Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anglican Catholicism and the Papal Primacy

The exercise of the petrine ministry of the papal see in Rome will serve in the great Church of the future as a workable central focus for the reunification of the one communion of the catholic Church - this is the current conviction of many in the Anglican world. Unlike many other Churches of the reformation, the Anglican Church has never abandoned a possible role for the Roman primacy, so long as the ministry of the Bishop of Rome is rightly understood, interpreted, and implemented. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome should not be an obstacle, but rather should function as a possible instrument of ultimate Christian unity. Orthodox Anglicanism today acknowledges that the ministry of the papacy is evolving rapidly and could someday be received by the Anglican Church as means tending toward the reconciliation of all Churches. A de facto recognition of the historic papal ministry already exists within the Anglican Communion, which has consistently maintained throughout her history that the Roman Pontiff possesses a station of primus inter pares, ‘first amongst equals,’ a primacy of honour and reverence, though not of jurisdiction or personal infallibility.

In his truly ground-breaking Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II calls for the reunion of the Church based on the reception of the papal office as a petrine ministry of service and unity. The Pope highlights those areas in which further consensus of faith needs to be achieved. Orthodox Anglicans already share an advanced level of agreement with the Church of Rome regarding these common aspects of catholic truth:

1) Sacred Scripture as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God (see Articles of Religion 6, 20, and 34);

2) The Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence, and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Articles 28, 29, 30, and 31, 1928 American BCP pp 73-84, especially 80-82, the Anglican Catechism, and the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal 189, 204, 197, 199-200, etc.);

3) Ordination as a Sacrament to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate (see the Anglican Ordinal, especially the Preface thereof, the Second BCP Office of Instruction, and Articles 23 and 36);

4) the Magisterium of the Church entrusted to the Episcopate, understood as a responsibility and authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith (again see the Anglican rite for the consecration of Bishops and Articles 20, 23, and 34);

5) the Virgin Mary as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and all humanity (see BCP 96, 231, and 235, Article 2, and the 1940 Hymnal 117, 599, etc.).

His Holiness’ description of the role and ministry of the papacy in Ut Unum Sint is refreshingly open to a new and more conciliar hermeneutic, and therefore well fits the traditional Anglican matrix concerning the ministries of primacy and conciliarity/collegiality/sobornost. Anglicans are conciliarists at heart who regard as the Church’s esse the principle of conciliar episcopal government.

Although Anglicans are not prepared, based on historical reasons, to affirm of the origin of the papal system what John Paul II does -- ‘the (Roman) Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her perpetual and visible principle of unity’ -- nevertheless the Anglican Tradition stands ready to accept the historic primacy of the Bishop of Rome as it was exercised in the Undivided Church. The Pope beautifully states that ‘this designation, servus servorum Dei, is the best possible safeguard against the risk of separating power and in particular the primacy from ministry.’ The Pope asks for forgiveness for the abuse of the papal prerogative of primacy in the course of Church history while affirming the papal office as the ‘guarantor of unity.’ After tracing the New Testament roots of the claim made by the Roman Popes to be the Successors of Peter and Paul at Rome, John Paul contends that the papacy is a ministry of the mercy of God which serves the Church as a whole, functioning to keep oversight over the College of Bishops so that the common good and order of the whole Church may be preserved. John Paul’s interpretation of papal infallibility is very carefully, cautiously worded: ‘He can also - under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council - declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.’ The Bishop of Rome reasserts that the Pope must only act in communion with his brother Bishops and is one member, albeit a very crucial member, of the communion of Bishops as a College. Pope John Paul takes herculean steps to accommodate other church traditions in the enterprise of discussion, offering to examine the input contributions of other Churches regarding the papal office. ‘Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on the subject...?’ Finally, at the end of the Encyclical, the Pope re-formulates the sine qua non of Church communion for the Roman jurisdiction: ‘The (Roman) Church both in her praxis and in her solemn documents holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome is - in God’s plan - as essential requisite for full and visible communion.’

