Editorial by Jonathan Clatworthy
from Signs of the Times No. 18 - Jul 2005

Your editor has been caught out again.

On being asked about the Anglican view of Mary by a neighbour whose Roman Catholic mother, apparently, was glowing over the Anglican 'capitulation', the answer seemed obvious enough even before reading the ARCIC Report. No, Anglicans are in a very Evangelical mood at the moment, not in the slightest interested in cosying up to Rome. Anyway, to talk about the Immaculate Conception and Assumption in terms of being de fide (obligatory doctrines) would imply that they were true; and we couldn't possibly reach that conclusion without a huge amount more evidence than is available today.

What naivete! To think that such trivial matters would get in the way of the search for unity! The 60-page Report, entitled Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, completes the second phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II). The Immaculate Conception became Roman Catholic doctrine in 1854, when the pope declared that it had been 'revealed by God', and the Assumption in 1950, when a later pope said it had been 'divinely revealed'. The Report declares them to be, respectively, 'not contrary to scripture' and 'consonant with scripture'. It emphasizes that, while differences of opinion remain, they are not as great as has often been thought. Both doctrines, it suggests, 'can only be understood in the light of scripture'. It applies Romans 8:30 to Mary: 'Those whom God predestined he also called; those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified'. Are Anglicans expected to believe it? 'For Anglicans, it would be the consent of an ecumenical council which, teaching according to the scriptures, most securely demonstrates that the necessary conditions for a teaching to be de fide had been met'.

It expects a range of views to continue, but does not think they should divide the communions.


Jonathan Clatworthy lives in Liverpool and is Modern Church General Secretary. He has worked as a parish priest, university chaplain and lecturer in Ethics.