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Seattle Catholic is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle
Seattle Catholic
A Journal of Catholic News and Views
4 Jan 2002
The Futility of ARCIC

Chasing false unity with a faltering sect

This past November, Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle participated in a new "Anglican-Roman Catholic Working Group" of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).

Pope John Paul II welcomed the group members with the statement: To which "genuine advances" he was referring went unsaid. He went on to give the encouraging advice: "Impossible" is a good way to describe any meaningful union with a decentralized cult of pretend priests who advocate everything from the "ordination" of women to the "divinity" of homosexuality to the "right" to procure an abortion. Waiting for the "Spirit" doesn't sound much like the necessary conversion of such heretics. This type of phraseology is reminiscent of that which was used at the Second Vatican Council when liberal theologians were faced with the "challenge" of resolving their ideas with traditional Church teaching.

"Absolutely null and utterly void"

In 1896, Pope Leo XIII wrote the encyclical Apostolicae Curae to address a growing trend among Catholics in England. Inspired by a primitive version of ecumenism, some Catholic scholars were taking up the position that the Anglican rite of Orders introduced by Edward VI maintained some degree of validity. This would put Anglican "priests" on a similar level as those in the Eastern churches: valid, but lacking communion with Rome. Leo XIII commissioned a study of the very issue and intended the result to put the discussion permanently to rest:

The conclusion upheld the traditional Catholic position in no uncertain terms: After succumbing to schism, the Anglican sect quickly fell into heresy. This unleashed a fury of novelty that has since stripped the group of any respectability.

Women "priests"

If the Anglican male ordinations are "absolutely null and utterly void," their female ordinations amount to little more than a bad joke.

That is, while male Anglican ministers (even married ones) could potentially be ordained as Catholic priests in some future reconciliation agreement, their female clergy can not. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not, has never been, and can never be available to women, as stated in Pope John Paul II's reiteration of infallible Church teaching: After the decision to ordain women was announced in 1992, a group of Anglican priests and laypeople held a mock funeral to mourn the "death" of the Anglican sect. Of course, it had "died" long ago, but it took something as ridiculous as this to convince reasonable people of the severity of the condition. Many priests and faithful made the decision to abandon Anglicanism. But unfortunately, what could have been an excellent opportunity for conversions became another sad result of the current ecumenical policies: Given such clear words and actions, how is it possible to maintain that the secret goal of "ecumenism" and "dialogue" is the conversion of non-Catholics?

Protestant morality

As with all Protestant sects, Anglicans suffer from their rejection of the Church's moral authority. Even Queen Elizabeth II's biographer was forced to admit as much when he explained her invitation of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O´Connor to preach at her residence:

The figurehead of the Anglican church, the "Archbishop" of Canterbury, holds no actual authority on issues of faith and morals, which can vary wildly from one "bishop" to the next. One Anglican "bishop" may support abortion, homosexuality or fetal experimentation while another may reject them. Somehow, they are all considered part of the same religion. No wonder the Queen of England turned to a Catholic bishop who (we hope) speaks for the Pope and the Church rather than any random Anglican "bishop" giving his opinion on matters.

This sort of decentralization of authority has led to "truth" defined by popular opinion rather than revealed by God. Without Christ's Church to protect it, truth can be clouded and confused with error. Without a proper foundation, beliefs can give way to popular agendas and societal pressures — case in point: the feminist pressure to "ordain" women.

Those Catholic bishops pushing for a modern egalitarian-style form of "collegiality" are walking down the same perilous path. It's disturbing that even though Archbishop Weakland's little tirade about his "obligation to insist on the rights and duties of the local bishop in the Catholic Church" was more Protestant than Catholic, he received nothing but support from his fellow bishops.

ARCIC's troubled past

ARCIC was formed on March 24, 1966 by Pope Paul VI and the Anglican "Archbishop" of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey. Its goal was to enter into a series of discussions to examine those differences which separate Catholicism and Anglicanism and see if any sort of consensus could be reached. The result was a series of documents on such topics as the Eucharist (9/7/71), Christian ministry (12/13/73) and authority (1/20/77, 9/3/81). The documents were summarized into what became known as The Final Report.

Pope Paul VI and former "Archbishop" of Canterbury Dr. Michael Ramsey

These documents touched on the major differences but did not reach any true agreements or clear conclusions. In classic liberal fashion, the "agreements" were simply compilations of ambiguous statements that could be interpreted in different ways. This was demonstrated in the supporting arguments made by Catholic and Anglican apologists which claimed contradictory results. On the Eucharist document, for example, Catholic scholars claimed the text to support the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Mass, while Anglicans claimed it rejected such ideas. This ambiguity was the main basis for the criticisms lodged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF):

Nevertheless, the CDF recommended the continuation of these efforts, even after calling attention to their most serious deficiency: attempting to make truth compatible with error through ambiguous rephrasing. Is this the "magic" of ecumenism which is supposed to achieve the "impossible"? Are heretics and schismatics expected to partially or fully embrace the Catholic Faith without knowingly repudiating their errors? The "points of agreement" should be of much less significance than the "points of difference" which cannot be glossed over for the sake of some phony unity. Why would the CDF encourage the continuation of a movement whose flaws it so clearly demonstrated? Do they share in the delusion that what is called "ecumenism" has to be a good thing regardless of actual or potential results?

The Vatican's official response to The Final Report was similar to the CDF analysis. The Report was deemed unacceptably ambiguous and erroneous on many issues. Among the deficiencies:

Understandably, both the Catholics and Anglicans involved with ARCIC were furious that a quarter century of "work" had been, in essence, completely discarded. Particularly since both sides were led to believe that there could be some sort of unity despite their differences. When push came to shove, the Vatican's answer was that there can not, and Catholic doctrine could not be compromised in such "agreements". But again, the work of ARCIC was given sincere compliments and encouraged to continue. Why? The whole purpose of ARCIC was summarily dismissed, so why continue?

Ecumenism vs. reality

The ARCIC shenanigans highlight the key problem of modern ecumenical efforts which seek a superficial sense of "unity" without the conversion of heretics or the recognition of their errors. They seek the reconciliation of schismatics with Rome without their acknowledgement of the authority of the Supreme Pontiff.

This sort of vague meandering has plagued ARCIC right from the start:

The "genuine advances" praised by those interested in advancing the ecumenical movement amount to little more than ambiguous documents which can be interpreted as either reinforcing, downplaying or repudiating Catholic doctrine; "agreements" which outline items already agreed upon in an effort to emphasize similarities. But does an emphasis of similarities make the differences go away? Does it open the door for the "Spirit" to do the impossible: create union between truth an error, Catholicism and Protestantism? Can a heretic who believes the Catholic Mass to be an idolatrous abomination achieve any meaningful unity with a Catholic who believes it to be the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

The actual goals of ecumenism have never been made clear and may not be completely known on any side. Those involved in the efforts do not seem to want conversions but find it hard to define what they do want. "Unity" is too vague and confusing to be a meaningful goal, but that does not stop strange groups like ARCIC from working together on undefined tasks and ambiguous documents. Perhaps such cooperation, if allowed to continue for awhile, will acclimate people to the idea of Catholics and Protestants working together and make it easier to sell some false degree of unity?

Finally, it must always be asked whether ecumenism is hurting Catholics more than it is "helping" non-Catholics? If the issue of conversion keeps being disregarded or watered down while heresy and schism are relegated to "points of disagreement," the answer has to be an emphatic "YES". While the ARCIC efforts have come to somewhat of a dead end whose only hope for relief seems to be the "Spirit" achieving what is admittedly "impossible," the dialogue continues. Such actions implicitly endorse the false hope of "unity without conversion" which is witnessed by potential converts and Catholics alike. It is the wrong message and those spreading it should reevaluate the actual and potential success of their work.

On the other hand, we know for a fact that conversion is possible; wouldn't that be a more reasonable goal?

Peter Miller
Seattle, WA

1 CWNews, "Pope Meets with Anglican-Catholic Working Group" (11/26/2001)
2 Vatican Information Service, "Pope Welcomes Anglican-Roman Catholic Working Group" (11/24/2001)
3 Ibid.
4 Pope Leo XIII, "Apostolicae Curae" (9/18/1896)
5 Ibid.
6 M. Davies, "The Order of Melchisedech", Roman Catholic Books (1993) [MEC]
7 Pope John Paul II, "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" (5/22/1994)
8 A. Guimaraes, M. Horvat, "Previews of the New Papacy", p204, Tradition in Action (2001)
9 ZENIT, "Why Queen Elizabeth II Gave Cardinal an Invitation" (12/13/2001)
10 [MEC]
11 Ibid.
12 Lord Brian Gill, "Only in the Mass Can There Be True Reconciliation", The Latin Mass (Fall, 2001)
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