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OCTOBER 2001

CHURCHES TOGETHER IN ENGLAND

~ A Condemnation ~

HUGH W. SCOTT

This article looks at the dangers into which "ecumenism" can lead individual Catholics, Catholic organisations, and the Church itself. All quotations are from the short book titled Called To Be One (pp. viii + 84), and a smaller companion text, called The Workbook (pp. iv + 40), both published in 1996 by Churches Together in England, in which that organisation sets out its theological aims. The committee producing these texts included Catholic theologians, with enthusiastic Catholic involvement and endorsement. The late Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume O.S.B., was one of the organisation's four co-Presidents. I do not know if the new Archbishop of Westminster has replaced Cardinal Hume as one of these co-Presidents. But at his enthronement Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was welcomed to his see, in his own cathedral, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose priestly orders the Catholic Church rejects and who was representing, according to the official programme, Churches Together In England.

No True Church
These two small books represent, in their general theological outlook and in individual statements too numerous to list in their entirety, the complete abandonment of the Catholic position on the Church and all its teachings. By the group's very title - Churches Together - the one true Roman Catholic Church is reduced to the same status as all the other twenty one participating "Churches". This blanket use of the word "Churches", never authorised by the Catholic Church, and notably not by the Second Vatican Council, is in itself the gravest of deviations from Catholic teaching. The whole Catholic position simply vanishes. "Mark on the map the location, name and denomination of the church each of you attends" (Workbook, p. 8. Italics mine).

On practically every single page (and usually several times on one page), the validity and binding force of every Catholic belief is at least implicitly called into question, by its being proposed as just another belief 'put up for negotiation' between the "Churches". The Roman Catholic Church's claim to teach and govern, uniquely and absolutely, in the name of Christ, is nowhere insisted on as being different from any other "Church's" views. It is impossible to quote every passage which contradicts the Catholic position - passages which are nevertheless accepted by Churches Together in England (and therefore by the Roman Catholic contributors and episcopal co-Presidents) as subject to negotiation. Both booklets in their entirety are just one long list of such positions. In every case, the Roman Catholic positions are also listed as subject to discussion and, accordingly, to rejection if the wisdom of Churches Together in England should so think fit. The position of Churches Together in England is quite straightforward: it is only by Catholics being prepared to abandon every iota of defined Roman Catholic faith that any "unity" can be achieved.

On page 30 (no. 4.39) the main booklet lists the six key "bonds" which it believes "Church Unity" calls for: "the confession of a common faith, common decision-making, a commonly accepted authority, a mutually accepted ministry, a common baptism, a shared eucharist, together with a common call to ministry". Yet already, on the first page of the booklet, the Roman Catholic position has been sold out. In the first thirteen lines of the Preface (page v), the question is asked five times: What kind of church is needed to achieve this or that noble aim of the authors?

The crystal clear assumption, reinforced on every line of every page, is that God's Church does not now exist, and has never existed. God's true church has not yet been born. It can arise only from the ashes of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the sole reason for the existence of Churches Together in England: to destroy the Catholic Church, to see it disappear except for such remnants of its past faith and practice as the committee of Churches Together in England feels prepared to accept.

Diminishing Common Ground

We are told:

"The Roman Catholic Church does not understand this quest for unity as the return of other Christians to her unbroken unity, but rather as a common quest for a new and deeper realisation of the unity the Lord wills and gives to his church" (p.18, no. 3.8).

How can the Catholic contributors have been so blind as to formulate the 'Roman Catholic' position in this outrageous way? We are being invited to look forward to some 'New Age' amalgam of a church. Roman Catholic participants in this ecumenical group are asked to consider instead an Anglican position of 1920:

"the separate denominations would die to be reborn within the unity of a living and integrated fellowship" (p. 47,6.13).

Catholicism vanishes. Christ is set at naught.

