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You can imagine my surprise when a friend of mine informed me that I am quoted in this week’s edition (17 October) of the Church of England Newspaper. The author of the article has read my reflection Roman Catholics accept Archbishop of Canterbury’s orders? and this is what s/he writes:

Lourdes questions for Dr Williams

Critics have lambasted Dr. Williams for departing from Anglican tradition and acceding to the Roman Catholic dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary. While the content of Dr. Williams’ sermon has aroused the ire of Protestants, the fact that his sermon took place during a Roman Catholic mass has intrigued liturgists, who note that Roman Catholic canon law only permits Catholic clergy to preach at a mass.

New Zealand liturgist, the Rev. Bosco Peters, observed that by allowing Dr. Williams to preach at Lourdes, “Roman Catholics appear to be accepting that the Archbishop of Canterbury is validly ordained.”

The Rt. Rev. Jacques Perrier, the Catholic bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes invited Dr. Williams to preach at the international mass, where Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, celebrated.

While Canon 766 permits Catholic bishops to authorize lay persons to preach in Catholic churches, canon 767 restricts preaching at masses to Catholic clergy. “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?” Mr. Peters asked.

The Rev. Jeremy Brooks, Director of Ministry of the Protestant Truth Society took umbrage at Dr Williams’ visit and homily at Lourdes, calling it a “wholesale compromise” and “complete denial of Protestant orthodoxy.”

In his Sept 26 homily Dr. Williams stated that “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.” The archbishop further stated that in response to the apparition of Mary, “Bernadette – uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine – leapt with joy, recognising that here was life, here was healing.”

These assertions go against traditional Anglican formularies as found in the Articles of Religion, critics asserted. Identifying Mary as the “Lord’s spotless mother,” a reference to her immaculate conception and perpetual virginity, contradicts Article XV. “Of Christ alone without Sin.”

The statement that in Mary, “here was life, here was healing,” appears to contradict Article XVIII, that life and healing along come from Christ, which states “For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

“Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation ejected, including apparitions, Mariolatry and the veneration of saints,” Mr. Brooks said.

“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,” he charged.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Lourdes last month continues to be a source of controversy within the Anglican Communion and the wider Christian church.

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