Sorores in Spe – Sisters in Hope of the Resurrection: A Fresh Response to the Condemnation of Anglican Orders (1896)

13 December 2021 • Persistent link:

The members of the Malines Conversations Group are honoured to invite you to the presentation of their new document:

SORORES IN SPE – Sisters in Hope of the Resurrection: A Fresh Response to the Condemnation of Anglican Orders (1896)

during an ecumenical seminar at the Angelicum’s Institute for Ecumenical Studies, Rome, Wednesday, 15 December 2021, 15:00-16:00, in presence at Aula 11 of the Angelicum or in direct streaming on Angelicum YouTube.

More information & Text of SORORES IN SPE

Abstract & Quotations

Sorores in spe resurrectionis (sisters in hope of the Resurrection) argues that there is an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of revising the negative judgment on Anglican ordinations expressed in Pope Leo XIII’s Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae (1896). The ecclesial and sociocultural contexts then and now are significantly different. Through the intervening years, there has been a vast development of ecumenical exchange, cooperation and dialogue – including the groundbreaking Malines Conversations (1921-6). Anglicans and Catholics are now committed to “walking together” on a way of reconciliation, harmony and common witness to the gospel. Important resources for the proposal to revise the judgment on Anglican orders include the insights of the 20th century Liturgical and Ecumenical Movements, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and telling symbolic gestures from Church leaders. To these should be added reflection on the revised rites of ordination, both Anglican and Catholic. Much theological wisdom can be found in contemporary ordination rites to support a renewed understanding of the ministry of all the baptized, deacons, priests and bishops. A broadened understanding of ecclesiality, mystery, participation and anamnesis has encouraged us to look again with fresh eyes at the reality of the Church as the People of God and the Body of Christ beyond the confines of separated ecclesial bodies. Taking into account all of this evidence, both historical and theological, the Malines Conversations Group believes it is time for the negative judgment of Apostolicae Curae on Anglican ordinations to be revised so that our two communions can more fully embrace one another as “sisters in hope of the Resurrection”.

Times have changed since 1970

“Since 1970, our two communions have grown substantially in unity of faith and service. Much has been achieved. But, there is still much to address. One major issue yet to be resolved is the negative judgement on Anglican ordinations in Leo XIII’s apostolic letter Apostolicae Curae.” (#1)

A call for re-examination

“In the spirit of the friendship at the heart of the Malines Conversations, we have together concluded (i) that the condemnation of contemporary Anglican ordinations because of the perceived deficiencies of rites from the past needs to be re-examined. We also suggest (ii) that the implied judgment that the apostolic succession of the Church of England was lost at the Reformation should be re-examined in the light of contemporary ecclesiological and liturgical understanding of the variety of means by which apostolic succession takes place within authentic traditions of Christian life and worship.” (#23)

The fundamental contribution of symbolic gestures

“Visits of Archbishops to Popes, the attendance of Anglican bishops at ad limina visits and Roman Synods, the visits of St John Paul II and Benedict XVI to England and the offering of joint blessings have cast our relationship in a thoroughly new light. Such actions interpret and develop our theological dialogue. They make visible the practical implications of what we say together. We currently, however, experience a dissonance between theory and practice. The language of signs and symbols reveals a different, deeper reality about mutual recognition which extends beyond the brusque, negative theological judgment of ordination rites in 1896. We need an honest assessment of what all this means. We need an aggiornamento of theory and practice.” (#5)

Vatican II and its theological legacy

“The Second Vatican Council offers a solid theological and hermeneutical basis for questioning the approach and judgment of Apostolicae Curae. In anchoring faith, Church and theology in God’s mystery as God Himself communicated it to humankind, inviting his Church to participate fully in His unique work of redemption and orienting us towards the realisation of His Kingdom, the Council promoted a powerful dynamic of liturgical renewal, mission and service to the world.” (#12)

A view of the priesthood that differs from the one prevailing in 1896

“After much shared study, we feel compelled to present a view of what is entailed by ordination and priesthood which significantly differs from and even questions the view underlying the judgment that Anglican ordinations must be seen as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’.” (#13)

The rediscovery of the diaconate

“When an understanding of the diaconate, which is deeply rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ and expressed in remarkably similar ordination rites, is shared by both our traditions, it seems untenable that there should be no mutual recognition of ministry at this point.” (#16)

The broad and deep sacramental meaning of liturgical celebrations

“When baptized Christians gather for the liturgy of ordination, when they open the Scriptures to listen to God’s Word, when they have these words clarified through preaching, often by the liturgical president, when they sing psalms and hymns, when they join in prayers of thanksgiving, blessing and petition, when special prayers are said with laying on of hands for the Holy Spirit to bestow the gifts of the ministries of the diaconate, the priesthood or episcopate upon tried, examined and well-selected candidates, and when all share in the Eucharist together, receiving and forming the Body of Christ (cf. Augustine, sermo 272), one must conclude there is such a density of sacramental grace that a narrow focus on the question as to whether the form and formula of the ordination rite are precisely correct can actually obscure the mystical reality of what is taking place.” (#19)

To conclude…

“As we have studied the painful historical estrangement between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, we have been struck by how much change there has been in the last century. Since the time of the Malines Conversations, Anglicans and Catholics have learnt to pray together and for one another, our shared study of Scripture and tradition has brought renewal, we have engaged in joint projects of dialogue, discipleship and witness, we have experienced growing friendship. In a world utterly transformed since the end of the nineteenth century, facing difficulties and threats on a scale beyond imagining at that time, we have learnt what it is to share a common hope. We long for our Churches to be able to embrace one another as sisters in Christ.” (#23)