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The Bishop of London is right about Anglicans using the Roman rite

One cannot be an Anglican and use the Roman Missal – it is one or the other

By on Monday, 21 November 2011

The Bishop of London has written a letter about the Eucharist, which makes interesting reading, and which can be read in full here. I am not an Anglican, and therefore it is not my place to comment on what Dr Chartres has to say to his flock, but there are some things that he says which reflect on us Catholics, which I feel I must comment on.

Dr Chartres writes:

In an age when Aristotle’s analysis of objects in the physical world as being composed of “essences and accidents” was widely accepted, transubstantiation was seen to have value as a picture of how the eucharistic elements were transformed. In the Windsor Agreed Statement which emerged from the first series of international discussions between Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians, transubstantiation appears only in a footnote as “affirming the fact of Christ’s presence and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place. In contemporary Roman Catholic theology it is not understood as explaining how the change takes place.”

While not wanting to dismiss the Windsor Agreed Statement as irrelevant, or criticizing the wording of that footnote, the truth of the matter is that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not a footnote in Catholic life, but central to Catholic belief, identity and practice. Nor does belief in transubstantiation depend on Aristotle, even if it borrows, or better steals, Aristotelian language. Long after Aristotle is forgotten, or is himself a footnote to theology, the doctrine of transubstantiation will be with us. Transubstantiation is not to be dismissed as an idea whose time has passed. It seems to me that if one were to ignore the clear doctrine of transubstantiation, one would pretty soon find oneself losing one’s belief in the true nature of the Mass as a sacrifice and the doctrine of the Real Presence.

The Bishop then goes on to talk about the “new rites” that the Catholic Church will be adopting this Advent. This is misleading. There are no new rites, there is merely a new translation of the Roman Rite. There has been no innovation, but rather a return to the original text, through greater fidelity to the Latin. But the Bishop says: “The new Roman rite varies considerably from its predecessor and thus from Common Worship as well.” The first part of this statement is simply factually incorrect; the second part leaves me wondering. What did the old translation have in common with Common Worship that the new translation does not? The Bishop refers to “a convergence of eucharistic doctrine and rites” between Anglicans and Catholics, but he gives no evidence for this optimistic view. Perhaps he means that Common Worship has been modeled on the old translation of the Roman Missal. But what he says about transubstantiation above indicates to me that there has been no substantial convergence, even if there may have been some accidental ones. (That Aristotelian language again!)

Then the Bishop delivers his bombshell, if it may be termed such:

Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC [English Language Liturgical Consultation] texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well. This is a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter. The clergy involved have sworn oaths of canonical obedience as well as making their Declaration of Assent. I urge them not to create further disunity by adopting the new rites.

Of course, His Lordship is completely right about this. The use of the Roman Missal, in whatever translation, by someone, anyone, who is not authorised by a bishop in communion with Rome, is absolutely wrong. Dr Chartres even goes so far as to mention canon law, which is, I believe, but rarely invoked in the Anglican Communion, which shows how seriously he takes this matter.

The Bishop seems to be putting clear blue water between us Catholics and his own flock, perhaps more clearly than he intends. It is clearly wrong for Anglican clergy to use the Roman Missal, from both an Anglican point of view and from our point of view. But I would add this: the Roman Missal, especially in the new translation, reflects a very clear belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation which Anglicans do not hold. Therefore they should not use the Missal. Or if they do hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation, they should come into the Ordinariate.

“Three priests in the Diocese have taken this step. They have followed their consciences,” remarks the Bishop speaking of the Ordinariate. Is there a third way? It would seem not. Dr Chartres, while mentioning canon law and its obligations, nevertheless makes no threats: “There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs,” he says. But the appeal to conscience and indeed logic is clear in this powerfully argued letter. You cannot be an Anglican and use the Roman Missal. It is one or the other. On that all should agree.

  • John485

    This is quite correct – there are Anglican churches where the name of the Holy Father is inserted into the Canon, followed by the name of the Bishop of London or the Archbishop of Canterbury as if they had a direct connection. This is not only wrong , but disrespectful to both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. (No wonder that the CTS was reporting a shortage of missals recently!)

  • Alban

    When I was an Anglican up to circa 1990 the rite used at Mass at the Anglo-Catholic church I attended was according to the Roman missal that has recently been amended. It had the approval of the diocesan bishop who used it when visiting and saying mass at the church. Furthermore, we were also taught the doctrine of transubstantiation. I think Bishop Chartres is potty. It’s a bit like saying you cannot eat camambert cheese unless you happen to be French.

