Friday, 14 August 2015

Centenary Messenger

At last, the Centenary Messenger of the Catholic League is printed and published, with papers and addresses from:

Bishop Norman Banks
Father John Hunwicke
Father Michael Rear, President
Canon Robin Ward
Judge Michael Yelton

ISBN: 978 0 9928497 1 9
Price £5 (free to members and libraries)

Available from the Membership Secretary, the Revd Christopher Stephenson, 27 Moor Lane, Newby, Scarborough YO12 5SL

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Priest Director's Address and Report to the Annual General Meeting, July 2015

During the course of 2014 and into this year, it has been clear that the Catholic League is still to fulfil a role and a purpose. Our main preoccupation since the 2013 Centenary Celebrations has been to attend to recording and writing the history not only of the League, but the cause it represents – a recomposition of the integral unity of Christ’s Church. The modern Ecumenical Movement dates from 1910, just before the League’s establishment but it has not had quite the same aim and it has thus prevented itself from re-integrating the Church. Its first aim was to ensure concerted efforts among Protestants in mission at home and abroad, and thus undermine the presentation of the Gospel by rivalry. A larger aim was reunion among historic institutional Church denominations through better mutual understanding and going back along our respective paths to our common point of origin, in the hope of retracing steps forward, but this time knowing in advance how not to be estranged as we discipline ourselves to keep together in company and agreement, lest we go our separate ways again and the prospect of communion almost in our grasp slips away once more. But the Ecumenical Movement came to imagine a mechanism for negotiation towards amalgamation, rather than the recomposition of the integral unity of which the Church is already possessed – as the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism put it, the reintegration of its unity, something that is “already”, even if in the world it is prevented or overwhelmed by separation. This is what the Catholic League means by “corporate reunion”- not the reconciliation of the incompatible, but the faithful pursuit of the visible and organic unity of the only Church that Christ founded. Vital, spiritual, practical and theological as the Ecumenical Movement has been – and it has truly made us all much better friends and collaborators than ever before and closer than at any time since our divisions – it seems unable to take us further than the impasse of what many call the Ecumenical Winter, after such high hopes from the 1960s to the early 1980s. This is because the Churches have imagined the Unity of Christians in a similar way to the diplomatic efforts of the United Nations, in the hope that by negotiation and partnerships between institutions you could achieve binding treaties, de-colonisation, streamlining, or even the ‘ever closer union’ that was an aspiration of many Europeans for the old European Economic Community in the aftermath of a two-century long process of European disintegration including two World Wars that undermined the old certainties of a European Christendom.

But it has been the League’s purpose not just to re-Catholicise England towards reunion, but also to hold English Christians, especially in the Anglican world, to that full, visible and organic Church unity which is not a distant object or a painstaking process, but integral to the Church’s very nature as the Body of Christ. In other words, communion with the apostolic see of Rome and the primacy of the successor of Peter as the pastor responsible for “strengthening his brethren” in the episcopate of the whole of Christ’s Church, is essential not only to the Roman Catholic Church but to all the Churches that compose the once visibly unified Universal Church. It may not be convenient because of what we think or believe; but that is our problem. It is the declared will, prayer and command of Christ that His disciples be one and that Peter be the one to feed His sheep. It is the first question to be faced in ecumenism, not the one to be put off to last. One of the fruits of our history project was a paper delivered by Dr Michael Walsh, who has undertaken the task of researching and writing the history, at the Third International Receptive Ecumenism Conference at Fairfield, Connecticut in July 2014. He noted that the Anglican Papalists, while few in number, had been decisive in establishing what would later go on to be the mainstream of ecumenism, from which, ironically, official channels went on to steer them away. His view is that this important historical contribution needs retrieving and reading back into the narrative of what happened and who was involved. The Malines Conversations have become very important in the corporate memory of Anglican-Roman Catholic engagement, but those involved were few in number and without a wider, more long-lasting constituency behind them to develop their ideas for a separate, additional Anglicanism alongside and in communion with Latin Roman Catholicism. The times were not right and there was no momentum until it gathered pace with the establishment of ARCIC and, in a new way, the conception of the Personal Ordinariates for groups of Anglicans with their own distinctive patrimony. But it was the League’s founders who popularised what we now know as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Britain. It was Father Fynes-Clinton whose links with figures in Rome and in Orthodoxy in the turbulence between the World Wars enabled the Anglican establishment to relate to both. (He seems almost on his own to have saved the Serbian Orthodox Church’s ability to be supplied with new priests.) It was the League’s leaders, with the support of the members, who maintained contact with Rome and friends in the Catholic Church on the continent, most notably Fr Paul Couturier, who re-invigorated the Week of Prayer when no one else would or could. It was the League that led the Anglican Catholic world to converge around the renewed pastoral-liturgical approach of the Second Vatican Council towards a better mission to our times. It was the League that impressed upon Anglican Catholics all the way through the twentieth century the central importance for the Church of England of reconciliation between Rome and Canterbury as essential to both in the enduring mission of Christ and His Church to England. It is so significant that the English Anglican observer at the Second Vatican Council was Bishop John Moorman of Ripon, a convinced Anglican Papalist, whom I had the privilege of knowing when I was an undergraduate at Durham and he was in retirement, urging a new generation to take forward the torch. From this time forward, the pressure within recent Anglican history was not to embark on variations to apostolic faith and order, not merely because they were “not Catholic”, not because they would “harm the chances of reunion between Rome and Canterbury”, but because they were contrary to the essential nature of the One Church in Christ.

So it has been sad to see orthodox, Papalist Anglican Catholics progressively marginalised from the theological and ecumenical leadership in their own Church. Others have noticed this. Not only Dr Walsh in his initial readings of our archives, but also two bishops in England and some leading Catholic ecumenical analysts abroad, have seen that those Anglicans with which the Catholic Church has much in common, pastorally, ecclesiologically and theologically have not been part of the decades long dialogue process and their voice has been missing. The observation of Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, the former Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and a serving member of ARCIC III, bears repeating: until Anglicanorum Coetibus emerged as an answer to the Anglican constituency actively seeking reunion with Rome, it had not occurred to Anglicanism at ARCIC to identify what its “offer” to a reunified Church might be. What is Anglican patrimony and what would it look like if the Churches could reunite? A theological dialogue that had become grounded in discussing areas of Catholic teaching problematic to post-Reformation Anglicanism in all its forms had lost touch with the classic Anglican orthodox tradition, just as Bishop Graham Leonard had said, after the diagnosis of Fr Aidan Nichols, OP in The Panther & The Hind. One recalls Cardinal Kasper’s hope, when he was President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for a new Oxford Movement if Anglican-Catholic rapprochement were to find a fresh starting point for a new drive towards unity, communicating on the same wavelength rather than constantly being at cross purposes. The bishops who have conversed with us seek not a “continuing Anglican enclave” but a space within the institutional Church of England that recovers its original “Anglican mind”, a space where Anglican Catholics can speak for themselves in relationship with those in other Churches, especially the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Could this be a spur to unity?

Convinced Anglican members of the League will forgive a Roman Catholic reflecting on these matters, because what has united us in the League is our own version of the “communion of origins” that Blessed Paul VI spoke of at the canonization of the Forty Martyrs – not as signs of division but as symbols of reconciliation. Our communion of origins is Fr Fynes Clinton’s central principle that the Church of Christ is one in its nature and essence and that this must be manifested not only in pursuing a Catholic way of life and faith but in the visible reunion of Churches to manifest the spiritual reality of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, through Christ’s Body before the world. This is why one of the League’s objects remains important – “fellowship among Catholics”. To this end, we are grateful on occasions such as these when we are able to benefit from the hospitality and welcome of the parish of St Silas, Kentish Town, which has become such a spiritual home to the League under Father Graeme Rowlands’ leadership. We are most grateful to him for his support and friendship because here it is easy to see that we not only pray with and for each other with ease, but we also see the bonds of fellowship and spiritual, religious closeness through a shared faith and hope. I venture to say that this was something Cardinal Koch (Cardinal Kasper’s successor) saw for himself on his visit several years ago to see a truer picture of Catholic life and belief in practice among Anglican priests parishes and people working and hoping for Catholic unity. Fr Rowlands is the Priest Director of the Sodality of the Precious Blood, instituted by Fr Fynes Clinton for celibate Anglican clergy bound by the recitation of the Divine Office of the Latin Catholic Church in a pioneering instance of ‘Receptive Ecumenism’, a contemporary ecumenical movement promoting the exchange of riches and gifts belonging to one Church with those of another. The Sodality is constituent body within the League and thus it remains an integral part of our witness and work towards unity. For this, we again thank Fr Rowlands.

Perhaps the most prominent area of the League’s work and purpose each year is our annual Pilgrimage to Bruges, where for five days we, as Anglican and Catholic members of the League and our friends live something of the unity that we aspire to. This pilgrimage was founded by our much loved and missed past General Secretary, Geoffrey Wright. He was a dedicated Anglican Catholic, but in his many and joyful visits to the Church on the Continent of Europe, to monasteries and shrines, and, as Edward Forse’s book title had it, Queer Sights in Foreign Churches, he saw reflected in reality the vision he lived by and hoped to see realised in England through its two main Churches’ reunion. This vision and joy were infectious and we have been faithful to them ever since, as each September we gather to honour Our Lady of the Vineyard at the Beguinage in Bruges, and Our Lord’s Holy Blood at the Basilica nearby, joining in the Gregorian offices of the nuns and attending each other’s Eucharists – as well as enjoying the great delight of being together again in a beautiful city and all its artistic and recreational delights. 2014’s speaker was Ian Knowles, who founded an Icon School in Bethlehem to preserve from destruction and to give a future the Holy Land’s only tradition of icon painting, which perhaps predates all others. We were most moved to hear Ian’s reflections on relations and tensions between Jews and Arabs, between Jews, Muslims and Christians, the emergence of Islamism, and the hope that can be borne in and of the beleaguered local Christian Church, continuous from the time of Our Lord Himself, especially through the love, protection and prayer of the Mother of God. What had drawn Ian to Bethlehem was a commission from the Melkite Catholic nuns there to paint an image of the Virgin, a sacred focus of goodness and prayer, on the evil Wall of Separation that divides the city from the rest of the Holy Land and Jerusalem.

While our work on our own is limited nowadays because of the change to the pursuit of ecumenism and reunion in the Anglican world, we nonetheless see in our relations and collaborations with other societies that our objects can be realised. Foremost among these is our support for the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, whose biennial pilgrimage to the Shrine and centres at Walsingham sees 80-90 people from so many and varied traditions in English Christianity coming together to experience one another’s worship and to hear reflections, talks and artistic presentations from fascinating speakers and experts. We are also linked with the Society of St John Chrysostom, dedicated to the unity of Eastern and Western Christianity, another founding objective of the League’s through Fr Fynes Clinton’s work with the Orthodox Church. Our occasional links with the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham and the Holy House, the renewal project for the Catholic Shrine and with the important work of the Anglican Centre in Rome remain. Mention should also be made of our occasional link with the Society for Ecumenical Studies, which we substantially supported to hold a conference to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Decree on Ecumenism in autumn 2014, the only observance in the capital of its kind. In early 2016, we hope to bring you the addresses from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Liberal Protestant speakers. As you would expect, there were the highest ideals and principles that we would recognise; but there was also the persistent frustration that seems to me to be the choice between unity in faith and order on the one hand and on the other the system of ecumenism that can be geared to preserving differences at the cost of unity. One example: a speaker from the floor promoted his book, Reforming Rome, which is a paean to recasting the Catholic Church on classic Protestant lines, such as the Reformed Church observers at Vatican II detected in the new emphasis on Scripture and collegiality. Yet, as Pope Benedict reminded us, the Vatican II reforms were not a new reformation but a renewal in continuity coming out of the old tradition, never a rupture from it. And the speaker from the floor had no conception that, meanwhile, all the post-Reformation Churches are hardly "classic Protestant" any more: by embracing relativism and the idea that faith, order and Christian discipleship can and should change to correspond to circumstances, they have utterly recast themselves - more re-formed than reformed. As Pope St John Paul once famously said to a visiting group of modern Lutheran theologians, “If you had been truly Lutheran, we would have been one by now.” Similar observations by both Anglicans and Catholics have been made on English Christianity and its reunion. Nevertheless, the conversations and ecumenical engagements – conferences, dialogues, pilgrimages, partnerships and friendships - illustrate how vital concerted efforts and warm personal contacts are to re-establishing understanding among us and furthering the objects we each hold dear: catholic unity is not a fringe interest but essential to the Church whose belief we confess in the Nicene Creed; it is essential to our lives as Christians. To this we bear witness.

