One cannot be an Anglican and use the Roman Missal – it is one or the other, so says Bishop of London.

From: The Catholic Herald.

The Bishop of London has written a letter about the Eucharist, which makes interesting reading, and which can be read in full here. I am not an Anglican, and therefore it is not my place to comment on what Dr Chartres has to say to his flock, but there are some things that he says which reflect on us Catholics, which I feel I must comment on.

Dr Chartres writes:

In an age when Aristotle’s analysis of objects in the physical world as being composed of “essences and accidents” was widely accepted, transubstantiation was seen to have value as a picture of how the eucharistic elements were transformed. In the Windsor Agreed Statement which emerged from the first series of international discussions between Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians, transubstantiation appears only in a footnote as “affirming the fact of Christ’s presence and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place. In contemporary Roman Catholic theology it is not understood as explaining how the change takes place.”

While not wanting to dismiss the Windsor Agreed Statement as irrelevant, or criticizing the wording of that footnote, the truth of the matter is that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not a footnote in Catholic life, but central to Catholic belief, identity and practice. Nor does belief in transubstantiation depend on Aristotle, even if it borrows, or better steals, Aristotelian language. Long after Aristotle is forgotten, or is himself a footnote to theology, the doctrine of transubstantiation will be with us. Transubstantiation is not to be dismissed as an idea whose time has passed. It seems to me that if one were to ignore the clear doctrine of transubstantiation, one would pretty soon find oneself losing one’s belief in the true nature of the Mass as a sacrifice and the doctrine of the Real Presence.

The Bishop then goes on to talk about the “new rites” that the Catholic Church will be adopting this Advent. This is misleading. There are no new rites, there is merely a new translation of the Roman Rite. There has been no innovation, but rather a return to the original text, through greater fidelity to the Latin. But the Bishop says: “The new Roman rite varies considerably from its predecessor and thus from Common Worship as well.” The first part of this statement is simply factually incorrect; the second part leaves me wondering. What did the old translation have in common with Common Worship that the new translation does not? The Bishop refers to “a convergence of eucharistic doctrine and rites” between Anglicans and Catholics, but he gives no evidence for this optimistic view. Perhaps he means that Common Worship has been modeled on the old translation of the Roman Missal. But what he says about transubstantiation above indicates to me that there has been no substantial convergence, even if there may have been some accidental ones. (That Aristotelian language again!)

Then the Bishop delivers his bombshell, if it may be termed such:

Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC [English Language Liturgical Consultation] texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well. This is a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter. The clergy involved have sworn oaths of canonical obedience as well as making their Declaration of Assent. I urge them not to create further disunity by adopting the new rites.

Of course, His Lordship is completely right about this. The use of the Roman Missal, in whatever translation, by someone, anyone, who is not authorised by a bishop in communion with Rome, is absolutely wrong. Dr Chartres even goes so far as to mention canon law, which is, I believe, but rarely invoked in the Anglican Communion, which shows how seriously he takes this matter.

The Bishop seems to be putting clear blue water between us Catholics and his own flock, perhaps more clearly than he intends. It is clearly wrong for Anglican clergy to use the Roman Missal, from both an Anglican point of view and from our point of view. But I would add this: the Roman Missal, especially in the new translation, reflects a very clear belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation which Anglicans do not hold. Therefore they should not use the Missal. Or if they do hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation, they should come into the Ordinariate.

“Three priests in the Diocese have taken this step. They have followed their consciences,” remarks the Bishop speaking of the Ordinariate. Is there a third way? It would seem not. Dr Chartres, while mentioning canon law and its obligations, nevertheless makes no threats: “There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs,” he says. But the appeal to conscience and indeed logic is clear in this powerfully argued letter. You cannot be an Anglican and use the Roman Missal. It is one or the other. On that all should agree.

|About the author

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith

Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest and a doctor of moral theology. The author of several books, he was born in West Sussex, educated at Oxford and in Rome, and has lived in Malta, Italy, and Kenya,

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10 Responses to One cannot be an Anglican and use the Roman Missal – it is one or the other, so says Bishop of London.

  1. Archie Wedderspoon says:

    ‘There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs’ seems to me to lack a certain precision. Is the good bishop suggesting that there may however be a creation of martyrs other than ritual ones? And whom does he see as doing any creating there might prove to be?


  2. CanonKing says:

    I believe that the Bishop of London was being very precise in his comment on ritual martyrs. 150 years ago, is predecessor sent spies into St. Alban the Martyr, to report on the romish doings thereat. Their report began, “We saw three men dressed in green” referring to the solemn Mass vestments being worn and which were thought to be illegal in the CofE.
    Various ritual persecutions ensued, priests were jailed, riots were fomented, etc.
    The Bishop was only stating that there would not be a reenactment of those days in his diocese. Anglo-catholics understand both this history and his remarks.


  3. Gertrude says:

    Thank you Canon for your clarification. The point Father Luci-Smith was making in this article, which defines the thinking of the Bishop of London very clearly, was regarding the comment on transubstantiation, which so very far from being a ‘foot-note’ to Catholicism is the tenet on which our Faith stands.

    In a small way though, do you not think that perhaps some of the Ordinariate priestsa have become ‘martyrs’? Maybe not in the convential understanding of the word, but we are aware of just how much agonising and sacrifice these brave priests have undergone in their search, and ultimately their finding the One True Church.


  4. JabbaPapa says:

    This is a very astonishing, and simultaneously very interesting article.

    There is very little in the first half of it, thereabouts, that one could disagree with on the basis of doctrinal theology, though I would personally disagree with the Bishop regarding some relatively minor points of attitude towards the doctrine ; but no more and no less than I would expect such disagreements to arise with anyone at all.

    When he starts discussing the new (and improved) translation of the Latin Rite however, well I find myself quite bewildered as to how his earlier comments can be squared with his attack against the revised text of the new English translation of the Latin Rite.

    I can understand his dismay to some extent, given that a recent attendance of an old translation English-language Latin Rite Mass demonstrated to me quite clearly the extent to which the old translation was overly influenced by Anglican concerns and forms and teachings ; but it is very hard to see the justification for such strange declarations as Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well !!!

    It seems more than a little panicky.

    It’s hard to see that the deliberate adoption of a translation of the Rite approved by the Holy See could represent a statement of disassociation from Rome !!

    I suppose that we can only pray that these strange manifestations may be evidence of a deeper tectonic shift in Anglicanism towards the Catholic Church than has been heretofore apparent…


  5. Gertrude says:

    I am confused as to the position the bishop’s statement leaves Forward in Faith and TAC? Neither groups have shown too much enthusiasm for the Ordinariate, but the Bishop’s comments citing canon law leave them as schismatics doesn’t it? (Although how there can be a schism in an ecclesial body born out of schism, I’m not sure).


  6. JabbaPapa says:

    Gertrude, the Bishop does retain his right to make disciplinary statements concerning his diocese specifically 🙂


  7. Gertrude says:

    So it only applies to his diocese?


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    So it only applies to his diocese?

    I’ve no idea about the arcana of Anglican Canon Law, but that would AFAIK be an accurate statement if Roman Canon Law were used. 🙂


  9. Gertrude says:

    But………..the Roman Rite is schismatic (according to whatever canon law this ecclesial body has ;-). so they can’t use that, or anything remotely that might be construed as!
    A Priest once described the Anglicans as being ‘masters of compromise’ – so I’m sure they will come up with something that pleases everyone.


  10. Giovanni A. Cattaneo says:

    I wish people here would stop calling this man a Bishop (Apostolicae Curae)


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