The Conversations at Malines, 1921-1925
IN the Autumn of 1921 Lord Halifax paid a visit to His Eminence Cardinal Mercier at Malines, and asked him if he would be disposed to receive some of his friends, members of the Anglican Communion, who like himself were anxious to labour for a rapprochement of the Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Church.
The moment, he said, was favourable, since the Anglican Bishops, united to the number of two hundred and fifty at Lambeth Palace, had expressed in a very explicit and exact way their eager wish for the realization of a visible catholic reunion of Christendom.
The Cardinal gladly assented to the request of Lord Halifax and of the Abbé Portal who came with him.
As reference is here made to the Lambeth Conference of 1920 (at which were assembled Bishops from all parts of the world, including the United States of America), it will be well to quote the fourth section of the Appeal then issued to all Christian people:
IV. The times call us to a new outlook and new measures. The Faith cannot be adequately apprehended and the battle of the Kingdom cannot be worthily fought while the body is divided, and is thus unable to grow up into the fulness of the life of Christ. The time has come, we believe, for all the separated groups of Christians to agree in forgetting the things which are behind and reaching out towards the goal of a reunited Catholic Church. The removal of the barriers which have arisen between them will only be brought about by a new comradeship of those whose faces are definitely set this way.
The vision which arises before us is that of a Church genuinely Catholic, loyal to all truth, and gathering into its fellowship all ' who profess and call themselves Christians ', within whose visible unity all the treasures of faith and order, bequeathed as a heritage by the past to the present, shall be possessed in common, and made serviceable to the whole Body of Christ. Within this unity Christian Communions now separated from one another would retain much that has long been distinctive in their methods of worship and service. It is through a rich diversity of life and devotion that the unity of the whole fellowship will be fulfilled.
It was in the hope expressed in these words that two of Lord Halifax's Anglican friends assented to his proposal that they should accompany him to Malines.
The First Meeting: 6-8 December, 1921.
At the first two of these meetings there were present:
His Eminence the Cardinal;
The Very Reverend Dr. Armitage Robinson, Dean of Wells;
The Reverend W. H. Frere, Superior of the Community of the Resurrection;
Mgr. Van Roey, Vicar-General of Malines;
M. F. Portal, Priest of the Mission, Paris.
Of the First Meeting the Cardinal, to whose large-hearted hospitality the thanks of all his guests are due, has written as follows: 'The first conference, which was quite informal, filled us all with a deep feeling of mutual esteem, of confidence in one another, and of brotherly cordiality, and it quickened our common desire to help forward if possible such a rapprochement as was desired by the Lambeth Conference, and as is desired now, perhaps more than ever before, by all those who have to look on pained and often powerless at the demoralization and even dechristianization of society.'
After Divine guidance had been invoked, the proceedings began with the presentation of a memorandum prepared by one of the Anglicans, which dealt with the constitution of the Church and the nature of the Sacraments as indicated by the Anglican formularies. It passed on to make some tentative suggestions such as might facilitate discussion, promote agreement, and perhaps suggest the possibility of bridges where the difficulty of arriving at an agreement seem greatest.
This memorandum was by general consent taken as the basis of discussion and carefully considered paragraph by paragraph. Free and informal conversation followed the presentation of each topic. There was an eager desire that misapprehensions on either side as to the actual position of the other should as far as possible be removed, in order that there might be secured a foundation of common faith upon which to build new hopes of a reunion. These preliminary discussions occupied the whole day, and though no attempt was made at formulating conclusions there was unanimous agreement as to the necessity of a Catholic unity which must be visible; and the Anglicans did not decline to recognize that, if the obstacles which obstruct such unity could be removed, recognition could rightly be given to the historical primacy or precedence belonging to the See of Rome. This latter subject, however, was held in suspense.
On the second day the Lambeth 'Appeal to all Christian People' was read, partly in Latin and partly in French from the authorized translations; and this again was freely discussed clause by clause.
Attention was at once focused on the principle of diversity within the unity of the Catholic Church, and it was pointed out, with various examples, that this was recognized also within the Roman Catholic Church in certain matters of discipline, though of necessity within limitations.
Some conversation followed on the statement that the Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as the 'ultimate standard of Faith,' [Lambeth Appeal, VI.] put forward as it was without reference to divergence of interpretations. The Roman Catholics could only accept this with the addition, ' in accordance with the tradition of the Church '. On the Anglican side it was observed that the Church of England had always invoked the authority of the Fathers in the interpretation of Scripture. It was further observed that the special points of belief enumerated in the clause in question were not intended as a statement of the whole belief of the Church of England, but only presented the minimum that must be accepted if unity were to be achieved.