Several times (p. 51, no. 6.28.vi; p. 63, A.13), reference is made to the "early Councils"; at least implicitly, Trent, Vatican I, Vatican II, etc., are denied. "Unity is found in the common confession of the apostolic faith, revealed in the Holy Scriptures and summarised in the creeds of the early church" (Workbook, p. 26, vi). Critiquing this one sentence would call for a book in itself. Let me give just one, but an absolutely damning, indictment of the dialogue process to which Roman Catholics in Churches Together in England are committed. In the first of a ten-lecture series on "Difficulties facing 'the Church' today", under the auspices of The Christian Study Centre attached to St Albans Church of England Cathedral, a prominent and popular local Anglican lecturer, the Reverend David Lindsay, cleared the decks for his later talks by his altogether sneering and total rejection of the two concepts mentioned above, as non-existent (an "apostolic faith") and meaningless ("the early Councils of the Church"). On other occasions (I was there for some of these talks and can supply documentation), the concept of revelation and the existence of God (I kid you not) were also dismissed. What common ground do Roman Catholics - and I mean not only the deluded Catholic participants in Churches Together in England, but the cardinals, bishops and theologians who go through the solemn process of producing 'agreements' with various other 'Christian' bodies - really have with other 'churches'? Christian faith is simply often no longer there. We need to be quite clear about this: what divides Roman Catholicism from other Christian groups (with the exception of Eastern Orthodox Christianity) - little things like the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ - is now overwhelmingly greater than what unites us. To maintain the opposite is wanton blindness.

An insistent theme of these booklets is the challenge to share in "a mutually accepted ministry, a common baptism, a shared eucharist" (e.g. p. 30, no. 4.39). Yet, for example, "(the Society of Friends and the Salvation Army] do not observe the sacraments of baptism and eucharist [although) the Salvation Army ordains officers for full-time ministry..." (p.75, D.4). How can the Catholic Church hope to find here a "unity" of baptism, ministry and eucharist?

The Mass
There is never any talk of the Catholic belief in the Mass as the Sacrifice of Calvary, only of "eucharistic sharing" (p. 73, C.14; p. 74, C.23,24; Workbook, p. 20.A). The core of the Mass - that Christ is the Prime Offerer - is equivalently denied (Trent, Session 22, chapter 2: "idem nunc offerens, sacerdotum ministerio, qui se ipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa " - "the One offering [the Mass] is, through the ministry of priests, the same One who offered Himself on the cross, only the manner of offering being different"). Yet in the booklet, Catholics are asked to consider the proposed view that "the ordained minister's task cannot be exercised apart from the participation of the community of the faithful"! This view is endlessly condemned by the Catholic Church. A "shared eucharist" is the goal of this 'ecumenical movement'. Where are the grounds for such a sharing, except in the total abandonment of Roman Catholic Eucharistic belief in Sacrifice and Real Presence? This abandonment is in fact often accepted in the Catholic press in England today. There is no space to develop this now, easy as it would be to do so. Nor is the occasional episcopal statement reaffirming the Catholic position against "eucharistic sharing" (e.g. One Bread, One Body) of any worth or comfort whatsoever when that official position is being ignored in parishes and undermined by episcopally supported ecumenical bodies like Churches Together in England!

The Workbook (pp. 2-3) invites groups of Christians from all the "Churches", including Roman Catholics (and children involved at all stages!), without any special theological training in scripture, the Councils of the Church, Church history, or the Church's magisterium, to discuss their faith among themselves and with other Christian groups, and then submit their findings to various local and national ecumenical bodies, "who will discuss the issues at their various Conferences, Synods and Assemblies". The only foundation for 'dialogue' is, "how do you, or your local group, feel about such and such an issue?" It is horrendous beyond words. 'Conferences, Synods and Assemblies' have now become multi-denominational (infallible?) ‘General Councils’!

All of the Workbook's recommended activities will shake to the core the faith and practice of the ordinary faithful. This is the gravest charge to be laid against the whole concept of these booklets, and the movement, Churches Together in England, for which they speak: the Catholic faithful are given the impression, on every page, that Catholicism is merely one expendable input into the 'one Church of Christ' which is to be born out of the contributions of all the member 'Churches' of this body. The One True Church, they are thus led to believe, is not now existing on earth!

POSTSCRIPT


This article was written before the Vatican published Dominus Iesus on 5th September 2000. For an excellent analysis of Dominus Iesus see the article by Christopher A Ferrara in Christian Order (vol. 42, No. 1, Jan. 2001), pp. 18-36. Ferrara reminds us that, despite its many flaws, the Vatican document unambiguously teaches two fundamental (and elementary) doctrinal points: "... that the salvation of every man is through Christ and Him alone, and that Protestant sects are not churches in the proper sense since they lack Holy Orders and the Holy Eucharist" (Ferrara, pp. 21-22). A re-reading of the Churches Together in England booklets in the light of Dominus Iesus will show how totally these booklets contradict Catholic teaching on the nature of the Church.

