By Fr. J. H. CREHAN, S.J.
I-1 E most remarkable result of the nomination of Archbishop Ramsey to Canterbury is his declaration of policy, in which he made it plain that he wants to see the Church of England disestablished. It is well known that for years the Anglicans have been elaborating a new Canon Law, and before this goes into effect some of its provisions will need the sanction of Parliament.
In the same week that : 'MARTYR brought the news of Dr. : Ramsey's translation an OF OUR Anglican newspaper car ried an article by Mr. TIME Peter Kirk, M.P., the upshot of which was that the acceptance by Parliament of such a proposal from the Anglicans would not be easy to obtain and might lead to a crisis.
A break ?
The present position is that the mediaeval Catholic Canon Law is still in force except where it has been set aside by civil enactment or is contrary to the civil law. (This is especially the case concerning marriage.)
If the Anglican Church were now to seek to take a firmer line about divorce, as many of its adherents wish, it seems hardly possible that Parliament could be brought to sanction such a step.
The alternative would be to break away from the State supremacy and to accept disestablishment This is what the new archbishop seems prepared to do.
Shortly before Christmas a book on marriage, written by the Anglican Provost of Guildford and published by the Mothers' Union, was withdrawn from circulation after it had sold 300 copies. The storm it had stirred up was due to a proposal that two different kinds of marriage should he distinguished by the Anglican Church: one that is sacramental and lifelong, as enjoined by the Church, and the other contractual. as carried out in the register office of the State.
If these two were to be regarded as quite different, it would he possible for the Anglican Church to maintain a rigid attitude in refusing divorce to marriages celebrated in church while at the sante time being prepared to adjudge that. from het point of view, certain register office marriages (though not all) might be null and void because they were never meant to be lifelong.
Even when entered upon without such defective consent by two unbaptiscd persons, such register office marriages might be dissolved by a Church court through the use of the Pauline privilege, in a case where one of the parties to the marriage had been converted and could not thereafter live at peace with the other.
Obviously the idea of Church marriage courts would involve a break with the State and an end of Establishment.
Cranmer, when pressed by Catholics in argument, admitted that for him it was necessary to concede that the Roman Emperor Nero had been head of the Church in the time of St. Peter, because that was what the royal supremacy involved. He never contemplated the possibility of his Church having a Parliament to control it which cared as little about Christianity as did Nero.
Due to this legacy from the past. Anglicanism is now caught in the dilemma of having either to break free from State control or else to acquiesce in the increasing slackness of her attitude to divorce while she keeps pace with the State. It can be nothing but a matter for rejoicing to Catholics that the new archbishop should have decided so plainly for the former alternative.
It would certainly be a step on the road to reunion if the Anglican Church were to bring herself into line, on marriage questions. with the great bulk of western Christendom. though, as the storm over the Provost of Ciuildford shows, it would be a venture of faith.