Archbishop Justin Welby Pope Francis father of the church in the west
Ecumenism

Welby: most Anglicans recognise the Pope as “the father of the Church in the West”

As the Lambeth Conference drew to a close, the Archbishop of Canterbury waded into ecumenism, declaring he believed that most Anglicans in England now recognise the Pope as “the father of the Church in the West”.

His exact words aren’t available: they seem to have been made extempore. The Tablet reports as above: he referred to “Anglicans in England” (so most of the CofE). The Catholic News Agency reports him as saying “morst Anglicans recognize the pope as ‘the father of the Church in the West'”, followed by “the majority of the Church of England’s members acknowledge the pope to be ‘the father of the Church in the West'”, which are two quite a different congregations (Worldwide Anglicans being around 85 million; the CofE being about a million of those). And Virtue Online reports him as saying: “the majority of the Church of England’s members and most Anglicans recognize the pope as “the father of the Church in the West.”

So it appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury is persuaded that most Anglicans in the Church of England and in the Worldwide Anglican Communion believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West”. He doesn’t say why he believes this, and he apparently adduced no research or data to corroborate his assertion. So we are left a vague belief; a statement of faith. Or perhaps just a personal longing. But “in the West” is interesting: does he think most Anglicans believe the Pope of Alexandria to be the father of the Church in the East? If not, then who do most Anglicans believe to be father of the Church in the East? Or does the Church in the East not have a father?

If most Anglicans believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “‘the father of the Church in the West”, what’s the point of Anglicanism? If most members of the Church of England believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West”, what’s the point of Anglo-Catholicism? Honestly, if Pope Francis is “the father of the Church in the West”, why is the Church of England faffing around with sisters, cousins and aunts? Why not just abandon all Anglican doctrine, formularies and liturgy and crawl back to the father in sackcloth and ashes so he can rejoice and kill the fatted calf?

Did somebody mention Pope Francis?

Is it that Justin Welby doesn’t believe that most Anglicans believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West”, but specifically Pope Francis, who has been seen to express a certain Anglican disposition?

..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?

Or does Justin Welby think most members of the Church of England also believed Pope Benedict XVI to have been “the father of the Church in the West”?

How could most Anglicans believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West” when he has written and believes the Church of England is not a ‘proper’ church?

The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense..

Since Anglican Orders are “absolutely null and utterly void“, and since the Church of England is not a church “in the proper sense”, but a mere ‘ecclesial community’, how many Anglicans really believe the Pope of Rome to be “the father of the Church in the West”? In particular, how many women bishops and priests believe the Pope of Rome to be “the father of the Church in the West”?

Or is it mother of the Church?

One may cavil that the secondary issues of gender and sexuality don’t matter any more, but doesn’t the primary difference over the doctrine of salvation matter at all? Doesn’t the question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community matter at all? Don’t the Pope’s assumed universal role or his ex cathedra claims to moral infallibility matter any more?

Don’t Anglicans who believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West” need to do a bit of wrestling with the ultimate source of spiritual authority, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the efficacy and finality of Jesus’s work on the cross? Certainly, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops can pray and work together as brothers (not sisters – a decision which, in itself, speaks volumes) by reason of their common baptism. And they can preach of justice and exhort mercy and defend the dignity of all people. But.. but..

..how can most members of the Church of England believe the Pope (of Rome) to be “the father of the Church in the West” when the Church of England believes that: “The Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith”? How can Justin Welby believe Pope Francis (and Benedict XVI before him?) to be “the father of the Church in the West” when Rome’s official line is that Justin Welby is a layman; that he is no more a bishop than Sandi Toksvig?

We can laud the Archbishop’s impulse to focus is on the person and ministry of Jesus. Christian unity is not a labour of man, but a work of the Holy Spirit. He sifts the wheat from the chaff and separates the sheep from the goats. He also purifies the Church: ‘For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him’ (2Cor 11:4).

But there can be no progress to Anglican-Roman Catholic Christian unity when Anglicans can’t even find it among themselves.

Were the Reformers really burned at the stake for nothing?