(The Vatican Response to ARCIC)
"Unity Report Dismays Senior Bishop" read the lead headline in the 6 December 1991 issue of the Catholic Herald. The "senior bishop" in question was Bishop Alan Clarke of East Anglia, and the first co-chairman of ARCIC. The initials ARCIC stand for the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. It was established as a result of a meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and Dr. Michael Ramsey the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. Its mandate was to examine the doctrines which separate Catholics and Anglicans and to see if, in at least some cases, a consensus could be reached which could open up a path to corporate reunion. The cause of Bishop Clark's dismay was the publication of the long awaited official Vatican response to the documents produced by ARCIC, and embodied in a final report published in 1982. The Bishop complained that the Vatican's response showed no interest in or understanding of the workings of the Commission which met for twelve years between 1970 and 1982, and claimed to have made considerable advances towards eventual unity.
The Anglican House of Bishops gave its formal reaction to the Vatican response in February 1992, a reaction described by the very pro-Anglican Catholic Herald in its 7 February edition with a dramatic headline stating: "Anglicans Voice Dismay Over Vatican". An even more dramatic expression of dismay appeared in The Times of the same date. Scandalous would be a more appropriate adjective than dramatic in view of the fact that its author was Thomas McMahon, the Catholic Bishop of Brentwood. In a letter to the Editor, the Bishop stated, inter alia:
Having used the word scandalous, one can also apply it to the astonishing fact that virtually every Catholic hierarchy in the world, including that of England and Wales, gave an enthusiastic endorsement to the ARCIC Agreements despite the fact that they were not compatible with the profession of even the most vestigal form of Catholicism. It is an undeniable fact that the overwhelming majority of ordinary Catholics, clergy and laymen, throughout the English-speaking world have shown no interest whatsoever in the workings of this Commission. Very few could explain what the letters ARCIC stand for, and fewer still could give the least account of what it has been up to since 1970, but nonetheless, ARCIC is not without significance in the history of post-conciliar Catholicism, and those wishing to be well informed concerning this period need to know something of its acùvities.
ARCIC AND THE EUCHARIST
The first topic to bc discussed by ARCIC was that of the Eucharist. Many Catholics regarded the entire exercise with complete scepticism, particularly in view of the fact that it would be hard to establish a consensus of what Anglicans themselves believe concerning this sacrament. Some Anglo-Catholic clerics have a belief in the Real Presence equivalent to that of Catholics, even if they are reluctant to use the term transubstantiation. But the Evangelical clergy, and they are in the overwhelming majority, espouse the totally Protestant doctrine of Thomas Cranmer, which has been described with complete accuracy as that of "the real absence", and, like Cranmer, they insist that the only sacrificial element in their Communion Service is one of praise and thanksgiving. Article XXXI of the Thirty-Nine Articles, to which all Anglican clerics must subscribe teaches that:
It is astonishing that scholars of the calibre of Newman, while members of the Oxford movement were able to convince themselves that the Thirty-Nine Articles could be interpreted in a Catholic sense. The fallacious nature of the reasoning employed by Newman himself to attempt to prove this in his celebrated Tract 90 eventually became clear to him, and, after his conversion, he accepted that Article 31 calls the Sacrifice of the Mass "in all its daily celebrations from year's end to year's end, toto orbe terrarum, a blashemous fable".
ARCIC published its first report, the first so-called Agreed Statement, in 1971. It was entitled the Windsor Report on Eucharistic Doctrine, named after the location in which the Commission pursued its deliberations. Catholics with a knowledge of Anglicanism were astonished to learn that the Commission claimed to have reached substantial agreement as to the nature of Eucharistic belief in the two Communions. Astonishment turned to indignation when the text of the statement was published. The most charitable description of its content was that of calculated ambiguity. Although Catholic teaching was never specifically repudiated it was never specifically affirmed. One was reminded of Newman's comments on the manner in which the Arians drew up their creeds: "Was it not on the principle of using vague ambiguous language, which, to the subscribers would seem to bear a Catholic sense, but which, when worked out in the long run, would prove to be heterodox".
