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An Analysis of Anglican Concepts of the Papal Magisterium from the First Through the Tenth Lambeth Conference
by Burns K. Seeley
Thesis presented to the Faculty of Theology of St. Paul University
Ottawa, Canada, 1971
This thesis was prepared under the supervision of
Burns K. Seeley was born June 26, 1932, in Washington, D.C. He received the Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1954, and the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois, in 1958. Also from Western Michigan University, he obtained in 1965 the Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Spanish and the Master of Arts degree in Medieval Theology. The title of his thesis was Banezism and Molinism in Theory and Practice.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Oxford Challenge (1867-1888)
The Oxford Movement (1833-1845)
Chapter 2: Primacy of Honor (1888-1908)
Chapter 3: Petrine Primacy of Authority (1908-1930)
Chapter 4: The Papal Magisterium: Traditional and Developed Views (1930-1948)
Doctrine in the Church of England
Chapter 5: Papacy and Episcopacy: A Rapprochement? (1948-1968)
Chapter 6: Comprehensive Analysis
Summary and Conclusions
Abstract: An Analysis of Anglican Concepts of the Papal Magisterium From the First Through the Tenth Lambeth Conference (1867-1968)
2007 Introduction to An Analysis of Anglican Concepts of the Papal Magisterium from the First through the Tenth Lambeth Conference (1867-1968)
The following manuscript is a Ph.D. dissertation written during the years 1969‑1971 under the direction of Father John A. Hardon, S.J. It deals with the scriptural, patristic and conciliar evidence supporting the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal primacy. Of all the doctrines that divide non‑Catholic Christians from the Roman Catholic Church, it is the question of papal primacy which occupies first place. Without a doubt it is the chief stumbling block to unity with that Church which maintains the Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, enjoys that primacy over the Church granted by Jesus to St. Peter.
I wrote this while I was still an Anglican, but wanting to know whether the Anglican concept of papal primacy or that of the Roman Catholic Church was true. This was not done out of idle curiosity, nor even primarily to earn a Ph.D. It was undertaken because I needed to know the truth.
In 1967, I was an Episcopalian priest in crisis. The Episcopal Church (the Anglican Church in the U.S.) held its triennial general convention in Seattle that year. Among others things this general convention endorsed abortion, permitting it in cases where the motherís health is threatened, or where the child is badly deformed, or if it had been conceived through rape or incest.
This resolution threw me into a theological tailspin. Up to that point, I had accepted what is known as the Branch Theory of the Catholic Church, the same theory endorsed by Cardinal John Henry Newman prior to his entry into the Roman Catholic Church. It teaches that the fullness of the present Catholic Church consists of three branches, namely the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, each of which branched off from the undivided Catholic Church of the first Christian centuries. Each branch maintained the fullness of the faith and the sacraments, only differing in issues relating to Church government and practice.
Until 1967, the three branches had always unequivocally condemned abortion. But now not only did the Episcopal Church of America uphold induced abortion, but in no way was it censured for doing so or cut off from the rest of the Anglican Communion. I personally complained to the head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Michael Ramsay, who refused to do anything.
In light of this I nursed very serious doubts as to whether the Anglican Communion remained an equal partner of the Catholic Church along side the branches of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. But I also had strong doubts about the truth of the Roman Catholic claims about papal primacy.
I shared these concerns with my friend, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., a seminary professor and theologian with a doctorate in theology. I told him that if it were not for the Roman Catholic teaching on the authority of the Pope, I would seriously consider becoming a Roman Catholic. Father lost no time in seeking to persuade me of the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic doctrine in this regard. But I was not an easy nut to crack. Father then urged me to study the scriptural, patristic and conciliar evidence for the Roman Catholic teaching on the papacy.
Within the year, and with Fr. Hardonís more than generous help and guidance, that is exactly what I did. I found that I had to study more deeply the views of Anglican theologians about the Papacy as well as the Roman Catholic teaching. Neither of these tasks was easy as both had undergone serious development from the mid-19th century through the Second Vatican Council. Anglo-Catholic theologians, who began by denying even that St. Peter had any governing authority among the Apostles, gradually accepted more of the Roman Catholic claims about St. Peter and the Bishops of Rome. Vatican I affirmed Papal infallibility but, interrupted by the Italian war of unification, left unclear its relationship to episcopal and conciliar authority.
