ROMAN CATHOLIC -ANGLICAN
History of Roman Catholic / Anglican relations:
The Anglican church split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 CE.
The main cause was a dispute between King Henry VIII of England and the pope over the
king's need to annul his marriage. The Anglican Church became the state church of
England. It now consists of many affiliated provinces (national churches) across the world, such
as the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of
Canada. During the past two centuries, there have been efforts made to reunify
the two churches:
||The Roman Catholic Church's historical position was that reunion with
Protestants would take the form of individual members converting to
||In the 18th century, William Wake (the Archbishop of
Canterbury) tried to promote a reunion of two churches. He was unsuccessful.|
||In 1870, the First Vatican Council declared the primacy and infallibility
of the pope. This increased significantly the division between the two
churches. Other points of conflict were:
||The developing Protestant world-wide missionary movement
||The increasing role of Mary in the Roman Catholic church, as
evidenced by dogmas that she was assumed
body and soul into the glory of Heaven at the time of her
death, and that she was conceived without sin.
||In 1908, the Roman Catholic Church started an annual practice of setting
aside a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each year to pray for unity through "the return of heretics and schismatics to
the Church of Rome."|
||At their Lambeth conference of 1920, Anglicans called for unity between
the two churches.|
||In 1928, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical "Mortalium animos"
(On fostering true religious unity). It dealt a crushing blow to
the emerging ecumenical movement. It stated that the Roman Catholic Church cannot become involved in
the movement towards unity. It "also contained a clear
warning that Catholic support of interfaith assemblies and moves by
non-Catholics to bring about Christian unity would be considered
subversive." 6 As always, non-Catholics would
be welcome if they individually left their church of origin and
returned to "the one true Church of Christ."|
||In 1948, Pope Pius XII did not accept the invitation from the World
Council of Churches for the Roman Catholic Church to become a member.|
||In 1950, the Holy Office recognized for the first time that the ecumenical
movement is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Individual Roman Catholics were
given permission to attend ecumenical meetings as long as church dogma is
not discussed. For the first time in centuries, Anglicans and Roman
Catholics were able to recite the Lord's Prayer together.|
||Christian theologians and pastors from Protestant denominations were given
active observer status at the four official sessions of the Second
Vatican Council (1962-1965). 2|
||Circa 1965, Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI met in Rome to
initiate an earnest search for unity. They agree to set up the Anglican-Roman
Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). |
||The 1968 Malta Report of the ARCIC recognized that one of the "urgent
and important tasks" would be to examine the question of authority
within the churches. 3|
||The Final Report of the ARCIC was published in 1981. "Half
of it was devoted to the dialogue about authority in the Church, with two
agreed statements and an elucidation." 3|
||In 1994, American Roman Catholic and Episcopal bishops made a joint
ecumenical pilgrimage to the Vatican at Rome, and to Canterbury in England.|
||In 1996, the "Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and Pope
John Paul II stated very frankly the need for this work on authority...: 'Without
agreement in this area we shall not reach the full, visible unity to which
we are both committed'."|
||In 1999, the ARCIC issued a further statement and commentary on union.|
||In 2000, bishops from the two churches met in Mississauga, ON, Canada,
The gaps between the Roman Catholic & Anglican churches:
The two churches have gradually drifted apart on theological grounds. During
the 20th century, the churches have also adopted different policies
on various matters -- particularly tose related to human sexuality. Some points of conflict between
the two churches are:
||The Roman Catholic Church refuses to recognize that Anglican priests
have been legitimately ordained and that their bishops have been
legally consecrated. This means, for example, Roman Catholics and
Anglicans cannot receive the communion elements together.
||Catholics believe in the existence of Purgatory as a place and state after death.
Anglicans do not.
||Catholics believe that the wine and wafer become the actual blood and body of Christ
during the Eucharist. Anglicans do not.
||Catholics believe that the pope has authority over all of Christianity.