  • Anonymous

    It is not just a matter of law, but of morality. Before ordination Church of England clergymen make a solemn promise before God that they will only use forms of service which are authorised or allowed by Canon.


    The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?

    I A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by Canon.END QUOTE

    So as well as declaring that they belief in the faith revealed in historic formularies of the Church of England specifically including the Thirty-nine Articles, all Anglican clergy vow that they will not use unathorised material in their services.

    An unrepentant Anglo-Catholic, who has presumably rejected Pope Benedict’s offer of the Ordinariate but wants to use the new Catholic rite for his services,  scoffed at Richard Chartres’ letter, describing it as “laughable”.

  • Anonymous

    Although I have seen Anglicans with my own eyes buy the new Roman Missal, and I am fully aware that it is being used in Anglican Churches I do not actually see why they are bothering.

    After the second life boat leaves for the ordinariate surely the ‘high Anglican Church’ is no more. The evidence suggests that the ones who are left behind, after next year, are fully in agreement with the Archbishop of Canterbury who recently stated:

    “The Church of England is for those who like their Christianity light”. (Yes! – He did actually say this before somebody disputes it).

    The one’s who stay behind surely are fully paid up members of this belief.

  • Anonymous

    In reply to Alban: If you were taught Transubstantiation by an Anglican clergyman then he must have been lying when he affirmed his belief in the Thirty-nine articles. Can you imagine telling a lie at ordination so that you can become ordained into a Church whose faith you do not share?

  • Alban

    I don’t give a hoot about what he said at his ordination. I suggest he exercised his right to change his mind and will not have been the first Anglican priest to have done so.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Oh duh…The XXXIX articles only repudiate the “Romish” doctrine of transubstantiation, not the Anglican one which we are free to affirm. Thats how J H Newman saw it in the days before his apostasy, anyway.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    But there is no Anglican doctrine of transubstantiation – that is the whole point. And the Anglican liturgy is deliberately vague on this point. If you want to celebrate the divine sacrifice of the Mass, there is nowhere else to do it but in communion with Rome. End of. Or am I wrong about this?

  • Poppy Tupper

    Oh you people really do like to cling to ‘transubstantiation’ as your little shibboleth, don’t you? The fact is that many Protestants believe in the real presence in a fully Catholic sense, while the evidence from the slapdash manner in which the sacrament is treated by them, suggests that many RCs are fairly Zwinglian in practice. ‘Transubstantiation’ is not the change itself, but just a term coined by St Thomas to describe it, which even such great RC luminaries as Karl Rahner have felt might not now be the best way of putting it. He offered ‘transsignification’ or ‘transfinalisation’ as alternatives, didn’t he?

  • Poppy Tupper

    Not vague at all. I would say that the Prayer of Humble Access, said before the consecration in the 1662 rite of Holy Communion, is more explicit on the matter than anything in Mgr Bugnini’s service.

  • Obed

    Regarding the similarity between the current Catholic Liturgy and Common Worship and how the new translation of the Missal will be dissimilar from Common Worship, there’s some irony in that the new translation (which is, in fact, much more faithful to the Latin) will be much more similar to the Book of Common Prayer’s liturgy.  And that just reinforces my suspicion that most of the post-Vatican II liturgies in English (whether Catholic or Protestant) are inferior to the traditional ones.

  • James

     If it is wrong for Anglicans to use the Roman Missal because the theology of the Eucharist in the Missal is fundamentally incompatible with that in the Anglican tradition it follows that it is equally wrong for Catholics to use the Anglican liturgy. This surely raises some interesting questions about the Ordinariate and its supposed incorporation of the Anglican tradition within the Church.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah – and we really care what Rahner said about anything!
    Maybe you don’t realise Poppy but to most devout orthodox Catholics the only good use for a book by Karl Rahner is as a doorstop or for supporting a wobbly table.

    Transubstantiation is a perfect word for what happens – the Form of what it was is gone – and replaced with the True Real Presence of Christ [well, for Churches that possess the Apostolic power to perform a consecration]

    How it happens is a Divine Mystery – we have no need to know or understand its process; even if it were possible.

  • Anonymous

    Ottaviani intervention Poppy…it’s there! Just!

