Statement from the Executive of Catholic League, December 2009
‘It is accomplished’: our Founding Principle
he Catholic League welcomes Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution for ecclesial bodies of Anglicans desiring the fullest expression of Catholic faith and Church life, through the recovery of eucharistic communion with the See of Peter.
When the League was founded in 1913, it was only 17 years after Apostolicae Curae, which seemed to put a stop to decades of hopes for Anglican-Catholic reconciliation. But the founders saw the worth of Pope Leo XIII’s call for persevering in prayer towards a solution – and put it into practice. 1913 was also only three years after the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which saw the first grouping of the main Protestant, Reformed and Anglican Churches to plan mission in common for the new century – and put an end to rivalry and the scandal of separation. Laudable as this was, the League’s founders wanted to remind Church leaders that, however difficult the challenge, true unity and a faithful proclamation of the Gospel require the reconciliation of the whole Church, not just amenable parts of it. No unity can be worthy of the name unless it involves the integrity of the one Church that Jesus founded. Indeed, this is an article of the Nicene Creed that all confess alike. It still means there can be no true ecumenism, especially in the English setting out of which the League was formed, that excludes concrete steps towards visible unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
Anglicanorum Coetibus provides the Holy See’s considered answer to this century of prayer and witness. It is not the entire reconciliation of the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church that was in people’s minds; but, now that the course of Anglicanism is definitively to take a different direction, it provides the means for Anglican Catholics to know full communion in the faith they profess. The “promotion of fellowship among Catholics” is one of the four objects of the League, no less than our “promotion of the unity of all Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome”. The Apostolic Constitution strengthens the communion of Catholic believers within the Universal Church of Christ and brings forward – and does not delay – the work of the Catholic Church towards unity among all Christians.
Thus, because the Catholic impulse towards wholeness is intrinsic to its nature, at the same time as the Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church renews its commitment to Anglican-Roman Catholic unity. The third Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission for theological dialogue (ARCIC III) has been announced and it is no accident that it will begin with the relationship between the Church at the Universal level (and the issue of the Pope’s authority) and the level of local dioceses and provinces (including the provincial autonomy that can strain the Anglican Communion’s unity). As Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has remarked, now that Anglicanism has resolved its historic Catholic-Protestant tension in favour of the tradition of the Reformation, the dialogue can begin in earnest. This vital dialogue, invigorated by a moment of truth, the Catholic League is also delighted to welcome.
From the outset, the League’s hope was for a mutual convergence of the Anglican tradition within Western Christianity and the Catholic Church out of which it grew – “corporate reunion”. This is exactly the term in which, nearly 100 years on, the prayer has been answered by Pope Benedict XVI. It provides for a genuine “re-integration in unity” (Unitatis Redintegratio, the title of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism) of Anglican corporate ecclesial life with that of the Universal Church.
Something similar had been imagined at the Malines Conversations in Dom Lambert Beauduin’s thought-provoking paper, The Anglican Church, united not absorbed. It caught the imagination of Catholics and Anglicans for unity and there have been various attempts to realise corporate reunion since. Most recently, in the 1980s and 1990s, officers of the Catholic League joined others in approaching Cardinal Hume to propose a structure that would enable Anglican clergy and laity to enter into full communion together, while retaining distinctive liturgical, spiritual, pastoral and theological identity as part of the rich diversity proper to the Universal Church. It was known as ‘The Congregation of the English Mission’. A starting point was the provision in the Code of Canon Law for ‘personal prelatures’, the sole examplar for which remains Opus Dei.
The model was examined in detail, but it was deemed not right for the times, nor for the Catholic Church’s pastoral purposes in England. For one thing, a personal prelature is for clerics – lay people attached to it would belong to their local diocese. Thus it could not be the corporate reunion people were aspiring to – a “church in the proper sense”, with bishop, clergy and faithful together. For another thing, the Catholic bishops wanted people coming into the Catholic Church not to live separately, but to be fully and visibly integrated. So the scheme did not go further. But it was evidently not forgotten. Cardinal Hume recognised that true reconciliation between Christians requires mutual reception of each other’s gifts, and humility that no one side has all the answers. It is this spirit that marks the recognition of the ‘objective reality’ of the Anglican patrimony that the Catholic Church now wishes to embrace, along with those Anglican bishops, priests and people who, in return, wish to embrace the universality of Catholic communion.
The recent work of the League
Since the old proposal for the Congregation, the League, rather than focusing on controversies within Anglicanism, has striven to work positively. Thus the League is ecumenical. It is not confessional, representing one denomination or another. Its work is entirely to serve the unity of all Christians in the One Universal Church of Christ with the successor of St Peter. So we have concentrated on ‘spiritual ecumenism’, the concept made popular by Father Paul Couturier, especially through the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to which he had given new life in 1933 and which kept its centenary in 2008.
