Letter published in the Catholic Herald during last week of October

Lord Hylton

Visible Christian Unity

A key question for the reuniting of all baptised believers is how will “the primacy” of Bishop of Rome in practice be exercised ? This has so far been too little discussed. Many are hoping that it will be exercised in a collegial manner, as Vatican II laid down, when counter-balancing the Vatican I definition of papal infallibility.

One is therefore bound to ask what consulting Pope Benedict did before making proposals to the Lefeverists, and before his recent invitation to Anglicans who wish to enter visible unity with the Roman Catholic communion?

Did he consult the head of department in the Vatican or the College of Cardinals? As far as I know neither matter was ever discussed by the Synod of Bishops.

If these important steps were taken on the Pope’s initiative alone, what does that say about his understanding of collegiality? There is evidence for saying that the catholic church is already over centralised. Can this be for its own good? Surely we need more subsidiarity.

Given that a very large measure of doctrinal and theological agreement has already been reached, especially with Anglicans, Lutherans and in effect with most Orthodox, the manner in which moves towards visible unity are taken become very important. One hopes and prays that the manner will not only be generous, but also be attractive and appealing.

Perhaps we should also consider which is the more important, visible unity or spiritual unity? Does orthopraxis (right conduct) have to precede worldwide orthodoxy (right belief)? Unity is something we all have to work for. It cannot be left solely to church leaders. Its unity has certainly been a cause for scandal, but I think we should also understand that every tradition and denomination will bring its own gift to the great church of the future.

Lord Hylton

10 comments for “Letter published in the Catholic Herald during last week of October

  1. franksummers3ba
    04/11/2009 at 1:58 pm

    Lord Hylton,

    This is not a reply in the strictest sense but was written after I read more or less the same materila I believe you may have read when you wrote your post and letter. If you choose to reply in any way that implies a question or asks on I will try to respond since this text in a sense ignores your post. But I think it is relevant despite being earlier and so I leave it unchanged.

    “1. The Pope and Bishop of Rome has opened the door to the Catholic Church to those catholic Christians of the Anglican Communion. He has stopped short of creating an Anglican rite of the Catholic Church but he has stated that he will allow congregations to exist to be structured under their own discipline and use largely their existing liturgies. He has stated that although most ancient communions do not allow married men to become bishops and therefore they may not be able to practice their existing or hoped for episcopacy he will recognize the exercise of discipline by senior prelates. I did not get all this from the official Vatican website but if it is all true it is almost exactly what I would consider the very best possible pastoral decision. I was never a fan of Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger but Pope Benedict the XVI is making another extraordinarily good decision which shows that he really is capable of greatness and is in fact great in his own way. God Bless him. There are a few less obvious points to make:


    i. In America and other places where there are few Eastern Orthodox and Uniate Churches it will educate people a great deal about Church structure to see this in action if it can occur.

    ii. It cannot help to make people in the Anglican Communion feel that Roman Catholics value their faith experience and faith communion.


    i. The Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury and a number of others may feel that the Vatican is “sheep stealing” and this could become an obstacle to further unity and reconciliation.

    ii. This will have the possible effect of obscuring the royalist aspect of Christian Tradition which (while I believe it is wrongly distorted and in one way overdrawn) is best preserved in Anglican tradition and is not so secure in Roman Catholicism but is very much one of two parts most at the heart of the historical Christ experience and phenomena on which all Churches and THE CHURCH must rest and abide.

    Nonetheless, despite those who must be hurt and despite the imperfections of all real actions to do anything — This is a great day. If this is effected it will open the doors to futures which are being horribly cut-off from the Christian people. I wish everyone involved the best.”

    End of my Blog Post–

    THank you for addressing this matter and doing so in a Catholic publication (I assume Roman Catholic and not some other paper with the same name as the one I have heard of…).
    The Pope I would remind your lordship and other readers is elected always and that is not discipline but the highest level of doctrine about the Papacy. In fact he is always a previously ordained, previously consecrated leader who has paid his dues in the political rough and tumble of the church. Then each Pope has his style and is able to influence the shape of things Benedict the Sixteenth of the Name is not likely to be known to history as “Benedict the Collegial” if he died from the effort to be so. I was not deligted with the elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger but he is an honest and diligent man as far as the species of homo sapiens these days allows in leadership of any kind. I suspect there was consultation in depth which vanishingly few will be sure went on — of course that is the rub isn’t it?

