Is the Pope Anglican?


The American Spectator isn’t at all happy with the “liberal” Pope Francis and his “caricaturing of conservatives“. That’s Roman Catholic traditionalists, as opposed to the GOP-type conservative. “Under the lightweight leftism of Pope Francis, the question ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ seems less and less rhetorical,” writes George Neumayr, as he showers this pope with negative invective: “heartless”, “nastiness”, “lack of charity”,

According to Pope Francis, the Synod on the Family, exposed “closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families”. He continued: “It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.”

Of which Neumayr observes:

Previous popes, reading the remarks above, would conclude that the speaker held to the theology of liberal Protestantism. They would find the false contrasts between divine law and mercy, upon which Francis habitually relies, pitiful in their shallowness, and they would find his constant resort to straw-man fallacies and motive-mongering against traditionalists to be an unsightly blot upon the papacy. With a pope like this one, orthodox Catholics don’t need enemies.

..He is an open left-wing Catholic, perfectly comfortable with the de facto heretics within his own order and inside his special cabinet of cardinals. Cardinal Walter Kasper, whom Pope Francis has identified as one of his “favorite” theologians, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, who is one of his closest advisers, stand to the left of Martin Luther.

To the left of Martin Luther? The implication is one of theological heresy. Following Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517, Pope Leo X condemned the ideas as “heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears and seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth”.

But it is to Luther that the current Pope turns for a further injection of “Christian Newness”. Not content with granting Communion to the divorced and remarried (ie, those living in a state of adultery), Pope Francis appears intent on admitting Protestants.

During a Q&A session during his visit to Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran church on Sunday, Pope Francis was asked directly whether a Lutheran and Roman Catholic married couple might “finally participate together in Communion”. The response, translated by Whispers on the Loggia, is a little rambling but quite revelatory:

The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper – I’m scared!

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this mandatum to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem – it’ll be there! But that will be the last one… in the meantime, I ask myself and don’t know how to respond – what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [etym. “to accompany you on the journey”] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means that there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand. But I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? And you’re a witness of a likewise profound journey, a journey of marriage: itself a journey of family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.

When you feel yourself a sinner – and I’m much more of a sinner – when your husband feels he’s sinned, you go forward to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution, [thus] I’m healed and kept alive in my Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What did Jesus do for us?, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same.

The question [Pope draws question mark with his finger]…. The supper? There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with a bishop who went a little wrong – 48 years old, he married [then had] two children. This made for great discomfort in him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied them on Sunday, his wife and children, to Mass, and then went to worship with his community…. It was a step toward his participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] “I’m not right.”

I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path? It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves], but a pastor-friend once told me that “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present” – you believe that the Lord is present. And what’s the difference? There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – one faith, one baptism, one Lord: this Paul tells us; and then consequences come later.

I would never dare to give permission to do this, because it’s not my own competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. [Pauses] And I wouldn’t dare – I don’t dare say anything more.

Is the Pope Anglican?

The full context of this response is important: the denominational temptation is to excise a judicious quotation and hold it up, as Neumayr might, as proof of papal heresy and the need to bring back Benedict. And yet Pope Francis presented the Lutherans with a Communion chalice as a gift: he clearly inclines to the view that Lutheran participation in the Roman Eucharist is a matter for individual discernment rather than authoritative assertions of Canon Law: “It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves].” And if Lutherans, why not Anglicans? As the Catholic Herald notes: “A proposal to allow Anglican spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion had been included in the Instrumentum Laboris of the synod.” If Anglican spouses, why not all Anglicans?

Of course, all Christians may participate in a Roman Catholic Mass (indeed, anyone may attend), but ordinarily only Roman Catholics may eat the flesh and drink the blood, and in many Roman Catholic churches the blood isn’t available at all. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches:

Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite.

These “pastoral reasons” are basically ease of distribution and the protection of the wine-blood from profanation: you can easily pick up a dropped wafer, but getting red wine out of a carpet is like getting blood out of a stone. So, it’s wafers only. The Catechism goes on to note:

..the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.

