Jul 24, 2013
“Nothing is sadder than someone who has lost his memory, and the church which has lost its memory is in the same state of senility.” These trenchant words were spoken at the Anglicans’ General Synod in 1988 by Henry Chadwick, scholar of Early Christianity. Chadwick believed that if Anglicanism and Catholicism were to return to early Christianity, there would be no major divisions between them. The faith, he held, was united at the time of the Church Fathers. As if to acknowledge this fact in an angular way, the former primate of the Church of England, Archbishop Rowan Williams suggested: “The Anglican Church may not have a pope, but it does have Henry Chadwick.”
Conversions through the Church Fathers
At Oxford more than a century before the 1988 Anglican Synod, John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest, came into the Catholic faith for one critical reason. He attributed his conversion to the writings of the Church Fathers who convinced him that the Church had taught and proclaimed the truth of Christianity from Early Christianity through the centuries. His conversion was “slow, deliberate, and painful, but by no means half-hearted,” notes Avery Dulles.
Likewise, in 1940, as a student at Harvard, the future Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. came into the Catholic faith, also for one critical reason. Like Newman, he had read the writings of many Church Fathers who convinced him as well that the Church had taught and proclaimed the Catholic and apostolic faith from Early Christianity through the centuries.