The Spirit of England - Anglo-Catholicism and Homosexuality

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
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Despite the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that homosexual behaviour is always sinful, there are grounds for believing that Anglo-Catholic religion within the Church of England has offered emotional and aesthetic satisfactions that have been particularly attractive to members of a stigmatised sexual minority.
This apparent connection between Anglo-Catholicism and the male homosexual subculture in the English-speaking world has often been remarked upon, but it has never been fully explored. In 1960, for example, in a pioneering study of male homosexuality in Britain, Gordon Westwood stated:

Some of the contacts maintained that the highest proportion of homosexuals who are regular churchgoers favoured  the Anglo-Catholic  churches.  ...  It  was  not  possible to confirm that suggestion in this survey, but  it  is  not  difficult  to understand  that the services with impressive ceremony and large choirs are more likely to appeal to homosexuals.

More  recently,  in  the  United  States,  several  former  priests  of  the  Episcopal church have described some of the links between homosexual men and Catholic forms  of  religion,  on  the basis  of  their  own  knowledge  of  Anglo-Catholic parishes.
This essay brings together some of the historical evidence of the ways in which a homosexual sensibility has expressed itself within Anglo-Catholicism.
Until the late nineteenth century homosexuality was socially defined in
terms  of   certain  forbidden  sexual  acts,   such  as  'buggery'  or  'sodomy'.
Homosexual  behaviour  was  regarded  as  a  product  of  male  lust,  potential  in anyone unless it was severely condemned and punished.
In England homosexuality had been covered by the criminal law since 1533 when the state took over the responsibility for dealing with the offence from the ecclesiastical courts.
The last executions for buggery took place in the 1830s, but it was not until 1861 that the death penalty was abolished.


Havelock Ellis
In the 1880s and 1890s, at the same time that the word homosexuality entered the English language, largely through the work of Havelock Ellis, social attitudes towards homosexuality underwent a major change.
From being defined in terms of sinful behaviour, homosexuality came to be regarded as a characteristic of a particular type of person.
Because homosexuality was seen as a condition, homosexuals were therefore a species, which it became the object of the social sciences to explore and explain.
The principal vehicles of this redefinition were legal and medical.
Homosexual behaviour became subject to increased legal penalties, which extended the law to cover all male homosexual acts, whether committed in public or private.


Oscar   Wilde
This in turn led to a series of sensational scandals, culminating in the three trials of Oscar   Wilde in 1895.

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his only novel ('The Picture of Dorian Gray'), his plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.
Oscar Wilde converted to the Roman Catholic Church before his death in 1900.

The harsher legal sanctions were accompanied over a  longer period  by  an important change in the conceptualisation of homosexuality: the emergence of the idea that homosexuality was a disease or sickness which required treatment.
The result, however, was that the late nineteenth century saw homosexuality acquire new labelling, in the context of a social climate that was more hostile than before.
The tightening of the law, and the widespread acceptance by opinion-makers of the medical model of homosexuality produced conditions within which men with homosexual feelings began to develop a conscious collective identity.
For although a small homosexual subculture had existed in London ,and a few other cities in the British Isles, since the early eighteenth century, the final development of a homosexual underground was essentially a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century.
Such a subculture did not rise in a vacuum.
It was a direct consequence of growing social hostility that compelled homosexual men to begin to perceive themselves as members of a group with  certain  distinctive characteristics.
The homosexual subculture, in which sexual meanings were defined and sharpened, was then predominantly male, revolving around meeting place, clubs, pubs, etc.
Indeed, perhaps it was less a single subculture than a series of overlapping subcultures, each part supplying a different need.
In its most organized aspect there was often an emphasis on transvestism, a self-mocking effeminacy, an argot (slang).
Although the homosexual subculture embraced men of all ages and occupations, and there are many recorded examples of close friendships across class barriers, upper middle-class values predominated.
This was probably because in late Victorian England only middle-class men had sufficient social freedom to develop a homosexual lifestyle.
Most of these middle-class homosexuals were married and lived double lives.
Outside or on the fringes of the subculture were many men with a homosexual orientation who avoided giving their behaviour a homosexual interpretation.
Until the mid-twentieth century, because male homosexuality was so often equated in popular thinking with the display of feminine behaviour and personality traits, it was often difficult for men who combined strong homosexual feelings with a strong sense of male gender identity to regard themselves as homosexual.
One facet of the homosexual subculture was Anglo-Catholic religion.
For many  homosexual  men  in  the  late  nineteenth  and  early  twentieth  centuries, Anglo-Catholicism provided a set of institutions and religious practices through which they could express their sense of difference in an oblique and symbolic way.


Martin Travers
Tridentine Mass
A large number of religious and social rebels were similarly attracted to Anglo-Catholicism at this time.
Some were drawn by the Anglo-Catholic idea of the church as a divinely constituted religious society, and by its emphasis on tradition, dogma, and visible beauty in worship.
Others, of radical temperament, found in Anglo-Catholicism a religion freed from the respectability and the puritanism of the churches in which they had grown up.
Starting in the 1830s Oxford Tractarians had sought to revive in the established church the traditions of the ancient and undivided Church in doctrine,  liturgy, and  devotion.
In the early 19th century, various factors caused misgivings among English church people, including the decline of church life, and the spread of unconventional practices in the Church of England.




John Keble
The British government's action in 1833 of beginning a reduction in the number of Church of Ireland bishoprics and archbishoprics inspired a sermon from John Keble in the University Church in Oxford on the subject of "National Apostasy".
This sermon marked the inception of what became known as the 'Oxford Movement' or Oxford Tractarians'.
The principal objective of the Oxford Movement was the defence of the Church of England as a divinely-founded institution, of the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession and of the Book of Common Prayer as a "rule of faith".
The key idea was that Anglicanism was not a Protestant denomination, but rather a branch of the historic Catholic Church, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

It was argued that Anglicanism had preserved the historical apostolic succession of priests and bishops and thus the Catholic sacraments.
Their teachings included  the God-given authority and spiritual independence  of  the church, a high doctrine of the ministry and of the sacraments, and a rejection of religious liberalism and rationalism.
Also  central  to  the Oxford Movement was a sense of awe and mystery in religion, a feeling for poetry and symbolism as vehicles of religious truth.
A feature of the early Oxford Movement was the prevalence among its male followers of intense and demonstrative friendships.
These relationships were not regarded by contemporaries as 'unnatural', for intimate friendships were common enough at the time in the exclusively male communities of public school and university.


John Henry Newman
What was unusual in John Henry Newman's circle was the prominence given to celibacy and the consequent foundation of religious brotherhoods.
This has generally been interpreted by historians as an expression of religious idealism and self-sacrifice: the idea of celibacy, in those whom it affected at Oxford, was in the highest degree a religious and romantic one.
Did it also, in many cases, have a homosexual motivation ?
It seems inherently possible that young men who were secretly troubled by homosexual feelings that they could not publicly acknowledge may have been attracted by the prospect of devoting themselves to a life of celibacy, in the company of like-minded male friends, as a religiously-sanctioned alternative to marriage.
Newman himself believed and taught that celibacy was 'a high state of life to which the multitude of men cannot aspire'.


James Harrison Rigg
This homoerotic motivation was strongly hinted at in the 1890s by James Rigg, a Wesleyan historian of the Oxford Movement, who made much of the 'characteristically feminine' mind and temperament of Newman and the lack of virility of most of his disciples.

James Harrison Rigg (16 January 1821 – 7 April 1909), was a Methodist minister and educationist.

The idea was developed and popularised by Geoffrey Faber in his classic 'Oxford Apostles' (1933).


John Henry Newman
His portrait of Newman as a sublimated homosexual (though the word itself was not used) has since been a source of embarrassment to those biographers and theologians who seek to present him as a 'Saint for Our Time'.
Of the intensity of their relationship between Ambrose St. John and Newman, however, there can be no doubt.