Relatedly, and surprisingly to most uninformed observers, the Anglican Tradition has historically taken a rather hopeful view of the Papacy, even in spite of the breach with the papal communion which occurred at the beginning of the English Reformation in 1534 during the reign of the infamous King Henry VIII. The Ecclesia Anglicana, separated from Rome and yet retaining the essential catholic character of the Church, has never lost sight of the need for a biblical, patristic, historical, and episcopal primacy based in the Roman Patriarchate of the West. They are Daughter and Mother. The 1908 Lambeth Conference of Bishops declared on behalf of the entire Anglican Church: ‘there can be no fulfilment of the divine purpose in any scheme of Reunion which does not ultimately include the great Latin Church of the West.’ ‘Catholicism without the Pope is a maimed Catholicism; not, indeed, maimed as a body would be without a head, but maimed as the House of Commons would be without a speaker’ (Bishop KD Mackenzie). With these words uttered at the 1933 Oxford Movement Centenary Congress, an Anglican prelate best summarises the traditional Anglican approach to the role and function of the papacy, a position still maintained today.

These concepts are enfleshed more fully and remarkably by the renown Anglo-Catholic theologian Father Francis J. Hall. Note how his prophecies first spoken in 1923 are being fulfilled in many respects today: ‘Turning to the papal claim, we should distinguish between the ancient and modern elements in it. It is the Vatican position, gradually developed through centuries and finally defined in 1870, that constitutes the main barrier to reunion on the Roman side. Moreover, the removal of this barrier does not necessarily require a formal repudiation of the Vatican Council, and we ought not to require Rome’s humiliation as the price of reunion. It will suffice if Rome outgrows the objectionable elements of Vaticanism and reinterprets its terms by action that will securely establish Catholic liberties. Whether we accept or reject the claim that Christ formally instituted a permanent Papal primacy committed to the Roman See, we have to face the evidence of Christian history that such primacy has been a providential instrument of divine ordering. Moreover, when the Church is reunited, some visible centre of unity and of ecumenical business, such as the Papal See affords, will be needed for efficiency and for safeguarding Catholic unity. We can grant this, and the probability that a permanent governmental primacy over the entire Church militant has been divinely committed to the Roman See. What then interferes with submission to that See (by Anglicans)? Simply this, that the providential primacy of Rome has been enlarged by claims which subject the Church to an unprimitive and unrestrained autocracy - one which has no divine warrant, and which displaces instead of safeguarding truly Catholic government... But these accretions do not inhere in Papal primacy itself, which can survive and function after their removal. The removal is certainly needed, for they have gradually converted Papal government into an autocracy fatal to Catholic liberties. Such a reformation will surely come in time, for Christ has not forsaken his Church. And I believe that the process of outgrowing Vaticanism, a necessary antecedent of this reformation, has already begun.’

Father Hall continues to describe the ‘Papal See in the United Church’ along lines which could be interpreted as amazingly similar to Ut Unum Sint:

‘Can we describe in advance the position which the Roman See will occupy in the reunited Church? We cannot in detail, and to advocate particular arrangements with regard to the matter is hopelessly premature. Nonetheless, it seems clear that certain requirements ought to be met, and that when their nature has once been generally recognised, they can be met satisfactorily.

A) On the one hand, what is true in Papal claims will have to be acknowledged, and a primacy will have to be accepted which will be sufficiently effective to preserve the Church’s visible unity.
B) On the other hand, Papal authority will have to be brought within such constitutionally safeguarded limits as will adequately protect Catholic liberties from autocratic interference.

The Catholic liberties referred to should include the unhampered local election of Bishops and Metropolitans, and such national and provincial autonomy everywhere as is consistent with Catholic unity and with the preservation of the ancient Catholic Faith and Order; the freedom and supreme legislative authority of ecumenical Councils, and their right to determine the orthodoxy and binding force of Papal definitions and decretals.’ Fr Hall’s standpoint is inherently that still accepted by Anglicanism in the 21st century.

