At the Anglican Communion Lambeth Conference: Canterbury, 30 July 2008
Cardinal Walter Kasper
President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
Our overwhelming desire: that the Anglican Communion stays together
It is my privilege to bring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, to each of you here present, and to all the participants of this highly significant Lambeth Conference, the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI and of the whole staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. All of us are with you in these days; we are with you in our thoughts and in our prayers, and we want to express our deep solidarity with your joys and with your concerns and sorrows as well....
It is a strength of Anglicanism that even in the midst of difficult circumstances, you have sought the views and perspectives of your ecumenical partners, even when you have not always particularly rejoiced in what we have said. But rest assured, what I am about to say, I say as a friend....
My paper will be divided into three sections: an overview of our relations in recent years; ecclesiological considerations in light of the current situation within Anglicanism; and a brief reflection on underlying questions beneath current controversies and points of dispute within Anglicanism, especially those which have also had an effect on your relations with the Catholic Church. In the conclusion, I will offer a response to a quite unexpected question posed to me a few months ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury. which puzzled me a great deal, namely: "What kind of Anglicanism do you want?" What a question! I hope that you yourself know the right answer — and what are the hopes of the Catholic Church for the Anglican Communion in the months and years ahead? Here the answer is easier: We hope that we will not be drawn apart, and that we will be able to remain in serious dialogue in search of full unity, so that the world may believe.
Overview of recent years
Let me in this first section refresh our memories, lest we forget what and how much me have already achieved in the last 40 years. When the Second Vatican Council, in its Decree on Ecumenism, turned its attention to the "many Communions (which) were separated from the Roman See" in the 16th century, it acknowledged that "among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place" (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 13). This statement is grounded in an ecclesiological understanding that from the Catholic perspective, the Anglican Communion contains significant elements of the Church of Jesus Christ....
What we are talking about is not an ideology, not a private opinion which one may or may not share; it is our faithfulness to Jesus Christ, witnessed by the Apostles, and to His Gospel, with which we are entrusted. From the very beginning we should, therefore, keep in mind what is at stake as we proceed to speak about faithfulness to the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession, when we speak about the threefold ministry, women's ordination, and moral commandments. What we are talking about is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ Himself, who is our unique and common master. And what else can our dialogue be but an expression of our intent and desire to be fully one in Him in order to be fully joint witnesses to His Gospel....
Yet full unity was not and is not an end in itself, but a sign of and instrument for seeking unity with God and peace in the world.
With this in mind, when we can look back at what the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has accomplished over the past nearly four decades, we can say with confidence that it has indeed borne good fruit. The first phase of ARCIC (1970-1981) addressed Eucharistic Doctrine (1971) and Ministry and Ordination (1973), and in each instance, claimed to have reached substantial agreement.... The first phase of ARCIC also produced two statements on the subject of Authority in the Church (1976, 1981), the theme at the heart of the divisions of the 16th century.
Salvation in the Church (1986) resonates, in many ways, with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999. Building on the understanding of the Church as koinonia which was first set forward in the introduction of ARCIC I's Final Report, ARCIC II offered the Commission's most mature work on ecclesiology in The Church as Communion (1991). Life in Christ (1994) was able to identify a shared vision and a common heritage for ethical teaching, despite differing pastoral applications of moral principles. The Gift of Authority (1999) returned to the theme of authority, and made important progress on the need for a universal ministry of primacy in the Church. Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ (2005) took important and unexpected strides towards a common understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary....
Over the past 40 years, we have not only engaged jointly in theological dialogue. A close working relationship between Anglicans and Catholics has grown, not only on an international level, but also in many regional and local contexts. As Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams noted in their Common Declaration of November, 2006, "As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical co-operation and service. This fellowship in the service of Christ, experienced by many of our communities around the world, adds a further impetus to our relationship"....
Indeed we want to continue on this path and bring what we started 40 years ago to its final goal.
