Project Canterbury Further Considerations on Behalf of Reunion By Viscount Halifax With Appendices, including a full account
of the visit to Paris in 1896 for Conferences on Reunion.
Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1923.
RECENT events make me desirous of adding something to the Call to Reunion which I ventured to put out in the autumn of last year.
Agreement amongst ourselves is a necessary preliminary to reunion with the Holy See, and what I have to say in regard to peace abroad must begin with some considerations which may help to promote peace at home.
No one, I think, can have read the accounts of the discussions in regard to the Revision of the Prayer Book at the recent meetings of the General Assembly without being struck by the way in which the wish to exhibit Christian doctrine and ritual to the best advantage was combined with the desire which governed all the various utterances of persons animated by very different conceptions of Christian truth, to say nothing to endanger but everything to promote the cause of Christian reunion.
For those who believe that the Christian Revelation is the most important thing on earth, the agreement of Christians amongst themselves as to what the contents of that Revelation are must be the thing nearest their hearts. If truth is to prevail, if error is to be dissipated, the trumpet must give no uncertain sound. What hope can there be of the truth being brought home to the consciences of men, if its maintainers are not agreed as to what the truth is? Do we, any of us, consider this matter as much as we ought? Are we not all too ready to acquiesce in our present divisions? How can we reconcile those divisions with S. Paul's words, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism"? In the affairs of this world, what value should we put on professions of friendship and goodwill which precluded us from approaching one another in matters that concerned us most? And yet, in what concerns the kingdom of God we are content not to pray together, or to communicate together, and are more intent on discovering and accentuating causes of difference than in finding out possibilities and methods of agreement. These things ought not to be. They are a disgrace to the Christian name. They are in opposition to our Lord's most emphatic teaching. They are direct incentives to the unbelief and indifference to religion we see around us. How are they to be remedied? How are we to get rid of what is the direct negation of what we profess each time we say, "Above all things it is necessary that we believe the Catholic Faith," that is, the faith of the whole Christian Church? There is only one way. First of all, to pray God to help us to take our divisions really to heart, and next to teach us how best to get rid of them. The work is one which concerns us all, and I would venture, therefore, to point out in this paper some considerations which I hope may conduce to that result. To one who has passed his eighty-fourth birthday, the time left for work must be short, and I should like, while the day lasts, to place on record the result of an experience derived from an acquaintance both at home and abroad with persons entitled to speak with authority on the subject, and to emphasize the conclusions to which I have been led in reference both to our divisions at home and to those which separate us from the Church abroad, subjects which, more than any other, have appealed to my heart and filled my life.
First, then, as to our own internal divisions. "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church." That is the profession we all make every time we recite the Apostles' Creed. What do those words assert? They assert a conception of Christianity which does not look merely to the action of the Holy Spirit upon the individual conscience, but to a conception of Christianity which by its very essence is indissolubly attached to and embodied in a visible organized society. The Church in which we profess our belief--the Israel of God--is the continuation of God's Ancient People--the Israel of Old. More clearly still the declaration made by our Lord to S. Peter reveals His intention of finding for this spiritual building a living foundation, and leads Him to single out S. Peter as the foundation on which He can build. Peter shall be the rock or stone on which the divine building shall be erected, and he is invested in his office by the gift of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the same symbol as that of "the key of the House of David " by which Eliakim is invested with the government of the House of Judah.
Surely no one who studies the New Testament can doubt that after Pentecost no distinction is drawn between being a member of Christ and a member of the Church. Surely every one must admit that nowhere does S. Paul imply that there is a faith which justifies apart from Baptism, or that he does not everywhere assert that it is by the act of Baptism we are made partakers of Christ, and at the same time receive incorporation into His Church. A Christian is one who is made the member of a society and accepts the obligations that such membership involves. The covenant is not primarily between God and the individual, but between God and a visible Church.
This visible Church realizes its unity in the first place by the faith which its members hold in common --a faith which draws its origin from the Old Testament explained by the New, the New Testament implying an antecedent authority which is none other than tradition, that is, the teaching of the Apostles, the deposit of faith entrusted to them by our Lord, which they transmit. Secondly, its unity is realized by the Sacraments, Baptism, including Confirmation, Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ, Penance, that is the discipline by which the unworthy are excluded from Communion, or absolved. These Sacraments are effectual symbols and signs of grace conferred individually, but they are also social instruments and give expression to the visible character of the Church as that of a visible society. Thirdly, the Church is hierarchical in the persons of the Apostles and their successors, constituted by the imposition of hands as a sacrament of investiture, and as the means of securing the one faith, participation in the same Sacraments, and submission to the one hierarchy. Fourthly, this unity was to be not merely local, but a unity which includes all local Churches, constituting a visible unity between them analogous to the unity which bound all the members of the local Church with one another. And finally, just as there was one faith, as the Church spread and increased, the need was increasingly felt for one authority which should have a care for and watch over the faith common to all.
I do not think any one will seriously dispute that substantially this is a true account of what we understand by the Christian religion, and I go on to ask whether it is not the failure to recognize in practice what that presentment involves which is chiefly responsible for present difficulties. For the purposes of this paper I shall limit myself to the three principal heads under which those difficulties exhibit themselves at the present time. I should define them as--
1. Those which attach to bringing the revision of the Book of Common Prayer now before the National Assembly to a satisfactory conclusion, not only in respect to the changes considered in themselves, but in regard to their general acceptance with the goodwill of all concerned.
2. Those resulting from the disorder and divergence in practice which we must sorrowfully admit characterize the performance of divine service in the Church of England to-day--a serious evil and the cause of serious trouble in itself, perhaps even more serious in its effect upon the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline and ecclesiastical authority; and
3. The difficulties, or rather the fundamental difficulty which stands in the way of bringing all attempts at reunion with the Roman Church and the Holy See, so earnestly to be desired and yet so hard to accomplish, to a successful conclusion.
These subjects are not unrelated to each other; on the contrary, the two first have a direct bearing on the third, and anything which encourages the hope of the reunion of Christendom must inevitably promote the solution of our own internal differences.
In regard to the revision of the Book of Common Prayer the important matter, and that which most provokes controversy, is the change suggested in the form for celebrating the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion, and the provision to be made for the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament so as to facilitate the communion of the sick and dying, and also of others who from their occupations or any other sufficient cause are precluded from attending the ordinary services of the Church. Incidentally this latter question raises the subject of the adoration due to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament extra usum, that is, outside the celebration of Holy Communion.
In attempting to say what seems to be required in order to put the first and second of these subjects in their true light, I would venture to ask whether sufficient consideration is given to what at first sight appears to be the contradiction between our Lord's words to S. Mary Magdalen on the morning of the Resurrection, and His words to the Apostles on the evening of the same day. To S. Mary Magdalen our Lord says, "Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father." To the Apostles He says, "Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have." To S. Mary Magdalen, grieving for the loss of our Lord's Body, and asking to be allowed to take it away, He says that after His Ascension she should indeed touch Him, take Him away, and receive Him into her inner house as often as she would: to the Apostles, affrighted because they thought they saw a spirit, He shows His hands and His feet, inviting them to satisfy themselves, by touching Him, that it was He Himself in the body they had known, and that in all the truth of His glorified humanity He had come back to them, and would remain with them to the end of the world. There is no contradiction, but only two sides of the same truth.
Compare these two sayings of our risen Lord with that other saying of His, "Among those that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he." S. John had been in external contact with our Lord, he knew Him in the flesh, he had baptized Him, why then was the least in the kingdom of heaven more privileged than he? Because by the gift of the Holy Ghost, operating through the Sacraments of the Church, the members of that kingdom are brought into so close and intimate a relation to Christ that they become actual members of His Body, they in Christ and Christ in them, lifted up into union with the Holy Trinity so truly that our Lord says of those who should be made members of His Body, "In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father and ye in Me and I in you." And again, " The glory Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one in us."
Do not considerations such as these show us, in the light of the Catholic Faith, what our attitude in reference to the Blessed Sacrament ought to be both in regard to the essential objects of its institution--the showing forth of the Lord's death till He come and the giving of Himself to us--and the external cultus of the Blessed Sacrament as sanctioned by the prevailing custom of the Church? Both have their place in the Christian economy, but the general importance of the one is little in comparison with the importance of the other. ["Great was the happiness of S. John when he reposed his head upon the bosom of his Lord, but his favour was but small in comparison with what Jesus confers on us by inviting us to feed on His divine flesh" (Anima Divota, John Baptist Pagani. Consideration ix, p. 115). See also Appendix C. "Bishop Challoner's Meditations" on the Gospel read on the Festival of the Assumption.]
Let me indicate the conclusion to be drawn from these considerations.
First of all, that the Blessed Sacrament ought to be reserved in^ every parish church in order that every one, ill or well, sick or dying, should have the opportunity of making a communion of which otherwise they might be deprived. Such reservation is indeed necessary if the sick are to be comforted and sustained, and if the dying are to receive the viaticum for their last journey, but it may also be the greatest convenience for those who are well, but have little time at their disposal and are hindered by their occupation from long attendance at church. This must be the mind of all who realize what communion is. Who amongst us would say, as was stated the other day, by one who ought to have known better, that by insisting on the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament we seemed to be limiting our Lord's presence to the tabernacle or the aumbry? Is it not just the opposite, and do we not all make our own what was so well said a short time ago by another in reply, that we should have no use for reservation if it interfered with that personal union with our Lord which we look upon as the most precious thing we have on earth?
I should like, in this connection, to mention two other facts, not only on account of their bearing on the subject of revision, but because they suggest considerations which can hardly fail to remove misconceptions as to matters which are supposed to keep us and members of the Roman Church apart. Arising out of a correspondence with the late Bishop Moule of Durham, he made the statement that the object of the institution of the Lord's Supper, in our Lord's own words, was "to show forth His death till He come," and that this object was secured by the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, thus mystically representing the separation of our Lord's Body and Blood in death. Compare this statement of Bishop Moule with that of Bishop Challoner, the author of The Garden of the Soul--the original of most of the Roman Catholic books of devotion--whose death was caused by the Gordon Riots in 1790, who in the Meditation for the Friday in the octave of Corpus Christi says: "Consider how the Death and Passion of the Son of God is in a lively manner represented to us by the separate consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, Who thus presents Himself to His Father under the sacramental veils which represent His Body as delivered up and His Blood as shed for us." [Appendix D. Extract from Bossuet.]
If Bishop Challoner and Bishop Moule can thus agree, what need is there to go on accumulating supposed differences in regard to the Eucharistic Sacrifice?
The second fact is the following: Having to speak at one of the London Diocesan Conferences on a subject directly connected with the Holy Eucharist, I showed a passage I intended to quote to Prebendary Webb Peploe, whose death we are all lamenting. He said it exactly expressed his own opinion. I then told him it was a passage from a book by Bishop Hedley (the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newport). [Appendix E.] He said at once he did not believe it. I showed him the passage in the book and he then acknowledged that the agreement was complete. Has not such a fact a direct bearing on our attitude not only in reference to the question of the Revision of the Prayer Book, but in regard to the whole question of reunion?
To return to Revision, I have for many years advocated the permissive use of the liturgy of 1549, the first English liturgy put out when Edward VI came to the throne, before Lutherans, Calvinists, and Zwinglians from Germany and Switzerland had meddled with English Church affairs. I believe that such a permissive use would do more to restore order in the Church of England and bring us all together than any other step which could be taken. It is asserted that many of those who were represented at the Anglo-Catholic Congress would be unwilling to use it. I do not believe that assertion for a moment. It can only possess any measure of truth because those who make it have no practical acquaintance with that liturgy and have not been accustomed to its use as I have been for nearly thirty years. I defy any one to see any difference between Mass as it is said in the parish church at Hickleton (with the acquiescence of ecclesiastical authority) and Mass as one might hear it in any village church in France. On the other hand, I am sure that there is nothing in the service which those who boast themselves of holding evangelical opinions could object to, or which, after becoming acquainted with it, could cause them trouble. Should such permissive use be granted, the diversity now unhappily existing throughout England in the manner of celebrating divine service would largely disappear and a great step in the direction of order and on behalf of a more general recognition of the duty of obedience to ecclesiastical authority would have been taken.
