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December 18, 2006



Does anyone know if there are plans to re-consecrate the altar at Santa Sabina? I find it outrageous that officials in the Vatican would allow a laymen, Rowan Williams, to "celebrate the Eucharist" at a Catholic Altar in a Catholic Church It would seem that Benedict would have had to sign-off on this. For all his talk about the primacy of Truth he seems here to have caved in in the interest of good ecumenical feelings. What part of "ABSOLUTELY NULL AND UTTERLY VOID" is unclear?
Can anyone explain how this gesture is significantly different from the "concelebration" by the Irish Augustinians of a few months ago? They got read the riot act for that. By allowing Dr. Williams the use of Santa Sabina the Vatican is implicitly acknowledging the validity of Anglican Eucharist which of course explicitly acknowledges the validity of Anglican Orders?


Actually, the situation is more confused now since the days of Apostolicae Curae. Many of the priests and especially the bishops of the Anglican Communion have also taken Holy Orders from Old Catholics.

I have no clue as to the validity of the confected Eucharist but the orders in themselves are apparently valid.

If ArchDruid Williams has these he may, in fact, be in a quasi-communion with Rome, however imperfectly.

ignorant redneck

i remember in the 70's when it seemed that re-union was not only theoretically possible, but even probable, with many great things happening. It seemed that their would be a place in the Catholic church for the Sarum Rite, as evolved by the Anglican Church, to be once again in communion with rome.

Then came female ordinations, and much else that shattered the chances of healing a 500 year old schism, and uninting us in one body in christ.

It's obvious to my Pius and Overly Devotional self, that much of what happened to TEC and within the Anglican Communion is the work of satan, to derail what would have been a great doing of God. The Smoke of Satan, entering the sanctuary(ies).

We can still save many souls, by reaching ut to the Anglicans, pushing the Pastoral Provision, and being respectful of their traditions that don't actually contradict the faith.

I, for one, am terribly saddened by these events. I pray for the ArchBishop, and his clergy and people. Someday we might actually get it together.

Andrew of the Holy Whapping

I'm continually baffled by the vitriol some of us Catholics show towards other Christians. According to St. Augustine, that is wrong.

In "On Baptism, against the Donatists," Augustine says: "Where (the heretic/schismatic) was sound in union with the Church, he is not healed, but recognized--lest in desiring to cure... we should rather inflict a wound." (Bk I, Chapt 8-10)

We have a responsibility, Augustine says earlier, to approve ("treat with approbation") every part of the Catholic Faith which a heretical/schismatic Christian holds. We cannot be afraid to say, "Yes, you share our faith, in part, and we rejoice in that, and that is a good. Come, share our faith in whole."

Part of fulfilling this Augustinian obligation is
(1) Being respectful as we point out our real disagreements
(2) Not making up disagreements. Many, almost all, "Anglo-Catholic" Anglicans have been re-ordained with valid orders. We have to be honest about that. The Church of England also submitted its ordination rite to Rome for approval in the 1980's, so those validly re-ordained Anglican bishops can now ordain validly. We have to be honest about that, too.


For full disclosure: I am an Anglican (Intending to convert). My crack about the ArchDruid was done without animosity, although I think he is far too liberal . It simply is a fact that the Archbishop of Canturbury did participate in a Druid ceremony.

Reconsecrating the altar might be going a bit far, though. It's not as if he was performing a pagan ceremony at that time. One hopes.

As for the ordination of Episcopalian priests, whether or not the ordinal was approved by Rome, the fact is that Anglican ordination has no intention of creating a sacrificing priesthood, since Anglican theology specifically disavows the sacrifical character of the Mass (Article 28 of the Articles of Religion)

Fr Martin Fox


If I may suggest, slow down a bit.

I have no idea if the holy father "signed off" on the S. Sabina event, but (just from my intuition; I'm no expert) I wouldn't be surprised if he did not. Yes, he's bishop of Rome, but he doesn't actively administer local matters -- he's got a worldwide apostolate after all -- and it certainly stands to reason he'd have to leave lots of things to the care of others.

