LAMBETH: Catholic-Anglican relations reach new low over women bishops
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
July 31, 2008
The Roman Catholic Church has finally ended all hope that Anglican priestly orders will ever be recognised as valid.
In an address to the Lambeth Conference of 670 Anglican bishops from around the world, the cardinal who heads the Council for Christian Unity said the dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics would be irrevocably "changed" as a result of the ordination of women and the recent vote to go ahead with consecrating women bishops.
Cardinal Walter Kasper also reiterated the Vatican's stance that homosexuality is a "disordered" condition.
In a well-attended closed session at the conference at the University of Kent University, Canterbury, Cardinal Kasper said relations between the two churches are now deeply compromised. He urged bishops to consider their shared inheritance, which he said was "worthy of being consulted and protected."
In 1896 Pope Leo XI issued a Bull, Apostolicae Curae, in which he condemned all Anglican orders as "absolutely null and utterly void". Soon after that bishops from both churches began talks in an attempt to achieve reconciliation between the two churches, separated since the Reformation in the 16th century. When Archbishop Michael Ramsey visited Pope Paul VI in 1966, hopes were unprecedentedly high that some means could be found of achieving full,visible unity.
Even today, the churches work closely together at the grass roots. Rome is understood to be looking at way of receiving as a collective body the Anglo-Catholics in England who might want to leave the Church as a result of women bishops. A similar formula is being sought for traditional Anglicans in the United States who have already left the Episcopal Church.
Cardinal Kasper spoke yesterday afternoon in English but conference organisers and the Vatican refused to release the text to the media, who were barred from attending the event. His speech was subsequently posted by L'Osservatore Romano in Rome in Italian. The Times has arranged its own translation back into English.
According to this translation, the Cardinal said: "Although our dialogue has led to a significant agreement on the idea of priesthood, the ordination of women to the episcopate blocks substantially and finally a possible recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church."
He continued: "We hope for the continuation of a theological dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, but the latter development directly undermines our goal and alters the level of what we pursue in dialogue."
The Cardinal told bishops: "I know many of you are worried, some also deeply, about the threat of fragmentation within the Anglican Communion. We are deeply sympathetic with you because we are also worried and saddened when we ask ourselves, 'In this scenario, which form will the Anglican Communion take tomorrow, and who will be our interlocutor?'"
He said the Catholic position on women priests and homosexuality was well-known but he wanted to offer further reflections in the light of the dialogue between the two churches, done under the umbrella for many years of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, or Arcic.
He said: "I want to briefly draw your attention to the statement of Arcic, Life in Christ, which notes that Anglicans could agree with Catholics on the fact that homosexual activity is disorderly, but we could defer relatively to the moral and pastoral care that should be offered."
He said the Vatican appreciated the resolution of the last Lambeth Conference that took a strictly Biblical line on the issue, ruling out the acceptance by Anglicans of active homosexual relationships.
"In light of the tensions of recent years in this regard, a clear statement by the Anglican Communion would offer us more opportunities to offer a common witness of human sexuality and marriage, a witness sorely needed in today's world."
When the Cardinal addressed the Church of England's House of Bishops in 2006, he said the decision to ordain women represents a departure from the common position of all the Churches of the first millennium, not only of the Catholic Church but also of the Eastern Churches and Orthodox.
The Cardinal told Lambeth: "It seems to us that the Anglican Communion is very close to the Protestant Churches of the sixteenth century and is taking a position that those Churches took until the second half of the twentieth century."
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