Why does the old fashioned style of Catholic-Anglican dialogue continue?

Remembering that Pope Benedict, who had the CDF issue Anglicanorum coetibus, is the Pope of Christian Unity, I share here an piece by William Oddie of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald.

He asks a necessary question.  Now that the Catholic-Anglican landscape has been made much clearer, why does the old fashioned style of Catholic-Anglican dialogue continue?

Thus, Oddie with my emphases and comments:

I begin with a simple news announcement, as reported by Zenit, the Catholic online news outlet:

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) is opening a new phase of dialogue with a meeting scheduled for May 17-27.

A communiqué from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity noted that this new phase of work was mandated by Benedict XVI [The same Pope who had the CDF issue Anglicanorum coetibus, btw.  I wonder, however, if he knew much about this meeting.] and the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at their meeting in November 2009.

The first meeting of the new phase of the commission will take place at the Monastery of Bose in Northern Italy.

The communiqué noted that ‘the task of this third phase of ARCIC will be to consider fundamental questions regarding the “Church as Communion – Local and Universal,” and “How in Communion the Local and Universal Church Comes to Discern Right Ethical Teaching”. [Sounds like a topic which might interest Pope Benedict.]

Thus, and much more, Zenit. Zenit doesn’t comment on such matters: but it doesn’t give much background, either. You wouldn’t guess from this straightfaced announcement (and perhaps the boys and girls at Zenit don’t even realise) that the said meeting will not only be an expensive freebie for those involved but also utterly futile, an absolute and total waste of time. But you can probably gather that from the Catholic Herald report: I’m pretty sure the Herald newsdesk does know it, though their report doesn’t actually say so (and probably better not; it’s hardly necessary, since unlike Zenit’s, the Herald report does give the necessary background for us to come to that conclusion ourselves):

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, met in late 2009. They pledged to continue the formal dialogue even as the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the blessing of gay unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy threatened the unity of the Anglican Communion and made it more difficult for Catholics and Anglicans to see a way for their communities to draw closer together. [Sigh.  Talk for the sake of talk?  Talk because there is nothing else?]

Shortly after the Pope and archbishop met, the Vatican announced that a new round of dialogue, referred to as ARCIC III, would deal with “fundamental questions regarding the Church as communion local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching”.

In the wake of the recent collapse of Muslim-Catholic dialogue, you have to ask what that word “dialogue” has come to mean these days: two groups of irreconcilables, each churning out yet again their own point of view in case their interlocutors weren’t already perfectly well aware of what they think about absolutely everything? [Indeed.] I remember as a Catholic-minded Anglican desperately hoping, back in the 70s, in the early days of ARCIC, that a series of statements would somehow emerge which would uncover a common faith, on the basis of which corporate reunion might be a distant prospect. The statements did emerge, on Ministry, Sacraments and so forth: but they were never officially accepted by Rome as being a sound or adequate representation of Catholic belief, and nor were they.

The trouble with ARCIC always was (as a former Catholic member of it once explained to me) that on the Catholic side of the table you have a body of men (mostly bishops) who represent a more or less coherent view, being members of a Church which has established means of knowing and declaring what it believes. On the Anglican side of the table you have a body of men (and it was only men, on both sides, in those days) the divisions between whom are just fundamental as, and sometimes a lot more fundamental than, those between any one of them and the Catholic representatives they faced: they all represented only themselves.

And they all, Catholics and Anglicans, quite simply belonged to very different kinds of institution. It isn’t just that Catholics and Anglicans believe different doctrines: it’s that there is between them a fundamental difference over their attitude to the entire doctrinal enterprise. [This is rather interesting.] I remember very vividly, in my days as an (Anglican) clergy member of the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod, a debate on one of the ARCIC documents followed by a vote on whether to recommend to the General Synod in London that it should be accepted. The document was accepted overwhelmingly. At lunchtime, standing at the bar with a number of clergy, I asked how they had voted; they had all voted affirmatively. I then asked them if they had read the document. None of them had; and most of them, it became clear, had little idea of what it contained. “Well”, I asked, puzzled, “why did you vote for it, then?”  “The point is,” one of them replied, “the important thing is unity. The RCs are frightfully keen on doctrine. You have to encourage them: so I voted for their document”. There you have it: what the late Mgr Graham Leonard, when he was still an Anglican bishop, once called “the doctrinal levity of the Church of England”.  [Ultimately, the teachings and practices of the C of E must follow societal trends.]

And in the end, that fundamental disqualification of ARCIC remains: it is an endless time-consuming discussion between representatives of the Catholic Church on one side, and a varying group of individuals who represent only themselves on the other.  And so it will be at the next ARCIC meeting. Some of the Anglicans will be quite close to the views of their (hum, hum) “spiritual leader”, Rowan Williams; others will be very far from them. A document so general that they can all subscribe to it will somehow be cobbled together. Nobody will read it: and the whole operation will at great expense achieve nothing.

Can anybody explain to me why we carry on with ARCIC? Is there any real intention, as 30 years ago there undoubtedly was, of actually achieving something? Is it a continuing self-delusion on the part of those participating? Or is ARCIC III just a PR exercise, designed to avert attention from the fact that we have now, inevitably but finally, come to the bitter end of the ecumenical road?

Whatever it is, we will all, finally, have to face reality: and, surely, the sooner the better.

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33 Responses to Why does the old fashioned style of Catholic-Anglican dialogue continue?

  1. AnAmericanMother says:

    On the Anglican side of the table you have a body of men . . . the divisions between whom are just fundamental as, and sometimes a lot more fundamental than, those between any one of them and the Catholic representatives they faced: they all represented only themselves.

    Truer words never spoken. The basic (and indeed fatal) flaw in the Church of England is that it originated as Elizabeth I’s political solution to a political problem. At least three, and perhaps as many as seven, divergent religious faiths were forced into the same political administrative body. They lived, somewhat uneasily, side by side without ever dealing with the profound differences between High and Low and Broad and Evangelical and Charismatic and all the rest.

    So long as a substantial majority of Anglicans agreed about the basic tenets of their theology, no problem (or at least no obvious problem). But as soon as the Anglicans were put under stress by changing political trends in direct conflict with their professed beliefs, the flaw was exposed and the fracture and collapse ensued.

    Politics and religion don’t pull well in harness together, and when politics are the primary motivator, eventually the politics will devour the religion. “Yoked with an unbeliever.”

  2. Steve T. says:

    I think Papa is keeping us in ARCIC to provide some high cover for the Ordinariates. Pulling out would be an act of war in the minds of the Anglican liberals. Now they can comfort themselves with business as usual, and might be a teensy bit more charitably inclined toward church-sharing and the like. They’re wired for keeping up appearances, even as things crumble around them, and Papa isn’t going to wake them up.

  3. Ezra says:

    To answer Dr Oddie’s question, one has to re-visit Pope Benedict’s own words on this subject.

    With respect to the particular case of ARCIC: the Holy Father stated his support for the enterprise, and continuing Catholic-Anglican collaboration, when he was in the UK last September. In his speech to Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace, he said:

    I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the forty years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.

    The context in which dialogue takes place between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church has evolved in dramatic ways since the private meeting between Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher in 1960. On the one hand, the surrounding culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment. On the other hand, the increasingly multicultural dimension of society, particularly marked in this country, brings with it the opportunity to encounter other religions. For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives. Ecumenical cooperation in this task remains essential, and will surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony in a world that so often seems at risk of fragmentation.

    To understand the underlying vision, I think a crucial text – from 2005, the first year of Pope Benedict’s pontificate – is his address to non-Catholic leaders at the Cologne World Youth Day:

    I feel the fact that we consider one another brothers and sisters, that we love one another, that together we are witnesses of Jesus Christ, should not be taken so much for granted. I believe that this brotherhood is in itself a very important fruit of dialogue that we must rejoice in, continue to foster and to practice. Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, Bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism which makes us all members of the one Body of Christ. Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man, and we emphasize that together we are members of his Body. Based on this essential foundation of Baptism, a reality comes from him which is a way of being, then of professing, believing and acting. Based on this crucial foundation, dialogue has borne its fruits and will continue to do so.

    …We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents. This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost; the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world. On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature. To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts, in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches. As a result of this commitment, the journey can move forward, step by step, as the Letter to the Ephesians says, until at last we will all “attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.

  4. pewpew says:

    Why does the old fashioned style of Catholic-Anglican dialogue continue?
    To lure the heretics into the ordinariate, of course!

  5. Sixupman says:

    A meeting of Protestant minds?

  6. Supertradmum says:

    ARCIC and other dialogue efforts are a sign of what this Pope sees as extremely important point; that Reason is part of the discussion of Faith. Faith without Reason becomes fluffy how-do-feel today sort of religion. Reason without Faith becomes enlightenment nonsense and new criticism. As we are the True Religion, these types of discussion, no matter how frustrating or seemingly endless, are part of who we are as Catholics.

  7. anilwang says:

    Why meet? When you’re dealing with honest people, meeting forces distinctions to be made and clears up misconceptions. The “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” statement helped bring more than a few individuals into the Church, even if the Lutheran church did not. Similarly, Anglican discussions brought the TAC into communion and forced more than a few Anglican who think of themselves as Catholics off the fence. These discussions appear to be bring the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics to at least celebrate Easter at the same time. The is value in discussion, but only if you’re dealing with honest mediators. A discussion with a hardnosed anti-Catholic Anabaptist will likely be more fruitful than a sophisticated “can’t we all get along” liberal who will agree to anything in the name of “tolerance”.

  8. Tony Layne says:

    It’s hard to find any hope for future dialogue with the CofE, as the façade of unity has completely crumbled and the various segments seem less and less interested in finding any common ground. Be that as it may, I think it’s still worth keeping an open line with the official church; it may be that we haven’t come to the end of the road so much as to a rest stop, where we can wait for Abp. Williamson & Co. to wake up to reality.

  9. Ezra says:

    Tony: Beware the confusion of Rowan Williams and Richard Williamson!

  10. Aaron B. says:

    I don’t know whether ARCIC is (or ever was) a good idea, or whether it’s been superseded. But there’s also the fact that bureaucratic organizations tend not to die off easily, and that’s probably as true of religious ones as it is of political ones. ARCIC isn’t just an acronym; it’s an organization with a budget, employees, offices, schedules, subcommittees, etc. (If it doesn’t have all those things officially, it borrows them from its sponsors, so there are paychecks at stake somewhere.) Those people aren’t going to look around one day and say, “Hmm, you know, we’re not needed anymore; let’s close up shop.” That order will have to come from above, and it’ll have to have some force and specificity, lest the organization simply morph into a different shape with a different acronym.

  11. Ezra says:

    I think the links in the post have caused it not to show, but I suggested that those wondering why Pope Benedict continues to support ARCIC read his address to Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace (September 2010) and his address to non-Catholic leaders during an ecumenical meeting in Cologne (August 2005). In rejecting the ecumenism of return, Pope Benedict has repeatedly cast dialogue as more than just a matter of setting out one’s intellectual position – much more than that, he argues, it is a process of exchanging gifts and growing in fraternity, with a view to a unity which does not require uniformity in expressions of theology and spirituality. The Cologne address answers Dr Oddie’s question, and is available on the Vatican website.

  12. cwillia1 says:

    Cutting off the dialog sends a message that the Pope does not want to send. Of course it gets harder and harder to take the CofE seriously every year. It still plays an important and positive role in British life. It is too early to consign them to the dustbin of history.

  13. Centristian says:

    “But some are more easily deceived by the outward appearance of good when there is question of fostering unity among all Christians.”

    -Pope Pius XI, “Mortalium Animos”

  14. Ezra says:

    “We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents. This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost; the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world. On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature. To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts, in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches.”

    – Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Ecumenical Meeting in Cologne”

  15. Torkay says:

    Can anybody explain to me why we carry on with ARCIC?