Careful attention was then given to the seventh clause of the Appeal, which urged the claim of the Episcopate as 'the best instrument for maintaining the unity and continuity of the Church.' In reply to some criticism of this statement as insufficient it was pointed out by the Anglicans that here, as in the preceding clause, the language of the Appeal had more especially in view the positions of the Nonconformist bodies.
On the Roman Catholic side it was insisted that the Episcopate must needs have a visible head as the centre of its unity, even as the Bishops themselves are visible centres in their spheres. After some conversation it was realized that the whole question of the relation of the Papacy to the Episcopate was of such great importance that it must be reserved for a full consideration hereafter.
On the Anglican side, however, it was thought right even at this stage to emphasize the fact that the unity contemplated in the Appeal included both the Oriental Churches and the various Protestant groups throughout the world; that, in the view of the Anglicans, the Orientals hold in regard to this question of visible headship the same view as themselves; it was very generally believed among Anglicans that their own Church had been placed by Providence in an intermediate position which involved a corresponding responsibility; so that, in attempting any approach towards unity, they are bound to maintain contact so far as may be possible with the Oriental Churches, and that they are under a similar obligation in respect to the Nonconformists.
It was urged by the Cardinal in reply that some of those who were separated from the Roman Communion would be far from willing to make any approach, and that it would not do to wait" for them. Perhaps the good of the Church might require that the Anglicans should set the example without waiting for the Orientals and the Nonconformists. Yet, it was added, we must not hurry matters. We must wait in prayer for the time appointed by the Spirit, for 'He bloweth as He willeth.'
Further plain ,talk followed on the general subject of the Papal headship, and the changes in the position of the Papacy in various ages; and at the end one of the Anglicans said (and with the approval of his colleagues): 'We wish for unity, and, if the necessary preliminary conditions had been duly met, we should not shrink from the idea of a Papacy acting as a centre of unity; but, in so saying, we have in view not the Papacy such as it exists in theory and practice among Roman Catholics at the present time, but a conception of unity such as may emerge in the future."
The next subject approached was the section of the Lambeth Appeal which deals with regularization of ministries in the reunited Church. It was pointed out by the Anglican representatives that the section in question was inserted to meet the difficulties of non-episcopalians, as its wording shows. Incidentally it may doubtless be applied to the attitude of Anglicans towards Rome; but it is vital to notice that everything turns on the preliminary requirement that other matters shall have been satisfactorily adjusted first.
It is desirable here to quote the section in full.
VIII. We believe that, for all, the truly equitable approach to union is by the way of mutual deference to one another's consciences. To this end, we who send forth this appeal would say that if the authorities of other Communions should so desire, we are persuaded that, terms of union having been otherwise satisfactorily adjusted, Bishops and clergy of our Communion would willingly accept from these authorities a form of commission or recognition which would commend our ministry to their congregations, as having its place in the one family life. It is not in our power to know how far this suggestion may be acceptable to those to whom we offer it. We can only say that we offer it in all sincerity as a token of our longing that all ministries of grace, theirs and ours, shall be available for the service of our Lord in a united Church.
It is our hope that the same motive would lead ministers who have not received it to accept a commission through episcopal ordination, as obtaining for them a ministry throughout the whole fellowship.
In so acting no one of us could possibly be taken to repudiate his past ministry. God forbid that any man should repudiate a past experience rich in spiritual blessings for himself and others. Nor would any of us be dishonouring the Holy Spirit of God, Whose call led us all to our several ministries, and Whose power enabled us to perform them. We shall be publicly and formally seeking additional recognition of a new call to wider service in a reunited Church, and imploring for ourselves God's grace and strength to fulfil the same.
After some conversation one of the Roman Catholics remarked on the importance of what he regarded as an offer on the part of the Anglican Bishops. Those who recalled the state of feeling at the time of the controversy on the validity of Anglican Orders could never have imagined that such an offer could be made so soon after the condemnation. The Anglican Bishops were setting a great example of Christian humility and making a real sacrifice for the sake of unity. In reference to this it has to be remembered that what is suggested could only become practical, if agreement had first been reached upon the large questions which at present separate the two Churches.
