Christopher Howse shows that Anglican and Catholic ecumenists have a long way to go before they can satisfy Vatican requirements.
THE Anglican / Roman Catholic International Commission had been working away for 12 years before it published its final report in March, and so it is the product of those years that the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had to swallow at once for its 3,500 word criticism published yesterday. The Congregation tries to kick off on a positive note, but since its brief from the Pope is to make a doctrinal study of the report, it is not surprising that the greater part &its response is occupied by criticisms and rejections of many of the Arcic propositions.
The Congregation welcomes the rejection of "a sterile polemical mentality". The work achieved, it says, "is a singular event in the history of the relations between the two Communions". But the SCDF is unhappy about the very methodology of the final report, insofar as it retains the original statements agreed over the years and has only addressed previous criticisms from the Congregation in 'Elucidations' added as appendices. "The result is a lack of harmony and homogeneity which could lead to different readings and to an unwarranted use of the Commission's texts." •
The SCDF also takes Arcic to task for using the term substantial, which in English need mean no more than genuine but in other languages and in Catholic theology has connotations of essential agreement, about which the Congregation has reservations. It also complains that it is unclear whether in the eyes of Arcic the differences which remain are in secondary matters such as discipline, or in points which truly pertain to the faith.
Ambiguity in the text also gives
c for concern. This possibility of contrasting and ultimately incompatible readings of formulations which are apparently satisfactory to both sides gives rise to a question about the real consensus of the two Communions, pastors and faithful alike. In effect, if a formulation which has received the agreement of the expertscan be diversely interpreted, how could it serve as a 'basis for reconciliation on the level of church life and practice?"
The Congregation goes on to • Bishop Alan Co-Chairman enumerate its specific criticisms under the heads: Eucharist, Ministry and Ordination, and Authority in the Church — the order in which Arcic considered the topics. , On the Eucharist, Arcic does not satisfy the Catholic understanding of sacrifice. "It would have been helpful, in order to permit Catholics to see their faith fully expressed on this point, to make clear that this real presence of the sacrifice of Christ, accomplished by the sacramental words, that is to say by the ministry of the priest saying In persona Christi' the words of the Lord, includes a participation of the Church, the Body of Christ, in the sacrificial act of the Lord, so that she offers sacramentally in him and with him his sacrifice."
While the Congregation welcomes certain phrases in the Arcic report which state the real .pprreesseennt presence fwiCthhtrhi
others which suggest that Christ is Eucharist, it is unhappy Pt bread
na da batohnudet
Clark — Arcic wine, even after consecration.
On Ministry, the Congregation is looking for an admission that the Minister in the Church has a priestly character, in other words, that he offers up a sacramental sacrifice. Nor does Arcic make clear the Catholic belief that ordination is one of the sacraments instituted by Christ. a belief contradicteny-thi
Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. • The Petrine Texts are fundamental to Arcic's discussion of
authority in the Church, and the SCDF welcomes Anglican recognition that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not contrary to the New Testament. But it does not think that Arcic's explanation of Peter's "special position among the Twelve" measures up to Catholic belief.
As expected, the issue of infallibility has not been resolved according to the Congregation's satisfaction. "For Arcic, the assurance the faithful have of the truth of the teaching of the Church's magisterium, in the last analysis, lies in the fidelity to the Gospel they recognise in it rather than in the authority of the person who expresses it ... Hence one can understand why Arcic goes on to say that many Anglicans do not accept as dogmas of the Church the definition of the Immaculate Conception."
The Anglican position On the infallibility of doctrines taught in the Church, as expressed in Arcic, is that the acid test remains whether the teaching is received by the faithful. The Congregation's observations say that both Vatican I and Vatican II state the infallible doctrine from the magisterium requires the assent of the faithful. But it does admit that Vatican II points out the remarkable harmony between the teaching of Church authorities and the belief of the faithful.
In future dialogue the Sacred Congregation would like to see the topics of Apostolic Succession and moral teaching giin prominence.
It is probable that no one seriously expected the Arcic final report to be welcomed with open arms by Rome and, while it may be gratifying to find the Vatican's experts refraining from roundly condemning the joint Commission's suggestions, there seems littlqi that could be done in the futtife to satisfy its expectations other than*, for Anglicans to embrace the full teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.