Did you see the story that got around, some time back, that he said he wanted Vespers in Latin; he showed up for Vespers, and they weren't in Latin; supposedly he had something to say about it afterward: "I said in Latin!"

As a much more humble pastor, I know how hard it is to stay on top of everything, and to push on all fronts all time; you pick your battles. If I were to guess, I'd guess (a) the holy father wasn't happy about this, but (b) he'll deal with it in due time which might include (c) not doing so in a highly visible way, for reasons I can imagine.

That said, it is also possible the holy father did say it was okay; the fact is, an Anglican prelate could be allowed to celebrate an Anglican liturgy in a Catholic church, without that implying anything about the validity of his orders or the Eucharist being celebrated. This is only supposed to happen -- per Canon Law -- under specific circumstances, and who knows if they applied here, or why, if they didn't, it would still be permitted? The point is, if the thing can be allowed, then it becomes a question of right application of norms, not some intrinsic evil as your comments may be taken to mean.

I don't want to impute to you meaning you don't intend, but your comments confuse terms. For anyone to simulate "The Eucharist" -- i.e., the celebration of the Mass -- would indeed be a terrible thing; but it is not the Church's position that when Anglicans celebrate their "Mass," that's what is happening; as far as I know, Archbishop Williams did not in any attempt to offer a Catholic Mass, but rather, an Anglican liturgy, such as it is. Not saying that's "OK," but it's a far different matter.

There also doesn't seem to be any question of Catholic-Anglican "concelebration" here; a Catholic prelate was present, but that doesn't mean he concelebrated.

Finally, I think it's a really, really hard sell to claim that Benedict of all people is caving in, or worse (as others, not you, suggest), never meant any of it and is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Give the guy some credit for brains and savvy -- exactly why should the pope feel any pressure to cave to the Anglican Communion? I mean no offense to Anglicans; but why would this be the ecumenical-sellout temptation? Supposing this all came about because Williams' folks asked for it; further supposing Benedict really did OK it; now suppose, instead, he said "No"; and they used an Anglican church instead -- I really don't see that materially affecting ecumenism with the Anglicans -- not when you've got far larger issues blocking the way.
Also -- wasn't it just within a year that a Cardinal (can't recall who) went to meet with some Anglican leaders, and gave a pretty blunt, and bleak assessment of the state of ecumenism, to their faces?

Meanwhile, note what Amy described: Catholic prelates, in Italy, fostering a lot of grass-roots collaboration, some of which may be very legitimate, but some of which sounds dubious to me.

That suggests a problematic state of affairs in the Italian episcopate, which might help explain how this happened and also why the pope chose not to deal with this with a public rebuke; he may, rather, deal with it in other, more institutional ways, over time.

Mark Windsor

Still, when the rubber hits the road, it's utterly useless to the Anglican side. What will they look like in another 100 years? 500 years?

They will continue to splinter into ever more "pure" groups - something like a reverse heresy as the ever more pure group tries to be more conservative than the other Anglican conservatives.

Eventually, the conservatives will become more and more Catholic and the liberals will become more and more new-agers. There will be a spread of other "Anglican-ish" sects in-between, but they really won't matter to anyone but themselves. It may take another 500 years, but...

The end result is the same. Anglicanism is doomed. May God have mercy on them.

Patrick Rothwell

The criticism over the "Druid ceremony" that Rowan Williams underwent is not quite fair. The ceremony is an induction into a Welsh honorary society. It is no more a serious pagan religious ritual than a YMCA camp Indian ceremony where prayers are made to the Winds of the North, South, East, West, etc. Or Boy Scout Order of the Arrow inductions/ordeals.


Patrick, I am sure you are probably right. However, with the state of open ecclesiatical warfare that was evident even then in the church (c. 2003) it was an occasion of scandal.

Someone as intelligent as Rowan Williams should have known better.


I live a mile away from Truro and a little bit further from The Falls Church (the latter I've been known to attend - they have a great 20-30-something program that speaks to Catholics in the same age range).

I'd just ask all of you to pray for them (as I am myself). This is not a situation of people splitting off for Evangelical reasons. Sure, most of them are of a more fundamentalist mindset. But all the reasons cited (Scriptural integrity, sin, homosexuality, divinity of Christ, etc) actually are in line with the Catholic Church. And they aren't just heading off to form a new sect or denomination, but doing what they can to align themselves with orthodox mindsets within the Anglican community (which have also registered their displeasure with the American Episcopal church). In fact, "schism" is desperately NOT wanted.

If there is ever going to be a reconnection with this similar branch of Christianity, then this offshoot must be successful. The ECUSA has abandoned orthodoxy. This "new group" needs our prayers desperately.

bruce cole

Another subject, but it was in The Tablet article at the end. I wish Rowan, with all due respect, would ask himself if the Palestinian Authority and Hamas care if there are Arab Christians among them.

Patrick Rothwell


I can't agree with you here. He became ABC in 2002, a year before the Gene Robinson consecration. What really happened was that certain C of E evangelical groups deliberately misrepresented the true nature of the so-called Druid ceremony as a desperate last-minute attempt to prevent him from being made ABC. The scandal was purely pharisaical, though some people are now indeed scandalized because they don't understand what the druid organization is.

In any event, the evangelicals should be glad that they failed. Williams has bent over backwards trying to hold the Communion together in a way that I think no other realistic ABC candidate would have. Unlike Williams, the usual liberal establishment Anglican bishops would tell the evangelicals and the Africans to go bugger off. The liberal Anglicans view him as a traitor to The Cause, but they probably never truly understood him in the first place. I think he will ultimately fail in preserving the Anglican Communion - and the Communion should fail, IMO - but Williams is fighting for it to the bitter end and honorably so.

Old Zhou

Interesting news item:

For all their notable successes in interfaith cooperation, Roman Catholics and Protestants are still separated by knotty doctrinal differences as old as the Reformation. Among the major problems are varying notions of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, differing concepts of priesthood and ministry, and conflicting definitions of apostolic succession, that essential tie to the Apostles that most Christians see—in various ways—as a necessary mark of an authentic church. By Catholic standards, neither the ministry nor the Eucharist of Protestant churches is valid, and until recently, any hope of unity seemed to lie in Protestant submission to those standards.

Now, judging from a scattering of articles in theological journals and some quiet meetings among Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans, a new hope is emerging. The churches, it seems, may yet find enough common theological ground for a mutual recognition of ministries. If they do, it is conceivable that before the end of the decade Catholics could share both pulpits and Communion with Anglicans and Lutherans. This would mark the most significant step toward Christian unity since the start of the ecumenical movement.
Today, two important developments in 20th century theology have made it possible for Catholics and Protestants to reconsider the whole argument and think of intercommunion. One is a broadened, more flexible understanding of the Eucharist among many Catholic and Protestant theologians. In 1967, an Anglican-Roman Catholic study group produced a statement indicating substantial agreement on the Eucharist. Later the same year, in an important but little-noticed move, Roman Catholics and Lutherans in the U.S. issued a scholarly, 200-page book on the Eucharist that ended with a remarkable ten-page statement of consensus. Father George H. Tavard, a French-born scholar involved in the Lutheran-Catholic talks, thinks there is already enough consensus among Lutherans and Catholics today for Lutheran orders to be recognized as valid.

The second development is in the Catholic concept of priesthood, which is growing into an idea of the ministry in which both priests and laymen play important roles. Apostolic succession is now seen by many Catholic theologians as a continuity of doctrine and Christian commitment from one generation to another within the church community —not as a sort of ecclesiastical relay race, with the baton passing from bishop to bishop and the whole team disqualified if someone drops it. Ordination by a bishop, critics note, was not always required even among Catholics. In the early Christian churches and even in medieval times, as Benedictine Theologian Kilian McDonnell points out in the current issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, "orders" were sometimes conferred by another priest or even by the lay elders of the community, as they are in some Protestant churches today.

