A formal letter from the Pope to his church and an accompanying explanation from Cardinal Ratzinger, released just before the Lambeth Conference, upset many Anglicans and liberal Roman Catholics.
The Pope reasserted articles of faith that are `definitive’ and binding to all Catholics, inscribing those teachings into church law. The list of essential beliefs which Catholics may not question include opposition to euthanasia and the ordination of women.
But, according to Primate Michael Peers, it wasn’t so much the Pope’s statement that was a problem for Anglicans, it was the message from Cardinal Ratzinger.
The offending statement from the cardinal reads “With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: … the declaration of Pope Leo XIII … on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations.”
“I think it’s sad that it comes just before the Lambeth Conference,” said Archbishop Peers in an interview from England. “As I understand it, it is the only ecumenical reference in Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement. It’s only about us and it’s entirely negative. So it’s disappointing. But definitive is not eternal.”
The Primate noted that the Roman Catholic Church has never withdrawn the statement on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations made by Pope Leo XIII in 1896.
“But in the last 100 years, certainly in the last 30 years, all kinds of agreements have been reached that draw Anglicans and Roman Catholics together … agreements that point the way towards resolving a lot of outstanding issues. When Cardinal Ratzinger says this is definitive, it’s as if nothing has happened in the last 102 years, whereas a lot has happened.”
Anglicans and Roman Catholics at the local level have developed much improved relationships, Archbishop Peers said, and he expects that will continue.
“But it does indicate that local agreements in the Roman Catholic tradition of course can come up against obstacles in Rome itself.”