For the future, once again, I have to say that, with regret, new issues of The Messenger have been delayed for a mixture of technical reasons, lack of time, and the slow development of completed articles and papers. The publication of the Centenary Messenger is imminent and this should be followed in the later part of the year by two more delayed special editions. One of these, seeing the renewed stress Pope Francis has given to St John Paul’s teaching on the healing of memories and the reparation and reconciliation surrounding our respective martyr traditions, will pick up on his theme in the present crisis of persecution of all kinds of Christians in the Middle East on “the ecumenism of blood”. The plight of our fellow Christians under persecution will be our special intention as we prepare to make our 2015 Pilgrimage to Bruges to venerate once more the Holy Blood, Bruges’ spiritual glory.


Friday, 1 May 2015

May 2015 - Newsletter

When Father Henry Joy Fynes Clinton brought about the foundation of the Catholic League in 1913, it was not solely an Anglican-Roman Catholic concern. In Father John Salter’s biography, The Anglican Papalist, we were given the picture of a man focussing on a host of different things at the same time, each within the context of the others. Thus, while the League with our companions in the Sodality of the Precious Blood may be the last Papalist body for Anglican-Catholic corporate reunion standing from the time before the modern ecumenical movement, and while friendly relations and collaboration (if not the passion for reunion) between the members of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion show that our original aims have become the ecumenical mainstream, Fynes Clinton envisaged the re-integration of the Latin Catholic West to rest upon the reintegration of the whole Church, not just parts and pieces of it. He therefore appointed as the League’s patrons beside Our Lady of Victories, recalling the concerted effort of western Christendom that turned back the Ottoman Empire and its fleet at Lepanto in 1571, whom we venerate as Mother of the Church, and St Joseph, patron of the Universal Church from the Latin West’s point of view - but also St Nicholas of Myra, the holy protecting bishop beloved of the Orthodox East.

Fynes Clinton’s concern for the Christian East was realised in aid and activity in parallel with his promotion of Anglican reunion in the West. Fr Salter credits him with doing perhaps more than anyone else to achieve the stability of the Serbian Orthodox Church in its time of trial, by ensuring a desperately needed new generation of priests was trained in England. In this he assisted the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus cemented a bond between the Church of England and the Serbian Church to this day. Fr Fynes even saw a chance in the collapsing years of the Ottoman Empire for the Aya Sofya mosque in Istanbul mourned by Christians as the lost Hagia Sophia, the Great Church, to be restored by British power to the Patriarch of Constantinople. This cause may appear quixotic with hindsight; in any case he abandoned it, as it became clear that shadowy interests in the Roman curia did not wish to assist the recovery of the suffering and persevering Orthodox Church of the Eastern Roman Empire (which in Christian charity would have been the right thing to do), but hoped instead that in the power vacuum the Papacy could insert itself, install a Catholic patriarch at Hagia Sophia, and drive East-West reunion the vantage point while all else was in disarray; they certainly did not want an Anglican brokering arrangements with the Orthodox that would get in the way. While this was no less Quixotic than Fynes Clinton’s flight of imagination, it was much less innocent. The patriarchate did not forget the Anglican kindness borne of a desire for the Church to manifest its intrinsic unity: the foundation of the Nikaean Club and the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius, to foster Anglican-Orthodox mutual affection and solidarity belong to this era, as does the 1922 recognition of Anglican priestly orders. The particular bond between the Church of England, with the Archbishop  of Canterbury taking a leading role, and the Orthodox Churches of the Christian East has persisted to this day. It is important to keep in mind how important the involvement of Anglican Papalists in official ecumenism was in its formative stages, and this was because of their principle that reunion is not about piecemeal amalgamations or bilateral arrangements, but the intrinsic unity of the Church in the fullness of communion that must involve all Christians in each of the Churches, especially led by the apostolic Churches. This necessarily involves the ministry and proper authority of the Pope, the Bishop of the First See and successor of St Peter, as integral to the ecumenical objective from the outset, not a role to be added on when desirable and acceptable as some last piece of the jigsaw.

It is a cause of dismay that this principle is so lost even among the best people involved in contemporary ecumenical activity. It is a regular criticism of Anglican ecumenical policy that it fields different people taking different tones when talking to Catholics from those it fields when talking to the Orthodox, or Evangelicals, or Lutherans, or Reformed Churches. To an extent, the specialisms and interests of experts in each Church make this inevitable. We all warm to aspects of other Churches that we find resonate with us or stimulate fresh insights for our life in our own Church. This reflects how the Church is the Universal Church that manifests itself in the life of each Church with its gifts and graces, the holiness of the people and the faith that belongs to us as one. The Catholic Church understands that this Universal Church fully “subsists in” it, although according to Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, because of the barriers separating Christians that yet they share in common, it is difficult for her “to express in actual life her full Catholicity in all her bearings”. In other words, we need each other in order to be the Church on earth in full; we need each other in order to manifest ourselves in the world as the Spotless Bride of Christ with which Christ the Bridegroom unites Himself across both heaven and earth in His own divine life, never to part. Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? (Romans 8.35) Much, it seems.