    We carry on with ARCIC, Mr. Oddie, because in the post-Conciliar Church, “dialogue” has replaced mission. The Church, after all, is now supposed to be embarrassed by her “triumphalistic” past – so embarrassed, in fact, that everything is on the table and up for negotiation.

    Glad you asked the question publicly, though. BTW, let’s not forget what “Archbishop” Williams had to say about the Pope’s comments right after the Holy Father left England. Proof enough that “dialogue” is not only a waste of time, but a scandal.

  16. asophist says:

    Ezra – “On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!” – B16
    Thanks for providing this quotation from the Holy Father. It was enlightening to know how he expressed himself at the Cologne Ecumenical Meeting. I found it shocking, in that it sounds like he is rejecting the necessity of rejecting wrong beliefs when entering the Catholic Church. How else does one not-rejecting-”one’s faith history” translate in light of Catholic Truth? Maybe there’s a catch. Also, if “uniformity in all expressions of theology” is not required, how can one be sure that the same theology is being expressed in all these non-uniform expressions of theology? The Church has, hitherto, always been very careful in Her official theological formulations. The pope also speaks of “an exchange of gifts” by which the Church can be enriched. I can’t think of one single, solitary thing from any Protestant religion that would be worthy to bring into the Catholic Church that would be a felicitous addition to our faith, theology, liturgy and praxis. I sincerely hope I am misinterpreting the Holy Father’s remarks, and am missing the mark, here. Can any one provide further enlightenment on this?

  17. I concur, asophist. Seems to me that authentic ecumenism is always ultimately ordered toward a return to the one, holy Catholic Church and naturally that means a rejection of all that is untrue in one’s false religion. Otherwise it is mere folly.

  18. anilwang says:

    asophist, as G. K. Chesteron pointed out, I’m not about to give up eating because it is explicitly stated in Confucianism and not in Catholicism.

    Here are a few points to consider:

    (1) All truth is God’s truth. If Plato had something right that is not made explicit in Catholicism, then why not steal from Plato?

    (2) Iron sharpens iron. I submit that if it were not for the Gnostic, Arians, Nestorians, Donatists, Novationists, etc, there would be little need to define doctrine, making our faith more “gooey”. The Marian dogmas are a prime example. Without Protestants, do you honestly think that the Marian dogmas would have been defined? Without the early heretics you could be a Gnostic or Arian and legitimately claim to be Catholic (yes, I know many post VII Catholics fall into this category, but it’s easy to correct their error if someone actually spends the time to do the correction…which unfortunately doesn’t happen).

    (3) Some truths are a part of the Catholic heritage but have been forgotten or taken for granted as Catholicism became institutionalized. Take for instance Bible reading. Considering that Catholics greatly outnumber all Protestant sects combined, it is a disgrace that Protestant Bible sales greatly outnumber Catholic Bible sales. I’ve yet to find a complete Catholic Audio Bible (except for NAB which I won’t touch with a 10 foot pole), but there are hundreds of Protestant Audio Bibles. The sense of mission and evangelicalism is also stronger in Protestant Churches and especially in LDS. Yes, the “good news” is heretical, and sometimes it treats sacred things flippantly, but when people are starving for truth, even a crumb is better than nothing at all. In Canada at least, there seems to be a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy WRT the faith among Catholics, since “It’s not proper to discuss religion with anyone you don’t know personally”. Protestants and LSD are a lot less shy about “breaking the taboo”.

  19. Martial Artist says:

    As a relatively recent convert who spent almost four full decades of my adult life in the Episcopal Church, I think his conclusion is virtually self-evident. It was only when I came to realize that my finite human mind is incapable of encompassing the mind of God, that I recognized the principal error of my Protestant upbringing (in the LCMS), namely, that Blessed John Henry Newman was positively spot on when he wrote in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine the following:

    The most obvious answer, then, to the question, why we yield to the authority of the Church in the questions and developments of faith, is, that some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she. A revelation is not given if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. . . . If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder. Else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties, between latitudinarian and sectarian error. You may be tolerant or intolerant of contrarieties of thought, but contrarieties you will have. By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects of England an interminable division. Germany and Geneva began with persecution and have ended in scepticism. The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter, of Revelation.