The Anglican Catholic position regarding the papacy today generally perceives the Roman Pope as a visible and primary spokesman for the entire Catholic world, a representative and focused voice commissioned to articulate Catholic Tradition on behalf of the whole collegial episcopate, which consequently transmits and faithfully guards the apostolic deposit of faith. The Pope is thus envisioned, not a super-Bishop who rules over the Church or imposes ecclesial discipline and teaching from outside, but as the First or Chief Bishop of Christendom, who as one select member of the collegial episcopal ministry, from within the Body of Christ, is charged to speak for the Church with the support and consensus of the entire catholic episcopate. According to this view, the Pope does not establish or create Tradition, but is endowed with the charism of the Holy Spirit by virtue of his episcopal consecration faithfully to hand-on that and that only which he has received from the ancient Undivided Church. And as the chief representative of the Apostolic College, his presence and role are indispensable. The Roman Pope therefore can give full expression and articulation to the common mind of the Church, the consensus fidelium of the People of God manifested through the collegial episcopate. Every visible body requires a visible representative, a focal point for unity and collegiality. The Pope potentially possesses such a relationship to the episcopate, and to the Church Catholic as an organic whole. The Pope is a mouthpiece, a ‘PR man,’ of the apostolic Communion of Churches. Hence the Pope is no more sacramentally or jurisdictionally ‘Vicar of Christ’ than any other catholic and apostolic Bishop; but he is, is a unique sense, a ‘Vicar of the Church,’ the Prime Bishop of universal Christendom. Such is the Anglican, and ancient Catholic, perspective.

Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical, calls the whole Church of Christ to re-assimilate the petrine ministry of the papal office as a source and centre for genuine communion, for real Christian unity. This invitation is one which Catholic Anglicans could, given the right conditions, happily embrace. The Anglican model corresponds perfectly with the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the Roman primacy: ‘ Full communion needs to be visibly expressed in a ministry in which all the Bishops recognise that they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their faith. The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the one who speaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity of the community - all the while respecting the authority of James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem. This function of Peter must continue in the Church so that under her sole Head, who is Jesus Christ, she may be visibly present in the world as the communion of all his disciples. Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such a ministry? A ministry which presides in truth and love so that the ship will not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach its haven.’

Indeed, the Anglican Tradition, as an ecumenical partner, officially realises the need for this ministry, this newly-re-evaluated papacy. The answer, for Anglicans, of the vexing problem or difficulty of papal primacy is resolved by what Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar termed in the 1920’s a Constitutional Papacy: ‘The ideal Bishop is the Father of his flock, accessible to all, a constitutional governor having a seat in a constitutional General Council, under a constitutional Pope.’ (Anglo-Catholic Congress 1920). ‘Reunion with Rome must wait for the growth of a broader and more enlightened policy within her which will be prepared to modify the present claims of the Papacy, and to demand for the Pope no more than that which the rest of the Church should most willingly concede, the first position of honour and primacy among Bishops. To say that Rome will never so change is to ignore the lessons of history, and to deny that the Spirit of God is guiding the destinies of His Church. (Fr GD Rosenthal, 1927).

The definitive Anglican response to Ut Unum Sint emerges in the 1999 Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission Agreed Statement on Authority, The Gift of Authority - Authority in the Church III. In this document, the Anglican representatives announce they are ‘open to and desire a recovery and re-reception under certain clear conditions of the exercise of universal primacy by the Bishop of Rome.’ The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is declared to be ‘a gift to be received by all the Churches.’ The Roman Pope is affirmed to have ‘a specific ministry concerning the discernment of truth.’ Typical of the Anglican reserve concerning the claim of papal infallibility, the ARCIC statement describes infallibility of the Pope in these words: ‘this form of authoritative teaching has no stronger guarantee from the Holy Spirit than have the solemn definitions of the Ecumenical Councils.’ The Pope’s primacy should ‘help to uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions... unity does not curtail diversity, and diversity does not endanger but enhances unity.’ Anglicans on the ARC Commission profess that the universal primacy of the Pope ‘will be an effective sign for all Christians as to how this gift of God (papal primacy) builds up that unity for which Christ prayed.’ The latest instalment of Anglican-Roman dialogue goes so far as to suggest that the Anglican Church could receive the papal primacy before the two Churches are able to achieve full communion. Although this incredibly optimistic and encouraging stand does not represent the totality of Anglicanism, it does clearly reflect the increasing momentum in which official Anglicanism is seeking to receive and utilise the papal office. However, it must be said unambiguously that the 1870 dogma of the First Vatican Council which enshrines papal infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Pope poses an incredibly high hurdle for the Anglican Tradition, a body which emphasises an ecclesiology of koinonia and episcopal collegiality developed in the Church of the patristic age. Most Anglicans will never be able to accept as dogma a teaching which, to their minds, deliberately contravenes the Canon of Saint Vincent of Lerins, that that which is Catholic is that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. With the Old Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Eastern Churches, Traditional Anglicans find the 1870 dogma an almost insuperable barrier to the restoration of full communion with the Bishop of Rome. If the dogma of papal infallibility could be effectively re-interpreted or simply evolved into a even more profound comprehension of ecclesiastical indefectibility, in which the Pope is understood to be within the infallible construct of the Undivided Church, the bearer of a Holy Tradition which in turn receives the universal consent of the Catholic antiquity of the ages, and is not dependent on the personal or official ex cathedra proclamation of the Pope, then perhaps the quagmire the 1870 dogma presents would simply be overcome by being by-passed or made moot through organic development. Could the papacy simply move beyond the 1870 categories to a more holistic vision?

The recovery of an authentic understanding of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as a communion, or koinonia of local particular Churches possessing Apostolic Succession in the historic collegial episcopate, would enable Anglicanism to accept the Bishop of Rome’s primacy as a primacy of communio, a headship and leadership grounded in the integral unity, catholicity and legitimacy of all local churches as both equal and one. To quote Saint Cyprian of Carthage, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome can and should be a ‘primacy of love and honour,’ just as Saint Irenaeus of Lyons venerates the Church of Rome as the one which ‘presides in love.’ The Bishop of Rome’s primacy could, ultimately, be received by the Anglican Church, and, God willing, by all the Churches of Christ, along these lines in the fullness of time. This response has elucidated an explication of Ut Unum Sint from a specifically Anglican perspective, and yet sees the answers which lie herein as a tool by which the reunification of the complete oikumene, the Christian world, should be accomplished. Ut Unum Sint is the future direction which all Christians should seek to embody and practice. A constitutional, collegial, conciliar papacy must be the wave of the future if the Church on earth is ever again to attain to full visible sacramental eucharistic communion. The seating of Anglican Bishops with their brother Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Assyrian, and Scandinavian Lutheran Bishops, in short, with all Bishops of apostolic succession in apostolic local Churches, in the general council of the Church catholic, must be the supreme goal toward which all Christians must pray and work and for which the papal office must begin to be the catalyst and not the obstacle. In this manner, the papacy would be received by all Churches as the uniting leadership of the elder Brother Bishop, the Father-in-God for and with all Fathers-in-God in the apostolic episcopate. All protestant churches, God willing, may someday take on the historic episcopate and thus the catholic sacramental system, moving them toward a communion of communions in which the Bishop of Rome would be the primate of love and honour as well as of authority and conciliar jurisdiction. Scriptures, Creeds, Dominical Sacraments, and Apostolic Ministry of the Lambeth Quadrilateral.... plus papal primacy? With God all things are possible.

1 comment:

highchurchman said...

"The exercise of the Petrine Ministry?"

The Petrine Ministry has yet to be defined from Revelation,Scripture and Councils. If it can't be so defined then there isn't one. The fact that the Bishop of Rome is Patriarch of Old Rome, while the Bishop of Constantinople is Patriarch of New Rome, is simply a matter of Church policy and was bestowed by the Church through the medium of the Ecumenical Councils at the instigation of the Holy Ghost. If the Pope is ready to put himself at the disposal of an Ecumenical Council possibly something could develope on traditional lines, otherwise it is simply Rome and his fellow travellors playing games.

As for Anglicanism? This is simply an out showing of traditional catholicity as developed over two thousand years of Holy Scripture and Tradition. The Catholic Church has its own Magisterium based on the Canon of S.Vincent of Lerins. The Revelation of Christ, recorded in Holy Scripture Developed and explained by the Holy Fathers in the Seven Councils and the Consensus of the Greek Fathers of the first centuries.
This is the basis for Anglicanism as I have been taught it.

By your favour?