Church Unity Must Be on Vatican’s Terms


After Anglicans and Catholics finalized details on a joint document regarding Mary, it was clear that, when it comes to reconciling with other churches, there will be little to no compromise on the Vatican’s end.

On May 16, a joint group composed of Catholic and Anglican church members published a document, six years in the making, proposing that Anglicans accept Roman Catholic teachings regarding Mary.

If accepted, the proposals, agreed by theologians and prelates of both churches, would “backtrack on centuries of Anglican dissent over the place of Mary in the Catholic Church by giving credence to dogmas rejected in the Reformation” (Times Online, May 17). The document states there is “no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division” over this issue.

A Catholic bishop who served on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which published the document, said: “What we have done is put down a paving stone on the road to Christian unity.”

With the election of Pope Benedict xvi, church unity has gone to the top of the Vatican agenda. The second week of May saw the Vatican praising the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury for adopting a stance over sexuality akin to the Vatican’s. From May 9 through 16, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity headed a Vatican delegation (the largest ever) taking part in the Conference on World Mission and Evangelization in Greece. Earlier the same month, Pope Benedict xvi sent a message “of consideration” to France’s main Protestant church, the first time this has been done.

These moves toward church unity, however, also reveal on what terms that unity will come. As Times Online observed, “The Mary document will reinforce fears among evangelicals that the Catholic Church is prepared to consider unity with the Anglicans strictly on its own terms” (ibid.; emphasis ours).