The present state of the world and the Church shows that Christian Unity is no mere aspiration, “if only”; it is a matter of life and death. At Pope Francis’ moving visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in November 2014, both spoke of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches united in the loss and thus the honour of our present day martyrs – Nigeria, India, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Libya. In February this year, Pope Francis declared St Gregory of Narek (951-1003), the great Armenian mystical poet and philosopher theologian coming from the Oriental Orthodox tradition which has not been in communion with the See of Peter since the Council of Chalcedon in 451, as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. The infamous Ottoman Empire’s genocide of the Armenians in 1915 cost the lives and dispossession not just of Armenian Orthodox, but also Armenian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox and Catholics, and Greek Orthodox in Turkey too. Recently, the Catholicos of All the Armenians, Karekin II, canonised all the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs, who died on account of their profession of the Name of Christ, in the first such ceremony in 500 years. Present in solidarity were envoys from the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, whose faithful suffered not in separation but in the deepest union between Christ and his faithful at the taking up of His Cross. And when the 21 Coptic Christians were murdered by the ISIS blood cult on the Mediterranean shore in Libya with the Name of Yeshua on their lips, Pope Francis phoned the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II, saying that they were not just martyrs of the Coptic Church, but of the Catholic Church too. In a country like Britain which views its history in terms of progress, and its economic and social wellbeing in terms of growth, it is a stark challenge to see the Christianity which shaped our civilisation disregarded here and forced to its knees in the lands of its birth and the regions evangelised by the Apostles themselves.

A decade ago, thanks to our past Priest Directors Father Philip Gray and Father Brooke Lunn, as the Catholic League we paid close attention to the much needed power of mutual reparation in our dealings in England between our Churches and our different takes on a history that we share. Father Philip dwelt on how England is scarred with the ruins of the destroyed monasteries and the disfigured churches that stand as monuments to Christian dissension and mutual recrimination that has not even now been fully come to terms with. Later we had a memorable pilgrimage to Walsingham at which the vicar, now Bishop Norman Banks, took us on a tour of the local churches and landmarks, describing them as other marks of Christ’s Passion in His people: by His wounds you have been healed (I Peter 2.24). On the same occasion, we blessed a new altar in memory of our much loved and long serving General Secretary, Geoffrey Wright, for the Martyr’s Cell where Father Nicholas Mileham is believed to have been held on the night before he died as a witness to our concern for the healing of memories. Father Brooke Lunn was instrumental in ensuring that an annual commemoration of the Carthusian martyrs at which Anglican and Catholic leaders could participate in common to honour them, a few hundred yards moreover from where many Protestant martyrs also died at Smithfield, as part of the story of our Churches that Christ designed to be one on earth as it is in Heaven. There followed observances at the Tower of London to honour the reformer Bishop Nicholas Ridley and Saint John Fisher alongside each other, and at Tyburn Convent to honour not only the Catholic martyrs but also the Anglicans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians and others who lost their life for seeking to be faithful to the Truth about Christ and following Him perfectly to the end, the same name, Yeshua, Jesus, on their lips as this year on the Copts’ in Libya.

Pope Francis has frequently reflected on the ecumenism of blood and we will be revisiting our earlier work on the healing of memories, to use Pope St John Paul’s memorable phrase, to add our spiritual support as concerned ecumenists, Anglicans and Catholics together, who recognise that while Christian unity may look impossible from so many angles, it is not only an aspiration, or even an urgent task for which Christ prayed. It is vital as the lifeblood of the crucified Church in the historic Christian East, from which our faith and Church in England originated. And it is no less vital if the words on our lips in England, as Pope Benedict told us on his visit, are to give a convincing account of the Risen Christ and the hope that lies within us.

Our Lady of Victories, pray for our unity. Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for its reconciliation. Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, pray for its restoration. All holy martyrs for Christ’s Church and His Gospel, pray for the victory of His Kingdom over death, hell and destruction. Christ, Who is risen from the dead, trampling death by death and to those in the tomb giving life: have mercy on us.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Bishop Harries, Islam, and the Purpose of Catholic Ecumenism in the World: Newsletter January 2015

Comfortable Accommodation: Bishop Harries and Islam

On 27th November 2014, the retired Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Dr Richard Harries, proposed in the House of Lords that the next Coronation include readings from the Qur’an. The next morning, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he spoke of the Church of England’s “creative accommodation” and called for more acts of “inclusive hospitality” such as he had witnessed at a cathedral service to mark the beginning of the legal year. The High Sheriff and the Lord Lieutenant were in attendance and, both being Muslims, they had asked for the ceremony to include readings from the Qur’an. Lord Harries admired the solution – a Qur’anic reading immediately prior to the entirely Christian service. There had been “no blurring of the edges, no syncretism”; but, said Lord Harries, the Church of England should provide for “reciprocity” towards other faiths in a multi-faith urbanised city, and there should be “scope” for other religious leaders to pray at significant ceremonies in national civic life. He had no doubt that this would feature at the next Coronation.

Lord Harries was challenged by the Spectator journalist, Douglas Murray, who complained of yet more Anglican leaders without faith in their own faith, possessing no ability to make an exclusive faith claim about the truth of Jesus Christ. He observed that there was no “inclusive hospitality” in Islam – no Christians are allowed in Mecca, there is no “reciprocity” on the part of imams inviting Christians or Jews to Islamic religious events preceded by readings from the Bible. British Jews, he said, pray for the Queen and the defence of the realm every week – where were such prayers on Fridays in Britain’s mosques? Furthermore, if the Islamic scriptures are to be read prior to Anglican civic services, why not Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh scriptures; or, for that matter, secularist writings? Murray’s answer to the Bishop was that fuzzy Anglicans don’t want their leaders to be fuzzy: they want them to set out what Christian belief is, the faith that Anglicanism proclaims. Even if some individual Christians are unclear about it in their personal faith, they want their Church to be clear. What they do not want is bishops who affirm Muslims in their faith, but who demoralise Anglicans by not affirming them in theirs. A reading from the Qur’an at the Coronation in Westminster Abbey, warned Murray, would cause great offence to Christians.

By the same token it could never happen that a British civic religious event took place in a mosque, let alone with a reading from the New Testament, even if prior to it. Islam only endorses Islamic jurisprudence, even though it expects Muslims to abide by the law of a non-Islamic society in which they live. Thus the request for the faith of Muslims to be shown “scope”, “reciprocity” and “inclusive hospitality” in an Anglican cathedral is disingenuous, since the favour cannot be returned. Christians believe the Word of God to be the Person of God the Son made flesh, speaking through His Body, and His Church’s Scriptures. Islam believes that the Word of God is a Book, conveyed by Gabriel in Arabic without modulation to Mohammad, who is honoured as its unimpeachable prophet. It assumes Christians are likewise a “people of the Book”, but according to an earlier and lesser revelation. Reading the Qur’an in Church (something the Queen already allows at the annual Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey) lends credence to this false view of the Christian Scriptures and makes a wrong impression upon Muslims who believe that their faith to be the pinnacle and fulfilment of all others. Lord Harries counters that, just because Islam in the United Kingdom has not evolved as far as Christianity in its understanding of other faiths and their sacred texts, it does not mean Anglican bishops should not do the right, tolerant and hospitable thing.

But what he has encouraged, both as a legislator-for-life in our national senate, and with all the teaching authority of one of the Church of England’s most distinguished bishops, is the conclusion by Muslims in Britain and across the world that the established Christian Church in England does not believe in the uniqueness of the truth about Jesus Christ and presents it as one faith among many. If so, say those Muslims who beleaguer Christians across the world, why not recognise what lies behind all religions – faith in the only God there is; and why not go the whole way and make your belief explicit with the Islamic profession of faith? Find peace in submission to this ineluctable truth: “After all, the Qur’an has been read out foremost in a cathedral service in England, so they acknowledge the ultimate truth of Islam. If they do not believe exclusively in Christianity, why do you bother to continue?”

It is wounding to think that a bishop from the comfort of retirement in England, after a lifetime of following Christ and serving in the Church’s leadership, is proposing the reading of the Qur’an in Church, especially at the anointing and coronation of our next king whose reign and government is meant to be patterned on the universal rule Christ, while in Iraq, Syria, Kenya and Nigeria, as well as many other places, even children and teenagers are bravely refusing to deny their love for Jesus by submitting to Islam at the point of knives and guns, thus accepting martyrdom rather than giving up on the Body of Christ.

Christian Witness in Interreligious Dialogue and Friendship

This is not to say that interreligious dialogue, friendship, solidarity and common action for peace, mediation, justice and the relief of need are not beauties that humanly unite all those who are spiritual people.  A hopeful aid to building peace and good relationships is “scriptural literacy”. This involves learned and devout followers of different religions meeting in mutual charity and respect, but without compromise to the integrity of each one’s belief, to discuss problems and disagreements by examining one another’s sacred texts. This not only heightens awareness of what each religion truly believes, but illuminates where all can bear witness to together - for instance the sacredness of human life from the womb to the grave, and the stewardship of the created environment. And who can forget the love and faith of those Egyptian Muslims who held hands to form a cordon around Coptic Churches to protect them from desecration by Islamists, or the shared lamentation of Christians, Muslims and Jews at the terrorists’ destruction of the shrines of the Old Testament prophets, sacred to all three?

Such close approach to one another furthermore involves a recognition that in each religion people honestly strive to respond to the deepest questions that human beings and their societies have to  deal with, questions that only faith and spiritual living can answer. This very point was made repeatedly by Pope Benedict XVI on his State Visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, especially in his Address to Civil Society at Westminster Hall. Pope Francis in Istanbul symbolised it too at the Sultanahmet Mosque, which he respected as a House of Prayer and where he stood in moments of silent adoration. We should likewise be strong enough in Christian faith to visit other holy places with the same respect, the same spirit or prayer and praise. But he was not saying, “it is all the same”; “it makes no difference in the end”. He did not remove his Cross, nor did he make well-meaning Westerners’ error of referring to the founder of Islam as “The Prophet”. That would be to accept what he and the Qur’an say about Jesus: that he was not Son of God born to Mary, or die on the Cross and rise again.

The way to the end is for God to lead us on and it is patently not “the same”. How God will lead us and others to union with Him is for Him alone to judge. Our task in the Church is to bear witness to the truth that has been revealed to us in Christ. The Christian knows that this is neither in a book, nor an institution but in a person: the Person of Jesus Christ who is Son of God and Word made flesh, true man and true God, the Light from Light that lightens every one. Islam does not accept this faith and denies that Person. It holds that the Qur’an supersedes the Scriptures of other faiths and corrects Christianity.

The right Christian response is indeed one of “inclusive hospitality”: respect, welcome, dialogue, friendship and inviting each other to join in the practice of the spiritual values that our religions give us to share. It is notable thus that the most telling defenders of Christian holy days and the school Nativity plays have been Muslims who demand that the officials preaching inclusion on ethnic, gender and racial grounds do not achieve it by excluding the religious. The wrong response is the unmeant respect of praying out loud in a Christian Church the Scriptures of a faith that does not share the Church’s belief in Christ. Paul Couturier in 1933, when he re-worked the Church Unity Octave, saw this clearly: Christian Unity is not just an objective for organising or projecting the Church better, it is about the unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ. This comes about not through the “creative accommodation” of what you know by faith to be false, but by prayer that we will all be sanctified more and more by the God we adore. The holier we become, the closer to God we are drawn, the more at one in Christ we find ourselves. Thus when he launched the Week of Universal Prayer for the Unity of Christians, he imagined it like the Good Friday Liturgy’s prayers to include prayer for the sanctification of those who do not believe in Christ, as well as those divided among themselves in His Body. But mostly he saw that Christianity hides Christ by its division, since the Lord Himself had prayed, “Father, may they be one  so that the world may believe that it was You Who sent me.”