Anglican Archbishop George Cary says that he has no problem with the
idea of a "universal" primate. It is the nature,
jurisdiction and authority of that primacy that must be settled.
||The Catholic church, alone, believes that certain of the the pope's pronouncements,
when he speaks ex cathedra (officially) on matters of faith and
morals, are infallible.
||The pope is the ultimate authority in the
Roman Catholic Church. Decisions in the Anglican churches require separate
affirmative votes by the laity, clergy and bishops.
||Anglicans do not believe in the Immaculate Conception (the dogma
that Mary was without sin when she was conceived circa 20 BCE.)
They do not believe that she was transferred bodily to heaven at her death.
There is a growing belief in the Catholic Church that Mary has the
status, with Jesus, of co-redemptrix. That concept is quite foreign to
Protestant and Anglican denominations.
||Very few Catholic priests and bishops are allowed to marry.
||Catholic women are not eligible for ordination to the priesthood. The
pope considers the matter a closed subject and has forbidden discussion on
it. In 1971, two Anglican women in Hong Kong became the first female
regularly ordained women in the Anglican Communion. This was followed by
female ordination in many other Anglican churches and finally --in 1992 --
in the Church of England.
||Women have been consecrated as bishops in some Anglican
||Catholics do not allow Divorce and remarriage;
||Birth control is forbidden for Catholics, although most North
Americans use it routinely. To Anglicans, it is a private, not a religious, issue.
||Roman Catholic women are forbidden to have an an
Anglican church takes a more liberal view.
||Roman Catholic couples who are infertile are forbidden to start
pregnancies through in vitro fertilization. To Anglicans, it is
not a religious issue.
||In 2001, the New Westminster, British Columbia diocese of the Anglican
Church of Canada voted in favor of blessing gay and lesbian unions. In
2003-JAN, Rowan Williams was installed as the new Archbishop of
Canterbury. He brings with him a strong desire to promote equality of
persons of all sexual orientations within the Anglican Communion. During
the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, the
consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire was
confirmed. He was divorced and is now in a long term, committed
relationship with another man. Any
movement towards the ordination of homosexual priests who are in committed
relationships, and/or the blessing of gay and lesbian unions will increase
the divisions between the Anglican Communion and Roman
Of these, the most serious point of dispute appears to be the authority of
the Pope and the Vatican. On a positive note, the two churches have retained
similar internal organizational structures; that might simplify an eventual
Tom Harpur, religion editor for the Toronto Star commented on the Mississauga
meeting: "Don't expect too much from the week-long meetings...at the
Queen of the Apostles Retreat Centre." He believes that union will not
"happen in any of our lifetimes" for two reasons:
||All of the discussions to date have not produced any practical
||The "few issues outstanding -- the ordination of women
priests and especially the consecration of women bishops by some
Anglican dioceses, plus the nature of the authority of a Pope in a
reunited church are huge."
Rather than come together, these two churches appear to be drifting
even farther apart. The pope, it is rumored, may soon declare the Virgin
Mary to be a co-redemptrix. Some of the newly consecrated female bishops
in the Anglican Church may soon start ordaining male and female candidates to the
The 2000 conference in Mississauga:
"Thirty-five years ago, the first major step towards reconciliation were
taken. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who heads the Anglican
church, decided the faiths should come together again." 1
pairs of bishops -- one Anglican and one Roman Catholic -- from each of 13
countries of the world took part
in a conference in Mississauga ON Canada, near Toronto. They came from
Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria,
Papua New Guinea, Southern Africa, Uganda, United States, and the
West Indies. They stayed at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre.
Joint chairpersons were the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and
Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Vatican's Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Father Peter Cross, a Roman Catholic
priest commented: "The Christian message of reconciliation is a bit hollow if
Christians are disagreeing or even fighting with each other." Anglican Bishop John
Baycroft said: "You wouldn't believe how many people I've heard from who
are telling me that they're praying for us Anglicans and Roman Catholics."
APR-17 The Most Reverend George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered
a sermon at ecumenical vespers. He said, in part:
"...our two Churches have traveled a long way together during
the last forty or so years and we have much in common. This evening
gives us an opportunity to celebrate that fact.
Nevertheless we know that some Protestant Christians object to this
theological dialogue. They fear that Reformation principles are being
abandoned and gospel faith is being traduced. I reply that the journey
the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have taken since
the Second Vatican Council has not been a journey away from the
Christian faith but a pilgrimage together into its heart. Polemics lead
to hatred and division. Partnership leads to the promise of mutual
service and eventual union..."
"The crisis of Christian division is the sad legacy of the
past and our continuing failure to heal it. Although we personally are
not to blame for those historical circumstances which have lead to
today's divided Church we are accountable to the degree that we are
unwilling to work for resolution of the results of past conflicts."
According to the Toronto Star: "While the bishops attend
services together, they do not walk up to the altar to receive communion
together. The Catholics take communion only in their services, the
Anglicans only in theirs. And that, as much as anything, captures the
reason for the meeting." 5
The bishops issued a statement "Communion in mission"
which was published by ACNS -- the Anglican news service -- on MAY-23. It said, in part:
"We appreciate that there are as yet unresolved differences
and challenges which affect both Communions. These have to do with
such matters as: the understanding of authority in the Church, including
the way it is exercised, and the precise nature of the future role of
the universal primate; Anglican Orders; the ordination of women; moral
and ethical questions. Though interchurch families can be signs of
unity and hope, one pressing concern has to do with addressing the need
to provide joint pastoral care for them. Sometimes those in interchurch
families experience great pain particularly in the area of eucharistic
life...However, we believe these challenges are not to be compared with
all that we hold in common." 6
The statement on interchurch families apparently refers to the fact
that Anglicans and Roman Catholics are still not permitted to take
The report continues: "We believe that now is the appropriate
time for the authorities of our two Communions to recognise and endorse
this new stage through the signing of a Joint Declaration of Agreement.
This Agreement would set out: our shared goal of visible unity; an
acknowledgment of the consensus in faith that we have reached, and a
fresh commitment to share together in common life and witness. Our
two Communions would be invited to celebrate this Agreement around the
They propose establishing a Joint Unity Commission which will
"oversee the preparation of the Joint Declaration of
Agreement, and promote and monitor the reception of ARCIC agreements, as
well as facilitate the development of strategies for translating the
degree of spiritual communion that has been achieved into visible and
The problem of union may be exacerbated by the relative sizes of the two
churches. There are about 1 billion Roman Catholics but only about 70 million
Anglicans -- a ratio of about 14 to 1: If they had roughly equal numbers of
members, then the Roman Catholic church might be more motivated to compromise.
But if they only stand to gain an extra 7% of followers, one wonders whether
they would be willing to make major changes to their organization. theology and
practices. Beliefs relating to human sexuality appear to be a major source of
difficulty. Further, they seem to be diverging. They include abortion access,
equal rights for gays and lesbians in the churches and the rest of society,
recognition of same-sex unions, ordination of married priests, ordination of
female priests, in-vitro fertilization, divorce, remarriage, contraception, etc.
The other major area of conflict is authority within the churches.
"Catholics, Anglicans hold reunion talks in Canada," CBC
News, 2000-MAY-15, at: http://cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/view.cgi?/news/2000/05/14/
J.M. Tillard, "Rome and Ecumenism," at: http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/faith/tillard.html
"The Gift of Authority: An Agreed Statement by the Second
Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission," at: http://www.nccbuscc.org/seia/authority.htm
"Archbishop of Canterbury's Sermon at Ecumenical Vespers,"
delivered 2000-MAY-17 at 18:00 hrs. ACNS mailing list; Anglican Communion
Leslie Schrivener, "Bishops meeting in seclusion in Mississauga,"
Toronto Star, 2000-MAY-18, Pages A1 & A26.
Michael McAteer, "So near and yet so far...," Toronto
Star, 2000-MAY-27, Page J16
Copyright © 2000 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2000-MAY-15
Latest update: 2004-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson