Cardinal Levada reflects on ecumenism and Anglicanorum Coetibus

Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia carries this story:

Fresh off presiding and preaching at last week’s dedication of a new Nebraska seminary chapel for the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, the church’s “Grand Inquisitor” — California’s own Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — went North, using a Saturday address at a dinner in Kingston to offer his most in-depth comments to date on Anglicanorum coetibus, the Vatican’s controversial new pathway for groups of disaffected Anglicans to swim the Tiber whilst maintaining significant elements of the patrimony of the English church.

Reflecting the significance of Levada’s remarks, a transcript of his text has been posted by our friends at Salt + Light….

HT to Chris for sending me this link. The transcript of the speech can be found here, and it is, as Rocco notes, “lengthy”, but well worth reading in its entirety.

The speech falls into two sections, one where he outlines the history of ARCIC I and II (and the announcement by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is to be a new round of ARCIC – ARCIC III – starting soon, on the topics of “Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching”) and then when he very frankly discusses the Catholic goal of ecumenism, in direct relation to Anglicanorum Coetibus using the musical image of a piano and a symphony orchestra.

The first section makes the obvious point that new issues have arisen since the first heady days of ecumenism causing divisions among Christians (both between Catholic and Protestant and within various communions, in particular the Anglican Communion), especially the issues of women’s ordination and homosexuality. It is certainly surprising, but true, that no bilateral dialogue between Christian communions has to date discussed either of these major current issues. Levada notes:

The only outstanding question on ministry and ordination that remained was the ordination of women, an issue that was new. I note here that the ARCIC statement on ministry was published in 1973 and only in 1976 did the first ordination of a woman priest occur in the Episcopal Church in the United States. In spite of the request of the Holy See for further elucidation on this question, the commission maintained that its mandate to examine the classical teaching on ministry and orders had been accomplished, and asked that the question of the ordination of women be remanded for consideration by its successive commission. Until now this issue has not been examined by ARCIC.

He also notes that while ARCIC II reached a fairly solid agreement that “the claim, sometimes made that homosexual relationships and married relationships are morally equivalent, and equally capable of expressing the right ordering and use of the sexual drive” was to be rejected, this agreement has been almost totally lost since the consecration of Gene Robinson by the Episcopal Church in the US.

It seems that the new ARCIC will at least address this latter issue, if not also the former.

But then Levada goes on to make some quite amazing and, as I said, frank claims about Catholic ecumenism, claims with which I find myself to be in full agreement. Here is just a slice of the entire cake:

Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism—one could put, “we phrase it that way”. Yet the very process of working towards union works a change in churches and ecclesial communities that engage one another in dialogue, in actual instances of entering into communion do indeed transform the Catholic Church by way of enrichment. Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church. Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.

The new reality of visible unity among Christians should not thought of as the coming together of disparate elements that previously had not existed in any one community. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that all the elements of sanctification and truth which Christ bestowed on the Church are found in the Catholic Church. What is new then is not the acquisition of something essential which had hitherto been absent. Instead, what is new is that perennial truths and elements of holiness already found in the Catholic Church are given new focus, or a different stress by the way they are lived by various groups of the faithful who are called by Christ to come together in perfect communion with one another, enjoying the bonds of creed, code, cult and charity, in diverse ways that blend harmoniously.

Coincidentally, just on Thursday night I had the pleasure of sitting at dinner with an entire table of Anglicans, including clerics (some who would describe themselves as Anglo-Catholics) and a retired bishop. It was a case for me of “don’t mention the ordinariates”, but I need not have worried. They themselves raised it in their own discussions, and not in an entirely negatively way. One cleric commented that it was a strange business, because the announcement of the establishment of these ordinariates seemed to have sidelined the Vatican’s ecumenical council and its president, Walter Kasper. I argued that this is because Rome wanted to keep the two issues separate, that the ordinariates were not to be viewed as the Vatican’s “new way of doing ecumenism”. Levada’s speech has caused me to rethink this. Perhaps, in fact, this is the future for Catholic ecumenism. If that is so, then we really are entering a whole new phase of the ecumenical movement – at least between Catholics and Protestants.

