Athanasian Creed (Freeman’s Journal, 1904)

1.651. The Freeman’s Journal, (Dublin), Thursday, 10 March, 1904, 4.

Editorial comment from The Freeman’s Journal, on Anglican liturgical difficulties.

While Stephen quotes from the Nicene Creed, secure in the knowledge that the Catholic Church will not be altering it any time soon, contemporary Anglican difficulties with the Athanasian Creed, a formidably anti-Arian formula sung in place of the Apostles’ Creed on certain Feast Days, were the subject of somewhat gleeful editorial comment in The Freeman’s Journal on the 10th of March 1904. At the time, the paper was engaged in presenting, serially, extended analysis and criticism of Sir Horace Plunkett’s recently published Ireland in the New Century, raising objections to the book’s identification of Catholicism as ‘uneconomic’, of Nationalism as ‘barren’ and of Protestantism as the key factor to the North of Ireland’s greater economic success. To the writer in The Freeman’s Journal, the Bishop of Chester’s attempt to please all shades of opinion in his congregation demonstrated the kind of pliability and easy tergiversation in England that he took Plunkett to be looking for in Ireland. Though St. Athanasius, the unstinting opponent of Arius, is not named in ‘Telemachus’, or, indeed, anywhere else in Ulysses, Stephen’s vision at 1.650-64 could be described as ‘Athanasian’ in many respects, not least in its stance towards “compromisers” such as Mulligan:

The Bishop of Chester is “re-arranging” the Athanasian Creed. Some of his flock do not like it. “Undeniable difficulties,” he says, “attend its use in its present form.” And it seems to be agreed in the Church of England that if some of its members do not like some of its doctrine, the simple way out of the “undeniable difficulty” is to “re-arrange” the doctrine. The difficulty in this case is the greater because while some of the Bishop of Chester’s flock object to the Creed, some approve of it, and some approve of it, but not for “ordinary congregations.” All sections must be satisfied. The Bishop hopes to avoid trouble by giving them a “threefold choice.” He says his plan will have the following results: — “Those who prefer, and consider themselves pledged to the creed in its present form, would remain undisturbed. Those who desire to use the creed in public worship, but cannot conscientiously use it in its present form, would have their case met. And those who, sincerely valuing the creed as an exposition of Catholic doctrine, are nevertheless convinced that, as it was originally intended for use in ordinary congregations, as after full trial it has been found unsuitable for that purpose, would also be enabled to give effect to their conviction.” This is surely a Bishop after Sir Horace Plunkett’s own heart. If only Irish Catholic Bishops were as accommodating he might get the uneconomic Catholic Faith varied to suit his theories. More interesting, however, than Sir Horace Plunkett’s opinion of the Bishop of Chester would be the opinion of St. Athanasius. One can well imagine the weighty sentences in which the Primate of Egypt would rend the compromisers.