This is the usual form of receiving Holy Communion. There are diverse beliefs about the sacrament or mystery of the bread and wine, which are well known and need not be rehearsed again. Readers and Communicants are free to Google ‘Transubstantiation’, ‘Consubstantiation’, ‘Real Presence’, ‘Sacramental Union’, ‘Spiritual Presence’, ‘Receptionism’, ‘Memorialism’, ‘Symbolism’, etc., etc. And nor must one forget the Quaker/Salvation Army view that the Eucharist is not a necessary obligation at all.

It doesn’t help to hurl the term ‘blasphemy’ around, so we’ll move on from talk of the “Popish Mass”, the “abomination of Antichrist” and “the heinous errors of the papists”, and deal simply with the claim of the Roman Church to catholicity while enforcing exclusivity in Holy Communion – the very means by which all men and women may be stirred to friendship, love and concord. It is a symbol of brotherly and sisterly affection; of unfeigned love between members of the Body of Christ.

The Roman Catholic Church considers certain Christian groups deficient in holy orders: Anglicans (for example) “have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness”. We “commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper”; we “profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ”. But commemoration, signs and symbolism are inadequate. Therefore Anglicans are barred for our own sakes from taking bread and wine in Roman Catholic churches.

And yet many Anglicans discern for themselves that they may participate fully in the Mass, and, indeed, do so freely and completely, even at St Peter’s in Rome. It is perfectly possible to know and understand the plainest meaning of every word in the ‘extraordinary form’ (Tridentine), and still approach the altar to kneel and receive the Host, and thank God for feeding us.

Of course, were Anglicans to disclose their heresy, no doubt the elements would be denied. Therefore participation is contingent upon deception. Yet the heart knows Christ. With Tertullian, writing against Marcion, Anglicans believe: “Jesus taking bread, and distributing it amongst his disciples, made it his body, saying ‘This is my body’; that is to say, a figure of my body.” And St Cyprian, the holy martyr, said: “Christ’s blood is showed in the wine, and the people in the water that is mixed with the wine: so that the mixture of the water to the wine signifieth the spiritual commixtion and joining of us to Christ.” And St John Chrysostom talked of “bread and wine for a similitude of his body and blood”.

And, further, St Augustine expounded a Cranmerian belief more clearly: “Therefore, as after a certain manner of speech, the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood’, but later ‘ baptism we be buried with him into death’. He did not say ‘we signify burial’, but plainly that ‘we be buried’. So the sacrament of so great a thing is not called but by the name of the thing itself.”

This is not a blog disputation on Transubstantiation: it is a plea for the church that calls itself Catholic to welcome Christians of all denominations to participate fully in the Lord’s Supper, should they themselves wish. Roman Catholics are most welcome to the Anglican Eucharist, but there is no reciprocity. We are excluded, deficient, outcast. Our theological beliefs about bread and wine excommunicate us along with adulterers, practising homosexuals and abortionists. Our rejection is the “medicinal penalty” intended to invite us to repent, change our beliefs and amend our ways, when we have no reason to repent, change or amend.

It is indeed kind of the robust Roman Catholic hierarchy to care for Anglican souls to the extent that we are excommunicated. But, as Pope Francis suggests, it is a matter for individual discernment; a wrestle for our own consciences. Every man and woman repenting of his or her offences may yield wholly to God, and often come to the Holy Supper which our Lord and Saviour Christ has prepared. You may believe that you eat literally the flesh and drink the blood, but some of us eat and drink spiritually, remembering the death, grateful for the salvation, and looking for no other sacrifice at no priest’s hands for remission of sins.

At the end of the joint prayer service, Pope Francis said: “Just think of the persecutions, among we who have the same baptism. Think of all the people who were burned alive… We have to ask each other forgiveness for this, for the scandal of division.”

So, paraphrasing the words of Ronald Reagan to Mikahil Gorbachev: “Your Holiness, if you seek peace; if you seek unity for the Catholic Church; if you desire that all Christians may be one, come here to this altar. Your Holiness, open up the Lord’s Supper to all believers for us to feed on Him by faith. Your Holiness, tear down this wall of transubstantiation dogmatism.”

It is time for Rome to open up the Lord’s Supper.