I was not content to merely understand the differences; I needed to know which was true. At every step, I compared both the Anglican and Roman positions with the teaching on the papacy found in Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and the early Church councils.
The following manuscript is the fruit of my labor. As a result of my research and with the assistance of Divine Providence, I am now very happily a Roman Catholic priest.
I am publishing it here to help any and all Christians who, as I once did, doubt whether the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papacy accurately reflects that of Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers and the early Church councils. I also think that Catholics will gain a deeper understanding of this inestimable gift which help them in their dialogue with non-Catholic Christians. They will also gain a deeper understanding of their Anglo-Catholic brethren, who now face even graver challenges to their beliefs than I did in the late 60's.
As a dissertation, it is scholarly and thorough. But I tried to present my findings as clearly as possible, so that Catholics might understand Anglican concepts and Anglicans Catholic. I believe that most Christians with a college-level education will not find it too difficult.
In March 1966, the Most Reverend Arthur Michael Ramsey met in Rome with His Holiness Paul VI for the first official meeting between an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Bishop of Rome since the sixteenth century. Its purpose was to inaugurate a new relationship between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Communions; one in which reunion would be actively sought on the basis of the mutual acceptance of the fullness of Christian truth. However, both leaders acknowledged that formidable barriers had to be removed before this goal could be achieved.
Among these barriers, none will be more difficult to overcome than that pertaining to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the primacy of the papal magisterium, which Anglicanism has traditionally rejected. Consequently, this thesis has been written as a means of surmounting this obstacle, so that the cause of unity may be substantially furthered.
Specifically speaking, the thesis is a critical analysis, by an Anglican, of Anglican concepts of the papal magisterium which existed during the period surrounding the first ten Lambeth Conferences (1867-1968).
The scholarly concepts analyzed are principally those espoused by members of the Anglo-Catholic school of thought. The reason is that, for the most part during the period under consideration, only Anglo-Catholics dealt with the question of the papal teaching office on a scholarly basis. However, even if other Anglican scholars had contributed abundantly in the matter, the wealth of Anglo-Catholic material alone would have justified a separate study.
As used here, the term Anglo-Catholic applies to Anglicans who believed in the magisterial primacy of the episcopal college. Other Anglicans held differing views in the matter. These belonged principally to the Evangelical and Latitudinarian schools of thought. The Evangelicals (Low Churchmen) tended to stress the primacy of the enlightened individual conscience in determining doctrine contained in Scripture. The Latitudinarians (Liberals, Broad Churchmen) tended to emphasize the magisterial primacy of reason.
Anglo-Catholics, unlike Evangelicals and Latitudinarians, also placed great emphasis upon the teaching of the early Catholic Church, especially upon that contained in ecumenical councils and in the unanimous witness of the Fathers. The early Catholic Church, often referred to as the early undivided Church, was generally held to be that which existed during the eleven centuries prior to the East-West schism.
In the thesis an attempt has been made to analyze all the major concepts of the papal magisterium as contained within the Anglo-Catholic school. At times these may seem to have been presented more than once, but actually, due to the individuality of each author, intrinsic changes or shifts have occurred which have resulted in the creation of concepts which are new.
By far, the greatest proportion of documentation used by the scholars in support of their respective views, was produced no later than the time of Pope Leo I in the fifth century. Consequently, due to this factor, and in the interests of the conservation of space, no evidence of the early Church deriving after this period has been considered.
Quite often, the principal concern of the authors was to analyze the Roman Catholic claims for papal primacy in general, rather than the more specific question of the primacy of the papal magisterium. Therefore, arguments used by the Anglicans are of a broader nature than just the papal magisterium. Consequently, our concern has been to analyze them in relation to the papal magisterium.
