THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDECH
by Michael Davies
------------------------------ Chapter IV
Anglican Orders------Absolutely Null
and Utterly Void
As Chapters I and II should have made clear, the Catholic and Protestant concepts of the priesthood are totally incompatible. They are mutually contradictory: both cannot be true. The only manner in which Catholics and Protestants could reach genuine agreement is by one of the parties abandoning its position and adopting that of the other. But a spurious form of reconciliation is also possible. One or both parties could adopt the device of ambiguity to facilitate unity. This has now become the practice of many Catholics engaged in ecumenical dialogue. Doctrinal statements are formulated in such a manner that teaching unacceptable to Protestants is never affirmed, even if not expressly denied, and at the same time the liturgical expression of doctrines which Protestants reject is reduced to the absolute minimum or totally abolished. Before examining the extent to which this has been the case with the new Catholic rite of ordination it is necessary to examine the reasons which prompted Pope Leo XIII to state quite irrevocably, in his Bull Apostolicae Curae of 1896, that Anglican Orders are invalid. It will then be possible to decide the extent to which features that the Pope declared unacceptable in Cranmer's ordination service have been reproduced in the new Catholic rite.
In order to understand clearly the meaning of the Bull Apostolicae Curae on Anglican Orders, it is necessary to know something of the historical background to the Anglican Ordinal.
After the break with Rome in 1534 no change was at first made in the method of ordination. Throughout the reign of Henry VIII, and the earlier part of that of Edward VI, the Sarum Pontifical [The Pontifical is the book containing the rite for consecrating a bishop and ordaining men to all the major and minor orders.] was was still in use. Bishops were consecrated and priests ordained under the old forms of the Church, though variations were sometimes made without authority. But, soon after the appearance of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer turned his attention to the rite of ordination.
The introduction of the new Ordinal was certainly the most important event in the English Reformation. A bill to provide for it was introduced into the House of Lords on 8 January 1550. It was to obtain approval in advance for an ordinal which would be composed by "six prelates and six other men learned in God's law". A simple majority of this committee would suffice to approve the Ordinal and, as it would have a Protestant-minded majority, the result was assured in advance.
The bill was finally voted in the Lords on 25 January and was delivered to the Commons. After various amendments it was passed on 30 January.
On 31 January it was again before the Lords, who passed it in its amended form. Less than half the bishops were present and the voting was six to five in favour of an ordinal which had not yet been officially composed by a committee which had not yet been named. The Protestant bishops who voted for the bill were: Cranmer, Goodrich, Barlow, Holbeach, Ridley, Ferrar. The Anglo-Catholics who voted against it were: Tunstall, Aldrich, Heath, Thirlby, Day. Two of the most dedicated Anglo-Catholics, Gardiner and Bonner, were in prison. 1
Although the Ordinal had not yet been composed officially, there can be no doubt that the real work of the Committee was not to compile an ordinal but to approve one which had already been compiled. On 8 February 1550, Heath, the only Anglo-Catholic appointed to the Committee, had been called before the Council, "for that he would not assent to the book made by the rest of the bishops and clergy appointed". He was imprisoned and deprived of his see for refusing to subscribe to the new Ordinal. 2 Thus, it is clear that the new Ordinal had been completed within six days of the appointment of the Committee. It had actually been printed by 7 March 1550.
The background to the new Ordinal lies in the fact that Cranmer invited Martin Bucer to stay with him for several months during the summer of 1549. Bucer's extreme Protestant views are referred to on p. 107, and also in Cranmer's Godly Order. Among the works which Bucer brought with him was one on ordination, De Ordinatione Legitima. Father Messenger notes that the Edwardine rite "is inspired throughout by Bucerian ideas, and that to an enormous extent it merely paraphrases or rather translates his Latin Lutheran rite". 3 The Rev. C. Smyth confirms from an Anglican standpoint that "it is almost certain that the function of the Commission was not to devise a new Ordinal, but to accept or suggest improvements to one that had already been drawn up, presumably by Cranmer and Ridley, on the basis of a draft made by Martin Bucer." 4
The 1550 Ordinal was revised in 1552, the principal difference being found in the service for the ordination of a priest in which the ceremony for the delivery of the chalice and paten was removed. Even in the 1550 rite the signification of this ceremony had been reduced to giving authority to minister the Sacraments and not the power to offer sacrifice.
The two Ordinals were in use for about four years and were utilized for the ordination of a good number of priests and the consecration of six bishops: Poynet, Hooper, Coverdale, Scory, Taylor, and Harley. Another bishop, Ferrar of St. David's, had been consecrated before the issue of the 1550 Ordinal but with an amended version of the Sarum Pontifical.