Consider the gain which the permissive use of the liturgy of 1549 would bring with it. No one could accuse such use of being disloyal to the English Church. It had the qualified acceptance of Bishop Gardiner. It was almost certainly used under Bishop Bonner at S. Paul's. It was used by Bishops Ridley and Latimer and by Archbishop Cranmer. It was in general use in England until the last months of Edward VI's reign, when, under foreign influences, the changes were made which the Parliament responsible for legalizing them admitted had no substantial grounds to recommend them. Indeed the circumstances attending that revision and the revision of 1662 would suggest that, despite the alterations then made, the liturgy of 1549 may claim the authority attaching to the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer, and as such may now be used with merely the sanction of the bishop of the diocese. It would remedy the dislocation of the Canon. The Prayer for the Church Militant, the Prayer of Consecration, and the Prayer of Oblation, which make up the entire Canon, ought to be united. In the Book of Common Prayer they are separated; the Prayer of Oblation which, with the Lord's Prayer, completes the Canon, come after the Communion instead of before it, with the result that we ask for our daily bread just after we have received it. To remedy this, many of the clergy interpolate a portion of the Roman Canon, with the result that they never use the Prayer of Oblation as it is in the Prayer Book.
Next, the liturgy of 1549 contains a proper commemoration of our Lady and the Saints and definite prayers for the peace and rest of the faithful departed, such as is found in all ancient liturgies.
In this connection I should like to express my gratitude to the Archbishop of York for his speech in the National Assembly advocating the permissive use of the liturgy of 1549 as the solution of present difficulties. I will only add that if such a course were adopted I believe the question of Prayer Book revision would be settled in such a way as would avoid the difficulties attaching to other proposals, and before long give general satisfaction.
I turn to the question of the disorder in the Church, and to the effect which the divergences in the manner of celebrating divine service have upon the general question of ecclesiastical obedience and ecclesiastical authority. It is a matter to which the recent Anglo-Catholic Congress has directed attention, raising as it does the question of the obedience due from the clergy to the Church at large and to their respective bishops in particular.
May I put the matter in the form of questions?
Can it be denied that on all Catholic principles the clergy should be ready to submit themselves to their bishops individually, or sitting in the provincial and diocesan synods, when those bishops declare themselves to be bound by and to be giving effect to the common and general customs of the Catholic Church?
Is it not the fact that, in spite of present outward divisions, there is no real difficulty in finding out what is the mind of the whole Church, and in securing willing obedience to it, if once the truth is admitted that the local Church of England, being part of the whole Catholic Church, must respect the laudable customs and be bound by the settled doctrines and doctrinal practices of that whole?
Is it not also the fact that the two greater parts of what before the schism of East and West constituted Christendom were practically agreed in regard to their doctrinal teaching, and that the Church of England also was in full accord with the teaching common to both?
Can it be disputed that such doctrinal teaching and practice included veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, requests for their prayers and assistance, the Real Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament, the continued education and purification for the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision in the intermediate state of souls dying in grace; and amongst such customs the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in all parish churches, the observance [unless dispensed by the proper authority] of the fasts and abstinences prescribed in various degrees of strictness by the Church, the use of incense and the use also of vestments and lights in Divine Service? The modern English practice in such matters may vary from that of other provinces, and may rightly be regulated by the archbishops and bishops; but can a priest be justly charged with disobedience to the Church if, when an Anglican bishop says such a parish is too small to need reservation, and therefore forbids it altogether, he disregards such an injunction? Does not the bishop go beyond regulation in any possible way by such an order, and can disobedience to such an order be rightly called disobedience to ecclesiastical authority or to any order a bishop is entitled to give? It may be true that the reason for reservation has always been the communion of the sick and dying, but the universal custom prescribes reservation in every parish. Eliminate such matters as those of which the instance adduced is an example, and what ground is there for a general imputation of disobedience to legitimate ecclesiastical authority? Are Anglican formularies, especially in view of the facts of history, entitled absolutely to control and determine the whole teaching and practice of the Church of England, or are the general teaching and laudable customs of the Catholic Church to determine the meaning and obligation of Anglican formularies? The question is surely one which answers itself. I conclude that the plea of disobedience to legitimate ecclesiastical authority is neither fairly nor clearly made out, but that it is the general principle of Church authority and its obligations which have to be faced in order to see whether, in light of the lessons contained in the ecclesiastical history of the last seventy years, a recurrence to a rightly exercised ecclesiastical authority would not bring with it that full and willing acceptance of episcopal authority which is so much to be desired?
I will now turn to what is the principal object of this paper. Was there ever a time when union amongst the members of the Christian Church was more necessary than at present? Look at the indifference to religion and the disregard of moral considerations which prevail on all sides. Think what a difficulty our religious differences are to individual souls; the temptation it is to ignore religion altogether in view of the disputes among Christians. Consider the revelations made in the daily Press as to the practical paganism that surrounds us; the increasing number of suicides among young and old because life has gone amiss with them. Consider the war of classes, the selfishness rampant on all sides, the pursuit of pleasure, the neglect of duty, the almost universal assumption that we are born into this world to have what we like, and the complete forgetfulness of the fact that the object of this life is to fit us for the next. Is there any other way to improve human society than by improving the individuals that compose it? Is not a religious revival the thing we have most to pray for, and what would do more to secure such a revival than the restoration of visible unity amongst the Christian Churches? How can we best promote such reunion? Can it be brought about in any other way than by an honest and general acceptance on all sides of the teaching of the Catholic Church, our belief in which we assert every time we recite the Apostles' Creed? Are we not in England too much inclined to talk of '' our Church"? No doubt local Churches can do many things, but there are also many things they cannot rightly do. They cannot set themselves up against the teaching of the Church Universal. They must recognize the authority of the Church Universal in matters of faith and practice as higher than their own. Again, do we ask ourselves, as we should, what determines our faith? Do we sufficiently consider that it must be on grounds equally applicable to the learned and unlearned alike? Instruction and prayer may bring new grounds for our individual assent, but the foundation of our faith must be the teaching of the Church. We in England claim that the collective episcopate, representing the Apostolic College, is the witness to and guardian of the faith for Catholic Christians. We point out that there was a time when there was no Bible, and that it was only as years went by that the different books of the Bible were put together and accepted by the Church as a single whole. The teaching contained in those books was the expression of what constituted the tradition of the Church, and it was the same authority which determined the Canon of Scripture, and (since no Scripture is of private interpretation) its rightful meaning. It would seem to follow, therefore, having regard to the fact that the Anglican episcopate, including that of America and the Colonies, is but a part, and the smaller part, of the whole episcopate of the West, that where the teaching of the episcopate in communion with Canterbury differs from that of Rome some doubt at least must be cast upon what, on Anglican principles, is to be accepted as the teaching of the Church. Further, whether, also on our own principles, and precisely because we recognize the authority of our own episcopate, we are not bound to recognize the authority of the episcopate in communion with Rome, and, where there is disagreement between the two bodies in regard to matters of importance, whether it is not our duty . to seek for such explanations as may reconcile the differences in question?
I have in my former appeal for reunion, to which this is a sequel, alluded to some of the questions on which explanations would be necessary. I shall not refer to them again, but confine myself to the fundamental question that has to be considered, in regard to which some solution, acceptable to both sides, must be found, if any hope of reunion with Rome is to be entertained. That question is the nature of the primacy conferred by our Lord upon S. Peter. Is the primacy of S. Peter and his successors a primacy de jure divino, and if so, what does it involve, what is its extent, and what are its limitations? The matter is one which, for every reason, needs consideration in an impartial and sympathetic spirit. Unless we can come to an agreement in regard to it, the idea of reunion is hopeless.
There is another cogent reason why a general consideration of the matter is eminently desirable. The admission of a primacy de jure divino attaching to the Papacy is one which, at first sight, might be thought by many impossible, but how often it happens in regard to matters in dispute that second thoughts correct a previous judgement, that further reflection shows that something may be said in regard to the possibility of agreement, and that, on its consideration the third and fourth time, it may even appear that an assent has much to recommend it. On all grounds, therefore, a full consideration of the matter is desirable. It should be looked at in all lights, and on all sides; its difficulties should be faced and its advantages realized. Further, it should be considered, if such an agreement is possible, how it can be carried out with the least difficulty and inconvenience. We should also bear in mind how greatly such a general consideration of the subject would smooth the way for conversations or conferences between representatives on both sides (for official conferences must be held sooner or later), before such a reunion of the Churches as we pray God to bring about can be realized.
It will perhaps be convenient that I should state the thesis in regard to this subject which commends itself to my judgement, and which I should be prepared to defend, together with the reasons for my conclusions.
I should be disposed to say that a primacy de jure divino was implicit in the New Testament and the sub-apostolic age--so far as we have any information of that period--and explicit at the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century, a Council which is one of the four specially referred to in Anglican Formularies.
If such a conclusion could be arrived at on the basis of such a moderate theory of development as is to be found in Mr. Keble's sermons and in the general current of Church history, there would be a good hope of arriving at an agreement with the Holy See which would sacrifice no principle by which the Roman Church is bound, or which we and the Orthodox Church are bound to maintain. If this could be accomplished, lesser difficulties would disappear. There need be no difficulty in regard to the Sacraments, as I think was shown in my Call to Reunion, and it may be that the coming reassembly of the Vatican Council will be the occasion for further steps towards the definite healing of the wounds of Christendom.
Let us therefore consider, did our Lord when He founded His Church provide that it should possess a visible head, as part of its divine constitution? The Roman contention is that our Lord did provide a visible headship for His Church, and that this headship was to be the prerogative of S. Peter and his successors. What evidence is to be found in Holy Scripture in favour of such a visible headship, and of this headship being continued in the successors of S. Peter? The prominent idea that stands out before us in Holy Scripture respecting the Church is that it is a kingdom, and, so far as it is represented to us as an organized body, it is a visible kingdom. But a visible kingdom suggests a visible head. Did our Lord make provision for a visible head over the kingdom He founded? That kingdom was built on the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Himself being the head corner-stone, and in furtherance of His design our Lord chose twelve Apostles to be the foundation stones, distinguishing one by a new name. To all He gave a like commission--the power of binding and loosing; to S. Peter, and to him alone, He entrusted the custody of the keys, still further distinguishing him to whom He had given a new name, and further developing, as it were, the plan of His kingdom. Consider the circumstances of S. Peter's confession. S. Peter had just said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." [S. Matt. xvi. 16.] In response our Lord declares that S. Peter had received the knowledge of this fundamental truth by special revelation of the Father, and bestows upon him the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Following on this confession of His Apostle, our Lord goes on--for this is the force of the implied antithesis--Thou hast confessed that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God, I now say unto thee, what I said at the beginning, that thou art Peter, the special name I gave thee to signify how in the building of My Church 1 intended to use thee, and the strength that thou shouldest be to the building itself.
Further, since the building was to abide, but S. Peter would, in the course of nature, pass away, can we doubt--
1. That the promise of the keys could only be personal to S. Peter in so far as he was the representative of an unfailing line of successors, who should inherit through him the same divine gift?
2. That the will and purpose of our Lord was that there should always be in the Church one possessing the authority symbolized by the gift of the keys, and that this authority should be an element of strength, stability, and durability in it for all time?
May not the same conclusion be drawn from our Lord's words to S. Peter before his fall? "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," words that are important also for other reasons, because if S. Peter strengthened his brethren by virtue of his office as keeper of the keys, yet without any infringement of the powers committed to the other Apostles, it follows that a visible head of the Church holding the keys as S. Peter's successor is perfectly compatible with the rights of the rest of the episcopate.
Further, if, as stated by Dr. Döllinger in his First Ages of the Church, the power of the keys differs from the power of binding and loosing, inasmuch as it extended to the whole Church and passed to the successors of S. Peter, can it be disputed that the possession of the keys symbolizes headship and primacy of place? Archbishop Benson, in his Primary Charge, said, and no doubt said truly, that the first thing which the Church did after a country had heard the Gospel was to create for itself strong centres. Further, if we look at the history of mankind we see that civilization has also for the most part been carried on through strong centres. Must there not, in accordance with the analogy of God working in the sphere of moral as well as material things, be a strong centre for the Catholic Church, Christ's visible kingdom on earth? It is no answer to allege that Christ Himself is the strong centre. Christ is in heaven, the supreme, everlasting Head of His Church, and from Him flows out and down into the Church its life, its being, and all sufficiency. But Christ is invisible in heaven, and His Church is visible on earth, and He governs it as a visible society, by visible instruments, having visible authority delegated to them by Himself, and exercising that authority by moral means. Why, then, should not the Church, as a moral system set up in the world, by Almighty God, for the recovery of mankind to Himself, follow the analogy of His other works? Why should it not have its own strong centre? Are we not, in fact, bound to look in the visible Church for a strong visible centre, and unless our Lord's promise to S. Peter is to be emptied of all adequate meaning--unless the gift of the keys is, as far as we can see, a useless gift, is it not inevitable that we allow something at least answering to a visible headship, and that such headship was to be in our Lord's intention and purpose a source of strength and stability to His Church.
Mr. Keble's words on this subject may be usefully quoted here. [Sermons for Saints' Days, xxxii, preached on S. Peter's Day.]
"All readers of the Holy Gospel must have observed Christ's very particular concern for S. Peter. He was manifestly favoured, in some sense, more than the rest of the twelve. He is always mentioned as first in dignity. In our Lord's lifetime he is always named first, and he is several times put forward to speak for the rest, in a manner which shows they all in some way looked up to him. After our Lord's death, whenever the Apostles were met together, except it were on that one occasion at Jerusalem when S. James presided as bishop of the place, the first room was given to S. Peter. It seems his place to stand up and propose matters for the rest to consider, or, again, to speak in the name of the rest when anything was to be said for them all. On two occasions, before our Lord's death, He seems to speak to him in a way which would cause all who desire to enter into the mind of Christ to think very much of S. Peter. One, when on S. Peter's confession, 'Thou art a rock, and on this rock,' that is on thee, joined to Me by this faith, ' I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,' which would seem to show that a great deal would depend upon S. Peter, and that the Church was in some way to be built on him. The other, on the night of His agony, when in reference to Satan's desire to sift the Apostles as wheat, our Lord told S. Peter He had prayed for him in particular that his faith fail not, adding 'and when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren.'"
And again, in the preceding sermon, almost in the same words: '"I say unto thee that thou art Peter,' i.e. rock: 'and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'"
I go on to ask, what evidence is there to be found in history of the existence of such a primacy de jure divino in the Roman See?
First, however, let me clear up one point in passing: it is generally agreed that S. Peter alone, or with S. Paul, was the founder, or the organizer, of the Roman Church. But S. Peter was more than a bishop, he was an Apostle. He would be likely, therefore, to consecrate the first bishop to the see he had founded, or helped to found, and, knowing his Lord's will about the keys, he would commit their custody to him to whom he had handed them, to be handed on again in the line of his successors to the end of the dispensation. Whether, therefore, S. Peter himself or Linus, consecrated by him, was the first Bishop of Rome, or whether S. Peter was on the spot when he consecrated him or away from Rome, really matters little. The object of our Lord's promise to S. Peter was accomplished. The Church, after the Apostle's death, was left to pursue its way with a divinely appointed keeper of the keys, and with all that rightly belongs to that custodianship.
To return to the question as evidenced by history of the Church's witness to the primacy de jure divino conferred by our Lord on S. Peter and his successors, how are we to account for the fact that as soon as we are enabled to affirm anything definitely about the Roman See, we find it filled by a bishop--S. Victor, who lived towards the close of the second century--not only claiming to be S. Peter's successor, but also claiming, in virtue of such succession, to exercise some sort of authority over the Church at large? The point pertinent to the inquiry is, not whether S. Victor was right or wrong for excommunicating, or threatening to excommunicate, some of the Churches of the East for refusing to give up a custom which was admittedly condemned by the large majority of Christians, but whether the Bishops of Rome at that early time believed themselves to be something that other bishops were not, and to possess some prerogatives which other bishops did not possess. Now, we have the unequivocal testimony of S. Irenaeus that, up to his own time, and therefore up to the time of S. Victor, with whom he corresponded, the traditions from the Apostles had always been preserved in the Church of Rome, and if there is not one of the Roman bishops about whom we know anything who does not, more or less, indicate his belief that he was S. Peter's successor, and in virtue of such succession was possessed of special prerogatives, how could he have come to such a belief except through traditional inheritance? Let any one consider what the admission of such a fact involves, and to what it points, and must it not be admitted that, before the close of the second century after Christ, the Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome a successor to S. Peter, and that in virtue of that succession he occupied a place and had an authority superior to other bishops. If out of such evidence we have the right to assume a primacy of place and influence accorded to the Bishops of Rome as S. Peter's successors, we shall naturally expect to find that this primacy--within the limits prescribed by our Lord--would go on developing and enlarging according to the Church's exigencies and needs. And this is exactly what we do find. The lapse of another fifty years brings us to the time of S. Stephen, Bishop of Rome, and S. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage. The same features occur as in the case of S. Victor. S. Stephen excommunicated the African Churches because they insisted on rebaptizing heretics, and those who had been rebaptized by heretics, and S. Cyprian, with a Council of African bishops, resisted S. Stephen, as the Asiatic bishops had formerly resisted S. Victor. But it is nowhere recorded that while resisting S. Stephen they called in question his prerogative of having, as S. Peter's successor, a general care extending over the Church, and the most potent voice, after a General Council, in its affairs. Archbishop Bram-hall indeed cites passages from S. Cyprian in which the latter speaks of the See of Rome as "the place and chair of S. Peter," and even calls it "the Vicarial Spouse of Christ from whence sacerdotal unity did spring." It may also be observed, and the fact is not without importance, that in the quarrel with the Asiatic and African Churches both S. Victor and S. Stephen are universally allowed to have been in the right, and their opponents in the wrong. The same conclusion follows from the appeal of S. Athanasius to Rome, and from the letter and action of Pope Julius vindicating the right of the Holy See to entertain such an appeal, and deciding in favour of S. Athanasius. The history of the Synod of Sardica which admitted the superior dignity of the successor of S. Peter, and recognized by canon the Pope's power of sending legates into foreign provinces to hear certain appeals, teaches the same thing. The letter of the Spanish Bishop Hosius, who presided at the Council of Sardica, is also important, as showing how the Bishops of Rome and S. Peter were connected in the mind of the Church. "If any bishop," he says, "shall be adjudged in any cause, and think that he has good reason to be allowed a rehearing, let us honour the memory of S. Peter, and the Bishop of Rome be written to." It appears, therefore, that up to this point it is made out that the Roman bishops, in virtue of their office as S. Peter's successors, claimed and exercised in and over the Church larger powers than other bishops, a fact which is strikingly illustrated by a passage from S. Leo, Bishop of Rome in the fifth century, in which he says: " Do not think it any invasion of your rights if you see me in this way taking precautionary measures against unlawful presumption. Our care extends over the whole Church, for nothing less is required of us by the Lord, Who committed to the Apostle Peter the primacy of Apostolic dignity as a reward for his faith."
It would be too long to enter into the controversies arising out of the 28th Canon of Chalcedon, but it is sufficient for the purpose of this paper to point out, as Canon Bright does, in a very full note on the subject, that "the Synodical letter of the Council to S. Leo addressed him in terms of deep respect as the head or president of the Council, presiding by deputy and the 'Appointed Guardian of the Vine.'" Does not the latter statement prove the point it is sought to make good, and justify Dr. Döllinger's statement that the gift of the keys committed to S. Peter a general care over the Church and the duty of watching over the observance of the Canons?
Let me conclude this portion of my subject by a reference to S. Gregory the Great, the greatest of S. Leo's successors, and the Pope to whom we in England owe the Mission of S. Augustine and our Christianity. Can it be shown that S. Gregory claimed spiritual pre-eminence and Apostolic authority in the Church because he was Bishop of Rome and sat in S. Peter's seat? Listen to his own words: "Who doubts that it [Constantinople] is subject to the Apostolic See? I know not what bishop is not subject to it, if fault be found in him"; and again, "If any could claim the title of universal bishop it would be S. Peter's successor "; and again, "Wherefore though there were many Apostles, yet the see of the Prince of the Apostles alone has acquired a principality of authority."
From the historical evidence adduced down to the time of S. Gregory the Great, it would therefore seem impossible to doubt--
1. That the Roman Church was acknowledged on all hands to have preserved carefully and handed down faithfully the Apostolic traditions.
2. That one of those traditions was that the bishops of Rome were S. Peter's successors.
3. That, putting aside the theory that the authority of Rome was derived from its bishops occupying the seat of the Roman Empire, it is impossible otherwise to explain the action of Pope Victor.
4. That as the exigences of the time increased the authority of the Roman See became more distinctly and strongly operative.
5. That whatever the prerogatives the Popes considered themselves to be possessed of, they rested them on the ground of our Lord's gift of the keys to S. Peter, and of being S. Peter's successors.
6. That when in conflict with other Churches, or with individual bishops, there is tacit recognition, within certain limits, of the superior position and authority of the Roman See.
7. That the mind of the Church, East and West, while it recognized the prerogative of the Holy See, maintained that the authority of the episcopate was derived immediately from Christ and not from Christ through the Popes. The members of the episcopate, therefore, were possessed of an inherent right to discharge episcopal functions within their own dioceses, and, if necessary, elsewhere, subject only to the disciplinary rules of the Catholic Church.
Now, if these are fair deductions from the evidence produced, must we not admit that the Church's history for the first five or six centuries is in accordance with what may be gathered to be the teaching of Holy Scripture, and that when our Lord bestowed the keys on S. Peter He bestowed on him a prerogative which was to provide the Church for all time with a visible head or centre?
Two other remarks may be made before dismissing this portion of my subject--
1. In regard to the attempt to connect the Roman claims with an "Imperialism" due to its connection with the Roman Empire, no one can deny that the relation of the Roman Church to the Roman Empire had its influence on the history of the Church and had something to do with the respect the Roman See inspired in other Churches. By the end of the fourth century, when Catholicism had become the religion of the empire, the Roman Church no doubt gave expression to a unity which, on one side, recalls the unity of the empire, but which, on a different side, was its direct contradiction. The idea of imperialism attached to a State is not that of the imperialism connected with the Church. The claims of Boniface VIII, which are thought to justify this assertion, were claims vindicating the superiority of the spiritual power as against the claim of the State. It was the sacerdotal claim of the Church as against the temporal power of the State which was the point at issue, a claim in regard to which Dr. Church, the Dean of S. Paul's, makes the statement that without the support of the Papacy the local episcopate could hardly have maintained its claim to the possession of a spiritual power over which the State had no control.
2. It is next asserted that the charge of imperialism is manifested by the assertion of the Vatican Council that the definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, not by consent of the Church, which means that the Roman Church is the whole Church and the infallible Church. To this it may be replied that most certainly the Roman Church makes no claim to be the whole Church. Granted the infallibility of the Church, which neither Anglicans nor the Orthodox Church would dispute, it is a matter of elementary theology that this infallibility is not confined to and does not reside in the Pope alone, but resides also in the body of bishops dispersed throughout the world, or in the episcopate assembled in Oecumenical Council. "For us Roman Catholics," so writes a well-known and authorized Roman Catholic historian and theologian, "the prerogative peculiar to the Bishops of Rome does not do away with the prerogative of Oecumenical Councils."
The whole matter can hardly be better stated than it is in two passages from Mgr. Duchesne's books, one in his Early History of the Church, that in the fourth century "the Papacy such as the West knew it later on was still to be born." In other words, that there was not in the Church of the fourth century "a central authority, recognized and active." The other passage is to be found in his book The Churches separated from Rome, in which he sums up the history of the Roman primacy in the first three centuries:--
"Thus, all the Churches throughout the known world, from Arabia, Osrhoene and Cappadocia, to the extreme West, felt the incessant influence of Rome in every respect, whether as to faith, discipline, administration, ritual, or works of charity. She was, as S. Irenaeus says, 'known everywhere and respected everywhere, and her guidance was universally accepted.' No competitor, no rival stands up against her, no one conceives the idea of being her equal. Later on there will be patriarchs and other local primates, whose first beginning can be but vaguely perceived during the course of the third century. Above these rising organizations, and above the whole body of isolated Churches, the Church of Rome rises in supreme majesty, the Church of Rome as represented by the long series of her bishops, which ascends to the two chiefs of the Apostolic College; she knows herself to be, and is considered by all, the centre and the organ of unity."
I must add one word of personal explanation before summing up what I have attempted to say in the foregoing pages.
It would be the height of presumption on my part to suppose that anything I might say could determine conclusions in regard to matters which have been the subject of controversy between theologians and historians for so many centuries. My object has been, and is, a much humbler and simpler one. It has been to show that there are sufficient grounds for believing that at least a good case can be made for the jurisdiction of the Holy See, and that as such that claim ought to be considered. Can any one doubt how urgently the state of the world calls for such consideration on the part of all who have its welfare at heart, and from the conviction, which every passing day only serves to strengthen, that there never was a time when their consideration was more imperatively required, or their solution more earnestly demanded in the interests of the individual, in the interests of religion, and in regard to all that most concerns the welfare and stability of civilized society?
Let me sum up what I have been endeavouring to say. For this purpose I can hardly do better than repeat what I had occasion to write to a Roman Catholic friend in the early summer of this year.
In regard to the nature and extent of the divisions which exist in the Anglican Church, I have endeavoured to show that those divisions are not really so great as they seem, and that they are often due more to the way in which matters are stated than to the matters themselves. I have pointed out that the character of a Church is to be judged by its authorized formularies, rather than by what may happen to be the shifting opinions of its members at any given time, and that a fair but friendly interpretation of the changes which the Church of England underwent in the sixteenth century, and the consequences of political events as they affected the history of that Church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, might also suggest at least some modification of opinions disparaging to the Church of England as a whole and hostile to any attempt at reunion. In regard to such reunion I insisted that it was the visible reunion of the Church of England as a whole, and not that of individuals or any part of the Church, with Rome that we were anxious to secure, and on behalf of which my former appeal was issued. With this object I endeavoured to show that Anglicans are bound by their own principles to consider the possibility of a good case being made for a primacy jure divino having been conferred by our Lord on S. Peter and his successors, a primacy which is implicit in the New Testament, explicit at the Council of Chalcedon and later, but the extent of which, and what it involves, are open to discussion. For this opinion I adduced scriptural and historical evidence and went on to say that the signs of the times, not only in England, but elsewhere, in the East as in the West, all go to show that with goodwill and a determination to see the best and not the worst on both sides, with a desire to make excuses where excuses are possible rather than to accentuate difficulties for controversial purposes, the reunion of Christendom might be achieved without the sacrifice of any essential principle on the side either of Roman Catholics or Anglicans.
I fear it can hardly be asserted that Roman Catholic controversialists in England, as a whole, exhibit such a spirit. The Rev. Francis Woodlock, S.J., has recently been publishing various appreciations both in regard to the present condition of the Church of England in general and in regard to the Anglo-Catholic Congress in particular. He has also written a letter to The Guardian, and The Church Times, in which he says, in relation to reunion:--"With us the infallibility and supremacy of the Pope is a dogma which rests exactly on the same authority as does that of the Godhead of Christ ... no concession is conceivable in the matter of denned dogma."
Is not such a statement misleading? Does the Godhead of Christ stand on precisely the same footing as the infallibility and supremacy of the Pope?
Though "no concession is conceivable in the matter of denned dogma" I suppose explanations are possible; and that to remove misconceptions in regard to a dogma is not inconsistent with the maintenance of the dogma itself. I would therefore ask, Does "personal infallibility and supremacy" mean an infallibility and supremacy residing in the Pope apart from the Body of which he is the head? Can the Pope, apart from the approbation of the Body, proclaim a new dogma by virtue of his "infallibility and supremacy"?
In reply to Bishop Gore's Catholicism and Roman Catholicism, Mgr. Batiffol says:--
"We can never hope to understand anything of the history of the Papacy if we are determined to think of it as an institution which attained its full development in the early ages of the Church. Catholicism has included such different things as the regime Rome gave to the Churches of her metropolitan province, and that which she gave to the Churches of the vicariate of Thessalonica. Christian Africa, before the Vandal invasion, was a confederation of Churches which were grouped around the Bishop of Carthage and recognized by Rome as being sui juris. Christian Egypt was a closer confederation, very strictly subject to the Bishop of Alexandria; Rome had to do only with him, and never, in the time of Athanasius or Cyril, did she intervene in the internal ecclesiastical government of Egypt. To the east of the Roman Empire, in the kingdom of Persia, gathered round its Catholicos, existed a Church apart, not suffering its affairs to be brought before the 'Western Fathers', that is, the Bishop of Antioch and his council. Over the Catholica, which she included in her horizon, Rome exercised her solicitude, and this sollicitudo implied a potestas which she exercised by a right of supervision and intervention, but which generally she kept in reserve till its help was sought.
"But, on the one hand, whoever in the Catholica was anxious to be in communion with the whole Church knew that Rome was the Church to be in communion with in order to be certain of being in communion with all, and on Rome, therefore, communion depended. On the other hand, whoever wished to make certain of the authentic faith, knew that Rome, who had received it from the Apostles Peter and Paul, kept in surety that precious deposit; and Rome was therefore the standard of faith."
A comparison of Fr. Woodlock's words with these statements by Mgr. Batiffol, who was described to me in a letter from a professor of theology at Louvain as "since the death of Mgr. Duchesne one of our ablest, if not the ablest, historian of the four first centuries," inevitably suggests the question whether the limitations and developments which apply to the Papacy have the same place in regard to the Godhead of Christ? If the answer be in the affirmative, as Fr. Woodlock's statement would seem to suggest, is not the faith of Christendom in some danger? If the answer be in the negative, are we not at least entitled to say that Fr. Woodlock's statement might have been put in a way not so obviously inspired by the desire to prejudice any attempt at corporate reunion, in the interests of individual conversions?
It is not impossible to make a plausible case against the claims of the Anglican Communion in the interest of individual conversions, but individual conversions will never convert England. If England is ever to be brought back into communion with the Holy See a wider outlook and a juster appreciation of the difficulties that have to be surmounted must be exhibited. Must not friendly consideration, if reunion is to be attained, be given to the claim--
1. That Anglican documents are Catholic, or at least are patient of a Catholic interpretation?
2. Must it not be recognized that Anglicanism produces the supernatural life, or, in other words, that the Anglican system, if given free play in a Catholic direction, produces exactly the same fruits as the Roman system?
3. Must it not be admitted that the battle for Catholicism in England is being fought by members of the Church of England, that it is they who have broken down the old prejudices, and that if the efforts initiated more than eighty years ago by Mr. Keble, Cardinal Newman, and Dr. Pusey to revive and give effect to the inherent principles of the Church of England as contained in the Book of Common Prayer are through the attitude of the Roman Church to be discouraged and hindered, it will not only impede the spread of Catholicism in England but be a disaster to the cause of religion throughout the world?
4. Has it not to be made plain, if any fruitful discussion in the interests of reunion is to take place, what, in the Roman Catholic view, is the distinction between what is of faith and what is of theological opinion? Is everything that is insisted upon in Catholic theology to be necessarily a dogma of faith, or may it be a theological opinion, so well supported, that public denial of it is not allowed, though private belief is not insisted on?
5. Has not a reasonable theory of the principle of development to be accepted as important for the purpose of facilitating agreement?
6. For the same reason, has not the approximate character of many theological statements to be admitted? Would not a friendly discussion on such points as these do much to prepare the way, not for federation, but for real and complete reunion? So much may be done to forward reunion with goodwill, so little without it; so much, if those concerned are inspired by that personal love for our Lord which refuses to see difficulties and is determined that no ingrained prejudices, no memory of ancient wrongs, shall be allowed to interfere with the accomplishment of His own words, "that they may be one "; so little, if human possibilities and supposed ecclesiastical principles in their narrowest sense alone are considered.
Are not the concluding words of Mgr. Batiffol's reply to Bishop Gore an example of the spirit which should be exhibited by us all?--
"Let us not fear to express our regret that Roman Catholicism has, in the course of so many centuries, suffered so many losses. How much richer and more attractive it would be if it still included the Africa of Augustine, so soon destroyed, the East which separated from it, and England that the Reformation led astray. It has had to defend itself alone against schisms, alone against Protestantism, alone against Modernism. It has thus taken up an attitude of defence, concentration, and of severity, which its isolation forced on it.
"Is it God's intention that it should renew its youth? It is possible such a thing might be brought about by its becoming more open in mind and heart, but equally well by the separated Churches, which up to now have shut themselves up distrustfully in their hereditary hostility, putting off their distrust. What is certain is that unity, for which apparently the separated Churches now long, is a miracle which will never be wrought without the Roman Church and apart from her.
"God alone works miracles, but we have S. Paul's witness that we can be God's fellow workers.1 Let us be so, then, in whatever station God calls us to give Him our humble help. If institutional unity is to be the last to be reached, spiritual unity may be near, and an examination like the present, if sincerely carried out, helps it on. S. Augustine has admirably said, 'Praecidendae unitatis nulla est justa necessitas'; if we show that objections made against the unity that the Church of Rome offers are groundless, we shall have removed some of the so-called 'necessities' which are still used to justify the old ruptures."
I will only add one word in conclusion. If we in England have to consider, with a view to its acceptance, the claim of the Holy See to a primacy jure divino, the Holy See has, on its side, to take into consideration, with a view to a possible arrangement, the question of Anglican Orders. The Council of Trent--the fact is often forgotten--was a reforming council. Pius XI is about to reassemble the Vatican Council. By so doing he seems to affirm his desire to take counsel with the Universal Episcopate in regard to what concerns the peace and welfare of Christendom. The Book of Common Prayer, which embodies the lex credendi of the Anglican Communion, was published before the meeting of the Council of Trent. In the reply of the English archbishops to the Bull of Leo XIII questioning the validity of Anglican Orders on the ground of defective intention, appeal is made to the words of the Roman Canon, "ut fiant nobis," as expressing the belief of the English Church in regard to the Eucharistic Sacrifice--the question at issue. Had such a statement been made before the Bull instead of after, the Bull itself might have been different. Englishmen will never consent to anything which, in their eyes, would seem to invalidate the Orders conferred by the English episcopate, and to deny the claim of the Anglican Church, apart from the question how far the Church of England is in schism or not, to be a Church in the sense of that word as used in the Creed. But if it be a fact, as I believe it to be, that a member of the Roman Catholic Church, in articulo mortis, if no Roman Catholic priest is available, may receive absolution from a priest of the Orthodox Church; if, further, a Uniat priest in the East may give Communion to an Anglican who would otherwise be deprived of Communion, and who is prepared to say that, if he were convinced it was his duty, no earthly consideration would prevent his joining the Roman Communion, a way may be found, by an extension of the same principles, for reconciling difficulties and arriving at conclusions, the importance of which can hardly be exaggerated, both in regard to the solution of present difficulties, and still more in reference to the question of ultimate and complete reunion. May Pius XI be so guided by Divine Providence as to consider, in view of the coming council, what steps can be taken to promote and secure so blessed a result.