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Recollections of Malines: A contribution to the cause of Christian Reunion
Author(s): Walter Frere, CR
Dated: 1935
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Walter Frere, CR. "Recollections of Malines: A contribution to the cause of Christian Reunion" (1935).

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  • Walter Frere, CR, Recollections of Malines (London: The Centenary Press, 1935)

Recollections of Malines

By Walter Frere, C.R.

London: The Centenary Press, 1935

This document was received from the Project Canterbury archive where it bears a Creative Commons license.


I. The Preliminaries
II. The First Conversation
III. The Second Conversation
IV. The Third Conversation
V. The Interval
VI. The Fourth Conversation
VII. The Final Conversations


I. Outline of Points
II. Cardinal Mercier on the Papacy
III. Speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury
IV. A Memorandum
V. From the Archbishop’s Letter to Anglican Metropolitans
VI. Cardinal Mercier’s Pastoral
VII. Paper of Bishop Gore

pp. 7-9

For a great many years past now there has been a movement for reapproach on the part of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. This was begun and continued on a small scale. From time to time blows have been dealt at the movement which would have reduced its activities to little or nothing; but the movement has continued and still continues.

After the Vatican Council of 1870 the prospects of the movement were not favourable, but the reverse. The spirit of the movement seemed to have abated, when quite suddenly it broke out afresh in the Appeal for the recognition by Rome of Anglican Orders. This Appeal was originated chiefly by two persons: Lord Halifax in England, and the Abbe Portal in France. They soon gathered round it a number of supporters both French and English, men of learning as well as men of heart. Then again came the day of disappointment and disillusionment, as the reply of the Pope ultimately turned out to be hostile to the claims of Anglican Orders. So once more the movement for reapproach sank back. It did not, however, become inactive; for after the war when there were openings on all hands, the same two stalwarts, Lord Halifax and Abbe Portal, determined to make a fresh attempt towards reapproachment.

I had kept in touch with both of them, in England and in France; we had shared hopes and dreamed dreams; and meanwhile a quiet propaganda had been carried out especially by M. Portal and his distinguished circles of friends and allies, with Paris at its centre. But I had never dreamed that such an opening would occur, as did occur. So as I go back to a great pile of letters and papers connected with the Conversations at Malines, 1921 to 1927, I am filled with thankful surprise still. From these letters and papers I have put together a few personal recollections or reminiscences which were written as articles for the Truro Diocesan Gazette (1934) and are now reprinted in book form. They are in no sense a history of the doings at Malines in those years, still less do they give an account of the whole movement of the reapproach. As one of the two surviving English people who took part in those Conversations in fact the only one left who took part in them at all, besides the present Cardinal of Malines (Mgr van Roey) I had specially good opportunities for recording, as time went on, the events of those days. So I make a small contribution to the big history that will surely sometime be written authoritatively when the day has dawned, and the official archives are opened and the full correspondence is available.

February, 1935.

pp. 11-21

A LETTER to me from Lord Halifax dated November 9, 1921, was the first intimation of what was to be. The letter made a suggestion that we should meet, but there was a significant postscript at the end: “I have been seeing and having some talk with Cardinal Mercier.” Our interview followed, an invitation to Malines emerged; and we discussed at great length the possibilities of such an opportunity. If there was to be a conference with the Cardinal at Malines, who should be the people to go there and confer? It would of course be unofficial. So the choice lay with us. Then followed a month containing a good deal of correspondence, more detailed discussion, the preparing of documents and the like. Besides this, it took time to determine finally who should go; it was thought three representatives would be better than two or than four, which was the number first proposed. So we had to choose our third colleague, and it was not an easy task. Many were discussed but deemed unsuitable for one reason or another. Finally, after some pressure from us and from other and higher quarters, Dr. Armitage Robinson, then Dean of Wells, was persuaded to complete the trio.

The time of the invitation was for the week between December 5 and 10, 1921; meanwhile there was a great deal done. Pere Portal, who had been with Lord Halifax at the preliminary visit to the Cardinal at Malines, was of course in close correspondence and co-operation all the time. This good French priest, who had been closely allied with Lord Halifax in schemes of union for a long period, represented on the Roman Catholic side the same hopeful outlook and the same enthusiasm as Lord Halifax himself on the Anglican side; each devotedly loyal to his own communion and finding loyalty no hindrance, but on the contrary a continuous spur, to efforts for the healing of the breach between the two communions.

We came to see that it was advisable that there should be some document prepared for discussion, partly in order to make clear some of the points of Anglican outlook and usage with which Roman Catholics are not as a rule familiar, and partly in order to see that the right class of topics were included, and the right class of questions were propounded, and set in the right sort of light. It was clear from the beginning that all that could be expected from such a meeting was an exploration, a preliminary inquiry, as to whether there was to be found sufficient ground common to the two communions for further discussion to be advisable.

On our side there was a clear starting-point, namely the Appeal of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 “to all Christian people.” But while this provided the justification for the discussion, something else was needed to serve as the actual document to be discussed on such an occasion. It was in view of these conditions that Lord Halifax himself therefore drafted the Memorandum to serve as a basis of discussion. After much criticism and consideration this draft reached the form to which all the conferrers agreed, and which, in a French translation, went beforehand to Malines.

It may here be noted once for all, that two forms of report upon the Conversations have been issued. The first was the Official Report which was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the close of the Conversations and was issued with his permission as a pamphlet dated July, 1927, under the title Conversations at Malines (Oxford University Press). [The first edition was both in English and French. A second edition containing the English only was printed in 1930].

Later on, in 1930, Lord Halifax issued on his own responsibility a collection of the documents concerning the conferences which had not previously been liberated for publication. These formed a small volume, published by Philip Allan & Co. in 1930, also entitled The Conversations at Malines. It contains the Minutes of the four Conversations, together with an Appendix containing as “Annexes” other documents which were utilized in them. First the Lambeth Appeal for reunion was reprinted; then the Memorandum of Lord Halifax; in all a series of sixteen annexes to the Minutes. This little volume was printed in France, partly in French and partly in English. The collection however was neither exact nor complete, as will appear from time to time in these reminiscences.

This caveat must be noted here because what is printed as Annex No. 2 in that volume is not Lord Halifax’s Memorandum in its final shape; by some oversight what has been printed is one of the earlier drafts of the Memorandum, one which subsequently received a good deal of modification, before reaching the final form in which it made its appearance at Malines.

The difference is sufficiently important to justify a few correcting quotations concerning some of the matters of chief importance. In regard to the Papal Supremacy and the Decree of the Vatican Council, the passage as printed in the volume (pages 73-4) was almost entirely rewritten; eventually it was accepted and submitted, in this form.

“Perhaps also not dissimilar considerations might facilitate agreement about difficult points in regard to the Papal Supremacy and the Decrees of the Vatican Council. In regard to the first, it is well to remember, with a view to reunion, two pronouncements of Leo XIII, when, speaking of the independence of the civil society from the temporal, he said with regard to religious society (i) that the Supremacy of the Pope implies no claim to authority in temporal and civil affairs; and (2) that the powers of Bishops exist jure divino. In regard to the Vatican Decree a great difficulty is removed if it is admitted that no power is claimed there by the Council for the Pope apart from the Church ; and that what it claims for the Pope is simply the power, after having taken every means to ascertain what the teaching of the Church is, on any given point, to declare what that teaching is in an authoritative manner. In short the power of the Pope is not the power to declare or impose a new dogma, but only the power to declare explicitly and authoritatively what is the faith committed by our Lord Jesus Christ to the Church’s guardianship. Dr. Pusey said in his preface to the late Bishop of Brechin’s (Bishop Forbes) book on the Articles that there was nothing in the Council of Trent which need constitute a difficulty for the Anglican Church; and that even the Papal Supremacy was open to an interpretation which Anglicans could accept without serious difficulty.”

Similarly the statement in our Memorandum about the Eucharistic Sacrifice took another form.

“That the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass is nothing else than the offering made by our Lord Jesus Christ to His Father, under the sacramental species, of His Body and His Blood, separated in a mystical manner the one from the other by the consecration, in memory of the death and bloodshedding; which He suffered once for all upon the Cross for the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. That the Eucharist is the same sacrifice as that of the cross offered by our Saviour Jesus Christ to His Father mystically and by way of sacrament.”

Once more with regard to the Immaculate Conception, the Memorandum should read very differently on page 77:

“No well instructed Anglican would deny the belief that our Lady was preserved by God’s special grace from every stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception. Such a statement really differs but little from what we are told in the Bible of St. John Baptist’s conception; and if the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is merely that our Lady by the grace of God from the first moment of her conception was placed in a position in relation to God which we believe is granted to every child at its baptism, there is nothing in the dogma itself which every Christian should not be ready to accept. The difficulty lies not in the doctrine itself, but in the history of the Church and the attitude of the Orthodox Church in regard to the dogma – a Church which none can declare to be lacking in the veneration due to the Mother of God – and in the fact of the belief in question being declared an Article of Faith. No one can expect the Roman Church to go back upon what it has authoritatively said. Nor, equally, can the Orthodox Church or the Anglican Church be expected to accept formally what forms no part of their traditional faith, and was not an Article of Faith for Roman Catholics until 1854. There must obviously be accommodations made in regard to all such matters. The Assumption of our Lady is not an Article of Faith, but that does not prevent it from being observed in many Anglican churches. Is it impossible that such difficulties as that of the Immaculate Conception should be obviated by an agreement which would safeguard both sides concerned, Rome on the one side, the Orthodox and the Anglicans on the other? Is it not the fact that at the Council of Florence the decrees of the various Lateran Councils were ignored?”

The Memorandum also is incomplete. It should end with the words: “From this we may surely feel certain that any proposal that came from Rome for the holding of conferences with a view to discussing reunion, would be welcomed by the authorities of the Anglican Church.”

Before the end of the month Lord Halifax had, very prudently, had a satisfactory interview with Cardinal Bourne, and all was getting into train. It became evident that it was desirable that the trio should have some conference together in person before embarking upon their expedition, so as to clear up their own and one another’s minds as to any of the questions that might arise, and to foresee the answers to inquiries that might be made. Accordingly another Memorandum was drawn up to serve as a basis for this discussion between the three conferrers. This discussion was held at Lord Halifax’s house in Eaton Square in preparation for the departure of the trio: the document served its purpose, and was useful for the object for which it was drawn up. It was not produced as a document at Malines and therefore does not figure among the documents of the Conversations. At the same time as an indication of the common mind of those who went, it has a certain value and may deserve to be printed here. (See Addendum I.)

On Monday, December 5, 1921, we set out for Malines under the care of James, Lord Halifax’s admirable valet. He became quite a part, an inseparable part indeed, of the conferences, being excellent company on the journey, very capable in seeing us and our luggage into the right places: and very acceptable also when we got to Malines, for he had already friends there who had been refugees at Hickleton in the days of the war. Arriving late the same evening at Malines, we were greeted with a voice that it seemed almost impossible to believe was not an English voice; it came from Canon Dessain, the Cardinal’s Chaplain and an old member of Christ Church at Oxford. From that moment his help and companionship was a very marked feature of Malines. That welcome was the first episode that I remember. The second was of a different nature. As the Dean emerged from our carriage, a grand silhouette in the dark station with his decanal hat and gaiters, a man waiting on the platform, having some suspicion of what was going on, supposed that this great figure must be the Cardinal himself, and knelt for his blessing, helped perhaps by the glint of the decanal ring upon the figure’s finger. The Dean was a little puzzled at first to know exactly what was happening; but when it was explained to him, he rose to the occasion: and the good man did not go away un-blessed.