    Nevertheless, I hesitate to speculate on, let alone question the judgment of, the Holy Father in continuing the dialog, and I think that Supertradmum and other commenters who agree with her may well be very close to the correct answer. Benedict, I think correctly identified by our host on this blog as “the Pope of Christian unity,” seems to take the long view of how we as Catholics should approach non-Catholics. Our first task is not necessarily to convert, but it is most certainly to plant the seed and cultivate it as conditions allow. Bringing the crop to fruition and the harvest belongs to the Lord of the harvest.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  20. robtbrown says:

    asophist says:
    Ezra – “On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!” – B16

    Thanks for providing this quotation from the Holy Father. It was enlightening to know how he expressed himself at the Cologne Ecumenical Meeting. I found it shocking, in that it sounds like he is rejecting the necessity of rejecting wrong beliefs when entering the Catholic Church. How else does one not-rejecting-”one’s faith history” translate in light of Catholic Truth?

    I think it translates into the new Ordinariate of ex Anglicans.

  21. albizzi says:

    Louie Verrecchio,
    Yes “modern” (post VATII) ecumenism is a dead end.
    And even before the council, St Maximilan Kolbe quoted it as “the ennemy of the Immaculata”.
    Looks as if JPII never read St Maximilian Kolbe before making him a saint!
    In fact the only purpose of ecumenism is evangelizing and converting people the one and true Faith.
    Otherwise it is blah-blah, delusion and waste of time.

  22. anilwang says:

    robtbrown, good observation, though I think it might be a tweaking of the existing Ordinariate more than anything else. Ultimately, the Ordinariate is just the next evolution of the Anglican Use rite. Any clergy who previously resisted converted because the Anglican Use rite was built on sand (i.e. as soon as the former Anglican left or a new anti-Anglican Bishop appeared, Anglican Use was gone from a parish). The Ordinariate gives Anglican Use a firm foundation and provides former Anglicans with a community structure of their own making. Does the existing Ordinariate still need tweaking (e.g. to pull in the remaining Anglicans who consider themselves to be Catholic)? That’s worth discovering.

    But the quote is broader than this. For instance, Baptists reject all tradition and are quite far from Catholicism. Nonetheless, they do tend to be strongly pro-life and share in many things Catholics affirm (far more so in some ways than Anglicans). Could a “Baptist Ordinariate” exist for Baptists who read the Church Fathers and wish to repent of their ignorance, but can’t give up 5hr long sermons that call people to be Salt and Light? I don’t see why not. If it could not take place in the mass (so as not to de-emphasize the value of the Eucharist), it could take place immediately after the Mass perhaps in the Church basement where even lay people who have been approved by the Bishop could preach.

  23. Random Friar says:

    If nothing else, at some point all Confessions will have to, as one of our Founding Fathers said, “hang together, or hang separately.” It seems Moscow is seeing the writing on the wall as keenly as the Holy Father. There is to be some unpleasantness soon if Europe and the “First World” continues on its current trajectory.

  24. abiologistforlife says:

    >>How else does one not-rejecting-”one’s faith history” translate in light of Catholic Truth?

    Because cultural differences are not doctrinal differences. The Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship is basically the Book of Common Prayer with the theology corrected. Protestants, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox can write good hymns and prayers too.

    >>Also, if “uniformity in all expressions of theology” is not required, how can one be sure that the >>same theology is being expressed in all these non-uniform expressions of theology?

    I’m not sure what the Pope is getting at here either… possibly how the Eastern Orthodox often believe essentially the same things as Catholics under different names (in the Marian dogmas etc)?

  25. Mitchell NY says:

    When people attack the Catholic Church about the cost of vestmetns, furnishings, etc., this subject should be brought up as a true example of a waste of money. This dialogue serves no one really and I bet it costs a small fortune for hotels, conference centers ,airline tickets, travel expenses or whatever is involved in this ongoing theatrical “agree to disagree” public display. My 2 cents. or 4.