The Urgency of Unity in Christ’s Kingdom

For this reason, Christian unity and prayer for it are under repeated attack. One cannot help noticing that while a bishop calls for the “inclusive hospitality” of Islamic texts at significant ceremonies for which Anglicanism has responsibility, no such “creative accommodation” conducive to the union of all Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome - and not to its exclusion - has been facilitated by the final ratification of changes to the ordained ministry in the Church of England. This seemingly insurmountable block to reunion is a blow for all who have upheld unity in the Catholic faith, offering a convincing account of the hope that lies within us in the Risen Christ, as the true vision for the unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ, especially in this Anglican land where the largest number of churchgoers is actually Catholic. The fading of the ecumenical dream of visible, organic unity is a blow to Roman Catholics as much as to Anglican Catholics alike, because as fellow Christians we ought to rely on each other for mutual strength and encouragement; and for the sake of the Gospel we cannot afford for our separation to loom so large as to obscure the glory of Christ.

So we press on, without relenting in prayer for unity in the Church because of the holiness of our union in Christ, but knowing that God maps out a path that for the moment we cannot see. For its part, our Catholic League recently sponsored the conference in London to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, especially the Decree on Ecumenism. The message from all sides was telling: we are tempted to give up and more easily go our separate ways; but years of prayer, and friendship and mutual theological learning have disinclined us to. No one part of the People of God can go it alone, as if it were exclusively the Body of Christ, and it is the essence of Catholicity to work as a countervailing force to wilful schism and as the impulse toward the truth that binds in one faith the Universal Church. So Catholicism is not Catholic if it operates as one mere movement among many. Its work is constantly to seek and to realise this Universal Church, the Church as God sees it from His perspective, the spotless Bride adorned for her Husband, inseparable from His Son. In other words, the supposedly failed Ecumenical Movement which has not led to the union we hoped for has still changed everything: the idea of the One Great Church cannot be avoided by divided Christians; everyone in honesty must know that no separate denomination is willed by Christ to serve as an end in itself, be it Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant or Pentecostal; and the Catholic Church’s engagement with other Christians and Churches is not only a current commitment, it is permanently the way that the Church is. Providentially for now it seems that, if we cannot be visibly one, the important thing is to walk as one wherever and whenever we can. What is at stake is the direction of humanity – whether it is still to be enslaved by the market of human options that take us away from true choice, by the forgetting of the sanctity of life and by the relative weighing up of advantageous options, or whether to be captivated by the truth about God and humanity in Christ, and to live it even now in the Kingdom of Christ.

Can it be that, in moving together against the world’s injustices, resistant to the hatred of peace, and contrary to the abomination of desolation that hides the Devil’s lust for blood and death behind a religion, to the horror of most Muslims and perverting Islam , whose name derives from peace (the word Islam is related to salaam), we will render “One Lord, One Faith, One Church” visible to those with confidence in nothing? Can it be that in together meeting the need of the world for relief as well as hope, spiritual as well as material, even separated Christians will be seen at one with the Lord, and be convinced that it is believable the He was sent by the Father after all?

Some think that ecumenism is wishful thinking, “finished”, or even a harmful delusion. But the prayer for the Church of the Christians to be one so that the Lord may make Himself seen will not stop its echoing. The fact is that we have all died and been raised in Christ, we have all been given His Spirit; the Kingdom has been given to us and we have all been rendered blessed, in order to live in it. Thus we can either persevere in disunity, complicit with the world that is satisfied with one Church strained into many, and falling short of our blessedness. Or we can act on the capacity we have been given to place our Catholic faith and our Catholic Church at the indefatigable service of the “unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ” (words from the annual prayers of Paul Couturier for the Week of Prayer). Now is not the time to despair of Christian unity or to disdain those who we feel are walking away from its objective. It is no harm to our integrity as Catholics to walk with them still, in firm conviction that our steps together will enable our leading by the Light that lightens everyone to the fullness of truth. For the sake of the salvation of humanity, and its true “creative accommodation” at the “inclusive hospitality” of the Celestial Banquet in the Kingdom coming on earth as in heaven, it is nothing less than our duty.

Fr Mark Woodruff, Priest Director

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

God knows where the women bishops vote leaves Anglican-Catholic relations - Mgr Mark Langham, The Tablet - Blogs

15 July 2014 by Mgr Mark Langham            

The vote by the Church of England to ordain women as bishops changes nothing in its official relations with the Catholic Church. And yet it changes a great deal. It is to be noted that the decision in England only confirms a reality that has existed in worldwide Anglicanism since 1989. The Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue has been dealing with the reality of women clerics since the 1970s, (early ordinations took place in Asia, North America and New Zealand) and so this decision in one part of the Anglican Communion changes little; indeed, a woman bishop from Canada, Linda Nicholls, is a member of the current Anglican-Catholic dialogue commission, ARCIC III.

But ecumenical relations are not just about cold theological facts. Progress in dialogue is built also on personal co-operation, on feeling comfortable in each other’s presence. And here the decision does create a problem. Anglicans can be frustrated by Rome’s concentration on what happens at Canterbury (or, in this case, York). In 1989, the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, noted this fixation, suggesting that Rome had ignored “ the actual existence of women priests in the United States for a number of years … We have never tried to hide this.”