So we drove away to the Archbishop’s house – a large and rather gaunt building erected round three sides of a quadrangle with a garden in the middle, and the garden extending out on the fourth side. A rather prohibitive-looking door and porter’s lodge opened before us, and we came into the Archeveche itself. A very spacious staircase of an official kind faced us, leading to official rooms on the one side and to the more domestic rooms and the guest rooms on the other, all on the upper floor.

We tumble out of the darkness and see in the light the tall dominating figure of the Cardinal bending down to welcome his guests with that singular charm which was his; with him is Pere Portal, who had already arrived from Paris, and the third figure, unknown to us then but very well known to us later, Mgr. Van Roey, the Archbishop’s Vicar-General, who was to be the third member of the trio on that side. Supper gave us our first opportunity of common intercourse, and then followed a little polite talk and bed. The first discussion is to begin the morning following; and what will come of it?

pp. 22-29

December 6 we attended the Chapel of the Palace on our side of the building. The Cardinal had his private oratory on the other side, and according to Belgian custom its ways were a good bit earlier than ours. At ten o’clock we met in a large and rather formal and cold salon; the Cardinal joined us from the other side, and opened the Session. The Minutes which are given in Lord Halifax’s little volume give an authentic account of the first proceedings, and indeed of all the later ones also. The opening address, after the Cardinal’s greeting, was made by Lord Halifax, who utilized to the best purpose for us throughout the Conversations his command of the French language and knowledge of Roman Catholic thought. It was agreed to take his Memorandum as the basis for discussion. The Cardinal read the opening part of it and Lord Halifax commented at considerable length on the subject. (See Annex No. 2 in the volume.)

The first subject was the nature of the Church: in the discussion of Lord Halifax’s section on this subject, the Cardinal raised the question of the Church Visible, and the Church Invisible; we each set aside any idea of regarding the Church merely as an invisible body, maintaining that baptism in itself was sufficient to constitute membership of the Visible Church. But to us a reply was given that the larger view was nevertheless worth bearing in mind; the Invisible Church as well as the Visible should be taken into account, as including, in some sense, the membership of some of those who are formally outside. In the end, however, two propositions were agreed upon (as set out in the Minutes), emphasizing the point that persons baptized become incorporated into an organized social life: and that an apostolic hierarchy, apostolic in history and character, together with the divine sacraments are characteristic and necessary features of the same, being established for the Church by divine order.

Discussion then passed to consider the Anglican attitude towards the Council of Trent, and the Council of the Vatican. The Anglicans were not altogether agreed as to the possibility of reconciling Trent with Anglican doctrine.

The Dean was doubtful whether such reconciliation was possible, and expressed himself as not satisfied with Tract 90. At the same time he explained carefully what was the nature of the Assent to the Thirty-nine Articles required in the English Church. He had taken pains to discuss this matter with the Archbishop of Canterbury previous to coming, and was enabled therefore authoritatively to expound what the Assent to the Articles, as at present made, really implied. He agreed, however, that they need form no obstacle to further discussion, in the sense in which they were now taken or imposed. Passing on then to the Papacy and the relations between the Pope and the Council, the question was asked in what way a doctrine could become a matter of faith in the view of the Roman Catholics. To this question Mgr. Von Roey gave in reply the definition quoted in the Minutes; and the Anglican criticisms there recorded then followed. The Cardinal then explained that the Pope is not apart from the Episcopate or the Church; and does not act as an individual, but on behalf of all. What is called a new doctrine is not really new, but implanted already in the Christian tradition, and emerging, in a sense, in the same sort of way as in the human mind an idea is conceived and then only later on finds expression. Our own conference will illustrate that; for we began with half-expressed opinions and ideas in our several minds, which only in the course of discussion became growing convictions and ultimately present our corporate mind.

In conclusion it was felt that no agreement could be said to have been reached upon this point, but that the explanation given by Mgr. Van Roey would be very valuable for future discussion.

In the afternoon’s meeting the Cardinal read the rest of the Memorandum, and it was then discussed section by section. The section of the Memorandum concerning the Holy Eucharist, basing itself upon the Catechism and Anglican formularies, was accepted as a statement of Catholic fact, but the Anglicans were unable to accept the formulated scholastic doctrine of Transubstantiation as a satisfactory explanation of the Real Presence. In this connexion Article XXVIII was explained and discussed. Mgr. Van Roey was anxious to argue that Transubstantiation was the only reasonable explanation; it was thought best therefore to drop this side of the matter and the use of the term, and to keep to the fact that it was meant to guard. As to the practices quoted in that Article, it was said of them that the Anglicans did not condemn the practices themselves, but only insisted that they were not necessary. The discussion of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist which followed is fully recorded in the published Minutes of the day. On the question of the chalice the Cardinal explained that it was withheld for practical reasons, and the withdrawal had no dogmatic significance. He thought it would not make a difficulty; there were signs in the Roman Church of a desire for the restoration of communion in both kinds, which was not treated as impossible in itself; indeed the Uniat discipline on the point had to be taken into account as expressing the wider view.

On the question of imposing any doctrines as “Articles of Faith” it was agreed that in principle it is right: and also that there was agreement between us on most of the doctrines recognized as such; but not on all. The Anglicans desired that those that could not be treated as universally agreed upon should be left optional.

The Dean raised the question of jurisdiction by saying that any National Church ought to have a measure of Home Rule; and, while bound by loyalty to the whole Church, should not be tied in lesser matters. Thus the Bishops should be free to govern their dioceses and not be subjected to a series of orders from outside. The Cardinal replied that Bishops exercised their authority jure divino in their own dioceses; that is to say, their jurisdiction is not derived only through the Pope; and that in fact in the Roman system they have much more liberty of individual action than the Anglicans seem to recognize, quoting instances to illustrate this statement. His own practice was to ascertain the views of Rome for prudence sake; but he would have felt bound to resist the Germans even if the Pope had disapproved. The session closed with a discussion of the other points indicated in the Minutes.

At the conclusion it was agreed that Minutes should be drawn up, utilizing very largely the notes that I had attempted to make of the progress of the discussion, as it went on, though these were necessarily disconnected and incomplete, owing to the necessity of taking my part in the discussion. The duty was laid upon Portal and me of drawing up the Minutes in French and English; and we spent a long evening at this task, being very anxious to set out the matter while it was all fresh in our memories.

The next day was devoted to the Lambeth Appeal (Annex No. I). The Cardinal read this sometimes in Latin, sometimes in French, and sometimes in English. Chapter VI was important. Explanation was made by Mgr. Van Roey with regard to the relation of the Bible to the definition of “doctrine.” The word “ultimate” in the Appeal was much criticized and proved unacceptable to the Roman Catholics; they equally misliked the word “supreme.” The Anglicans explained that in their view the demand for an explicit biblical authority applied only to those matters which are “of faith”; this view, it seems, was not unacceptable to some Roman Catholic authorities, though it was not accepted by all; but many were anxious to maintain that in fact there was such immediate biblical authority for whatever they demanded as “of faith.” The discussion on Chapter VII is very fully recorded in the Minutes and they at this point are particularly authoritative; because after they had been drawn up and submitted for verification, they were a good deal amplified and amended in the subsequent session; in particular the Cardinal made himself responsible for the exact form of the words attributed to him.

In the afternoon session a great deal of time was given to the revision of the Minutes submitted, and to an explanation of the concrete proposal about Anglican Orders made in Chapter VIII of the Lambeth Appeal. The Cardinal was naturally very reticent about this, but expressed the opinion that Ordination sub conditione might be required and might be found satisfactory, but some sort of supplement also might be a conceivable plan of regularization.

The morning of Thursday was given to framing and polishing of Minutes which were again considered in the afternoon session, amended and approved.

So ended the first conference. It covered an enormous piece of ground and we ended with great hopes and much reassurance as to the value of continuing the work of the Conversations at some subsequent time and convenient place. On Friday, December 9, 1921, we returned to England, the Dean to Lambeth where he reported to the Archbishop: and all seemed well.

pp. 30-34

A YEAR passed; this was full of discussion as to future continuance of the Conversations thus begun: filled by correspondence with the Authorities, here in England, by mutual visits between Hickleton and Mirfield, and by correspondence with the Cardinal, in which, besides Lord Halifax, the Archbishop of Canterbury took some part. Meanwhile Lord Halifax was also busy with the publication in English of a Pastoral letter of the Cardinal’s, to which he wrote an Introduction. Soon the question arose as to the members who should take part in any future continuance, their number, and the amount of authority that they should have; it was felt on both sides that there should be more recognition of what was going on, though still not any authoritative approval.

Before the year was out, the Cardinal wrote saying that he had reason to believe that the Conversations were being followed with approval in Rome, and that their continuance would be well regarded. This led to the same question being more distinctly raised on the English side, and some little skirmishing as to the amount of authority and responsibility that either party would take. In the end, a happy solution was reached. The same people were to go to the Conferences as before; they would go with the approval of their Authorities; but they would make their own programme, would be responsible for their own statements, and would not be in any sense official representatives of either side.

As to the subject of the next Conference, it was thought by us that, having had a preliminary survey of matters of doctrine, we should next have something of a preliminary survey concerning matters of discipline and jurisdiction, conducted on the same lines. So preparation was made for a Conversation on these lines. The English representatives adopted a brief Memorandum setting out the questions which they wished to have discussed; and this was submitted to the Cardinal to form a basis for the next gathering, which was fixed for March 14-15, 1923.

This is the brief document which is printed in the Malines volume as Annex No. 3. It had been hoped that some similar summary of suggestions or questions would have come from the Roman Catholic side, but this did not eventuate; so this second set of Conferences centred also round an English draft.

In this set of Conversations there was a much further approach made to the hot points of controversy; the previous set had aimed at establishing the points where agreement between each could fairly easily be found. This one raised some of the thorniest questions, those on which any sort of agreement was much more unlikely. It would not have been possible to have carried it on with the frankness and good temper which prevailed, unless already the group that was gathered round the table had achieved a very close friendship, mutual respect and unity of heart.

The printed Minutes represent faithfully the progress of the debate. The consideration of the Anglican Memorandum occupied the first two sessions ; after that it was thought well that each side should draw up a brief Memorandum of its own on the points at issue, making it as pacific as possible, but stating clearly and frankly where differences lay. On the second day these two Memoranda were produced, criticized and amended; it was decided to forward each, after signature by the members who produced it, for submission to each of the Authorities concerned. Before separating, the documents in their final form were produced, signed and attested. Each trio signed its own Memorandum, and this was countersigned by the trio of the other party, attesting it as the actual counter-statement. It is important to emphasize what was involved in these two sets of signatures, because they have been much misunderstood. Neither party signed the other’s Memorandum, as approving it, but only authenticating it as being the opposite document. These form Annex No. 4 in the Malines volume; but the names subscribed should be placed differently and in double column, those signing their own document on the right hand side, and those attesting it on the left hand side. It was not unnatural that on our return the result of these discussions should cause more questioning in the minds of those who knew about them than the previous Conversations had done. Some mistake, that arose about the signatures and their significance, made matters worse. And the breathing of the word pallium caused shudders in Lambeth and elsewhere. But those who were at the Conference itself felt that, having taken their courage in both hands, they had been guided through many difficult places and maintained their loyalty, whilst at the same time appreciating more fully than before the opposite position. A preliminary survey had been made which justified the hope that even the most difficult things could be profitably discussed; and all this was much to the good.

pp. 35-46

The English party returned from Malines (March 1923) looking forward to a speedy resumption of the Conversations, probably in the autumn. But for a considerable time this prospect was overcast. Correspondence between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal showed that the Archbishop, though sympathetic and friendly, was inclined to write in a dry style and with great caution. The Cardinal on his side reported to Rome on the subject of the Conferences and received back a very encourag­ing reply. It seemed therefore for some time that England might be compelled to withdraw itself from any further hope of Conversations.