The broadest formulation of such a community-approved ministry is one that Swiss Theologian Hans Küng, among others, defines as the "charismatic" ministry. In effect, what early Christians did in selecting one of their number to preside over the Eucharistic celebration was to recognize his qualities as a holy man. By his special spiritual gift, or charism, he was in a sense ordained by God, an "ordination" recognized in turn by his community. If Catholics are ever to find ground for reunion with Calvinistic, Baptist and Pentecostal churches, the idea of a "charismatic" ministry may be of substantial help in overcoming the still vast differences in their theologies.

For the near future, intercommunion may be most likely first between Roman Catholics and either Lutherans or Episcopalians in the U.S. That, at least, was the hint offered last month at the U.S. Catholic Bishops' meeting, where Catholic dialogues with those two churches were declared to be "moving to quite an advanced stage." Lutherans, however, have not yet established full intercommunion among their own U.S. denominations. And Episcopalians are potential participants in the proposed multichurch Protestant merger, the Church of Christ Uniting. Should the Episcopal Church join the new superchurch, the questions of Episcopal belief, the Eucharist and ministerial orders could become more complicated yet.

That is from Time magazine, May 25, 1970.

The ideas of 1970 are still alive in the minds of many bishops, priests and religious today. I know some Catholic priests that go so far as practice intercommunion with Anglicans/Episcopaleans and Lutherans, even Protestant clergy, and who defend their actions (to me, at least) as saying that they are tasked by the Vatican or the Pope with ecumenical dialogue. Even though intercommunion was never reached in 1970 (or the ARCIC statement on Eucharist in 1970, as noted in the Elucidation in 1979 (which also mentioned problems of Reservation and Adoration). These same Catholic priests who wish to "jump the gun" on full dialogue and re-unification of churches, to my observation, seem to have a number of personal issues with the teaching and authority of the Roman Catholic Church, and perhaps feel more "at home" in a Protestant environment without all that "domination" from the Vatican. This is always an issue with advocates of "dialogue": they may actually be more inclined to favor "the other side" than that which they are supposed to be representing.

I believe that, in reality, Anglican/Episcopalean and other Protestant denominations (such as Lutheran) have, rather, move away from the Roman Cathlic Church since 1970, as they have incorporated more and more of the modern world into their Churches (ordaining women and openly gay clergy and blessing of gay unions being but two examples). The Protestant churches are expanding and, in many cases, decomposing and coming apart. Some of the parts may end up looking more Catholic. But the "entities" of the Protestant side of the ecumenical dialgue in 1970 are, I think, pretty much transmorgified if not explicitly fragmented.

But the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to be ecumenical, and dealing with its own internal strains.

Christopher Johnson

Criticisms of the Anglican Communion from non-Anglicans are entirely valid. As Captain Yips once put it, we brought this on ourselves.


"(2) Not making up disagreements. Many, almost all, "Anglo-Catholic" Anglicans have been re-ordained with valid orders. We have to be honest about that. The Church of England also submitted its ordination rite to Rome for approval in the 1980's, so those validly re-ordained Anglican bishops can now ordain validly. We have to be honest about that, too."

Except -- now that the Episcopal church in the U.S. (as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) are ordaining female bishops, it's not only Roman Catholics that Anglicans have to deal with -- they've also put the kibosh to their relationship with the Orthodox.


I'm intrigued by what you say about the Anglican Ordinal being submitted to Rome for approval in the 1980s and Anglican bishops being re-ordained &c. Please can you provide me with more information. Thank you.


I too am interested in these comments, as well as those on the Old Catholics. As I understand it the Old Catholics claim Apostolic Succession and they also claim that Rome recognizes the validity of their sacraments. That would put them on a parity with the Orthodox Churches, a parity I do not believe they have. Does anybody know where Rome stands on this subject?


