Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue

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Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue is the historical communication between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion and their involvement in the ecumenical movement since the time of the Second Vatican Council.

English Reformation[edit]

Conflict between the English Church and the Holy See began in the period known as the English Reformation which began with the rejection of papal jurisdiction in England by the declaration of royal supremacy by King Henry VIII, followed in time by the confiscation of church properties, the dissolution of the monasteries, the execution of priests, forced attendance at Anglican worship, forced payment of tithes to the state church and the illegalization of Roman Catholicism. There was a brief restoration of communion with Rome during the reign of Queen Mary I. Her death marked the end of Roman Catholic attempts to reconcile by law the English Church to Rome.

Elizabethan regime[edit]

Subsequently, Pope Pius V's excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 and authorisation of rebellion against her contributed to official suspicion of the allegiances of English Catholics. This, combined with a desire to assert the claims of the established church, led initially to renewed persecution by the state, and to the continued enforcement of severe legal restrictions. Most of these restrictions were only relieved three centuries later through several legislative reforms in the 19th century, cumulatively known as Catholic Emancipation. The last restriction on Roman Catholics excluding them from the throne of the United Kingdom (and by extension the other Commonwealth realms) remains, but since 2013 (provided for in right of the United Kingdom by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013) marriage to a Catholic no longer bars succession.

Oxford Movement[edit]

Members of the Oxford Movement argued for the inclusion of traditional aspects of liturgy from medieval religious practice, as they believed that Anglican practice had become too plain. In the ninetieth and final Tract, John Henry Newman argued that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, as defined by the Council of Trent, were compatible with the Thirty-Nine Articles of the sixteenth-century Church of England.

Apostolicae curae[edit]

Although the Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom relieved some of the tension, the Roman Catholic response to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral was articulated in Apostolicae curae, an 1896 papal bull which declared Anglican holy orders "absolutely null and utterly void". The bull rejected Anglo-Catholic claims about the branch theory and apostolic succession. The official reply of the archbishops of the Church of England was Saepius officio. The judgment remains in effect to the present, having been reaffirmed in 1998 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he asserted Apostolicae curae as an example of the infallible teaching office claimed by the Roman Catholic Church.[1]

Malines Conversations[edit]

Some attempts at dialogue began in 1915, when Pope Benedict XV approved a British Legation to the Vatican, led by an Anglican with a Roman Catholic deputy. However, discussion of potential reunion in the 'Malines Conversations' eventually collapsed in 1925. Continued efforts resulted in the spread of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in both churches (and others) and the visit of George Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, to Cardinal Montini of Milan, later Pope Paul VI.[2]

Second Vatican Council[edit]

Real rapprochement was not achieved until the warming of Roman Catholic attitudes to ecumenism under the leadership of Pope John XXIII, whose foundation of the "Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity" encouraged the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, to make a historic, though not entirely official, visit to the Vatican in 1960.

Subsequently, the Bishop of Ripon, John Moorman, led a delegation of Anglican observers to the Second Vatican Council. In 1966, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, made an official visit to Pope Paul VI and, in the following year, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was established. Building on Pope Paul VI's description of the Anglican Church as "our beloved Sister Church", there has been considerable productivity in these discussions, but progress was not without difficulty.

Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission[edit]

Greater rapprochement was achieved in 1966, with the visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI. The following year, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was established. Its first project focused on the authority of scripture. The commission has since produced nine agreed statements. Phase One of ARCIC ended in 1981 with the publication of a final report, Elucidations on Authority in the Church.

Phase Two lasted between 1983 and 2004 and a third phase is expected. The most recent agreed statement dealt with Marian theology and was published in 2004. In 2000, following a successful meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in Mississauga in Canada, a new commission, the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, was established to promote practical co-operation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics and the reception of the fruits of the theological dialogue.

Anglican mariology[edit]

Much has been made of the difference between the mariology of Anglicans and that of Roman Catholics. Because Anglicanism does not have an official view about these doctrines it can be difficult to say with precision what Anglicans believe. The description here attempts to sketch out the areas where Anglicans are in agreement that there is no official binding doctrine. To encourage ecumenical cooperation despite differences over other matters, the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches issued a joint statement, "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" (also known as the Seattle Statement) on the role of the Virgin Mary in Christianity.

