13 January 2007

A Most Interesting Statement

"Even a theology along the lines of the concept of apostolic succession, as is in force in the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, should in no way deny the saving presence of the Lord in the Evangelical [i.e., Lutheran] Lord's Supper."

Who said this? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter to the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria, Johannes Hanselmann in 1993.

It can be found in print in the volume *Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: the Church as Communion* by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It is on page 248.

Thanks to Dr. Tighe for sending along this fascinating volume!

[Note that Fr. Hank had referred us to this quote some time before, but didn't have the reference handy.]


Drew said...

Is there a difference here between 'the saving presence of the Lord' and Christ's true and substantial body and blood? Meaning, is Ratzinger hoping that we Evangelicals will hear what we want to hear (that we eat and drink Christ's body and blood, even if our pastors aren't magically imbued with 'the goods'), when in fact he's not exactly saying that?

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Thanks, Pr. Weedon, for that quote. Very interesting. I have never been able to get the RC and Orthodox I know to admit we have the supper. They have been, at best, agnostic. A question with many different answers from those sides of the question.

William Weedon said...


From everything I've know about Benedict, I do not believe he's the sort to prevaricate. What do others say?

Schütz said...

I can help here. I can, firstly, absolutely assure you that Benedict was not admitting that Lutherans "have the supper" in all its fullness. He was pointing out, quite rightly, that where the word of the Lord is present, and the intention to do what the Lord commanded is also present (even if the "potestas" may not be) one is forced to admit that the Evangelical Gottesdienst is "not nothing". Indeed, Christ is present there, with his saving grace, because his word and name is present there, and his baptised people are present there. But I think you would be pushing it to far to say that mode of presence Benedict/Ratzinger was conceding was that the bread and wine of the Lutheran Abendmahl are the true substantial body and blood of Christ. For that is definitely dependant upon the fullness of the apostolic ministry, which Lutheran pastors do not have. We would, of course, be more than happy to assist in correcting that matter if the Lutheran Church were open to and desirous of entering full communion with the apostolic Church of Rome.

Schütz said...

I might add, Drew, that there is no "magic" intended or understood in the matter of ordination in the apostolic succession. The "potestas" for celebrating the sacrament relates to the authorisation to do so. Even as the Lutheran Confessions say, no-one can celebrate the sacrament of the altar without being rightly called and ordained for the task. Jesus did not command just anyone "do this in remembrance of me", but he commanded his apostles. The authority therefore to do this can only be given by Christ, through the apostles, and through those to whom this authority/exousia/potestas was given. Sometimes Lutherans have too little grasp of what it means to be "a man of authority and a man under authority". Authority can only be received, and it can only be given by those who have received it. This principle of the incarnate continuity of authority through a real line of human beings is not often rightly understood by Lutheran pastors--until a lay person stands up in their own congregation claiming the same right as the pastor to preach and lead worship.

Anonymous said...

Why would the Lutheran Church allow for doubt in this matter? Why doesn't she practice traditional apostolic succession?

Past Elder said...

From my experience -- which is, a cradle RC through a bachelor's degree considering Benedictine vows to conversion as a Lutheran and serving as an elder -- Shuetz has quite accurately stated the RC and therefore then Cardinal Ratzinger's position.

On a more homespun note, even as children in parochial school, we were taught that believing that there is a Real Presence is one thing, having it quite another. The latter depends upon a proper call, which as Schuetz says is impossible apart from apostilic authority passed on through validly ordained bishops. Therefore, the EO believe in the Real Presence and have it though not in union with Rome, whereas the Lutherans and the Anglican Communion believe in it but do not actually have it though as a courtesy one should use the term "Father" where that is the custom.

From this perspective, the whole controversy over what exactly is the Office of Holy Ministry -- both within synods and between synods, as in my former one WELS and my present one LCMS -- is the lamentable but predictable result of picking and choosing from the deposit of faith. Put more positively, "separated bretheren" are then just that -- bretheren indeed and saved by those elements of the full faith of Christ which they do not deny, and in fact in union with the Church though imperfectly through the visible separation resulting from those elements they do deny.