Reverend Father Ambrose St. John
The Reverend Father Ambrose St. John (1815 – 24 May 1875 Edgbaston, Birmingham) was an English Oratorian and convert to Catholicism. He is now best known as a lifelong friend of John Henry Newman.
Newman paid tribute to him in his 'Apologia'. 'In The Dream of Gerontius', Edward Elgar's piece based on Newman's poem, the character of the Guardian Angel is considered to be based on St. John.
Newman wrote after the death of Fr. Ambrose St John in 1875: "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine."
In accordance with his expressed wishes, in 1890 Cardinal Newman was buried in the grave with The Rev. Fr. Ambrose St. John. Previously, they had shared a house. The pall over the coffin bore his cardinal's motto Cor ad cor loquitur ("Heart speaks to heart"). The two men have a joint memorial stone that is inscribed with the words he had chosen: 'Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem' ("Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth"). In 2008, Newman's remains in the shared grave were exhumed as part of a plan to move them to the Oratory in Birmingham city centre in preparation for Newman's possible canonization. At the exhumation, Newman's wooden coffin was found to have disintegrated and his body completely decayed.
Newman recalled their early years in this way:
From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable. At Rome 28 years ago he was always so working for and relieving me of all trouble, that being young and Saxon-looking, the Romans called him my Angel Guardian.

On his death in 1890 Newman was buried at his own wish in the same grave as St. John.


Frederick William Faber
Richard Hurrell Froude
The same aura of ambiguous sexuality surrounds other figures in Newman's circle, notably Richard Hurrell Froude, who died young in 1836, and the effusive Frederick William Faber, who followed Newman into the Roman Catholic church in 1845.

Richard Hurrell Froude (25 March 1803 – 28 February 1836) was an Anglican priest and an early leader of the Oxford Movement. Froude was born in Dartington, Devonshire, England. Froude is presumed in some quarters such as Geoffrey Faber in his 'Oxford Apostles', to be, if not gay in the modern sense of the word, at least not heterosexual in the traditional definition, as implied by his relationship with John Henry Newman.


Frederick William Faber, C.O., (28 June 1814 — 26 September 1863) was a noted English hymn writer and theologian, who converted from Anglicanism to the Catholic priesthood. His best known work is 'Faith of Our Fathers'. Though he was a Roman Catholic writing for fellow Catholics at that point, many of his hymns today are sung by Protestant congregations.

Geoffrey Faber, for example, argued  that  Froude's temperamental bias can be inferred from the fervour of his masculine friendships, the tone and temper of his private journal, and especially its unmistakable language of conflict with sexual temptation.
He claimed that Froude's private writings reveal an intense struggle between an 'Old Self' and a 'New Self', in which his homosexual instincts (the beast within him) were sublimated into a positive religious ideal: the idea of virginity.
Any interpretation must remain controversial, however and it is unrealistic to expect
documented proof of overt homosexual behaviour, for if sexual activity of any kind occurred between male lovers in private the fact is unlikely to have been recorded.
Nor is it possible, on the basis of passionate words uttered by mid-Victorians, to make a clear distinction between male affection and homosexual feeling.
Theirs was a generation prepared to accept romantic friendships between men simply as friendships without sexual significance.
Only with the emergence in  the  late  nineteenth  century  of  the  doctrine  of  the  'stiff-upper-lip', and  the concept of homosexuality as an identifiable condition, did open expressions of love between men become suspect and regarded in a new light as morally undesirable.
In addition there is the general question of whether intimate friendships between members of the same sex can legitimately be labelled homosexual when the individuals concerned may not be conscious at the time of an underlying erotic attraction.
On the other hand one should also remember the reluctance of many historians (especially historians of religion) to consider the implications of the fact that the men and women they study did have sexual feelings, and that not all of them were attracted to the opposite sex.
When  the  Oxford  and  Anglo-Catholic Movements  are  examined  as  a whole, the hypothesis of the existence of a continuous current of homoerotic sentiment would appear to offer a plausible explanation of a great deal of otherwise mysterious behaviour and comment.
The extent to which these homosexual inclinations were unrecognised, sublimated, consciously disciplined, or expressed in overt sexual acts cannot easily be ascertained.
In view of the weight of the traditional Christian condemnation of any sexual relationship outside marriage, and (one may assume) the ambivalent attitudes of the individuals concerned towards their own sexuality, it is likely that the majority of homosexual  friendships in  Anglo-Catholic   circles did not find physical expression.
But  this  is  not  to  deny  the  strength  of  the  emotions  that  they generated and their subtle influence on religious attitudes and behaviour.


Novel Ideas and Religious Practices
The Oxford Movement provoked  vehement hostility in the Church  of England.
Evangelical and Broad Church critics claimed that it fostered novel ideas and religious practices, such as the separateness of the professional priesthood, and the increased use of ceremonial in church services.
They deplored this sacerdotalism and ritualism  as  essentially  un-English,  and  unmanly.
Moreover, there was a marked difference between the self-assertiveness and noisy emotionalism of popular Protestantism, and the ethos of Tractarian piety, with Its concern for reverence and reserve in discussing sacred truths, its delight in symbolism and subtle imagery, and its strict observance of the traditional feasts and disciplines of the church.



Charles Kingsley
It may be surmised that Charles Kingsley's deep hostility to Newman was based largely on an instinctive feeling (for the two men never actually met) that there was something rather unhealthy about Newman and his circle.

Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was a priest of the Church of England, a university professor, historian and novelist. He is particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire. He was a friend and correspondent with Charles Darwin. Kingley's concern for social reform is illustrated in his classic, The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863), a tale about a chimney sweep, which retained its popularity well into the 20th century


Pope Pius IX
In 1851 at the height of the agitation against Papal aggression in England (triggered off by Pope Pius IX's restoration of a Roman Catholic hierarchy), Kingsley had written of Roman Catholics and Tractarians:

'In all that school, there is an element of foppery - even in dress and manner; a fastidious, maundering, die-away effeminacy, which is mistaken for purity and refinement; and I confess myself unable to cope with it, so alluring is it to the minds of an effeminate and luxurious aristocracy; neither educated in all that should teach them to distinguish between bad and good taste, healthy and unhealthy philosophy or devotion.

Kingsley himself was an enthusiastic exponent of the duty of Christian 'manliness', which he defined as courage, heartiness, physical vitality, and the procreation of children within marriage.

The idea of celibacy he abhorred as both contrary to nature and a sin against God.
Thus the violence of his attack on Newman in 'Macmillan's Magazine' in 1864 cannot be explained solely in terms of the overt grounds of the conflict - the falsehood and cunning of the Roman clergy versus the Protestant virtues of truth and morality.
It should also be seen as a conflict of fundamentally opposing personalities - the subtle misogamy of Newman, versus the robust uxoriousness of Kingsley, of which neither man would have been fully aware.
The charge of effeminacy - the usual nineteenth-century caricature of male homosexuality - stuck to the successors of the Tractarians.
It was frequently used by Protestant  controversialists to smear the Anglo-Catholic party as a whole, though the allegations were more usually in the form of innuendo than direct
assertion.
It may be true that these suspicions were often founded on prejudice; it is equally likely that in many instances they had some basis in fact.


Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of Oxford
After Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of Oxford founded Cuddesdon College in 1854 for the training of ordination candidates according to Tractarian principles, it was rumoured among the country clergy of the Oxford diocese that Cuddesdon trained curates were unmanly, and that their semi-monastic life bred effeminacy.
Even Wilberforce himself was inclined to agree that the religious formation provided by his college  lacked  'vigour',  'virility'  and  'self-expressing  vitality'.

Samuel Wilberforce (7 September 1805 – 19 July 1873) was an English bishop in the Church of England, third son of William Wilberforce. Known as "Soapy Sam", Wilberforce was one of the greatest public speakers of his day. He is probably best remembered today for his opposition to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution - most notably at a famous debate in 1860. Although a High Churchman, Wilberforce held aloof from the Oxford movement, and in 1838 his divergence from the Tractarian writers became so marked that John Henry Newman declined further contributions from him to the British Critic, not deeming it advisable that they should longer "co-operate very closely."


Bishop Edward King of Lincoln
Bishop Edward King of Lincoln, a former chaplain and principal of Cuddesdon, was prosecuted in 1889-90 by a Protestant organisation, the Church Association, for the use of illegal ritual, and it is probable that a hidden factor in the decision to launch a prosecution was a dislike of King's personal characteristics.