When Queen Mary ascended the throne, and a reconciliation with Rome was effected, the Pope appointed Cardinal Pole as his legate. Among the many problems facing the Cardinal-Legate was the problem of the priestly ordinations and episcopal consecrations which had taken place during the schism. The clergy could, in the main, be placed in one of three categories:
1. Those who had been ordained before the schism.
2. Those ordained during the schism but according to the Pontifical.
3. Those ordained according to the new Ordinal.
With regard to the first and second classes, their ordination was certainly valid and all that was necessary was that they should be absolved from the guilt of schism and given the Church's authority to use the orders they had received. For this purpose dispensations would be needed but nothing more.
With regard to the third class, the case was different. They had been ordained according to a rite which had not been approved by the Church and their status was a matter of admitting of considerable doubt. There were a number of possibilities, some quite technical and complex, as to what precisely this status might be. The three most likely possibilities were:
1. The ordinations could be accepted as valid and satisfactory.
2. They could be accepted as of dubious validity and necessitate conditional reordination.
3. They could be invalid.
Cardinal Pole decided to ask for guidance from Rome before making his decision. The matter was entrusted to Thomas Thirlby, Bishop of Ely, who left for Rome in February 1555. He had been consecrated with the rites of the Pontifical during the reign of Henry VIII and therefore had full knowledge of all that had taken place under both kings. He had, moreover, made a public protest against the new Ordinal when it was introduced into the House of Lords. He carried all the relevant documents with him, including a Latin translation of the essential parts of the Anglican Ordinal. These documents are still filed in the Vatican archives.
On 20 June 1555, Pope Paul IV issued his Bull Praeclara Charissimi in which he ruled that "those who have been promoted to Ecclesiastical Orders . . . by anyone but a bishop validly and lawfully ordained are bound to receive those Orders again." The Bull was received in England and duly promulgated, as is recorded in Cardinal Pole's register (preserved at Douai) under the date 22 September 1555. The relevant sections of the Bull are included in Appendix VI. However, it was felt that the Bull did not make the matter clear enough and further guidance was sought from Rome. An explanatory Brief was issued on 30 October 1555, the relevant sections of which are also included in Appendix VI. The Brief explained that the intention of the Bull had been:
That it is only those bishops and archbishops who were not ordained and consecrated in the form of the Church that can not be said to be duly and rightly ordained, and therefore the persons promoted by them to these Orders have not received Orders, but ought and are bound to receive anew the said Orders from their ordinary according to the tenor and content of our aforesaid letters.
The Brief then explains that those who had been ordained or consecrated according to the Pontifical had received valid orders and could exercise them after receiving the dispensation of His Holiness from the Legate.
The receipt of this explanation settled the matter for England. The orders conferred under Cranmer's Ordinal were in no case recognised and even Ferrar, who had been consecrated as bishop using a modified version of the Pontifical, was declared to be no more than a simple priest. Those who wished to be priests had to present themselves for ordination again. The number was not great, many of those ordained with Cranmer's Ordinal had married; others would clearly have been regarded as unsuitable. But nevertheless, Episcopal Registers contain records of the reordination of sixteen clergy who had previously been ordained using the Edwardine Ordinal, but not a single instance has been produced of a cleric who had received only Edwardine Orders being authorized to
continue his ministry without reordination. Commenting on these facts, Dr. Francis Clark remarks:
The old plea that Anglican Orders were not set aside as invalid in Mary's reign had its vogue in the nineteenth century before the documents that discredited it were brought to light, but it is strange that it should still linger on today. 5
The attitude of contemporary Catholics to the validity of Orders conferred by the Anglican Ordinal was made very clear in a sermon preached by Bonner in 1555 in which he refers to "the late made mynysters in the time of the scysme, in theyr newe devised ordination, havinge no authoritie at all given them to offer in the Mass the Body and Bloude of our Saviour Chryste."
As was shown in Cranmer's Godly Order, apart from Gardiner, Bonner was the most courageous of the Catholic-minded Edwardine bishops and eventually suffered imprisonment for his defence of Catholic belief. Like Gardiner, he was restored to his see under Queen Mary, and among his homilies the one just cited is of particular importance. It proves that contemporary Catholics had not the least doubt that the Edwardine Ordinal was invalid in both its 1550 and 1552 forms. The lengthy extract from this sermon which follows merits extremely careful study as an antidote to attempts by nominally Catholic apologists for the Protestant Reformation to falsify history in the interests of superficial unity.
Bishop Bonner knew exactly what the Reformation was about-----he lived through it and suffered for his Catholic belief. Yet according to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, there is no substantial difference between Catholic and Anglican belief concerning the priesthood and the Eucharist. They are asking us to accept that there was really no question of belief involved in the English Reformation-----that, in fact, when Cranmer imprisoned Bonner and then, in a reversal of positions, Cranmer went to the stake under Mary, both men had the same beliefs but were at odds over a different manner of explaining them; that the English Reformation was no more than a question of semantics! Let Bishop Bonner provide the truth in his own words:
Priestes beinge amongest other thynges called to the mynystration of the sacramentes and the chiefest and most pretiouse of all sacramentes being the Sacramente of the Aultare, in mynystration wherof the priests ought bothe to consecrate and to offer. Therefore the late made mynysters in the tyme of the scysme, in theyr newe devised ordination, havinge no authoritie at all given them to offer in the masse the Body and Bloude of our Saviour Chryste, but bothe they so ordered (or rather disordered), and theyr schysmaticall orderers also, utterlye dispising and impugninge not onely the oblation or sacrifyce of the Masse, but also the reall presence of ye Body and Bloude of our Saviour Chryste in the Sacrament of ye Aultare; therefore I say that all suche bothe dampnably and presumptuously dyd offende against Almyghtye God, and also most pitefullye begyled the people of thys realme, who by thys meanes were defrauded of the most blessed Body and Bloude of our Saviour Chryste, and the most comfortable fruyte thereof, and also of the sacrifyce of the Masse, and of the inestimable fruyte which commeth therby. And seing that every man (be he never soo simple) maye sufficientlye hereby perceyve howe these late counterfetid mynysters have in so weightie a matter deceyved the peple, concernynge eternal salvation, and greatly abused them and brought them into a most lamentable state, you may thereby consider bothe what thankes you owe to Almyghtye God who hath restored unto you the right use of the sacramentes agayne, and also howe much you ought to esteme the right priesthode, nowe brought home agayne, by which, as an ordinary meanes, God worketh hys grayces amongest you. 6
Pope Leo XIII delivered the final judgment on Anglican Orders in Apostolicae Curae. What was it that prompted him to promulgate this Bull in 1896? Contrary to a widespread opinion today, he was not motivated by any animosity towards the Church of England. Quite the contrary! The Pope had been convinced by an ecumenically minded French priest, the Abbé Fernand Portal, that the Church of England was Catholic in all but communion with Rome, and that there was a great desire for union with Rome among Anglicans. While on holiday in the island of Madeira in 1889 the Abbé had met, quite by chance, Lord Halifax, a leader of the Anglo-Catholic movement. Had it not been for this meeting Apostolicae Curae would never have been written.
The Abbé was astonished by the picture of the Church of England conveyed to him by Lord Halifax, and eventually came to England as his guest. He was taken to visit Anglo-Catholic parishes, convents, and shrines, but was protected by careful screening from contact with militantly anti-Catholic Evangelical Anglicans or, incredible as it may seem, English Catholics! He even declined a luncheon invitation from Cardinal Vaughan at which he would have met some Catholic theologians with an expert knowledge of Anglicanism. The Abbé did, however, find time to visit the Archbishop of Canterbury!
Lord Halifax himself made it clear that it would have been impossible to find a pope more sympathetically disposed towards the Church of England than Pope Leo xm. He stated in public:
Oh, if English Churchmen could only see Leo XIII, if they could only know what he is and how much depends upon him, they would realize there is no prayer they should make with greater earnestness than that it should please Almighty God to prolong his days. We can never hope to see a Pope more ready and anxious to take generous steps in regard to the English Church! 7
Word reached Cardinal Vaughan that such was the Pope's enthusiasm at the prospect of bringing the Church of England back into Catholic unity that he was on the point of writing a personal letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The Cardinal later discovered that the Pope was also considering offering conditional ordination to convert Anglican clergy, and thus accepting the possibility that their orders could be valid.
Cardinal Vaughan went to Rome and told the Pope bluntly that he should neither write the letter nor offer conditional ordination without making a thorough investigation into the question of Anglican Orders. Pope Leo had the humility to accept this advice, and in March 1896 he convened an international commission to meet in Rome and examine and report upon the question of Anglican Orders. The good will of the Pope towards the Church of England was made clear by the lengths to which he went to ensure that the reconsideration of Anglican Orders was carried out in accordance with the strictest standards of scholarship and impartiality. A commission of scholars, specially known for their learning in the matter, was convened with a mandate to conduct the most thorough
The original commission of six members was divided equally between theologians who accepted and rejected the validity of Anglican Orders. The three pro-validity members were assisted throughout the discussions by two Anglican theologians, the Reverend T.A. Lacey and the Reverend F.W. Puller. They remained in Rome throughout the sittings of the Commission with the approval of Cardinal Rampolla, the Vatican Secretary of State, and the Anglican Archbishop of York. Mr. Lacey accepts that three of the theologians, the Abbé L. Duchesne, Msgr. P. Gasparri, and Father de Augustinis, S.J., were all appointed after submitting pro-validity memoranda to the Pope, which proves that Leo XIII was determined to have an absolutely impartial enquiry. The three pro-invalidity scholars were all English priests, Father F.A. Gasquet, O.S.B., Canon J.C. Moyes, and Father D. Fleming, O.F.M. Father J.B. Scannell, one of the few English priests favouring validity, later joined the first group, and Father J. de Llevaneras, a Spanish Capuchin, was added to the second.
