A Statement by the Co-Chairmen of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission

Author(s): Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Mark Santer
Dated: 1994
Protocol: ARCIC-II 329
Persistent link: https://iarccum.org/doc/?d=1107
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Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Mark Santer. "A Statement by the Co-Chairmen of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission", ARCIC-II 329 (1994). https://iarccum.org/doc/?d=1107.

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A Statement by the Co-Chairmen of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission

We present here ARCIC’S Clarifications of Certain Aspects of the Agreed Statements on Eucharist and Ministry and a letter we have received in reply from Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council or Promoting Christian Unity. These mark a very significant moment in the work of ARCIC and in its reception. Consequently, a few words recalling their background may be helpful.

In September 1981, at the final meeting of the first ARCIC in Windsor, England, the first phase of the Commission’s work was brought to a conclusion. This was marked by the publication in 1982 of the Final Report, containing all of the first Commission’s Agreed Statements and Elucidations. From the beginning, the Commission’s method had been determined by the Common Declaration between Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury and Pope Paul VI in 1966. This spoke of “a serious dialogue which, founded upon the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed”. The method was understood by ARCIC as an endeavour “to get behind the opposed and entrenched positions of past controversies” and the deliberate avoidance of the “vocabulary of past polemics, not with any intention of evading the real difficulties that provoked them, but because the emotive associations of such language have often obscured the truth” (Authority in the Church I, 25). When Pope John Paul II received the members of ARCIC in audience at Castel Gandolfo in 1980, he observed that the method of ARCIC had been “to go behind the habit of thought and expression born and nourished in enmity and controversy, to clothe it in a language at once traditional and expressive of the insights of an age which no longer glories in strife”.

By faithfulness to this method, through long, patient and charitable dialogue, in a context of common prayer, ARCIC claimed that it had “reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the eucharist” (Eucharistic Doctrine, 12); and similarly, on the ordained ministry, a consensus where “doctrine admits no divergence” (Ministry and Ordination, 17). For ARCIC, substantial agreement meant that “differences of theology and practice may well co-exist with a real consensus on the essentials of… faith” (Eucharistic Doctrine: Elucidation).

ARCIC never claimed that its agreement on authority had quite the same quality. What was claimed here was highly significant but more limited: “a high degree of agreement on authority in the Church and in particular, on the basic principles of primacy’” (Preface to the Final Report). After careful study of the particular issues of papal primacy and infallibility ARCIC spoke of a “convergence” which, taken with its earlier agreements, appeared “to call for the establishing of a new relationship between our Churches” (Final Report, Conclusion). Both Churches have asked the Commission to continue to work on vital issues connected with authority.

From the beginning the Commission recognized that its agreements could not be ratified by the official authorities “until such time as our respective Churches can evaluate its conclusions” (Eucharistic Doctrine, Co-Chairmen’s Preface). The ARCIC agreements do not therefore represent the end of a process. Rather, dialogue involves not only a readiness to put questions but also to be questioned. The formal presentation of the Agreements for evaluation, in fact, initiated a further vital stage in the process of seeking reconciliation, during which the appropriate authorities in both Communions are called upon to test the adequacy of the Commission’s Agreements in the light of their respective faith and practice.

For the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference of 1988 marked a decisive stage in this process. Prior to this all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion has been asked by the Anglican Consultative Council whether the agreements on the Eucharist and on Ministry and Ordination were “consonant in substance with the faith of Anglicans”. In asking this question of the Provinces, the Council thus set in motion an official procedure to enable the bishops of the Lambeth Conference “to discern and pronounce a consensus” (ACC, Newcastle, 1981). The responses of the Provinces were officially collated, summarized and published in preparation for the Conference. After noting that the Provinces had given “a clear ‘yes’” to these agreements, the Lambeth Conference went on to recognize “the Agreed Statements of ARCIC I on Eucharistic Doctrine, Ministry and Ordination, and their Elucidations as consonant in substance with the faith of Anglicans” (Resolution 8 and Explanatory Note).

After wide consultation and serious reflection, the Catholic Church produced its Response to the Final Report in 1991. It spoke very positively of ARCIC’s work as “a significant milestone not only in relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion but in the ecumenical movement as a whole”, acknowledging “points of convergence and even of agreement which many would not have thought possible before the Commission began its work”. At the same time, concerning the work on Eucharist and Ministry and Ordination for which “substantial agreement” had been claimed, it raised specific issues which “would need greater clarification from the Catholic point of view”.

The response of ARCIC to this request is contained in Clarifications of Certain Aspects of the Agreed Statements on Eucharist and Ministry. These Clarifications must, of course, be read in the context of the earlier Agreements or the issues they deal with will appear to be out of proportion. The Clarifications were submitted to the same (Roman Catholic) authorities from whom the request had come. The text is reproduced here, along with the assessment communicated in a letter from Cardinal Cassidy, to us as Co-Chairmen of ARCIC. It will be seen that ARCIC’s Clarifications are judged to have “indeed thrown new light on the questions” so that, as the Cardinal says, “the agreement reached on Eucharist and Ministry by ARCIC-I is thus greatly strengthened and no further study would seem to be required at this stage”. These clarifications and the Cardinal’s letter constitute a very important element in the reception of ARCIC’s agreements on Eucharist and the understanding of Ministry. It is well known, however, that there remains a serious disagreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion about the ordination of women to the priesthood.

It is our hope that this positive step on the road of reception will assist both Communions to recognize that what ARCIC has stated and now clarified does indeed represent agreement about our respective faith and practice. Though much still remains to be discussed, the agreements reached on the important subjects of Eucharistic Doctrine, Ministry and Ordination constitute an important stage in our growth towards fuller communion. We hope and pray that this now more definitive agreement will spur us on to overcoming other difficulties in the way of the full visible unity which our two communions have committed themselves to seek.

Rt. Rev. Mark SANTER
Co-Chairmen ARCIC-II