The concepts of each scholar, presented within the body of the thesis, have been separately examined and chronologically ordered. In most instances, this has involved both a critical analysis of the concepts relating to the papal magisterium proper and also to those pertaining to the Petrine magisterium. The reason for the latter, is that a scholars understanding of the papal magisterium was, to a large extent, dependent upon his understanding of the Petrine teaching office.
Particularly attention has been brought to bear upon the evidence employed by the scholars to support their concepts. For the most part, this consisted of passages from Scripture, the Fathers, and councils of the early undivided Church.
The primary reason for limiting the scope of the thesis to the period surrounding the first ten Lambeth Conferences is that the Anglican views of the papal magisterium contained therein have significantly shaped contemporary Anglican thinking in the matter.
Not only have the views of individual scholars been noted, but also those presented by the Lambeth Conference themselves. The latter views were usually limited to short, unsupported statements. Nevertheless, they were important since, reflecting the collective thinking of the Anglican episcopate, they directly affected the entire Anglican Communion and were sometimes vehicles of recent Anglican scholarship.
The consideration of each conferences teaching about the papacy has been interspersed chronologically among the analyses of the more scholarly material. Thus readily enabling the reader to note possible scholarly influences upon the conferences and vice versa.
Lambeth teaching regarding the historic episcopate and the sacrament of Matrimony has also been noted. This has been done to compare the collective teaching activity of the Anglican episcopate with Anglo-Catholic concepts of the Churchs magisterium.
The views contained in the journal articles cited in the bibliography were, as a rule, not analyzed but simply referred to in footnotes. The reason is that most of the pertinent articles presented views which, having withstood the test of time and therefore being representative of genuine Anglican positions, were later incorporated into books. Also, some concepts contained in books were omitted from serious consideration. This was because they either contained little or no supporting evidence or they did not significantly add to the concepts actually selected for analysis.
During the period under consideration in this study, Anglican scholars regularly cited the teaching of either Vatican I or Vatican II as the source of their understanding of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal magisterium. Consequently, the pertinent conciliar documents have been noted and examined.
The thesis chapter titles are not of a comprehensive nature. Rather, they indicate only the principal theme or problem presented within each chapter. The dates in the titles, which refer to Lambeth Conferences, normally mark the limits of the periods covered in the chapters. However in chapter one, the first date cited does not signify the precise beginning of the period covered since the historical background leading up to the first Lambeth Conference has also been noted.
Upon reading this study, Roman Catholics will notice that Anglican scholars often misinterpreted the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal magisterium. This was largely due to the belief that Vatican I taught that the Roman pontiff alone had authority in determining matters of doctrine, thereby excluding the role of the universal episcopate. Therefore, there was a tendency to view the pope as the usurper of the bishops teaching authority inherited from the Apostles. Consequently, the challenge was to disprove papal absolutism and to demonstrate the magisterial primacy of the episcopal college. As we have seen, this was primarily undertaken by the use of Scripture and other writings of the early undivided Catholic Church.
Even after Vatican II, Anglican writers tended to challenge the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal magisterium. It was generally acknowledged, however, that the councils teaching on episcopal collegiality narrowed the gap between the Roman Catholic and Anglican positions.
Another thing that becomes apparent on reading the thesis is a development, over the years, of Anglican views of Petrine authority more closely resembling those of Roman Catholicism. A similar development, although generally more implicit, is also discernible regarding the papal magisterium.
This study has actually involved three distinct approaches regarding Anglican concepts of the papal magisterium. There has been first of all the presentation of the pertinent data supplied by each scholar and Lambeth Conference. Next, there has been an analysis of this data which has revealed explicitly and implicitly positions either favoring or opposing Roman Catholic doctrine in the matter. Finally, there has been an analysis of the overall development in the Anglican concepts which has revealed explicitly and implicitly an increased support for the primacy of the papal magisterium.
A critical evaluation was reserved for the final chapter. Nevertheless, in the nature of things, their analysis within the body of the thesis was also evaluative. Yet, this evaluation was not strictly critical in the sense of standing in personal appraisal of the positions. Objective judgments were made as to statements of doctrinal fact or theological conclusions. The strictly critical evaluation as a person contribution of the author was confined to the concluding chapter.
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