Pray Tell reader Max Johnson wrote in to call my attention to the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the United States of 2005, which is relevant to the dismissive comments on Anglican Eucharist and ministry made by Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Cardinal Sarah recently said this:
[I]n the Anglican church is it not actually the Eucharist because there is no priesthood. … [A] Catholic cannot receive communion in the Anglican church, because there is no Communion; there is only bread. The bread is not consecrated, because the priest is not a priest.
The cardinal seems unaware of what the Second Vatican Council taught in this area, the new possibilities opened up by the Council, and the advances made since the Council by individual theologians and in official dialogues. His comments, both tone and content, are questionable.
The Dialogue, quoting Vatican II and Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke about the Lutheran Church, but its framework can fruitfully be applied also to the Anglican Church. The Dialogue said this at no. 107:
Catholic judgment on the authenticity of Lutheran ministry need not be of an all-or-nothing nature. The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II distinguished between relationships of full ecclesiastical communion and those of imperfect communion to reflect the varying degrees of differences with the Catholic Church [Unitatis Redintegratio 3]. The communion of these separated communities with the Catholic Church is real, even though it is imperfect. Furthermore, the decree positively affirmed:
“Our separated brothers and sisters also celebrate many sacred actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each church or community, and must be held capable of giving access to that communion in which is salvation.” [UR 3]
Commenting on this point, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in 1993 to Bavarian Lutheran bishop Johannes Hanselmann:
“I count among the most important results of the ecumenical dialogues the insight that the issue of the eucharist cannot be narrowed to the problem of ‘validity.’ Even a theology oriented to the concept of succession, such as that which holds in the Catholic and in the Orthodox church, need not in any way deny the salvation-granting presence of the Lord [Heilschaffende Gegenwart des Herrn] in a Lutheran [evangelische] Lord’s Supper.” [Briefwechsel von Landesbischof Johannes Hanselmann und Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger über das Communio-Schreiben der Römischen Glaubenskongregation, Una Sancta, 48 (1993): 348.]
If the actions of Lutheran pastors can be described by Catholics as “sacred actions” that “can truly engender a life of grace,” if communities served by such ministers give “access to that communion in which is salvation,” and if at a eucharist at which a Lutheran pastor presides is to be found “the salvation-granting presence of the Lord,” then Lutheran churches cannot be said simply to lack the ministry given to the church by Christ and the Spirit. In acknowledging the imperfect koinonia between our communities and the access to grace through the ministries of these communities, we also acknowledge a real although imperfect koinonia between our ministries.
Between Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) and Sarah a great gap is fixed. Ratzinger is aware of what Vatican II made possible and what new paths have opened up since Vatican II, even as he is quite cautious. One gets the impression that Sarah is not well-informed in this area, perhaps even is unaware of ecumenical discussions and dialogues. He comes across as one of those whom Pope Francis scolds for being fundamentalist.
But Ratzinger/Benedict? Good for him and his observations on “the salvation-granting presence of the Lord” at Lutheran eucharist.