Page 8, 10th January 1964

10th January 1964
Page 8
Page 8, 10th January 1964 — Anglican theology and the Councils

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.


Locations: Rome, Canterbury


Related articles

Anglican Theology Homeless

Page 2 from 17th January 1964

Anglican Orders

Page 2 from 17th November 1950

Authority And Conscience: Where Should We Draw The...

Page 2 from 21st October 1966

Question Box

Page 4 from 8th October 1982

To Be Or Not To Be Intransigent?

Page 2 from 13th December 1963

Anglican theology and the Councils

I WILL attempt to answer

Mr. Doyle's points, although he has made no attempt to answer my question: how often have the Popes spoken infallibly?

(1) The question at issue is: what constitutes a General Council?

(1). Is it one called by the Pope or by the Emperor or by the whole Church? Few Councils would qualify for any of these points. The C. of E. accepts the first four Councils.

The Articles are concerned to defend the Church of England against the findings of the Council of Trent which was commencing its sittings when the Articles were being drawn up. That Council was a Western Council and its findings although not rejected by the C. of E. were not to be recognized as General or ecumenical in the sense that Nicaea was.

The Robber Council of Ephesus had a far more representative attendance than other Councils and was regarded as General until its decrees were reversed at C'halcedon.

(2). The Articles are agnostic on the spiritual power of the Pope, some Anglicans, like lames I, believed in the spiritual headship of the Pope; some Catholics like Cardinal Pole did not believe that the Papacy was of divine origin but only a convenient form of government.

Neither side knew of the decrees of Vatican 1. The Supreme Governor title is not so exaggerated for that day and age as was the title given to King Edgar, i.e. "Vicar of Christ"; or to St. Edward Confessor "Vicar of the Supreme King".

(3). There has been conflict between the Councils of the Roman Church:— The Council of Constance decreed—"This synod . . . derives its authority immediately from Christ and everyone without exception of whatsoever position and dignity, even a Pope, is bound to obey it in all matters concerned with faith ..." This council seems to believe itself supreme over Popes, ,yet Vatican I states:— " . . . . definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church.

(4). Regarding the teaching of Popes Eugenius IV and Pius XII there is confusion and one is thrown back on the fallible and conflicting opinions of theologians to sort out the question. I have read the Decree and the Constitution. The Decree claims to set forth not only the Armenian question but also ecelesiasticorutn sacramentorurn veritatem.

Is Mr. Burgess aware that the Decree was promulgated at a soleMn session of the Oecumenical Council of Florence? He says that there is no conflict because the Church can change the outward sign of the Sacraments, yet the Council of Trent states:—"The Church cannot alter the substance of the Sacraments".


If it is true that the Church can alter the form of the Sacrament then why was exception taken to the alteration of the porrectio in the Anglican Rite? Leo XIII seems to have been influenced by the Decree for the Armenians when he condemned Anglican Orders.

(5).. The Vlth General Council went further than condemning Honorius as a heretic: "We have decided to expel from the Church of God and anathematize Honorius, Pope of Old Rome, because we find from his writings to Scrgius that in all things he held the latter's view and confirmed his impious doctrines."

(). Newman and Chapman have recognized the errors in Pope Liberius's writings, and in any case it was not Liberius contra mundum but Athanasius, who was condemned by the Pape.

Use of texts

(7). Mr. Doyle is mistaken if he thinks I reject the author of the Creeds, the C. of E. recognizes the fact that the Catholic Church promulgated the Creeds and states her belief in that Church when she recites the Creeds. But surely your correspondents realize that every Credal statement be it Scriptural or Papal has to he intepreted by fallible theologians.

In the interpretation of the credal statements of the Roman Church there is a wide variety of opinions even on such fundamental questions as the Unity of the Church and the Infallibility of the Pope. Fr. de Rosa (C.H., Jan. 3rd) points out the fact that Popes John and Paul have used the text of St. John 17: 21 in a sense contrary to the interpretation put upon it by the conservatives. Again there is no certainty when the Pope speaks ex cathedra.

Patriarch Maximos IV (a Catholic) writes: "Theologians of one particular school consider the non-infallible teaching of the Roman Pontiff has the same practical value as the infallible ex cathedra teaching . . . ." (There are schools of thought on basic questions in the Roman Church.) He goes on "We do not agree . . . ."

And again "... . a theory which we consider to be not only tendentious but also erroneous. It is that the Roman Pontiff is the final source of all power in the Church."

The Council should have by now revealed to conservative Roman Catholics that there is a great deal of division of opinion on the basic dogmas of the faith among the leaders of the Church. Cardinal Ottaviani in an interview reported in C.H. has revealed that some had been doubting the primacy of the Pope.

The C. of F.. makes no claim to be "comprehensive" in her formularies, this is a bit of jargon put out by the Broad Church school of thought.

Re St. Cyprian: ". . . . no one now believes that Cyprian's teaching was right". This is quite wrong for the Orthodox Church has always followed Cyprian's teaching that outside the true Church there are no valid Sacraments.

It is not possible to interpret the Articles in a Catholic manner. There are diverse opinions among Roman theologians on the interpretation of them (Archbishop Jaeger says they do not exclude the Real Presence). Newman put a Catholic interpretation upon them.

I will be brief in answering Mi. Doyle's points:

They reject the popular theories of the sacrifices of Masses cu rrent in Middle Ages. They reject Romish doctrine of purgatory (as also did Pope John XXI I).

Article XII says (contra Mr. Doyle): ". . . . good works are acceptable to God in Christ".

Article VI makes no mention for or against Tradition.


Article XXII seeks to prevent superstitious devotion to relics and images which have no power of themselves to "hear or see or help us" as some of the over pious believed. Mr. Doyle must have heard of the Madonnas with mechanical eyes which were hardly based on the truth,

The five lesser Sacraments are all provided for in the Prayer Book except Extreme Unction which is authorised by Convocation.

All Roman "apologia" contains references to Scripture e.g. the Petrine texts. There is nothing to he ashamed of in basing the Catholic Faith on the Bible. The Church is the "witness and keeper of holy Writ . . ." (Article XX).

Dean Inge's personal heresies are no more proof of the heresy of the Anglican formularies than the atheism of Talleyrand is proof of heresy in the Church of Rome. It is safer to let heresy be otherwise you have a schism from the Body, no one reads Barnes' "Modernism" these days, and in a decade Robinson will he forgotten; as Honorius is in the Roman Church.


Excommunication breeds sectarianism and at least the C. of E. cannot he said to have excommunicated Athanasius. The danger is that one may excommunicate the orthodox as has happened in the Roman Church in the past. The Colenso schism in South Africa is proof that the C. of E. stills cuts herself off from communion with heretics.

The head of that Church was not invited to the Lambeth Conference and is ipso facto not in communion with Canterbury. There are other groups claiming to be Anglican who are not recognised by Canterbury. The four Anglican Dioceses who joined the Church of South India are not now in full communion with the Anglican Communion. Dr. Robinson has been rebuked in print by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The better policy is not the stake but allowing the heretics to retain communion with the orthodox until he accepts the orthodoxy of his fellow Christians. Paul resisted Peter but he did not excommunicate him. • Heaven forbid that we should set up the gallows at Tyburn and re-kindle the fires of Smithfield.

(Rev.) John Salter Ealing, W.5.

blog comments powered by Disqus