"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Catholics Who Are Not Latins

On the strength of Bryn Geffert's 2009 book, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans: Diplomacy, Theology, and the Politics of Interwar Ecumenism, which was utterly fascinating (and which I discussed briefly here), I am very much looking forward to 2022 when we will see the publication of Catholics without Rome: Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and the Reunion Negotiations of the 1870s by Bryn Geffert and LeRoy Boerneke (University of Notre Dame Press, May 2022), 544 pages with 39 b&w illustrations. No doubt this book will remind us of many important insights of 150 years ago that were then forgotten but might perhaps need, in part, to be revived today, not least by Catholics with Rome who are struggling to contain the maximalizing busybody that the modern papacy has become. 

About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Catholics without Rome examines the dawn of the modern, ecumenical age, when “Old Catholics,” unable to abide Rome’s new doctrine of papal infallibility, sought unity with other “catholics” in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches.

In 1870, the First Vatican Council formally embraced and defined the dogma of papal infallibility. A small and vocal minority, comprised in large part of theologians from Germany and Switzerland, judged it uncatholic and unconscionable, and they abandoned the Roman Catholic Church, calling themselves “Old Catholics.” This study examines the Old Catholic Church’s efforts to create a new ecclesiastical structure, separate from Rome, while simultaneously seeking unity with other Christian confessions. Many who joined the Old Catholic movement had long argued for interconfessional dialogue, contemplating the possibility of uniting with Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox. The reunion negotiations initiated by Old Catholics marked the beginning of the ecumenical age that continued well into the twentieth century. Bryn Geffert focuses on the Bonn Reunion Conferences of 1874 and 1875, including the complex run-up to those meetings and the events that transpired thereafter. Geffert masterfully situates the theological conversation in its wider historical and political context, including the religious leaders involved with the conferences such as Döllinger, Newman, Pusey, Liddell, Wordsworth, Ianyshev, Alekseev, and Bolotov, among others. The book demonstrates that the Bonn Conferences and the Old Catholic movement, though unsuccessful in their day, broke important theological ground still relevant to contemporary interchurch and ecumenical affairs. Catholics without Rome makes an original contribution to the study of ecumenism, the history of Christian doctrine, modern church history, and the political science of confessional fellowships. The book will interest students and scholars of Christian theology and history, and general readers in Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches interested in the history of their respective confessions.

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