International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission[edit]

IARCCUM is a commission established by the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church as an official joint commission. IARCCUM exists in parallel with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the theological commission known as ARCIC. IARCCUM's purpose is:

  • to facilitate the development of strategies for translating the degree of spiritual communion that has been achieved into visible and practical outcomes;
  • to promote and monitor the formal response and reception of the agreed statements of ARCIC;
  • to strengthen relations between ARCIC and national Anglican-Roman Catholic Commissions (ARCs), and between different national ARCs, providing support and resources in order to foster an exchange of information and practice;
  • to encourage Anglican Provinces and Roman Catholic Episcopal Conferences to establish ARC dialogues where they do not exist;
  • to encourage Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to develop projects and programmes of joint witness and mission in the world.[3]

In 2000, Archbishop George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, then President of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, convoked a conference of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops at Mississauga in Canada to discern the progress made in theological conversations since the 1960s, and whether closer co-operation could be developed between the two traditions. The result was IARCCUM, which has been meeting since 2001. In February 2007, it published the first fruit of its work, the report "Growing Together in Unity and Mission",[4] accompanied by two commentaries. IARCCUM's work continues under the co-chairmanship of Bishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid.

Dialogue strained[edit]

Dialogue is strained by the developments in some provinces of the Anglican Communion, primarily concerning the ordination of women and the ordination of those in same-sex relationships as priests and, in one case, a bishop (Gene Robinson). In addition, the Second Vatican Council declaring that the Anglican churches are only "ecclesial community" saying that "Among those in which some Catholic traditions and institutions continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place".[5]

In 2000, this view was authoritatively reiterated in the document "Dominus Jesus" issued by Cardinal Ratzinger with the approval of John Paul II. However, in conversation with the Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar,[6] Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, warned that if the Church of England was to ordain women as bishops, as the Episcopal Church has done, then it could destroy any chance of reuniting the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.[7] Although ARCIC had just completed the major document on Marian theology in 2003, Pope John Paul II officially called off all future talks between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion upon the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop.[8]

Anglican churches outside the Anglican Communion[edit]

Some progress has been made with respect to Anglican churches outside the Anglican Communion. Pope John Paul II established a Pastoral Provision for Anglican congregations which as a whole wished to become Roman Catholic. There has been only a small number of Anglican Use parishes, all of which are in the United States. These are Roman Catholic parishes which are allowed to retain some features of the Book of Common Prayer in worship.

An eminent Dominican writer has concluded that Anglicanism is three churches within one and that, as it stands, could not reunite with Rome but that out of it could arise an Anglican Particular Church community accepting Roman authority.[9] Indeed, this has already to a limited extent occurred with the creation of the Anglican Use, a group in full Union with Rome that uses a Roman Catholic version of the Book of Common Prayer,[10] but is not yet an independent body like a Particular Church.[11]

On 4 November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI, in Anglicanorum coetibus, created a new canonical structure called a personal ordinariate by which groups of Anglican may be corporately brought into communion with the Roman Catholic Church while retaining some aspects of their liturgical and spiritual patrimony which are not in contradiction to Roman Catholic doctrine.

Liturgical rules[edit]

According to Roman Catholic canon law, Roman Catholics should not receive the Anglican eucharist.[12] The law permits Roman Catholic priests to administer to an Anglican the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick only in danger of death or some other grave and pressing need and provided that the Anglican cannot approach an Anglican priest, spontaneously asks for the sacrament, demonstrates the faith of the Roman Catholic Church in respect of the sacrament and is properly disposed.[13]

Cardinal Ratzinger commented on the celebrations of the Eucharist in other churches or ecclesial communities whose orders his church did not recognise, saying that 'in such celebrations there was indeed a true feeding on Christ, and therefore there was a real and transforming grace'. This was no new teaching as before Vatican II it was generally taught that, although considered invalid, Anglican orders were not meaningless and could carry God's grace.[14]


  1. ^ Commentary on Ad tuendam fidem, 11g
  2. ^ Catholics and Anglicans Archived October 4, 2003, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue. Official website of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission
  4. ^ Growing Together in Unity and Mission: Building on 40 years of Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue
  5. ^ Abbott, WM (1966). The Documents of Vatican II. Angelus Books. p. 356. 
  6. ^ Rowell, Geoffrey (2005-04-30). "Age of Benedict must be one of Christian unity". Comment: Faith. London: The Times. p. 75. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 
  7. ^ Challenges lie ahead for Episcopal Church in U.S., url accessed 6/26/06
  8. ^ Telegraph Newspaper article on the breaking off of Catholic-Anglican ecumenical dialogue following the Gene Robinson consecration.
  9. ^ Nichols, A (1993). The Panther and the Hind — A Theological History of Anglicanism. Clark. pp. 177–179. 
  10. ^ Home
  11. ^ Nichols, A. "A Personal View of Anglican Uniatism" (pdf). Anglican Use Society website. Anglican Use Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  12. ^ canon 844§2
  13. ^ canon 844 §4
  14. ^ Bullogh, Sebastian (1963). Roman Catholicism. Penguin Books. p. 118.