Why Do We Continue Talking to the Anglicans…

... after they have so wilfully made unity impossible?

To behave as though women priests and gay bishops make no difference to our relations is to do violence to the truth.

Writes William Oddie in the Catholic Herald. In typical fashion, he hits hard:

Hot on the heels of my disobliging remarks last about Archbishop Justin Welby’s Uriah Heep-like cringing to the government even as he told them in the Lords how disastrous their gay marriage legislation was going to be, comes the announcement that this Friday, Archbishop Welby is to meet the Pope.

The real question is why? Why are we still going through the ecumenical motions with the Anglicans, for all the world as though they had (or had some possibility of gaining) the same kind of ecclesial reality as the Orthodox?  Why does the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) still meet, as though Anglican ordinations to their episcopate of openly gay men living with their partners, and also of women to their priesthood and episcopate, despite the warnings of successive popes of the fact that these steps would erect insuperable barriers to unity with the Catholic Church, why do we still carry on with the farce of behaving as though these insuperable barriers just did not exist at all?

In a press release yesterday, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, without the slightest apparent ironical intention, stated that “This brief visit is of particular interest since it is the first meeting of the Archbishop and the Pope since their inaugurations, which took place at about the same time, just over two months ago.” So? Why is that of particular interest? Why is it of any interest at all? Well: “This visit”, they go on “is an opportunity for the Archbishop and Pope Francis to review the present state of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.”  But what does that mean? Will they talk about the fact that since the ordination of women to the Anglican version of the priesthood, the possibility of reunion between the two churches has been made an impossibility for all time?”.

No: they will not; they will talk of other things. They will talk of nice things, not awkward things like the state of internal schism within Anglicanism which makes any talk of unity between Catholics and Anglicans so utterly futile in any case (because you have to ask WHICH Anglicans). So, “they will talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax /Of cabbages and kings /And why the sea is boiling hot /And whether pigs have wings.”

“In particular”, says the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity “the interest shown by Archbishop Welby in global justice and the ethical regulation of financial markets so that they do not oppress men and women, is echoed in the constant teaching of the Holy Father. Ever since his experience as an executive in an oil company, Archbishop Welby has placed great emphasis on reconciliation, and has continued to press for the resolution of conflicts within the Church and society.” Nice, eh?  “This also evokes Pope Francis’ own call to build bridges between people of every nation, so that they may be seen not as rivals and threats, but as brothers and sisters.”

We are also told that Archbishop Welby has collaborated closely with the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to safeguard (however ineffectively) marriage and other Christian values in society, and that “it is a sign of their close relations that Archbishop Nichols will accompany the Archbishop of Canterbury on this visit.” Oh, he will, will he? Why does that not surprise me?

Following his meeting with the Pope, Archbishop Welby will call upon Cardinal Koch at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to renew the acquaintance made at the time of the Archbishop’s inauguration at Canterbury, “and to learn about the workings of the Pontifical Council.” I wonder if Cardinal Koch will remind Archbishop Welby of what his predecessor Cardinal Kasper said about the ordination of women to the Anglican episcopate (which Archbishop Welby supports), that it “signified a breaking away from apostolic tradition and a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England”? Will he recall Cardinal Kasper’s description of the legislation involved in the erection of this additional insuperable obstacle as the “unspoken institutionalism” of an “existing schism”? Perhaps not.

One has to ask, not only what the point of such visits really is, but whether there is any understanding of what damage is being done by the continued maintenance of the fantasy of Anglicanism as an ecclesial reality with which the Catholic church needs to do business? in 2003, Pope John Paul II officially suspended the operation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, after the consecration of Gene Robinson, a homosexual man in a non-celibate relationship, as a bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States. It was a moment in which reality asserted itself. What is unclear is WHY that assertion of reality was itself suspended? Why did ARCIC then recommence operations as though nothing had happened, despite the fact that throughout the Anglican communion,  openly gay bishops are now seen as quite normal and there are thousands of women-priests, several of whom are even commissioners in the new ARCIC?

But recommence operations they did. Now, we have entered into a new phase, which we might call the “despite everything that has happened” phase: this is to be known as ARCIC III.   Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham is its Catholic co-chairman. To be fair, he seems to some extent aware of the impossibility of his task. ARCIC, he says,  “must face the obstacles that make that journey [towards full visible unity] much more difficult.” The next phase of ARCIC, he says, “will recognise the impact of the actions of some Anglican Provinces which have raised the issue of the nature of communion within the Church,”. So far, so realistic. But he then says that ARCIC III “can make a contribution to resolving some of the issues that seem so intractable at present.”

