Catherine of Aragon – the Spanish princess married to Henry VIII, King of England – after having been repudiated by him, could well have exclaimed: “our division is nothing less than a scandal,” and the Catholic world, upon discovering this monarch’s concubinage with Anne Boleyn could well exclaim: “Your union is nothing less than a scandal!” The history of the ‘Anglican Church’ is a mixture of scandalous unions and divisions. And there is still scandal…The scandal of division, since many of them do not wish to recognize their errors and return to full communion with the Church, a return which was favored in every way by the Popes throughout almost five centuries.
There is also the scandal of union, caused by those who wish to work with the Anglicans and receive them as if they had never broken with the true Church of Christ. What do historical facts and the Magisterium have to tell us about this delicate matter? From whom does this scandal proceed, and what does it consist of?
Teachings of the Magisterium
Enter the various parts of our study
I – The scandal of the division with the Anglicans: who caused the division? What does history tell us?
II – What has the Church done to heal the wounds of division and promote union with the Anglicans?
III – As long as the Anglicans remain obstinate in error, the separation between the Catholic Church and the ‘Anglican Church’ is necessary to keep the true doctrine unyielding and clear
I – The scandal of the division with the Anglicans: who caused the division? What does history tell us?
A – Historical background
Henry VIII, King of England (16th Century), had been married for 18 years to Catherine of Aragon, when he decided to repudiate her, his legitimate wife, to be able to take Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting from the court, as his ‘wife’. The facts are amply recorded by history and are well-known. Due to his unbridled passions, Henry VIII would later repeat this scheme several times, marrying a total of six women! And he would even make this easier by getting rid of some of them, with the death sentence, at his own whims. To this bloody and impure man, the ‘Anglican Church’ owes its ‘foundation’. Let us recall a few historic facts:
Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, throughout these eighteen years [of married life], had lived with relative tranquility; but of the three sons and two daughters born to them, only one daughter had survived […], Mary Tudor. […] He conceived the idea of obtaining a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. What occasioned Henry VIII’s new plan was his falling blindly in love with Anne Boleyn, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. The king’s new mistress demanded, as the condition to give herself to him, to be his true wife, and the queen of England. […] The only way to acquiesce to the Anne Boleyn’s demand was to obtain a divorce form the queen, Catherine of Aragon. […] The king “sees nothing, and thinks of nothing but his Anne… and it is a pity the way the life of a king and the state and the ruin of a country depend on this question alone”. However, since the Pope was convinced that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was valid, and therefore indissoluble, he was forced to maintain his denial [to annul the marriage] notwithstanding the danger of the schism of the whole nation. (Bernardino Llorca. García-Villoslada, R. Historia de la Iglesia Católica: Edad Nueva – La Iglesia en la época del renacimiento y de la Reforma Católica. BAC, 1999, v. III, p. 720-722)
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
It has been said that this lady [Anne Boleyn] was even Henry’s own daughter, and it is said that her father, who was ambassador in France at the time, came post to England when he heard of the affair, and told Henry that his wife confessed to him that Anne was Henry’s daughter, but Henry made him, it is said, a rude answer, told him to go back to his place, and hold his tongue, and that he was determined to marry her. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. The history of heresies and their refutations)
It is noteworthy that Henry VIII sought the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, alleging his horror at being married to his brother’s widow. To denounce the falsity of his sentiments, Reginald Pole, future Archbishop of Canterbury, sent him a letter, quoted below:
Now what sort of person is it whom you have put in the place of your divorced wife? Is she not the sister of her whom first you violated? And for a long time after kept as your concubine? She certainly is. How is it, then, that you now tell us of the horror you have of illicit marriage? Are you ignorant of the law which certainly no less prohibits marriage with a sister of one with whom you have become one flesh, than with one with whom your brother was one flesh? If the one kind of marriage is detestable, so is the other. Were you ignorant of this law? Nay, you knew it better than others. How do I prove that? Because, at the very time you were rejecting your brother’s widow, you were doing your utmost to get leave from the pope to marry the sister of your former concubine. (Reginald Pole, future Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury quoted by Philip Hughes, The Reformation in England, I.159; cf. Pole, Pro Ecclesiasticae Unitatis Defensione III.LXXVI.LXXVII)
Not having received the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon from the Pope, Henry breaks with Rome.