Towards the close of this first conference one of the Anglicans asked to be allowed to express his deep satisfaction that it had been possible to hold such meetings as these, which he thought were without any parallel in the last 200 years and more. They had not had as their object the conversion or submission of individuals, but had been meetings of theologians anxious to see whether the Church of England and the Church of Rome can come to an understanding. Understanding was after all the meaning of the word entente, and this must be an entente cordiale.
The warmest thanks were expressed to the Cardinal by his guests for His Eminence's gracious hospitality, and a desire was unanimously expressed that further meetings should be held.
The Second Meeting: 14, 15 March, 1923.
At the Second Meeting the same six persons met as on the former occasion, but the Anglicans now came with the friendly cognizance of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Roman Catholics with the knowledge of the Holy See. The Anglicans had expressed a desire that at this meeting the conversations should be concerned not so much with doctrinal discussions as with certain practical questions which would become of great importance, if and when a measure of agreement seemed likely to be reached on fundamental matters of faith. Though it would be premature to spend much time on questions of administration while the far graver problems of doctrinal difference remained unsolved, they believed that even at this early stage a preliminary survey of the situation on its practical side was almost unavoidable if progress were to be made. They had drawn up a memorandum to serve as a basis for a discussion of this kind.
It was agreed to take this memorandum, which had been circulated beforehand, as the subject of consideration. The Anglicans thought it important to emphasize at the outset the difference in both geographical and numerical extent between the Church of England at the beginning of the sixteenth century and the Anglican Communion as it stands at the present day. In the former period the Bishops occupying English sees were 21 in number; whereas the number of Bishops summoned to the Lambeth Conference of 1920 was 368, of whom 250 actually attended. This large number represented Bishops exercising episcopal superintendence in all parts of the world, and looking to Canterbury as their centre.
A question was asked as to the position held by the Archbishop of Canterbury in relation to the Anglican Communion as a whole. It was answered that like all metropolitans he has effective canonical jurisdiction only in his own province; but in addition to this he holds a central position in the Anglican Communion, without claiming any sort of jurisdiction over the provinces or dioceses which are in communion with Canterbury. Thus he convokes conferences, such for example as those of Lambeth, and he presides over them. Recourse is had to him for counsel, but he cannot impose his recommendations.
The Anglicans desired to add that it was not merely the growth in extent of the Anglican Communion to which they were bound to call attention, but also its solidarity. In matters of reunion they act together. Asked how this could be possible, they suggested that the Lambeth Conference might provide a natural means of common action.
Attention was next drawn on the part of the Anglicans to the well-known axiom, 'No foreign potentate hath any jurisdiction in this realm of England.' Was it possible to interpret the spiritual authority of the Pope in such a way that the jurisdiction of the English Bishops should not be interfered with? Could this be secured side by side with a recognition of the right claimed by the Pope to intervene in matters which concerned the general interests of the Universal Church?
It was pointed out on the part of the Roman Catholics that the right of the Pope to intervene anywhere could not be surrendered; but it might be a question how far he need exercise it. If the principle of the right were acknowledged, it was not inconceivable that the Sovereign Pontiff might allow that normally the local authority should work without his intervention.
In answer to a question as to the source of jurisdiction it was replied that with regard to this there were two opinions among theologians in regard to jurisdiction: some would derive all jurisdiction from the Pope; others hold that the jurisdiction of the Bishops was given to them directly by our Lord, as it was to the Apostles, it being, however, understood that the exercise of the jurisdiction must be authorized by the Pope. The methods of authorization or approval had varied at different periods and varied to-day in different countries, as in the case of some Uniat Churches of the East.
The Anglicans said that the principle of the right to a universal jurisdiction was not at the moment under discussion: that was to be considered fully on another occasion, so that they must not be understood as admitting jurisdiction of any kind. But the English were and always had been a practical people, and it was important to know from the Roman Catholic standpoint whether it was conceivable that such a right might be maintained consistently with the freedom which Anglicans demanded to control their own affairs.
They were grateful for the suggestions which had been tentatively made. They would in any case hope that the Pope might restrict himself to dealing directly with the Archbishop of Canterbury as recognized leader of the Anglican Communion, or with the several Metropolitans in Anglican Provinces.