This leaves me all the more saddened as I have now, in fidelity to what I believe Christ requires — and I want to add, in the frankness which friendship allows — to look to the problems within the Anglican Communion which have emerged and grown since the last Lambeth Conference, and to the ecumenical repercussions of these internal tensions.... But before doing so I want to reiterate what I said when in November 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury came to Rome to visit Pope Benedict: "The questions and problems of our friends are also our questions and problems". So I raise these questions not in judgement, but as an ecumenical partner who has been deeply discouraged by recent developments, and who wishes to offer you an honest reflection, from a Catholic perspective, on how and where we can move forward in the present context....
Ecclesiological questions have long been a major point of controversy between our two communities. Already as a young student I studied all of the ecclesiological arguments raised by John Henry Newman, which moved him to become a Catholic. His main concerns revolved around apostolicity in communion with the See of Rome as the guardian of apostolic tradition and of the unity of the Church. I think his questions remain and that we have not yet exhausted this discussion.
Whereas Newman dealt with the Church of England of his time, today we are confronted with additional problems on the level of the Anglican Communion of 44 regional and national member churches, each self-governing. Independence without sufficient interdependence has now become a critical issue.
Two years ago, the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) statement Growing Together in Unity and Mission addressed the situation within the Anglican Communion, and its ecumenical implications, as follows: "Since this (Mississauga) meeting, however, the Churches of the Anglican Communion have entered into a period of dispute occasioned by the episcopal ordination of a person living in an openly-acknowledged committed same-sex relationship and the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. These matters have intensified reflection on the nature of the relationship between the Churches of the Communion....
"In addition, ecumenical relationships have become more complicated as proposals within the Church of England have focused attention on the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate which is an established part of ministry in some Anglican provinces" (§ 6).
In addition to developments in relation to this latter point, we now need to take account of the decision of a significant number of Anglican bishops not to attend this Lambeth Conference, and of proposals from within Anglicanism which are challenging existing instruments of authority within the Anglican Communion....
In March 2006, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited me to speak at a meeting of the Church of England's House of Bishops, addressing the mission of bishops in the Church. While the backdrop of that address was the possible ordination of women to the episcopate, the central argument about the nature of the episcopal office as an office of unity is relevant to all of the points of tension in the Anglican Communion identified above.
In brief, I argued that unity. unanimity and koinonia (communion) are fundamental concepts in the New Testament and in the early Church. I argued: "From the beginning the episcopal office was 'koinonially' or collegially embedded in the communion of all bishops: it was never perceived as an office to be understood or practised individually".
Then I turned to the theology of the episcopal office of a Church Father of great importance for Anglicans and Catholics alike, the martyr Bishop Cyprian of Carthage of the third century.
His sentence "episcopatus unus et indivisus" is well known... (De ecclesiae catholicae unitate, I, 5).
But Cyprian goes even one step further: he not only emphasizes the unity of the people of God with its own individual bishop, but also adds that no one should imagine that he can be in communion with just a few, for "the Catholic Church is not split or divided", but "united and held together by the glue of the mutual cohesion of the bishops" (Ep. 66, 8).
This collegiality is of course not limited to the horizontal and synchronic relationship with contemporary episcopal colleagues; since the Church is one and the same in all centuries, the present-day Church must also maintain diachronic consensus with the episcopate of the centuries before us, and above all with the testimony of the Apostles. This is the more profound significance of the apostolic succession in episcopal office....
This understanding of episcopal office has been set forward in the agreed statements of ARCIC, most especially in Church as Communion and in ARCIC's statements on authority in the Church. Church as Communion... communicates the understanding of both Anglican and Roman Catholic Communions that bishops carry out their ministry in succession to the Apostles, which is "intended to assure each community that its faith is indeed the apostolic faith, received and transmitted from apostolic times" (Church as Communion, n. 33).
ARCIC's The Gift of Authority... underlines the role played by the College of Bishops in maintaining the unity of the Church:
The mutual interdependence of all the churches is integral to the reality of the Church as God wills it to be. No local church that participates in the living Tradition can regard itself as self-sufficient... The ministry of the bishop is crucial, for his ministry serves communion within and among local churches. Their communion with each other is expressed through the incorporation of each bishop into a College of Bishops. Bishops are, both personally and collegially, at the service of the communion.