Yet among most Anglicans, the Church of England does have a sentimental position as “mother Church”, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the “first among equals”. If anyone is a spokesman for Anglicanism, it is he, and accordingly Rome is right to take notice of developments in Anglicanism as they occur in the Church of England. The discussions leading to the 1992 vote for women priests occasioned a particularly frank exchange between Pope and Archbishop, and it was to a gathering of Church of England bishops in 2008 that the then-head of the Vatican’s ecumenical office, Cardinal Walter Kasper, gave his dire warning that the ordination of women would move Anglicanism away from Catholic orthodoxy and closer to the continental Reformed Churches.

Thus, this is a critical moment for ecumenical dialogue. Anglicans do not seem always to realise how difficult such a move is for Catholics. In 2009 Archbishop Rowan Williams tried to suggest that the ordination of women as priests is a “second-order issue” of mere canonical or juridical significance. ARCIC had previously argued that the question of the ordination of women is of a “different kind” to more serious theological issues. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave short shrift to these notions, asserting that the ordination of women is a doctrinal issue, intrinsic to the theology of priesthood.

Thus, it is true to say that hope of union has receded. There is no mid-point now between having women bishops and not having them. From speaking of unity, realistically dialogue now considers how two traditions, one of which ordains women bishops and one which does not, co-exist. The rug has been pulled from under those who longed for unity within the foreseeable future.

Yet ecumenists are upbeat; they have come too far, and weathered too many disappointments, not to continue to have faith in the movement. Ecumenism, they point out, is not a human construct, but a divine imperative. Wonders have happened; the Holy Spirit is not discouraged. At a time when, institutionally, we seem far away apart, faith in God’s will for unity has to be stronger than ever.

Mgr Mark Langham is Catholic chaplain to the University of Cambridge and was previously co-secretary to ARCIC III and an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Source: The Tablet - Blogs, with grateful acknowledgement
And see The Tablet's report on the General Synod's decision and the ecumenical implications here.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Priest Director's Address to the Annual General Meeting, July 2014

Let me begin by thanking Fr Graeme Rowlands for his hospitality at St Silas’, Kentish Town. It truly is a spiritual home for us in the Catholic League not only because of a constantly warm welcome here, but also because of the unshakable faith we share: whatever the obstacles and separation between the Church of England and the rock from which it was hewn, the Latin Catholic Church in communion with the Successor of Peter in his See of Rome, Christ founded only one Church, that it has no other creed but the Catholic faith, and that union is necessary because it is not in the nature of the Body of Christ to be divided and because He willed it on the night before He died.

On a number of recent home visits to North-west England, I could not help but concluding that the once confident Christianity as part of the fabric of society that I knew - Catholic, Anglican and “chapel” - had considerably collapsed in attendance, presence and confidence there. When I was growing up, Lancashire was a bastion of old recusant Catholic England still alive in the people, but it is difficult to trace its large significance in the region now in the same way it was once so obvious.  Other churches have suffered in like degree. I suspect the reason is that the churches have lost touch with the identity of whole constituencies of people, and the everyday lives of ordinary folk, especially the poor and working class. St Silas, a Catholic Anglican parish that had once been marked for closure, however tells the story of how such need not be so. The beautiful celebration of the liturgical and sacramental life, solid Catholic faith put into practice, and assiduous pastoral care by connecting practice of the faith with the life and experience of people through school, home and community makes for a vibrant worshipping community. And in truth and justice, the pattern is repeated in many places around the country, where the Church and its priests can truly present the image of the People of God as the true human society, a “still more excellent way” and alternative to what the market, the state, and “wider society” have to offer.

Instead of the Church accepting that it must conform to a pluralistic view of society and humanity, living as one choice on offer among many, with one view on morality in conduct both private and public, and giving in to the convention that religion is a private opinion, it is at its best when it presents not an exclusivist society turn in on its own preoccupations, but a reflection of the true order of the universe, and thus human society, in which Christ is king and all is to be seen in relation to that fact of existence, and paying due to Him as subject to His truth as teacher and rule as Master.

Among the objects of the Catholic League are not just concerns that we would describe nowadays as ecumenical, but that go to the heart of what human society is for and what it needs. Thus we are to promote the spread of the Catholic faith and the deepening of the spiritual life. In our day, “spiritual life” is not so much concerned with cultivating a private spirituality, as with keeping open the religious dimension in every aspect of life from which it is being progressively deleted: school, care services, public administration, social and cultural observance and, as Pope Benedict alerted us on his visit in 2010, the dialogue between faith and reason, religion and political or commercial activity without which no one receives a satisfactory answer to the deepest questions that our existence contemplates.

If public Christianity disappears in this land, largely with the accommodating acceptance of the Churches, what is to fill the vacuum? We have seen in a dozen instances in the last century what an un Churched or secular State offers us: World War I, National Socialism, the atheistic humanism of Marxist-Leninism and the resulting starvation of millions of Ukrainians and Russians; the Cultural Revolution of China; the Killing Fields of Cambodia; the emergence of states whose state economies depend on supplying the drugs trade rather than public and business virtue; the implosion of Arab secularism into false Islamism and blood-letting in the Middle East; the collapse of a common Catholic society among Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda because of the coming of greed and corruption after years of Communism. The list goes on. To all of this the only answer is not medieval theocracy, but a society where God is worshipped, His law is kept and His gospel suffuses all our values. For this to be recovered - as recovered it must be if what comes next is not to disintegrate, leaving us nothing, no value, no principle, no truth to go on - it is vital for the Churches to stand out as manifestations of the other way of being human, and of being human society. And, again as Pope Benedict insisted on his visit, we offer no credible account of the hope that lies within us unless we are one. This is why my predecessor, Fr Brooke Lunn, said time and again that English society deserves to be served and led by one Church, the Church that unites and integrates, the Church that presents the faith that is Catholic.

