Friday, 1 October 2010

A reflection on the papal visit

The following article appeared on pages 26 and 28 in last week’s edition of The Tablet www.thetablet.co.uk

Anglican encounters

by Simon Sarmiento

Anglicans will be wondering what Benedict himself made of his two encounters with the Church of England on day two of his papal visit, first when he went to Lambeth Palace, where the Great Hall was filled with diocesan bishops of both churches, and later in Westminster Abbey, where the ecumenical service of Evening Prayer deployed the full resources of the “Anglican Patrimony”, with glorious music and clouds of incense.

At both places, he saw a self-confident Church of England, happy to extend Benedictine hospitality to him, and eager to join with ecumenical partners to proclaim the Gospel. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, later told Vatican Radio he thought it had all been “enormously happy” and “hugely positive”, but would all Anglicans agree? One Church of England bishop that I spoke to the next day had absolutely nothing good to say about the Pope and was not the only one absent from the Abbey service.

Certainly the visit got off to a bad start, for Anglicans in particular, with the revelation that Cardinal Walter Kasper, recently retired head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, whom they had regarded as their best friend in the Vatican, was not coming. In addition to his critique of Britain (or was it just Heathrow?) as a “Third World Country”, he had told the German magazine Focus that the “Anglican Church” had nothing to offer Roman Catholics in respect of either a married clergy or the ordination of women. Clearly neither of those things represents our “patrimony”. “He is not usually so gauche,” said another C of E bishop.

The Pope’s words, however, were far more nuanced and, to assess them, one needs to lay them alongside the equally measured remarks made by Rowan Williams at Lambeth and the abbey.

During the first formal encounter, at Lambeth, Dr Williams welcomed the Pope, saying that “we do not as Churches seek political power or control”. He noted that no obstacles stand in the way of the bishops from both Churches seeking more ways to “build up one another in holiness”. In fact, joint meetings of Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops are already a regular occurrence in most parts of England today.

By contrast, the Pope declined to speak at all about the specific difficulties of ecumenical dialogue, while emphasising the “remarkable progress” of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic) during the past 40 years. Instead he focused on the need for Christians to co-operate with other faiths “in promoting peace and harmony in a world … at risk of fragmentation”.

However, he did say, that “the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth”, which Anglicans will interpret as a negative reference, not only to the ordination of women, and the place of homosexuals in the life of the Church (issues which of course still divide Anglicans) but also to a married clergy and remarriage after divorce.

On the other hand, he referred to John Henry Newman as one “nurtured by his Anglican background” who can serve as a model for modern ecumenical dialogue. As Dr Williams noted in his Vatican Radio interview, Anglicans do not object to his beatification, though some will certainly feel miffed by the decision not to follow Anglican use and adopt 11 August as his feast day, rather than institute 9 October, the day of his conversion to Rome.

What was undoubtedly reassuring to Anglicans was the joint communiqué issued later that “reaffirmed the importance of continuing theological dialogue on the notion of the Church as communion, local and universal, and the implications of this concept for the discernment of ethical teaching”.

At Westminster Abbey, it was the Pope’s turn to speak first. He chose to recall St Bede the Venerable (always a popular choice for Anglicans) who, he said, “understood … the need for creative openness to new developments”, perhaps an unexpected turn of phrase from this Pope. Dr Williams, in turn, recalled Sts Augustine of Canterbury and Gregory the Great, but also noted that “Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome” He went on to quote John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint, saying that “we must all reflect together” on how the Petrine ministry may speak to all Christians. A partial agreement here perhaps between these two, but many Anglicans hold dissenting views.

Only at the very end of the visit did the Pope mention Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution to enable Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church through a special structure, and then to his own bishops, not those of the Church of England. In his radio interview, Dr Williams said: “A relatively small number of people in the Church of England have wanted to explore this. I hadn’t ever expected it to be a huge number.”

So, overall, did the Pope surprise Anglicans? Most people I asked said that his remarks were softer in tone than they expected. Does this mean that any fundamental changes are likely? No, but it might mean that dire predictions being made earlier for the future of ecumenical relations were not accurate. A more interesting question might be whether the image of the Church of England among Roman Catholics has been affected by the obvious warmth of feeling that Pope Benedict has displayed on this visit. Yet a concern remains for Anglicans that Rome does not perceive a need for any fundamental rethink of its own position on the divisive issues.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 8:00am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

I was pleasantly surprised by the visit but couldn't help noticing the number of times the Pope said that he sat in the seat of Peter, including at the Abbey. Power mongering? Not very diplomatic!