The circumstances at the time made the anxieties all the more acute. Lord Halifax issued a fresh pamphlet [1] and presented his views (but not in a form to be endorsed by the others). So the authorities were further alarmed; and the alarm was made more acute later on in the summer by the action taken at the Anglo-Catholic Congress and especially the telegram sent from there to the Pope. However, as time went on, the way began to open again for a resumption of the Conversations. It be­came clear all round that the crucial question of the Papal Supremacy must be fully faced and discussed. The Cardinal was explicit about that; he had been a little disappointed, I think, that more had not been done on that line at the previous preliminary Conversations. The Archbishop of Canterbury was of the same opinion, because he thought that the Confer­ences ought not to have dealt with details, as they had done in the second set of Conferences, until they had faced the main problem. A sharp little controversy between Bishop Gore and Mgr. Batiffol added some fuel to the fire; but at the same time in the long run it lighted the way to the future.

It had always been hoped that the number of persons on each side might be increased; names had been discussed at various stages; and steadily the opinion grew that the future Con­ferences would be of more value if there were a couple of representatives added to each side. The little controversy above mentioned seemed to indicate that Bishop Gore and Mgr. Batiffol had better argue out their case round the Car­dinal’s table in Conference. So that would form at any rate one part of any programme that might be drawn up.

At the same time it also became clear that, previous to any discussion of the light thrown upon the problem of the Papacy by the later part of Early Church history, the biblical ques­tion must be tackled first. With some difficulty the Dean of Wells was induced to set out in a Memorandum a view of the position of St. Peter as it emerged from the New Testament. This he did with admirable brevity and clearness, as a true disciple of Lightfoot and Hort.

It was arranged at the same time that memor­anda should be prepared for the discussion between Bishop Gore and Mgr. Batiffol. Simul­taneously it was decided that the additional representative from the English side should be Dr. Kidd, the Warden of Keble; and he pre­pared two Memoranda dealing with the later stages of Church History. To the other side there was added by the Cardinal a very distin­guished scholar in the person of Pere Hippolyte Hemmer, a well-known French church-historian, formerly a professor, and subsequently the parish priest of the very important parish of the Holy Trinity in Paris. So the plans began to take definite shape, dates were discussed and a settle­ment was made for a renewal of the Conversations in November.

Thus we begin the second phase of the Con­versations, which, while retaining the ground won at the exploratory conferences in the way of friendly and mutual understanding, was able to go on more into details and use more formal kind of discussion. The increase in the numbers necessarily made the discussions a little more formal; but also a great deal more was done this time in the way of preparation of papers and of replies to papers. One result is that the printed documents in the Malines volume represent much more fully the course of the discussion as it took place in this later phase than was the case in the earlier phase.

Besides the memoranda thus prepared, there was in the background a statement made by the Cardinal in regard to the crucial question of the Papacy. The Archbishop of Canterbury had put questions to him shortly after the second conference, on the subject of the papal claims, to which the Cardinal gave a short and clear reply. The statement excerpted from this letter will show how the Cardinal handled the matter. It is printed at the end of this book as Addendum II.

Side by side with the official negotiations, which gradually steadied themselves and made the prospect of future Conversations more clear, there was a good deal going on unofficially. Much notice was taken of a reply made in the form of an Open Letter by Miss Petre, the well-­known friend and biographer of Father Tyrrell, to tbe Tract which Lord Halifax had issued the previous autumn. The Guardian in July printed Miss Petre’s letter in full, and devoted a leading article to the subject. It printed also Lord Halifax’s reply to Miss Petre’s letter. The Guardian took a friendly line, though without endorsing a good deal of what Lord Halifax had said; and it commended the whole matter to the attention and interest of its readers. This was all to the good. Another and less happy form of commentary arose out of a communica­tion in the Press from Father Woodlock, S.J., on the subject of Reunion. The Anglo-Catholic Congress in July 1923 also had a good bit of bearing on the case, not only on account of the incident already related, which was brief and transient, but also on account of a very solid paper concerning the relations between Anglicans and Romans, which was contributed to the Congress by Dr. Hall, the well-known American theologian.

As the time drew nearer for the next visit to Malines a long-desired plan for a larger consul­tation to be held by leading members of the English Church among themselves was carried out; and a Colloquy took place at Lambeth on October 2. To this representatives of many different phases of English church life were invited. In view of this gathering the Five prepared a Memorandum, in order to be ready to answer questions which might there be put to them as to what they had in mind and what their intention and outlook were. This Colloquy did a good deal of good; it brought all sorts of people into touch with the real facts, allayed many suspicions, and revealed a far larger measure of agreement than had been expected.

It was introduced by an important speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury, expressing his view of the situation, explaining what had been done already, and what was in contemplation. He put the matter before the whole body assembled, and the discussion that arose upon it was important and helpful. The big questions were discussed on the basis of what the Arch­bishop had said; this debate filled up the time available, and there was no necessity to bring forward the Memorandum which the Five had prepared for the Colloquy.

It seems advisable now, however, to print not only the Archbishop’s speech, which itself became subsequently something of the nature of Instruc­tions for the Anglican representatives in regard to their new Conversations; but also the outline Memorandum which the Five had prepared for themselves, and, if it had been needed, for sub­mission at the Colloquy. These two documents therefore are also here included at the end of this volume. (Addenda III and IV.)

The third group of Conversations began on November 7, 1923. After the Cardinal’s wel­come, the Dean of Wells was called upon to expound his Memorandum entitled “The posi­tion of Saint Peter in the Primitive Church. A summary of the New Testament evidence.” It is printed in full as Annex 5 of the Malines volume.

The first section concerning the Epistle to the Ephesians was read first (pages 89 and 90 ), and a long discussion followed upon this. It was the principal feature of the morning session, and revealed the width of the chasm. After it the rest of the paper was read without halting at any of its individual sections, except that there was a brief discussion of the same sort after the evidence of the Epistles had been taken, and before passing on to the section concerning the Gospel evidence (pages 93-102). At the head of this section was prefixed an important state­ment by the Dean supported by Dr. Kidd, to the effect that allowance must be made for development in early doctrine and practice, and therefore the interpretation of the Gospels on the point was more tentative than that of the later documents. The discussion occupied all the rest of the morning. The new members took a very prominent part in it; Lord Halifax less than before, for he found increasing difficulty in hearing what went on since we had enlarged numbers and the table round which we sat.

In the afternoon the paper that had been prepared by Mgr. Batiffol in detailed reply to the Dean of Wells was read and discussed. Batiffol soon showed himself a very able and sympathetic disputant. He had not, to begin with, the intimate knowledge of the Anglican outlook which M. Portal brought with him; but he seemed quickly to grasp a great deal of it, and to understand it much more readily than either the Cardinal or Mgr. Van Roey; per­haps because he had a more historical and a less scholastical mind and training. The dis­cussion that followed Batiffol’s paper, stage by stage, was of the same quick, frank and learned kind as the morning discussion had been. It is impossible to summarize it, but the two docu­ments are printed as Annex 5 and Annex 6 in the Malines volume. It must be left to the reader of them now to judge how far the reply on the biblical question was effective. This can practically be judged from the printed papers. My own impression at the time was that our biblical argument had not been really faced; apparently one or two texts concerning St. Peter had hypnotized the Roman Catholics in their outlook, to the exclusion of the scriptural des­cription of the Church itself; and a re-reading of the documents confirms me in this. Anyhow the documents are there, and anyone can judge for himself.

The differences revealed were wide; but it was resolved at the end of the afternoon session that each side should set down a brief statement of its own which should emphasize the points of agreement rather than the differences. These two statements are printed in the pamphlet con­taining the official report of The Conversations at Malines, and reference must be made there for them (pp. 17-19).

At the third session, on the morning of November 8, the two Statements which had been drawn up in the interval were read and further discussed. After the reading, and before the discussion, the subjects assigned to that session were taken, namely, the two Memoranda which had been prepared by Dr. Kidd, the first dealing with a review of “The Petrine texts, as employed up to A.D. 461,” with Batiffol’s reply to it. The second, dealing with the Refor­mation period and the repudiation of Papal authority, was then read; and it formed the main subject for discussion at the afternoon conference. These three papers are included in the Malines volume as Annexes 7-9.

In the morning the chief critic on the subject of the patristic outlook had been Batiffol; in the afternoon the main criticism came from P. Hemmer. Dr. Kidd’s first paper had ended with five conclusions for which he thought there would be general agreement. The wording of these was modified in view of the discussion that had taken place; and the five points appear in their amended form in the official report of The Con­versations at Malines (page 20). P. Hemmer had drafted very skilfully another summary of dog­matic points of agreement; and there was a con­siderable discussion as to whether this could be signed by all the parties there. It was felt however that, even after all this discussion, the real examination of the dogmatic position of the Papacy as held by Roman Catholics had not been carried out to the full; and that, pending this, signatures to a document of this sort might be misleading. All therefore finally agreed that it yet remained to go into the doc­trine more deeply: and that meanwhile it would be wisest to conclude this group of Conversa­tions with a set of minutes which would incor­porate the two historical Statements which had been made, and the five points of Dr. Kidd’s first Memorandum, as amended. These minutes were drawn up, and an evening meeting was held at which the minutes were accepted. These minutes are given in the official report (pages 16-20 ). The net result then was that the Con­ferences were adjourned to some later date, which ultimately proved to be May 20, 1925.

It was agreed that very encouraging results had come from the present series of Conversa­tions: but that the doctrine underlying the papal claim needed fuller examination later on.

The printed papers as given in full in the Malines volume, Annexes 5-9, therefore repre­sent in the fullest form what took place: and they must be read in conjunction with the minutes and the official report in The Conversa­tions at Malines.

1. Further Considerations on behalf of Reunion. Mowbray, 1923.

pp. 47-53

AFTER the third set of Conversations a wider publicity was given to the events that had taken place. Shortly after the return of the party the Archbishop of Canterbury determined to issue a circular letter to the Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Anglican communion in the form of a Report upon the response that had been received to the Letter on Reunion of the Lambeth Conference sent out in 1920. He took this opportunity at Christmas, 1923, of speaking not only of what had been going on along well-known lines and upon well-worn ground, but also of giving an account of what had been happening at Malines. This was desirable for the information of our people at home, and also it enlisted the interest of those in the Anglican communion generally. The Archbishop put the whole proceedings in their proper light, and explained his own share in the matter.

Practically the whole of the second part of the Letter was given up to the question of Malines. (See Addendum V.) The move was a wise one; it was found desirable that there should be an authentic statement of what had been going on, and what it involved and what it did not involve. The immediate effect of the Letter, as might be supposed, was to cause a somewhat violent reaction in two opposite camps; the English Roman Catholics were greatly upset to know what had been going on, and there was a considerable agitation caused in Protestant circles in England, both inside and outside the Church, accompanied by something like protest and dismay. Two points may however be noted as an indication that the latter form of reaction was not nearly so violent as might have been expected. First, it was natural enough that the nonconformist delegates who were meeting in conference with the Anglicans from time to time at Lambeth should have raised the question and asked for explanations. It is noteworthy that the explanations given were acceptable, and that even in some quarters a measure of approbation was given. Secondly, the matter came up in the Convocations, not by way of any resolution, but by way of a statement made by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his speech delivered in the Upper House on February 6, 1924. No formal cognizance thereupon was taken of the information given. In both Convocations the statement made was accepted by nearly all with confidence in what had been done. In one Convocation a single Bishop stood out in protest, and in the other there was no difference of opinion of such a character as to indicate disapproval of what had been done.