In the beginning of 1534, he made the Parliament, entirely subjugated to his will, vote on these three laws: in the election of bishops, the king should propose the candidate, which would then be approved by the chapter, without any intervention from Rome; all of the tithes for the ‘bishop of Rome’, as the Pope should be called from then on, were abolished, and the bishops were prohibited to decree any law without the kings approval. All of these actions were taken before the final sentence of the Roman Pontiff arrived in England. For this reason, as Constant observes, the schism was already definitive on Henry VIII’s part. […] Faced with all of these doings, Clement VII saw that there was no longer any hope of the repentance of the King of England, and in the consistory in March of 1534, he pronounced the definitive sentence to the cause in progress, proclaiming the validity of the matrimony of Henry VIII with Catherine of Aragon, since the dispensation of [Pope] Julius had been valid. (Bernardino Llorca. García-Villoslada, R. Historia de la Iglesia Católica: Edad Nueva – La Iglesia en la época del renacimiento y de la Reforma Católica. BAC, 1999, v. III, p. 726)
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
The name of the Pope was expunged from the Liturgy, and among the petitions of the Litany the following was sacrilegiously inserted: ‘From the tyranny and detestable enormities of the Bishop of Rome deliver us, O Lord’ (Nat. Alex, t.XIX, c.13, n.3-5; Gotti, c.113, sec.2, n.21). (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. The history of hersies and their refutations)
Elizabeth I, Henry VIII’s daughter, broke definitively with Rome, officializing the so-called ‘Church of England.’
Elizabeth, now fortified with parliamentary authority, prohibited most rigorously any of her subjects from obeying the Pope, and commanded all to recognize her as Head of the Church, both in Spirituals and Temporalities. It was also ordained, at the same, time, that to the Crown alone belonged the appointment of Bishops, the convocation of Synods, the power of taking cognizance of heresy and abuses, and the punishment of spiritual delinquencies. A system of Church government and discipline was also established, and though the doctrine of the Anglican Church is Calvinism, which rejects Bishops, together with all the sacred ceremonies of the Roman Church, as well as altars and images, still she wished that the Bishops should be continued, but without any other power than what they held from herself. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. The history of hersies and their refutations)
Prohibiting with a strong hand the use of the true religion, which after its earlier overthrow by Henry VIII (a deserter therefrom) Mary, the lawful queen of famous memory [Elizabeth I], had with the help of this See restored, she has followed and embraced the errors of the heretics. She has removed the royal Council, composed of the nobility of England, and has filled it with obscure men, being heretics; oppressed the followers of the Catholic faith; instituted false preachers and ministers of impiety; abolished the sacrifice of the mass, prayers, fasts, choice of meats, celibacy, and Catholic ceremonies; and has ordered that books of manifestly heretical content be propounded to the whole realm and that impious rites and institutions after the rule of Calvin, entertained and observed by herself, be also observed by her subjects. She has dared to eject bishops, rectors of churches and other Catholic priests from their churches and benefices, to bestow these and other things ecclesiastical upon heretics, and to determine spiritual causes. (Saint Pius V. Bull Regnans in Excelsis, no. 2, February 28, 1576)
B – Was the Anglican ‘Church’ accepted amid acclamations by the English people, or under a tyrannical oppression?
She has forbidden the prelates, clergy and people to acknowledge the Church of Rome or obey its precepts and canonical sanctions; has forced most of them to come to terms with her wicked laws, to abjure the authority and obedience of the pope of Rome, and to accept her, on oath, as their only lady in matters temporal and spiritual; has imposed penalties and punishments on those who would not agree to this and has exacted then of those who persevered in the unity of the faith and the aforesaid obedience; has thrown the Catholic prelates and parsons into prison where many, worn out by long languishing and sorrow, have miserably ended their lives. (Pius V. Bull Regnans in Excelsis, no. 2, February 28, 1576)
The Decree of 1585
