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Catholic societies of the Church of England

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Catholic societies of the Church of England are associations within the Church of England which follow in the tradition of Anglo-Catholicism. They may be devotional, theological, or pilgrimage-focused, in nature. Many trace their origins to the Anglican catholic revival of the Oxford Movement era.

Although many, especially the older ones, make specific reference to the Church of England in their foundation documents, the vast majority today extend their membership and influence to all member churches of the wider Anglican Communion,[1] and often also to those non-Anglican churches that are in full communion with the See of Canterbury (for example, through the Porvoo Communion).


The various societies were founded for many different reasons. Some have specific focuses, such as an emphasis on Mariology, or on liturgical questions (including the Blessed Sacrament), supporting vocations amongst those who share Anglo-Catholic ideology, promoting study, encouraging devotion, or promoting pilgrimage to different sacred sites (especially those associated with Our Lady of Walsingham).

In the nineteenth century, many of the older societies had a role in supporting both clergy and laity who found their Anglo-Catholic practices or beliefs challenged through the civil courts by protestant organisations, as part of the then current disagreement concerning ritualism in the Church of England. Those prosecuted ranged from relatively unknown parochial clergy (such as Fr Arthur Tooth) to prominent leading churchmen of the day (such as Bishop Edward King). The Church Union is an example of a society founded to provide legal and moral support to those Anglo-Catholics persecuted for their beliefs. Today these organisations have assumed different objectives.

Ordination of women

The issue of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion has caused disagreement amongst Anglicans, including those of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, and these differences of opinion have had repercussions for the Catholic societies. Some societies have declared that their membership is open only to male priests, or those opposed to the ordination of women. Other societies have been founded specifically to cater for those who are open to, or support, women's ordination. Some (such as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) have publicly declared that they are open to membership from those opposed to or in favour of women's ordination, but for the sake of internal unity will only permit male priests to hold office in the society, or to preside at the society's meetings and liturgies.

An umbrella organisation entitled Catholic Societies in the Church of England has been founded to unite those societies which oppose the ordination of women. This article is not about that umbrella organisation, but reflects the full range of Anglo-Catholic societies regardless of their views on women's ordination.

Current societies

The catholic societies in this table are currently active in the life of the Church of England, and (in most cases) other Anglican provinces.

Society Founded Website Details
Additional Curates Society 1837 Website Founded by layman Joshua Watson with the purpose of providing funding for assistant clergy in the poor and populous parishes of England and Wales.
Affirming Catholicism 1990 Website Founded by Rowan Williams, Richard Holloway and others, Affirming Catholicism represents a liberal strand of Anglo-Catholicism. It has been particularly noted for its conviction that Anglo-Catholic belief and practice are compatible with the ordination of women. Many Affirming Catholicism supporters also believe that a committed same-sex relationship should not be a bar to ordination.
Anglo Catholic History Society 2000 Website Promotes the study of Anglo Catholic history, and the publication of papers and books concerning the catholic movement within Anglicanism. Bishop Geoffrey Rowell was the founding President.
Association of Priests Associate of the Holy House (PAHH) 1931 Website Originally open only to priests, but now also deacons; priests undertake to offer mass for the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and enjoy privileges at the shrine; the Priest Administrator of the shrine is, ex officio, Superior General of the Association.
Catholic League 1913 Website An organisation associated with Anglo-Papalism. Its purpose is to promote formal reunification and full communion of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church.
Chaplains of Mary, Mother of the Church (CMMC) 2016 No website Individual Chaplains style themselves "CMMC", whilst collectively they are known as the College of Chaplains of Mary, Mother of the Church. The College was founded by the Society of Mary (see below), but remains separate from it; although the Superior-General and the Chaplain-General of the SoM hold the same positions in the CMMC, ex officio. The purpose of the College is to provide priests and bishops to officiate at liturgies conducted in the name of the Society of Mary; this is to ensure that all such liturgies are conducted by clergy who are male, and opposed to women's ordination, which is not a general requirement for membership of the Society of Mary.[2] Chaplains of Mary, Mother of the Church (CMMC) may wear distinctive regalia consisting of a pale blue, black, and white collarette, with the seal of CMMC affixed at the apex.
Church Union 1859 Website Founded to challenge the civil courts system in England on matters of doctrine. It defended Anglo-Catholic priests, notably after the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874.
Companions of the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden 2014 Website The Shrine was founded by the fifteenth century, and possibly much earlier. Following dissolution at the Reformation, it was re-established early in the twentieth century, with a replacement image commissioned in 1925. Regular pilgrimage was restored, and in 2014 the Companionate was re-established. There are Lay-Companions and Priest-Companions. The governing body is a Chapter consisting of at least six Chapter Priests, one of whom is (ex officio) the Vicar of St Mary's, Willesden. The head of the Companionate is an Episcopal Patron.
Company of Servers 2009 Website Founded as an association of altar servers, its purpose is to provide for their development and to encourage more frequent attendance at the Holy Eucharist. It is open to servers regardless of gender, and appoints both male and female priests as chaplains.
Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament 1862 Website Upholds the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It was founded during the Victorian era by Thomas Thellusson Carter, a priest who was prominent in the Catholic Revival.
Cost of Conscience 1969 Website Describes itself as an association concerned with doctrinal matters and upholding traditional Anglicanism. It is strongly critical of and opposed to liberal Anglican theology.
Ecumenical Friends of Fátima Association 2001 Website Encourages devotion to the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Fátima. Organises pilgrimages to Portugal. It was founded by Edwin Barnes, Bishop of Richborough.
Federation of Catholic Priests 1917 Website It was founded to campaign for the positions of Anglo-Catholicism in "faith, worship and discipline" at the Church Assembly and continues to do so at the General Synod.
Forward in Faith 1992 Website One of the more prominent contemporary societies. Promotes the Anglo-Catholic position in liturgy, ecclesiology and Christology contrary to liberalism. 800 priests are members.
Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association 1926 Website In its first decades was known as the West of England Pilgrimage Association. Organises annual pilgrimages to Glastonbury, which claims to be the oldest Marian shrine in England and is associated with stories of St. Joseph of Arimathea.
Guild of All Souls 1873 Website Purpose is to pray for the souls of the Christian faithful departed and for teaching the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. Provides Requiem vestments to those who cannot afford them.
Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary 1898 Website The GSS was founded as an association of altar servers. Its purpose is to provide for their development and to encourage more frequent attendance at the Holy Eucharist. Open to both men and women, but appoints only male priests as chaplains and priests-associate.
Order of Our Lady of Walsingham 1953 Website An Order of "Members" (originally "Dames" and "Clerks" according to gender) appointed for service to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Membership is by invitation only.
Memorial of Merit of King Charles the Martyr 1911 Website Founded by Captain Henry Stuart Wheatly-Crowe and the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, with the approval of Archbishop Randall Davidson and King Edward VII, with members admitted to the grade of Companion as a reward for meritorious service to the Anglican Church. Members are Companions, wear elaborate regalia, and are entered on a roll of honour. The governing Chapter consists of a Chancellor, a Registrar, and any additional co-opted members.
Society for the Maintenance of the Faith 1873 Website Founded "to promote and maintain Catholic teaching and practice" within the Church of England, principally by acquiring private patronage of parishes. It is currently patron of 90 livings.
Society of Catholic Priests 1994 Europe
Membership in the SCP UK is open to all Anglican priests who accept the Anglican Communion as part of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church", who recognise the ordination of women priests, believe in the real presence and who uphold the traditional view of the seven sacraments.
Society of King Charles the Martyr 1894 Website A devotional society dedicated to and under the patronage of king Charles I of England. It seeks to promote knowledge of his life and observance of his feastday on 30 January.
Society of Mary 1931 Website Founded as two Marian societies merged. Its purpose is to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, to spread devotion to her and take her as a model in purity, relationships and family life.
Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) 1855 Website A congregation of Anglo-Catholic priests in the wider Anglican Communion. It is one of the oldest and most prominent societies coming out of the Anglo-Catholic Revival. Known as "SSC", the initials of its name in Latin, Societas Sanctae Crucis. Membership is open to male priests only.
Society of Our Lady of Egmanton 1977 Website Promotes pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Nottinghamshire known as Our Lady of Egmanton. The devotion is of medieval origin and the pilgrimage was restored in 1929.
Society of Our Lady of Walsingham 1925 Website Promotes pilgrimage to, and intercession for, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The devotion is of medieval origin and the pilgrimage was restored in 1922.
Society of Sacramental Socialists 2005 Website Anglo-Catholic Anglicans who believe that socialism, and corresponding social action, are integral to their spiritual life. Their badge is a red star, representing both socialism and the 'Oriens' (Christ the Morning Star).
Sodality of Mary, Mother of Priests (SMMS) 2016 Website A congregation of Anglo-Catholic priests in the wider Anglican Communion. It is one of the newer societies within the Anglo-Catholic movement. Known as "SMMS", the initials of its name in Latin, Sodalitas Mariae, Matris Sacerdotum. Membership is open to both male and female priests, with associate membership available to laity also. Its spirituality is based upon the Vincentian movement.
Sodality of the Precious Blood TBC No website A group of priests ordained in the Church of England who support Anglo-Papalism. They describe themselves as upholding orthodoxy and the life of celibacy. Associated with the Catholic League.

Former societies

The catholic societies in this table are no longer active.

Society Founded Closed Details
Guild of St Matthew 1877 1909 Founded by Stewart Headlam for the promotion of Anglo-Catholicism and socialism. It has been claimed as the first explicitly socialist organisation in England.
Saint Martin's League 1877 1902 Founded by Arthur Stanton for the promotion of Anglo-Catholicism amongst postal workers.

See also


  1. ^ See, for example, the reference of CBS to international membership.
  2. ^ "Ave, The Magazine of the Society of Mary (Presentation 2016)" (PDF). Society of Mary. 2016. pp. 4–5. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
This page was last edited on 4 September 2020, at 08:09
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