But it can’t do that, in the nature of things, can it? All those women-priests aren’t just going to go away, are they? The Anglicans carry on with ARCIC because they think that one day, we’ll just change our minds.  Just as they led the way with a vernacular liturgy, so they’re leading the way now, that’s what they think. After all, Archbishop Welby’s companion in Rome, or one of them, will be Archbishop Nichols, who is in favour of civil partnerships: so if this very senior archbishop (with others) isn’t toeing the Roman line, if Cardinal Danneels is even in favour of gay marriage why not gay bishops one day?

The fact is that these men do not represent the way things will ever go in the Church. There have always been disobedient bishops.  But we know, Archbishop Longley knows, that on these issues the Universal Church will not change, will never change, its teaching or its practice. He ought now to face the fact that to say that ARCIC III “can make a contribution to resolving some of the issues that seem so intractable at present is to perpetuate a kind of ecclesiastical fantasy island in which one day all things will be possible. It is to do damage to our grasp of the truth. And truth is what we do, as Catholics. The absolute primacy of the truth above all things is what we are committed to before all else. To weaken our understanding of THAT is to weaken faith and to undermine the faithful. The continued existence of ARCIC undermines the faithful: it is thus deeply unpastoral. It is cruel; it is uncaring. That is the reality that has to be grasped.



11 thoughts on “Why Do We Continue Talking to the Anglicans…

  1. William Oddie, the Pope and the Justin Welby have one vital and indestructible common link that will join them for ever. It is not that they are Catholics, they are not, of course. It is that they are all neo-Modernists who would not in good conscience be able to take the Anti-Modernist Oath. If it was ever a touchstone of Catholic Orthodoxy, it was never more so than today.

  2. John. For those of us ignorant souls who are reading this, what are you saying because I do not comprehend!

    1. Joseph is right. My contention is that it matters very little who talks to whom if the terms of reference are not clear – in other words and in this case I believe that Pope Francis, Justin Welby and William Oddie are bedfellows in heterodoxy and even heresy, if you will. We must try to maintain a distinction between formal heresy and material heresy since the culpability that attaches to heresy becomes definite and clear when the heterodox belief and doctrine is pointed out and explained – you or I can make a materially heretical statement without being aware of so doing and although an heretical statement is a heretical statement one does not formally become a heretic until true doctrine has been made clear to one and that notwithstanding one persists in one’s error. Doctrine,Theology and Philosophy are not touchy-feely subjects. They do not properly admit of ‘feelings’.

      Dr William Oddie is a neo-Modernist, a member of the ‘new’ generation of Modernists who have repackaged the heresy of people like Teihard de Chardin and George Tyrrel, both turncoat Jesuits who betrayed both Christ and Church. Dr Oddie believes he is a Catholic and refuses to accept the mutual exclusivity of his clear, liberal neo-Modernism and Catholicism. To the minds of many serious readers, he remains a Protestant and this notwithstanding his ‘conversion’, the sincerity of which ought not be doubted but the effects of which have been notable in their absence, howsoever much he may rejoice in some pretended expertise in Catholic affairs, a subject of which he has no real understanding. This is not his fault – his conversion though sincere was evidently inadequate. The lady at the back of the Church who mutters her beads is a far greater expert.

      The Pope mutters his beads, too, of course. There is thus hope for him and for us. Lex orandi Lex credendi. Let us see how Catholic he is in his acts and teachings. Attention, though, is essential. Words mean something real, as every Modernist at Vatican II taught us, to our terrible cost and to the loss of too many souls. As for Justin Welby, well he is no pretend Catholic, is he? It is additionally the case that none can accuse him of the sort of apostasy from the Christian Faith and religion of which too many pretend ‘Catholic’ clergy and ‘Religious’ have scandalously demonstrated to Christ’s children. Woe to the false shepherds who have abandoned their sheep. My money is on Justin Welby reaching the Beatific Vision well in advance of either Pope Francis and much, much sooner than the execrable ‘experts’ of the Catholic Herald

  3. Joseph,
    The Oath against Modernism was promulgated by Pope Pious X in 1910 and it was required to be taken by all all Catholic ‘clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.’ The requirement was rescinded in 1967 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    You’ll find a copy of the oath posted here:

  4. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ Ps133:1

    A very wise bishop once told me when I was away from my familiar church surroundings, that I would need to embrace my situation of ‘spiritual isolation’ and quietly use it as an opportunity to listen to what God is saying and to use whatever ministry and witness came out of that as a chance to minister to others. “Be faithful where you are” he said.At that time I was living and working in SE Asia and quite far form my “traditional” Anglican routes. I was working in Southern Thailand where Islam was growing and where Buddhism was the dominant religion.There was no Anglican presence there other than at Christ Church Bangkok under the diocese of Singapore and at that time served by clergy who were from the Diocese of Sydney. I therefore had to worship in churches of different denominations and dare I say different Theological roots. (I was even told by one clergyman that I could not assist as a deacon in the parish because he said “Your theology in inappropriate for this church!”) Nevertheless I kept coming faithfully to Communion week by week and I was eventually allowed to read the lessons and to administer the chalice.This opened my eyes to a wider church where I was fortunate to have the ministrations and access to the sacraments from clergy who were Presbyterian, “Free Church” Christians , Armenians, Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals and , believe it or not, Roman Catholics, all of whom accepted me in my circumstances and who welcomed me as a fellow Christian.I was welcomed and permitted to receive Holy Communion when I explained my circumstances, being far away from my Anglican roots in South Africa and with little if any access to the sacraments. This was the case when I was in Thailand and Burma. It was the Episcopal church in the Philippines which “When I was a stranger, took me in” and ordained me as a priest.
    Here in Canada, where I am working in rural ministry, the state and the Church are very separate institutions and religion of any sort is not allowed in public schools or events. With an aging population as a Church, we now have to look at ways in which we can minister “outside ” of our comfort zone. This does not mean that we accommodate our doctrine to boost numbers or to be at one with the ways ofthe World; it just means that we have to work more closely together and to work ‘outside’ of our traditional four walls.
    In our part of Saskatchewan we work together as Christians, sharing ministry, whether we are Lutheran , Presbyterian, Baptist, United Church, or free Evangelicals; what matters most is the spreading Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is so desperately needed in these uncertain times.This is spurred on by dedicated and committed Lay people who are faithful in their ministry andwork together wherever possible.
    It is therefore fitting and proper that the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury DO talk to each other.
    I believe that we need to remind ourselves that the Church is GOD’s church, not Man’s.
    “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
    (Matt 16:18)
    Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus recently said, “It is our task to go out and share the Good News, to strengthen the faith of those already baptized, to reach out to those who have drifted away and to bring into the fold those who have no faith. A church which ignores this mission imperative and satisfies itself with maintenance commits itself to decline.”
    It is quite possible that, in the not too distant future, that we as the Church ‘Universal’ will have to talk to each other for the sake of the Gospel, and we shall be compelled to become innovative in bringing the Gospel of Jesus to people outside of the church if we as the whole church do not wish relegate ourselves into a position where matters of Faith have no relevance in the lives of ordinary people and where the church’s mission is not taken seriously. Remember the words of Jesus: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt 24:35.) Our Bishop here has encouraged us to listen to the words of God as spoken by the prophet Joshua: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous;
    do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos.1:9)
    It may seem that talks between ++Justin Cantaur and Pope Francis may be a waste of time to some, but I do believe that we are going to witness many changes in church relations during this Papacy.We shall have to be patient and see where The Holy Spirit leads us in this regard.However, should we choose not to talk to each other, either at a local level or in the Corridors of Ecclesiastical power, I believe we do so we do so at our peril.

    1. Not a word about the absurdity of WO, not a word about the blasphemy of homosexual pseudogamy. What wonderful things “taking the ostrich position” can achieve in the field of ecumenical rhetoric!

      1. The ordination of Women is a reality and I am not sure whether that will change, even for those of us who have chosen to live with this reality. As for the homosexual pseudogamy of which you speak, those who bless these unions will have to face God “on the dreadful day of Judgement, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed” and answer for what they have done.In terms of “taking the ostrich position” perhaps it is high time that the Roman catholic church took its head out of the sand and take a hard look at itself as to the horrific cases of centuries of abuse of children and vulnerable , defenceless adults by so called men of God where Bishops, archbishops and cardinals in the sacred conclave have chosen to ignore their abhorent sexual misconduct.They too will face Judgement and answer to God. The time for sarcasm is over. The whole church must now stand up and speak out for what the true Gospel of Jesus really means! This is not ‘eccumenical rhetoric’! It is a matter of Life and Death; Literally!

  5. Anglicanism…. worldwide…9,000 women priests, 38 women bishops including one active lesbian.
    Gay blessings in the US and Canada.

    Acceptance of contraception and divorce. Ambiguious to abortion and invitro fertilisation and euthanasia.This is not to discuss the Reformation loving evangelicals, of whom Welby is one…denying the real presence, the eucharistic sacrifice and 5 of the seven sacraments.

    With a communion like this, who needs satan?

    1. True; and how can one hold meaningful conversations with a body that is effectively becoming the “Church of Chaos” (as well as of the Zeitgeist)?

    2. RIW, The magisterial Reformers, including Wittengberg, Zurich, Geneva, and Canterbury–did not deny “the real presence”. Rejecting “transubstantiation” and “eucharistic sacrifice” (esp. for the dead!) hardly constitutes a denial of Christ’s presence.

      Luther was clear that “This is my body.”

      Slightly different is the Reformed tradition, but even here “it is clear that by spiritual food we do not mean some imaginary food I know not what, but the very body of the Lord given to us, which nevertheless is received by the faithful not corporeally, but spriritually by faith. … And this eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the Lord is so necessary for salvation that without it no man can be saved.” (Bullinger’s 2nd Helvetic Confession, Chpt XXI)

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