We have focussed, too, on that “new memory” desired by Pope John Paul II for reconciling the separate martyr traditions in English history that continue to influence the direction of ecumenism. We have continued our annual ecumenical pilgrimage to the Beguinage at Bruges, which we now feel has borne fruit more abundantly than we can possibly have imagined. Our members also maintained a strong emphasis on pilgrimage and the intercession of the Mother of God, especially at Walsingham, Fatima and Lourdes.
And we have supported the encouraging new work at the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University on “receptive ecumenism”, which takes spiritual ecumenism to a new level. It enables each Church to discern what gifts the Lord has entrusted to other traditions and which it lacks, could learn from and embrace, without losing integrity, as new enrichments. Evidently, Pope Benedict has decided that it is time for the gifts of the Anglican tradition to be embraced within the Catholic Church so that they may belong to her as treasures of her own.
Anglican Churches of the Latin Rite
To this end, a Pastoral Provision has long been available in the United States for Catholics worshipping in the Anglican tradition. But it applied mainly to North American usages. Now Anglicanorum Coetibus applies lessons learned there to the entire Catholic Church. Furthermore, while the US parishes of Anglican tradition are within the jurisdiction of an Episcopal Delegate (an existing Latin Catholic diocesan bishop), the new Ordinariates will be led by their own former Anglican bishop (who in accordance with Catholic and Orthodox tradition will be unmarried) or a former Anglican priest. Being effectively dioceses (unlike in the proposal for a personal prelature), they will be “particular churches” composed of bishops, clergy and lay faithful, each with their rightful place. They will have their own distinctive Church life, yet in close collaboration and visible communion with the local Roman Catholic episcopate too.
The rite, following the experience in North America, will be a variant of the Latin Roman Rite, from which all Anglican liturgy is derived. Moreover, as the Ordinariates will form an integral part of the Latin Church, the use of adapted Anglican formularies will not be in prejudice of the Roman Rite itself, which members of the Ordinariates will be entitled to use in its Ordinary and Extraordinary forms.
Anglican Uniates or Ecumenical Catholics?
So the Ordinariates will not be “ritual Churches”. This term refers to the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Holy See, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Maronites of Lebanon, or the Syro-Malankara Church in India. These are self-ruling Churches of ancient origin, with rites very different from the Roman tradition, but in full communion with Rome. The Anglican Ordinariates, however, will be integral to the Latin Church and will not be a distinctive self-governing Church. So Anglicanorum Coetibus is not a version of the repudiated strategy of Uniatism, which did such harm in the past to the Church’s long term work of ecumenism.
History and the Holy See judged it to be a counterproductive form of proselytism – poaching other Christians from their own Churches. The Apostolic Constitution makes it clear that the Catholic Church’s ongoing ecumenical activity is to be sustained and there is no intention – nor evidence of intending – to divide the Anglican Communion, especially when it faces enormous difficulties. The aim remains the visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ.
So Anglicanorum Coetibus has been granted in a fundamentally ecumenical manner. There has been discussion over years with the Anglican authorities about the shape of Catholic-Anglican relations in the event of a new situation caused by the ordination of women to the episcopate. The prospect of this completely alters the course of ecumenism, but not its urgency. For one thing, the Apostolic Constitution stresses that the provisions are set within the single communion where Anglicans and Catholics are inseparably united in baptism. Secondly, it avoids referring to the situation within Anglicanism, out of friendship and respect. Third, it is a response to those who requested Catholic communion, not an initiative to take people away from Anglicanism and undermine it. As Cardinal Hume said in 1993, the interests of the Catholic Church in this country are not served by harming the Church of England. In the face of a secularised society and the urgency of common witness to Christ, we need each other.
Anglicanorum Coetibus does nothing to draw energy away from the theological dialogue of ARCIC. Neither does it detract from the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), essential to future collaboration. Nor is there to be a diminution of the committed efforts of the Catholic Church towards visible unity with the Anglican Communion, because this is the will of Christ and it must therefore happen. Indeed, as Cardinal Kasper has repeatedly stated, the two churches are closer now than at any time since the 16th century. The high level of official Catholic representation at the 2008 Lambeth Conference indicates how strongly both churches continue to be oriented towards full communion.
So the wider ecumenism remains unaffected, and this must be seen as a prime pastoral and evangelistic cause among all Catholic and Anglican Christians, not least in England. Furthermore, those Anglicans who are to come into full Catholic communion must consciously dedicate themselves to the Church’s efforts for Christian Unity, as set out in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and Pope John Paul II’s luminous encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint.