In 1885 King was made Anglican Bishop of Lincoln. The most eventful episode of his episcopate was his prosecution (1888–1890) for ritualistic practices before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, and, on appeal, before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Dr King, who loyally conformed his practices to the archbishop's judgement, devoted himself unsparingly to the work of his diocese; and, irrespective of his High Church views, he won the affection and reverence of all classes by his real saintliness of character. The bishop, who never married, died in Lincoln.

As an unmarried High Churchman, who had been devoted to his theological students, and the first English diocesan bishop since the Reformation to wear a mitre and the traditional eucharistic vestments, he embodied all the Tractarian characteristics which Protestants held in special abhorrence.
The revival of pre-Reformation ceremonial in public worship, justified on historic grounds and as an expression of the sacramental principle, was a product of the second generation of the Oxford Movement.
During the 1860s ritualism came into the public eye, and the clergy and congregations of ritualist churches were increasingly subjected to hostile scrutiny.
Clergymen of extreme High Church proclivities, sneered Punch, 'are very fond of dressing like ladies, They are much addicted to wearing vestments diversified with smart and gay colours, and variously trimmed and embroidered'.
A Protestant visitor to St. Matthias's, Stoke Newington (London), which, with its coloured vestments, incense, and lighted candles was regarded as a centre of advanced ceremonial, wrote in the 'Rock' that the 'style of dress and the close-shaven face, favoured so greatly by English imitators of Rome, do give to most men a rather juvenile, if not womanly appearance'.
Unlike  most  churches,  'the  Ritualistic  world  attracts  crowds  of men, both young and old'.


St. Alban - Holborn
About the same time a journalist from 'The Times' attended a Sunday High Mass at the famous ritualist church of St. Alban, Holborn - 'one  of  the  ecclesiastical  curiosities  of  London'.
In  describing  its eclectic congregation, he noted that 'foremost perhaps, among the devotees are young men of 19 or 20 years of age, who seem to have the intricacies of ritualism at their  fingers ends'. 
By the end of  the century, the jubilee history of  St. Alban's proudly related, the number of young men in the congregation had become 'more and more conspicuous'.
Pious women there were in abundance - 'was there ever a church where they did not congregate - but St. Alban's was from the first a Man's church, and a Young Man's church before all.'
Some of the young men who clustered around Anglo-Catholic churches - 'many of them apparently shop assistants and clerks' - were regarded by observers as 'unwholesome' and 'sentimental'.
For many of those so described it is possible that Anglo-Catholic ritualism provided a way of escape from the problems of sexual tension and forbidden love into a make-believe world of religious pageantry, ancient titles and ranks, exotic symbolism, and endless chatter about copes and candles, the apostolic succession, and the triumphs of the 'true faith'.
Certainly the more austere Anglo-Catholics were disquieted by the air of levity and unreality they witnessed in some of these circles, and they sought to distance themselves from the popular charge of effeminacy.


St. Peter's - London Docks
Charles Fuge Lowder, vicar of St. Peter's, London Docks, for example, was described approvingly in his biography as 'not a Ritualist at all in the modem sense of the word, after the gushing, effeminate, sentimental manner of young shop-boys, or those who simply ape the ways of Rome'.
The allegations persisted.
At the end of the nineteenth century the conflict between Protestantism and Anglo-Catholicism within the Church of England was still regularly depicted by Protestant propagandists as a struggle between masculine and feminine styles of religion.
They pointed out the apparent appeal of Anglo-Catholic forms of worship to members of the upper classes - 'especially women, in the artificial and luxurious atmosphere of our wealthier classes' which carried the implication that male Anglo-Catholics were effete, decadent, and lacking in manly qualities.


John Kensit
Protestant Truth Society
In 1898 John Kensit, fanatical founder of the 'Protestant Truth Society', which specialised in disrupting the services of Anglo-Catholic churches, described to a cheering Protestant meeting in London the 'idolatry of a ritualist church at St. Cuthbert's, Pilbeach Gardens, that he had invaded the previous Good Friday. The service had been conducted by a priest in petticoats. The congregation were very poor specimens of men. They seemed a peculiar sort of people, very peculiar indeed.'
To his listeners, the meaning and intent of his remarks were obvious.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, as a result of the Oxford Movement, there was a revival of religious brotherhoods and sisterhoods in the Church of England.
The first two male communities, Newman's at Littlemore and F. W. Faber's at Elton, followed their founders into the Roman Catholic church in 1845.
This development confirmed Protestant suspicions that Tractarianism encouraged sexual aberration and impropriety. 
The Protestant case against Anglican monasticism, in any of its forms, was not only that it propagated Romanising practices and doctrines, but that it was also contrary to God's natural laws
The suppression or perversion of 'natural love' by monastic vows led inevitably to corruption and defilement.
Popular imagination was fuelled by revelations and exaggerated rumours of sexual scandals (in both Roman Catholic and Anglican religious houses).

Anglo-Catholic Religious Societies

The 'Anglo-Catholic underworld' was producing a succession of short-lived, often clandestine, brotherhoods and guilds, whose members delighted in religious ceremonial and the picturesque neo-Gothic externals of monastic life.
Because these brotherhoods enforced no strict criteria for entry, it is likely that they were especially attractive to homosexually inclined young men, who felt themselves drawn to the male environment of a monastic community, and the dramatic side of religion.
These histories were punctuated with crises and scandals.


Elm Hill Monastery
One well publicised incident occurred in 1864, at a monastery in Elm Hill, Norwich, where the eccentric and quixotic Father Ignatius (Joseph Leycester Lyne) was trying to restore the Benedictine life within the English church.


Father Ignatius of Jesus
Joseph Leycester Lyne, known by his religious name as Father Ignatius of Jesus (23 November 1837 – 16 October 1908), was an Anglican Benedictine monk.

He commenced a movement to introduce monasticism into the Church of England.

A love letter written by a Brother Augustine to a young apprentice printer, who sang in the priory's choir, was sent to the Norfolk News, and on 17 September 1864 it was printed in full in an article headed 'Ignatius and his Singing Boys'.
The Protestant citizenry of Norwich was horrified.
The newspaper proceeded to publish a stern editorial on the moral evils inherent in monasticism:
'We tell 'Ignatius' plainly, and we tell everybody else connected with this establishment who  has the slightest power of reflection, that the herding together of men in one building, with the occasional letting in of young girls - some of them morbid, some of them silly and sentimental -and of boys likewise, with soft, sensitive temperaments, cannot fall to produce abominations. (Norfolk News, 24 September 1884).
A year later the Elm Hill community was almost destroyed when Brother Stanislaus led malcontents in an unsuccessful rebellion against Ignatius's authority, then fled the priory with a boy from its associated Guild of St. William.
In 1868 the ex-Brother Stanislaus (James Barrett Hughes) reappeared as a popular guest speaker on Protestant platforms in London and the provinces, where he scandalised the respectable with revelations of the 'semi-Popish' and 'improper practices' established by Ignatius and other ritualists.
At a meeting in London two youths, brought up from Norwich specially for the occasion, 'made frightful charges, utterly unfit for publication, against a monk' - a reference to Brother Augustine.
Then, in the following year, another youth alleged that he had lived at the monastery in a sexual relationship with Stanislaus, with the encouragement of Ignatius: it needed no more to set the Protestant world ablaze with joy and expectation.
Another monastic brotherhood was the Order of St. Augustine, founded in 1867 by a wealthy and eccentric clergyman, George Nug.
In 1872 it established a priory at Walworth in South London, where it maintained a round of extremely elaborate services.
Most of those connected with St. Austin's Priory 'were rich men who enjoyed a comfortable life, and there was very little of a normal religious community about its spirit or observances'. 


 Walter Pater
Among those who regularly visited St. Austin's, and enjoyed its colourful ritual (without believing yet in Christianity) was Walter Pater, aesthete and historian of the Renaissance.
His intimate friend was Richard Charles Jackson (Brother à  Becket), a lay brother and so-called professor of Church History at the priory.
At Pater's request Jackson wrote a poem for his birthday:

Your darling soul I say is en-flamed with love for me;
Your very eyes do move I cry with sympathy:
Your darling feet and hands are blessings ruled by love,
As forth was sent from out the Ark a turtle dove ! 