The Windsor Agreement evoked a furore, and its critics certainly pulled no punches in denouncing the Statement itself and the Catholic members of the commission. The reaction to ARCIC among Catholics loyal to the Magisterium was well summarized by Father Edward Holloway, Editor Faith magazine:
Lest it should be felt that Father Holloway was too severe in attributing a lack of honesty and integrity to the Catholic members of the Commission, it must be remembered that they were trained theologians, and that their mandate was to put forward Catholic teaching fully and without ambiguity. Any dilution of authentic Catholic teaching in ecumenical dialogue is not only a betrayal of the Church but a disservice to authentic ecumenism, as it arouses false hopes of unity among our separated Protestant brethren. Father Holloway was fully justified in pointing this out with total frankness when he condemned sections of the Windsor Agreement as:
Fathel Holloway's criticisms were, in fact, much milder than the response of many of ARCIC's critics who included some of the most erudite Catholic scholars in England, including Professor David Knowles, O.S.B. But the Catholic Members of ARCIC employed the tried, tested, and effective method employed by Catholic Liberals whenever they have been criticised for any of the policies which have underrnined the Church so effectively since Vatican II - they simply ignored their critics and carried on as if they did not exist. Catholic parents in many countries have received this treatment when they have protested about heterodox catechetical instruction or immoral sex-education in Catholic schools. Whatever one's opinion concerning the Catholic Liberal Establishment, one cannot withhold a grudging admiration for the almost total effectiveness it has displayed in marginalising its opponents.
ARCIC AND THE PRIESTHOOD
The critics of ARCIC were, then, well prepared for its second statement reached (appropriately enough) at Canterbury in 1973. Without the least sign of embarassment, the co-chairman proclaimed that substantial agreement had now been reached on the priesthood and purported to prove this with yet another series of calculated ambiguities. The response of loyal Catholics to what they saw correctly as a second betrayal of the Faith was even more indignant than that provoked by the Windsor Agreement, and the response of the Catholic members of ARCIC was once more to ignore the well-founded and well-documented case of their critics. It was manifest that their aim was no longer to see if there was a basis for agreement between Catholics and Anglicans on the Eucharist and the priesthood, but to reach such an agreement at any cost. They considered their credibility to be bound up with a successful conclusion to their dialogue, and the possibility of failure was one which they could not envisage.
ELUCIDATION OF THE FIRST TWO AGREEMENTS
At Salisbury in 1979 ARCIC published what purported to be elucidations of the two Agreed Statements in the light of criticisms received, but the elucidations did no more than add insult to injury by the arrogant manner in which they not only insisted on the validity of the ARCIC agreements, but went even further by demanding the recognition of Anglican Orders, despite the fact that the Catholic delegates knew very well that the encyclical Apostolicae Curae of Pope Leo XIII, which condemned them as invalid, is the final word on the subject, and is completely irreversible. ARCIC arrogance is well demonstrated in its "elucidation' of the Canterburv Statement. It claims that its agreements rather than Apostolicae Curae now constitutes the context in which the question of Anglican Orders must be discussed:
Commenting upon the Elucidations in the 29 June 1979 issue of The Universe, Father Edward Carey, a Catholic theologian, wrote:
ARCIC AND AUTHORITY
ARCIC had also produced a statement on Authority at Venice in 1976. An elucidation duly appeared in 1981, and a second statement on Authority was produced at Windsor in 1981. The level of convergence claimed for these agreements was much less than that alleged to have been achieved in the statements on the Eucharist and Ministry. This was because, despite the scarcely credible concessions made by the Catholic delegates, it was not possible to explain away the dogma of Papal Infallibility, or the infallible nature of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which the Anglican delegates would not accept at any price. The integrity of the Anglican delegates in this respect does them credit, and they insisted upon the following reservation being included in the second statement of Authority:
Readers of Christian Order will be aware of the fact that the entire credibility of the Catholic Church is involved in the certainty that these two dogmas are infallibly true, in virtue of their having been proclaimed ex cathedra by the Sovereign Pontiff. There could never be any question of reducing them to the status of optional beliefs in order to facilitate organic reunion with the Anglican Communion which, despite the fact that it is referred to constantly as such throughout all the Agreed Statements, does not constitute a Church.
All the Agreed Statements, together with their Elucidations, were collected together in a Final Report in September 1981, and submitted for approval by the Holy See and all the Catholic hierarchies and Anglican Synods throughout the world.
