Catholic commentary on the 39 articles

Greetings all,

Before I converted to Catholicism my wife and I spent a brief sojourn in the Anglican Church. It was there of course that I encountered the articles 9 and 30. I was wondering, is there any good Catholic commentary on the articles? A discussion of which of the articles the Catholic can affirm and which he cannot and why?

I’ve read Newman’s tract 90, and it was helpful to ponder but I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit of a stretch.



It is, as Newman himself came to recognize. But it’s still a good account of how the Articles would have to be interpreted in order to be compatible with Catholicism. I don’t now of other specific analyses of the Articles, but two good general books on Anglicanism by Catholics are The Panther and the Hind by Fr. Aidan Nichols, and The Quest for Catholicity by Fr. Humphfrey Tavard. Neither of them focuses on the Articles, as far as I remember. Also, there are a lot of Anglican converts to Catholicism who have blogs, such as Fr. Dwight Longenecker.


Also, it is useful to remember that the Articles are not officially binding, in Anglicanism, generally, except as specified by some specific jurisdictional authority. The only such I can think of is the Church of England clergy, as (technically) bound by the 1571 Act of Subscription. Otherwise, Anglicans may affirm, deny, partially affirm, or ignore the Artifices, as they deem appropriate.

Motley are the Anglicans.


I would say rather that “motley are the Anglican Episcopalians.”

Strictly speaking, Anglicanism (ecclesia anglicana = the English church) should not be limited to Episcopalians that used to follow, but no more, the 39 articles, but it should include Presbyterians that followed the Westminster confession during the republic until the re-call of Charles II, which was hardly a democratic matter, who proceeded to viciously persecute the Presbyterians.

However Presbyterians went off and founded their own free-churches. Although they are not called Anglicans today, they have every right to be so, and perhaps now have more right to the term Anglican than the apostatizing Episcopalians of today, who are heading for extinction going by church numbers.

Parts of this I would not find arguable.

Not much, though.


You can hardly blame Chas II for persecuting the Presbyterians. After all they had rebelled, beheaded his Father Charles I and set up a Puritan dictatorship. Following the death of dictatator Cromwell the British people welcomed Charles II back with open arms.

For those unfamiliar with the 39 Articles;

IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, p¢vnæa sapk¢s, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

XXX. Of both Kinds.
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.]

Both articles would be acceptable to Lutherans

While I’m not sure that Article IX as such existed when Session V of the Council of Trent convened, nevertheless, the latter addresses the heretical notion of concupiscence which it contains:

[T]his holy council perceives and confesses that in the one baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to sin, which, since it is left for us to wrestle with, cannot injure those who do not acquiesce but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned.

This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.

But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema.

(See also Concupiscence, s.v. New Catholic Dictionary.)

Concerning Art. XXX (Communion under both kinds), see Trent, Sess. XXI. I won’t quote it here because it’s rather long for a post, but it shows from Scripture and Church teaching that receiving under one species is legitimate.

I really don’t think that Trent and Article IX are saying different things. Both call concupisence a symptom of man’s fallenness, not entirely removed by baptism, but for which (alone) the faithful will not be condemned.

The CofE allows this under certain emergency conditions. During the swine flu outbreak in parts of the UK, permission was given for communion to be administered under one kind. This is also allowed for alocholics, etc., and if the sacrament is reserved for the sick.

The CofE’s teaching is that communion under both kinds is the norm of the sacrament, and that one ought to have a good reason to issue any kind of dispensation therefrom.

Thanks Edwin. I’ll check those out.

AFAIK, Article IX existed in that form, from the promulgation of the (rather abortive) XLII Articles, in 1553. So, it would predate Trent, Session V.


Though a common Anglo-Catholic tenet follows the RCC in affirming that both the Body and the Blood are received, even if only one kind is.


Perhaps I misspoke. I now see that the phrase (in Art. IX) “concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin,” and especially the part “the nature of sin,” could be interpreted in a Catholic way (see Trent, above). But is that the authentic / traditional / original Anglican understanding of Art. IX, or did the framers of the Articles of Religion rather follow Luther in holding concupiscence of itself to be sinful?

The impression that I get is that it depends on what you mean by sinful. As far as I can tell, Art. IX seems to be saying roughly the same thing as Trent in different words. The key sentence, “And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin,” appears to define sin in terms of falling short of God, i.e. nature corrupted by sin; whereas Trent seems to be thinking in terms of culpability and condemnation, which is precisely what IX. denies.

I spoke to my Priest today about the topic of this thread- he stated that there were 39 buttons on an episcopla Priests cassock -if a Priest disagreed with any particular article they left one loop unbuttoned-

He said they had to stop it for too many Priest’s cassocks were flopping in the wind -

Anglo-Catholics looked like they were wearing a cape.

So it was said.


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