Anglicanism and the Catholic Church reconcilable?
But something has clearly changed. To the Catholic, ecumenism is integral to the consciousness that the Catholic Church is the body in which the Universal Church of Christ perfectly ‘subsists’. There is a sort of restlessness in Catholicism as long as other Christians are separate from it. But expecting people to return, or trying to proselytise them, has long been seen to be counterproductive. Besides, as Pope Benedict acknowledges in Anglicanorum Coetibus, that would not take account of the ‘objective reality’ of the life of the Spirit in all kinds of Christians living for centuries in distinctive traditions of worship and spirituality, sacramental and pastoral life, history and culture. None of these characteristic identities should justify continued separation: each is a gift to enrich the wider Church in the event of reconciliation. But is that impulse for unity the same with Anglicanism?
In principle, the will and hope for unity remain. But Anglicanism has decided that the importance of ordaining women to the priesthood and the episcopate has a higher priority than Christian unity, both internally within Anglicanism and externally with the Apostolic Churches. Yet the Catholic Church’s position has been set forward from the beginning of the dialogue, as in the exchanges between successive Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury. In his Apostolic Letter of May 22 1994, Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II referred to the letter of Paul VI to Archbishop Coggan from November 30, 1975 and affirmed that “Priestly ordination… in the Catholic Church from the beginning has always been reserved to men alone’ and that ‘this tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Eastern Churches.” He concluded: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women…”
In June 2006, Archbishop Rowan Williams asked Cardinal Kasper to address the bishops of the Church of England, prior to their decision on whether to admit women to the Church’s episcopate, so that they would be fully informed of the consequences for corporate reunion. As the bishop fulfils the purpose of achieving the Church’s unity, Cardinal Kasper observed,
… It would be desirable that this decision be made with the consensus of the ancient churches of the East and West. If … the consecration of a bishop becomes
the cause of a schism or blocks the way to full unity, then what occurs is something intrinsically contradictory. It should then not take place …
Such a decision … would, in our view, further call into question what was recognised by the Second Vatican Council (Unitatis Redintegratio, 13), that the Anglican Communion occupied ‘a special place’ among churches and ecclesial communities of the West… It would indeed continue to have bishops, according to the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but, as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and
West would recognise therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.
Again, in 2008, Cardinal Kasper addressed the Lambeth Conference, stressing how a crossroads in Anglican-Catholic relations had been reached, with a clear choice for
Anglican partners on which way to turn – towards or away from reconciliation and recognition:
… for us this decision … implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century.
The 1966 Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey called for a dialogue that would “lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed”, and spoke of “a restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life”. It now seems that full visible communion as the aim of our dialogue has receded further, and that our dialogue will have less ultimate goals and therefore will be altered in its character. While such a dialogue could still lead to good results, it would not be sustained by the dynamism which arises from the realistic possibility of the unity Christ asks of us…
Settling for less, or a pledge of full unity?
While the prayer for corporate reunion has been responded to imaginatively, developments in Anglican Church order and a history of poor progress on both sides through ARCIC mean that the corporate reunion conveyed by Anglicanorum Coetibus is not the union of the whole of the Anglican Communion and the whole of the Catholic Church that we have all prayed for through decades. But Cardinal Kasper concludes:
… the Catholic Church will not break off the dialogue even in the case of such a decision… But there is a difference between types of dialogue … Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full church communion. That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office.
And as for the cherished hope that new circumstances arising in the course of the 20th century could open up the way to a positive re-evaluation of Anglican Order,
While our dialogue has led to significant agreement on the understanding of ministry, the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican Orders by the Catholic Church.
That a complete reconciliation has not been realised must be a cause for repentance, and renewed prayer for what we have so far failed to achieve. But we have to accept that, when we asked for the Unity of Christians, it was never to be on our terms. Paul Couturier in the 1930s insisted that true prayer for unity in Christ is always “according to his will, according to his means” – not ours. We asked for Christian Unity; and the Christian Unity that has come may not be what we envisaged, but it is the Christian Unity that we have been given for our times and conditions. As the Venerable John Henry Newman wrote, ‘One step enough for me’.
How it will work out may not be clear to us. We have already seen how controversial it is and it must be our duty to address it in the best possible, most imaginative way, warmest, most decent and eirenic manner. Anything less is unworthy of the wholeness we profess in the Catholic faith, that all things work together for good to those who love God.
