Much fuss has been made of the preaching by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at a Roman Catholic Mass at Lourdes celebrating 150 years since the 1858 vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. The Protestant Truth Society accused Archbishop Rowan as “behaving as little more than a Papal puppet”. What has, it seems to me, been lost in this dust-storm, is that in inviting the Archbishop to preach Roman Catholics appear to be accepting that the Archbishop of Canterbury is validly ordained.
On the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Archbishop, referring to Mary as “the Lord’s spotless Mother” and “Mother of God”, takes the apparitions as a given: “When Mary came to Bernadette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious ‘thing’, not yet identified as the Lord’s spotless mother,” he said. “Only bit by bit does Bernadette find the words to let the world know; only bit by bit, we might say, does she discover how to listen to the Lady and echo what she has to tell us.”
Rev. Jeremy Brooks, Director of Ministry, of the Protestant Truth Society said: ‘All true Protestants will be appalled at the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury has visited Lourdes, and preached there as a part of the 150th anniversary celebrations at the Roman Catholic shrine. Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation rejected, including apparitions, mariolatry and the veneration of saints. The Archbishop’s simple presence there is a wholesale compromise, and his sermon which included a reference to Mary as “The Mother of God” is a complete denial of Protestant orthodoxy. At a time when our country is crying out for clear Biblical leadership, it is nothing short of tragic that our supposedly Protestant Archbishop is behaving as little more than a Papal puppet.’
Roman Catholics accept Archbishop of Canterbury’s orders
Roman Catholic bishops may authorise lay persons to preach in Catholic churches (canon 766), but according to canon 767 only a priest or deacon may preach at Mass. Every Catholic seminarian would know this from seminary’s Liturgy 101. So in inviting the Archbishop of Canterbury to preach at such an internationally significant Roman Catholic Mass are they acknowledging that Archbishop Rowan Williams is validly ordained?
The 1896 papal bull, Apostolicae Curae, pronounced Anglican orders “absolutely null and utterly void”. Since then, however, Roman Catholics have themselves reformed their ordination rites making them highly similar to Anglican ones. And since 1931 Anglicans and Old Catholics have been in full communion. Old Catholic orders are accepted as valid by the Vatican, and Old Catholics have, since 1931, been fully involved in Anglican ordinations, restoring continuity in the minds of those who considered there had been some sort of “break”.