While there is not time here to draw out more of the ecclesiology of ARCIC, suffice it to say that in our dialogue, we have been able to set forth a strong vision of episcopal ministry, within the context of a shared understanding of the Church as koinonia.
It is significant that the Windsor Report of 2004, in seeking to provide the Anglican Communion with ecclesiological foundations for addressing the current crisis, also adopted an ecclesiology of koinonia....
The one weakness pertaining to ecclesiology that I noted was that "(w)hile the Report stresses that Anglican provinces have a responsibility towards each other and towards the maintenance of communion, a communion rooted in the Scriptures, considerably little attention is given to the importance of being in communion with the faith of the Church through the ages"....
In light of this analysis of episcopal ministry as set forward in ARCIC and the koinonia ecclesiology found in The Windsor Report, it has been particularly disheartening to have witnessed the increasing tensions within the Anglican Communion.
In several contexts, bishops are not in communion with other bishops; in some instances, Anglican provinces are no longer in full communion with each other. While the Windsor process continues, and the ecclesiology set forth in the Windsor Report has been welcomed in principle by the majority of Anglican provinces, it is difficult from our perspective to see how that has translated into the desired internal strengthening of the Anglican Communion and its instruments of unity.
It also seems to us that the Anglican commitment to being 'episcopally led and synodically governed' has not always functioned in such a way as to maintain the apostolicity of the faith, and that synodical government misunderstood as a kind of parliamentary process has at times blocked the sort of episcopal leadership envisaged by Cyprian and articulated in ARCIC.
I know that many of you are troubled, some deeply so, by the threat of fragmentation within the Anglican Communion. We feel profound solidarity with you, for we too are troubled and saddened when we ask: In such a scenario, what shape might the Anglican Communion of tomorrow take, and who will our dialogue partner be?
Should we, and how can we, appropriately and honestly engage in conversations also with those who, share Catholic perspectives on the points currently in dispute, and who disagree with some developments within the Anglican Communion or particular Anglican provinces?
What do you expect in this situation from the Church of Rome, which in the words of Ignatius of Antioch is to preside over the Church in love? How might ARCIC's work on the episcopate, the unity of the Church, and the need for an exercise of primacy at the universal level be able to serve the Anglican Communion at the present time?
Rather than answer these questions, let me remind you of what we stated at the Informal Talks in 2003, and have reiterated on several occasions since then; "It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree". Therefore we are following the discussions of this Lambeth Conference with great interest and heartfelt concern, accompanying them with our fervent prayers.
Particular questions facing the Anglican Communion
In this final section, I would like to briefly address two of the issues at the heart of tensions within the Anglican Communion and in its relations with the Catholic Church, questions pertaining to ordination of women and to human sexuality.
It is not my intent to take up these points of dispute in detail. This is not necessary because the Catholic position, which understands itself to be consistent with the New Testament and the apostolic tradition, is well known. I only want to offer a few thoughts from a Catholic perspective and with an eye to our relations — past, present and future.
The Catholic Church's teaching regarding human sexuality, especially homosexuality, is clear, as set forth in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", nn. 2357-59. We are convinced that this teaching is well founded in the Old and in the New Testament, and therefore that faithfulness to the Scriptures and to apostolic tradition is at stake.
I can only highlight what IARCCUM's Growing Together in Unity and Mission said: "In the discussions on human sexuality within the Anglican Communion, and between it and the Catholic Church, stand anthropological and biblical hermeneutical questions which need to be addressed" (§ 86e). Not without reason, today's principal theme at the Lambeth Conference is concerned with biblical hermeneutics.
I would like briefly to draw your attention to the ARCIC statement Life in Christ, where it was noted (nn. 87-88) that Anglicans could agree with Catholics that homosexual activity is disordered, but that we might differ in the moral and pastoral advice we would offer to those seeking our counsel.
We realize and appreciate that the recent statements of the Primates are consistent with that teaching, which was given clear expression in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
In light of tensions over the past years in this regard, a clear statement from the Anglican Communion would greatly strengthen the possibility of us giving common witness regarding human sexuality and marriage, a witness which is sorely needed in the world of today.
Regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, the Catholic Church's teaching has been clearly set forth from the very beginning of our dialogue, not only internally, but also in correspondence between Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II with successive Archbishops of Canterbury.
In his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis from 22 May 1994, Pope John Paul II referred to the Letter of Paul VI to Archbishop Coggan from 30 November 1975, and stated the Catholic position as follows: "Priestly ordination... in the Catholic Church from the beginning has always been reserved to men alone", and that "this tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches".
He concluded: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful". This formulation clearly shows that this is not only a disciplinary position but an expression of our faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
The Catholic Church finds herself bound by the will of Jesus Christ and does not feel free to establish a new tradition alien to the tradition of the Church of all ages.
As I stated when addressing the Church of England's House of Bishops in 2006, for us this decision to ordain women implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox Churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century.
Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only 4 provinces have ordained women to the episcopate, an additional 13 provinces have passed legislation authorizing women bishops, the Catholic Church must now take account of the reality that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is not only a matter of isolated provinces, but that this is increasingly the stance of the Communion.
It will continue to have bishops, as set forth in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West will recognize therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early Church and continuing through the ages.
I have already addressed the ecclesiological problem when bishops do not recognize other's episcopal ordination within the one and same church, now I must be clear about the new situation which has been created in our ecumenical relations.
While our dialogue has led to significant agreement on the understanding of ministry, the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican Orders by the Catholic Church.
It is our hope that a theological dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church will continue, but this development effects directly the goal and alters the level of what we pursue in dialogue.
The 1966 Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey called for a dialogue that would "lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed", and spoke of "a restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life". It now seems that full visible communion as the aim of our dialogue has receded further, and that our dialogue will have less ultimate goals and therefore will be altered in its character.
While such a dialogue could still lead to good results, it would not be sustained by the dynamism which arises from the realistic possibility of the unity Christ asks of us, or the shared partaking of the one Lord's table, for which we so earnestly long.
Anyone who has ever seen the great and wonderful Anglican cathedrals and churches the world over, who has visited the old and famous Colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, who has attended marvellous Evensongs and heard the beauty and eloquence of Anglican prayers, who has read the fine scholarship of Anglican historians and theologians, who is attentive to the significant and long-standing contributions of Anglicans to the ecumenical movement, knows well that the Anglican tradition holds many treasures. These are, in the words of Lumen Gentium, among those gifts which, "belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity" (n. 8).
Our keen awareness of the greatness and remarkable depth of Christian culture of your tradition heightens our concern for you amidst current problems and crises, but also gives us confidence that with God's help, you will find a way out of these difficulties, and that in a new and fresh manner we will be strengthened in our common pilgrimage toward the unity Jesus Christ wills for us and prayed for.
I would reiterate what I wrote in my letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 17 December 2004: In a spirit of ecumenical partnership and friendship, we are ready to support you in whatever ways are appropriate and requested.
In that vein, I would like to return to the Archbishop's puzzling question as to what kind of Anglicanism I want. It occurs to me that at critical moments in the history of the Church of England and subsequently of the Anglican Communion, you have been able to retrieve the strength of the Church of the Fathers when that tradition was in jeopardy.
The Caroline Divines are an instance of that, and above all, I think of the Oxford Movement. Perhaps in our own day it would be possible too, to think of a new Oxford Movement, a retrieval of riches which lie within your own household. This would be a re-reception, a fresh recourse to the Apostolic Tradition in a new situation.
It would not mean a renouncing of your deep attentiveness to human challenges and struggles, your desire for human dignity and justice, your concern with the active role of all women and men in the Church. Rather, it would bring these concerns and the questions that arise from them more directly within the framework shaped by the Gospel and ancient common tradition in which our dialogue is grounded.
We hope and pray that as you seek to walk as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies may bestow upon you the abundant riches of His grace, and guide you with the Holy Spirit's abiding presence.
Weekly Edition in English
6 August 2008, page 6
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