Latitudinarian

Latitudinarian

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Latitudinarian was initially a pejorative term applied to a group of 17th-century English theologians who believed in conforming to official Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 practices but who felt that matters of doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization were of relatively little importance. Good examples of the latitudinarian philosophy were found among the Cambridge Platonists
Cambridge Platonists
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of philosophers at Cambridge University in the middle of the 17th century .- Programme :...

.

Currently, latitudinarianism should not be confused with ecumenical movements, which seek to draw all Christian churches together, rather than to de-emphasize practical doctrine. The term has taken on a more general meaning, indicating a personal philosophy which includes being widely tolerant of other views, particularly (but not necessarily) on religious matters.

In the Roman Catholic Church, latitudinarianism was condemned in the 19th century document Quanta Cura
Quanta Cura
There is also an earlier encyclical of the same title, issued in 1741 by Pope Benedict XIV, forbidding traffic in alms. -Historical context:The encyclical was prompted by the September Convention of 1864, an agreement between the Kingdom of Italy and the Second French Empire of Napoleon III,...

, because Pope Pius IX felt that this attitude was undermining the Church, with its high emphasis on religious liberty and possibility to discard traditional Christian doctrines and dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

s. Although the Church's attitude on this has softened a bit since Dignitatis Humanae
Dignitatis Humanae
Dignitatis Humanae is the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom. In the context of the Council's stated intention “to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society”, Dignitatis Humanae spells out the...

, latitudinarianism is still commonly criticized under the epithet of Cafeteria Catholic.

Original meaning


The latitudinarian Anglicans of the seventeenth century built on Richard Hooker's position, in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, that God cares about the moral state of the individual soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

 and that such things as church leadership are "things indifferent"
Adiaphora
Adiaphoron is a concept of Stoic philosophy that indicates things outside of moral law—that is, actions that morality neither mandates nor forbids....

. However, they took the position far beyond Hooker's own and extended it to doctrinal matters.

As a positive position, their stance was that human reason is a sufficient guide when combined with the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 for the determination of truth in doctrinal contests, and therefore that legal and doctrinal rulings that constrain reason and the freedom of the believer were neither necessary nor salutary. At the time, their position was referred to as low church
Low church
Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and others began to refer to those groups...

 (in contrast to the High church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 position). Later, the latitudinarian position was called Broad church
Broad church
Broad church is a term referring to latitudinarian churchmanship in the Church of England, in particular, and Anglicanism, in general. From this, the term is often used to refer to secular political organisations, meaning that they encompass a broad range of opinion.-Usage:After the terms high...

.

While always officially opposed, the latitudinarian philosophy was, nevertheless, dominant in the 18th century in England. Because of the Hanoverian
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 reluctance to act in church affairs (see, for example, George I's actions in the Bangorian Controversy
Bangorian Controversy
The Bangorian Controversy was a theological argument within the Church of England in the early 18th century, with strong political overtones. The origins of the controversy lay in the 1716 posthumous publication of George Hickes's Constitution of the Catholic Church, and the Nature and...

) and all sides of the religious debates being balanced against one another, the dioceses became tolerant of variation in local practice. Furthermore, after George I dismissed the Convocation
Convocation
A Convocation is a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose.- University use :....

, there was very little internal Church power to sanction or approve.

Thus, with no Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 officially announcing it, nor Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 adopting it, latitudinarianism was the operative philosophy of the English church in the 18th century. For the 18th-century English church in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (which would become the Episcopal Church after the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

), latitudinarianism was the only practical course since it was a nation with official pluralism and diversity of opinion and diffusion of clerical power.

See also

  • Anglo-Catholic
  • High Church
    High church
    The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

  • Low Church
    Low church
    Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and others began to refer to those groups...

  • Broad Church
    Broad church
    Broad church is a term referring to latitudinarian churchmanship in the Church of England, in particular, and Anglicanism, in general. From this, the term is often used to refer to secular political organisations, meaning that they encompass a broad range of opinion.-Usage:After the terms high...

  • Antinomianism
    Antinomianism
    Antinomianism is defined as holding that, under the gospel dispensation of grace, moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation....