Listen to What the Man Said
Some years ago, I mentioned the following item in the pages of Envoy Magazine. I ran across it again and thought I’d post it here, as it’s an interesting slant on the discussions about the role of the Holy Father that have been swirling around among Catholics, Anglicans, and others:
And for some related encouraging news from Great Britain. Under the headline “Churches agree Pope has overall authority,” Oliver Poole wrote in the London Telegraph a few years ago:
“The Pope was recognized as the overall authority in the Christian world by an Anglican and Roman Catholic commission yesterday which described him as a ‘gift to be received by all the Churches.’
“Disagreement about the extent of the Pope’s authority was one of the main causes of the English Reformation in the 16th century, and has been a constant stumbling block to the two Churches reuniting. However, yesterday’s statement, released at Lambeth Palace — which is not binding — accepted that if a new united Church was created it would be the Bishop of Rome who would exercise a universal primacy. Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury . . . said: ‘In a world torn apart by violence and division, Christians need urgently to be able to speak with a common voice, confident of the authority of the gospel of peace.’
“The 43-page document, The Gift of Authority, has been produced by the 18-member Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, after five years of debate. The commission concluded that the Bishop of Rome had a ‘specific ministry concerning the discernment of truth’ and accepted that only the Pope had the moral authority to unite the various Christian denominations. However, it did not go as far as to confirm the Pope’s infallibility. Instead, it said: ‘This form of authoritative teaching has no stronger guarantee from the Holy Spirit than have the solemn definition of ecumenical councils.’ The document does not specifically address the issues that divide the two Churches, such as the place of the Virgin Mary and women’s ministry . . .
“The proposals are expected to shock many Anglicans, particularly on the evangelical wing of the Church, which remains wary of an extension of the bishop of Rome’s authority. Mark Birchall, a member of the Church of England Evangelical council, said: ‘It speaks as if the Bishop of Rome has always been on the side of the angels while it is well known that for several centuries past the Bishop of Rome was certainly not.’ . . . The Rt. Rev. Mark Santer, the bishop of Birmingham and co-chairman of the body, said: ‘This is a serious piece of theological work and to understand our conclusions you have to follow how we got there. One faith was given by Christ and his apostles and what we are trying to do is rediscover that one common faith.’ The Rt. Rev. Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton and the other co-chairman, added: ‘The primacy of the Pope is a gift to be shared.’”
Well, although some individual popes definitely were not on the side of the angels, as I explain in my book Pope Fiction, those bad popes notwithstanding, the good angels have always been on the side of the papacy and the Catholic Church. And now, even Anglican clergymen are saying it publicly.
The wonder of it all, baby.