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Cheerful news for a Friday: Catholic-Anglican relations are actually in good shape

ARCIC may have failed, but on the great moral issues of the day Catholics and Anglicans are on the same side

By on Friday, 14 June 2013

The Most Rev Justin Welby (Photo: CNS)

The Most Rev Justin Welby (Photo: CNS)

Here is some cheerful and encouraging reading for a Friday – the full texts of the official speeches of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury at their recent meeting. I urge you all to read it in full. It is nice and short too, which is an advantage.

There are several things worth commenting on. First of all, what was not said. There was no mention whatever of the question of women bishops in the Anglican communion. Presumably the reason for this is because the matter is simply not worth discussing, and can be relegated to the realm of things we simply must agree to disagree on.

Second, it is notable that there are matters that are still of mutual interest and where the Catholic Church and the Anglicans can make a difference by co-operating with each other. One such is the question of Syria, which presumably was discussed in greater detail behind the scenes. But there is more to it than Syria. In the whole matter of social teaching, the Catholic Church and the Anglicans can make a combined impact, as well as in the question of moral teaching. The Pope makes a point of referring to the strong defence of marriage recently made by the archbishop.

There is also a reference, which one suspects somehow had to be there, to ARCIC. But ARCIC is not what it once was (or, as some would doubtless prefer to put it, it is dead in the water). But if ARCIC has failed (and all the talk of corporate reunion that it once engendered now seems very odd to contemporary ears), it is important to stress that other things, which were perhaps not looked for, have succeeded. The Catholics and the Anglicans are now more or less singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to morality. There are several Anglican theologians (as well as some nominal Catholics) who are not doing so, but the Anglican mainstream seems sound on many of the great matters of the day, such as the rights of the unborn, and questions to do with embryonic “research”. Likewise the question of poverty. When Justin Welby says the following, it could be a Catholic speaking:

“That way forward must reflect the self-giving love of Christ, our bearing of his Cross, and our dying to ourselves so as to live with Christ, which will show itself in hospitality and love for the poor. We must love those who seek to oppose us, and love above all those tossed aside — even whole nations — by the present crises around the world. Also, even as we speak, our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer terribly from violence, oppression and war, from bad government and unjust economic systems. If we are not their advocates in the name of Christ, who will be?”

Not only is this an eloquent exposition of Catholic Social Teaching and moral theology, it goes deeper still, reflecting a lived spirituality that Catholics will recognise. The Cross is real, it is clear, and there is no genuine Christian life without the Cross. This makes a pleasant antidote to those who would give us easy answers or who would tell us that there can be social progress, or progress of any kind, without self-sacrifice.

Indeed, in his remarks, Justin Welby talks of his spiritual links with various Catholics and in particular with exponents of the new religious movements. This, I find, is immensely encouraging. It is not what ARCIC had in mind – in fact it springs from the renaissance of the Evangelical movement in the Church of England more than anything else – but it is fruit worth having all the same, perhaps more than the fruit that ARCIC envisaged. For God, in the end, loves to surprise us.

  • Benedict Carter

    Hello BMA. Not sure who you are, but your greetings are very welcome.

  • Julian Lord

    I’ve no idea what tree you’re barking up, this time…

  • An onlooker

    Much better to let sleeping dogs lie!!!

  • :(

    The Ostrich Church speaks (that’s the posters, not Fr Alexander)

  • NatOns

    Just so, CChi,

    “In this he says that ‘it is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape’. He adds that ‘the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith’ but rather ‘improvement (of the bill) in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children’. As a result it has been reported widely in the press, perhaps not surprisingly, that ‘the Church of England has effectively accepted defeat over gay marriage signalling that it will no longer fight against a change in the law’.”

    This is the sort of “moral agreement” that marks out the ever-widening gulf between Catholic Truth in orthodox expression and the basic purpose of the Anglican/ Lutheran Communion(s) et al. Anglicanism was and is – it seems to me – a means of expressing English-speakers fond assumptions in a Christian context, whether of a monarch’s desire for a divorce and remarriage (already consummated) or for puritan/ liberal/ atheist politicians and their various agenda. Yet, I suspect, there is a great deal more truth in Father Lucie-Smith’s assessment than perhaps even he (it appears unwittingly) asserts; I have no doubt whatever that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales mouths opposition but is eager to shuffle along with the Anglican position .. that it has very little choice in the matter, as with abortion and contraception, is of course plain, so – as has often been the case – the Catholic Church must prepare to be laid siege (a trial for which the higher hierarchy has no stomach, however, thankfully the newer leaders do seem to have this struggle in mind – whether they are prepared for it is another matter).

  • paulpriest


  • Frank

    If I understand correctly then, amongst other things, Fr. A is saying is that there is support for some aspects of Catholic teaching amongst Anglicans.
    I have noticed and referred to the research material generated by Anglicans that is useful in de-constructing the disasters of social engineering, political fundamentalism and false ideologies. It seems a good idea to share things of common interest and articles in Christian Medical Comment, Christian Research and the Jubilee Foundation reports provide good information. Christianity, not just Catholicism, is constantly under attack so maybe it is better to join together, at least on social issues, when we have the same point of view.

    It is a major problem , though that there is a variety of confused opinions expressed by different Anglican ministers that are contrary to Catholic teaching. This is just ammunition for those who would drive Christ out of society.

  • NatOns

    “The Cross is real, it is clear, and there is no genuine Christian life without the Cross. This makes a pleasant antidote to those who would give us easy answers or who would tell us that there can be social progress, or progress of any kind, without self-sacrifice.”

    This is the basic scene of dispute between the rational (if difficult) ethic espoused in Catholic Orthodoxy and that (easy-come-easy-go) morality which the worldly spirit requires of its worshippers, followers and fellow-travellers: that is, the Cross. It is as true of the pains felt in divorce as of abortion, of the deceit in artificial contraception (be it as a means of lowering birthrates or progressing self-expressed liberty) as of the perplexity of same-gender sexual attractions (be they passing or life-lasting). Human flesh unaided by divine grace can perceive little or nothing in the Cross of Salvation except folly, offence and pointlessness, yet it impinges upon every human soul whether that soul recognises it or not – it is the liberating tug of self-sacrificial love against self-loving servitude; so that moral reasoning demands attention be paid to the meaning of personal suffering by mankind is not a vain prompt, save only that its purpose cannot be understood fully without Christ’s once-for-all obedient death on the Cross – with His subsequent Resurrection and fulfilling Glory – for its world-tumbling explanation.

    It cannot be repeated enough, this Truth does set us free .. all of us. An individual victim soul, nonetheless, is never a replacement for or addition to Christ’s atonement – it enters the piercing passion of a divine predilection of Love. Most of us might enter this passion, or a form of it, at various times in our lives – not only in the loneliness of mental suffering but even in the desolation of mere fleshly achievements – a paradox that the world will not readily accept of life, its pains, and glory; those called to share it through a mortal lifetime are especially beloved of God indeed (even if they do not appreciate the honour, in failing to understand it: that Love all Loves excelling) .. may God continue to bless Michael Voris and his witness in Christ.

  • James Callender

    Why do you think that I would not get a reply if I write something critical? Are we not allowed to criticise other people’s arguments, even in good faith? Goodness me, that really would be a terrible tyranny.
    If the article author has nothing to hide, he will have no problem in replying to genuine questions for further explanation.
    The first duty of Christians is to be obedient to God (and the Christian truth), not to be “nice” in a vacuous English Middle Class Anglican way.

  • belhaven

    I have read this several times. I cannot believe that a Catholic priest could have written such an article. Does Fr Lucie-Smith live in his own space-time warp? He needs to read both of William Oddie’s blog entries on the subject.

  • Deacon_Augustine

    “The Catholics and the Anglicans are now more or less singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to morality. There are several Anglican theologians (as well as some nominal Catholics) who are not doing so,”

    I’m sorry Fr., but that really does seem like wishful thinking to me. It is not only “Anglican theologians” who are offside on the “gay marriage” issue, but there are Anglican bishops who many of their co-religionists believe to be heretical on this point of morality. There was the bishop of Salisbury accusing people who opposed the bill as bigots, homophobes and heretics, and there was Richard Harris, Bishop of Oxford who contradicted his own archbishop in the House of Lords debate asserting that the Christian thing to do was back “gay marriage”.

    If you get into contraception, abortion, divorce, embryo experimentation, euthanasia you will find that there is no unity on these issues within Anglicanism, never mind being in agreement with the Catholic Church. Once the 1930 Lambeth Conference broke ranks with the rest of Christendom and permitted contraception, the Anglican Communion has been on a helter skelter down to hell with regards to all aspects of moral theology. Again the Bishop of Oxford was notable for leading the charge to permit embryo experimentation under the Blair government.

    It might appear that some of them agree with some aspects of Catholic teaching now, but as truth is an ever-changing feast within Anglicanism, the only thing you can guarantee is that they won’t stick with it for long. Especially when political pressure starts to be exerted on them to comply with the latest state commandment.

    The occasional chance agreement in matters of faith might give people warm fuzzies, but true unity is not built on warm fuzzies – it is based on agreement in the truth. As the Anglican Communion has no accepted mechanism even amongst themselves for discerning what they believe to be true, they are destined for further division, schism and heresy. I cannot see how it is helpful to pretend that they “sing from the same hymn sheet as Catholics” when even the most cursory reading of the facts shows that this is not the case.

  • $20596475

    Well, well. Some common sense is reported by Fr Lucie-Smith and what happens? The com boxes are deluged with a tirade of outrage. What on earth is wrong in trying to find common ground in order to better tackle problems? This can be done without any need to make compromises.

    It can also work with other faiths, and with those of no faith. I know it is true because I do it myself with great success.

  • Banmeagain

    “Why do you think that I would not get a reply if I write something critical?”

    In a word….experience.

    I guess you are new here old chap, or you would have found that out already. In these here parts, it is politics that always trump truth. Hence my name….

  • Peter

    What motivates atheists to charitable support the developing world? Is it :

    a). a genuine compassionate desire to alleviate the suffering of the destitute poor and unjustly oppressed?

    b). a hidden agenda to depopulate the developing world by funding reproductive services?

  • $20596475

    You, like others before you here, speak as though “atheists” can be all categorised as one homogeneous group. It just isn’t true. The only thing they share is that they don’t believe in “God”. Their motivations, on every subject, are not therefore going to have any common themes.

    So both statements are true, as are some others, including that some don’t keep hidden their agenda to reduce population growth in the developing world.

    So sorry, you cannot have an a) is good, b) is bad, answer to such a question. The question is wrong. It has no answer as it starts with a wrong premise.

  • $20596475

    This is arrogance personified. That so many of the usual suspects support it tells it’s own story.

    The idea that your Church’s interpretation of the message is the only one which has any value, and that all the others can just be discounted, shows a clear lack of understanding and a total lack of charity.

    I am so pleased to see that not all Catholics take such a line, because there is no hope for any common ground being found when such a rigid stance is advanced. These are old fashioned attitudes which deserve to be consigned to the bin of history.

  • Julian Lord

    a clear lack of understanding

    In fact, “understanding” and “agreeing with majorcalamity” are NOT direct synonyms

    As for charity, you continue NOT to be the ordinary source of proper Christian doctrines.

  • Tom_mcewen

    Seems like we are using words that sound the same but are part of two different languages, which the two speakers have no shared dictionary. I will have no part of abortion, euthanasia of the useless feeders and gay marriage whose aim is the destruction of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience. They seek the death of the Church.

    As far as women priests and bishops, I will stick with words, reported by a woman priest who left. A woman in stress, came and asked to speak to a Priest, the woman priest said,”I am a Priest”, the woman said,”No, you are a woman, I want a Priest”. I don’t know if the Church of England noticed that women do not like other women. They judge them, if they are ugly they judged not worth talking too. If they are pretty then they are a threat to the men folks. And men do not listen to women much, if ugly not at all, if pretty not much ear as eye.

    This is a non starter. Feminism not a crowd pleaser

  • Tom_mcewen

    I think that 43,000 different bible believing folks, who all have the Holy Spirit have already had the start of something big. That is why there is 43,000 different protestant churches. All in the name of Big.

    I don’t have the Holy Spirit, I have not heard the roaring of a wind, nor do I have Crowns of Fire. I don’t have everything that Christ did and said, called to remembrance. Do you?
    The Pope is a teacher, he is not a Prophet. A teacher teaches what he has been given. A Prophet speaks of new things that God has revealed. The Office of Pope and Prophet are different. If the Pope was a Prophet he must leave his office.
    The Church has the Holy Spirit not I, not a single protestant church has the Holy Spirit, what they have is Heartburn and pride.

  • Tom_mcewen

    Well, If you look at all the youtube videos on dreams and visions that protestants claim then they can see into the future. How is Howard Camping doing? Excuse me Sir, I would like a six-pack of Rapture to go, Please. Okay that will be 6 dollars and 66 cents.

  • Tom_mcewen

    He is barking up the same tree. ”These are old fashioned attitudes which deserve to be consigned to the bin of history.”

    If you close you eyes and listen for the echo the word religion in between the old fashioned and attitudes

  • Athelstane

    The Catholics and the Anglicans are now more or less singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to morality.

    In England, perhaps; but certainly not in North America, where “official” Anglicanism is devolving into high church unitarianism (and a very tiny one at that).

  • $20596475

    As I have never made any such claim your comment is both unnecessary and pointless.

  • Toshi quaraba

    Whilst I believe strongly in dialogue, I regret that compromise will lead nowhere. It is altogether hypocritical that we agree to disagree on women ordination, what next homosexual ordination? If the redefinition of marriage carries on and same-sex marriage takes place what will happen if (considering that Anglican clergymen can marry) a homosexual or lesbian vicar enters his/her office with his/her same sex spouse? Are we going to agree to disagree on what God calls “sin” and for which Jesus died on the Cross? God hates sin and He is angry at sin. We who claim to be Christians let us be careful how we treat “sin”. Let us no play with the fire, we could get hurt and it will be only our fault.