Meanwhile similar action had been taken by the Cardinal in Belgium. There too criticism had been busy, the Cardinal’s action had been hotly attacked, and strong blasts of disapproval had come across the Channel from England. To these the Cardinal replied in a letter to his clergy of January 18, 1924, which was devoted to an explanation and a justification of the Conversations at Malines. (See Addendum VI.)

We are thus provided with a valuable summary of the situation as it was seen by the two chief parties concerned; it is interesting to observe the difference of outlook. Our Archbishop was proceeding, slowly but steadily and with a certain amount of increased faith, in forwarding the Conferences. The Cardinal, on the other hand, was eager from the first, but was finding it rather difficult to be faced with the delays, and never really understanding the Anglican position, as his letter shows. The largeness of his heart embraced us all, but his head did not seem to take in our position. He had clearly established a logical argument for the Papacy, and a position that satisfied him: a great deal of the discussions on the subject must have seemed to him very irrelevant; historical considerations, even the history of doctrine, did not seem to appeal to him, and naturally therefore ideas of theological development were in the same case. Naughty children we were, obstinate and stupid as well, but we must be treated with the utmost patience and generosity. So the heart triumphed over the head, and the ensuing story will show how far the Cardinal was prepared to venture and to go, for our sakes, however stupid and recalcitrant we might be.

After this balancing up on each side it was hoped that we should be able to look forward to the next Conference, and May was the time appointed; but delays occurred, and though they were for the most part merely due to such obstacles as the pressure of engagements, the difficulty of finding a time that was convenient to everybody, and, in the case of the Dean of Wells, the need of recovery from an accident, it was regrettable that a continued series of postponements went on. The interval was not without its interviews between individual members, both on this side of the Channel, and also across the Channel. Lord Halifax paid a personal visit to the Cardinal, and Bishop Gore met some of the members of the group in Paris; these gatherings were quite unofficial. In fact the main business that was going on in the latter half of the year was the preparation of memoranda for the next Conference. It was hoped that then the Roman Catholics would take the lead and bring forward their points for our criticism; and it was specially desired that Mgr. Van Roey, the present Cardinal, would contribute a paper on the dogmatic claims of the Papacy. All this took place as planned, and the results of it were seen in the ensuing Conference. On our side of the water there was a gathering at Bishop Gore’s house in Margaret Street, which helped much in the preparation of our contributions to the coming discussion; and served to clear up a good many points on our side. It was a nice change to be at Malines in the spring instead of the winter. We were kept too hard at work to profit very much by anything else but the work itself, but the journey and the sojourn itself were the more pleasant because of the better season of the year. And in the Cardinal’s house too there was the added warmth of pure friendship. I remember several details of the conversation round his table of a very friendly character, with plenty of chaff and fun between the meetings. The Frenchmen generally led the way in this, Portal with a rich but very quiet humour, Batiffol very sparkling and brilliant. I remember going out with Bishop Gore for a short walk before our morning meeting ; as we got outside we found a Rogation-tide procession on its way through the parish, so we joined in and followed for some time until it was time to get back to our gathering.

At dejeuner subsequently Batiffol said to the Cardinal, Eminence, do you know that there were two Anglican Bishops following in the Rogationtide procession this morning?”

The Cardinal in his grave way said, “Then indeed we are coming nearer to unity.”

“Yes,” said Batiffol, “but does your Eminence know that they didn’t follow the procession the whole way?”

“Ah?” said the Cardinal.

“No, they left just before the prayer for the Pope.” This scandalous misstatement was drowned in roars of laughter; in fact we had left in the middle of the invocations of Virgin Martyrs.

But the serious business of the Conferences grew and deepened in the middle of the increasing friendliness and perhaps partly because of it. The topics that had been carefully prepared beforehand, thesis and antithesis, are shown pretty completely in Lord Halifax’s book on Malines. But something must be added about the course of the discussion, and about one unexpected and surprising contribution to it.

pp. 54-58

AT this fourth Conference the opening was made by the other side. Mgr. Van Roey read his paper on the Papacy viewed from the theological point of view. This was an excellently framed statement, scholastic and lucid, of the position as held officially in the most exacting form. It was not for us to make replies to this, only to ask questions designed to elucidate points where they were doubtful. Some similar questions were asked by some of the Roman Catholic representatives; and in consequence the writer reconsidered some of the statements that he had made, and produced a revised form of certain passages to meet the criticisms. Dr. Kidd’s reply followed very closely upon the lines of the argument of Mgr. Van Roey. The discussion which took place was friendly as well as frank. The printed collection of the Malines documents gives the papers in full (Annexes 10 and n), and a description of the morning session. In the afternoon session Pere Hemmer read his paper on the Relations of the Pope and the Bishops (see Annex No. 12). This long paper proved to be an able and comprehensive summary of an historical kind. The general praise and gratitude with which the Memorandum was greeted did not prevent a good deal of criticism from being offered. In the evening of the same day the Anglican representatives discussed among themselves the position that had been reached, with a view to producing some sort of memorandum to serve as a sort of review of what had taken place so far.

At the third session came the surprise of the gathering. The Cardinal himself opened the meeting.

A question which was put to him, at a venture, seemed to lead directly to the topic on which he wished to speak. The question was in essence, “Could not your outlook be enlarged sufficiently to take us in?” The Cardinal said that he was profoundly moved by this consideration. He had long since come to the conclusion that the Roman Church could not hope to absorb the Anglicans into its own Latin and Western church organization. At the same time it could not give up its own ways and tenets. Therefore some middle term seemed to be needed, if possible, which would bring an end to the separation of Anglicanism from Rome, whilst at the same time not absorbing it. He had therefore put the question to a Canonist, “Is it possible that the English Church could be re-united without being absorbed in the Roman Church?” and he had elicited from him a paper, which he submitted to us for our consideration. At the same time he said that on his side he would report upon this move to Rome, acting on his own private responsibility. He then read the Memorandum of the Canonist (which is Annex No. 13 in the Malines volume).

The document consists of an introduction, an historical consideration, a description of the existing Uniat plans, and finally an application of considerations of this sort to the case of England, before leading up to practical conclusions.

All this took our breath away, especially as it seemed to lead up to a proposal for a Canterbury patriarchate.

Without then having the document before us, it was not easy, or even suitable, to deal with matters of so great importance without previous consideration. A short discussion therefore followed which is fairly fully described in the printed Minutes of the meeting.

Thereupon there followed naturally and suitably the paper of Bishop Gore, which put briefly and very temperately the question, “How far there could be room found for differences of opinion on minor points, provided that there was agreement on the major and vital points?” This paper has not been printed hitherto; it should appear with the others between Annex 13 and Annex 14; but it is not included in the volume. It displayed great qualities, as might be made out from the reply made by Mgr. Batiffol, which is printed as Annex 14; and still more from the paper itself which is now printed, as Addendum VII, herewith. The discussion waxed hot at times without ceasing to be quite friendly, and in fact it carried us beyond the time for adjournment. So after a couple of hours interval we returned to the fourth session, when Mgr. Batiffol continued his paper. The warm discussion was not taken up again. Bishop Gore as protagonist (and others as well) felt that he had said at last, with an explicitness which would have been previously impossible, what he felt bound to say. Indeed this friendly duel had brought out in the form of question and answer a part of the most crucial topic which, from the first, it had been most necessary to elucidate. The rest of the Anglicans had drawn up a schedule of positive statements with regard to the Relation of the Pope to the Bishops (Annex No. 15), which had been hammered out with some difficulty after considering a number of different propositions brought up among our representatives.

After the Canonist’s statement had been digested, the next business planned was to attempt to draw up some corresponding schedule about the Pope and the Bishops on the negative side, indicating the criticisms and apprehensions which would have to be taken into account. But, after discussion, it was thought wisest to leave out all this negative side of the question, and to state merely what we could say on the positive side, thus leaving over for the present any attempt to formulate the differences or disagreements that had emerged in the course of the discussion, unless we were pressed to do so. Obviously it was more advisable, as the Cardinal urged, to emphasize at this stage our points of agreement, than to magnify those differences, which now had been clearly stated, but had not been finally argued out in the course of the Conversations.

In the evening the Minutes were submitted, carefully scrutinized and finally adopted. So ended the fifth session of the Fourth Conference.

pp. 59-62

THIS meeting proved to be the last of the set of Conversations held under the presidency of the Cardinal. It was hoped by us all that there would be a speedy resumption of the conferences, either for taking up some subjects afresh, or, at any rate, with the object of bringing out some Report for publication, which would summarize what had been done. Much correspondence ensued on all sides, as well as a considerable amount of conference between the English representatives. All was arranged ultimately for a resumption of the Conversations on January 25, 1926; but, with the New Year, came the news of the Cardinal’s illness; and the meeting was necessarily postponed.

Then came, as all will know, the touching end of the Cardinal. This has been described by Lord Halifax himself,1 writing with special insight and intimacy in regard to their own intimate relations. The closing scenes have been related also in the Press and in biography with reference to their more public aspect. In all this I had no part; nor was I able to go over to Belgium for the funeral with Lord Halifax and Dr. Kidd. In the end it was not till October n, 1926, that we Conferrers took again the road to Malines. Our members were reduced, Mgr. Van Roey, who had now become Archbishop, and was soon to be Cardinal, presided in place of Cardinal Mercier; MM. Batiffol and Hemmer both were there: three on their side; and similarly three on our side: Halifax the indefatigable, Dr. Kidd, who had taken a prominent part latterly in all the correspondence as well as in the conferences, and myself. It was an added grief and loss that Portal’s place was vacant as well as the Cardinal’s. On our side we were without the Dean of Wells and Bishop Gore. It was obvious that what it was possible to do at this gathering would not be the taking up of any new line, or the making of any fresh attempt or further development; but it was hoped that progress on the lines of the Conversations would be continued later on. What was feasible at the moment was the plan, that had already been formulated, of producing a publication designed to serve as an Interim Report of what had been done so far.

The Dean had drafted a description on our behalf. Pere Hemmer had made a more general account, which he meant to serve for both sides.

It was thought better, however, to have two summaries, one from each point of view. Some modification was made in each of the accounts in order to meet the suggestions offered by the other party in scanning the drafts.

This close and careful work occupied two days; and there was further an agreement reached about questions of publication and the like.

The result was the issue of the pamphlet called The Conversations at Malines.

The first half of the pamphlet contains the Anglican account of the Conversations presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury in July, 1927; the second half contains three Appendixes: I, a list of documents, II, the Convocation speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury, February 6,1924, and, III, a very characteristic Letter of the Cardinal to the Archbishop, October 25, 1925, sketching out the programme for the next stage of conference which it was then expected to hold in the ensuing January.

After presentation to the Archbishop the publication of the Official Report thus prepared was, however, delayed on various grounds of a practical kind. Lord Halifax, still indefatigable, in spite of his advanced years visited both Rome and Malines to forward the cause to which he had so long devoted himself: and ill tolerating the delays, he published in 1928 some Notes on the Conversations at Malines (Mowbray, January 6, 1928), and subsequently in 1930 the set of confidential documents concerning the Conversations to which, with the annexes, frequent reference has been made here.

It was still hoped that the Conversations would continue; and this hope was encouraged by the appointment of Mgr. Van Roey to succeed the Cardinal as Archbishop of Malines, as well as by his having so graciously presided over the Fifth Gathering. But this was not to be. Owing apparently to various causes, the policy of Rome altered; and what had once been encouraged was now to be discouraged. The day has not come for the door to open again either at Malines or elsewhere. Nevertheless, the necessity and the demand for a reorganization of the Christian Front grows steadily. E pur si muove.


pp. 63-67

The starting-point is the Lambeth Appeal.

The present objective is to make out a preliminary case for the holding of conferences between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, with some real, though at first informal, encouragement from the highest authorities on both sides.

Detailed discussion about points of difference had better be deferred to later conferences : but some must take place now, in order to pave the way for them.

I. The Lambeth Appeal opens a new chapter: its opportunity is great. See the trend towards unity prevalent in civil as well as ecclesiastical world.

Two features – one general and one special.

(a) General: It points to a type of external unity in the future which does not yet exist.

i. Not a mere federation,
ii. Not submission of any part to another.
iii. But a reincorporation of parts into an united body, larger and richer than any of the existing parts,
iv. A policy therefore not of surrender but of revision and mutual enrichment.
v. Old controversies to be reconsidered in this spirit.

(Lambeth Encycl., p. 12 : Appeal, Section 4.)

(b) Special: The offer of Anglicans in regard to Holy Orders. It depends upon prior satisfactory adjustment.

(Lambeth Appeal, Section 8.)

2. Is there sufficient common ground to make Conference fruitful? Lord Halifax’s memoir shows in general a considerable agreement even about points where division is supposed to be sharp.

The disagreements also to be taken into view. But not embark on discussion of all.

3. Take first, “What is fundamental in doctrine?”

It should be possible to distinguish the primary from the secondary: and to base hopes of reunion on the primary.

Roman Catholics have clear conception of the de fide requirement. Anglicans not so clear: but see Articles XX and XXI; i.e. they agree that some dogmas are essential.

Roughly what is required of Anglicans is:

(1) Creeds – especially the two: because recited by all.

(2) Catechism, because preliminary to confirmation and first communion. To these may be added as less explicit:

(3) The Holy Scriptures as interpreted by the Church and the Catholic doctors, being the test of de fide doctrine.

(4) The rites of the Prayer Book: lex supplicandi = lex credendi.

(5) The dogmatic decisions of the General

Councils: 4, 6, (or 7) in number. Distinguish from the fundamentals three classes of other Statements.

(a) Secondary doctrines efficiently taught.

(b) Opinions of theologians.

(c) Views widely held by the Faithful without discouragement. How far can such a distinction be accepted?

4. If (provisionally) accepted:

First determine what are the essential dogmas to serve as a common basis.

But observe difference of habit between Roman Catholics and Anglicans (perhaps more racial or temperamental than confessional.)

Roman Catholics tend to put maximum amount as fundamental, even to stress the non-fundamentals (a) (b) and (c).

Anglicans tend to aim at a minimum of fundamental experiment: and to stress “libertas in dubiis,” i.e. a maximum of questions left open.

Lambeth has made suggestions as to a common basis. (Lambeth Appeal, Section 6.)

5. Where a direct clash emerges, explanations on either side may do much to remove it. The Church which is most apt to define should be most ready to give further explanations such as definition entails; but Anglicans must be ready also.

Such explanations may make some Roman Catholic definitions acceptable to Anglicans, which are not so now.

Not as authoritative (for them they have not the authority of the whole Church) but as in themselves admissible and true.

In this sphere also distinguish between essential and non-essential. Probably some things which Anglicans treat under this head Roman Catholics will place under head of necessary doctrine. Then how far is it possible to agree in action but differ as to the reasons for it, e.g. Papacy?

6. The Uniat discipline is capable of further application: and its precedents suggest future possibilities.

An extract from the letter sent from the Cardinal Mercier to the Archbishop of Canterbury, April 11, 1923.
pp. 68-74

… The logical sequence of our conferences, as well as the duty of loyalty incumbent respectively on the members who met there, alike require that they should take up again the examination of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, now defined as a dogma of the catholic faith at the Council of the Vatican.

Our third Conference which, like you, I hope may take place soon, and be in a certain sense on a larger scale, should therefore assume the task of studying this doctrine more fundamentally, and should devote itself, as you desire, to gaining a precise view of its significance.

Meanwhile I count it a personal duty to tell you that which I believe to be the Roman Catholic doctrine on this special point, being the subject on which you have thought good to question me. You ask me if the primacy which is accorded to the Sovereign Pontiff signifies, or involves as a consequence, that by Divine right the Pope alone is Vicar of Christ upon Earth in the sense that from him alone there comes either directly or indirectly all legitimate power of exercising in a valid manner the ministry of the Church; “if the term ‘primacy’ is understood as implying that the Pope holds jure divino the unique and solemn position of sole Vicar of Christ on earth from whom as Vicar of Christ must come directly or indirectly the right to minister validly within the Church.”

Certainly the Roman Pontiff is in a supreme sense the Vicar of Christ upon earth; and the piety of the faithful is accustomed to give him this title by choice. But St. Paul declares that all the Apostles are the Ministers of Christ “sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi.” The Roman liturgy in the preface of the Mass for Apostles calls all the Apostles “Vicars,” appointed by the Eternal Pastor for the pastoral supervision of His work. “Gregem tuum, pastor aeterne, non deseras, sed per beatos apostolos tuos continua protectione custodias: ut iisdem Pastoribus gubernetur, quos operis tui Vicarios eidem contulisti praesse pastores.” More than that, we constantly declare of the simple priest in the exercise of his ministry, that he is the representative of Christ, “another Christ,” “sacerdos alter Christus.” If he did not hold the place of Christ, as “vices gerens Christi, Vicarius Christi,” how could he say truly of the Body and Blood of our Lord, “Hoc est Corpus meum; hic est calix Sanguinis mei”? How could he, in remitting sins which God alone can absolve, say “Ego te absolve,” I absolve thee?

The current application therefore of the name “Vicar of Christ” to the Sovereign Pontiff does not involve the consequence that alone the Bishop of Rome has possession of powers which come direct from Christ.

The powers of the Bishop have reference partly to the historic Body of our Saviour Jesus Christ – that is the Power of Order – partly to His mystical Body – that is the Power of Jurisdiction.

The Power of Order – that is the power to consecrate the Body and Blood of our Saviour in the Holy Eucharist; the power of conferring on another the fullness of the priesthood including the power of the transmitting it so as to perpetuate the Christian life in the Church – was communicated by Christ to all His Apostles. It belongs in its fullness to the Bishops as their successors; and no human authority can hinder its validity.

For example: is it not well known that the Church of Rome recognizes the validity that continues to exist in the Orders and Sacraments of the Orthodox Eastern Church, notwithstanding that for a thousand years it has stood apart from the Roman primacy?

As to the Power of Jurisdiction – that is the power to govern the Church, the mystical Body of Christ – it belongs by divine right to the episcopate; that is to say, to the Bishops the successors of the Apostles, in union with the Sovereign Pontiff.

The episcopate, as a joint institution of government, is of divine right; and it would not be in the power of the Bishop of Rome to abolish it.

The power of jurisdiction that devolves on each Bishop is thus also of divine right; it is ordinary and immediate within the limits of the diocese assigned to the Bishop by the Sovereign Pontiff.

The peace and unity of Christian Society in fact demand that at the head of the government of the Church there should be a supreme authority, which itself is also ordinary and immediate over the whole of the Church, over the faithful and their pastors.

It is to this supreme authority that the prerogative belongs of assigning to each Bishop that portion of the Christian flock which he is called to govern, in union with the Roman Pontiff, and under his authority.

The power of jurisdiction of the Bishop over his flock is of divine right; but when theologians raise the question how to interpret this divine origin their views are not unanimous.

Some think that this power of jurisdiction comes immediately from God, as does the power of order. In this view, while the Pope nominates the Bishop and assigns him his subjects, the jurisdiction over these subjects comes from God without human intervention. This opinion according to Benedict XIV is supported by solid arguments. “Validis fulcitur argumentis.”

But, Benedict adds, there is also a rival view to this opinion according to which jurisdiction comes from Christ as the principal cause, but is conveyed to the Bishop by the Roman Pontiff acting as intermediary. In this view, the episcopal consecration gives the Bishop the aptness for jurisdiction, but the actual jurisdiction in its fullness is dependent upon a mandate from the Sovereign Pontiff.

This second view, says Benedict XIV, seems to have the better arguments of reason and authority. “Rationi et auctoritati conformior videtur sententia.”

No further decision requiring universal acceptance has ever settled the controversy.

The Codex juris canonici published by Benedict XIV which has full authority in the Catholic Church does not settle it either; it sums up in these terms the general doctrine of the Roman Church and the episcopate. “Episcopi sunt apostolorum successores atque ex divina institutione peculiaribus ecclesiis praeficiuntur quas cum potestate ordinaria regunt sub auctoritate Romani Pontificis.”

It is not necessary, according to the Fathers of the Vatican Council, that this universal authority of the Sovereign Pontiff should be considered by the Bishops as a threat or a danger. On the contrary it is a support, a power, and a protection of the authority of the Bishop over against his people. “Tantum abest, ut haec Summi Pontificis potestas officiat ordinariae ac immediatae illi episcopalis jurisdictionis potestati, qua Episcopi, qui positi a Spiritu Sancto in Apostolorum locum successerunt, tanquam veri pastores assignatas sibi greges, singuli singulos, pascunt et regunt, ut eadem a supremo et universali Pastore asseratur, roboretur et vindicetur.”

More than once in the course of my episcopal career experience has confirmed the truth of this declaration of the Council.

But the time has not come for me to go further into this question. I must confine myself to replying briefly to the question to which your esteemed letter has for the moment called my attention. The conference which, please God, we hope soon to renew, will have to determine more closely this question of the primacy of the Pope, which takes precedence of all other questions in importance whether Christian or social.

at the Lambeth Colloquy, October 2, 1923
pp. 75-77

I think it absolutely essential that those who confer at Malines, should, so to speak, make their own Agenda Paper, and decide both what they are to discuss and what course of argument they would pursue. I emphatically abstain from dictating to them in the matter. At the same time my responsibilities in connexion with it are now so grave that I am anxious to state what would be in my judgment a wise course for them to follow, if the views I hold commend themselves to their judgment.

I do not think it would be advantageous to discuss again or in more detail the administrative question which was put on paper at the Conference last March. It is probable that at the ensuing Conference something more ought to be put on paper either by both sides or by the two sides separately. This might, if it is thought necessary, re-embody what was written down last March; but, if so, it ought to emphasize much more markedly the dependent character of the suggestions made – dependent, that is, on some measure of previous agreement having been reached on the great principles which sunder Anglicanism from the Church of Rome. It is not enough to say in a clause that such things must be considered. It ought to be clear that it is only after they have been considered, and some measure, great or small, of agreement reached, that the administrative suggestions, hypothetically put forward, could become of practical utility or of very great practical interest. My own hope therefore is that the Anglican delegates will feel it to be right to put forward these larger questions, and to ascertain, if that be practicable, how far the Roman requirements as to what is de fide are, so to speak, cut and dry for the Anglican Church simply to accept or reject. It would be absurd to suppose that these great questions in all their range could be handled even in outline; but it ought not I think to be difficult to find some outstanding points wherein the Anglican position and the Roman position are at variance, and to ascertain what is the rigidity of the Roman contention on such points. Of course all that could be ascertained would be the view taken on such a matter by the individual Roman Catholics conferring at Malines. They would not be the spokesmen of the Vatican in any adequate sense. None the less they may be able to simplify the issue by putting the requirements in the way that seems to them true.

