No True Ecumenism without Unity with the Successor of Peter - No True Catholicism without the Unity of Christians
In 1900, four years after Apostolicae Curae dealt a blow to Anglican hopes for reunion with the Catholic Church, the vicar of Moreton-in-Marsh, Spencer Jones, preached a sermon at St Matthew’s, Westminster. England and the Holy See insisted that – nonetheless - there could be no lasting future for the mission to England of the two provinces of Canterbury and York, without restoring their unity with the Catholic Church, the rock whence they were hewn. Furthermore, an Anglican vision of Catholicity cannot exclude, but inescapably relies on, the communion of all Christians with the Apostolic See at Rome. To this end, in 1908, together with Paul Wattson (an American friar whose Episcopalian Franciscan community would shortly afterwards enter full communion with the Catholic Church and, as the Society of the Atonement, continues its work towards unity to this day), Jones co-founded the Church Unity Octave, fore-runner of the present Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, promoting this very objective. After the 1910 Edinburgh Mission Conference (an attempt to coordinate Anglican, Protestant and Reformed efforts in overseas mission, often seen as the founding moment of the modern ecumenical movement), a small group led by the Revd Henry Joy Fynes Clinton, later the long-serving rector of St Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge, founded the Catholic League. Its aim was to maintain the driving principle of recovering communion with the Successor of Peter and to seek the corporate reunion of the Church of England and the Apostolic See of Rome.
The meeting that formally established the League took place 100 years ago today, on July 2nd 1913 at St Mark’s, Bush Hill Park in Enfield. On July 5th at St Mary’s, Corringham in Essex, it was publicly inaugurated with the enrolment of the first members. Although never large in numbers, the “Papalist” agenda it set has been widespread, even mainstream. Thus could Archbishop Randall Davidson lend support to fellow Anglicans (mostly mainstream Prayer Book Catholics) as they conducted the unofficial Malines Conversations with Cardinal Mercier in Belgium. The Conversations’ most famous idea, coming from Dom Lambert Beauduin - “united, not absorbed” - continues to animate Anglican aspirations for unity with the Catholic Church.
It was the League that made the first organised pilgrimage to the restored Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Shrine was founded by Fr Fynes Clinton’s friend and collaborator, Alfred Hope Patten, on firmly Papalist principles, to be a place and a body that insistently pointed to Catholic unity in faith, devotion and communion – as the famous “Rock of Offence”, the foundation stone of the Holy House, showed in recording the episcopate of the local Anglican Bishop of Norwich and the reigning Roman Pontiff of the day. This foundational vision of Catholic communion is one that urgently needs to be re-captured, if Walsingham, with its several denominational places of pilgrimage, is to be true to its aspiration to be not just ecumenically cordial, but a driving force through the prayers of the Mother of God to reintegrate the unity of the One Body of her Son. The League has constantly been ready to help, according to its means, so that at Walsingham, perhaps more than anywhere else in the Church-world we know, the prayer “that they all may be one”, “one flock with one shepherd”, can be manifest.
The Catholic League throughout has also promoted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, now an official part of so many of the Churches. It was Fr Fynes Clinton – a successful missionary for Catholic faith and living practice as an effective parish priest - who invited to England the Week’s re-creator, Fr Paul Couturier of the Catholic primatial archdiocese of Lyon, to see the Anglican Church on home ground, especially those Papalist Catholic building blocks that offered some projection, even some portent, of the potential if reunion could come to pass. He took Couturier to see a number of the Anglican religious communities, showing living proof of union in the Church’s spirit and mind that Couturier had been saying was the sure path to union in the Church’s body. These close links with the Anglican papalist communities (notably Nashdom Abbey) - links that understood the religious life as a means towards realising corporate reunion – animated and incarnated the direction and objectives of the League, and the way it was able to present simply and clearly its cause for the necessity of the Papacy. Outstanding among those links is Dom Gregory Dix of Nashdom, the most influential of all English-speaking liturgical scholars, and the most penetrating of apologists for the Church’s need for what we would now call the Petrine ministry, or a universal pastorate. Together with the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, he convened the group of “Anglicans of the Catholic school” whose landmark report in 1947, Catholicity, set the stage for renewed Anglican hope for post-war reconciliation led by the churches of Europe and, at the heart of that, unity with the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Ripon, John Moorman, no “Romaniser” but a convinced Papalist, was appointed official Anglican observer at Vatican II; and soon Archbishop Ramsey would make the first official visit by an Anglican Primate to Pope Paul VI. The story is well known, but bears repeating, of how the Papal Curia was gathered to greet him in the Apostolic Palace, which contains a fresco depicting Archbishop William Warham (Archbishop of Canterbury 1503-1532), and drew astonished breath when Archbishop Michael Ramsey arrived dressed in exactly the same way – the standard “walking out” attire of the sixteenth century English Catholic hierarchy: rochet, chimere and square-cap. Still worn by the Anglican episcopate, it caused the Cardinals to see that a rupture of four centuries’ permanence might be repaired as if it were yesterday.
As the Catholic League promoted the unity of Anglican Catholics around the pastoral, theological and liturgical renewal of Vatican II, it also recognised the Council’s ecumenical potential for achieving its long cherished object of the reunion of all Christians in communion with Apostolic See of Rome, especially in light of the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. Accordingly, it has supported the Anglican Centre in Rome, as well as the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, now in its third phase of dialogue.
The visit of Blessed Pope John II to Britain in 1982, including the encounter with Archbishop Robert Runcie in united prayer and blessing at Canterbury, encouraged the League to renew its call to Catholic unity in One Step More, by the current President, Michael Rear, who is present with us today. Although subsequent events marked steps away from the unity that looked imminent in 1982, the League, by now a society open more widely to all who believe in Catholic ecumenism, has continued to promote Catholic teaching and spirituality wherever opportunity presented itself, towards the Church’s unity in communion with the successor of Peter for all Christians. Efforts led by members of the League in the late 1980s and early 1990s towards the realisation of a form of “corporate reunion, united not absorbed” came to nothing at the time, but in 2009 the seeds grew and bore fruit. With the Church of England’s decision that its episcopate would no longer maintain identity with the Catholic and Orthodox episcopate, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s Cardinal Kasper declared the previous endeavour towards unity based on re-convergence to be “definitively” concluded, and the recognition of orders no longer possible. Thus, having exhausted all other options for the corporate reunion of the Anglican Church, Pope Benedict XVI resolved to create at least one manifestation of how the rich tradition and historic mission of Anglican Christianity might achieve fullness of communion with the Catholic Church as “a treasure to be shared.”
As in 2009 the Catholic League approached its centenary, it recognised in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus a tangible fulfilment of its founding witness to corporate reunion. Yet, at the same time as its direct support for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, it persists, too, in the unfinished work of 1913, the unity of the Catholic Church and the “Church of England entire”, as well as the communion of all Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome. After all, we are all united in a bond of loving our Anglican life, formation, memory and heritage. Moreover, a good number of our members are devoted members of the Church of England in good conscience and are no less devoted to help it rediscover its essential unity with the Catholic Church in fullness of communion with Peter. This may seem impossible at the moment; as earlier visions of reunion and ecumenism pass away; but it is the Catholic League’s unwavering faith that unity not only will come, but must come, because the Lord willed that we may be one, “so that the world may believe.”
Since our last Annual General Meeting in 2012, your officers have continued to meet and work towards the realisation of our much loved Catholic League’s unswerving fidelity to the wholeness of Christian Unity, pursuing which is the only ecumenism that will bring about the unity of the Church in the apostolic faith.
In March 2013 the League, the first body to have made an organised pilgrimage to the restored Shrine, made its Centenary Pilgrimage to Walsingham, led by Archdeacon Luke Miller, talking about the unanimity in the spirit of the Anglican Father Congreve SSJE and the Catholic doctor of the Church, St Thérèse of Lisieux. We were able to celebrate mass in thanksgiving and for the repose of the soul of our founders in the Fynes Clinton Chantry, very close to the Holy House. We arrived just following the election of Pope Francis and were able to devote our thoughts and prayers to his new Petrine ministry of bringing about and binding the unity of the churches, among which Rome presides in love.
We heard shortly afterwards that the Anglican leader in Argentina, Archbishop Gregory Venables - a close friend of Pope Francis’ when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aries - had remarked that the new pope had told him that the Ordinariates had not been necessary and that he wanted to see the unity of the Catholic Church and the Anglican communion as a whole. I am going to surprise you – for a moment - by saying that I agree with him. By that I mean that the corporate reunion of the two is the League’s founding vision; and also that, if the Anglican Communion had been the Church it was, when Bishop John Moorman represented it at Vatican II and Archbishop Michael Ramsey visited Pope Paul VI - setting up the Anglican Centre in Rome and establishing the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, on the principle of convergence in an ever deeper appreciation of our shared apostolic faith in the Risen Christ (something that Pope Paul attributed to our “communion of origins” to which both needed to return more completely) - then of course there would be no need for Ordinariates. Perhaps the Anglican Church in South America maintains the apostolic faith and perhaps its orthodoxy is why Pope Francis has felt such a warm and close bond to it. Elsewhere, however, the sad fact is that the Anglican world has steadily led itself away from those communions of origin and of apostolic faith and order. It reminds me that Blessed Pope John Paul II is said to have upbraided some Lutheran theologians once, at the height of the ultimately successful discussions to achieve an agreement on the question of Justification by Faith (one of the great causes for division at the Reformation), saying, “If you were really Lutherans, we could have been united now”. Something similar applies in this land – “If Anglicans were really Anglicans”, indeed there may not have been the need for Ordinariates and we could indeed all have been one. How right our President Fr Michael Rear was in 1982 – indeed it did look as though all it would take was “one step more”.
Thirty years on, the League’s prophetical call to Anglicanism to be orthodox and apostolic, and to place itself at the service of the gospel and our nation by finding its fulfilment in communion with the whole of the Catholic Church, has been answered in a way that we did not expect, our having almost given up on praying for it as unrealistic. Yet here the Ordinariate is finding its way to bring a part of English religious culture, through a living body in the Church, to be part of the life and culture of all the Catholic Church. We support it without hesitation because, even though its appearance symbolises in some way a failure of the larger hope for an entirety of communion for all Anglicans and all Catholics, nonetheless it is a tangible materialisation of another tradition expressing what is distinctive and precious about it, not in separation but through perfected communion. It gives to us other Catholics an appreciation and greater understanding of the significant Anglican tradition and its riches as something now planted within our own Church. It ought to be a symbol that unity is possible when difference is embraced and diversity stimulates the creation of unity and indeed extends the Catholic Church’s very universality. It ought also to make us better in reaching out in respect and fraternity towards another community with which we desire to be one but with which there remains much more work to undo obstacles so that, as Metropolitan Kallistos puts it, we are found faithful when the Lord comes at last to bestow the miracle of unity. We are delighted that His Excellency the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, is with us today with some of his clergy and people. We warmly congratulate them on what has been achieved so far and know it will be successful and a blessing to all our Churches.
So, even though we find ourselves in a very changed setting for Catholic-Anglican unity from when we had such high hopes in 1982, we press on. Just as we wish to see the Ordinariate reach its highest potential for Christian Unity, not just for itself but for all who hold the apostolic faith, we are no less resolutely committed to support Anglican-Catholic unity in all forms, not least in the sphere of official engagement. We have been particularly concerned to maintain our longstanding support for the Anglican Centre in Rome, whose sentiments to us in our Centenary have been warmer than ever. Our recent grant enables it to serve the promotion of the long-standing ARCIC dialogue. It is interesting to note that a leading English Anglican member of ARCIC III, the evangelical theologian Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, has said that but for the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, and its appreciation of Anglican Patrimony, ARCIC may never have thought to reflect on what it is that the Anglican Communion is offering to the Catholic Church in their common quest for Church reintegration, and, for that matter, what it is contributing to bringing about the unity of all Christians. Thus are Anglicans constructively now engaging with this question that was once used to pour no little scorn on the Ordinariate’s entire basis – “What is this ‘Anglican Patrimony’?” The answer is – and I am so proud that it was the League that was the first to prophesy this from the outset in 2009, even before the Ordinariate was established and received its first members – as the peerless Fr Jack Hackett once observed, “That would be an ecumenical matter”.
During the year we have made several other grants of great significance in terms of the object of the League to promote the Catholic spiritual life towards the recovery of unity. One, to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, will enhance the Marian Library in St Augustine’s, which we hope will be a resource and blessing to pilgrims from all Churches to England’s Nazareth. Another is to Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, in central London, a Catholic Church which is being restored as the National Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. In line with an old tradition of the League’s, we are giving a splendid historic Monstrance that beautifully matches the art and architecture of the building. It will be used for an enhanced programme of sustained adoration and Benediction. Even though we Christians are divided at the point of receiving Holy Communion, nonetheless we can be united in devotion, honour and worship for our One Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Mark Woodruff, Golden Square Rectory Hall
Catholic Church of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho, London