Walter Horatio Pater (4 August 1839 – 30 July 1894) was an English essayist, literary and art critic, and writer of fiction. Pater's writings were exercised a considerable influence in intellectual. The principles of what would be known as the 'Aesthetic Movement' were partly traceable to him, and his effect was particularly felt on one of the movement's leading proponents, Oscar Wilde, who paid tribute to him in The Critic as Artist (1891). Many of Pater's works focus on male beauty, friendship and love, either in a Platonic way or, obliquely, in a more physical way.

A slightly less bizarre foundation was the 'Anglican Congregation of the Primitive Observance of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict'.


St. Aelred
Cistercian Abbot of Rievaulx
This was founded in 1896 by a former medical student, Benjamin (Aelred) Carlyle, who had been fascinated by  the  monastic  life  since  the  age  of  fifteen,  when  he  had  founded  a secret religious brotherhood at his public school.
His choice of the religious name of 'Aelred', after a twelfth-century Cistercian abbot of Rievaulx who had written treatises on 'spiritual friendships' was a deliberate one, for a biography of St. Aelred  by  Newman's  companion,  J.  O.  Dalgairns,  had  revealed  to  him  'a monastic world in which natural and spiritual relations could be fused'.

John Dalgairns (21 October 1818 – 6 April 1876), English Roman Catholic priest, was born in Guernsey.
He attended Elizabeth College, Guernsey, from where he was awarded an Open Scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.



St Thomas Aquinas
Louis Veuillot
About the age of seventeen he entered Exeter College, Oxford, and soon after taking his degree he contributed a letter to Louis Veuillot's ultramontane organ 'L'Univers', on "Anglican Church Parties," which gave him considerable repute. Together with Mark Pattison and others, he translated the 'Catena aurea' of St Thomas Aquinas, a commentary on the Gospels, taken from the works of the Fathers.
He was a contributor to Newman's 'Lives of the English Saints', for which he wrote the beautiful studies on the Cistercian Saints. The 'Life of St Stephen Harding' has been translated into several languages. Under the influence of the Italian missionary Blessed Dominic Barberi, Dalgairns became a Roman Catholic in 1845, and was ordained priest in the following year. He joined his friend John Henry Newman in Rome, and, together with him, entered the 'Congregation of the Oratory'.




Caldey Island Community (Abbey)
Aelred Carlyle
Aelred Carlyle was a man of dynamic personality, hypnotic eyes, and extraordinary imagination. 
In 1906 his community made its permanent home on Caldey Island, off the coast of south Wales (outside Anglican diocesan jurisdiction), where, largely on borrowed money, he built a splendidly furnished monastery in a fanciful style of architecture.



Caldey Island Abbey
Pontifical High Mass


The life of this enclosed Benedictine community centred upon an ornate chapel, where the thirty or so tonsured and cowled monks sang the monastic offices and celebrated Mass in Latin according to the Roman rite.
As there was nothing like it anywhere else in the Church of England, the island abbey inevitably became a resort for ecclesiastical sightseers, and many young men were  drawn  to  join  the community out of personal affection for Carlyle.
The self-styled Lord Abbot of Caldey introduced practices into the life of his monastery which many outsiders, accustomed to the austere atmosphere of the existing Anglican men's communities, found disconcerting.




Frederick Rolfe
Tito Biondi at Lake Nemi
photograph by Rolfe ca. 1890–92 
'Stories Toto Told Me' by Baron Corvo (Frederick Rolfe), which had originally appeared in 'The Yellow Book', were often read aloud to the assembled monks at recreation time, and during the summer months they regularly went sea-bathing in the nude.

Frederick William Rolfe, better known as Baron Corvo, and also calling himself 'Frederick William Serafino Austin Lewis Mary Rolfe', (July 22, 1860 – October 25, 1913), was an English writer, artist, and photographer. Frederick Rolfe was entirely comfortable with his homosexuality, and associated and corresponded with a number of other gay Englishmen. Early in his life he wrote a fair amount of idealistic but mawkish poetry about boy martyrs and the like, and these and his Toto stories contain pederastic elements.. As he himself matured, Rolfe’s settled sexual preference was for late adolescents.

Nor did Carlyle make any secret of his liking for charming young men.
'Spiritual friendships were not discouraged', recalled his biographer, himself a former member of the Caldey community:

'and their expression sometimes took a form which would not be found In any normal monastery to-day. . . . Embraces, ceremonial and non-ceremonial, were regarded as symbolical of fraternal charity, so our variant of the Roman rite permitted a real hug and kisses on the  cheek  between  the  giver  and  the  recipient  of  the  Pax  Domini  at  the conventual Mass.'

Not surprisingly, for this and other reasons, the more conservative Anglo- Catholics regarded the Caldey Benedictines with deep distrust.
The bubble burst in March 1913 when Carlyle and twenty-two of his monks 'heavily in debt and convinced by the Anglo-Catholic Bishop Charles Gore that their liturgical and devotional usages could be defended only on a papal basis of authority' were received into the Roman Catholic church.
The community continued in existence with Carlyle as abbot.
Then in 1921 he suddenly resigned his abbacy and went to Canada, accompanied  by  another monk  from  Caldey, to work as a Roman Catholic missionary priest in British Columbia.
He renewed his monastic vows shortly before his death in England in 1955.

Anglo-Catholic Priests


Liturgical Vestments
Martin Travers
The world of many Anglo-Catholic clergy was overwhelmingly masculine.
Some urban parishes were staffed exclusively by unmarried priests, who lived together in clergy houses.
A significant minority was committed to celibacy.
Among the more extreme Anglo-Catholics, for a priest to 'commit matrimony' was considered to be not only a profound betrayal of the Catholic priestly role, but also an act of personal disloyalty to those who remained celibate.
The biographies of Anglo-Catholic notables reveal a number of discreetly drawn examples of deep friendships between men, and of priests who were known for their remarkable ability to work with 'lads' and young men.


Pusey House - Oxford
The possibility of moral danger was widely recognised.
Vincent Stuckey Coles, librarian and later principal of Pusey House, Oxford, from 1884 to 1909, had realised while still a schoolboy, declared his biographer, that his 'beautiful and ennobling love for his friends might co-exist with much that is faulty and ill-regulated, and even with much that is corrupt, and that, like all passionate enthusiasms, it has untold capacities  for good but also carries within it possibilities for  evil'.






Pusey House Chapel
Mass at Pusey House
Pusey House is a religious institution located in St Giles', Oxford, immediately to the south of Pusey Street. It is firmly rooted in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England. Known as a "House of Piety and Learning", it is associated with, but is not part of, the University of Oxford. Pusey House was opened in 1884 in part as a memorial to Edward Bouverie Pusey. Worship in the Chapel of the Resurrection is in accordance with the Catholic tradition in the Church of England.




Gerard Manley Hopkins
Digby Mackworth Dolben

It  is significant that among Coles's circle of Anglo-Catholic friends at Eton and Oxford in the 1860s had been Digby Mackworth Dolben, whose religious poetry, written before his early death in 1867, has been described as perfect Uranian verse', and Gerard Manley Hopkins, who apparently became strongly attracted to Dolben, and channelled his own anguished feelings into a series of sonnets.

Dolben caused considerable scandal at school by his exhibitionist behaviour. He marked his romantic attachment to another pupil a year older than he was, Martin Le Marchant Gosselin, by writing love poetry. He also defied his strict Protestant upbringing by joining a High Church Puseyite group of pupils. He then claimed allegiance to the Order of St Benedict, affecting a monk's habit. He was considering a conversion to Roman Catholicism. Dolben drowned in the River Welland when bathing with the ten year old son of his tutor, Rev. C. E. Prichard, Rector of South Luffenham. He was aged 19 and preparing to go up to Oxford.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889) was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse. During this time at Balliol College, Oxford he studied with the prestigious writer and critic Walter Pater (see above), who tutored him in 1866 and who remained a friend till September 1879 when Hopkins left Oxford. He found it hard to accept his sexual attraction to other men, including a deep infatuation for Digby Mackworth Dolben (see above). It was during a time of intense scrupulosity that Hopkins seems to have begun confronting his strong homoerotic impulses, and begun to consider choosing the cloister. In July he decided to become a Catholic. Newman received him into the Church on 21 October 1866.  He is thought to have suffered throughout his life from what today might be diagnosed as either bipolar disorder or chronic unipolar depression, and battled a deep sense of melancholic anguish.