If I may quote the words I have used in a private memorandum drawn up for my own satisfaction I would say, “It ought to be made clear on the Anglican side, beyond possibility of doubt, that the great principles upon which the Reformation turned are our principles still, whatever faults or failures there may have been on either side in the controversies of the sixteenth century. It would be unfair to our Roman Catholic friends to leave them in any doubt as to our adherence, on large questions of controversy, to the main principles for which men like Hooker or Andrews or Cosin contended, though the actual wording would, no doubt, be somewhat different to-day. What those men stood for we stand for still; and I think that in some form or other that ought to be made immediately clear.”

drawn up in view of the Colloquy on October 2, 1923.
pp. 78-81


Acceptance of the Scriptures as the Inspired Word of God; of Catholic tradition as guided by God; of the Creeds as expressing in brief the content of the Christian revelation; and of the general principle that neither party shall be called upon to renounce anything that they hold to be “de fide,” i.e. to pertain to the essence of the Christian revelation.

Main problem

: to discover whether there is any sense in which the documents which the Churches in communion with Rome regard as de fide can be interpreted, so as to render them, without doing violence to the “plain meaning” of the statements therein contained, acceptable alike to all parties, notably in case of the decrees of the Council of Trent and the Council of the Vatican.


Acceptance of the general principle (i) that the liturgy and worship of the Church, its lex orandi, must adequately express its lex credendi; and (ii) that, in so far as it is possible, the rites of all countries should be such that members of any nation may join in and appreciate them.

Main problem

: to discover by what means the usage of the Church of England, inherited from the past but modified at the time of the Reformation, could be rendered acceptable to the Churches in communion with Rome, particularly

(a) with respect to the Eucharist
(b) with respect to the seven sacraments
(c) with respect to presence and worship of our Lord in the reserved sacrament
(d) with respect to communion in one or two kinds.


Acceptance of the principle enunciated at the Lambeth Conference that a way must be found whereby the ministrations of Church of England clergy may become acceptable to other Churches, so that “we may, without any doubtfulness of mind, offer to the one Lord our worship and service.”

Main problem

: to discover a way of accomplishing this (i) with respect to Apostolic Succession, and (ii) with respect to the Ordinal.


Basis: acceptance of the hierarchic constitution of the Church with the Bishop of Rome as “Summus Pontifex “; and of the general principle that the communion of members with members and of members with the head must be as intimate and effective as possible.


(I) How far the present system of government, as exercised by the Roman Curia, would be acceptable to, and applicable in, England with special reference to

(a) Papal decrees.

(b) The decrees of Roman Congregations and Commissions.

(c) The appointment of bishops and other dignitaries.

(d) The control of public pronouncements in matters of faith and morals, and in the matter of Scripture.

(e) The control of teaching in seminaries.

(f) Dispensations and reservations.

(2) The relation of the Church to the State.

(3) The relation of the Church of England, in the event of reunion, to the Church in England which is already in communion with Rome.

(4) The applicability of the present Code of Canon Law, with special reference to

(a) the Celibacy of the Clergy
(b) the use of the Breviary
(c) the position of the religious orders
(d) Marriage: impediments, etc., divorce.

(5) The teaching of Moral Theology.

ADDENDUM V: From the Letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Anglican Communion, Christmas, 1923.
pp 82-99

There remains the question – a question which has features of paramount importance – of the relation of the Church of England to the Church of Rome. You will agree with me in regarding that subject as separated from other reunion problems, not only by the history of centuries of English life but by present-day claims and utterances. And the plain fact confronts us, that in relation to that subject there exist, both at home and in the overseas Dominions, passions, dormant or awake, which are easily accounted for, but which, when once roused, are difficult to allay. I have myself been repeatedly warned that to touch that subject is unwise. Men urge that “even if the opportunity be given” it is easier and safer to let it severely alone. That may be true, but you and I are party to the “Appeal to all Christian People,” and I, at least, find it difficult to reconcile that document with an attitude of apathy or sheer timidity as to our touching the Roman Catholic question. Not only are we pledged to the words and spirit of the “Appeal” itself, but we have before us what was said on the subject by the Committee of the same Lambeth Conference in 1920. We there express our readiness to welcome any friendly discussion between Roman Catholics and Anglicans for which opportunity may be given. I have no right to say that the utterances of the Lambeth Conference have influenced Roman Catholic opinion, but I am certain that they have increased our own responsibilities in the matter.

I was accordingly glad when I learned two years ago that a private conference or conversation was about to take place at Malines between Cardinal Mercier, the venerated Archbishop of Malines, and a few Anglicans, who were to meet under his roof, with a view to the discussion of outstanding and familiar barriers between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. Though I had no responsibility for this arrangement, nor even any official knowledge of it, I was courteously informed of the proposed visit and was furnished with the names of those who were to take part in the informal discussion. The substance of the conversation which took place was reported to me both by the Cardinal and by my Anglican friends. It necessarily turned in large part upon the position and claims of the Roman See, or in other words, the Primacy of the Pope. A Memorandum upon that and kindred subjects, which had been prepared on behalf of the Anglican group, was discussed, and the Lambeth Conference’s “Appeal to All Christian People” was, I understand, considered paragraph by paragraph.

It was suggested that, with a view to a second visit, the two English Archbishops might informally nominate delegates and might suggest the outline of discussion to be followed. I did not see my way to doing this; but in the correspondence which ensued I expressed my readiness to have official cognizance of the arrangements, provided that a corresponding cognizance were given by the Vatican. Satisfied, after correspondence, with regard to that point, I gave what was described as friendly cognizance to a second visit of the Anglican group to Malines in March, 1923. They again received the kindly hospitality which has been courteously given and gratefully welcomed. The conversation on that occasion turned in part on certain large administrative problems which might arise, if and when a measure of agreement had been reached on the great doctrinal and historical questions sundering the two Churches.

It was agreed that a third Conference should take place. A wish was expressed on both sides that the number of participants should be enlarged, and I took the responsibility of definitely inviting Dr. Charles Gore, late Bishop of Oxford, and Dr. Kidd, Warden of Keble College, Oxford (both of whom had given special attention to the Roman question), to join the Anglican group. This increased my responsibility in the matter, and I found myself in concurrence with His Eminence the Cardinal, as well as with the members of the original group, in pressing the point that prior to any discussion upon the possible administrative questions which might arise, attention should be concentrated upon the great doctrinal and historical issues at stake between the two Churches. Certain memoranda were prepared and circulated, and I had the advantage of personally conferring at Lambeth with the five Anglicans who were to take part in the third Conference, together with a few friends and counsellors of my own whom I had invited to meet them.

I have always considered it important that our representatives at Conferences which take place, whether with Free Churchmen, or Orthodox, or Roman Catholics, should remember that, while each individual remains free to express his own opinions, what is in question is not what any individual may think, but what the great Anglican body has in the past maintained or is likely to maintain in the future. I found, as I anticipated, that our visitors to Malines were not likely to forget what the historical Anglican position and claims have been in the past, as set forward for example by the great theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – a position which we have no thought of changing or weakening today. It seemed to me to be fair to the Roman Catholic members of the Malines Conference, now augmented by the addition of Monsignor Batiffol and the Abb? Hemmer, that the firmness and coherence, as we believe, of our Anglican doctrine and system should be unmistakably set forward.

Thus arranged, the third Conference was held at Malines a few weeks ago, under the same kindly hospitality as before. There has not yet been time to weigh adequately the record of the conversations which took place, still less the unsolved differences which they exhibit, but I may say at once that, as was inevitable, the discussions are still in a quite elementary stage, and that no estimate, so far as I judge, can yet be formed as to their ultimate value. Needless to say, there has been no attempt to initiate what may be called “negotiations” of any sort. The Anglicans who have, with my full encouragement, taken part, are in no sense delegates or representatives of the Church as a whole. I had neither the will nor the right to give them that character. This is well understood on both sides. They have sought merely to effect some restatement of controverted questions, and some elucidation of perplexities. And to me it seems indubitable that good must in the Providence of God ensue from the mere fact that men possessing such peculiar qualifications for the task should, in an atmosphere of goodwill on either side, have held quiet and unrestrained converse with a group of Roman Catholic theologians similarly equipped. No further plans are yet prepared, but it is impossible, I think, to doubt that further conversations must follow from the careful talks already held. At the least we have endeavoured in this direction, as in others, to give effect to the formal recommendation of the Lambeth Conference that we should “invite the authorities of other Churches to confer with [us] concerning the possibility of taking definite steps to co-operate in a common endeavour to restore the unity of the Church of Christ.

I have stated all this somewhat fully, though there is, of course, a great deal more which might be said. Indeed, I hope myself before long to have an opportunity in Convocation or elsewhere of speaking further upon the subject. From the nature of the case the proceedings have of necessity been private. To attempt them publicly would have been obviously futile. For what has been done I am bound to accept full personal responsibility. I have not thought it right, or indeed, practicable, to involve others in that responsibility, though I have confidentially informed all our Diocesan Bishops, and especially the Archbishop of York, of every step that has been taken. The difficulties are immense. You know them as clearly as I do. They may prove to be, for some time to come, insuperable. Paul may plant and Apollos water, it is God who giveth the increase.


[1] To prevent misunderstanding I ought perhaps to explain that Lord Halifax’s second pamphlet entitled Further Considerations on Behalf of Reunion was published independently, to express his personal view on certain points relating to the origin and growth of the Papacy. That view, as their writings show, is not shared by his Anglican companions at Malines.

ADDENDUM VI: From a letter of H.E. Cardinal Mercier to his Clergy
pp. 90-109

January 18, 1924.
Feast of St. Peter’s Chair.


For more than two years I have been in close and intimate touch with a few prominent Anglicans, for whom I feel a deep regard and sincere affection. We have met several times; I have exchanged letters with them on the matter which lies closest to my heart, the interests of my mother, the Catholic Church.

I had no thought of acquainting you with this intercourse, for the very simple reason that, in the nature of things, its object is confidential, and that, furthermore, we had mutually agreed to make nothing public without previously agreeing to do so.

This agreement has been maintained. The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed nothing of the subject-matter of our conversations nor of the conclusions reached; but he has considered that the time had come for him to define, for the members of his community, the position he had taken with regard to our conferences. This was, on his part, a loyal action, and one in which, moreover, I fully acquiesced. It was also a courageous line of action to take; for in view of the state of mind, whether expressed or mute, which is, to this day, very prevalent among English non-Catholics, and often expressed in the one word, “anti-papism,” it was easy to forecast that any deference, even implicit or remote, shown to a bishop, to a Cardinal of the Church of Rome, would bring down on its originator anything but sympathy and congratulations.

In a letter dated Christmas 1923, written to the Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Anglican communion, Dr. Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, alludes to the “Malines Conversations” and states that, without having sanctioned them officially, he had cognizance of them, took an interest in them, and hoped for beneficent results from them.

Protestant circles, and a few Catholics, were greatly moved by this revelation. For several weeks magazines and newspapers saw in it a subject for lively controversy, the echo of which crossed the Channel. The public taste for daily sensational news, the keenness of journalists to provide it in a “crescendo” form, created, around our peaceful meetings at Malines, an atmosphere of artificial agitation, from which it is my duty to disengage them.

I will put the facts before you, in order to set them back in their true simplicity. I will give you the reasons that prompted them. And, seizing the opportunity afforded to me, I will endeavour, dear brothers, to draw from them, both for you and for myself, a lesson which is a governing principle of the pastoral ministry.


Religious authorities, all those, indeed, who note the evolution of human thought and the trend of events, are frightened to see the de-christianization of the masses, and the swiftness with which the disappearance of faith in the supernatural leads to the denial of all religion. The phenomenon is general; but it is more momentous, more noticeable, in Protestant countries than in Catholic.