Mr. Lacey accepted that the relationship of the Anglican theologians to their sympathizers on the Commission could be compared to that of a solicitor to a counsel he has briefed, but he stressed the fact that they had not engaged the pro-validity Catholic theologians as advocates to petition for a recognition of Anglican Orders, and that the Commission had not been set up at the request of the Church of England which had no doubts concerning the validity of its orders. He explained that: "We did work as solicitors work when instructing counsel: we supplied information, we prompted arguments, we held consultations." 8 It is thus certain that every argument favourable to the validity of Anglican Orders was put before the Commission.
The sittings of the Commission extended over six weeks, during which time twelve sessions were held at the Vatican, every possible facility being given for the examination of all documents in the possession of the Vatican or Holy Office, many of which were still unknown or unpublished in England.
Every detail of the controversy was fully discussed. 9 The Commission held its last meeting on 7 May 1896, and its findings were submitted to the Cardinals of the Holy Office who devoted two months to examining the evidence. They met to reach their decision on the solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Thursday 16 July, with the Holy Father himself presiding, a sign of the particular importance that he attached to this question. At this meeting the Cardinals were unanimous in condemnation. There was not one who, after going through all the evidence, was not convinced of the invalidity of Anglican Orders.
But the Pope was under no obligation to endorse their decision or even to issue a pronouncement upon Anglican Orders. Day by day for nine days he made a Novena to the Holy Ghost, asking for special help and enlightenment in making his own decision. The Pope also offered his Mass each day for the intention that he might do what was best for the Church of God in putting forth or withholding a fresh authoritative decision upon the subject.
At the conclusion of the Novena his mind was clear. The Bull was prepared and on Friday 18 September 1896 Apostolicae Curae was published, pronouncing finally and irrevocably that Anglican Orders "have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void."
In his classic work, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation, Francis Clark explains that:
In the Bull Apostolicae Curae of 1896, pronouncing Anglican orders invalid, Pope Leo XIII singled out one factor as vital; on it his central argument depends. It is the "native character and spirit" of the Ordinal, the anti-sacerdotal and anti-sacrificial connotation, which, he declared, the new rite acquired from the circumstances of its origin and which rendered its wording incapable of serving as a sacramental form for ordination. 10Pope Leo XIII noted the manner in which the Anglican Reformers brought their new Ordinal into line with the Protestant heresy:
For the full and accurate understanding of the Anglican Ordinal, besides what we have noted as to some of its parts, there is nothing more pertinent than to consider carefully the circumstances under which it was composed and publicly authorised. It would be tedious to enter into details, nor is it necessary to do so, as the history of that time is sufficiently eloquent as to the animus of the authors of the Ordinal against the Catholic Church; as to the abettors whom they associated with themselves from the heterodox sects; and as to the end they had in view. Being fully cognisant of the necessary connection between faith and worship, between "the law of believing and the law of praying", under a pretext of returning to the primitive form, they corrupted the Liturgical Order in many ways to suit the errors of the reformers. For this reason, in the whole Ordinal not only is there no clear mention of the sacrifice, of consecration, of the priesthood (sacerdotium), and of the power of consecrating and offering sacrifice but, as We have just stated, every trace of these things which had been in such prayers of the Catholic rite as they had not entirely rejected, was deliberately removed and struck out (para. 30).
Some Anglican apologists have protested that this passage is unjust as the word "priest" occurs throughout the Anglican Ordinal. But the essence of the Catholic priesthood can only be defined with reference to its primary function of offering sacrifice. A Catholic priest is a sacrificing priest; he is a man who is ordained, as the traditional rite expresses it, "to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate "Mass, both for the living and the dead." To use the term "priest", when referring to a "priesthood" vitiated in its essential character, has about as much meaning as the use of the word "democratic" in the official titles of communist dictatorships. Nor can there be any doubt that most Anglican ministers would reject with indignation the least suggestion that they were sacrificing priests. The Reverend G. Lampe, Ely Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, writes that the loyal Anglican should be thankful that his Orders are not valid in the sense of Catholic theology. 11
The Reverend T. H. L. Parker is equally forthright. Criticizing attempts by Anglo-Catholics to prove that Cranmer's Ordinal was not a totally Protestant rite, he comments:
But the plain fact about the Edwardine Ordinal was its Protestant character. It was a Reformation rite springing out of and expressing a Protestant concept of Church and Ministry . . . No doubt the debate will continue. Loopholes will still be found, new variations of old arguments brought forward; but all this cannot really hide the fact that Anglo-Catholics are in a most unenviable dilemma. 12It is true that the Anglican Ordinal, like Cranmer's 1549 Communion Service, did not specifically exclude or deny the Catholic concept of the priesthood. As Pope Leo XIII makes clear, the key to the whole understanding of Anglican Orders lies in an accurate appreciation of the historical setting in which the Ordinal was composed.
. . . the history of that time is sufficiently eloquent as to the animus
of the authors of the Ordinal against the Catholic Church; as to the abettors whom they associated with themselves from the heterodox sects; and as to the end they had in view (para. 30).