Uranian is a 19th-century term that referred to a person of a third sex - originally, someone with "a female psyche in a male body" who is sexually attracted to men. It is believed to be an English adaptation of the German word Urning, which was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825–95) in a series of five booklets (1864–65) which were collected under the title 'Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe' ("Research into the Riddle of Man-Male Love"). Ulrich developed his terminology before the first public use of the term "homosexual", which appeared in 1869. The word Uranian (Urning) was derived by Ulrichs from the Greek goddess Aphrodite Urania, who was created out of god Uranus' testicles. Therefore it stands for homosexual gender.

An Anglo-Catholic tract published in 1922, advocating clerical celibacy, warned  priests against friendships with members of both sexes.
Friendship with a woman might lead to marriage: 'similar caution is necessary with regard to undue intimacy with boys. If the Cross weighs heavily upon some of us in these respects let us pray for grace to be generous in bearing it'.
Male friendships within the church took many forms.
At a later date, in a different context, some of them would undoubtedly have been regarded as homosexual.


Henry Scott Holland
The case of Henry Scott Holland, High Church theologian and social theorist, is instructive. 
Having deliberately renounced marriage as a 'willing sacrifice'  at  the  age  of  thirty-five, he wrote of his reactions on hearing of a friend's engagement: 'The sudden sense that I alone of all my friends am really going to be wifeless, is born in upon me with unwonted energy, and makes me feel strange, and wondering; and I clench my teeth a little, and feel sterner (but not less resolute)'.
St. Paul's Cathedral - London

Later in 1903 when Scott Holland was a canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, he appointed as his secretary a young Oxford graduate, Laurence Stratford, who became a 'real and close friend', entering fully into Scott Holland's many interests.
It was difficult to speak adequately of his devotion, and when at last he took up a government post Scott Holland found the parting a 'bitter grief'.
Priests who worked among undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge had many  opportunities for intimate relationships with the young men in their pastoral care. 


Ronald Knox
For example the friendship of Ronald Knox, when chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, before the first world war, with a handsome and brilliant undergraduate, Guy Lawrence, was the 'strongest human affection' of his early manhood.
Trinity College - Oxford

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 – 24 August 1957) was an English priest, author and theologian.
Knox had attended Eton College and won several scholarships at Balliol College, Oxford. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1912 and was appointed chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, but he left in 1917 upon his conversion to Catholicism. In 1918 he was ordained a Catholic priest. Knox wrote many books of essays and novels. Directed by his religious superiors, he re-translated the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, using Hebrew and Greek sources, beginning in 1936.

Forbes Robinson, a theological lecturer and college fellow at Cambridge in the 1890s, was remembered for his 'extraordinary interest' in his undergraduate acquaintances: 'He loved some men with an intensity of feeling impossible to describe. It was almost pain to him. If he loved a man he loved him with a passionate love (no weaker expression win do)'.
He prayed for those he loved for hours at a time.
Another type of friendship was between priests of similar ages who were engaged in a common enterprise or who worked in the same parish.


George Douglas Tinling 
St. Clement's - Bournemouth
At St. Clement's, Bournemouth, for example, in the 1870s, there was a deep if outwardly undemonstrative relationship between the vicar, George Douglas Tinling ('artistic, graceful in manner') and his curate, Robert Gray Scurfield ('an enthusiastic sportsman').
These lifelong friends are said to have held everything in  common - 'their  faith, ideals, aims, occupations and possessions.'
At the Anglo-Catholic outpost of St. Matthew's, Sheffield, the formidable George Campbell Ommanney (vicar from 1882 to 1936) was buried at his request in the same grave as a favourite curate, who had died in the parish many years previously.
These and other relationships which have been recorded can only be a small fraction of the whole.

Anglo-Catholicism and the Literary Scene

From the mid-1880s, when a new generation of literary men began accepting homosexual sentiment as 'part of the whole range of feeling which waited to be explored', some claimed that homosexuality was often linked to the 'artistic temperament'.


The Spirit Lamp
St. Sebastian
During the 1890s, a crucial decade in the development of a distinctive homosexual identity, there were many links between this homosexual literary culture and Catholic religion, in both its Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic forms.
There is, for example, the evidence  of  the literary magazines, 'The Artist', 'The Spirit Lamp', and 'The Chameleon', which, during this period, published many poems, essays, and stories with homosexual themes.
Frederick Rolfe, who in 1890 had been expelled from the Scots College in Rome after five months of training for the Roman Catholic priesthood, wrote poems for 'The Artist' on St. Sebastian and other subjects.



Lord Alfred Douglas
The 'Spirit Lamp', an Oxford undergraduate magazine, was edited from December 1892 to June 1893 by Lord Alfred Douglas, who turned it into 'an expensively produced and serious organ of the aestheticism created by Oscar Wilde', his lover.

Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas (22 October 1870 – 20 March 1945), nicknamed 'Bosie', was a British author, poet and translator, better known as the intimate friend and lover of the writer Oscar Wilde. Much of his early poetry was Uranian in theme. In 1911, Douglas embraced Roman Catholicism, as Oscar Wilde had also done earlier. In 1920 Douglas founded a fiercely anti-Semitic magazine, 'Plain English', in which he printed numerous anti-Jewish diatribes, made claims of "human sacrifice among the Jews," and publicly advocated 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'Douglas died of congestive heart failure at Lancing in West Sussex on 20 March 1945 at the age of 74.

Several of its contributors subsequently became Anglo-Catholic priests.
'The Chameleon', which was edited by John Francis Bloxam of Exeter College, Oxford, and lasted for only one issue (December 1894), acquired notoriety for an unsigned short story, 'The Priest and the Acolyte'.
Although written by Bloxam, this was widely attributed to Wilde, and was used by the prosecution at his first trial in 1895.
It was an emotional tale - 'the first piece of English fiction to echo the firmly-founded French syndrome of the naughty priest' - about the passionate love of a young priest for a fourteen-year-old golden- haired boy.
Following discovery by the priest's rector, and the certainty of disgrace, the two lovers take poison in the chalice at a private Mass,and die together, embracing on the steps of the altar.
This was Bloxam's last published work.
Following his ordination in 1897 he was an assistant priest at  various Anglo-Catholic churches in London, Including St. Mary's, Graham Street, in the fashionable West  End.
(It  was attended by the Anglo-Catholic lay leader Viscount Halifax, and by his son Lord Irwin, subsequently Viceroy of India.)
After service as a chaplain in the first world war, during which he was twice decorated for gallantry, he became vicar of the East End parish of St. Saviour, Hoxton.
This Anglo-Catholic church was so 'Romanised' that its priests used the Latin Missal and followed all Roman devotions.
After Bloxam's death in 1928 a former clerical colleague wrote in the 'Church  Times'  of  his 'pastoral  genius', his work for the young, and his 'passionate love of beauty'.
In regard to his personal character it would be hard to say whether he was more remarkable for his power of winning affection, or for his lavishness in bestowing it.


Wilhelm von Gloeden
'St Sebastian'
Marc-André Raffalovich
Another literary figure of the 1890s, who sought to integrate the two worlds of homosexuality and Catholic religion was Marc-André Raffalovich.
A member of a rich émigré Russo-Jewish family, he was converted to Roman Catholicism in 1896, shortly after the Wilde trials.

Marc-André Raffalovich (11 September 1864 – 14 February 1934) was a Jewish poet and writer on homosexuality, best known today for his patronage of the arts and for his lifelong relationship with the poet John Gray. In 1896, under the influence of John Gray, Raffalovich embraced Catholicism and joined the tertiary order of the Dominicans as Brother Sebastian in honour of Saint Sebastian.