In 1585 in England, a decree was promulgated in which the Mass was prohibited, and priests were expelled. The priests had forty days to leave the country. The offense of being a priest was considered treason, and the sentence, capital punishment. In those years, those who gave lodging, food, money, or any other type of aid to the rebellious English priests, who hid out of fidelity, because of their concern to maintain the faith of the flock, as well as the priests who clandestinely arrived by sea, disguised as merchants, workers or intellectuals, were considered traitors, and were judged and sentenced to be hanged. It was enough just to be discovered at a secret gathering for the celebration of the Mass, to have liturgical vestments or a religious habit found in any hiding place, or the denunciation of spies and ill-intentioned conspirators for having lodged a missionary in one’s home, to end up at the gibbet, or decapitated for treason. It would not be possible to narrate here the hagiographies of Saint John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and great defender of Catherine of Aragon, or of Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of the Realm and close friend and collaborator of Henry VIII, to mention the example of one religious and of one layman, who have their own memorial in our calendar of Saints. But I do wish to mention in a general way all those – men and women, clerics, both diocesan and of religious orders – who gave their lives with total generosity for their fidelity to the Catholic faith, resisting unto death the despotic imposition that they betray that which was was most fundamental to their consciences. Anne Line was condemned for hiding priests in her home, and before being hanged, she spoke to the multitude gathered to witness her execution saying: “They have condemned me for hiding priests in my home. Would that they had been a thousand; I do not regret what I have done.” The words that Margaret Clitherow said at the place of execution were: “This way to Heaven is as short as any.” Margaret Ward also gave her life for having smuggled in a basket the rope with which Fr. Watson was able to escape from prison. And so, so many other men and women died as martyrs of the Mass and the priesthood. (Catholic.net: Archdiocese of Madrid)
Saint Nicholas Owen, faithful aid to several Jesuits, was tortured and killed. Here follows a report of his execution:
The torturers [of Nicholas] had no compassion. How many times they stretched him on the rack is not known, but they recognized the danger that the treatment would tear him apart and so, not wishing him to die before the secrets were out, they devised some kind of an iron plate to fasten on him, a device that would increase the pain but decrease the danger of death. But still Saint Nicholas told nothing, for ‘the Lord had set a watch before his mouth and a door round about his lips.’ The state to which his torturers reduced him, under Cecil’s direction, is revealed by a jailer who was asked by a Catholic to let Nicholas write down a list of the things he needed. The jailer replied peevishly “What would you have him write? He is not able to put on his cap, no, not to feed himself, but I must feed him.” And still, like his buffeted Savior, he remained silent. Then on March 2, 1606, the plate failed to do its work and, in the words of Father Gerard, “his bowels gushed out with his life.” (Malcolm Brennan. Martyrs of the English Reformation. p. 137–138)
Margaret Clitherow, wife and mother of three children, was denounced for having hidden priests in her home. There were found among her belongings missals and priestly vestments. The following is the sentence she received for her “crime of treason”:
… ‘You shall return to the place from whence you came [prison], and in the lower part of the prison be stripped naked, laid down on your back to the ground, and so much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and thus you shall continue three days; the third day you shall have a sharp stone put under your back, and your hands and feet shall be tied to posts that, more weight being laid upon you, you may be pressed to death’. (Malcom Brennan. Martyrs of the English Reformation, p. 107)
And this was, in fact, how Saint Margaret Clitherow died.
C – The division with the Anglicans: merely a ‘historical issue’ of ‘human ambition’? The Anglican heresy exposed
International Theological Commission
The communities that emerged from the sixteenth-century Reformation differ among themselves to such an extent that a description of their relationship to the Catholic Church has to take account of the many individual cases. However, some general lines are beginning to emerge. In general it was a feature of the Reformation to deny the link between Scripture and Tradition and to advocate the view that Scripture alone was normative. Even if later on some sort of place for Tradition is recognized, it is never given the same position and dignity as in the ancient Church. But since the sacrament of orders is the indispensable sacramental expression of communion in the Tradition, the proclamation of sola scriptura led inevitably to an obscuring of the older idea of the Church and its priesthood. (International Theological Commission. Catholic Teaching on Apostolic Succession, VI, 3, 1973)
Characteristics of the Anglican doctrine
Cranmer was the most completely subservient to Henry VIII of all the major players in the English Reformation. Although Thomas Cromwell was its chief political architect, it was Cranmer’s religious ideas that became the beliefs of the fledgling Ecclesia Anglicana. He developed a deep antipathy to the Church and its sacraments, and especially to the Sacrifice of the Mass. It was he who drew up the arguments in favour of the divorce in Henry’s appeal to the universities of Europe. (Thomas McGovern. Priestly celibacy today, Scepter Publishers, 1998, Ch. 1, part 3)
In 1553 the new code of Canon Law for the Church of England condemned as heresy the belief that Holy Orders were an invalidating impediment to marriage. (Philip Hughes. The Reformation in England, Vol. II, London, 1954, p. 131, quoted by Thomas McGovern, Priestly celibacy today)
In the rite of conferring and administering any sacrament one rightly distinguishes between the ceremonial part and the essential part, which is customarily called the matter and form. […] Now, the words which until recent times were everywhere held by the Anglicans as the proper form of priestly ordination, namely, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ certainly do not in the least signify definitely the order of priesthood, or its grace and power, which is especially the power ‘of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord,’ in that sacrifice which is no ‘nude commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross’ [see n. 950]. Such a form was indeed afterwards lengthened by these words, ‘for the office and work of a priest’; but this rather convinces one that the Anglicans themselves saw that this first form was defective, and not appropriate to the matter. But the same addition, if perchance indeed it could have placed legitimate significance on the form, was introduced too late, since a century had elapsed after the adoption of the Edwardine Ordinal; since, moreover, with the extinction of the hierarchy, there was now no power for ordaining. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3315-3316. Leo XIII, Letter Apostolicae curae – On the Nullity of Anglican Orders, September 13, 1896)
Some articles of the official doctrine of the Anglican Church
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, which express the official doctrine of the ‘Anglican Church’, were prepared in their current form in 1571, as a result of a theological movement that abandoned the Roman doctrines and embraced the biblical doctrines of the Reformation. A selection follows:
The Articles of Religion:
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. (The Articles of Religion, no. XIX, Of the church)
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation. (The Articles of Religion, no. XX, Of the authority of the church)
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. (The Articles of Religion, no. XXII, Of purgatory)
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him. There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord. Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God. (The Articles of Religion, no. XXV, Of the sacraments)
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped. (The Articles of Religion, no. XXVIII, Of the Lord’s supper)
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits. (The Articles of Religion, no. XXXI, Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross)
II – What has the Church done to heal the wounds of division and promote union with the Anglicans?
A – As soon as England separated from the Catholic Church, the Pontiffs strove for its return to communion with Rome
With the desire to facilitate the return of the mighty to Catholicism, a Bull was obtained from Julius III by which the Church renounced the ecclesiastical goods confiscated during the two previous reigns [Henry VIII, Edward VI]. (Bernardino Llorca. García-Villoslada, R. Historia de la Iglesia Católica: Edad Nueva – La Iglesia en la época del renacimiento y de la Reforma Católica. BAC, 1999, v. III, p. 920–921)
For this reason, in the first place, the principal documents in which our predecessors, at the request of Queen Mary, exercised their special care for the reconciliation of the English Church were considered. Thus Julius III sent Cardinal Reginald Pole, an Englishman, and illustrious in many ways, to be his Legate a latere for the purpose, ‘as his angel of peace and love,’ and gave him extraordinary and unusual mandates or faculties and directions for his guidance. These Paul IV confirmed and explained. (Leo XIII. Apostolic letter Apostolicae curae, no. 7, September 18, 1869)
The renowned William Allen, later Cardinal of England, organized an English seminary in Douai and another in Valladolid. Gregory XIII, in turn, established another in Rome in 1579, the students of which achieved an extraordinary heroism, symbol of the Catholic renewal of the time. The students of these colleges saved the ecclesiastical state of English Catholicism; they received formation with the objective of going to defend the faith in England, even unto the imminent risk of their lives. By the year 1610, 110 graduates from Douai had been martyred. (Bernardino Llorca. García-Villoslada, R. Historia de la Iglesia Católica: Edad Nueva – La Iglesia en la época del renacimiento y de la Reforma Católica. BAC, 1999, v. III, p. 920–921)
See also: The Venerable English College (Rome): “If any ever news returned to Rome that one of their brother priests had been put to death in England, the College community would come and gather in front of the painting […] They would sing a hymn of praise to God, Te Deum laudamus”. More here.
In 1574 the first missionary priests from the English College in Douai landed in England. […] The success of this new generation of priests alarmed the government, which in a Statute published in 1585 ‘against Jesuits, Seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons’, by which it condemned as treason for any Englishman ordained in another country to return to live or stay for a time in England, and grave penalty to anyone in England who should receive or help him. Both crimes were punished with death: the first, by hang, draw and quartering, and the second merely by hanging. (O’Neill, Charles SJ ; María Domínguez, Joaquín SJ. Diccionario histórico de la Compañía de Jesús. v. III, Univ Pontifica Comillas, 2001, p. 2546)
Saint Edmund Campion SJ (1540-1581) was a brilliant Oxford scholar, invited to the court of Elizabeth I, but in the meantime converted from Anglicanism. He was formed and ordained at Douai, returned to England disguised as a jewel merchant, clandestinely celebrated Masses, preached Spiritual Excersizes, etc, travelling all around England in different disguises. He published a document “the 10 reasons” against the Anglicans on a printing press hidden in a helper’s house, secretly placed in each stall in the chapel of Oxford, which caused an uproar. Betrayed by spies, imprisoned, racked, interrogated repeatedly, then finally hanged, drawn and quarted at Tyburn, Dec.1, 1581. His answer to the sentence of condemnation: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”
Saint Edmund Campion
[Addressed to Queen Elizabeth, his “Soverign Lady”, whom he beseeches to be allowed to preach in her presence] Many innocent hands are lifted up for you daily and hourly by those English students whose posterity shall not die, which beyond the seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you over to Heaven or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society [the Society of Jesus] be it known to you that we have made a league – all the Jesuits of the world – cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair of your recovery, while we have a man to enjoy your Tyburn [place where many martyrs were executed] or to be racked with your torments or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun. It is of God. It cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted, so it must be restored. (Saint Edmund Campion SJ. Open Letter to the Council – commonly called ‘Campion’s brag and Challenge’. In: English martyrs beatified by Pope Leo XIII. p. 320-321)
B – In recent times, the Church has continued to work toward and has facilitated the return of the Anglicans to full communion with Rome
In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be The Apostolic See has responded favourably individually as well as corporately.The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, November 4, 2009)
In the light of these ecclesiological principles, this Apostolic Constitution provides the general normative structure for regulating the institution and life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner. This Constitution is completed by Complementary Norms issued by the Apostolic See.
1. §1 Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church are erected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the confines of the territorial boundaries of a particular Conference of Bishops in consultation with that same Conference. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, November 4, 2009)
§ 1. Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfil the requisites established by canon law [cf. CIC, cann. 1026–1032] and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments [cf. CIC, cann. 1040–1049] may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, November 4, 2009)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of November 4th 2009, provides the essential norms which will govern the erection and the life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who wish to enter, either corporately or individually, into full communion with the Catholic Church. In this way, as it says in the Introduction, the Holy Father Benedict XVI – Supreme Pastor of the Church and, by mandate of Christ, guarantor of the unity of the episcopate and of the universal communion of all the Churches – has shown his fatherly care for those Anglican faithful (lay, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated life and of Societies of Apostolic Life) who have repeatedly petitioned the Holy See to be received into full Catholic Communion. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The significance of the Apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, by Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, November 4, 2009)
In June 1980, the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, agreed to the request presented by the Bishops of the United States of America on behalf of some clergy and laity formerly or actually belonging to the Episcopal (Anglican) Church for full communion with the Catholic Church. The Holy See’s response to the initiative of these Episcopalians includes the possibility of a pastoral provision which will provide, for those who desire it, a common identity reflecting certain elements of their own heritage. The entrance of these persons into the Catholic Church should be understood as the ‘reconciliation of those individuals who wish for full Catholic communion’ of which the Decree on Ecumenism (no. 4) of the Second Vatican Council speaks. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration, March 31, 1981)
C – The Anglicans themselves put obstacles in the way of union with the Holy See
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The decisions of the recent Synod of the Church of England to permit the ordination of women bishops […] In 1975 Pope Paul VI issued a formal appeal to the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Donald Coggan, to avoid taking a step which would have a serious negative impact on ecumenical relations. […] For Catholics, the issue of the reservation of priestly ordination to men is not merely a matter of praxis or discipline, but is rather doctrinal in nature and touches the heart of the doctrine of the Eucharist itself and the sacramental nature or ‘constitution’ of the Church. It is therefore a question which cannot be relegated to the periphery of ecumenical conversations, but needs to be engaged directly in honesty and charity by dialogue partners who desire Christian unity which, by its very nature, is Eucharistic. Cardinal Walter Kasper, current President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, addressed this very point in an intervention given in June, 2006, to the House of Bishops of the Church of England during its discussions on the ordination of women to the episcopate. In his talk he affirmed: ‘Because the episcopal office is a ministry of unity, the decision you face would immediately impact on the question of the unity of the Church and with it the goal of ecumenical dialogue. It would be a decision against the common goal we have until now pursued in our dialogue: full ecclesial communion, which cannot exist without full communion in the episcopal office.’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Address of Cardinal William Levada: Five hundred years after Saint John Fisher: Pope Benedict’s initiatives regarding the Anglican Communion, March 6, 2010)
Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity
In 2003, the decision of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America to ordain as bishop a priest in an active homosexual relationship, as well as the introduction of a rite of blessing for same sex couples in the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada, created new obstacles for relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. As a result of these actions and the uncertainty they created, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity agreed with representatives of the Anglican Communion to put on hold the plenary meetings of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), while maintaining close communication with the Anglican Communion Office and with Lambeth Palace. Established in 2001, IARCCUM is an episcopally led body aimed at fostering practical initiatives that would give expression to the degree of faith shared by Anglicans and Catholics. (Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity. Update on relations with the Anglican Communion, April 27, 2005)
III – As long as the Anglicans remain obstinate in error, the separation between the Catholic Church and the ‘Anglican Church’ is necessary to keep the true doctrine unyielding and clear
Catechism of Saint Pius X
What should a Christian do who has been given a Bible by a Protestant or by an agent of the Protestants?