Ferrara goes on: "Jewish and Protestant leaders have loudly objected to these teachings". But so, immediately, did Cardinal Cassidy, as reported in the Catholic press. And, of course, so did The Tablet of 9 September 2000, which, following the publication of Dominus Iesus, published condemnations of it in an editorial, letters, articles and news items for its having reminded Catholics of what has always been Catholic doctrine! When will the bishops of the four home countries, as a group or, better, as individual shepherds of their own flocks, ban The Tablet from sale in all their church buildings? When will the Church in this country, or the Vatican, demand that the word 'Catholic' be removed from the sub-heading of The Tablet - The International Catholic weekly? And does not the failure to attend to this urgent requirement reflect on the Cardinal Cassidys of this Vatican? How Catholic are they?

Confusion: Contradiction: Deception
Indeed, what of Cardinal Ratzinger himself, who, as Ferrara spells out, spent several months after the publication of Dominus Iesus backpedalling and confusing the teachings which he himself so unambiguously proposed in the document? Ferrara (p. 19) reminds us that Ratzinger has written elsewhere that "the end of all ecumenical effort is to attain [?] the true unity of the Church. For the moment, I [Ratzinger] wouldn't venture to suggest any concrete realization, possible or imaginable, of this future Church. We are at an intermediate stage of unity in diversity". Ferrara asks: "What does Cardinal Ratzinger mean by 'unity in diversity'? It is obvious he means something quite different from what was described in the 1944 Holy Office instruction on the 'ecumenical movement', which stated: 'By no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding... the only true union by the return of dissidents to the one true Church'." This of course fully supports my condemnation of the 'Catholic' position given on p. 18 of the main Churches Together in England booklet, which claims that unity does not call for the return of all to the Roman Catholic Church.

Tragically, it is the present Holy Father himself who gives the lead in this pernicious 'ecumenism'. In addition to the infamous 'prayer meeting' at Assisi in 1986, among others, Pope John Paul II opened the Holy Door to mark the Holy Year on 18 January 2000, flanked by Metropolitan Athanasios, an Orthodox Church leader, and Dr Carey, head of the Anglican community. I quote from the short account which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on the next day (p. 12) under a large colour photograph of these three leaders in full vestments at the ceremony of the opening: "The Holy See hailed the event as the most important of three ecumenical occasions planned for the Holy Year. The Pope was the first to enter the basilica after the Holy Door was opened with Dr Carey's help. The Archbishop and Metropolitan Athanasios afterwards blessed it inside"[emphasis mine].

What kind of theological deceit do we have here? No further back than 1998, in the document Ad Tuendam Fidem, the Vatican repeated, in the most unequivocal terms, the Catholic teaching that Anglican orders are invalid. And only eight months after the door- opening ceremony, in Dominus Iesus, the Pope reminded us that the ecclesiastical community of which Dr Carey is the head is not strictly speaking a church. Furthermore, by whose authority, after the break with Rome in the sixteenth century, is Dr Carey "Archbishop of Canterbury"? Yet here is the Pope opening the Holy Door with Dr Carey's help, and having Dr Carey bless the basilica inside. Is one to be accused of overreaction for having sensed at this ceremony that very "smoke of Satan" which Paul VI himself famously declared to have "penetrated the Church"?

I must reassert, moreover, as did the Editor of Christian Order in the January 2001 number, that the Pope's ecumenical agenda flatly contradicts earlier Vatican teaching (just as the whole ecumenical movement, shared worship, etc. flatly contradicts unswerving Roman Catholic prohibitions down the centuries, unambiguously reaffirmed by Pius XI in Mortalium Animos in 1928). Let me quote in part from a letter, De Unitate Ecclesiae, from the Holy Office under Blessed Pope Pius IX to the English bishops, dated 16 September 1864 (see Denzinger). The letter forbade Roman Catholic involvement in the Association for the Promotion of the Reunion of Christendom which had been founded in 1857 with both Anglican and Roman Catholic membership:

" ... What the character of this association may be ... is easily understood ... Not only has it been set up and run by Protestants, but it is inspired by this spirit, which it expressly proclaims, viz. that the three Christian communions, the Roman Catholic, the Greek-schismatic and the Anglican, although separated and divided from one another, have equal right to claim for themselves the name Catholic ... No one is allowed to raise any questions about the various points of doctrine over which they disagree; and everyone must have the right to follow with a tranquil conscience the 'tenets and lifestyle' [placita] of his own religious confession... The foundation on which the Association is built is of such a kind as to overthrow the divine constitution of the Church from top to bottom. For it all comes back to this, that it supposes that the true Church of Jesus Christ is made up partly of the Roman Church spread and preached throughout the whole world, but partly also of the Photian schism and of the Anglican heresy, for whom equally, as for the Roman Church, there would be 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism' cf Eph 4.5) ... But that the (Roman Catholic) faithful in Christ and ecclesiastical persons should pray for Christian unity under the leadership of heretics, and what is still worse, for intentions which are wholly polluted and infected by heresy, can in no way be tolerated ... Moreover, therefore, the faithful must absolutely shun [abhorrere] this Association, for the reason that those who support it both foster indifferentism and cause scandal".

What more telling condemnation of Churches Together in England, and, alas, of Pope John Paul II's particular vision of "ecumenism", can we have. Is there no theologian left in Rome to point out to the present pontiff that his actions and teachings are, without doubt, totally at odds with Catholic teaching? Despite our affection for John Paul the man and the inspirational moral lead against the Culture of Death which he has given throughout his pontificate, we do well to recall the sometimes notorious personal fallibility of pontiffs in matters of private opinion and prudential judgement down the ages, as well as the prophet Nathan rebuking the divinely favoured King David to his face for his misdeeds [ 2Kings 12].

Finally, I should warn readers that the Catholic press (e.g. The Catholic Times, 7 January 2001, p. 3) has announced that Pentecost celebrations will be "ecumenical in future", under the guidance of local groups of Churches Together in England. Will there be a solemn Roman Catholic Mass at any one of these ecumenical meetings? Are we not rather being prepared for the abandonment of the Pentecost Mass, at the greatest feast of the year along with Easter, so that the Roman Catholic bishops will be able to invite more people like the Anglican arch-heretic David Jenkins to address Catholics and thus destroy the faith of their flock, as did Bishop Ambrose Griffiths last year? The Catholic Church is enthusiastically and systematically planning its own destruction. How could the Catholic Church ever have become part of Churches Together in England, which is destroying the work for which Christ died. The Church must immediately withdraw from this organisation, and apologize to the faithful for the grievous scandal it has given, which is precisely the aforementioned scandal to which Pius IX called attention in 1864.

APPENDIX:
A letter germane to this article, written to the Editor of the Catholic Herald in recent times. It was copied to several others including Dr Carey, Cardinal Hume, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Kingdom and various Roman congregations ( one of which Congregations sent me a very favourable acknowledgment).

Thursday, 4 March 1999

The Church, the Eucharist, and Dr Carey

I regret that there is a fundamental flaw in the interview with Dr Carey which you printed in last week's Catholic Herald (26 February 1999). On page 4, end of column 4 and beginning of column 5, Dr Carey says: "I actually don't think the issue is about what individual Christians believe, it is what the Church believes that is the important thing ... it is what the Church believes that matters".

Dr Carey here uses the word "Church" in a way that sweeps away the whole Catholic theology of the one, true Church, which is, and is only, the Roman Catholic Church founded on Peter. He implies that, lurking somewhere out there, is "the Church" to which we all belong, Roman Catholics and everyone else. This is the most fundamental of heresies. To accept that is to abandon the Roman Catholic faith. I must ask Dr Carey: where is this Church, and how do we know what it believes?

A Roman Catholic must reject the idea that "what the Church believes" can mean anything else except this: that "the Church" is only and exclusively the Roman Catholic Church, and that "what the Church believes" means only what the Roman Catholic Church believes. This includes especially, for the Eucharist, the definitions of the Council of Trent.

Therefore, the view expressed by Dr Carey on which he seems to be going to base his case when discussing the Eucharist (namely, the existence of "the Church" as some nebulous, unidentified body) is totally rejected by the only body to which the term "the Church" can be correctly applied, which is the Roman Catholic Church. And I must most severely blame Mr Oddie for publishing it in a Catholic paper without a note from the editor giving warning of this fact. Grave scandal has been given.

Yours most sincerely,

Mr Hugh W. Scott