At the Center for Law and Religion Forum today, Professor Perry Dane has a response to my post last week on the controversy surrounding the re-interment of Richard III. Dane thinks the debate about whether Richard should receive a Catholic burial reflects more profound concerns about the meaning of religious identity through time:
Many Anglicans would deny that Richard III was “Catholic” in the limited contemporary sense of the word that would exclude his membership in the “Church of England.” The simple reason is that Anglicans claim a direct line back from their Church to the Church to which Richard belonged. As the COE’s website puts it, “The roots of the Church of England go back to the time of the Roman Empire when Christianity entered the Roman province of Britain. Through the influences of St Alban, St Illtud, St Ninian, St Patrick and, later, St Augustine, St Aidan and St Cuthbert, the Church of England developed, acknowledging the authority of the Pope until the Reformation in the 16th century.” Thus, Henry VIII might have split the English Church from Rome, but he did not create it anew. To be sure, Catholics have a different view. But neither position is self-evident by sheer definition.