After this the discussion turned again to the section of the Lambeth Appeal which deals with the regularization of ministries in the reunited Church in cases where terms of union should have been otherwise satisfactorily adjusted. What 'form of commission or recognition' was likely to be asked for by the Roman authorities? The Anglicans thought that the offer implied in the general statement of the Bishops at Lambeth with reference to all bodies of Christians throughout the world might in this instance have been met in a large spirit. One of them ventured to say that the question of Anglican Orders ought to be examined afresh; it was keenly felt that the mother Church had done a very grievous wrong to the daughter Church, and it ought to be undone. The Roman Catholics gave it as their opinion that the conditions under which such a regularization might take place could only be ascertained from the Holy See, and that in view of a possible reunion they would certainly be very carefully considered.
Among the topics which came up for consideration was the statement of the Anglicans that an essential part of such a settlement as had been under discussion would be the express provision for the recognition and retention of certain characteristic Anglican rites and customs: as for example
(a) The use of the vernacular and the English rite.
(b) Communion in both kinds.
(c) Permission of marriage of clergy.
On the three points mentioned the Roman Catholics replied that precedents exist which partially are in agreement with the desires expressed by the Anglicans; but that such precedents come from the Uniat Churches of the East. There is no absolute bar to the granting of these desires, at any rate in part. But the Roman Catholic representatives are not in a position to anticipate what judgement the Holy See would pass on the motives that prompt these requests.
At the close of this Second Meeting it was felt that this general survey had been helpful for the understanding of our several positions, and that the main points raised in the discussions should be brought to the notice of the authorities on either side.
At the Third Meeting the membership of the Conference was enlarged on both sides. On the one hand Dr. Gore, formerly Bishop of Oxford, and Dr. Kidd, Warden of Keble College, Oxford, were present at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury; on the other side Mgr. Batiffol, Canon of Notre-Dame, Paris, and M. Hemmer, Curé de la Sainte Trinité, Paris, had been invited by His Eminence the Cardinal.
A paper had been prepared by one of the Anglicans entitled 'The Position of St. Peter in the Primitive Church: a Summary of the New Testament Evidence.' This paper was carefully considered section by section. A reply to it, which had also been prepared beforehand, was read and considered in the same way. After a full discussion in which all present took part it was decided that each group should set out its view in a brief statement, account being taken of difficulties raised and explanations offered, bringing into prominence those points on which there seemed to be an approach to agreement.
At a later session these statements were presented and read. The following is the statement of the Anglican group:
I. The point with which we are concerned in this brief statement is solely the position of St. Peter among the other Apostles, as evidenced by the New Testament.
2. We recognize that St. Peter was the accepted chief or leader of the Apostles, and was so accepted because he was treated so by our Lord.
3. In the passage of St. Matthew XVI, we recognize that it was to St. Peter as the chief leader of the apostolic company that our Lord made the threefold promise; but we find in the New Testament reason to believe that the promises there made to one were fulfilled to all the Twelve--so that all constitute the foundation of the Church, all have the keys of the kingdom, and all have the authority to bind and to loose. St. Peter's special position, therefore, we hold to have lain, not in any jurisdiction which he alone held, but in a leadership among the other Apostles.
4. What is here said from the biblical evidence is not intended to exclude the consideration of the bearing of the later tradition of the Church upon the whole subject.
The writer of the Anglican memorandum desired to add to it a supplementary statement to express his view in a summary form as the result of the discussion which had taken place:
'There is, so far as I am able to judge the evidence, no trace in the New Testament of a jurisdiction of St. Peter over other Apostles, or over churches founded by them. Everything in the history there recorded points the opposite way. "Jurisdiction" may be asserted in the case of St. Paul in regard to the local churches of his foundation: the history makes it plain that he claimed to rule them absolutely in Christ's name and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We may perhaps assume that the like was true of local churches founded by St. Peter or others of the Twelve, but direct evidence is wanting.
'On the other hand, the evidence of the New Testament justifies us in saying that St. Peter was chosen and marked out by our Lord to exercise a primacy of leadership among the Twelve--to be their spokesman and leader, though not their ruler. This seems abundantly attested in the first half of the Acts of the Apostles. But in the second half of that book a new figure fills the scene--another Apostle with a new and independent commission from Christ; and he in his own sphere is found to exercise a similar primacy of leadership, more especially in regard to the churches of the Gentiles. He desires to be in accord with St. Peter, for the sake of the unity of the Church; but he does not admit that he is in any way dependent upon him. [I remark in passing that it was a true instinct that made the Church of Rome emphasize in early days the fact that it was consecrated by the blood of both those great Apostles.]