Posted by: Tony Whatmough on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 8:46am BST

Abp Williams was invited to the Newman beatification and turned it down. He met the Pope only on his own territory. Was there any Anglican presence at the beatification?

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 9:01am BST

The Bishops of Winchester, Guildford and Chichester were at Cofton Park, as were the Bishops of Birmingham and Coventry. The Bishops of Ebbsfleet, Fulham and Richborough were also there. There may have been others too.
+Andrew

Posted by: Bishop Andrew Burnham on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 12:43pm BST

The Bishop of Birmingham was present and also worth noting that +Rowan was 'robed and in the sanctuary' alongside various Eastern Orthodox clergy for the Papal Mass in Westminster Cathedtal.

Posted by: martin on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 12:57pm BST

Thanks, Simon, for the thoughtful summary report.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 5:37pm BST

Yes, Tobias, I agree. Good journalism.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 8:02pm BST

Bishop Burnham's list of Anglican Bishops at the Beatification ceremony seems mostly to consist of the English 'Global South' confraternity. Am not too surprised at that - even +Winchester!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 11:12pm BST

I don't think you should lump married clergy in with women's ordination and homosexual unions. While married clergy are not ordinarily permitted in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church does not have any particular doctrinal problem with ordaining married priests.

In the United States, former Episcopalian clergy have been ordained in the Catholic Church even though they are married. There are also married clergy in the Eastern Rite Churches of Catholicism.

I highly doubt that the Vatican is greatly upset about the fact that the Anglican Communion doesn't impose a celibacy requirement on most of its clergy.

Obviously the Pope and most high level Vatican officials stand firmly by Catholic doctrine, but I don't think you should assume that they are putting up more barriers between the respective communities than have to exist.

Posted by: Mike M on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 1:14am BST

As a catholic I was disappointed ( dismayed ) that the Pope never referred once to the Holy name of Jesus, when he spoke to the non Christian communities.

I also believe his embrace of Rowan is flawed as I believe the theology of the latter is more of a danger to Catholicism than Dawkins and Tatchell.Of course many Anglicans would agree with me here. hope you liberals are honest enough to accept that.

I was surprised at how much Latin he used in the liturgy.

I would love to know how much he realises what Archbishop Nichols is doing as regard the Soho Mass.

As a visit I feel that on a one to ten scale, it may in my opinion scrape a five.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 5:35am BST

[@Mike M: "barriers [that] *have* to exist"? O_o That may be the Vatican POV . . . but not the one I expect to hear at TA. Unless, like Robert Ian Williams and William Tighe, you are yourself "the Voice of the Vatican"?]

"He went on to quote John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint, saying that “we must all reflect together” on how the Petrine ministry may speak to all Christians. A partial agreement here perhaps between these two, but many Anglicans hold dissenting views."

I'm an Anglican who can affirm "Ut Unum Sint" on this point. It would be silly to insist that there isn't *a* tradition that 1) "Peter is the Prince of the Apostles" (w/ special authority) 2) Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and 3) all succeeding Bishops of Rome inherit a particular "Petrine ministry".

It would be wrong (to the point of heretical) to insist, however, that the above is the *only* tradition regarding "Peter" (in the metaphorical, Bishop of Rome sense). From the Council of Jerusalem (the Biblical Peter---over-ruled!), to heretical BofRs, to the militantly-crazy crusaders, to the inquisitors, to the corrupt (receiving their just desserts in Dante's "Inferno"!), to the anti-Popes, to Pio Nono's power-grab at Vat1, to some of the ludicrous encyclicals of the past century or so ('Apostolicae Curae' and 'Humanae Vitae', to name only two of the most obnoxious), to JP2's reactionary retrenchment: this is part of the legacy of "Peter", too.

"We must reflect together" on ALL of those traditions: not just one side, and not just one view, imposed on all. "Peter" must receive the evaluation/confirmation of ALL the apostles (inc. Anglican ones!)---AND the wider People of God---before he (or she!) can have any special role in God's (Truly) CATHOLIC Church.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 8:10am BST

"couldn't help noticing the number of times the Pope said that he sat in the seat of Peter, including at the Abbey. Power mongering?"

Far better that he calls himself 'Vicar of Peter' than 'Vicar of Christ'. It's from the latter that the claim to universal ordinary jurisdiction arises.

How B16 can sleep at night knowing that there are Christians he is depriving of a regular Eucharist by insisting on priestly celibacy is one of the mysteries I'd need answering before I could take the 'pastoral pope' seriously.