Thank you Fr. Fox for your words of circumspection and reason.
The real (indeed the only) solution to the Anglican crisis occurred last Thursday evening at my parish in SC, when a former Anglican priest "came home" and was ordained a priest of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, following the special provision made available to those qualified and deserving men who have fled the apostasy of Anglicanism (or the gross heresies of ECUSA) and crossed the Tiber.
As our new Father said to his former colleagues, and to all true Christians who find themselves strangers in their own denominatons, "hurry home."

William Tighe

On the Old Catholics, see this old article of mine:


Basically, they have not only caught up with the Anglicans on WO (= women's ordination) but have, since 1999, exceeded them in embracing SS (= sanctified sodomy, i.e., the "blessing" of homosexual "partnerships"), the one exception being the Polish National Catholic Church here in the USA and Canada, which was expelled from the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht in 2002 for refusing to go along with these apostasies. As concerns the European Old Catholics: by 1981 an agreement had been reached between them and Rome (in a document called the "Zuricher Nota") effectively to allow "intercommunion" (and effectively the "transfer" of clergy between the two "communions") as a final step on the road to "unity" -- but then the increasingly liberal stance of these OC churches on issues like divorce-and-remarriage, and their absolute commitment to remaining in communion with Anglicans, despite the increasing acceptance of WO in the Anglican Communion, was brought to Rome's attention, and Rome shelved the Zuricher Nota. Since then, the flood of Catholic priests of the "John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger have betrayed the Spirit of Vatican II" variety -- a small "flood", but, then, these are tiny churches -- into these OC churches has turned them in a radically liberal direction, causing them to exceed (as I pointed out above) in their iniquity even the Anglicans.

May I end on a note of puzzlement, that nobody has criticized the dopiness (at best) of Don Giovanni of Orvieto of "affirming" as he has done the "ministry" of "Priestess Susan?"

Todd Granger

Bill (Tighe), I have to say that I was thoroughly bemused by - and not a little displeased at - the Bishop of Orvieto's words and actions when I first read that article on Anglicans in Umbria several days ago. Several Episcopalian and Anglican revisionists/liberals picked up on this as evidence that "European" Catholic were perfectly in agreement with the direction of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps, as Fr Fox comments, the bishop's seeming approval of Ms Skillen's ministry suggests a problematic state of affairs in the Italian episcopate? Can anyone comment, in a knowledgeable way, on the state of the Italian episcopate?

If there is ever going to be a reconnection with this similar branch of Christianity, then this offshoot must be successful. The ECUSA has abandoned orthodoxy. This "new group" needs our prayers desperately.

Bless you, (other) Bill. We "reasserting" conservative Anglicans do need your prayers. My own prayer is that the Anglican realignment will eventuate, perhaps within a century or so, in a real ecclesial reconciliation in both West and East.


Hi Az,

"2) Not making up disagreements. Many, almost all, "Anglo-Catholic" Anglicans have been re-ordained with valid orders. We have to be honest about that. The Church of England also submitted its ordination rite to Rome for approval in the 1980's, so those validly re-ordained Anglican bishops can now ordain validly. We have to be honest about that, too."

Sorry, that wasn't my quote, I believe Andrew of the Holy Whapping posted it.


I would like to second Patrick Rothwell's commendation of Abp. Rowan Williams. He is doing as much as anyone could do to keep the Anglican Communion from disintegrating.

Unfortunately, he is doomed to fail - not so much because of the Revisionists as because of the Evangelicals. Every time Abp. Rowan moves to isolate the North American Revisionists, the African Evangelicals, led by Abp. Peter Akinola of Nigeria, break ranks with the rest of the communion and do their own thing. The establishment of CANA in Northern Virginia is just the latest example of this. It is already becoming clear that there will be two post-Anglican churches, and that they will both be Protestant - one Revisionist, one Evangelical. There will be no place for us traditional Anglo-Catholics in either one.