  26. William Tighe says:

    William Oddie’s article recalls to my mind the article that Cardinal Newman’s biographer, Fr. Ian Ker, published in *The Catholic Herald* issue of 21 May 1999. I cannot now find the whole article online, but I did find this excerpt:

    ‘This is a Church which recently signed with its left hand the Porvoo Agreement accepting intercommunion with Lutheran Churches which do not claim to have retained the Apostolic succession, without which, on any Catholic understanding, there can be no valid orders and therefore no valid sacraments apart from baptism. With its right hand, the same Church’s representatives on the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission (ARCIC) have now signed an agreed statement on the “gift of authority”, which has been hailed as a bombshell. I strongly suspect it is nothing of the sort.

    The commission has already produced two agreed statements on authority, but that did not stop its co-chairman, Bishop Mark Santer, from supporting the ordination of women at the 1992 General Synod in spite of the very serious warnings from the Roman Catholic Church about the ecumenical implications. The same bishop who caused a stir not long ago by marrying the divorced wife of one of his clergy has now signed a statement which recognises “the primacy of the Bishop of Rome” as a “gift to be received by all the churches.” This primacy is not seen as merely honorific: no, the agreed statement has taken on board not just “indefectibility” but the dreaded Roman Catholic concept of “infallibility,” by means of which the Pope can fulfil his “duty to discern and make explicit… in certain circumstances” the “faith” of the Church.

    But what would the Bishop of Birmingham say if “the universal primate” told him that he could not receive Communion because he was married to a divorcee? Would Bishop Harries of Oxford “receive” a papal condemnation of his speech in the House of Lords justifying “therapeutic cloning,” or would Archbishop Habgood have been ready to say amen to a papal condemnation of his advocacy of destructive experiments on human embryos?

    […] Anglicanism is very English in its pragmatism, its dislike of logic, its suspicion of absolute truths, its endless capacity for compromise … The Anglican Communion knows which envoys to send to Porvoo and which to Palazzola, the delightful Alban town where this statement received its final shape. My impression is that ARCIC is good at choosing sunny spots where the wine flows. No doubt there will be many more convivial ARCIC meetings.

    Meanwhile those of us who know that the vast majority of Anglicans don’t know the Hail Mary, think that the Holy Souls must be the old dears in the parish, have never been to confession in their lives, will regretfully conclude that, impeccable as the Scriptural theology underlying this statement is, the fact is it is totally unreal.’

  27. Pete says:

    There is that phase again “Pope of Christian Unity”. The phase that nobody dare define.

  28. muckemdanno says:

    Ezra has answered the $64 question. “Why does the old fashioned style of Catholic-Anglican dialogue continue?”

    ‘this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline.’ …The words of Benedict XVI himself.

    There is no goal of conversion of any non-Catholics. It is a corporate merger, as if Coke were merging with Pepsi. It’s easier and cheaper for the Coca-Cola corporation to buy Pepsi than it is to convince Pepsi drinkers to drink Coke.

    Here are 4 propositions condemned by Blessed Pius IX…how do these reconcile with the sentiments expressed above by Benedict XVI?

    15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.

    16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.

    17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.

    18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.

  29. abiologistforlife says:

    @muckemdanno: “There is no goal of conversion of any non-Catholics.”
    I disagree. The Ordinariate seems a bigger step forward for Anglicanism –> Catholicism than we’ve had in … probably centuries… so if BXVI wants to keep the dialogue going, I’m not ready to second-guess him. And this statement here seems to be very close to the idea of the Anglican Use/Ordinariate… preserving liturgical and cultural elements while attaining unity in Faith, Sacraments and Government.

    “how do these reconcile with the sentiments expressed above by Benedict XVI?”

    I honestly do not see the contradiction.

