Page 5, 9th March 1973

9th March 1973
Page 5
Page 5, 9th March 1973 — Second class citizens?
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Locations: Canterbury, York, Rome

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Second class citizens?

We have learned from the Vatican Council that the Church herself under earthly conditions not only contains sinners but may truly be called sinful and have need of repentance.

We are ready to acknowledge the responsibility of the Roman Church for schisms which cut off whole nations from her leadership. We have learned to honour the martyrs who suffered under Mary as well as those whom Henry and Elizabeth persecuted.

Two Archbishops of Canterbury have been welcomed by Popes, precisely as leaders in Christendom, and we no longer hesitate to use the name of "Church" for Christian communities not yet in full communion with Rome. When unity is achieved, it will not come about by what we used to call submission but by open agreement and readiness to accept what each side has firmly upheld in the Christian Gospel.

There might even he two rites, as Archbishop Fisher suggested, in this country, both in communion with Rome. they may well be Anglican and Roman, but is it possible to accept the assumption that Canterbury will represent the authentic tradition of the Ecclesia Anglicans while Westminster is still in a sense the leader of the Italian Band?

Must there not be before then some sign of repentance, not for the break with a Pope who put forward temporal or excessive spiritual claims. but for the rejection of any kind of true Petrine ministry? Have we ecumenicised the Catholic martyrs out of existence? They died not only for conscience, but for a cause. And it is the cause which makes the martyr.

Thomas More made clear his dis like of papal interference in English affairs, but he died for the unity of Christendom under the Pope. So too did the Elizabethan martyrs. There were others who bore a more striking witness just because at first they had not been prepared to be martyrs. The bishops who were not willing to follow the example of John Fisher, who had seceded from Rome under Henry VIII, refused to follow Elizabeth into schism. Those who survived refused to a man to have any part in the foundation of the new hierarchy. Whatever may be said about Anglican Orders, the new bishops were men chosen to lead a Church which had shut itself off completely from any sort of guidance from Peter's successor.

Of course political and spiritual interests were confused. Elizabeth and her supporters were concerned for the security of the throne and feared the very real threat presented by the temporal alliance of the Pope with the Catholic powers.

Some English Catholics would have preferred even a foreign ruler so long as he maintained the old religion. Pius V was misguided enough in 1570 to excommunicate the Queen and declare her deposed. But this came I I years after the Act of Supremacy.

The martyrs again and again had distinguished between temporal loyalty to the Queen and spiritual loyalty to the Pope and declared their will to maintain both: the bishops who were later deprived of their sees reasserted the Pope's prerogative of feeding and ruling Christ's flock, while stating quite firmly their op position to Paul IV's personal attitude, when they voted against tne Act of Supremacy. It has been claimed that the very strong words of the Thirty-nine Articles about the Mass are meant to condemn only abuses which the Catholic Church itself now condemns. But it is impossible to inter pret the words of the Act of Supremacy as anything but a complete rejection of all — even strictly spiritual claims of the papacy: No foreign prince, person. prelate . . . has or ought to have any Jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence. or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. 'There is no room for any kind of a Petrine ministry here, and if Anglican leaders are prepared to welcome one now it can only be by repudiating the acts of their predecessors who set up the new Church order in the sixteenth century. Which means that the authentic tradition of York and Canterbury was maintained by missionaries from abroad and ultimately by bishops expressly excluded from those ancient sees.

After a new agreement, Anglicans need not fear a Roman occupatiOn of those sees: We know our Gospel well enough to remember the Prodigal Son and the labourers in the vineyard. But we did bear the burden of the day and the heats, and we did maintain the old loyalties. It is to be hoped that those who join us will, on that solemn and joyous occasion, admit that we were right after all.

Edward Quinn




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