Fr. J. Steele, CSC

As a Catholic priest who grew up occasionally attending Truro Church services (my father was a member there), I have plenty of mixed feelings over the split this week.

Truro and this gaggle of evangelical Episcopal churches have had an amazing influence on the ECUSA far beyond their numbers in recent decades. They have influenced this otherwise hopelessly pro-choice denomination to moderate its position. They have given an important witness to the Episcopal Church of what it means to be centered on Christ when the denomination has come to favor every contrary trend from Bono's U2charist to Matthew Fox's, Wiccan and Womynist prayforms and theologies.

Having studied theology with some Episcopalian seminarians, I found myself shocked that they regularly argued againt the need for and authority of the creeds. Regardless of their theology, though, they knew of Truro Church, its impact on the denomination and held it in some respect. Truro was one of the mostly nationally recognized of parishes among Episcopalians. So, this split it important not because of numbers, or properties but because it means the end of an essential witness to the ECUSA by one of its most important if controversial parishes.

I suspect that the Episcopal Church will continue it's long gradual decline as a denomicantion. In 30 years it has lost half its membership while the US population has increased by about 25%. Theologically, it will look more and more like Unitarianism with a prayer book.

The breakaway evangelical Anglicans however, will continue to grow. They have been the only part of the denomination to grow in recent decades. In fact, 4 of the other churches that are leaving the ECUSA in Virginia were founded by Truro in the past 30 years! Truro was the best agent for Episcopal Church growth in the US. Now it will bring its dynamism as an even more famous evangelical Anglican parish.

There are all kinds of ironies about this split. Those who dole out "compassion" and low moral standards like candy will discover Property Law as the only standard worthy of their orthodoxy . Those acused of being against "diversity" which is now the new high crime will be looking to Africans for leadership! And, as is becoming more common everywhere, it will be the Evangelicals rather than the liturgicallly high churchers who will have more shared values with Rome. Catholics in Virginia ought to make friends with those folks at Truro fast and figure out what they are doing right (Truro is made up overwhelmingly of former Catholics).

Fr. J. Steele, CSC
Holy Cross Fathers
Moreau Seminary
Notre Dame, Indiana

The young fogey

Thanks for the overview.

My take on the Santa Sabina incident

On the various Anglicanisms

I respect any real ministry to a congregation, certainly if it's Christian, so I'm not here to throw stones at Ms Skillen (who of course is a real minister but according to the larger Catholic family not a priest) but, even after what I wrote about Santa Sabina, I'm with you on the wrongness of Catholics actively encouraging liberal Protestantism... and in consecrated Catholic churches!

'Our Anglican brothers are surely our closest brothers,' the bishop told the congregation.

Erm, Bishop, what about the Orthodox????

The young fogey

Not making up disagreements. Many, almost all, "Anglo-Catholic" Anglicans have been re-ordained with valid orders. We have to be honest about that. The Church of England also submitted its ordination rite to Rome for approval in the 1980's, so those validly re-ordained Anglican bishops can now ordain validly. We have to be honest about that, too.

I think this is mixing up two facts, first as has been mentioned that most Anglican clergy (the men of course) can claim Old Catholic succession. I didn't know that the C of E had its new ordinal vetted by Romans but if that was done as an ecumenical gesture I wouldn't be surprised. (Not that it means anything now in the face of other developments.)

Except -- now that the Episcopal church in the U.S. (as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) are ordaining female bishops, it's not only Roman Catholics that Anglicans have to deal with -- they've also put the kibosh to their relationship with the Orthodox.

Yes, and not only that but the Episcopal Church's approval of homosex (the intent behind approving Gene Robinson to be a bishop) is the real death blow to ecumenical relations. For example the Russian Orthodox Church stopped all relations with the Episcopal Church after Robinson's consecration but is resuming them with the seven or so dioceses that might leave that church, even though four of those dioceses ordain women.

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