U.S. Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders met last week to discuss the role of the Virgin Mary and the progress in ecumenical relations between the two churches, according to a release from the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation (ARCUSA).
At the meeting, held at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., participants completed a response to the 2004 "Seattle Document" of ARC-USA titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," which offers commentary and meditation on Mary's significance for members of both churches. They also completed a draft Spanish-language pastoral tool to help show the differences and similarities between the two churches, as well as summarizing recent progress in ecumenical relations.
From the response to "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ":
As the document acknowledges, Anglicans turn to Scripture to determine what must be believed as a matter of faith: only that which can be read in Scripture or proved on the basis of Scripture can be required to be believed (MGHC 60; cf. Article VI of the Articles of Religion). While Roman Catholics acknowledge that there are no biblical texts that express the doctrines of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception or from which they can be strictly proved, they nonetheless hold that these Marian doctrines are contained in divine revelation and that their church has arrived at such certitude that they are revealed truths as to justify their definition as dogmas of faith.The whole thing is here.
Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics accept that Christian revelation cannot be reduced to a series of propositions but is centered in the whole Christ-event, of which the apostles were the privileged witnesses. This witness of the apostles has been handed on through the Christian way of life, teaching, prayer, and worship. We recognize a legitimate development of doctrine in the course of the Church's life, a growth in the understanding of what has been handed on by the apostles. Thus, for instance, an element of the Christ-event witnessed by the apostles was the relationship between Jesus and his mother, and her role in his work of our redemption. As devout Christians continued to contemplate the mystery of Christ and his mother, they came to see that since Mary's Son is truly divine, it is correct to speak of her as Theotókos ("Mother of God"). This was confirmed in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, whose teachings are accepted by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics.
For Roman Catholics, the universal consensus of the Roman Catholic faithful (laity, theologians, and pastors) in believing a doctrine as revealed by God provides sufficient certitude that this truth is contained in revelation and can be defined as a dogma of faith. With regard to the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, Roman Catholics believe that this growth in the understanding of the faith handed down from the apostles developed in such a way that after the sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church arrived at a universal agreement on these doctrines. In the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, with which Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of the Assumption as a dogma of faith, he spelled out the reasons that led him to this decision:
The bishops from all over the world ask almost unanimously that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven be defined as a dogma of divine and catholic faith; this truth is based on Sacred Scripture and deeply embedded in the minds of the faithful; it has received the approval of liturgical worship from the earliest times; it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of revealed truth, and has been lucidly developed and explained by the studies, the knowledge and wisdom of theologians. Considering all these reasons we deem that the moment pre-ordained in the plan of divine providence has now arrived for us to proclaim solemnly this extraordinary privilege of the Virgin Mary.
While Roman Catholics are thus required to accept these dogmas as a matter of faith, among Anglicans there is a range of beliefs about the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, including acceptance of them.