'Do we then affirm that in what has been said above we have exhausted the meaning of the promises addressed by our Lord to St. Peter? For myself I cannot say so. In accordance with what I believe to be a principle of the Ecclesia Anglicana I cannot accept as final an interpretation of Scripture which takes no account of the interpretations placed upon it by the early Fathers, or of the providential guidance of the Church as revealed in history. The words "Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" have haunted the mind of Christendom, and have been, in part at least, the cause of the pre-eminent position of the Church of Rome throughout the centuries. It remains to be considered what that pre-eminence may rightly be said to involve, whether we regard it as an inheritance derived from the pre-eminence of St. Peter among the Twelve, or whether we regard it as originally due to some other cause. This is the inquiry on which we are next to enter.'
The following is a translation of the statement of the Roman Catholic group:
I. There are abundant indications in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of St. John that Peter fulfilled a peculiar function of service towards Jesus and among His disciples. The cause of this is to be found neither in the fact that he was the first that was called by Jesus, nor in the forcefulness of his character, but in a determination of the will of Jesus. The Saviour manifests more explicitly this His will by the words 'Thou art Peter' of St. Matthew, 'Strengthen thy brethren' of St. Luke, and 'Feed my lambs' of the Fourth Gospel.
II. This will discloses itself in the Acts by the fact that Peter appears and acts as the head of the primitive community (leader of the Church); and Paul, who claims the apostolate of the Gentiles, recognizes Peter as the apostle of the Circumcision, and never attempts to deny to Peter a more extended mission.
III. We hold that the sayings of the Gospel--notably the Tu es Petrus and the Pasce agnos--express a prerogative of Peter as the foundation of the Church and the principle of its unity.
We consider that the events of history have thrown light on these texts which has brought out more clearly their true significance.
IV. The Vatican Council defines as of the Catholic Faith the primacy of universal jurisdiction conferred on Peter, grounding itself on the two texts Tu es Petrus and Pasce oves. It declares that the denial of the primacy is contrary to the plain sense of Holy Scripture as the Catholic Church has always understood it.
The Council does not indicate the numerous testimonies which prove the tradition in the interpretation of the texts, and which are to be found in the patrology and ancient Christian literature. After this a memorandum was presented by another member of the Anglican group under the title, 'The Petrine Texts, as employed to A.D. 461.' This memorandum concluded with a series of points on which the writer was of opinion that there would now be universal agreement. A memorandum on the other side having been presented and read, discussion followed; after which it was generally agreed that the points stated in the Anglican memorandum should be modified and formulated as follows:
1. That the Roman Church was founded and built by St. Peter and St. Paul, according to St. Irenaeus (adv. Haer. iii. 3. 2).
2. That the Roman See is the only historically known Apostolic See of the West.
3. That the Bishop of Rome is, as Augustine said of Pope Innocent I, president of the Western Church (Contra Iulianum Pelagianum, i. 13).
4. That he has a primacy among all the Bishops of Christendom; so that, without communion with him, there is in fact no prospect of a reunited Christendom.
5. That to the Roman See the churches of the English owe their Christianity through 'Gregory our father' (Council of Clovesho, A.D. 747) 'who sent us baptism' (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Anno 565).
A second memorandum was then presented by the same Anglican writer on the historical question, 'To what extent was the Papal authority repudiated at the Reformation in England?' As this paper consisted largely of quotations from official acts of parliament or provincial synods, it did not call for discussion in detail; but attention was directed to the larger considerations which arose out of it.
In regard to the Papal authority it was explained by the Roman Catholics that this transcends but does not extinguish episcopal authority: in exceptional crises, however, the Pope intervenes in full power.
One of the Anglicans said at this point that it was right to make it plain that they could not admit the 'universal jurisdiction' claimed either for St. Peter individually or for the Roman Church, but only a spiritual leadership and a general solicitude for the well-being of the Church as a whole.
To the objection that a mere Primacy of Honour cannot be admitted by the Roman Church, it was insisted that this was more than a Primacy of Honour, it was also a Primacy of Responsibility.
At the close it was felt that, while the results of the present Meeting had been encouraging, nothing further could usefully be said until the doctrine underlying the Papal claim had received a fuller examination.
