Skip to comments.A Journey of a Thousand Miles
Posted on 05/16/2005 6:46:44 PM PDT by sionnsar
The long-awaited Anglican-Roman Catholic statement on Mary will be released Thursday:
Members of the Anglican church are being asked to accept that controversial Roman Catholic teachings regarding the Virgin Mary are "authentic expressions of Christian belief".
The proposals, which came under immediate attack from senior evangelicals, come in a document agreed by leading theologians and prelates of both churches and published in America tonight.
Mary: Hope and Grace in Christ was launched at a Roman Catholic Mass in Seattle by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic). It is to be published in the UK at Westminster Abbey on Thursday.
Canterbury moved toward Rome, Rome didn't move toward Canterbury.
The long-awaited document, published after six years of discussion, effectively seeks to backtrack on centuries of Anglican dissent over the place of Mary in the Catholic Church by giving new credence to dogmas that helped inspire the Reformation.
It states that there is "no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division" over the role of the Virgin Mary. "We do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing," it says. The document also describes private devotions inspired by apparitions of Mary as "acceptable".
In the passage likely to cause most dissent, the document says the infallible dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption - the teachings that Mary was herself conceived "without sin" and that on death she was "assumed" body and soul into Heaven - are "consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures".
Which, of course, angers evangelicals.
The Reverend Rod Thomas, a leading evangelical cleric who acts as spokesman for the Reform conservative grouping, said the document represented an attempt to "shoehorn into Scripture" the Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.
He said: "If Mary has been wholly and completely assumed into Heaven and we are able to pray to her, it goes completely against the grain of Jesus Christ being our great high priest who intercedes on our behalf with the Father."
He said he had a lot of sympathy for the members of the commission as they struggled to find common theological ground. "But it has become clear that we can only find common ground through theological fudge. That can never be a basis for moving forward in unity.
"The document goes nowhere near addressing the understandings of revelation, of scriptural authority and the uniqueness of Christ that were the cornerstones of the Reformation and are the cornerstones of evangelical faith today.
"It is not so much an attempt to turn the clock back as a demonstration that to move forward would require compromises on our understanding of the Bibles teaching that, however courteously expressed, are still issues that divide us."
At this point, the report is intended only for discussion.
The document is not intended itself to be authoritative but to be a basis for discussion, yet its authors admit openly to the hope that the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion will recognise a "common faith" concerning Mary as outlined in the paper.
Living Church points out that it is way too early to start talking about unity.
Although not an authoritative declaration by either Rome or Canterbury, the conclusion states that it significantly deepens and extends previous agreements between the two churches and it is hoped that a third phase of dialogue will address the two remaining areas of outstanding theological contention: the authority of the pope in making the immaculate conception and the assumption matters of infallible dogma and the proper manner in which the Church should honor the mother of God.
After that come women priests, that fellow in New Hampshire and the general state of ECUSA, Anglican Church of Canada and western liberal Anglican "theology" these days.
It's doubtful whether this report or whatever follows it will mean anything in the long run. For one thing, Anglicans will sign their names to just about anything these days. And this report took six years; the idea that the Anglican world will still be in one piece six years from now is extremely debatable. In a way, Mary was the easy part. It is when the talks move on to these other topics that things will begin to get dicey.
Because Canterbury needs Rome much more than Rome needs Canterbury and I think both know that. So Rome doesn't have to concede anything. I can't conceive of the Pope, whoever he is at the time, allowing Anglicans to ordain women as long as they acknowledge his supremacy. And I also can't conceive that western Anglicans would ever be even remotely willing to give up female priests.
Is a compromise on this particular issue possible? Might western Anglicans agree to stop ordaining women but be permitted to declare that those already ordained remain so? I can't imagine Rome ever agreeing to that as it would then have to live with the principle that a recognized "Catholic" church had women priests serving in some of its parishes, a fact that would cause much more trouble for Rome than the Anglicans are worth.
And even if both churches somehow managed to negotiate that particular mine field, that would only bring them up against the whole practicing-homosexual-with-a-pointy-hat-and-hooked-stick issue and they'd have to deal with Robbie and whoever follows him. Add to all this the fact that most liberal bishops in the western Anglican world would rather eat their own croziers than be part of a church in which they had to actually believe things, would get disciplined if they taught what the church didn't believe and could no longer change church doctrine because the culture told them to.
Which may be the whole idea. In his warm letter to the American Anglican Council's 2003 Plano Conference and his talks with the Traditional Anglican Communion. Benedict XVI has proven entirely willing to bypass "official" Anglican channels in search of orthodox Christians. Perhaps Benedict knows that over the next several years, a large number of Anglicans will swim the Tiber regardless of what any Anglican-Roman Catholic commission does or doesn't decide.
So Rome's under no pressure here. They can even afford to be nice to Frank Griswold and let him come to this report's rollout. Because as far as relations with the Anglicans are concerned, time is on Rome's side. And Rome knows it.
I just spent the better part of a week in a "discussion" on a different thread about Catholic Marian beliefs. I'm interested to see what responses you get here, but I'm staying out.
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