDREW CHANDLER: Thank you very much. It is an important question, but a really firm answer is very difficult. It does not emerge with any clarity in Ramsey’s papers, or in Fisher’s papers. Dix is more problematic in archival terms altogether. There is no question that the essential agent is Dix, not Fisher at all. It is very difficult to bury entirely a sense that Fisher felt that, if he gave these people something like this to get on with, they would perhaps keep out of trouble in other ways. He was perfectly content for them to recruit each other. But beyond that, the intricacies of selection are, to my mind at least, unknown, at least at the moment. So I am afraid that my answer to your question – which is an important one, of course – is unsatisfactory.

THE REVD DR ANDREW DAVISON: I am Andrew Davison. I will be speaking later on, when I will say something about that sense of Protestant/Renaissance split the Report suggests, which is perhaps too clever for its own good; but points like that make me wonder what sorts of documentary evidence there might be that we could turn to, to work out where various ideas like this came from. Are there working papers? Can we tell from correspondence? Especially where there is a sense that something is a sort of ‘pet idea’, someone must have been very pleased with themselves! Can we work out what the sources were?

DR ANDREW CHANDLER: Yes, there are working papers. There are working papers preserved in the Ramsey archive, for example. If one takes the example of a correlation between the Renaissance and Liberalism, we can attribute that very firmly, not least because of Dix’s correspondence, to V. A. Demant: that is the point of origination as far as we can judge. The listing of names is always rather a problem because, whilst responsibility is a shared thing, of course you never really get a very strong sense of who directly produced which particular idea – often not even in working papers – so I think it is one of those cases that answers to the following generalisation. If you appoint a committee or a body of any kind, the people who go onto it will automatically define what is written. There is no question of that at all.

The Free Church leaders, in their response, benefit from exactly the same. I have often asked the same questions about their report. There, the rules of the game are a little bit clearer because there is a great deal of discussion about Luther, and you can see which members of the group are producing it. Incidentally, I have a sense that the consultancy role claimed by Franz Hildebrandt, for example, in that particular case managed to suggest not only a greater precision in Luther’s scholarship, but also a sense that maybe the Liberalism of the nineteenth century owed far more to the Enlightenment than anything that went further back. The Enlightenment altogether is very obscure in all three reports. It is very odd.

But I am beginning to distract from your main point. I think the chances of deconstruction, if I can use a horrible word like that, do exist, but on a modest and partial scale.

FROM THE FLOOR: So, in a broad brush way, would it be fair to say that Anglican‑Catholicism was reasonably united at the time of this report in a way that it was not by 1990?

DR ANDREW CHANDLER: There are many people here better qualified than I am to answer that, but there is of course no doubt that it was not in any sense coherent and united. Fisher was vulnerable to criticism for thinking too easily that there was something coherent that could be called ‘Anglo-Catholic’ without any further definition at all.

What I would say is that Anglo‑Catholicism, and those who were sympathetic to it within the Church of England, were to be found in greater number in 1947, and with greater numbers comes diversity. It was part of a state of near prosperity that a wider range of opinions could be summoned to the feast. But it would be quite wrong to try to suggest that the Catholicity Report was expressive of a mind that was from the first unified and represented the coherent understandings of a movement at large within the Church. It is much more a meeting of individual minds within a broad spectrum and with a shared set of concerns and loyalties than anything that represents what we may now identify as a narrow, purposefully party document.

It is important also to recognise that this is an intellectual essay. It is not a ‘report’. Such a distinction, I think, should be observed with seriousness in the context of a meeting like ours.

FROM THE FLOOR: I hope this is a historical question, Andrew, but one cannot help but notice that the make-up of the group of 1947 was male, and only one of them was lay. Does this reflect the make-up at that time of the appropriate thinkers in Anglo‑Catholicism? One thinks of people like Dorothy L. Sayers, who might have been invited. Could you say just a word about that? Thank you.

DR ANDREW CHANDLER: I think there is no doubt that in the case of all three reports they are entirely male preserves. It would be an utter mistake to suggest that that necessarily produces arguments that there were not women capable of participating, or interested in participating. To some extent, if one really wanted to get under the skin of that, one would need a kind of archive which has yet to occur in my thinking and working, which relates to our earlier point about selection of people. In that sense, because we do not have that material, it is all too easy to relax into the obvious generalisations which are clearly available to us. What we have, I think, is an expression of a particular world which is largely consistent, not only with schools of thought that might be put together by other parts of other churches, or the Church of England itself, but really pretty much everything in British political, civic and administrative life in the same period. We cannot deny that these people – all of them – are resting on certain assumptions which produce realities of that kind. Beyond that, I think I can be no more specific and, I am afraid, no more satisfactory.

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