  • W Oddie

    When I was an Anglican clergyman I always made clear my belief in transubstantiation: I was in concience free to do so, since i had never affirmed my belief in the 39 articles, nor for generations had any any Anglican at his ordination been required to do so. I do wish Catholics would get this right. The 39 articles are a dead letter within Anglicanism.l They are not a standard of belief:thje factr is that there is now no such thing. Anglican clergymen can believe anything they like, including the non-existence of God

  • W Oddie

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. See above. Hadley (I have said this before) KNOWS NOTHING about the Church of England and its beliefs and should simply shut up on the matter or become better informed.

  • Hidden One

    I’d love a citation for that quote.

  • Hidden One

    paulpriest has a point. Karl Rahner is often (I think, justly) set up in opposition to Hans Urs von Balthasar and his supporters, among whom is Pope Benedict XVI. K. Rahner (rather that Hugo Rahner, his brother) did not ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ quite so much as one would have wished – or perhaps, as he thought.

  • Hidden One

    Not as many as one might think. Fix the bad, keep the good. There’s plenty of good.

  • Anonymous

    @Poppy The theory of ‘transsignification/transfinalisation’ was rejected by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei. I’m afraid Rahner’s theology is too much reliant on ‘Transcendental Thomism’, which tried to reconcile Kant’s non-realist philosophy with Thomism. I don’t think I would be the only one to say that it failed.

    In the encyclical, the Pope wrote:
    “To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, (50) we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation.”

  • Lindi

    Dr. Chartres says that the Pope ‘is undeniably Patriarch of the West’.
    Could someone explain why he thinks so as I thought this title was abolished some time ago ?
    If I am mistaken ,  could someone explain why the good doctor wishes to give the Holy Father this title?
    I mean where is this Anglican coming from – is he for real or toadying up ?

  • Anonymous

     “it follows that it is equally wrong for Catholics to use the Anglican liturgy”

    It would be, if it were to be unamended. But it is being amended for Ordinariate use, so that it is orthodox and will permit valid confection of the Blessed Sacrament, and to remove any heresies. That’s why it’s not yet in use: the amended version has not yet been issued or approved.

  • Hyperousios

    Wrong on two counts, I think. First, in that the pre-schismatic Church indubitably considered the Eucharist a sacrifice, and so the Orthodox and Churches of the East continue to offer such, without communion with Rome. Second, because even a Low Church Anglican recognises the Holy Communion as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The Reformers rejected the notion of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice of the elements, a prominent Catholic understanding at the time which the Church barely mentions now, stressing instead the anamnetic participation of the Church through the Mass in Christ’s unique sacrifice. This understanding does not contradict any formularies of the Church of England and is therefore tenable by Anglicans, even if not an article of faith. One of the principal differences, for better or worse, between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism is that the former sets out in its liturgy and doctrine only what we consider the basic non-negotiable tenets of the Catholic faith, supposedly that which has always been believed throughout the Church. For us, many doctrines that the Roman Church considers essential are secondary, but still in most cases permissible. An Anglican priest should use only Anglican rites, because any Anglican of whatever churchmanship should be able to worship at any Anglican church in good conscience. Doctrinal latitude is the price we pay for corporate unity, such as it is, between high and low churchmen, liberals and conservatives. This is what we think makes our church properly ‘Catholic,’ or universal, within this realm. Sadly, with some Evangelicals making up the liturgy as they go along, and some Anglo-Catholics using unauthorized rites, we do not always live up to the reality. The Bishop’s mandate should therefore be welcomed, but not because it rejects the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice or real presence: rather, because it does not define them more precisely than Anglican doctrine permits.

  • Anonymous

    @Poppy The theory of ‘transsignification/transfinalisation’ was rejected by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei. I’m afraid Rahner’s theology is too much reliant on ‘Transcendental Thomism’, which tried to reconcile Kant’s non-realist philosophy with Thomism. I don’t think I would be the only one to say that it failed, with dangerous consequences for theology.In the encyclical, the Pope wrote:”To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, (50) we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation.”

  • Morys Ireland

    Interesting comments. I was brought up Anglican and became a Catholic – partly because of some of these issues. There really are Anglicans who believe in transubstantiation, there are plenty that don’t though (the very idea that you can have two such totally opposing viewpoints within one Church is somewhat incredible). In my experience I’d say that those who do are perhaps in denial somewhat. They realise that the Anglican church does not uphold transubstantiation but they are not prepared or willing to accept that they only place they truly belong is in full Communion with Rome. You see Anglicanism is all about cherry-picking the bits you believe in to match your own personal convictions and lifestyle choices. It’s like pick-and-mix, pay-as-you-go religion really… perfect for our modern world. I would appeal to anyone in the Anglican church who has any true religious conviction to seriously think about joining the Ordinariate.