John Gray
At the same time Gray was ordained a priest. In 1905, Gray was appointed to the parish of St Patrick in the working class Cowgate area of Edinburgh. Raffalovich followed and settled down nearby. He contributed greatly to the cost of St Peter's Church in Morningside, Edinburgh, of which Gray was appointed the first parish priest. In Whitehouse Terrace, Raffalovich established a successful salon. His guests included Henry James, Lady Margaret Sackville, Compton Mackenzie, Max Beerbohm and Herbert Read.
Raffalovich's attempts to reconcile his homosexuality and his Catholic beliefs pushed him further into his criticism of the early gay liberation movement; in 1910, he finally stopped commenting altogether on the subject which had occupied such a place in his life. Instead, he focused on his Edinburgh salon and his support of young artists. He died in 1934, the same year as his lifelong companion, John Gray.
Raffalovich considered that those of the higher type of homosexual to be the ones who made the best priests followed by heterosexuals who were also able to embrace celibacy.

In the same year he published a study of homosexuality, 'Uranisme et Unisexualité', in which he argued that homosexuality (inversion) and heterosexuality are two equally legitimate manifestations of human sexuality, rejected the current view that homosexuality was a disease, and advocated a life of chastity, supported by friendship, as the Christian ideal.
Many others associated with the homosexual literary world of the 1890s and early 1900s found a religious home in either the Anglo-Catholicism of the Church of England, or the Roman Catholic church.


Lionel Pigot Johnson
Among those who joined the latter were Frederick Rolfe, Lord Alfred Douglas, Lionel Johnson, and John Gray, the intimate friend of Raffalovich, who eventually became a Roman Catholic parish priest in Edinburgh.


Oscar Wilde
Lionel Pigot Johnson (15 March 1867 – 4 October 1902) was an English poet, essayist and critic. He was born at Broadstairs, and educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890. He became a Catholic convert in 1891. He lived a solitary life in London, struggling with alcoholism and his repressed homosexuality. He died of a stroke after a fall in the street, though it was said to be a fall from a barstool in the Green Dragon in Fleet Street.

The most famous was Oscar Wilde himself, who had become attracted to Roman Catholicism - 'a Church which simply enthrals me by its fascination', while an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1870s, though he was not received into the Roman church until his deathbed in 1900.
During Wilde's final trial in 1895 he received aid from a prominent Anglo-Catholic socialist priest, Stewart Headlam - 'himself something of an aesthete' - who put up part of his bail, accompanied him to the courtroom each day, and scandalised most of his own Christian Socialist  supporters  in  the  process.


Robert Hugh Benson
Another convert with a prolific literary output was Robert Hugh Benson, youngest son of Archbishop E. W. Benson of Canterbury, and a former priest member of the (Anglo-Catholic) Community of the Resurrection.
As a young man, he recalled, he had rejected the idea  of  marriage  as  'quite  inconceivable'.
Then  in  1904,  soon  after  his ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, he formed a passionate friendship with Rolfe.
For two years this relationship involved letters 'not only weekly, but at times daily, and of an intimate character, exhaustingly charged with emotion'.
All letters were subsequently  destroyed, probably by Benson's  brother.
Several of that group of Uranian poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who wrote on the theme of 'boy-love' were clergymen in the Church of England.

Robert Hugh Benson (18 November 1871 – 19 October 1914) was an Anglican pastor who joined the Roman Catholic Church (1903) where he was ordained priest in 1904. Youngest son of Edward White Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury) and his wife, Mary, and younger brother of Edward Frederic Benson, he was lauded in his own day as one of the leading figures in English literature, having written the notable book - 'Lord of The World'. Benson was appointed a supernumerary private chamberlain to the Pope in 1911 and, consequently, styled as Monsignor.

Among them were Edwin Emmanuel Bradford, Samuel Elsworth Cottam, George Gabriel Scott Gillett, Edward Cracroft Lefroy, and Edmund St. Gascoigne Mackie.
During their ecclesiastical careers Cottam and Gillett were associated with a number of well-known Anglo-Catholic churches in London and elsewhere, though the latter turned his literary talents from writing poetry on Uranian themes at Oxford in the nineties to editing an Anglican missionary periodical, and writing devotional and comic verse in the distinctive Anglo-Catholic genre.
Cottam was an enthusiastic collector of Uranian poetry, and   other   publications,   and   (with   Bradford) was a member of a secret homosexual society called the 'Order of Chaerone', founded In the late 1890s, and whose members were drawn together by ties of friendship, the hope of reforming hostile attitudes, and secret rituals and symbols.

Samuel Elsworth Cottam, M.A. (1863-1943) was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was a friend of Edwin Emmanuel Bradford. He was a lifelong Anglo-Catholic, unlike Bradford who later became a Modernist. Cottam and Bradford were co-Chaplains of St George's Anglican Church in Paris, France. He was later incumbent at Wootton, Vale of White Horse, where John Betjeman and W. H. Auden went to see him celebrate Sung Mass.
Cottam published a 'gay' magazine called 'Chameleon', which was produced as evidence in the trial of Oscar Wilde


 Augustus Montague Summers
A fellow member of the 'Order of Chaeronea', and a writer of Uranian verse was Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers.
As  an  Anglo-Catholic, he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England before being received into the Roman Catholic church in 1909.
Rejected from training for the Catholic priesthood (though it is probable that he subsequently received priest's orders  through a schismatical source), he became a school teacher and antiquarian scholar, an author of voluminous works on Restoration drama, the Gothic novel, witchcraft, and demonology, and an active member of the 'British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology'.

Augustus Montague Summers (10 April 1880 – 10 August 1948) was an English author and clergyman. He is known primarily for his scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century, as well as for his idiosyncratic studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe. He was responsible for the first English translation, published in 1928, of the notorious 15th-century witch hunter's manual, the 'Malleus Maleficarum'. Summers was an active member of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, to which he contributed an essay on the Marquis de Sade.
Summers was ordained as deacon in 1908 and worked as a curate in Bath and Bitton, in Greater Bristol. He never proceeded to higher orders, however, because of rumours of his interest in Satanism and accusations of sexual impropriety with young boys. Summers' first book, 'Antinous and Other Poems', published in 1907, was dedicated to the subject of pederasty.

Later Developments

From the early 1900s until the second world war, the public face of the Anglo-Catholic movement was militant and uncompromising.
Many younger clergy took delight in shocking the respectable 'Church of Englandism' of the ecclesiastical establishment, personified by the canny and cautious archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson.