But this is not only an English or European concern. Fr Fynes-Clinton, the Catholic League’s principal founder, looked to the reunion of all Christians when he placed the League under the joint patronage of St Joseph (for the West) and St Nicholas (for the East). Now, Christians in the East are under severe threat, and their very continued existence is under direct and violent attack. In June this year, no Mass has been celebrated in Mosul for the first time in over 1600 years, because murderous armed robbers and abusers of young girls, posing as Islamist jihadis, have driven them out under threat of forced conversion, or death. The founder of Islam, Mohammed, insisted there was to be no compulsion in religion and famously invited the Christians to celebrate the Eucharist in his mosque. But this means nothing to the materialistic terrorists who are destroying the lives, history, culture, property and patrimony of a mature Iraqi Christian-Muslim society, which was borne of the land of Mesopotamia, known as the “cradle of civilisation”. At this time of terrible crisis - and, frankly, our own helplessness in the face of what is going on - we need to learn from the East and to consider what may happen here in the West. How resilient are our protections to liberty, the positive toleration of religion and the recognition of its indispensable value? History reveals many times when the Church has been destroyed or exterminated, only to indicate new growth and renewal elsewhere, or later on. What is our sensation of decline in England in the present age in comparison with what is happening in Syria and Iraq? Will the Church grow in strength and renew itself? Christianity has never been overcome; is it to submit now? If so; what will succeed it for our society and the Church of the future? What we can say is that, the relativisation of the Christian religion and the proclamation of Christ’s Gospel and Kingdom as one option among many in the market will ensure it is left on the shelf. If we do not believe it is the Way and practise it accordingly, who will? It does not matter, then, if we are many or few – it does not depend on our effort, but requires our faithfulness and our witness to the universe as it has been revealed to us: with Christ its King, embodied in one People of God, related to one truth that alone can bind it, and fulfilling its purpose through choosing the only objective that can be arrived at without destroying it in the process - the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

In this task, I would like to thank especially Fr Christopher Stephenson for his work as Priest Director of the Apostolate of Prayer in which he encourages many of these themes to be expressed in intercession and devotion. I also thank my fellow Trustees in the work of the League, especially in the observance of its Centenary 12013-14. The celebrations were beautiful and adorned with fine contributions from Archdeacon Luke Miller, Dr Robin Ward, Father John Hunwicke, our President Fr Michael Rear and Judge Michael Yelton. Fr Miller's addresses on Fr William Congreve SSJE and St Therese of Avila at our centenary Festa in Walsingham led to the publication of a special edition of The Messenger including a moving version of the Stations of the Cross. All this stimulated interest in the League's history and respect for our work.

Furthermore, the distinguished Church historian, Dr Michael Walsh, is considering writing a history of the League that fairly appraises the Anglo-Papalists’ initiative in laying foundations for later Anglican-Catholic dialogue and their long-term contribution to the movement for Christian unity. He and I recently offered a joint session at the Third International Receptive Ecumenism conference in Fairfield, Connecticut, examining this history, the recent development of Ordinariates for those of Anglican tradition in the Catholic Church, the nature of Anglican patrimony and the future of the Anglican-Catholic engagement towards visible, organic unity. As for its prospects, it became apparent to me that North Americans are less concerned with historic European problems, and the Ordinariates viewed as a solution to them or as a possible threat to worldwide ecumenism. Instead, they see the positive potential for the Catholic Church to embed within itself something of Anglican tradition and liturgy, just as Anglicans have taken on other traditions, not least in a structural way in the past. The phenomenon of the Ordinariates they did not see as a further delineation of difference and mutual exclusion, but as a way in which Anglicans and Catholics could understand each other, feel affinity towards each other and be drawn together. For the main purpose to this they saw as to work together on much needed efforts towards common service of the aims of the Kingdom of God in the world, sustained by a faith shared more closely - so that the world might see that unity is possible, however difficult it may seem at present, and so that the world might believe from the concerted effort of the two Churches that it was indeed the Father who sent the Son who is visible in them.

Our Centenary Year has ended with a presentation to the Catholic Church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. Adoration, of a monstrance bearing the League’s emblem and objects. The Church was founded by Cardinal Manning as a place of reparation for the offences and injuries to the Eucharist, the priesthood and the unity of the Body of Christ in England in the past. He had intended for it be the National Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, where reparation could be made not through recrimination against history and the Protestantism of the English nation and constitution, but through an ever more intensified pouring out of love and devotion, towards healing, salvation and reconciliation in the one Church of Christ. Fr Alan Robinson, the parish priest, an old friend of Fr Rowland’s and mine, has been charged with the restoration of the Church and its work as a National and International shrine to the Blessed Sacrament. It had no monstrance worthy of the task for daily Exposition, Adoration and Benediction, something around which all Christians can be united regardless of the lack of fullness of communion. So the League has presented one, thanks to Fr Rowlands’ efforts, towards the church's restored role. Fr Robinson is to refound the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament, which will be an international fellowship of prayer for reparation, peace and reconciliation, sustained by the daily offering of mass and the Adoration that will be at the heart of the Church’s future work.

Since these objectives are very close to the aims of the Catholic League, and directly reflect work that we have done on ecumenical reparation and reconciliation in the past, following Pope St John Paul II’s encouragement of “the healing of memories” between the separate Church histories that still divide us as potential rivals, and mindful of Pope Francis own description of how Christians are united by martyrdom and suffering in the past through an “ecumenism of blood”, I hope that members of the League, Anglicans and Catholics alike, will be keen to enrol in the Corpus Christi Guild of the Blessed Sacrament and actively involve themselves in its future new work of prayer and reconciliation.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Fr Graeme Rowlands presents the Monstrance to Fr Alan Robinson,
for the National Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament at Corpus Christi
Our Centenary Year has ended with a presentation to the Catholic Church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, of a monstrance bearing the League’s emblem and objects. This is the last donation to a Church to promote the Catholic faith and the spiritual life through purchasing Eucharistic Vessels from the Tabernacle Treasury, a fund of the League's set up by Fr Fynes-Clinton, its main founder.