In this way it is possible to say both that Christ is not absent from our Eucharist, but it is not the true Eucharist either. This seems to me the likely intent of Ratzinger's comment.

William Weedon said...


Interesting, but if so, it seems that the then Cardinal used language that may indeed have been prevaricating. Of course, Lutherans do not for a second for acknowledge that the loss of episcopal succession was the loss of apostolic succession. You were a Lutheran, so you remember the arguments from the Tractatus on this. A while back on the blog I posted Piepkorn's evaluation:

...the existence of eucharistic devotion in the Lutheran communion must, it would seem to me, be accounted for by Roman Catholics in one of four ways:

1. It is a blasphemous, idolatrous sham and a diabolical deception.
2. Or, it is a response of an exceptional and uncovenented grace which a superabundantly compassionate God gives to people who would like to have a valid Eucharist but cannot because their clergymen are not able to confect valid Eucharists. (One might think of St. Augustine's *Crede et manducasti.*)
3. Or, it is the result of valid Eucharists which a superabundantly compassionate God validates in an exceptional and uncovenanted manner in spite of the intrinsic incompetence of the celebrants to confect valid Eucharists.
4. Or, Lutheran Eucharists are valid because Lutheran clergymen possess the authority of order through presumptively valid orders. That Lutherans choose the fourth option is obvious. There may even be a basis in Roman Catholic theology for this explation. It ill becomes me to speak on this point, I know, but it seems to me that if I were a Roman Catholic I might be moved to ask if, on the basis (a) of 1 Tim. 4:14, (b) of St. Jerome's *Commentary on the Letter to Titus*, I, v. 9-13, (c) of the bulls *Sacrae religionis* (Feb 1, 1400) and *Apostolicae Sedis providentia*(Feb. 6, 1403) of Boniface IX, (d) of the bull *Exposit* (April 9, 1489) of Innocent VIII, (f) of the stipulations of Canon 951 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and (g) of the analogy with confirmation, it may not be true that at his ordination a priest receives the power to confer holy orders, and if it may not be remotely conceivable that Lutherans possess through irregular presbyteral succession the power to confer orders and to confect valid sacraments. I am not, however, Roman Catholic and know of no Roman Catholic who has seriously pursued this line of argument.

--Piepkorn, *The Church* pp. 132, 133

It seems to me that the pope's words seem to fall more in line with 3; obviously he does not grant 4.


William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

To Lutherans this cannot be a matter of doubt, since it is manifest that there is no distinction between presbyter and episcopus in the NT; the Church cannot create a divinely ordained distinction where the Sacred Scriptures do not. St. Jerome recognized this and wrote rather clearly about it. The NT teaches the divine establishment of the office of the ministry in the Apostolate and which they in turn handed on to men they ordained. Our pastors are always ordained by pastors, and this going right back up the line to the pastors ordained by the Apostles.

BUT we also know that Christ has given no specific promise to any "chain of ordinations" but quite specific promises to the preaching of His Word and the celebration of His Sacraments. Our Symbols assert that no one is to do this who has not been "rite vocatus" - called according to rite. The fact that in the Lutheran Church today there are those who presume to administer the Sacraments and preach without this churchly authorization is an abuse and should be called such and put to an end.

Fr. Hank said...

Our German Shepherd, from my reading, especially recognizes the fulness of the Western Church's teaching on the Real Presence in with and under species of Bread and Wine in the Churches of the Augsburg Confession. He does show some caution in regards Canturbury, given the ghost of Zwingili in the 'offending article', as it were.
Where he sees an incompleteness is a result of the broken communion between Augustana and Rome, and the tendency to limit the Real Presence just to the consecrated Bread and Wine and not to the fulness of the life of the members of the Church fed by it,,, he finds the same 'incompleteness' in Rome, especially after Trent, and even more so after Vatican I and the victory of the Ultramontaines.
As long as the Body is rent asunder, we all suffer incompleteness.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hank,

That was certainly the sound of the whole letter - he spoke quite explicitly at the end about repentance needed on all sides. Come, Lord Jesus, indeed!