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20 responses to “Cardinal Levada reflects on ecumenism and Anglicanorum Coetibus

  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Hah. A levada is a silkworm. They move. The word can also mean the salute before fencing. How apt.

    At least he starts out honest. Ecumenism is all about getting everyone to be Catholic. Just a little spin — “union” with the Catholic Church, to soften the blow.

    We non-Catholics bring nothing essential. We only bring modes of expression.

    Well here’s a little mode of expression for you, Cardinal boy — stuff it in your red hat.

  2. Kyle

    “We non-Catholics bring nothing essential. We only bring modes of expression.”

    Haha. Yeah, right.

    • On the contrary, I would say that non-Catholics DO bring something essential to the Church – at least something “essential” in an eschatological sense. I am not quite sure how that would be put philosophically, since “essence” usually relates to what something is, not to what something will be. But if we consider the biblical image of the Church as body, we will realise that at any point in the existence of the Church, it has all that is “essential” to be the Church at that given point in time – like a human body – but not all that it needs to be the body it was destined to be – like a body which grows.

      Perhaps also the image of the Church as a living temple is a good one – for that is less static and definitely contains a strong character of eschatology. The Church has the necessary foundation of the apostles and the prophets, but has yet to grow up “into Christ, the keystone”, as St Paul says.

      What I am getting at is that the Catholic Church is complete in essence, but not complete in eschatological terms. What I mean is that it is One, it is United, and yet it is lacking full communion with everyone who has been baptised into Christ. When communions of Christians enter into full communion with the Church, the Church grows nearer to that fullness which it will only have at the end of time.

      And that fullness is and will be “essential” to the Church, and that is something other Christian communions can bring to the Catholic Church.

      • mdhoerr

        “What I am getting at is that the Catholic Church is complete in essence, but not complete in eschatological terms. What I mean is that it is One, it is United, and yet it is lacking full communion with everyone who has been baptised into Christ. When communions of Christians enter into full communion with the Church, the Church grows nearer to that fullness which it will only have at the end of time.”

        I like that way of putting it.

  3. mdhoerr

    How very pre-conciliar of him. Do I detect consistency in the RCC?

    • Actually it is a good example of both continuity and discontinuity, because many theologians in the pre-Conciliar Church thought that it was complete (even in an eschatological sense) without the necessity of the ecumenical endeavour. This is a good way of showing that yes, the Church has changed, but no, it hasn’t!

      • mdhoerr

        I suppose that depends on what you mean by “ecumenical”. If “ecumenical” means to understand what is good in other faiths, so that you have a starting point for making a convincing case for the Catholic Church, then in a sense, ecumenism is just a part of effective evangelism. Which is how I have tended to understand ecumenism.

        Apparently, there is another definition which means recognizing that other faiths are just as good as the Catholic Church.

        In a sense, I am glad for Kyle’s and PE’s reactions to what the Cardinal has said. Sometimes I think that non-Catholics who do not have that as their first reaction either do not understand what the Catholic Church teaches or don’t take their own faith seriously.

        That IS a hard teaching of the Catholic Church.

  4. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Well great, another Roman rabbit out of the hat. A change that wasn’t REALLY a change.

    The church is not lacking full communion with everyone baptised into Christ. The Roman Catholic Church is lacking full communion with everyone baptised into Christ.

    So all it really is, is just getting everyone to say the church is the Roman Catholic Church, that’s the real game here, as always, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church.

    No thanks. Maybe not even thanks. Just no.

    • Proposition: “The church is not lacking full communion with everyone baptised into Christ”

      Task: Demonstrate or Disprove.

      Step one to disproof: Let “Full Communion” (Catholic) = “Altar and Pulpit Fellowship” (Lutheran)

      The Proposition then becomes: “The church is not lacking altar and pulpit fellowship with everyone baptised into Christ”.

      But: It is empirically untrue that every person baptised into Christ is in altar and pulpit fellowship with everyone else who has been baptised into Christ.

      Therefore, for the proposition “The church is not lacking altar and pulpit fellowship with everyone baptised into Christ” to be true you must either deny that all who have received baptism with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit have truly been baptised into Christ, or you must say that the “church” does not include everyone who has been baptised into Christ, but only some, and that only those few are “not lacking altar and pulpit fellowship” with one another.

      Neither is the position of the Catholic Church.

      (At least when I use a word, I use it to mean what it means, and not what I want it to mean. When I say “the Catholic Church” I mean “the Catholic Church” not “a denomination which some call ‘the Roman Catholic Church'”.)

  5. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    This is RC wordplay, and I ain’t playing.

    Once again, you said this, which means that, now you must defend that and here’s how it must be defended in this case. Everything but the “this” that was actually said.

    Full communion, which of course means full communion with Rome, is not at all what altar and pulpit fellowship means to a Lutheran.

    Altar and pulpit fellowship has to do with recognised agreement between or among church bodies re doctrine. It has nothing to do with whether one has been baptised into Christ.

    If you are saying that all baptised into Christ are not in church bodies in altar and pulpit fellowship with LCMS, of course not. LCMS is not the “true” church. Which is not an objection as no church body is.

    Which is a doctrinal matter. And being as we are not in altar and pulpit fellowship nor in the same synod, I would expect an RC to maintain some things about “the church” that I do not, and therefore have goals for his church body that I do not for mine. That in no way is a statement that the other person in question is not baptised into Christ or part of the church. It reflects that we do not agree on what is “the church”. It only becomes an issue when “the church” means The Catholic Church as an institution.

    • mdhoerr

      “It reflects that we do not agree on what is “the church”. ”
      Bingo.

      “It only becomes an issue when “the church” means The Catholic Church as an institution.”

      Or when we refuse to give a definition of “the church” in concrete terms at all. Not even everyone who claims baptism in Christ is part of “the church”. There are people who claim to be Christians who do not believe in the divinity of Christ (Mormans, for example). So how do you draw the line, PE?

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Right here. What are the elements of a valid sacrament in Catholic thinking. Matter, form and intent. So, as long as one is baptised with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with the intent to do what the church does and regardless of how well that intent is understood by the administrator of the sacrament, or even believed in, as unbelievers may baptise, they are baptised into Christ’s death and part of the church.

    If that happens outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, the baptism remains valid and they are in fact united by it to the Catholic Church, though invisibly and imperfectly, but not due to being any less baptised. They pass the test, so to speak, of extra ecclesia nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation) because they are not outside the church even though their union is imperfect and invisible. That is why those who have been so baptised are not re-baptised on entry into visible union with the Catholic Church.

    To baptised Christians, as laid out above, the message would be to fully realise what is in fact already theirs. To make visible and perfect (in the literal Latin sense of accomplished, done, past, like actions are spoken of in the perfect tense when they are final and done, in the past) what is presently invisible and imperfect. The line remains the criteria for a valid sacrament as above, not a church body per se, though that body’s known practices may help in determining whether the criteria were met.

    Lutherans do not disagree with these criteria, minus the RCC stuff. I for example was baptised at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. As an RC baptism, the matters of form, content, and intent were there so I was not rebaptised on becoming Lutheran, joining first WELS, or later LCMS. My Catholic baptism was baptism, period, as much as one baptised in a Lutheran church, both are part of the church on baptism, which of course reflects a different understanding of church as I am not by Lutheran lights a half fast Catholic waiting to discover that and “come home to Rome” gasp, stunble, retch, fall down the stairs.

    • mdhoerr

      That makes sense, and aligns with what I understood.

      So why did you interpret what David was saying as “The church is not lacking full communion with everyone baptised into Christ. The Roman Catholic Church is lacking full communion with everyone baptised into Christ.”

      It seems to me you’re both saying the same thing.

      The difference is, you disagree with the idea that someone can be a baptized Christian, but still be missing something important that can only be got from the Catholic Church.

      I can understand that.

      But that is NOT the same as claiming that the Catholic position is all “word play”. The Catholic position is consistent. You disagree with it.

    • mdhoerr

      Baptism into Christ makes you part of the church.
      What is the church?
      Those who have been baptised into Christ.

      Do I understand you correctly?

  7. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    It was David who said “it is lacking full communion with everyone who has been baptised into Christ.” It referred to the Catholic Church. I was poking at the pronounced tendency of Catholics to equate “the church” or “the catholic church” with The Catholic Church. One could also express my thought by saying While the Catholic Church is lacking full communion with everyone who has been baptised into Christ (which is what David said) the church is not so lacking. This gets to the different ecclesiologies involved, where for one, the church in its fullness is The Catholic Church and therefore the idea is to bring all baptised into communion with it, and for the other the church IS all who are baptised into Christ and the idea is to get the RCC to quit thinking they are it and the rest of us need to get beyond our imperfect and invisible union with it.

    Not in a million years would I or anyone say one must be a member of LCMS to be fully in the church, nor would I say that just by being in LCMS one is automatically fully in the church, though it is all there but a hell of a lot of us seem to want to be “evangelicals” in the American sense rather than evangelical in the Lutheran sense. Even when we find altar and pulpit fellowship with another body does it have to be incorporated into us, or we into them, or both of us into some new body.

    • Terry Maher (Past Elder)

      Sorry, make the last sentence “Not even …”

    • mdhoerr

      “This gets to the different ecclesiologies involved, where for one, the church in its fullness is The Catholic Church and therefore the idea is to bring all baptised into communion with it, and for the other the church IS all who are baptised into Christ and the idea is to get the RCC to quit thinking they are it and the rest of us need to get beyond our imperfect and invisible union with it.”

      Not a bad description of the difference in viewpoint. I agree with The Catholic Church.

  8. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Reminds me of a joke, A ship sank at sea, and the only survivor was a Jewish guy, who made it to an uncharted unknown island.

    Ten years later he was resued by a passing steamer. The crew noticed two synagogues and asked what’s up with that. That’s my synagogue right there, the man said.

    But what about the other one, the crew asked. That synagogue, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that synagogue, said the man.

    (Now before someone gets all touchy feely ecumenical, relax, I heard it told by a Jew among Jews.)

    • The full joke, as I heard it, also from Jewish friends, is that two Jews were stranded. When rescued, they found four huts constructed:

      1) The Synagogue I go to
      2) the Synagogue he goes to
      3) the Synagogue we used to go to
      4) the Synagogue we never go to.

      But you are wrong, PE, when you surmised that I was meaning that everyone else lacked communion with the Catholic Church, and this was their “deficiency”. My point is actually that every Christian community, Catholic or otherwise, lacks full communion with every other baptised Christian, and in this sense, we all lack something of the fullness of what it means to be “The Church”.

      In terms of “altar and pulpit fellowship” you are right to say that this has a pronounced “doctrinal” significance for LCMS. “Full Communion” in Catholic terms is not lacking the same requirement for doctrinal agreement (cf. the Apostolic Constitution’s requirement that the Anglicans coming into full communion all agree to the Catholic Faith as set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) it is just that doctrinal communion is only part of it. And really, it is only part of what Lutherans mean by “altar and pulpit fellowship” too. For that term itself embodies a full degree of lived communion, the sort of “altar and pulpit fellowship” that in fact exists between all local Catholic Churches throughout the world.

      Full communion of all Christians would of course entail full communion with the Bishop of Rome, since he is a Christian. It is not so much a “come home to Mama” model, as a “let us walk together towards the Lord” model. If you can’t hack that, it’s not my problem.