Anglo-CatholicismThe terms Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism describe people, groups, ideas, customs and practices within Anglicanism that emphasise continuity with Catholic tradition. Since the Reformation there have always been Anglicans who identify closely with Catholic thought and practice. However, the concept of Anglo-Catholicism as a distinct sub-group appeared in the Church of England during the Victorian era, under the influence of the Oxford Movement or 'Tractarians'.
Anglo-Catholic people and churches are often identified as such by their outward behaviour and appearance. Anglo-Catholics have adopted many Catholic practices such as ritualism and the use of vestments, incense and candles in the liturgy, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some Anglo-Catholics (and some Anglicans in general) also use Orthodox icons and prayers. Ritualism in particular was a source of controversy in the nineteenth century, particularly in England, where Parliament was called on to legislate against certain ritualist practices. However, many Anglo-Catholic 'innovations' (or, rather, revivals of dormant practices) have since become accepted by many mainstream Anglicans.
What Anglo-Catholics believe is highly debated even among people who identify as such. While the Thirty-Nine Articles may be said to draw some boundaries between Anglican and Catholic doctrine, they are open to creative interpretation. For example, some Anglo-Catholic priests hear personal confessions and anoint the sick, practices which are recognised by Catholics as sacraments, but are only optional Rites in the Anglican Church. They are in the Book of Common Prayer but are not given as much authority as Baptism and the Eucharist.
Many Anglo-Catholics share Catholic beliefs on the nature of the priesthood, encouraging priestly celibacy and rejecting the possibility of women taking Holy Orders. On the other hand, many Anglo-Catholics do accept the ordination of women and other aspects of 'liberalism' such as the use of modern and inclusive language in Bible translations and the liturgy. While the nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic movement may have begun as a reaction to both liberal and Evangelical innovations in the Church of England, the movement's heirs in the modern church are far more diverse and in some respects more inclusive.