A Christian to whom a Bible has been offered by a Protestant or an agent of the Protestants should reject it with disgust, because it is forbidden by the Church. If it was accepted by inadvertence, it must be burnt as soon as possible or handed in to the Parish Priest.
Why does the Church forbid Protestant Bibles?
The Church forbids Protestant Bibles because, either they have been altered and contain errors, or not having her approbation and footnotes explaining the obscure meanings, they may be harmful to the Faith. It is for that same reason that the Church even forbids translations of the Holy Scriptures already approved by her which have been reprinted without the footnotes approved by her. (Catechism of Saint Pius X, On Holy Scripture, 32–33)
It has been made known to the Apostolic See that some Catholic laymen and ecclesiastics have enrolled in a society to ‘procure’ as they say, the unity of Christianity, […] Indeed, formed and directed by Protestants, it is animated by that spirit which expressly avows for example, that the three Christian communions, Roman Catholic, Greekschismatic, and Anglican, however separated and divided from one another, nevertheless with equal right claim for themselves the name Catholic. Admission, therefore, into that society is open to all, wheresoever they may live, Catholics, Greek-schismatics, and Anglicans, under this condition, however, that no one is permitted to raise a question about the various forms of doctrine in which they disagree, and that it is right for each individual to follow with tranquil soul what is acceptable to his own religious creed. Indeed, the society itself indicates to all its members the prayers to be recited, and to the priests the sacrifices to be celebrated according to its own intention: namely, that the said three Christian communions, inasmuch as they, as it is alleged, together now constitute the Catholic Church, may at some time or other unite to form one body … The foundation on which this society rests is of such a nature that it makes the divine establishment of the Church of no consequence. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2885–2886. Pius IX. Letter of the Holy Office to the Bishops of England, September 16, 1864)
For, it is wholly in this: that it supposes the true Church of Jesus Christ to be composed partly of the Roman Church scattered and propagated throughout the whole world, partly, indeed, of the schism of Photius, and of the Anglican heresy, to which, as well as to the Roman Church, ‘there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism’(cf. Eph 4:5). Surely nothing should be preferable to a Catholic man than that schisms and dissensions among Christians be torn out by the roots and that all Christians be ‘careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3) But, that the faithful of Christ and the clergy should pray for Christian unity under the leadership of heretics, and, what is worse, according to an intention, polluted and infected as much as possible with heresy, can in no way be tolerated. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2886–2887. Pius IX. Letter of the Holy Office to the Bishops of England, September 16, 1864)
We are now happily called upon to celebrate the Third Centenary of the entrance into heaven of another great saint, one who was remarkable not only for the sublime holiness of life which he achieved but also for the wisdom with which he directed souls in the ways of sanctity. This saint was no less a person than Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Universal Church. Like those brilliant examples of Christian perfection and wisdom to whom We have just referred, he seemed to have been sent especially by God to contend against the heresies begotten by the Reformation. It is in these heresies that we discover the beginnings of that apostasy of mankind from the Church, the sad and disastrous effects of which are deplored, even to the present hour, by every fair mind. (Pius XI. Encyclical Rerum omnium pertubationem, January 26, 1923)
It is now well known to everyone, by the evidence of the facts, that the plan conceived by the heretical sects, multiform emanations of Protestantism, is to raise the standard of discord and religious rebellion in the peninsula (of Italy), but mostly in this noble city (of Rome) which God Himself, admirably ordaining the events, established as the center of this fruitful and sublime unity, the object of which was the prayer addressed by our divine Savior to His heavenly Father (Jn 17:11–21), which was carefully guarded by the Popes, even unto the price of their life, despite the oppositions of men and the vicissitudes of time. After having destroyed, in their respective homelands, by opposite and discordant systems, the venerable and ancient beliefs that were part of the sacred deposit of revelation; after having scattered the icy breath of doubt in the souls of their beholder, of division and unbelief […] these sects have thus introduced themselves into the chosen vineyard of the Lord, with the objective of persuing their disastrous task. […] Being made aware of this fact, before anything We suffer the need to confess, as We have done so on other occasions, just how exasperating is the condition imposed upon the head of the Catholic Church, forced to observe the free and progressive unfolding of the heresy in this holy city, from which must shine forth on the world the light of truth and of good example, and which should be the respected See of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. As if this didn’t suffice, to corrupt the mind and heart of the people, from a torrent of unwholesome doctrines and depravations that spring forth with impunity on a daily basis, from professor’s chairs, from theaters, from newspapers, there had to be added to all these causes of perversion the insidious labor of heretical men which, contending among themselves, are but of one accord to attack the Supreme Pontifical Magisterium, the Catholic clergy, and the dogmas of our holy religion, of which they do not know the meaning and much less appreciate its sublime beauty. (Leo XIII. Apostolic letter to Cardinal Pietro Respighi on protestant proselytism in Rome, August 19, 1900 – In: Lettres apostoliques de s.s. Léon XIII : encycliques, brefs etc)
Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment ‘Love one another’, altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ’s teaching: ‘If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you’ (2Jn 10). (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 9, January 6, 1928)
Ever since the origins of the early Church, due to the necessity that the faith of the elect be proven like gold in the fire, the Apostle, vessel of election, wished to warn the faithful that if someone arise, of those who alter and amend the Gospel of Christ, spreading false doctrines and betraying the depository of the faith, even if it was an angel who evangelized something other than he had, it would be necessary to anathemize him. (Pius IX. Apostolic letter Ad apostolicae sedis, August 22, 1851)
Everyone should avoid familiarity or friendship with anyone suspected of belonging to masonry or to affiliated groups. Know them by their fruits and avoid them. Every familiarity should be avoided, not only with those impious libertines who openly promote the character of the sect, but also with those who hide under the mask of universal tolerance, respect for all religions, and the craving to reconcile the maxims of the Gospel with those of the revolution. These men seek to reconcile Christ and Belial, the Church of God and the state without God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Custodi di quella fede, no. 15, December 8, 1892)
It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members. […] By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism […] This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. (Leo XII. Encyclical Ubi primum, no. 14 May 5, 1824)
Saint Cyprian of Carthage
The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home, with chaste modesty she guards the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God; she assigns the children whom she has created to the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined with an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he who has abandoned the Church arrive at the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He cannot have God as a father who does not have the Church as a mother. If whoever was outside the ark of Noe was able to escape, he too who is outside. the Church escapes. The Lord warns, saying: ‘He who is not with me is against me, and who does not gather with me, scatters.’ He who breaks the peace and concord of Christ acts against Christ; he who gathers somewhere outside the Church scatters the Church of Christ. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage, The unity of the Catholic Church, II, 6)
For everyone, may the principal concern be to strengthen the character of the Catholic people, inspiring noble and holy intentions, at the same time preventing carelessness in which, under the guise of innocent assemblies for young people, conferences for young girls, foreign-language courses, growth of culture, and subsidies to poor families, lies hidden a criminal purpose to insinuate in the minds and hearts the reprobate maxims of heresy. May all the faithful be thoroughly imbued with this truth that nothing can be more precious to them than this treasure that is their Faith, for which their forefathers confronted without fear, not only miseries and deprivations, but also often violent persecutions and even death. (Leo XIII. Apostolic letter to Cardinal Pietro Respighi on protestant proselytism in Rome, August 19, 1900 – In: Lettres apostoliques de s.s. Léon XIII : encycliques, brefs etc)
We mean a perfect and complete union, such as could not subsist in any way if nothing else was brought about but a certain kind of agreement in the Tenets of Belief and an intercourse of Fraternal love. The True Union between Christians is that which Jesus Christ, the Author of the Church, instituted and desired, and which consists in a Unity of Faith and Unity of Government. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Praeclara gratulationis, June 20, 1894)
Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged. […] If, as We desire with all Our heart, the highest possible peak of well being for society and its members is to be attained through fraternity or, as it is also called, universal solidarity, all minds must be united in the knowledge of Truth, all wills united in morality, and all hearts in the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, no. 22–23, August 23, 1910)
