Page 10, 7th April 2000

7th April 2000
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Page 10, 7th April 2000 — Doubts

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Locations: Canterbury, Rome


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Page 10 from 15th October 1999



Father Richard Barrett answers readers' questions

As an Anglican, i.e. a Catholic in comnzunion with Canterbury, I would like to ask if! have to repudiate the reality of Christ's presence in the Anglican eucharist in order to be received into full communion with the Church of Rome?

IF ONE MAKES a pilgrimage to Canterbury during the Holy year of the Third Millennium one might be drawn to a chapel at the back of the cathedral where a list of the archbishops of Canterbury appear from the year 597 when Augustine founded his See there at the invitation of King Ethelbert. It is not simply an historical nicety to point out that Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to do this. So from one point of view to say that one is "in communion with Canterbury" involves one in a controversy, namely where lies the real successor to Augustine today?

Augustine would have found the idea that he was centre of communion for a British church unthinkable. That he was subject to the king would have been repugnant to his faith and to his mission, similarly the idea that the overall head of his embryonic community would be the king of Thanet and not the servant of the servants of God in Rome.

Were Augustine to reappear today

he would probably stop at Canterbury and assume that things were unchanged, but he would have a shock to find that the archbishop there thought himself to be at the centre of a national communion. There is nothing catholic about a national religion so it is in one important sense a contradiction in terms for the reader to describe himself as "a Catholic in communion with Canterbury".

Anglo-Catholicism, today, is largely a spent force. It was built on the romanisation of Anglican worship initiated by Newman and Pusey and flourished on the illusion that there was a third way in Christianity which was close to the primitive apostolic Church. Newman resolved the matter when he discovered that this primitive Church bore an uncanny resemblance to the "Church of Rome". The ordination of female priests (and soon-to-be-bishops) in 1992, an innovation justified on the basis of a "modern understanding of scripture", broke the hack of the Anglo-Catholic movement. No-one pretended in the debate at the General Synod that female ordination was anything other than an innovation in Christian tradition.

Keeping in mind the terms of the Henrician schism that created the Church of England it is only fair that our attitude to its ordinances and its worship should be governed not by catholic texts but by Anglican constitutions. Some Anglican vicars use Catholic rituals but this is technically unlawful under the terms of Anglican canon law, It also muddies the liturgical waters. The 28th article of the Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that the Anglican Eucharist is a symbol and not a sacrificial offering. So too the Edwardian ordinal. Notwithstanding the revisionist work of an Anglican historian of the 19th century in which Article 28 was explained away, his views were not accepted by Anglican legislators arid archbishops.

It was the 19th century Oxford Movement that did much to make Catholic practices more acceptable in Anglican worship but its veneer did not, and could not in the nature of things, change the status of the Anglican eucharist as a symbolic offering. In Anglican Eucharistic theology, Calvary cannot be repeated and all the Church can do is intercede after the fact, as it were. There is no sense in Anglican liturgies that the self-offering of Christ is eternal and is represented in time through the eucharist. So we are dealing with symbolism and not with eucharistic realism.

With regard to repudiation, the Rites of reception in the Catholic Church would not require a repudiation of Anglican worship. By analogy this issue came up with the "re-ordination" of Anglican convert clergymen in the late Nineties. They were not expected to abjure their former ministries.

When dealing with a convert who has no Christian background the Rites of Christian Initiation do sometimes require a repudiation of false worship but these are, in the main, directed to occult and new age practices. As an Anglican enquirer the reader could see his reception into the Catholic Church as the final phase on a spiritual journey that requires greater acts of faith in the full dimensions of classical Christianity rather than repudiations of this or that feature of a limited local expression. The conversion of an Anglican to the catholic Church is not about the movement from one national culture to another (there is no such thing as an Italian, Irish, French or English Catholic Church) but about the opening up of areas of Christianity long shut down in this country. Becoming a Catholic is simply the religious equivalent of globalisation. Just as the Internet has helped us transcend our xenophobia, so too the enquirer that is brought into full communion is simply going online in a larger U niverse.

Thus Vatican II teaches that the fullness of the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church (LG 8). The full expression of Christianity then, involves a Petrine ministry, a teaching office to succeed the Chair of Moses and among other things, eucharistic realism.

These are fundamental truths which the convert would have to accept.

Write to Fr Richard Barrett, Doubts & Queries, The Catholic Herald, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC.1Y 8TQ.

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