  2. 04/11/2009 at 4:40 pm

    It must be good that there is freedom of religious belief and that Anglicans can join the Roman church if they wish. However, I feel that this so called “unity” will speed up the already rapid exodus from the Anglican church as many bible believing Christians cannot accept some of the doctrines of the Roman church.

    • 04/11/2009 at 7:18 pm

      I will not get into a protracted discussion here. Nor do I pretend any innocence or freedom from animosity but you must know that Bible reading, study and proclamation form part of the life of all Christian communions.

      Because of the centrality of Scripture and the history of trouble your brief note is likely to offend. There is no way not to take your remarks in a way that is not provocative of animus. However, that does not mean it is not accurate in that those making remarks like yours also believe in the Bible. Perhaps you are keying to the idea of married Bishops. St.Paul prohibited as matter of discipline bishops with multiple wives and a married bishop is not held to be impossible in the way that an unelected Pope would be but only in the way that a layman elected Pope is impossible. Since the great persecutions stopped (for a while) most Christian churches made it impossible for married men to become bishops so that Church and State property would be separate. These two old traditions are not accepted by Anglicans and that is really the difference between Anglicans and Orthodox Communions of the East in Roman Catholic eyes. The fact the Anglicans hold the Monarch to be the Spiritual Head of the Church is the most doctrinaly essential difference that cannot be resolved simply by minimizing it. However, in practice there are countless barriers to structural unity — and little prospect of such an event. Lord Hylton emphasizes spiritual unity which at minimum is evident in the common baptism long recgnized.

      I feel that the Anglican communion had some rather bad times (as most old churches can admit they have had) in the not so distant past when many sites lost a character of Church buildings and became less — despite this scandal there was little formal exodus then. What an outsider like me would call such abuses seem to have mostly gone but now I think the idea of a formal exodus does have some appeal. I think any full Christian unity would require all sorts of hard work that in my opinion nobody on any side is inclined to undertake. Jesus however did seem a bit concerned about it at Gethsemane. I hope the Anglicans will look at eachother within their communion and consider what they contribute to the full Body of Christ as a communion and find some basis for dialogue.

    04/11/2009 at 9:29 pm

    Well, I think the Vatican needs ot dothis proeprly and just create an Anglican Rite, compelte with its own Bishops. This woudl make it liek the Easern Rites.

    As for Unity withthe Anglican Church, I dont think that is a priority. Given the level of Defection cause dby the Anglican Churhces embrace of its own Anti-Biblical strand of theology, its not too shokcing to see this doen by ROme wiht no interest in the Anglican Chruches overall reaction.

  4. 05/11/2009 at 1:53 pm

    Frank, no offense intended.

    Looking back over the last 2,000 years, the main divisions can be boiled down to one factor.

    The supremacy of scripture or the supremacy of the Pope.

    Either one is right or the other but not both, which is why unity will not be achieved. They are like oil and water but that doesn’t mean that friendships cannot remain as in any walk of life. It is nothing less than a salvation issue. Is salvation by Grace alone or by Grace +?

    • Senex
      05/11/2009 at 6:50 pm

      The Pope represents ‘St Peter’. One of the challenges for St Peter was the acceptance of non Jews into the Christian faith.

      I suppose on this basis the Pope follows St Peter by allowing ‘non-believers’ into the Roman Catholic church. This irrespective of scripture or the power of the papacy.

      I think this accords with LH’s comment “every tradition and denomination will bring its own gift to the great church of the future”.

    • franksummers3ba
      05/11/2009 at 10:26 pm

      I will not go down this rabbit hole with you. I will not do many other things to this post. It is a sad but true fact that I have friends who are all types of Christians and most types of persons who are principled but not Christians. However, you and I are not friends we are simply not fighting at the moment. Anything else grossly overstates our capacity for collaboration. Yet Jesus died for both of us.

  5. 06/11/2009 at 12:06 pm

    I feel that these are very important issues that ought to be discussed openly and not hidden away and buried under tortuous theological language and debates over the unimportant issues.

    I find that I can discuss these issues that affect salvation with my Roman Catholic friends. We can agree to disagree and remain friends. They think the Pope shows that I’m wrong, I think scripture shows that they are wrong.

    • Carl Holbrough
      06/11/2009 at 5:06 pm

      I must admit to not completely understanding the theological views but I do understand it will be a long time until Rangers & Celtic, Sinn Fein & Orangemen and many more get together over a pint after a combined Sunday Service.

    • Senex
      06/11/2009 at 6:57 pm

      I agree entirely! There is something gnostic in the philosophical sense about Lord Hylton’s post. Interestingly, one day we may end up having a Vicar of Rome at the helm?

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