Posted by: Mark Osborne on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 1:23pm BST

"As a visit I feel that on a one to ten scale, it may in my opinion scrape a five."

And if the Pope declared, ex cathedra, that a Catholic MUST hold the visit a "ten", RIW, would you? ;-) (Careful: sounds like you may be going the way of Lefebre!)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 7:45pm BST

JCF,

If you see my loyalty to Roman Catholic dogma as making me a "voice of the Vatican," that may be accurate. Even so, I think you're misreading my meaning in that sentence.

What I meant was that, given the focus under this Papacy of achieving unity with Anglican communities (and also with the Orthodox churches), I think it should be assumed that these efforts are made in good faith, and that the Vatican is not erecting artificial barriers.

Where there are differences in what either side considers a core matter of faith, that's a difference that can't simply be glossed over or ignored. The RCC believes that women's ordination is an impossibility that contradicts the demands of the Bible and that steps beyond the authorities granted by Christ to the Christian Church. That difference in belief is a real obstacle to unity. Priestly celibacy is a discipline that the Church leaders don't seem interested in scrapping within the Latin Rite, but there are already churches in full communion with Rome that allow married clergy, and, in fact, there are even a small number of married priests within the Latin Rite. There's not a difference in a matter of faith there, and if that were the only difference between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, that would not be an obstacle to full communion.

I think that the Vatican's effort to unite with Anglicans are sincere, and that people should not assume that Benedict is trying to erect a new barrier in that regard which, even from the most orthodox Roman Catholic viewpoint, need not exist.

Posted by: Mike M on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 8:08pm BST

RIW -- "I was surprised at how much Latin he used in the liturgy."

Two short anthems in Latin? - seems perfectly ordinary Church of England to me.

Posted by: John Roch on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 8:12pm BST

Whether or not Peter was ever in Rome -- evidence is disputed, if not dubious -- there was certainly a church there before any visit by him or Paul, so he wasn't the founder. Further, there were no bishops in his time, and authority seems to have come from below by election, not above by appointment. Finally, if Peter died in Rome, that would seem to give the church there no more claim to his mantle than the bishop of Memphis would have to the mantle of Martin Luther King, Jr., martyred in his city. Rome padded its part shamelessly as more historic sees fell away. The whole top-down thing needs rethinking.

Posted by: Murdoch on Saturday, 2 October 2010 at 11:38pm BST

"Two short anthems in Latin? - seems perfectly ordinary Church of England to me." - John Roch

It's not just a CofE practice.

Anyone going to St. Thomas Church (Episcopal) in New York City, where I was received from the Roman Catholic Church in 1977, could hear Latin anthems with some regularity. Now, in a modest-sized parish thirty miles to the east, Christ Church-Oyster Bay, I can still hear Latin anthems though with somewhat less regularity. Naturally, the English translation of the words is provided in the service leaflet.

But ours is not a true "High Church" Anglo Catholic parish, even though far from "Low Church," so I would wager that the many high Anglo Catholic parishes in the U.S, would have Latin anthems with the same regularity as St. Thomas.

So, Robert, if that is a definer for you, welcome back.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 12:19am BST

"I also believe his embrace of Rowan is flawed as I believe the theology of the latter is more of a danger to Catholicism than Dawkins and Tatchell.Of course many Anglicans would agree with me here. hope you liberals are honest enough to accept that."

This sounds like embarrassing RC sectarianism and triumphalism to me. RW is a monument of theological orthodoxy in the best and most grounded sense, and few RC bishops come within hailing distance of his theological wisdom. What the critics go on and on and on about is his perceived liberalism, i. e. humanity, where gayness is concerned. These people are threatened and uncertain about sexuality, perhaps including their own, and so in overcompensation have made it the litmus test of what they call orthodoxy.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 3:07am BST

"Good faith efforts at unity", Mike M?

Well, I guess it depends on how far you're prepared to torture those terms.

B16's efforts, w/ "Anglicanorum Coetibus" have been nothing like that, IMHO. The proposal is to pick apart the Ecclesia Anglicana, and then *subordinate* (willing---at first!) fragments to the Vatican (I'm sorry: "Unity" and "Subordination" are *oxymorons*)

I agree that there are mutually-exclusive ideological concepts. I imagine that you would hold all the (millions of) Roman Catholics who do NOT believe "women's ordination is an impossibility... (et al)" to be "not REAL Roman Catholics", in the same way that I believe that B16's efforts under "Anglicanorum Coetibus" can achieve (the Popoid version of) "unity", only w/ those who have ceased to be actual Anglicans.