Already in 1877, Newman wrote: “I have all that time (50 years) thought that a time of widespread infidelity was coming, and through all those years the waters have in fact been rising as a deluge. I anticipate a time, after my life, when only the tops of the mountains will be seen, like islands in the waste of water”; and he adds, “I speak principally of the Protestant world.”

Yes, “principally of the Protestant world,” because there the doctrinal divergences which separate the many “confessions ” or “denominations” deprive religiously-inclined souls of the lightsome and comforting vision of Unity in the Faith. The splitting up of the Protestant communion leads to liberalism in religious matters, that is to say, to that vague kind of belief which holds that all religions stand for free opinions of equal value, because none of them can claim in its favour the proof of a positive and divine Revelation; then indifference to matters religious inevitably leads to irreligion, to anti-religious sectarianism.

Clear-sighted Protestants saw Newman’s predictions come true. Those among them who still believe in the divinity of Christ and of his Church, those who pray for themselves and for the souls entrusted to their keeping, see the danger, and know it is their duty to counteract it; they also believe, in the words of the Acts of the Apostles, “Neither is there salvation in any other.”

Such men as these it was, men of Faith and of high standing, both intellectual and moral, whom Divine Providence led towards us, and whom we had the joy of welcoming.

The two first visitors were Lord Halifax, – whom all in England irrespective of creed or party hold in honourable estimation and love – and Abbe Portal, a son of S. Vincent de Paul, priest of the Mission, formerly superior of a Seminary, who, during the pontificate of Leo XIII, was so intimately associated with the question of the validity of Anglican orders. At the present moment he is engaged in a most fruitful apostolate among the youth of the University of Paris.

They first paid me a visit in October, 1921, and came back on the 6th, 7th and 8th of December in the same year, accompanied by two prominent Anglicans, Dr. Armitage Robinson, Dean of Wells, a close friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Dr. Frere, at that time superior of the Community of the Resurrection, and now Bishop of Truro. Both are authors of highly appreciated works on scripture and ancient Christian literature.

I asked the Abbe Portal and our learned and trusted Vicar-General Mgr. Van Roey, Master in Theology of Louvain, to meet them.

From the start it was agreed that the subject-matter and ultimate results of our conversations were to be private until such time as, by mutual consent, we should consider it useful and advisable to publish them.

The two groups met again in Malines in March, 1923. Last November, a third meeting took place. This time, besides Dean Robinson and Dr. Frere, we were joined by Dr. Charles Gore, a well-known figure, who relinquished the bishopric of Oxford to devote himself completely to study and religious science, and Dr. Kidd, Warden of Keble College, a foremost figure in Oxford.

Mgr. Batiffol, Canon of Notre-Dame in Paris, widely known for his works on the origins of Christianity, and Abbe Hemmer, parish priest at Saint-Mande, who formerly taught history at the Catholic Institute in Paris, kindly consented to give us the benefit of their presence and valuable assistance.

Such were our guests: I will now retrace the character of our meetings.

These were, from first to last, private: they were conversations in a private sitting-room. There was no question of ecclesiastical authorities sending official delegates to meet one another.

This assertion of ours was clearly stated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his message to his Metropolitans; though some seem to be unwilling to take account of it. He knew, of course, that his friends were in touch with members of the Catholic clergy in Malines; he followed, with sympathy and interest, the development of our talks; but, from the beginning he insisted on stating, as I did also, for that matter, that we in no way committed, either the communions to which we belonged, or the authority which, in some measure, we represented.

Our discussions were thus in no sense negotiations. To negotiate, it is necessary to possess a mandate; and, neither on the one side nor on the other were we invested with a mandate. I, for my part, had asked for no such commission; it was enough to know that I was acting in agreement with the supreme Authority, blessed and encouraged by it.

We set to work, inspired by a common desire for mutual understanding and brotherly aid, firmly resolved to banish the spirit of barren controversy.

Obviously on several fundamental questions the disagreement of both sides was notorious; we all knew that. But we said to ourselves that if truth has its rights, charity has its duties; we thought that, perhaps, by dint of open-hearted converse, and the intimate conviction that in a vast conflict centuries old, all the wrongs were not on one side; by an exact formulation of certain controverted points, we might break down preconceptions, dispel ambiguities, smooth the way along which loyal souls, aided by grace, might discover, if it pleased God, or recover, the truth.

As a matter of fact, at the close of each of our three meetings, we all felt closer to, more trustful towards, one another, than at the start. Our guests told us so ; wrote it to us ; we said as much to them, and I am happy to repeat it here.

Need I add, nevertheless, that neither my friends nor I, when essential questions were mooted – such as the Primacy of the Pope, as defined by the Vatican Council, which was the first and the last of our business – gave away, in a foolish desire for union at any price, one single article of our Catholic Apostolic and Roman Creed?

Our gatherings were thus private, and they pledged only our personal responsibility; they were quite friendly; I add that they were both instructive and edifying.

No book is as valuable as personal intercourse. Conversation sheds light on intimate things which do not pass into print. Men are created to love one another; how often men who are strangers to one another, and who in separation might have felt at enmity, in getting to know one another, experience a moving delight which they had never anticipated.

When the time came for parting, this result of the Conversation was so prominent that heartfelt joy filled our company.

“It is probably the first time for four centuries,” said one of them, “that scholars, both Protestant and Catholic, have been able to converse, with complete frankness, for hours and hours, on the gravest matters which intellectually divide them, without the cordiality of their relations being disturbed for a moment, or their confidence in the future being shaken.”

No doubt the kindling of hearts towards one another is not itself unity in Faith, but it certainly prepares the way.

Men, especially groups of men, who have been total strangers for years, living in an atmosphere laden with distrust if not antagonism, anchored in the depths of their consciousness by a tradition four centuries old, are ill-prepared to admit the arguments, however cogent, with which their opponents wish to convince them.

Does not the Council of Trent, before defining Christian justification, assert that in order to be prepared therefore, men’s hearts must be fitted to receive God’s word: “Praeparate corda vestra Domino”?

If Divine Providence has led towards us, rather than towards others who are more directly involved in religious controversy, some separated brethren, may it not be precisely because, by virtue of our very isolation, we were able to accomplish, in a calmer atmosphere, a task which is quite preliminary to any negotiations and any decisions, which would need to be eventually conducted and concluded elsewhere?

In the very midst of the outcry which greeted the Archbishop’s letter to his Metropolitans, one of our colleagues, the one to whom I have just alluded, wrote to me: “It is hard for any one outside England to understand how serious the step will appear in the public mind, both among those who care deeply and among those who do not. Even if we get but little further at present, I believe that this will mean a new outlook for very many, and that we shall have good reason for true gratitude to God. . . .”

Further, at the close of each of our meetings we separated with a mutual promise to pray, and to ask our flocks to pray, for the success of the holy cause which had brought us together.

I remember that Dr. Kidd, at the beginning of our last discussion, said to me, and I hope it is no indiscretion to quote him: “I prayed with my pupils before leaving Oxford, and I know that they are now praying to the Holy Ghost for the successful issue of our labours.”

Such are the facts; let us see why these conversations took place.


Why? First and foremost because I am not entitled to shirk an opportunity which comes in my way of fulfilling a duty of brotherly love and Christian hospitality.

I would not for the whole world tolerate that one of our severed brethren should have the right to say that he knocked trustfully at the door of a Roman Catholic bishop, and that this Roman Catholic bishop refused to open it to him.

A great nation was, for more than eight centuries, our beloved sister; this nation gave to the Church a phalanx of saints whom to this day we honour in our liturgy; astonishing reserves of Christian life have been maintained in its vast empire; from it numberless missions have gone out far and wide; but a gaping wound is in its side; we Catholics, kept safe, by the grace of God, in the whole truth, we weep over the criminal sundering which tore it away, four centuries ago, from the Church, our Mother. And forsooth there are Catholics who would that, like the Levite and the Priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a Catholic bishop should pass by this wound with proud indifference, and refuse to pour a drop of oil into this gaping wound, to bandage it, and try to lead the wounded man to the Hospital whither God’s mercy calls him!

I should have been declared guilty, had I committed such an outrage.

Oh! I know well that those who misjudge us will not deny our charitable intentions, but they consider our interference inopportune or ineffective.

Inopportune – because they think it is wiser to let the separated churches go to complete decay, the contrast between truth and error become sharper. Then the evil in an extreme form will arouse alarm, and the moment will have come for the triumph of truth.

Ineffective – because, so it seems, we do not adopt the right method of apostolate, i.e. the appeal to individual conversions.

Let us weigh, for a moment, these two charges.

Nowhere in the Gospel do I find this policy of extremes either taught or commended. On the contrary, I read that the smoking flax must not be quenched.

How many Protestant believers fall into religious liberalism; its victims, become indifferent to any positive creed, lose all religion, swell the ranks of atheism, and thereafter of anarchy; this is an evil, a great evil!

Sincere Christians feel powerless – a feeling which we also share in a minor measure – to arrest this evil. They appeal to us for help, at least they invite us to discuss with them the means of stemming the tide of irreligion. And there are some extremists who would fain bar the way!

Here at hand we have one way of giving actual help to our separated brethren; that is one good reason for welcoming them open-heartedly.

“So far so good,” will perhaps be the answer; “but this was not the primary object that you had in sight; the main point was to bring immediate weight to bear on believers, members of the ‘High Church’ in order to win them back to Rome.”

The main point! How does the critic know? We never had a thought of ranging in order of importance the guiding motives of our conduct.

We took a view of a general situation, in which there were found men whose souls were keenly alive to their duties towards themselves, and towards others by reason of their social influence.

We ventured to think that we might hold out a helping hand of spiritual help to our brothers. Thus we had a second reason for conversing with them.

Next you tell us that we are going the wrong way to deal with this situation and that our method is a clumsy one; “experience” you say, it is alleged, has taught you not to consider groups; individuals only must be taken into account.” Here I say to my critics, “By what authority do you limit the workings of the divine Mercy? By all means, be stirred about individuals, enlighten, pray for, work for, as much as you may, every soul whom God sends across your path; no one will think of blaming you.”

But what entitles you to put aside groups of men? It is your exclusiveness which is to be blamed.

Allow me to refresh your memory. Listen to Leo XIII’s weighty words, when on April 14, 1895, in his Apostolic Letter “Amantissimae Voluntatis,” he spoke not to individuals, but to the whole English people, “ad Anglos.” Read that Encyclical once more; it is addressed to a nation, “gens anglorum illustris”; and, when ending his Letter the holy Pontiff foresees the objections which pessimists will raise against his optimism, he writes: “Difficulties lie in the way, no doubt, but they are not such as may slacken a whit our apostolic charity, or discourage your purpose.” “No doubt, disagreement has taken root and developed by the change of events and long lapse of years: but is that a reason to despair of reconciliation and peace? By no means, if it be God’s will.” “The results which the future may bring are not to be measured by human reckoning alone, but above all by God’s power and Mercy.” “When we are engaged in a great and toilsome task” (it is still the Pope speaking), “let us have a good motive and undertake it with a pure and generous heart; God then will be with us, and His Providence will be the more gloriously revealed by triumphing over these difficulties.” A year and a half later, in September, 1896, the Pope finds himself obliged to inflict on Anglicans a bitter disappointment: he proclaims the invalidity of their orders. Will he give up his far-reaching hopes, and advise only a propaganda addressed to individuals? Far from it; he ends his Apostolic Letter “Apostolicae Curae” by a direct appeal to the ministers whom, to his sorrow, he has grieved; and he calls on individuals and on the whole mass, to follow them in their conversion.