At the Fourth Meeting a memorandum was presented on the Roman Catholic side, entitled 'The Episcopate and the Papacy considered from the theological point of view'. This was accepted as an exposition of the teaching of Roman Catholic theologians, though not of all: the Anglicans, however, desired to put questions as to certain expressions in it on which they asked for further information. Some discussion followed in which members on both sides took part, and the writer of the memorandum agreed to introduce certain modifications and supplementary clauses in view of the questions raised.
A memorandum was then presented by another member on the same side, entitled 'The Relation between the Pope and the Bishops considered from the historical point of view '. After the reading one of the Anglicans declared that he agreed in recognizing that many of the developments in the Roman Church were clearly providential; but in his view there existed, in the Anglican Church, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and among the Protestants, elements of spiritual importance belonging to the original Christianity of the New Testament, and also in harmony with what is best in the modern ideas of democracy, criticism, &c., which appear to have been more or less decisively excluded by the Roman Church.
Another Anglican remarked that Anglicans must in various respects amend their estimate of the Roman Church. Notably they must admit that it is a Church which was reformed at the Council of Trent: but this reform was associated with a growth of centralization which has aggravated the difficulties: while centralization was now becoming complete, he yet seemed to recognize the beginnings of a decentralization which he hailed with hope.
In reply it was said that Roman Catholics felt that in being reunited the Anglicans would bring considerable spiritual values, and a spirit and habits which with the co-operation and agreement of the Holy See might produce instances and models of decentralization that would be useful to the whole Church.
Another speaker on the same side said that we were agreed that the reunion of Anglicans and Roman Catholics would be to the advantage of both. Anglicans would gain from the power of unity which the Roman Primacy would bring them. On the other hand the Roman Catholics would gain from the experience of the Anglicans and their génie propre, and also from their enormous influence in propagation of the Faith in the world. It had long been present to his mind that our efforts at rapprochement could not have as their end an absorption of the Anglican Church by the Latin Church; but they imperiously require, in the name alike of Catholic principle and of the past history of the Anglican Church, the union of the latter with the Roman Church. The possibilities of the practical embodiment of these two leading ideas--viz. no absorption of the Anglican Church in the Roman, and no separation from Rome--were deserving of careful study.
After further suggestions had been made on the lines of this important observation, one of the Anglicans drew attention to the fact that in any aim at reunion it would be necessary to deal not only with Canterbury and the Bishops in England, but also with the Bishops of America and with others in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and finally with the Lambeth Conference. He wished also to insist afresh that organization is relatively of secondary importance and that the dogmas are the things of primary importance. The Roman Catholics accept this entirely, and insist further on the necessity of unity in doctrine.
Another of the Anglicans said that he asked himself, Was it conceivable to have in the first instance a rapprochement leaving Anglicans free not to give adherence to certain dogmas which have been defined since the separation and which consequently were defined without their participation?
It was observed on the other side that to the Roman Catholics the English Church presents much more difficulty in regard to doctrine than the Eastern Orthodox Church: there is among Anglicans a freedom in matters of belief which appears to be excessive, and a hindrance to unity.
One of the Anglicans replied by describing two different mentalities which are observable with regard to definitions. One is inclined to define increasingly in order to get clearness of doctrine: the other wishes to define as little as possible in order to leave to truth the whole of its content. The two, however, equally admit that there are occasions which call for definition.
It was further said on the part of the Anglicans that Roman Catholics would be perfectly right in demanding from Anglicans fidelity to the Creeds; but there should be a distinction drawn between what is fundamental and what is not. It should be possible to make a reconciliation on the basis of the Faith of the Early Councils, as the Anglicans are trying to do with the Eastern Churches.
The speaker passed on to read a memorandum bearing on this subject, as a motto for which he had chosen St. Augustine's words, Concedit (Cyprianus) salvo iure communionis ... diversum sentire (Aug. de Bapt. iii. 5). A memorandum in reply to this was then read, the writer of which observed that the toleration shown at that period was of a suspensory character. To this the Anglican writer agreed, but he added that this is exactly the position which the Anglicans are claiming for themselves, as they have always claimed it: their whole position is suspensory: they have not accepted the Council of Trent or the Vatican Council. The basis suggested by the Anglicans is the cumenic Faith of the Councils, with a tolerance of diversities determined by the distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental. This must be considered a permanent element in the position of Anglicans: the demand for the distinction will go on.
