Monday, October 20, 2008

Elizabeth I: Protestant or Catholic?

David Loades in the latest edition of BBC History Magazine has this to say about Elizabeth I: "She was clearly a Protestant theologically; there is no doubt about that at all." However, even though the former professor at the University of Wales, Bangor has written a biography of Elizabeth, one is entitled to question his judgment. Elizabeth herself wrote to the Emperor Frederick "“We and our people-Thanks be to God-follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the early Fathers." That letter was written 1563 and expressed a view of what the queen intended the English Church to be and teach. In 1571 the canons passed by the Convocations of Canterbury and York and approved by the queen express the same view when it said "See to it that you teach nothing. . .which you would have religiously held and believed by the people, save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine." This doesn't sound like the doctrine of either Zwingli or Calvin. In fact it sounds a good deal more like what the whole Church, East and West, believed and taught for the first five centuries. And, that I believe, was real Catholicism.

3 comments:

Matthew Nelson said...

I say both. QE I was Protestant in the sense that she was not going to allow the English Church to fall under Roman jurisdiction or follow Roman doctrinal innovations. And, she was Catholic in the sense indicated in the post, which is the original, authentic meaning of Catholic.

Canon Tallis said...

But Elizabeth realized that the continental Protestants and their English followers were as much the enemies of the true Catholic faith as the Romans. Her second archbishop of Canterbury had to be suspended and the writers of the Marprelate tracts and their press had to be hunted down. Maintaining the faith was a struggle and one that she waged until the end of her life.

Matthew Nelson said...

Agreed. Perhaps, in the context of the times and as the words were conventionally used then, QE I was neither Protestant or Catholic.

The difficulty with applying the terms Protestant and Catholic to Anglicanism has always led me to prefer describing Anglicanism as Western Orthodoxy minus the bad stuff.

But alas, no body seems to agree on what Orthodoxy means either, or what its bad bits are!

So, I hereby crown QE I as the first mere Anglican!