But do these oxymorons and mutually-exclusions HAVE to exist?

If "the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth" (B16), then perhaps they do.

If, however, the setting of Inclusion (i.e., LOVE) and Truth at opposition are the definition of a ***false dichotomy*** then I don't think so.

While it "takes two to tango", ultimately (sadly), it just takes one to erect a barrier.

After 500 years, "Peter" (and Mike M), haven't you held up that wall long enough? :-(

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 7:43am BST

Well there was rather more latin than two anthems! At the major Papal Masses the Canon of the Mass was in latin. This was different ,I am sure, from the last Papal visit, and I notice Benedict always wears a dalmatic under his chasuble which I am not sure was JP11's usual practice. In Benedict's ideal Church the Ministry of the Word would be in the vernacular and the Ministry of the Sacrament always in latin I suspect (Interestingly W H Auden who loathed liturgical reform suggested the same thing for Anglicans too!!)
The confidence with which the RC Church accepts the parallelism Peter-apostles,pope-bishops has always surprised me given the state of Early Church scholarship.
Benedict is not reaching out in any significant way to Anglicans ( most of whom have no interest at all in becoming Roman Catholics) but to the relatively small numbers of Anglican Papalists who have always been somewhat exotic cuckoos in the nest. If he had been interested in Anglicans per se in some sort of reconciled diversity he would presumably been more welcoming of the ARCIC methodology when at the CFDF. Like JP11 he looks longingly to the Orthodox, but quite frankly I cant see much likelihood of significant progress in that direction.Since the fall of communism it seems to me Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe esp Russia has become more and more nationalistic and anti-latin.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 10:21am BST

During the season that our Schola Cantorum sings at Mass, usually the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are in Latin; there may be additional anthems in Latin.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 12:10pm BST

' *a* tradition that 1) "Peter is the Prince of the Apostles" (w/ special authority) 2) Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and 3) all succeeding Bishops of Rome inherit a particular "Petrine ministry".'

Not really. These are in fact pious legend.

Murdoch makes the point well.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 3:37pm BST

My bad - mixing up the threads
:-(

Posted by: John Roch on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 5:03pm BST

The Eastern orthodox Church, who split from us in the eleventh century, acknowledge the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St peter. They just dispute his jurisdiction and the meaning of his role.

Yet their liturgy and the record of early Christianity speaks forcibly of the Petrine claims..to the extent that at the Council of Chalcedon, the bishops chanted Peter has spoken through Leo.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 3 October 2010 at 9:16pm BST

"The Eastern orthodox Church, who split from us in the eleventh century, acknowledge the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St peter. They just dispute his jurisdiction and the meaning of his role."

Well, don't get too excited, Robert. The Orthodox Churches are lousy with apostolic founders. From Wikipedia:

"The Patriarchate of Constantinople claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Andrew.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Mark
The Russian Orthodox Church claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Andrew
The Armenian Apostolic Church claims unbroken succession to the Thrones of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thaddeus (Jude)
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Mark
The Church of the East, including the Saint Thomas Church (e.g., Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church) claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Thomas the Apostle
The Orthodox Church of Cyprus claims unbroken succession to the Throne of Saint Barnabas
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims succession to the Throne of Saint Philip
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem claims succession to the Throne of Saint James the Just, although this line includes Patriarchs in exile."

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 4 October 2010 at 1:17am BST

JCF,

Your solution appears to be that Catholics should "stop erecting barriers" by giving up the central elements of their Faith. Catholics didn't just decide to accept the primacy of the See of Rome because we wanted to wall off Anglicans and the Orthodox. The belief in the primacy of the Pope stretches back at least to the close of the second century. At the time, it existed to preserve unity.

The increasing fragmentation of the Anglican Communion lends some additional credence to its value.

Feigning unity among Catholics, Methodists, Calvinists and Lutherans would just be a sham. What does unity mean if it doesn't include an adherence to common doctrines? There is some degree of unity among all Christians, but increasing unity requires increasing the doctrinal similarities. Where groups share identical dogma (as is the case with the groups of Anglicans who petitioned the Holy See for union), then full union should be recognized.

Posted by: Mike M on Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 3:27am BST

"Where groups share identical dogma (as is the case with the groups of Anglicans who petitioned the Holy See for union), then full union should be recognized."

- Mike M -

Then, in fact, there could yet be a married Pope?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 10 October 2010 at 11:01am BST
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