TWO FOLD INTERPRETATIONS
Catholics owe a profound debt of gratitude to the Reverend Julian Charley, an Anglican theologian appointed to ARCIC. It is Dr. Charley more than any other individual who has done most to prove that the ARCIC Statements can be interpreted in a manner that is totally incompatible with the teaching of the Church. He did this in the commentaries that he wrote upon the first two statements. When the Windsor Agreement on the Eucharist appeared, Dr. Charley and Bishop Clarke wrote commentaries intended to show that the Statement was compatible with the beliefs of their respective communions. Their approach was as follows: Bishop Clark could claim that as the agreement nowhere states that the Mass is not a sacrifice it clearly affirms that it is:
The martyr priests of England and Wales who preferred to be hung, drawn, and quartered rather than deny that the Mass is a sacrifice, could never have imagined that the day would come when an English Catholic bishop would come to an agreement with representatives of the Church of England on the nature of the Eucharist, in which there was "no categoric assertion that the Eucharist is a sacrifice". The sacrificial nature of the Mass was totally incompatible with the Protestant doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. lt was the ultimate and never to be sufficiently execrated "good work". The Anglican attitude to the Catholic doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice (which Bishop Clark did not assert categorically in the interests of ecumenical bonhomie) was expressed clearly by John Hooper, the Anglican Bishop of Gloucester from 155I to 1554:
Does Bishop Clark really expect us to believe that Bishop Hooper, an apostate Cistercian who understood Catholic Eucharistic teaching perfectly, rejected it totally, and preferred to die at the stake under Queen Mary rather than accept it, really shared an identical belief in the Mass with St. John Fisher, but simply expressed their shared belief differently? Does Bishop Clark really expect us to believe that the entire Reformation was the result of a semantic quibble?
Dr. Charley, in his commentary upon the Windsor Agreement, could state, with satisfaction that: "The Statement spoke explicitly of the sacrifice of Christ, but it never described the Eucharist as a sacrifice, even a 'substantial agreement' did not require that". Another Anglican commentator, the Reverend Colin, Buchanan, remarked that Thomas Cranmer could have signed this statement, while his Catholic opponents could not, and that its statements "about the presence of Christ in the Sacrament goes very much with his use of language, and the footnote explaining away transubstantiation would have made him chortle".
Later in this article I will give a list of essential Catholic doctrines which are explained ambiguously in the Agreed Statements, but at this point I will examine just one of them in some detail. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed explicitly the traditional Catholic teaching that ordination confers a character distinct not merely in degree but in essence from the common priesthood of all the faithful. In other words, when a man is ordained he possesses powers that he did not possess before, powers denied to other men. He is able to transform bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by an immaculate blessing, and to absolve men from their sins. Where the Eucharist is concerned, the Canterbury Agreement states, referring to the ordained minister: "It is right that he who has oversight in the Church and is the focus of unity should preside at the celebration of the Eucharist". Now what exactly does this mean? Does it mean that only the ordained minister, using the term that ARCIC prefers to priest, can consecrate (most Anglicans do not, of course, believe in a consecration in the Catholic sense), or does it mean that simply as a matter of good order and decorum the ordained minister should be the presider at a Communion service? Dr. Charley's explanation makes it clear that the statement is compatible with the Evangelical Protestant concept of the ministry and, therefore, incompatible with the Catholic belief.
When asked whether this meant that if no ordained minister was available a layman could act as celebrant, he replied: "I can find, if I am honest no ultimate theological reason why in exceptional circumstances a layman could not be the celebrant".
ROME'S RESPONSE TO ARCIC
The critics of ARCIC were not in the least surprised to find that when, May 1982, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its response to ARCIC, despite a few platitudes acknowledging ecumenical progress, it showed that where Catholics are concerned the ARCIC documents were devoid of any credibility. The ecumenical bureaucracy was outraged, and, astonishing as it may seem,it became clear that the members of ARCIC had genuinely expected the congregation to ratify their ambiguities. Those living in ecumenical ivory towers are clearly out of touch with reality. In its critique the Congregation listed a series of doctrines on which ARCIC claimed to have reached agreement, but without formulating them in a manner that safeguarded Catholic teaching. It noted that:
The Congregation recommended that the dialogue should continue, and had little alternative to doing so in view of the internal politics of the Vatican at present. An ecumenical bureaucracy entrenched within what is now known as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is very powerful, and commentators have spoken with some reason of behind the scenes warfare between this Council and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a ploy probably designed to undermine the critique of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Final Report was sent to all hierarchies in the world for their evaluation before Rome made its final response to ARCIC. In the meantime the Anglican response was also awaited, and it came as no surprise that this consisted of an unqualified endorsement of the Final Report from all the world's Anglican Synods. As I have already mentioned, in almost every case, the Catholic hierarchies which sent a response to the Vatican also found the ARCIC documents acceptable, including, to their shame, the Bishops of England and Wales who, one might have hoped, would have known something of the history and nature of Anglicanism. The favourable response from so many National Episcopal Conferences posed a dilemma for the Holy See. ARCIC had been established as a result of an initiative by Pope Paul VI. It had received warm encouragement from Pope John Paul II. It had involved much time, much effort, and much expense, and had given many Anglicans the impression that organic union was a distinct possibility - and now the prestige of most national hierarchies was bound up with Vatican endorsement of the Final Report. Was it possible that almost all the bishops in the world could approve agreements that were, to quote Father Holloway, "a betrayal of the Catholic Faith"? In what it probably envisaged as a damage control exercise, the Holy See arranged for its final response to be produced jointly by the Congregation tor the Doctrine of the Faith and the Council for Promoting Chrisfian Unity. The hand of the latter is evident in some ecumenical platitudes giving a warm welcome to the Final Report, expressing its gratitude to the members of ARCIC, and hailing its work as "a significant milestone not only in relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church but in the ecumenical movement as a whole". The hand of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is seen in the detailed analysis of the Agreed Statements, an analysis which differs in very few respects from the 1982 critique which had so effectively set the orthodox cat among the ecumenical pigeons. It should be noted, however, that this response comes not with the authority of the two Congregations which prepared it, but of the Vatican itself. In what way, then, does the Vatican find the Final Report of ARCIC wanting?
THE VATICAN AND ARCIC'S FINAL REPORT
It notes that the Report makes no claim to have reached substantial agreement on the question of authority in the Church, particularly with respect to papal infallibility, that no real consensus was recorded on the Marian dogmas, and that the Report claims incorrectly that the "assent of the faithful" is necessary to validate any Magisterial decision. The Vatican explained in considerable detail why the Report's attribution to Peter among the Twelve of "a position of special importance" does not express the fullness of the Catholic Faith in regard to the Petrine ministry. With regard to the Eucharist, the Vatican notes the failure of the Report to accept that the Sacrifice of Calvary is made present in the Mass "with all its effects, thus affirming the propitiatory nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice, which can also be applied to the deceased. For Catholics 'the whole Church' must include the dead. The prayer for the dead is to be found in all the canons of the Mass, and the propitiatory character of the Mass as the sacrifice of Christ, that may be offered for the living and the dead, including a particular dead person, is part of the Catholic faith". The incompatibility of Catholic teaching, reaffirmed here in refreshingly uncompromising terms, with that of Article 31, certainly requires no comment!
THE REAL PRESENCE
Where the Real Presence is concerned, the Vatican Response warns correctly that while such affirmations as the statement that the Eucharist is "the Lord's real gift of himself to his Church" can certainly be interpreted in conformity with the Catholic faith they are insufficient to remove all ambiguity regarding the mode of the Real Presence which is due to a substantial change in the elements:
Where the priesthood is concerned, the Vatican response tackles head on the ambiguity made clear in the commentary and clarification of Dr. Charley, an ambiguity open to the possibility of a layman celebrating the Eucharist. It also refers directly to Anglican teaching that Our Lord instituted only two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, and that the five other sacraments of the Catholic Church are only of ecclesiastical institution:
- that only a validly ordained priest can be the minister who, in the person of Christ, brings into being the Sacrament of the Eucharist. He not only recites the narrative of the institution of the Last Supper, pronouncing the words of consecration and imploring the Father to send the Holy Spirit to effect through them the transformation of the gifts, but in doing so offers sacramentally the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION AND INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE
The Vatican Response also demonstrates that the ARCIC concepts of the Apostolic Succession and the Interpretation of Scripture are incompatible with those of the Church. The Response concludes with some platitudes paying tribute to "the important work done by ARCIC" and expressing the hope that it will contribute to "the continued dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics". Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity claimed that the Vatican response is "a very positive document", and Father Edward Yarnold, S.J., a Catholic member of, and longstanding apologist for, ARCIC claims that the latest chapter in its history "does have a happy ending".
BUBBLE OF FALSE ECUMENISM PRICKED
The reverend gentlemen are both perfectly correct, but not in the sense they intended. The report is positive and the ending happy because the bubble of false ecumenism has been pricked finally and effectively. As with the case with liberal pressure for a change in church teaching on contraception, in the final resort orthodoxy was upheld by the Vatican in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, even if its teaching is ignored by many Catholics. Just as they did in the case of contraception, the liberals gave the impression that Rome would not stand firm. But Rome can never fail to stand firm on any fundamental doctrine of faith or morals. No Catholic who loved or understood the Church ever imagined that the ambiguities could ever be endorsed by Rome. Liberal Catholic disillusionment with the Vatican Response derives from the folly which impelled them to believe in their own illusions, and to encourage our Anglican brethren to believe in them too. The Catholic Herald expressed this liberal disillusionment very clearly when it stated in its 6th December 1991 Editorial:
If any Anglicans feel let down the default does not lie with the Vatican, which had no alternative but to uphold authentic doctrine, but, as Father Holloway pointed out, with those Catholic members of ARCIC who falled to explain to their Protestant brethren the essential Catholic teaching that they were accredited to present. As to basking in one's superior knowledge, I have certainly been unable to refrain from taking delectation in the extent to which I am able to say "I told you so", having written numerous articles, letters to cardinals and bishops, and letters to the Press pointing out precisely the defects in the ARCIC Statements now delineated by the Vatican. In 1980 I had the privilege of being granted a very long audience with Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We spent severai hours discussing ARCIC, among other topics, in his private apartment. I was able to present him with copies of Dr. Charley’s commentaries which he had not seen, and to alert him to the manner in which sixteenth century Protestants who repudiated Catholic Eucharistic teaching sometimes used language which gave the contrary impression. The Cardinal was extremely interested and took copious notes of all that I had to say. He gave me a categorical assurance that there was not the least possibility of his Congregation ever endorsing ARCIC, and I take great satisfaction in the fact that this has proved to be the case.
CATHOLIC HIERARCHIES WORLD-WIDE FAVOUR ARCIC
What is most astonishing, most alarming, is the fact that although these deficiencies were obvious to a layman like myself, with no specialized theological knowledge, almost every Catholic hierarchy in the world pronounced in favour of the ARCIC statements. The gravity of this fact cannot possibly be exaggerated. Can there have been such a virtually universal failure of the Teaching Church (Rome excepted) since the Arian heresy?
CARDINAL MANNING AND ANGLICAN ORDERS
But for those of us who are oppsed to false ecumenism, not least because it impedes the return to Catholic unity of countless potential converts, one other point made in the Vatican response gives a happy and positive ending to the entire ARCIC debacle. The response pointed out the new obstacle to unity raised by the ordination of women within the Anglican Communion. It is, in fact, not simply an obstacle but an insuperable barrier. There is no possibility whatsoever of any Anglican province which has taken this fateful step reversing it, and there is no possibility of any denomination which ordains women achieving organic unity with the Catholic Church. Why, then, did the Vatican Response encourage a confinuing dialogue? Why indeed? Sincere Catholics who were naive enough to believe in the possibility of organic reunion between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion should now remove their blinkers and, motivated by love of the truth and love of their separated brethren, spare no effort in praying and working for their individual conversion. I am writing this article in the year of the hundredth anniversary of the death of one of the greatest of all converts from Anglicanism, Cardinal Manning, who, had he remained in the Church of England, would almost certainly have become Archbishop of Canterbury. I have the good fortune to possess a collection of his unpublished letters, one of them written in 1868, three years after his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster. He was asked HIS opinion of the validity of Anglican Orders, (eighteen years before Apostolicae Curae settled forever the fact of their invalidity). His reply may seem uncharitable in these ecumenical times, but it is true, and can there be a conflict between charity and truth, between caritas and veritas? So we show true charity to our Protestant brethren by keeping the truth from them? The Catholic members of ARCIC evidently believed that we do. Cardinal Manning believed that we do not, and he answered his Anglican questioner with charitable frankness:
CARDINAL HEENAN AND ECUMENISM
What, one wonders, would Cardinal Manning have thought if told that in, the centenary year of his death a British Catholic Bishop would make a public apology to the proponents of that form of human error because the Holy See had fulfilled its divine mandate of bearing witness to the truth revealed by Jesus Christ, and had refused to to dilute that truth in the interests of false ecumenism. Cardinal John Heenan of Westminster stated correcdy in 1965 that: