Ecumenism and Irenics in 17th-Century English Catholic Apologetics
Clancy, Thomas H., Theological Studies
By the 1660s the theological wars between the Catholics and the Protestants of England were a hundred years old. Those polemics had started with "The Great Controversy" following on Bishop John Jewel's "Challenge Sermon" at Paul's Cross in November 1559. Jewel was answered by Thomas Harding, Nicholas Sander, William Allen, Thomas Stapleton, and others.(1) Later on, other Catholic controversialists took up the cudgels: Persons, Broughton, Bristow, Smith, Percy, Floyd, and many more.
But around the middle of the 17th century, a new irenic note appeared in Catholic theological literature. Christopher Davenport, an English Franciscan whose name in religion was Franciscus a Santa Clara (1598-1680), started it off with his Deus, natura, gratia, published at Lyons in 1634.(2) In the Appendix to his volume, Davenport put the best construction on the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglicans and showed how the Articles could, for the most part, be reconciled with Catholic doctrine.(3)
Davenport tried in the 1650s to point out that many Protestants had exaggerated notions about what Catholics believed or were bound to believe. In his An Enchiridion of Faith (1654) he distinguished between the essentials of the Christian faith and other doctrines held by some Catholics which were not essential to Christianity.(4) His Cleare Vindication of Roman Catholics (1659) is a short leaflet of four pages in which he tried to clear Catholics of complicity in the execution of Charles L.(5) Davenport also wrote An Explanation of Roman Catholic Belief, a short treatise of about a thousand words which treated Church, worship, justification, and civil government. In the fourth section he limited himself to denouncing any power (by the pope or anyone else) to depose a ruler and stressing believers' obligation to obey civil authorities and to keep faith with everyone including even heretics.
This work first appeared as an appendix to John Austin's Christian Moderator (1652)(6)--which achieved nine editions--a plea for religious toleration of Catholics. Many such pleas from Catholic and/or nonConformist sources were published in the 1640s, 50s, and early 60s. Besides Austin's Christian Moderator, one can point to some nine …
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Publication information: Article title: Ecumenism and Irenics in 17th-Century English Catholic Apologetics. Contributors: Clancy, Thomas H. - Author. Journal title: Theological Studies. Volume: 58. Issue: 1 Publication date: March 1997. Page number: 85+. © 2009 Theological Studies, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.