Monday, December 17, 2012
An Equality Too Far?
Am I the only one who is uneasy about this picture?
It is from a recent joint celebration of Vespers with the Archbishops of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in Westminster Cathedral at which Dr Williams preached.
It was kind thing to do for Archbishop Nichols to invite the Archbishop of Canterbury to Westminster Cathedral shortly before his retirement. However at the back of Westminster is that plaque which shows Vincent, by the Grace of God and favour of the Apostolic See, not Rowan, is the successor St Augustine.
Today we Catholics are not too uncomfortable with using the title "Archbishop" or "Bishop" by Anglicans, we accept the state given legality of the title. We accept that Anglican clergy are de facto heads of particular Anglican diocese. Today, we would certainly not be churlish and deny someone we have invited to an event the title he has chosen, and which is commonly used to refer him.
That being said, we Catholics actually do not believe that Dr Williams is a Bishop, yes he has leadership, episcope, over a huge "Ecclesial Community", but we do not believe he is Bishop in the sense that Vincent Nichols or any other Catholic is a Bishop, we don't have problems with Orthodox either but we do have problems with Anglican orders.
The baseline is we do not believe that the sacraments he celebrates are valid, we do not believe that he has Apostolic Succession, we do not believe he has valid Orders. For all our fraternal affection we might have for him, we do actually believe that he, and his Ecclesial Community are separated, in old parlance, "in schism", with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and actually, as uncomfortable with the word as we are today, despite so much we have in common with the Anglican Communion, we do do believe that he is actually a heretic.
The normal attire for a non-Catholic religious leader to attend a Catholic Liturgical Service is "choir dress". inviting Dr Williams to dress in the liturgical vesture of a Catholic Bishop in a Catholic Cathedral suggests a parity that does not exist. There are many things that a the Catholic Church and non-Catholic Christian can and must do together but pretending we have parity of Orders is not of them.
Permitting a non-Catholic to vest in cope and mitre in a Catholic Cathedral, or for a Catholic to do so in an Anglican is an equality too far, it might be "nice" but it is about, confusion, thelogical inaccurracy, fudge. Indeed it is about removing the meaning from words in the same way our Government have decided to strip marriage from anything other than empty signs and symbols.
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