The Rev Dr Mark Chapman has written convincingly on the 'Fantasy of Reunion' as he calls the various attempts at Anglican and Roman Catholic ecumenism in the period of the Oxford movement. The times were far from ripe: on the English side a spirit of imperial pride, allied to a long history of anti-Romanism, lent little attraction to the idea of a search for union; on the Roman side, the 'second spring' and the tide of converts it brought, allied to a defiance of the spirit of the age which England so much represented, made discussions with Anglicans a prospect few saw as worth while.
That liberalising spirit condemned by Rome, was no more welcome to Anglicans such as Pusey who took the view that Christianity was a dogmatic religion which could not be simply defined away until all that was left was a warm posset of good will. Unlike Newman, Pusey's interest in history and patristics did not take him across the Tiber; but Newman's passage gave him an interest in one who had taken the journey; and again, unlike Newman, Pusey remained of the view that the Church of England was the middle way, and, steeped as it was in Catholic tradition, was well-placed to act as a bulwark against unbelief. In this last, Pusey believed he had the tacit support of Newman, and perhaps even of his other former colleague, now Archbishop of Westminster designate, Dr Henry Manning. As the events of 1866 were to show, in both cases, Pusey had misjudged both his two old friends, and, once again, the climate within his own Church.
Those who want a fuller reading of this are advised to read the second chapter of Dr Chapman's excellent book, which points out, inter alia the way in which Newman's ideas on the development of doctrine, and his experience of the Catholic Church had led him to an understanding of catholicity at once more expansive and less historicist than Pusey's (p.71). For our purpose here, what is needful is a short summary to place the Eirenicon and Newman's response into a time-frame.
The Eirenicon took the form of a letter to John Keble, which was published in 1865. Here I want to offer some representative extracts which will illustrate Pusey's arguments. Pusey had expressed his concerns about the liberal tendencies of the controversial Essays and Reviews, published in 1860, and had hoped that Catholics would see the Church of England as a bulwark against the spread of unbelief. His pamphlet has used that phrase and attributed it, implicitly, to Newman, who, as we shall see, disclaimed the honour. It provoked a tough response from Manning in The Workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church of England (1864), which included the uncompromising statement that:
I am afraid, then, that the Church of England, so
far from a barrier against infidelity, must be recog-
nised as the mother of all the intellectual and spiritual
aberrations which now cover the face of England.
with his olive branch trimmed down and converted into a club with which to beat him, Pusey responded in best Christian fashion with an "Eirenicon' - that is which is a statement that attempts to harmonise conflicting doctrinal positions - in this case those of the Anglican Church and Rome.