The history of the period and the sentiments of the authors are documented fully in Cranmer's Godly Order.
In a reiteration of the traditional Catholic teaching regarding the substance of a Sacrament, Pope Leo explains that the matter in itself can be indeterminate: ". . . the imposition of hands, which, indeed, by itself signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confirmation" (para. 24). The sacramental signification "pertains chiefly to the form". Where the operative words of the form do not specify the grace and power of a Sacrament, this can be determined by prayers in other parts of the rite, namely by determinatio ex adiunctis. (See Appendix I for the meaning of this term.)
Pope Leo XIII proved beyond any possible doubt that the Anglican rite was not intended to ordain sacrificing priests; its signification points in the very opposite direction. His chief argument in proof of this is contained in the following paragraph:
In vain has help been recently sought for the plea of the validity of Anglican Orders from the other prayers of the same Ordinal. For, to put aside other reasons which show this to be insufficient for the purpose in the Anglican rite, let this argument suffice for all. From them has been deliberately removed whatever sets forth the dignity and office of the priesthood in the Catholic rite. That "form" consequently cannot be considered apt or sufficient for the Sacrament which omits what it ought essentially to signify (para. 27).
Francis Clark has summarized the essence of the Pope's argument as follows:
A Sacrament of the Catholic Church is a sacred sign which by Divine power is made an effective instrument for bestowing God's gifts and grace upon men. Since the outward Sacrament is essentially a sign, it must signify what it effects inwardly. For the Sacrament of Holy Order, therefore, every valid ordination rite must in some way, explicitly or implicitly, signify the bestowal of the Catholic sacerdotal office. [Bold emphasis added by the Web Master.] But the Anglican ordination rite has never signified this, since by its very origin it was stamped with an antisacerdotal significance. 13
"Signification" here refers to what the rite is intended to effect, sometimes referred to as the "intention of the rite". But Francis Clark does not approve of the latter term, as it leads to confusion with the ministerial intention. The Pope declared Anglican Orders to be invalid for two reasons: the Anglican Ordinal is defective in form (sacramental signification), and the ministerial intention of those who first used it was defective. Where the term "defect of intention" is used, the Pope is referring to a defective ministerial intention. 14 Pope Leo XIII explained the position as follows:
With this inherent defect of "form" is joined the defect of "intention", which is equally essential to the Sacrament. The Church does not judge about the mind and "intention", in so far as it is something by its nature internal; but in so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it. A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a Sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do (intendisse) what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptised, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament (para. 33).
This is the "positive contrary intention" referred to in Appendix II.
Anglicans can demonstrate with perfect accuracy that there have been and are Anglican bishops who both believe what the Catholic Church believes and intend to do what the Catholic Church does. Therefore, they have the correct ministerial intention. This has no bearing on the validity of their rite by reason of its defect of form (sacramental signification). As Fr. de la Taille makes clear, in the making (confection) of a Sacrament, the (ministerial) intention is concerned only with the application of a form, complete in itself, to matter which is of itself sufficient. "One thing, however, the ministerial intention can never do: it can never confer on the form a signification the form in itself does not possess. In other words, should the signification of the form be in any way deficient the intention (of the minister) will not supply this deficiency" 15 That is to say, a defective rite can never be used to confect a Sacrament, even when used by a lawful minister with the correct intention.
The question of ministerial intention is incidental to Pope Leo's case, since defect of form alone is sufficient to render the Anglican rite invalid. All that the Pope is doing is to point out that when Queen Elizabeth I instituted her new Protestant hierarchy with the "consecration" of Matthew Parker as "Archbishop of Canterbury" in 1559, the re-introduction of the Cranmerian Ordinal, with its pronounced anti-sacerdotal signification, in place of the Sarum Pontifical (which had been restored under Queen Mary), manifested an external intention incompatible with the conferring of the Catholic Sacrament.
Apologists for the validity of Anglican Orders have made much of the slight revisions made to the Ordinal in 1662. The words "for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands" were added to the indeterminate form of the 1552 Ordinal. The complete 1552 form read:
Receive the Holy Ghost, whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy sacraments: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The word "priest" does not occur in this form, which remained unchanged when the 1552 Prayer Book was restored to use with some revisions under Elizabeth I in 1559, after the return to the traditional rites during the reign of Queen Mary. The failure to use this word in the form itself, although the word priesthood is used elsewhere in the rite, is of considerable significance. Apologists for the validity of Anglican Orders lay great stress on the fact that an ancient form has now been discovered (The Sacramentary of Seraphion), 16 where the word is also not used. the comparison is irrelevant as there is far more significance attached to the removal of the word from an existing form than its failure to appear in an
The same apologists also lay considerable stress on the fact that Pope Leo claimed that the addition of the extra words in the 1662 revision showed that Anglicans themselves realized that the 1552 form was inadequate. They allege that the Pope was mistaken and that these changes were made to rule out the claim of Presbyterians that the Orders of bishop and priest are really one and the same. Nothing is lost in conceding this argument; it does not affect the theological point at issue, namely the Pope's judgment that these changes were not capable of imparting validity to an invalid rite.
