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(T): ANGLICAN ORDERS AND REUNION - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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ANGLICAN ORDERS AND REUNION
Dear Mr. Gladstone.—
I thank you heartily for your great kindness in allowing me to see these very confidential papers, and am sorry that urgent pressure of local work made me so slow in mastering, and considering, and returning them.
The forces of resistance are great, for obvious reasons of ecclesiastical policy. A doubt as to the validity of orders sometimes disturbs men and impels them towards Rome, who otherwise have no inclination that way, and are beyond the reach of usual Romanising influences.
Then, the practice of Rome has been so constant that there is a powerful motive to dissimulate centuries of error.
I can hardly imagine a congregation strong enough to renounce and censure so many previous authorities. Any man who resolved to do it would be more conscientious than those concerned in such decisions can be expected, on the average, to be. The Pope himself, and those concerned in his renown, might have personal reasons to act independently of the past.
Duchesne, who is one of the most learned men in the world, has gone much out of his way to commit himself, declaring that Rome will gradually be obliged to conquer its prejudices.
I could imagine, and almost hope, that you might see your way to a letter to the Archbishop, to be enclosed in a cover of ceremony to Rome.
I rather dread his appearance in the discussion, as his quotation from St. Augustine is what, in our academic language, we should call an ancient howler. If you do take any step, let it be without sanguine hopes, and with the likely consequences of failure distinct before you.—Ever yours,
Athenæum Club,Pall Mall,June 28th.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
It is satisfactory to find that Rhossis1 goes farther than the late Archbishop, whose letter you showed me, inasmuch as he admits the early Councils as a basis rather than a limit, and allows for later developments. Many of these are common to East and West, and tests and canons could be found. You no doubt know that the seven ancient Councils were all that the Latin Church recognised until after the Reformation. Some speak of Florence as the eighth, others of Trent. But a broad distinction was made, until about 1560, between the ancient and the mediæval Councils. The fusion was not completed till Bellarmine wrote, about 1585, but it began earlier. Questions of ritual cannot be settled in that way, but Rhossis states the very same principle as the Bonn Conferences. Bramhall, I think, would have gone with him.
Taking the actual declarations of the old Catholics, I should think the prelates of the Eastern Church could join in consecrating them, and that would certainly be a great step towards union.
As to this country, I should fancy that very little could be done with the State Church, and the theological bias of the Irish Church makes it unavailable. But like the enemy of the Universalists,2 I look for better things.
I should like to know Mivart’s3 inner views on two or three questions, and I feel sure they would put him out of all serious religion or would range him among the adversaries of the Papacy.—I remain, ever yours,
[1 ]Rhossis, Zikos or Zeios, was Professor in the Theological Seminary, Rizarion, and Lecturer in the University of Athens. He was a member of the two Bonn Conferences.
[2 ] This refers to the argument of Pusey, What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment; more especially pp. 7-16.
[3 ]Mivart, St. George Jackson (1827-1900), the biologist. After many daring statements of the case of the scientific man in the Roman Church, Mivart was excommunicated in 1900. Acton’s diagnosis was correct. In later years it appeared that he was no more than an agnostic.