Society of SS. Peter and Paul
A vociferous ginger-group was the 'Society of SS. Peter and Paul', founded in 1910 on the initiative of Maurice Child, Ronald Knox (son of the staunchly Evangelical bishop of Manchester), who seceded to Rome in 1917, and Samuel Gurney, a director of the Medici Society.
The society made fun of the bishops by describing itself as 'Publishers to the Church of England', and by advertising and selling such articles as Ridley and Latimer votive-candle stands and 'The Lambeth Frankincense'.
It annoyed the authorities even more by advocating, in a series of tracts, the adoption by Anglican churches of the liturgical practices and popular devotions of the contemporary Roman Catholic church.
The ultimate aim was the 'resumption of arrested development', as if the Reformation had not happened, for only then, it was claimed, would the Church of England once again become a genuine 'church of the people'.
The Society of SS. Peter and Paul was behind the great series of Anglo-Catholic congresses held between 1920 and 1933 (the latter being the centenary celebration of the Oxford Movement), at which the Anglo-Catholics went onto the attack, and expounded the 'Catholic position' to huge and enthusiastic audiences, with the object of demonstrating that it represented nothing less than the 'true mind' of the Church of England.
Exerting considerable influence at the centre of the Society of SS. Peter and Paul, and later as general secretary of the Anglo-Catholic congress organisation, was Maurice Child, 'the mystery man' of the Anglo-Catholic movement, 'who was regarded by critics as a flippant and pleasure-loving sybarite', and by admirers as 'a dedicated priest of remarkable ability'.
Child was of a type that popped up regularly in Anglo-Catholic circles between the wars.
A strong believer in clerical celibacy, he was also rich, witty, versatile, a bon viveur - nicknamed 'the Playboy of the Western Church'.
In London he lived with a male companion at a succession of fashionable addresses, where he entertained friends from many different walks of life.
His glittering parties bore little resemblance to the usual clerical social gatherings.
At one of them a young visitor was startled to see the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity from Oxford in conversation over a cocktail with the film actress Tallulah Bankhead.
As a skilled counsellor, an old friend recalled after his death in 1950, his 'greatest forte was with young men'.
In examining the homosexual component of early twentieth-century Anglo-Catholicism, it would be quite wrong to imply that more than a minority of Anglo-Catholic clergy or laity were homosexually inclined.
Nevertheless, in cities such as London, Brighton, and Oxford, and other places in the south of England which had a high concentration of Anglo-Catholic churches, there are indications that a male homosexual subculture was associated with the more flamboyant wing of Anglo-Catholicism.
In some London churches visitors noticed an unusually high proportion of young men in the congregation.
In the industrial Midlands and the North, on the other hand, where 'Low Churchmanship' was dominant, and Anglo-Catholics were on the defensive, the correlation was much less likely.
There are references to this male homosexual subculture  in the posthumously published autobiography of Tom Driberg (Lord Bradwell), who was both a prominent Labour member of parliament, a devout Anglo-Catholic, and well-known in upper-class circles as a homosexual. 
There are also revealing passages in works by writers who themselves had a first-hand knowledge of both worlds.
In Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited' (1945)  an  Oxford  undergraduate,  newly  arrived  in college, is warned by his cousin: 'Beware of the Anglo-Catholics - they're all sodomites with unpleasant accents'. 
Compton Mackenzie's 'Sinister Street' (1913) and his Anglo-Catholic trilogy, 'The Altar Steps' (1922), 'The Parson's Progress' (1923), and 'The Heavenly Ladder'  (1924), include many  vivid and accurate descriptions of typical, often identifiable, Anglo-Catholic clergy and parishes of the 1890s and early 1900s.
They are subtly permeated with hints of homosexuality.
A minor character in 'The Parson's Progress' is Father Hugh Dayrell, assistant priest at St. Cyprian's, South Kensington, - an authority on moral  theology,  who  shows  unusual  interest  in the  works  of  Havelock Ellis (see above), Krafft-Ebing, and Freud, privately admits an antipathy to women, and is finally forced to flee the country in order to avoid an sexual scandal - which is threfore obviously of a homosexual nature.
In 'The Altar Steps' the vicar of an Anglo-Catholic slum church in London expresses his dislike of 'these churchy young fools who come simpering down in top-hats, with rosaries hanging out of their pockets'.
The same novel contains an account of life at Malford Abbey in the Order of St. George (which is recognisable as the Order   of   St.   Paul   at   Alton).
Many years later an historian of Anglican monasticism recalled: 'Octogenarians can vouch for the truth of the period atmosphere. Even the gossip between the monks both during and outside times of recreation revive memories of the chit-chat in at least one Anglican monastic community about the turn of the century'.
More recently, the autobiography of a former administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has described, with disarming frankness, the semi-conspiratorial and light-hearted atmosphere of a section of the Anglo-Catholic world of Brighton and Oxford between the wars.
Archibald Kenneth Ingram, an Anglo-Catholic lay theologian, socialist, and prolific writer, attempted in several works to integrate his sexuality with his religious beliefs.
In 1920 he contributed two pieces to a short-lived 'Uranian' literary journal, 'The Quorum': A Magazine of Friendship, in which he advocated male comradeship as the highest relationship, and the only way to bridge the gap between social classes.


Edward Carpenter
In his view of the positive social value of male friendships, Ingram was influenced by the writings of Edward Carpenter, who saw 'Uranian' men and women (he intermediate sex) as filling an important function as reconcilers and interpreters, and as a potential 'advance guard' in the evolution of a new society.

Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929) was an English socialist poet, philosopher, anthologist, and early gay activist. A leading figure in late 19th- and early 20th-century Britain, he was instrumental in the foundation of the Fabian Society and the Labour Party. A poet and writer, he was a close friend of Walt Whitman and Rabindranath Tagore, corresponding with many famous figures such as Annie Besant, Isadora Duncan, Havelock Ellis, Roger Fry, Mahatma Gandhi, James Keir Hardie, J. K. Kinney, Jack London, George Merrill, E D Morel, William Morris, E R Pease, John Ruskin, and Olive Schreiner.

To the ideas of Carpenter, and the other sexual radicals, Ingram added a religious justification derived from his Anglo-Catholic faith: 'Pure love, especially so intense a love as the homogenic attachment, is not profane but divine'.
'The Symbolic Island' (1924), Ingram's first novel, included among its characters an Anglo-Catholic priest, Father Evrill, who becomes the spokesman for Ingram's personal views on the need for a revitalised Anglo-Catholicism as the remedy for the ills of modem society.
At one point Evrill explains his close friendship with young altar boy, Gerald Frayne, and talks with enthusiasm of a new type of youth, which is coming into existence in English society -'lighthearted, artistic, nature-loving, - not so exclusively, so aggressively, male, though by no means effeminate'.
These youths and young men have a 'much keener sense of comradeship' than their forefathers, and show little romantic interest in women.
Wherever they express themselves religiously, the priest observes with satisfaction...'it is always by the Catholic religion. I think the type is naturally religious, because it is mystical.
That Catholicism should be the form of its religious expression is, I think, quite inevitable. There could be nothing else'.
Ingram also wrote four books which went beyond the frontiers of Christian orthodoxy by advocating a new sexual morality for the 'new age'.
In his first book on the subject, published in 1922, he described homosexuality as 'a romantic cult rather than a physical vice', and reluctantly agreed that 'there could be no religious countenance for any physical sex-act outside the sacrament of matrimony'
He became increasingly radical.
By the 1940s he was arguing that the morality or immorality of any sexual behaviour was determined by the presence or absence of love; where love was mutual there was no sin. Conventional religious opinion was outraged.
To the extent that 'camp' (in its meaning of 'elegantly ostentatious' or 'affected display') was a prominent attribute of the homosexual style as it developed in England from the 1890s onwards, it found ample room for expression in the worship and decoration of many Anglo-Catholic churches.


Society of SS. Peter and Paul 
Perhaps its most visible manifestation was the attempt, fostered by the Society of SS. Peter and Paul during the 1920s, to refurnish the interiors of  English churches in baroque and rococo styles, justified on the ground that this was the living architecture of Catholic Europe.
The medieval restorations, so beloved of an earlier generation of High Churchmen, were denigrated as 'sterile antiquarianism British Museum religion'.
Under the guidance of ecclesiastical decorators such as Martin Travers, the interiors of a number of Gothic Revival churches were transformed into replicas of churches of Counter-Reformation Austria, Italy, and Spain, with gilded altars and reredoses, baroque candlesticks, tabernacles, and shrines, and ornamental cherubs.




Altar by Martin Travers
Martin Travers
Self Portrait
Martin Travers (born Howard Mantin Otho Travers, in Margate, Kent on 19 February 1886 – died in 1948) was an English church artist and designer, whose name is often connected with the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England, especially that part of the movement which favoured a return to the Baroque style of church furnishing. He designed and constructed a number of spectacular Baroque reredoses for various Anglican churches, usually employing affordable materials such as plywood, whitewood, papier mache and embossed wallpaper to achieve the desired effect, which, regrettably, has meant that some of his work has not weathered well. Famous examples of his work in London are the reredos in St Mary's church, Pimlico, and the remarkable Churrigueresque altarpiece in St Augustine's church, South Kensington. As well as church furnishings he also designed much stained glass, and, as a draughtsman, is perhaps best known for his illustrations for the booklets and cards published by the Society of SS. Peter and Paul.

The ornamentation and fittings of these churches were luxuriant, often gaudy, and as such they were profoundly shocking to Low Church bishops and Protestant-minded laity.
That was part of the attraction.

Anglo-Catholic baroque
'Anglo-Catholic baroque' was a theatrical, slightly unreal style, which reflected the restless gaiety of the 1920s, and the postwar urge to reject established social conventions.
High Mass in an Anglican church with baroque interior decor, sung to music by Mozart or Schubert, belonged to the age of the Charleston, Theosophy, the Russian Ballet, and the first dramatic successes of Noel Coward.
The same people often sampled them all.
One can also sense a covert link between exotic church decoration, liturgical extravagance, and the over-ripe elegance of  homosexual 'camp'.