The Catholic League’s early ‘still, small voice’ of witness to the integrity of Christian unity has become the view of the main Christian traditions, from the Church Unity Octave and the Week of Prayer to ARCIC and IARCCUM. The Apostolic Constitution’s “corporate reunion” is a fruit of this too. It invites those who desired to know full communion with Peter as Anglicans to receive it as a gift in exchange for the tradition they bring, recognised and integrated into the wider tradition in a lasting and continually formative way.
Furthermore, Pope Benedict confirms the importance for Catholics of unity with all Anglicans for the sake of following Christ and proclaiming his Gospel faithfully; and disposes the Catholic Church – again from within – to a greater receptiveness towards the Anglican tradition. It is a cause for rejoicing that in the centenary year of the Liturgical Movement, founded by Dom Lambert Beauduin (who did so much to inspire Paul Couturier), the Pope has given a concrete realisation to his idea for “the Anglican Church, united not absorbed”. We can hope that the new provision may be a portent of the “unitatis redintegratio” that is already the manifesto of the Catholic Church and the shape of the Church in the future. Now it can be recognised that there is nothing distinctive of the Anglican Church, or any other tradition, that cannot be embraced wholeheartedly within the Catholic Church.
Unity for all?
But corporate reunion for some Anglicans still leaves most out of the equation. No one joining the Ordinariates can turn their backs and be glad of this. Becoming Roman Catholics, they make the teaching on the Church and its inevitable orientation towards unity their own. It must become their special duty to redouble the charity that binds all those with an Anglican patrimony, and assist the Catholic bishops in their efforts with the Anglican Communion on mission to an ever more secularised society. Nor can the Ordinariates be half-isolated, exclusive groups of traditionalist “Anglicans, absorbed, not united”. Although some commentators have speculated on this prospect, it is based on caricature: the reality and the people show that the fear is baseless. All new members of the Catholic Church will receive the warmest of welcomes, as many can attest; but they will still need to show how readily in return they wish to play a willing part in the life of the whole Catholic Church in this country, with all its joys and sorrows, with all its challenges and glories.
And there are also among our members people who passionately believe in Catholic unity, but who will not be taking advantage of Anglicanorum Coetibus, believing in conscience that their place is as Anglicans, persevering in the orthodox faith of the Western Christian tradition, whatever the new conditions and the resulting setbacks for Catholic-Anglican reconciliation, unperturbed in their hope for the recovery of communion. This remains work on which we are united in undiminished friendship and prayer. As Cardinal Kasper told the Lambeth Conference in 2008,
In a spirit of ecumenical partnership and friendship, we are ready to support you in whatever ways are appropriate and requested. In that vein, I would like to return to the Archbishop’s puzzling question – what kind of Anglicanism do I want? It occurs to me that at critical moments in the history of the Church of England, … you have been able to retrieve the strength of the Church of the Fathers when that tradition was in jeopardy…. Perhaps in our own day it would be possible, too, to think of a new Oxford Movement, a retrieval of riches which lay within your own household. This would be a re-reception, a fresh recourse to the Apostolic Tradition in a new situation.
And, as Pope Benedict told Australia’s ecumenical leaders at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, gathered for World Youth Day the same month,
I think you would agree that the ecumenical movement has reached a critical juncture. To move forward, we must continually ask God to renew our minds with the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 12:2), who speaks to us through the scriptures and guides us into all truth (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 16:13). We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live.
The next steps
With the beginning of 2010, the leading bishops among the Anglican constituency preparing to respond to Anglicanorum Coetibus have called for a time of recollection and discernment. They have the promise of the prayers of all the members of the Catholic League. Also the Roman Catholic bishops of England & Wales have established a commission, composed of Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP of Nottingham and Bishop Alan Hopes, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Westminster, to take the initiative in preparing the ground for the establishment of any Ordinariates in this country. This will review the terms and norms of the Apostolic Constitution and address the practicalities of their implementation in England & Wales. The projected structure is rare. The Catholic Church’s way of doing things normally is through the union with the See of Rome of all the individual sees across the lands of the world. It is only seldom that the primatial authority of the successor of Peter arranges for a special ‘non-territorial’ structure; and then usually only for defined groups or exceptional circumstances. But Anglicanorum Coetibus is part of the universal picture of the Church, at least for the time being – so there is much to consider. And the bishops will also be discerning what is meant in the English setting by the ‘objective reality’ of the Anglican patrimony. The Catholic League and its members will be assuring them of our support during this process too.
The reception of Anglicanorum Coetibus in the Church and how it will take form, not least in the discipleship and ministry of those who will become members of the Ordinariates, will take time, courage, forbearance and perseverance on all sides. These now form the object of the prayers of the Catholic League, of its Anglican and Roman Catholic members alike.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.