Bishop affirms need to explore doctrine further
LONDON – As Anglican and Catholic leaders advance in dialogue about religious differences, they are attempting to understand more deeply the role of Mary, the Mother of God.
On Feb 10, Auxiliary Bishop George Stack of Westminster (photo) addressed the Church of England general synod on this topic. He referenced in particular the 2005 report titled “Mary, Grace and Hope in Jesus Christ”, presented by the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).
The prelate underlined the importance of this topic in the process of dialogue, noting that Pope John Paul II wrote in “Ut Unum Sint” that “the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church [...] is one of the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved.”
The bishop also recalled that the subject was addressed in the ARCIC statement on authority in the Church in 1981.
He observed, “The fact that Mary found a place in the theological and historical minefields of the document on authority, and not just in devotional literature, is an indication of her important role in understanding how the salvation achieved by Jesus Christ is communicated to each individual believer and also to the community of the Church as a whole.”
Bishop Stack underlined the need to use “the tools of biblical language, theological methods and even devotional life to seek to understand how the living faith of the Church is moulded by our understanding of the place of Mary in the mystery of faith, the saving action of Jesus her Son”.
He acknowledged: “The doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary may sometimes seem to distort or misunderstand the role of Jesus as the unique mediator between God and the human race.
“An example of such a distortion would be the development of a theology which places her as an intercessor by the side of her Son.”
The prelate added that “the degree to which these dogmas and their teaching on virginity, sinlessness and obedience in the life of Mary have affected an understanding and role of women in the life of the church mentioned in the Faith and Order Group Response need to be explored in the historical context in which the dogmas were proclaimed”.
“These questions raised by a study of ‘Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ’ are equally legitimate for Catholics as they are for Anglicans in an exploration and explanation of the two doctrines on Our Lady and the light they shine on her life and the whole drama of salvation as lived out in and through the Church,” he affirmed.
The bishop added that this debate “is even more significant in the light of last week’s announcement that the third phase of the ARCIC dialogue will begin in May on the subject of ‘The Church as Communion – Local and Universal’”.