    #15 is not really on the same issue. (What does it mean, anyway? ‘Free’ in the sense of ‘there’s no moral weight in choosing any religion your reason leads you to’ or ‘free’ in the sense of ‘legal right to religious freedom’?) No contradiction with preserving liturgical, cultural etc. elements of Anglican, Orthodox, whatever Christianity that are reuniting.

    #16 … this is pretty vague. ‘All religions are not equally good for salvation’? ‘All salvation is from Christ?’ True statement, but what is its contradiction with preserving liturgical, cultural etc. elements?

    #17… One can make a good case that ‘those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ’
    (my emphasis) does not refer to Anglicans, as ‘those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.’ (CCC 838, Unitatis Redintegratio 3). ‘A certain, although imperfect, communion’ would seem to be a very different thing from ‘not at all’. In any case, it doesn’t rule out preserving liturgical/cultural elements.

    #18… Protestantism is not equally true/holy as Catholicism. OK, when did BXVI say it was? And what does this have to do with the actual topic of the quote?

  30. MargaretC says:

    Gentlemen, gentlemen…You are all taking this much too seriously. The members of ARCIC have obviously formed friendships over the years. It must be extremely pleasant to talk theology over lengthy lunches with lots of wine.

    Of course, given the state of the world economy, I’m sure their respective bosses could find other uses for the money this requires. But it may be useful to the Universal Church to have this bunch cordoned off in nice restaurants writing documents that nobody reads.

    It’s as harmless a thing as they can do.

  31. annieoakley says:

    “The first meeting of the new phase of the commission will take place at the Monastery of Bose in northern Italy.”

    Sorry to be cynical, but I suspect what drives a lot of these “conferences” is the free junket to pleasant locales.

  32. Centristian says:

    “The pope also speaks of ‘an exchange of gifts’ by which the Church can be enriched. I can’t think of one single, solitary thing from any Protestant religion that would be worthy to bring into the Catholic Church that would be a felicitous addition to our faith, theology, liturgy and praxis.”

    Alas, the sad state of affairs today is that when one compares the ordinary liturgy of the Church of England with the ordinary liturgy of the contemporary Roman Catholic Church, I find myself the first to acknowledge that, at least in terms of liturgy, an “exchange of gifts” would greatly benefit the Catholic Church. I’d hate to be the Anglicans that get stuck with the gift of our contemporary brand of liturgy in return, however.

    The awful truth of it, however, is that the splendid liturgical heritage of this particular branch of Protestantism is so splendid precisely because it is OUR heritage; a heritage that they have held on to and that we have, by and large, discarded. So even that is not Anglicanism’s gift to give to us, but our own possession to reclaim.

    “I sincerely hope I am misinterpreting the Holy Father’s remarks, and am missing the mark, here. Can any one provide further enlightenment on this?”

    Alas, I think it has to simply be acknowledged that there was a time when the popes were straight shooters, felt no need to be polite to error, and just came out and said things like they were, without apology. That doesn’t appear to be the case any longer. Much as I love our Holy Father (and I truly do), I have to acknowledge that he can dance like Baryshnikov around the logical conclusion of a question. He won’t come out and just acknowledge it. It’s always, “on the one hand, this; on the other hand, that.”

    When I read “Mortalium Animos” I get the sense that Pius XI is holding a shotgun, pointing it at false ecumenism, firing at it double barrel, watching it drop dead, and walking away with a smile on his face. I’m afraid I don’t get that sense when I read the words of Benedict XVI on the subject. I get, instead, the sense that he’s forever dancing a carefully choreographed minuet with both orthodox Catholics and heretics, trying so hard not to step on the feet of either that he ends up stepping on the feet of both. That’s a talent he learned from observing Paul VI, I suspect.

    The quote that concerns you is typical of that strange dance that modern popes do. Why do they tip toe where their predecessors one marched? Why do they make murky what their predecessors once made crystal clear?

    It does make one wonder.

  33. asophist says:

    ‘…this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline.”

    Giving this a little further thought, perhaps when the pope denies that his ecumenism is not the “ecumenism of the return,” that it really IS the ecumenism of the return, but with a spin given in the rest of the statement. Hmmmm….