In his Controversies, [Saint Francis de Sales], although the holy Doctor made large use of the polemical literature of the past, he exhibits nevertheless a controversial method quite peculiarly his own. In the first place, he proves that no authority can be said to exist in the Church of Christ unless it had been bestowed on her by an authoritative mandate, which mandate the ministers of heretical beliefs in no way can be said to possess. After having pointed out the errors of these latter concerning the nature of the Church, he outlines the notes of the true Church and proves that they are not to be found in the reformed churches, but in the Catholic Church alone. He also explains in a sound manner the Rule of Faith and demonstrates that it is broken by heretics, while on the other hand it is kept in its entirety by Catholics. (Pius XI. Encyclical Rerum omium pertubationem, no. 24, January 26, 1923)
DOCTRINAL COMPLEMENT ON THE ANGLICAN BELIEFS:
Whoever denies any point of the faith, accepting certain things and rejecting others, does not have the virtue of faith, because such a person rejects the authority of God Himself, accepting his own reason.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Neither living nor lifeless faith remains in a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith. The reason of this is that the species of every habit depends on the formal aspect of the object, without which the species of the habit cannot remain. Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II–II, q. 5, a. 3)
Therefore, the persistent denial of a dogma, heresy, is to deny assent to Christ
Now, whoever believes, assents to someone’s words; so that, in every form of unbelief, the person to whose words assent is given seems to hold the chief place and to be the end as it were; while the things by holding which one assents to that person hold a secondary place. Consequently he that holds the Christian faith aright, assents, by his will, to Christ, in those things which truly belong to His doctrine. Accordingly there are two ways in which a man may deviate from the rectitude of the Christian faith. First, because he is unwilling to assent to Christ: and such a man has an evil will, so to say, in respect of the very end. This belongs to the species of unbelief in pagans and Jews. Secondly, because, though he intends to assent to Christ, yet he fails in his choice of those things wherein he assents to Christ, because he chooses not what Christ really taught, but the suggestions of his own mind. Therefore heresy is a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 11, a.1)
For which reason, heresy is a very grave sin, greater than the others
Every sin consists formally in aversion from God, as stated above (I-II, q. 71, a. 6; I-II, q. 73, a. 3). Hence the more a sin severs man from God, the graver it is. Now man is more than ever separated from God by unbelief, because he has not even true knowledge of God: and by false knowledge of God, man does not approach Him, but is severed from Him. […] Nor is it possible for one who has a false opinion of God, to know Him in any way at all, because the object of his opinion is not God. Therefore it is clear that the sin of unbelief is greater than any sin that occurs in the perversion of morals. This does not apply to the sins that are opposed to the theological virtues, as we shall stated further on. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II–II, a. 3)
Heresy is a more grievous sin than that of the Jews or the pagans
It is written (2Pet 2:21): ‘It had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back.’ Now the heathens have not known the way of justice, whereas heretics and Jews have abandoned it after knowing it in some way. Therefore theirs is the graver sin. As stated above (a. 5), two things may be considered in unbelief. One of these is its relation to faith: and from this point of view, he who resists the faith after accepting it, sins more grievously against faith, than he who resists it without having accepted it, even as he who fails to fulfil what he has promised, sins more grievously than if he had never promised it. In this way the unbelief of heretics, who confess their belief in the Gospel, and resist that faith by corrupting it, is a more grievous sin than that of the Jews, who have never accepted the Gospel faith. Since, however, they accepted the figure of that faith in the Old Law, which they corrupt by their false interpretations, their unbelief is a more grievous sin than that of the heathens, because the latter have not accepted the Gospel faith in any way at all. The second thing to be considered in unbelief is the corruption of matters of faith. In this respect, since heathens err on more points than Jews, and these in more points than heretics, the unbelief of heathens is more grievous than the unbelief of the Jews, and that of the Jews than that of the heretics, except in such cases as that of the Manichees, who, in matters of faith, err even more than heathens do. Of these two gravities the first surpasses the second from the point of view of guilt; since, as stated above (a. 1) unbelief has the character of guilt, from its resisting faith rather than from the mere absence of faith, for the latter as was stated (a. 1) seems rather to bear the character of punishment. Hence, speaking absolutely, the unbelief of heretics is the worst. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II–II, q. 10, a.6)
From what we have seen it becomes evident that the Anglican belief is not related to the virtue of faith, but rather a rejection of God. Obviously this does not mean that there are not well-intentioned persons who were born of heretic parents. But to deal with official heresy as if it were part of the seamless tunic of the Lord is blasphemous, as if Christ had anything in common with Satan.