To this the Roman Catholics replied, first that this distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental articles is one that cannot be reconciled with the presupposition that such articles are alike defined by one and the same infallible authority and thus must be held equally to be de fide. This reply gave the Anglicans the opportunity of explaining that by 'fundamental' they mean what is de fide and by 'non-fundamental' what is not de fide. Secondly, the Roman Catholics replied that the authority of an oecumenical council would be only an illusion, if bishops who were not present were thereby dispensed from submitting to its decisions. Such a plea to estop proceedings (fin de non recevoir) had never been admitted in the Church.
This led to further discussions in which opinions were very freely expressed on both sides. Towards the close of this Fourth Meeting the following document was read, which had been drawn up by the Anglicans in conference among themselves:
The Church is a living body under the authority of the bishops as successors of the Apostles: and from the beginnings of Church history a primacy and leadership among all the bishops has been recognized as belonging to the Bishop of Rome. Nor can we imagine that any reunion of Christendom could be effected except on the recognition of the primacy of the Pope.
But while we think that both the Eastern Orthodox and the Anglican Churches would be prepared to recognize such primacy, we do not think it likely that they would be ready to define it more closely.
However, the following points maybe usefully stated:
1. The authority of the Pope is not separate from that of the episcopate; nor in normal circumstances can the authority of the episcopate be exercised in disassociation from that of its chief.
2. In virtue of that primacy the Pope can claim to occupy a position in regard to all other bishops which no other bishop claims to occupy in regard to him.
3. The exercise of that primacy has in time past varied in regard to time and place: and it may vary again. And this adds to the difficulty of defining the respective rights of the Holy See on the one side, and of the episcopate upon the other.
After some conversation as to the publication of any account of the proceedings of these Meetings, it was agreed that the matter should be referred to the discretion of the Cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It may be convenient to add a few words to the Report, partly of summary, and partly of anticipation. The Conversations have touched upon questions both of doctrine and discipline. On the first two occasions the main object was to ascertain that in both of these spheres there was sufficient agreement to justify a further and more detailed examination of the main points at issue.
The First Conversation showed that a considerable number of dogmatic questions, which had been subjects of contention in the past, need not be so in the future at all, or at any rate not in the same degree. The Second revealed new possibilities with regard to organization. Then the more detailed examination began with the Third Conversation, at which the membership was increased from six to ten. On that occasion the crucial question of the papacy occupied the whole time; and this subject was continued during the greater part of the Fourth Conversation. Some space, however, was given to further proposals on the subject of organization put forward from the Roman Catholic side. The Fifth Meeting (October 11 and 12, 1926), with its members reduced on the one side by the irreparable loss of Cardinal Mercier and the Abbé Portal and on the other by the absence of Bishop Gore and the Dean of Wells, was concerned only with the drawing up of this Report.
The net gain of this series of Conversations may be described as the elimination of several subjects which have ceased to be causes of difference, and the elucidation of others that still remain. As regards other dogmatic points, including those that were handled briefly in the First Conversation, and, in particular, the doctrine of the Sacraments, we say no more here because they are sufficiently treated in the French Report1 with which we arc in substantial agreement, and also because there is an opening for further discussion which, we think, would be profitable, and would lead not only to a better understanding but also to a greater measure of general agreement upon the matters in question.
The Anglicans who have had the privilege of being present at the group of Meetings above described desire to place on record their deep sense of the unvarying kindness shown to them by Cardinal Mercier, of the greatness of the debt which they feel is owing to him, of the profound and heartfelt sorrow which his death has caused them, and of the affectionate remembrance in which his name will ever be cherished by those who have during the past years enjoyed his unbounded hospitality.
The Cardinal's gracious presidency secured an atmosphere in which the plainest speaking on either side was compatible with unbroken friendliness and an ever-increasing desire for a sympathetic understanding of the several positions entertained by those who had met for conference under his roof. They feel that it would be altogether premature, and might even be misleading, were they to attempt any further indications of progress toward agreement on the one hand and outstanding differences on the other, than can be readily gathered from a careful perusal of the brief account here given of their proceedings. Though the conferences have been held with the goodwill of authority, the utterances made at them have been made quite freely on the responsibility of those present, and formally commit no one but themselves. They are convinced that it is on the lines of such friendly conversations that true progress is to be made in achieving the reunion of Christendom, which must be so near to all Christian hearts; and they would express the earnest hope that similar conferences may be continued in the future, in order that the work begun with Cardinal Mercier's blessing and under his auspices may be still further carried on, and by God's blessing and in God's time fulfil words so constantly on the Cardinal's lips, 'Ut unum sint.'