“We will, to the best of our powers,” he says, “never cease to further their reconciliation to the Church: and we fervently hope that their example will be followed by individuals and the whole mass.”

The truth is, dear brothers, that to this day, notwithstanding all the loud ranting about the intellectual progress of the people, about the independence of their judgment, and the sovereignty of their initiative, it remains true that the masses do not lead, but are led; do not command, but obey. Even in a democracy, the social system remains an oligarchy. Demagogues on the one hand, an elite on the other, strive for the leadership of the masses, the former so as to preach violence and raise revolution, the latter to safeguard order and discipline.

Therefore, if it be God’s purpose that one day our brothers, severed from us since the days of Luther, Henry VIII and Elizabeth, should re-enter the Church, it will be the duty of the elite to show the way for this return. And if men placed in authority and of high moral standing, esteemed by all, take a calmer view of the relation which Christ established between the faithful, the episcopate and the Papacy, a great step will have been taken towards Catholic Unity. That is what Leo XIII so clearly asserts in his letter “Ad Anglos.” It is that spirit which we endeavoured, in obedience to that illustrious Pontiff, to instil into our “Conversations of Malines.”

And now if you ask us what we hoped for, and still look forward to, we can only answer, in the words of Our Holy Father Pope Pius XI, that “the unity of nations in the Catholic Faith is, above all, God’s work.”

God’s universal Providence “reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly,” but the appointed time is His Own secret. For His ends He makes use of secondary causes; He condescends to ask the servants of His divine Son to work with Him: but of no one does He claim, to none does He promise, success.


In conclusion, my dear brothers, I wish you to understand that if I have written to acquaint you of an attempt which, in my judgment, was to remain private, it is because I notice that some of our brothers in England, misled by fanciful news and chance comment in the press, misinterpreted my line of action and were offended by it; I have also spoken lest, distorted as my doings have been, in your sight, I might be deprived of the pious help which I expect from you in this matter, as in all that I undertake for God’s glory, and lest the spiritually unselfish conception that you should have of your apostolate should be warped.

I trust I have been able to dispel the slight cloud of dust which, for a moment, drifted between us and our friends in England.

I hope too that I have quickened your sympathy for the holy cause of the Church’s Unity, in answer to the supreme wish of the Pastor of all pastors, Our Lord Jesus: “That they all may be one!”

“I am the good shepherd,” He says, “and I know (and love) mine, and mine know me, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep.”

But at once He adds: “And other sheep I have,” Our Lord does not say “I will have” or “I would fain have,” He says “I have, they are mine, habeo“; “other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”

There you have, dear brothers, the Master’s own word: “Oportet,” “I must . . .” and following Him, you also must go forth through the bushes, along the rocky paths, under the burning desert sun, go forth, wherever sheep are to be found and won back.

Be not anxious about success; God does not demand it of you; what He does require of you, says St. Bernard, is the care of those that are ailing, He gives the healing: “Curam exigeris, non curationem.”

In all parts of your pastoral ministry, pray and toil and give, tire yourselves out; make a start, hold out, be steadfast; true, always, to St. Bernard’s saying: ” Never lose hope; yours is the care, His the healing.”

Yours most devoted in Christ,

D. J. CARD. MERCIER, Archbishop of Malines.

ADDENDUM VII (See p. 57)
THE PAPER OF BISHOP GORE On Unity with Diversity.
pp. 110-119

Concedit (Cyprianus) salvo jure communionis … diver sum sentire.

So St. Augustine commemorates, with constant reiteration, St. Cyprian’s toleration, as shown in the heat of a great conflict. St. Cyprian was stoutly maintaining against the extreme pressure of St. Stephen, the Bishop of Rome, the duty of re-baptizing, or (as he would have said) of baptizing simply, converts from heretical or schismatical bodies. With the merits of the controversy, subsequently decided against St. Cyprian, we need not concern ourselves. But in conducting it, Cyprian showed a spirit the opposite of Stephen’s in the respect, that whereas the Bishop of Rome was ready to excommunicate the re-baptizing churches, Cyprian constantly insisted on the duty of tolerating those who held the validity of heretical baptism, even though (according to his own belief) this meant the recognition, as members of the church, of those who had not really been baptized at all. His insistence on this duty of tolerance was based on the principle that there are certain fundamental conditions of Catholic communion, but that we must not extend those conditions beyond the certain warrant of scripture. Beyond this lies the region in which it must be allowed to each bishop with his church to hold different opinions or follow different practices, without breach of “communion” or “unity.”

After 150 years St. Augustine is in controversy with the Donatists, and finds them quoting St. Cyprian’s doctrine and practice in support of their own; and, with even wearisome reiteration, he repudiates their right to quote that venerated saint and martyr, because they did not follow his example and precept of “perseverantissima tolerantia.” As to the teaching of Cyprian, he says, that has been pronounced erroneous by a “plenaria synodus” representing the authority of the whole church – an authority which he professes no doubt St. Cyprian would have accepted. (He tacitly modifies, we notice, the extreme assertion which St. Cyprian makes of the rights of an individual bishop.) But, while the Donatists respect his error, they do not follow his charity – his, who constantly and emphatically refused to allow the opinion which he held to be true, and the practice which he held to be right, to justify any breach of communion with those who thought differently.

In this high estimate of St. Cyprian’s spirit of toleration within the limits of Catholic communion, on any matter on which judgment of the whole church had not yet been expressed by an authoritative council, St. Augustine is following St. Jerome; and a similar assertion of the principle of diversity within unity could be quoted from other writers of authority.

I suppose that the principle of toleration on matters which are not de fide will be admitted on both sides of our conference table. The differences between us would only begin to appear with the question, What is de fide, or What is the final voice of authority? What I want to do now is not to raise this question directly, but to put in a plea for the widest possible toleration of differences between churches, both in doctrine and practice, on the basis of agreement in the necessary articles of Catholic communion. I notice that there are two distinctions in matters of doctrine which appear to be recognized by Roman Catholic theologians. There is (i) the distinction between doctrines which are de fide, and those that, however much authority they may have behind them, do not bind strictly under penalty of heresy, or are not binding at all, but are simply at best pious opinions. And there is also (2) another distinction, between doctrines which are fundamental and those which (whether de fide or no) are not fundamental. Fr. Janssens shall be my authority with regard to this latter distinction. As to fundamentals he tells us that “quid non fuit ab initio doctum et universaliter creditum non pertinet ad Christianae fidei fundamenta.” As an instance of fundamental doctrine, “which does not admit of real development,” he takes the doctrine of the deity of our Lord. ” It has always,” he says, “been explicitly held. There was no development in the doctrine; but only in its terminology.” As an instance of non-fundamental doctrines he takes the infallibility of the Pope. Of this he says, “It has admitted of a true development, a real doctrinal progress. It has been held but implicitly in the first three centuries, and had been doubted afterwards, even until the time of the Vatican Council.”

Now I am not concerned to inquire whether Fr. Janssens’ statement of the opinion and teaching of the primitive and later church about Papal infallibility is in any sense adequate. That is not our immediate concern. But I am concerned to ask whether his use of “implicit” and “explicit” is acceptable. He does not enumerate the doctrines which he considers fundamental. Doubtless the doctrine of the Holy Trinity would be one. But I should have doubted whether it could be truly said that this doctrine had always been explicitly held in the Church, e.g. in the age of Hermas and Justin Martyr. Surely it is truer to say that this was taught implicitly by St. Paul and St. John and was always implicit in the tradition, but became explicit – say, in the 3rd and 4th centuries. For “explicitly,” in his definition of “fundamental” doctrines I should wish (in order to make it correspond with the facts) to substitute the words “in substance.” Fundamental doctrines are those which have always been held and believed in the church in substance. There has been no development in the doctrine but only in the terminology. In this sense there is a series of doctrines which would be pronounced fundamental – not only the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, but the doctrine of the Atonement and of the inspiration of Scripture, of the visible Catholic church, of the sacraments as real instruments of specific divine gifts, of the resurrection of the body, of the intermediate state, of the day of judgment, of heaven and hell. Vincent of Lerins’ Commonitorium supplies us with a formula which exactly corresponds to fundamental doctrine, so defined.

Only Vincent of Lerins (tacitly, I suppose, pleading for St. Augustine’s better mind against his worse) would not admit that any doctrine, not really and in substance believed everywhere and always in the church, could be part of the necessary faith. He would not admit development in the substance of the gospel or the church’s authoritative message.

This also appears to be the final mind of J. H. Newman. Lord Acton called attention to Newman’s apparent withdrawal from the extreme position of the Essay on Development. Newman’s latest statement (as far as I know) is as follows: “First of all, and in as few words as possible, and ex abundanti cautela, every Catholic knows that the Christian dogmas were in the church from the time of the apostles; that they were ever in their substance what they are now; that they existed before the formulas were publicly adopted, in which, as time went on, they were defined and recorded.” Here Newman precisely agrees with Vincent: and, like Vincent, he applies the formula to the dogmas of the church generally. He does not contemplate anything being de fide which does not come under the formula. But this formula (as it seems to most of us Anglicans) manifestly and certainly does not apply to certain dogmas which we understand the Roman Catholic Church imposes as a condition for Communion – not, for instance, to the infallibility of the Pope or the immaculate conception of Mary, nor to the definition of transubstantiation, nor to the definition of purgatory. With regard to the Infallibility Fr. Janssens admits this. He admits development in substance which Vincent and Newman would not seem to admit.

Now here I come to the point of the memorandum. It is an appeal to the theologians of the Roman Catholic Church in the first instance. I write as an Anglican who has not the slightest desire to submit himself as an individual to the Roman authority, but with all his heart would desire to see his own Anglican communion, and the communion of the Orthodox Churches, reunited to the Holy See of Rome. The, at present insuperable, obstacle to such reunion, in either case, is the demand for submission, as to de fide dogmas, to certain doctrines, which, as claiming to be part of the essential faith, seem to us to conflict with history and with truth. I must speak with simple frankness. It seems to us illegitimate to yield that faith which we give to the fact of the virginal conception of our Lord, or His resurrection, or His ascension, to the immaculate conception of Mary. The former group of accepted facts rest upon original witness and good evidence: the latter on nothing that can be called historical evidence at all. But to believe in a fact on the mere ground of a priori reasoning as to what is suitable, without any evidence of the fact, seems to us to alter the fundamental character of the act of faith. It also makes with the other doctrines just specified, a claim for the authority of the church, as centralized and absolute, which the ancient church never made. It frees it from all those restrictions of universal agreement and unvarying tradition and scriptural authority – which in our judgment make the fact of faith rational. It seems to us quite clear that the existing Roman demand, as we understand it to be made, is and remains quite unacceptable. I do not want to discuss the position. But it is notoriously the position of Anglicans in general and of the Orthodox.

Now what I want to ask, with a sense of my audacity in asking it, is – not for any strictly theological change in the teaching of the Roman Church, nor for any alteration in the terms of communion required of those who feel constrained to submit themselves individually to the Roman Church. What I am thinking of is corporate reconciliation. And what I am asking of my friends of the Roman Church, with whom I am having the pleasure of quiet conference, is whether the idea is wholly impossible that, with a view to the corporate reconciliation of the Orthodox Communion and the Anglican Communion, the Roman Church could be content to require not more than the acceptance of those articles of faith which fall under the Vincentian Canon, which I am at present supposing to coincide with what Fr. Janssens recognizes as fundamental doctrines.

C. G.

P.S. As a minor inquiry I want to ask what exactly is required of any Orthodox Group desiring to become Uniats. Is it the requirement formulated at the Council of Florence? Or the “Creed of Pius IV,” or what? And are those formulas regarded as final and infallible?