  • Edwards-j18

    You imply that the Church was infallible at some point in its history,but then ceased to be so. When did this happen? And how are we to know? These “non-negotiable tenets of the Catholic faith” were defined at various points – how do we know which are true and which are not if there is some doubt as to whether they were defined during an “infallible” or “non-infallible” period? As Newman argued,if Christianity is a revealed religion,then we must have some means of knowing for certain what has been revealed – otherwise there has been no revelation. And as for the idea of a doctrine which “has always been believed throughout the Church”: again,Newman showed that in the first three centuries there is considerably more evidence for the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (which Anglicans reject) than for the doctrine of the Trinity (which they accept).

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I could not agree more!

  • Epiphany11

    Seems to me that all of this discussion is “moot” as Anglican orders are invalid. TEC and the Anglican churches can make all sorts of pronouncements but it does not change the fundamental reality that they do not have a valid priesthood. They can dress up and pretend as seen in the attempted “consecration” of Ms Budde in Washington. Really hilarious.

  • theroadmaster

    Transubstantiation is the most apt formula to encapsulate  our Catholic understanding of the change which happens to the “accidents” of bread and wine once Christ through the actions of His priest is made present in body, blood and Soul for the Faithful to ingest and spiritually nourish them on the journey of life.  Words in themselves though can never do justice to the the supernatural reality of this glorious Sacrament of Holy Communion. The processes which enable this radical, spiritual alteration to the inner essences of both species cannot be determined by observation under a microscope as scientific materialism cannot encompass this metaphysical reality.  If we were to scrutinize the molecular structure of the Communion bread or wine after the Eucharistic rite had taken place in the Mass, no major changes in the materialist sense will have taken place.  The transformation takes place in a spectrum beyond our field of vision and the sustenance on offer is nothing more than the Food of Heaven.  The reformers could not handle the profound implications of “my flesh is real food and my blood real drink”  (Jn. 6:55). Thus their formulas were rather compromised solutions to avoid the necessity of having to deal with this as exhibited by the Anglican bishop Chartres’ rather naive comments on the subject of the Eucharistic transformation of the species of bread and wine.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    That is a very interesting point. IMHO, Dr Chartres is trying to suggest the Pope is a patriach and no more than such – sort of like the Orthodox Patriarchs. In other words it is a way of claiming he respects the Pope while denying that the Holy Father has universal and immediate jurisdiction over the whole Church, which is what Catholics have always believed.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Lets forget the word ‘transubstantiation’ for a moment, since some people here seem to be claiming for it the very view that St Thomas was trying to refute when he defined it. What is under question is a belief in the real or objective presence of Christ in the consecrated elements of the Eucharist. Now just about half of all parish churches in the Church of England, and EVERY Cathedral has perpetual resservation of the Blessed Sacrament. That is a very visible and public proclamation that a very substantial part of the Church of England believes in the objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist – or ‘transubstantiation’ if that’s what you like to call it. But you don’t like that, because it is your little shibboleth, so you will try to think of all sorts of ways in which what we do and believe is different.

  • Poppy Tupper

    The reason why so many Irish are returning to the Church of Ireland isn’t that they are looking for pick and mix religion, Morys, or that they want to abandon the catholic faith, but because they want to be in a church that doesn’t tell them fibs.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Oh we don’t like Karl Rahner so nerny nerny ner. Guardini also said something very similar, and I believe Papa B had quite a lot of time for him.

  • Diadgraffix

    None of us lay people care about this stupid doctrine of transubstantiation. If you’re ministry doesn’t reflect the presence of Christ, you can serve a tonne of consecrated bread and it’ll make no difference. To hell with you all.

  • Mikethelionheart

    The small growth in the arrogantly named, so-called ‘Church of Ireland’ is far more to do with UK and African immigrants than Irish people ‘returning’ to that church.

  • Andrew Montt

    The eastern and oriental orthodox churches use that title as well, because the bishop of Rome has been the Patriach of the West since the year 642. The problem is, nowadays the primacy of Rome extends to the South and to the East as well. There is no “west” anymore. Lebanon is a a catholic-majority country, like Congo and Paraguay.