The complete 1662 form reads as follows:
Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven: and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
It will be noted that, even with this addition, it is simply a case of an "office" being "committed" to the ordinand, and the assistance of the Holy Ghost is invoked to help him fulfill it worthily. There is no suggestion here (or anywhere else in the rite) that new powers which he did not possess before have been conferred upon him. "Committed" is not a sacramental word. The Church does not "commit" Sacraments, she "confers" them.
Pope Leo XIII took the 1662 changes into consideration but ruled that they could not be considered as imparting validity to a rite which had never been valid:
Any words in the Anglican Ordinal, as it now is, which lend themselves to ambiguity, cannot be taken in the same sense as they possess in the Catholic rite. For once a new rite has been initiated, in which, as we have seen, the Sacrament of Order is adulterated or denied, and from which all idea of consecration and sacrifice has been rejected, the formula, "Receive the Holy Ghost," no longer holds good, because the Spirit is infused into the soul with the grace of the Sacrament, and so the words "for the office and work of a priest or bishop," and the like no longer hold good, but remain as words without the reality which Christ instituted (para. 31).
A factor which has considerable bearing on the question of the validity of Anglican Orders is the attitude of the Orthodox Church. Writing in 1898, Cardinal Vaughan remarked:
Another point, which, in my opinion, ought to be dwelt upon in discussing with Anglicans the question of their Orders, is this: that they stand absolutely alone and isolated from both Western and Eastern Christianity. Leo XIII, in his condemnation of the validity of their Orders, condemned them on grounds which are common to us with the Russian, the Greek, and all the great Eastern communions. We Catholics differ from these various communions upon certain specific doctrines, but upon others we remain in perfect agreement. Among the points of agreement are the sacramental doctrines, and notably the doctrines of the Objective Real Presence, the Priesthood, and the Sacrifice of the Mass. Here we are all at one, to the exclusion of Anglicanism. And no honest handling of the Anglican Ordinal of 1552; no honest interpretation of the language used by Cranmer and his colleagues concerning the Real Presence, the Priesthood, and the Mass; no honest explanation of the destruction of the Altars and of the substitution for them of the Tables in all the Churches that were in England wrested from the jurisdiction of the Holy See, can bring the Anglican Body into line with the Catholic Church and the Eastern Communions. 17
It should also be noted that an attempt by the Church of England to have its Orders recognized by the pan-Orthodox Conference of 1948 was rejected in no uncertain terms. The answer given was:
The teaching of faith contained in the "Thirty-nine Articles" of the Anglican Church definitely differs from the dogmas, faith, and tradition confessed by the Orthodox Church . . . Therefore, if the Orthodox Church cannot agree to recognise the rightness of the Anglican teaching on Sacraments in general, and on the Sacrament of Holy Order in particular, neither can she recognise Anglican ordinations as valid. 18
The fact that Old Catholic bishops have taken part in Anglican ordinations has no bearing upon the validity of the Orders received if the Anglican Ordinal was used. As should have been made sufficiently clear already, even an authorized minister with the correct intention cannot confer a Sacrament validly by using an invalid rite. Hence, valid Orders would not have been conferred even in such cases as the participation in the consecration of George Montaigne as Bishop of Lincoln (14 December 1617) by Marco Antonio De Dominis, the apostate Bishop of Spalato (Split) in Dalmatia. Pope Leo XIII has already been quoted to the effect that even taking the 1662 additions into consideration:
Any words in the Anglican Ordinal, as it now is, which lend themselves to ambiguity cannot be taken in the same sense as they possess in the Catholic rite (para. 31).
This is a point of crucial importance, since if the additions of 1662 had made the rite adequate, then when used by bishops with valid Orders (for example, Old Catholics in 1932, 1933 and 1947) the Sacrament would have been conferred validly. But the judgment of Pope Leo XIII (which is irrevocable) was that:
We pronounce and declare that Ordinations carried out according to the Anglican Rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void (para. 36).But it does appear that some Anglican clerics have managed to obtain valid Orders. There have, apparently, been cases of Anglican ministers persuading Old Catholic Bishops to ordain them using the Old Catholic Ordinal. In such cases, valid orders would be received-----although it is hard to explain the mentality of men who are content to adhere to a denomination when they have so little confidence in the validity of its Orders that they find it necessary to undergo a second ceremony outside its boundaries.
To sum up, the defective sacramental signification of the Anglican Ordinal derives not from any explicit rejection of the sacrificing priesthood but from a rejection which though implicit is unmistakable. This is proved by the composition of an ordination rite which, although retaining some traditional features, rejected everything from the pre-Reformation rite which clearly expressed the essential consecrating and sacrificial function of the Catholic priesthood. The outstanding Catholic historians of the English Reformation (Gasquet, Bishop, Estcourt, Barnes, Messenger, Hughes, Clark) all lay special emphasis on Cranmer's technique of introducing doctrinal innovation through the liturgy, not by explicit heresy but by the omission of prayers and ceremonies which could not be reconciled with Protestant belief. Their judgment on such omissions is unanimous-----that what is not affirmed is considered to be denied. This was a key point in the Vindication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae published by the Catholic Bishops of the Province of Westminster in 1898. They warned against omitting or reforming
anything in those forms which immemorial Tradition has bequeathed to us. For such an immemorial usage, whether or not it has in the course of ages incorporated superfluous accretions, must, in the estimation of those who believe in a Divinely guarded, visible Church, at least have retained whatever is necessary: so that in adhering rigidly to the rite handed down to us we can always feel secure; whereas, if we omit or change anything, we may perhaps be abandoning just that element which is essential. And this sound method is that which the Catholic Church has always followed That in earlier times local churches were permitted to add new prayers and ceremonies is acknowledged But that they were also permitted to subtract prayers and ceremonies in previous use, and even to remodel the existing rites in the most drastic manner, is a proposition for which we know of no historical foundation, and which appears to us absolutely incredible. 19
As was made clear in the introduction, the authority of Apostolicae Curae is now being questioned even by Cardinal Hume, Cardinal Vaughan's current successor as Archbishop of Westminister. There is not the least doubt that the decision made by pope Leo XIII is irrevocable. In November of 1896 Pope Leo sent a letter to Cardinal Richard of Paris, which is quoted in full in Appendix VI, to state precisely the authority carried by his Bull:
It was Our intention thereby to deliver a final judgment and to settle absolutely that most grave question about Anglican Orders, which indeed was long since lawfully defined by Our predecessors, but by Our indulgence was entirely reheard. And this We did with such weight of argument and in such clear and authoritative tones that no prudent or right minded man could possibly doubt what Our judgment was, and so all Catholics were bound to receive it with the utmost respect as being finally settled and determined without possible appeal.
The most frequently cited argument used by those wishing to question the binding authority of the Bull is that it is not infallible. An infallible pronouncement, in the strict sense of the word, pertains only to what is contained in the deposit of Divine revelation, which is known as the primary object of infallibility. It is evident that Our Lord gave us no revelation as to the validity or invalidity of Anglican Orders. But there is a secondary object of infallibility which involves truths connected with revelation, including historical facts. It is an infallibly revealed truth that Our Lord instituted a sacrificing priesthood, but it is absolutely essential for the faithful to know who is or who is not a priest. When a convert priest celebrates Mass his congregation has the right to know that his Mass is valid. Thus, when the Church pronounces upon the validity of the ordinations of any Christian communion, we can know with infallible certainty that its decision is true. Convert priests from Orthodoxy are accepted without reordination, but, because the Church accepts the validity of their orders, we need have no scruples about assisting at their Masses. Decisions relating to this secondary area of infallibility are what is known as dogmatic facts, and Apostolicae Curae comes into this category. There is no possibility that Pope Leo XIII was mistaken, and there is no possibility that his decision will ever be reversed. The verdict of the Bull is not simply final but infallible.
It is of great importance that the consequences of a reversal of Apostolicae Curae should be understood clearly. Pope Leo XIll assured Cardinal Richard that with Apostolicae Curae the question of the validity of Anglican orders had been "finally settled and determined without possible appeal." If Pope John Paul II now informed us that this was not correct, and that Anglican Orders are valid, what possible grounds could we have for being certain that he was right if Pope Leo XIII was wrong, and that a future pope would not reverse his decision and pronounce in favour of invalidity again? It is no exaggeration to claim that the entire credibility of the papacy would be undermined by any reversal of the judgment of Apostolicae Curae, and we can be quite certain that no such reversal will ever be made. Christian unity is a goal for which every Catholic has the duty to work and pray, but never at the expense of Catholic truth.
As a conclusion to this chapter I would like to make it clear that nothing included in it (or in the entire book, for that matter) is intended to cause offence to Anglicans. If there is to be fruitful ecumenical dialogue, the first essential is for each party to state its position fully and truthfully. The official teaching of the Catholic Church is that Anglican Orders are invalid, and fair-minded Anglo-Catholics will certainly accept that it is no more uncharitable for Catholics to uphold this position than for them to maintain that various Nonconformist denominations do not have valid Orders. One reason why Anglo-Catholics have so strenuously opposed the Ten Propositions proposed by the Churches' Unity Commission (see Chp. IX) is that it would involve placing Anglican Orders on a par with the various Nonconformist ministries. The same was true of the unsuccessful attempt to achieve Anglican-Methodist Unity without the ordination of Methodist ministers by Anglican bishops.
I certainly know members of the Anglican clergy whose lives could provide a pattern of Christian living that is equalled by few of my Catholic acquaintances. Furthermore, I know some who accept far more Catholic teaching than do the growing number of liberal Catholic priests. In belief, traditionalist Catholics and Anglicans have far more in common with each other than they do with the liberals in their own communions. This places Anglo-Catholics in the invidious position of being closest in belief to those Catholics who will not recognize their Orders.
As Cardinal Manning made clear in his book The Workings of the Spirit in the Church of England, "No Catholic ever denies the workings of the Spirit of God or the operations of grace in it (the Church of England)." 20
Father A. S. Barnes, an authority on Anglican Orders, wrote similarly: "God may be giving grace abundantly to them and to their flocks while they remain in good faith, even though they are not priests and their sacraments are not valid." 21
Those who have read the story of Cardinal Newman's spiritual development will need no further proof of the working of God's spirit within the Anglican Communion. Nor could anyone claim that his reception into the Catholic Church marked a transition from error to the truth; it marked, rather, a development from a less perfect to a more perfect apprehension and acceptance of God's truth. I was recently asked to edit a volume of Newman's sermons which would assist Catholics in resisting the ravages of Liberalism within the Church today. 22 I was able to do so by relying entirely on sermons written while he was an Anglican, and yet it would be hard to fault these sermons as truly sublime expositions of Catholic belief.
Cardinal Manning was equally insistent that the manifest goodness of so many Anglicans must be attributed to the grace of God.
To ascribe the good lives of such persons to the power of nature would be Pelagianism. To deny their goodness would be Jansenism. And with such a consciousness, how could anyone regard his past spiritual life in the Church of England as a mockery? I have no deeper conviction than that the grace of the Holy Spirit was with me from my earliest consciousness. Though at the time, perhaps, I knew it not as I know it now, yet I can clearly perceive the order and chain of grace by which God mercifully led me onward from childhood to the age of twenty years. 23
Father Barnes explains that the Anglican sacraments can certainly be occasions of grace for those who assist at them with sincerity and devotion, quoting Newman to illustrate his point.
No Catholic has any desire to deny that God may be actually giving grace today through Anglican sacraments. Why should He not? Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum. "Grace is given for the merits of Christ all over the earth; there is no corner even of Paganism where it is not present, present in each heart of man in real sufficiency for his ultimate salvation. Not that the grace presented to each is sufficient to bring him at once to Heaven, but it is sufficient for a beginning. It is sufficient to enable him to plead for other grace, and that second grace is such as to impetrate a third and thus the soul may be led on from grace to grace and from strength to strength," even outside the Church. But such grace is ex opere operantis, the reward of the devotion of the individual worshipper, and is no evidence of the validity of the means which in good faith he is using. "When a member of the Establishment (Church of England) has accepted God's word that He would make Bread His Body and honoured God by the fact that he has thus accepted it, is it not suitable to God's mercy if He rewards such a special faith with a quasi sacramental grace, though the worshipper has unwittingly offered to a material substance that adoration which he intended to pay to the present but invisible Lamb of God?" God, we must always remember, is not bound by the sacraments which He Himself has instituted-----but we are. 24
In the face of the accelerating drift to neo-paganism throughout the west, every Catholic must be grateful for all that so many Anglican clerics do to uphold so much of the essential Christian faith in the face of so much discouragement, not least from the liberals within their own Communion. While we can pray that one day they will come to the fullness of truth, we can rejoice in the truth that they already embrace. But while we can rejoice in what unites us we would be failing in charity towards our Anglican brethren to gloss over what separates us-----and this is just what we would be doing if we gave the Anglo-Catholic clergy the impression that we believe they have valid orders and are sacrificing priests in the Catholic sense. Indeed, the great majority of Anglican clerics would reject with indignation any suggestion that they were sacrificing priests.
1. RMP, vol. 1, pp. 448-451.
2. Ibid., p. 451.
3. Ibid., p. 456.
4. Cranmer and the Reformation under Edward VI (Cambridge, 1926), p. 229.
5. ESR, p. 204.
6. Bonner's Profitable and necessarye doctryne (London, 1555), p. 40; cited in
QAO, pp. 58/9.
7. PAD, p. 21.
8. T .A. Lacey, A Roman Diary and Other Documents (London, 1910), p. 8.
9. PAD, pp. 23/4.
10. ESR, p. 16.
11. The Churchman, March 1962, pp. 23-30.
12. Scottish Journal of Theology, March 1957, pp. 109-11.
13. CCAO, p. 8.
14. CCAO, pp. 24-28.
15. The Mystery of Faith (London,1950), pp. 455/6.
16. See B. Botte, The Sacrament of Orders (London, 1962).
17. P AO, p. 2.
18. Chrysostom, Autumn 1974, p. 26.
19. V AC, pp. 42-44.
20. London, 1890, p.ll.
21. No Sacrifice-----No Priest (C.T.S., 1933), p. 24.
22. Newman Against the Liberals, Introduction by Mgr. P. Flanagan,
(Roman Catholic Books, 1992).
23. Op. cit., Note 20, p. 14.
24. Op. cit., Note 21, pp. 25/26.