Analysis

What were the reasons for this apparent correlation between male homosexuality and Anglo-Catholic religion ?
Some homosexuals recognised the existence of an aesthetic attraction, for their sense of the numinous was aroused by the elaborate ceremonial and sensuous symbolism of Catholic worship.


Compton Mackenzie
'The Church! How wonderful !', exclaims Arthur Wilmot, a homosexual poet in Compton Mackenzie's 'Sinister Street' (set in the 1890s): 'The dim Gothic glooms, the sombre hues of stained glass, the incense-wreathed acolytes, the muttering priests, the bedizened banners and altars and images. Ah, elusive and particoloured vision that once was mine !' (Mackenzie, Sinister Street).

Compton Mackenzie,  (1883–1972) was a prolific writer of fiction, biography, histories, and memoir, as well as a cultural commentator, and raconteur. He converted to Catholicism in 1914.

And  in  Bloxam's  story, 'The  Priest  and  the  Acolyte', one can recognise the author's own voice in the priest's attempt to explain his nature - 'The whole aesthetic tendency of my soul was intensely attracted by the wonderful mysteries of Christianity, the artistic beauty of our services.  .  .  .  My delight is in the aesthetic beauty of the services, the ecstasy of devotion, the passionate fervour that comes with long fasting and meditation'.
Aesthetic attraction, however, is not a sufficient explanation, simply because many homosexual men were not aesthetes, and many aesthetes were not Anglo-Catholics.
The ideology and structure of Anglo-Catholicism in the context of English Christianity must also be considered.
In the eyes of their Protestant opponents, Anglo-Catholics were no more than 'Anglo-Romanists', an impression which was reinforced by the small but steady stream of Anglo- Catholic clergy and laypeople who seceded to Rome, 'the home of truth'. 
But this verdict is misleading, for the intellectual and social ethos of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England was very different from that of English Roman Catholicism.
Almost all its leaders, clerical and lay, shared a common upper-class background of public school and ancient university.
Among its intellectuals the dominant theology from the 1880s until the 1930s was a liberal Catholicism,  which  accepted  the  legitimacy  of  biblical  criticism,  used contemporary philosophical and scientific concepts in the study of theology, and asserted the central importance of the Incarnation - the historical Christ as 'both fully God and fully man' in its dogmatic system.
The doctrine of the Incarnation revealed the glory of the Church, but it also revealed the glory that is in man, whose nature has been united with the divine.
In the theology of the Incarnation, human nature was fallen but not depraved; natural man could be raised to holiness through the sacraments of the church; Christianity should penetrate and transform the entire social order.
A belief that the Incarnation is fulfilled in the growing together of every human activity led some Anglo-Catholic priests in the direction of Christian Socialism - the idea of a society based upon the principles of cooperation and brotherhood, as symbolised by the Christian sacraments.
It also encouraged a slightly more accommodating attitude towards homosexuality than was commonly found elsewhere in the Christian church.
At a time when hostility to homosexuality was intense, and when the few public statements on the subject by church leaders were full of references to ' a shameful vice', 'a grievous sin', and 'a perversion',  it would appear that many Anglo-Catholic priests were inclined to the view that homosexual feelings were not in themselves sinful; they should be disciplined and controlled, and channelled into the service of others.


All Saints - Margaret Street
The advice given in a tract entitled 'Letter to a Homosexual' (1955) by the vicar of a leading Anglo-Catholic church in London (All Saints, Margaret Street) may be taken as representing a well-established Anglo-Catholic viewpoint, though this was the first time that it had been presented for a popular readership: 'You cannot help being homosexual: nor can you help it if your sexual feelings are very strong. That is a matter of natural endowment. . . . So it is much better to reconcile yourself to the fact that you are homosexual in outlook and make the best of it. I would go  further:  I  say  that  your  homosexual  bias  is  to  be  used  for  the  glory  of  God'.
The  reactions of homosexual men to the moral condemnation of the church varied widely.


Auricular Confession
If many who had been brought up in the Church of England, or in a nonconformist denomination, were alienated from institutional religion, others were drawn to Anglo-Catholicism because of the attitude of its priests and the method they employed to deal with sexual problems and moral dilemmas - 'auricular confession'.
Unlike the conventional Anglican parson, Anglo-Catholic clergymen fulfilled a sharply defined priestly role, and had been trained in their theological colleges to be discreet and un-shockable confessors.
In the right sense of the word, they were professionals: they knew their job through and though, On the subject of sex, the teaching of their moral theology textbooks was less detailed and less legalistic than the corresponding Roman Catholic authorities, but no less rigorous.
Although homosexuality was not specifically mentioned in Francis Belton's widely used 'Manual for Confessors' (1916), his advice in other areas of sexual behaviour was uncompromising.
Priests were advised to forbid close friendships between young men and women before marriage as dangerous.
Even after the modification by the 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican church's traditional opposition to artificial birth control, Belton's view was unchanged: the prevention of conception was never justified.
His  viewpoint  on  contraception  was  not  universally  accepted  by Anglo-Catholic clergy, for a significant minority defended the legitimacy of birth control at a time when it was by no means fashionable to do so.
In other areas of morality Anglo-Catholic teaching was substantially identical to the Roman Catholic position.
Homosexual acts were judged to be intrinsically sinful, though the degree of moral guilt varied according to the circumstances of each case.
For 'true homosexuals', declared an influential guide for Anglican confessors, 'the only  treatment  lies  in  the  strengthening  of  the  will  to  resist  temptation'.
Nevertheless orthodox doctrine was often tempered with pastoral sympathy.
Especially before the 1950s, when homosexuality was a taboo subject, many Anglo-Catholic priests were able, under the seal of the confessional, to discuss the personal problems associated with it without show of embarrassment or open hostility, and without informing the police.
There was also the inherent attraction of identifiable and continuous groupings of homosexuals. 
Many homosexual men, unmarried and therefore outside the regular family structure, had a strong need for companionship with others like themselves.
Before the liberalisation of the late 1960s, when public meeting places for homosexual men outside London were virtually non-existent, and when pubs and clubs in London were difficult to find, and regularly harassed by the police, Anglo-Catholicism provided a visible network of supportive and protective institutions - not only in England, but also scattered through the Anglican church in the cities of the United States, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
Within these Anglo-Catholic congregations, homosexual men, compelled by social hostility to remain invisible, and avoid social disgrace, could make contact with each other and establish discreet friendships across class barriers.
Looking back at London's homosexual subculture of the 1930s, a recent writer in the weekly 'Gay News' recalled that many of his own youthful contemporaries had attended fashionable churches where contacts were made with rather rich 'gays'.
Some were left substantial legacies.
At the heart of the correlation between Anglo-Catholicism and homosexuality was an affinity in outlook between a sexual minority and a minority religious movement within the established church.
Both were at variance with entrenched beliefs and both outraged the older generation.
In middle and upper-class circles, in the inter-war years, an involvement in the homosexual subculture could be a means of demonstrating rebellion, for since the scandals of the 1890s heterosexuality had been the 'key test of respectability': 'What  better way therefore to  declare one's contempt for the official mores of society than to take a whirl among homosexuals ?'
Similarly, until the second world war, Anglo-Catholics were a consciously defined party within the Church of England - a 'Church-within-the-Church', in perpetual conflict with the dominant norms of the establishment.
In many dioceses Anglo-Catholic congregations were ostracised by their bishops, and isolated from neighbouring parishes because of doctrinal and liturgical disobedience.
In return they viewed the 'official diocese ... with indifference, suspicion, or even hostility'.


Hoy House - Walsingham
With the adoption of Roman Catholic baroque furnishings and ceremonial, they tended to become 'a people apart', and their churches almost unrecognisable as Anglican.
At the same time, however, many fashionable Anglo-Catholic churches offered all the trappings of outward respectability, as well as the security and stability of ancient rituals and traditions. 
Despite their marginal position, Anglo-Catholics chose to remain within the established church, and liked to regard their religion as 'much smarter' than its rival, Roman Catholicism.
Anglo-Catholicism was thus both elitist and nonconformist, combining a sense of superiority with a rebellion against existing authority.
As such it provided an environment in which homosexual men could express, in a socially acceptable way, their  dissent  from  heterosexual  orthodoxy,  and  from  the  Protestant  values  of those who wielded repressive power in church and state.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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