Drew said...

I thought so.

Schütz said...

Just very quickly (I don't have much time):

1) Past Elder is on the ball here. He has it right.

2) I don't think Ratzinger was prevaricating, but rather was being somewhat respectful of the mystery inherant in this matter. I admit that I am not always so respectful, but I try to be.

3) Piepkorn's four options are all wrong, but especially option one, which is only the case if the Lutheran in question knew and fully accepted the true teaching of the Catholic Church, and yet continued to give eucharistic adoration to the bread of the Lutheran Eucharist. Which leads to the true attitude of the Catholic Church to Lutheran Eucharists, which attitude Ratzinger displays in his respectful attitude toward the mystery: Christ is present (although one cannot definitively and with the same assurance say that the bread of the Lutheran Eucharist is truly and substantially the body of Christ) at least in his word, his spirit and his people; the intention of the people is to do what the Catholic Church intends to do (except in so far as the Catholic Church also intends to offer a sacrifice); thus, Lutherans who offer Eucharistic Adoration during their Eucharist to their Eucharistic species are directing them toward the Lord, and not toward the substance of the bread. In any case, as Catholics should know, most Lutherans believe that the substance of the bread remains bread, and is only "sacramentally united" with the body of the Lord. Lutherans in any case would state that they are not directiing their adoration toward the consecrated bread but toward the body of Christ.

4) The matter of whether or not presbyters in the apostolic church had the potestas of ordaining other presbyters is a little beside the point--at the time of the Reformation presbyters were not so authorised and had not been so authorised for almost 1500 years. Therefore those presbyters who sought to give presbyteral ordination to other men were attempting to give an authority they had not received, therefore the ordinations were invalid.

5) rite vocatus indeed means "called according to the rite", but not just any rite. Which raises the question: What rite validly ordains a Lutheran pastor?

Chaz said...


I don't mean to be too harsh, but I can't say it in any other way.

#4 is completely wrong.

1 Timothy 4:14 authorizes the church to practice presbyteral ordination. The apostolic words settle it. Anything in the "church" that would contradict the apostolic witness MUST be ignored.

Pr. Weedon,

I've been saying it a lot recently, and I'll say it again. I'm much more of a fan of Ratzinger than I ever will be of Benedict. Benedict is too much of a pope, with all that entails.

As one of our mutual friends advises, "Never expect a pope not to be a pope."

William Weedon said...


As to #4, please note that you have the history wrong. Again, Piepkorn supplies the goods:

This is from an essay titled: "The Sacred Ministry and Holy Ordination in the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church." This essay contains two fascinating excurses titled: "The Primitive and Medieval Church on the Identity of Bishops and Presbyters" and "The Minister of Ordination in the Primitive and Medieval Church."

Among the juicier tidbits:

"In his Vita Sancti Willehadi, 5, St. Ansgar writes: "In the year of
the Lord's Incarnation 781, and in the fourteenth year of the reign of
the noted prince Charles... the servant of God Willehad began to build
churches throughout Wigmodia and to ordain presbyters over them who
would freely confer on the people the counsels of salvation and the
grace of Baptism." St. Willehad was not consecrated bishop until *787!*


Altfrid (d. 849), second bishop of Mimigernaford and the successor of
its founder, St. Liudiger, writes in his Life of St. Luidiger, 19: "He
baptized one Landric, the son of a certain prince, and ordained him a
presbyter after he had instructed him in the Scriptures." Chapter 20
of the same bio states that St. Liudiger "in his accustomed fashion,
with all longing and concern strove to do good to the rude people among
the Saxons by teaching them and, after the thornbushes of idolatry had
been rooted out, to sow the Word of God diligently in place after
place, build churches, and to ordain presbyters whom he had educated to
be co-workers with him in proclaiming the Word of God in each of these
places." During this period Liudiger declined the episcopal rank
humbly, and tried to persuade disciples of his to receive episcopal
orders in his stead; he yielded only later to the arguments of Bishop
of Hildibald of Cologne and allowed himself to be consecrated.

The papal bull Sacrae Religionis of 1400, which gave to an Abbot in England, who held the rank of presbyter, the right to ordain deacons and presbyters. Under protest of the bishop of London this was later revoked, BUT the ordinations of those so ordained was still recognized. And later the bull Gerenetes ad vos of Martin V likewise granted abbots the right to do this, and this lasted until the 17th century!

Piepkorn's questions:

"Granted the unity of the sacrament of order that Roman Catholic
theology asserts, a Lutheran sees a number of questions arising. For
instance, if there is only one sacrament, why should a minister who is
competent to administer part of the sacrament [he had cited numerous
examples of dispensations that allowed presbyters to ordain deacons]
not be competent to administer the whole sacrament? Concretely, if a
priest is competent to ordain to the diaconate, why is not
intrinsically competent to ordain to the presbyterate? If the
episcopal order is competent to coopt additional members of the order
and if in emergencies laymen can by baptist coopt, as it were,
additional members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, why
cannot the presbyterate function similarly, at least in a case of
necessity? Again if a presbyter is competent to administer one
properly episcopal function, namely confirmation, why is he not
competent to administer another properly episcopal function, namely,

"If it be argued that to concede the validity of presbyteral
ordinations to the presbyterate is depriving the bishop of a privilege
that is exclusively his, a possible answer is that the alienation of
exclusive privilege is not something unique in the experience of the
episcopal order. Once the monarchial bishop had established his
preeminent authority, he was for a long time normally the only person
that administered Baptism, a privilege that he came ultimately to share
with the presbyters. Until the fifth century it was his exclusive
prerogative to preach during the Sunday Eucharist; this prerogative too
he had to share with the presbyters. Until the tenth century he alone
administered absolution to the penitents who were undergoing public
discipline; thereafter this became a competence of the presbyters as
well. The once exclusively episcopal privilege of administering
Chrismation was widely designated to presbyters in the Eastern Church
at an early date. In more recent times the administration of the
parallel Western ceremony of confirmation has ceased to be the
exclusive province of the bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

"The Lutheran Church does not equate any ecclesial community - its own,
the Roman Catholic, or any other large or small - with the one holy
catholic and apostolic church. It respects the right of the Roman
Catholic Church to determine the canonical licitness of the ordinations
performed within that communion and does not seek to impose Lutheran
standards of canonical licitness upon the Roman Catholic community. By
the same token it reserves to itself the right to establish its own
standards of canonical licitness in the case of ordinations on those
points where the divine law (jus divinum) makes no prescriptions and to
reject those of other denominations as binding in matters that cannot
be established as being of divine right."

William Weedon said...


As to the meaning of "rite" in "rite vocatus" - note the last paragraph from Piepkorn above.

William Weedon said...


Good words to Schütz.

About the comments on Ratzinger - everything I've quoted has been from his period AS the good Cardinal.


Chaz said...

Indeed, Pr. Weedon!

I just try to distinguish between the two by using the name he had when he wrote the thing. ;-) You were mixing the nomenclature a bit, something my Roman friends affirm (calling Ratzinger Benedict), but that I try not to do anyhoo.

BTW, looks like I'll likely be at Saint Paul's this weekend. I'm going to come watch the bloodshed in the CSL gym on Friday night.

William Weedon said...

Joy! Which service(s) will/can you assist us at?

Chaz said...

Either on Sunday morning. I'll let you know details when I can. My friend David Preus may be coming, and if he is, I bet he'd be happy to help out too. If it's not him, I'll see if I can find someone else because I don't want to drive down alone.

All depends on if/who I find someone.