  • Mikethelionheart

    “You people”????

    Really Poppy, your posts come across as very bigoted.
    I think you need to clam down.

  • Andrew

    They should get an Old Catholic to re-ordain them…

  • lawrence

    The idea that the Pope is “the Patriarch of the West” is mostly anachronistic Eastern spin on the role of the Pope – and of the West in general – in primarily Eastern ecclesiastical disputes of the first millennium. (But, then, everything that has ever been said or written at any time by any person on the pecking order of episcopal sees is either pure, original spin or a redaction of someone else’s spin.) To the extent that the Pope can be accurately described as a patriarch in the Eastern sense, his original patriarchal jurisdiction was limited to central Italy. It was Charlemagne and his successors who effectively extended papal jurisdiction over the entire Holy Roman Empire for political purposes. But the Popes themselves have never claimed special jurisdiction in “the West”; since the fourth century, they have asserted some sort of superiority over all other bishops, not just those of a particular region. And this claim was rejected most strongly by their closest neighbors, notably the archbishops of Milan and Aquileia, who had the most reason to fear the ecclesiastical imperialism of Rome.

    For in-depth reading on these questions from an Eastern Orthodox historical perspective, see “Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions” by John Meyendorff.

  • editor

    Nonsense. All have to make the Declaration of Assent and the Oath of Canonical Obedience, and these are read at the ordination service. If Anglican clergy think they can believe what they like, it is only because they lack integrity.

  • Poppytupper

    The church of Ireland has organic continuity with the church that St Patrick planted, unlike the Italian mission to the island. And why have all the African immigrants not similarly boosted the numbers of the RC church in Ireland?

  • Apostolic

    Poppy Tupper is back again with fairy story history…

  • Peter

    Regretfully in the Catholic church there are instances where transubstatiaition is not respected.

    For example where there is abuse involving extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

    In one parish there were less than ten people receiving the Precious Blood and yet there were two extraordinary ministers dispensing it, and at the end they both had to drink up half the chailice.

    It is as though the Precious Blood of Christ is like disposable water.

    That is an abuse of the sacred species and a disrespect for transubstantiation.

  • Morys Ireland

    Poppy your own words seem to support what I’m trying to say:

    “Now just about half of all parish churches in the Church of England…”

    “…a very substantial part of the Church of England believes in the objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

    Therein lies the problem – the Anglican church is just so inconsistent, which is why I left it. There is no point arguing over the various decrees and canons of the Anglican church because there are so many contradictions you can interpret them however you like. The Anglican church is so divided it would be difficult to reconcile the various factions to any one particular viewpoint – therefore those who truly believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist would do better to come over to a Church that actually upholds that belief.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Once again, I find myself in complete agreement with Morys! Could not have put it better myself. In Anglicanism you can if you choose beleive in the real presence. In the Catholic Church you must for this doctrine is held as certain and is taught infallibly.

  • Kafkahouse

    Hehe the C of I has two and a half old ladies per parish…bit like the C of E.

  • Anonymous

    Quite right. The affirmation and assent to the thirty-nine articles is made by all clergymen of the Church of England as anyone who reads the current rite of ordination can see for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    @ Poppy.
                    “Returning to the Church of Ireland.” One cannot return to something you were never in, in the first place. I know of no-one who has joined the Church of Ireland from The RC Church, inspite of the recent scandals.We would have no Church rather than be a part of a Man-made one.

  • Lee Der Heerskinderen Lovelock

    Same happened here Morys, left a year ago as the inconsistency, collegiality and their false claims finally drove me out alongside the increasing secularisation of the ‘social’ club known as Anglicanism (more akin to the Church of Sweden now!).

  • Rev Dr Paul Spilsbury

    The Bishop of London is entitled to his view, but it is not one shared by all Anglican, or even by all bishops of the Church of England. I understand that the Bishop of Ebbsfleet has told his constituency that where the Roman Rite is used by Anglicans, they should use the new translation in order to comply with their obligation to use only an “authorised” rite. The legislation does not say that a Rite must be authorised by General Synod, and indeed rites authorised in other Anglican provinces are specifically envisaged, even though these provinces have no more jurisdiction in this realm of England than doth the Bishop of Rome. It is also held that the ancient Sarum rite was never formally abrogated, including as it does the Roman Canon. Finally, Anglicans are not forbidden to believe in transubstantiation; they are merely not obliged to.