THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDECH
by Michael Davies
------------------------------ Chapter VIII
An Anglican Response
The most objective method of assessing the extent to which the new Catholic ordination rite has been brought into conformity with the theology of Cranmer is to examine the manner in which Anglicans have reacted to it: and in contrast with the remarks made by Cardinal Heenan, the Protestant reaction is one of considerable enthusiasm. A response to the new Ordinal appeared in the Anglican Church Times on 30 May 1969. It begins with an expression of surprise that the power to absolve, using words from St. John 20, has not been mentioned.
Though this omission happens to be of particular interest to Anglicans because our own Ordinal lays such stress upon the words from St. John 20:23, perhaps of greater significance are the other changes and omissions which show a distinct movement away from medieval and Counter-Reformation theology.
For instance, that prayer has gone which spoke of the power of the priest to "transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ by an immaculate blessing". The former words at the delivery of paten and chalice have also disappeared: "Receive power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead." Instead the bishop now says: "Receive the oblation of the holy people, which is offered to God. Be mindful of what you are to do, imitate what you shall accomplish, and conform your life to the mystery of the cross of Our Lord."
This reticence in precise theological definition of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is also apparent in the words which accompany the anointing: "May Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, Himself guard and keep you in your work of sanctifying Christ's people and of offering sacrifice to God."
Contrast this with the former final blessing: "May you offer to Almighty God propitiatory sacrifices for the sins and offences of the people" . . . Equally significant is the new emphasis upon the proclamation of the Word. The examination includes the question: "Will you worthily and wisely fulfill the ministry of the word, in preaching the Gospel and expounding the Catholic faith?" while the ending of the ordination prayer has been altered to the following form: " . . . that the word of the Gospel may reach unto the ends of the earth, and the fullness of the nations, gathered in Christ, may be made one holy people of God."
To sum up: it is an "ecumenical" ordinal in the best sense, in that it avoids much questionable terminology and is clearly expressive of the theological aggiornamento of Vatican II. For those who can read between the lines its language is so chosen that it is patient of being an inclusive document in which can be found a synthesis of some of the genuine insights of the Reformation and those equal insights which a balanced Catholic tradition has preserved.
In this it has basically a close relationship to the proposed Anglican-Methodist Ordinal, and indeed to the whole theological rapprochement between Catholic and Reformed thought which is so very evident in Roman Catholic circles on the Continent today. (My emphasis throughout).
Little comment is necessary upon this Anglican response. It will be noted that the two prayers I have cited as coming closest "to a mandatory reference to the power of offering sacrifice" are in turn cited by the Church Times with considerable approval. They are clearly sufficiently "reticent" to arouse no Protestant objections. Dr. John Macquarrie, a Protestant theologian, has made it very clear that the prayer said during the presentation of the chalice and paten presents no obstacle to a Protestant interpretation ("Accept the gift of the people to be offered to God"). In his book, Principles of Christian Theology, he writes:
The offering of the bread and wine before consecration is something that is done by all, and, as already mentioned, recent liturgical reform has tended to stress the people's part in the offertory. The bread and wine which are brought to the altar, the products of human labour and the means of human sustenance, stand for the people themselves. They offer themselves in this act, so that their lives may be submitted to God and transformed by His grace. 1
The extent to which the offertory prayers in the new Mass can be reconciled with such an interpretation should also be noted. It is worth mentioning that the omission of all the explicitly sacerdotal prayers which I have cited from the traditional rite is praised in the Church Times as a welcome step in the direction of the Reformation.
As was the case with the new Mass, the overwhelming majority of the Catholic clergy (where they still maintain orthodox belief themselves, which is by no means always the case) have preferred to overlook the deficiencies of the new ordination rite, where they have had an opportunity of seeing it, and read into it only what they wish to see. Cranmer's Godly Order has documented the result of such an attitude among the English clergy during the Reformation. The Church Times stated explicitly that for those who can read between the lines the new Catholic Ordinal is an inclusive document patient of more than one interpretation. It is not in the least inappropriate to apply to the new Catholic Ordinal the judgment made by Francis Clark with regard to Cranmer's Ordinal.
The Ordinal, although unmistakably framed in furtherance of the Reformation conception of the ministry, did not contain any express condemnation of the priestly function that it was designed to eliminate. Skillful practitioner as he was of the art of devising formularies which would achieve his purposes while leaving a loophole for the consciences of conservatives and waverers, Cranmer retained several traditional features in his new ordination rite. Although he and the party in power were at that very time waging an intensive campaign against the belief that the Christian priesthood is essentially ordained to bring about the Real Presence of Christ by the Eucharistic consecration and to offer Him thus objectively present in a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead, no words in their new ordination rite expressly contradicted that belief . . . As in the new communion service, so in the ordination rite, it was not what was expressed but what was suppressed that gave significance to the whole . . .
The purport of all these suppressions and alterations in the ordination rite is evident from the historical context. The new rite for initiating ministers in the English Church was to make them presbyters in the sense of Reformation theology, instead of consecrating and sacrificing priests in the sense of the Catholic Church. 2
Finally, in order to set the new ordination rite firmly in its historical context it must not be considered in isolation from the pattern of the entire post-conciliar "renewal". The new ordination rite was quickly followed by a new Mass which can be celebrated officially in such a way that Protestants in good faith can recognize their own theology in it; by new catechetical programmes in which the sacrificial nature of the Mass is hardly, if ever, mentioned, but has been replaced by an obsessive preoccupation with a meal in which Christ is present because the Christian community has gathered together in His name; and by the now notorious Agreed Statements on the Eucharist and Ministry which, as an Anglican commentator has pointed out with considerable relish, nowhere state that the Apostles appointed bishops and established an unbroken chain down to the present day, that a priest has any powers denied to a layman, that the Mass is a sacrifice, and that a priest has the power to absolve sinners. 3 And finally, it has been followed by a series of Vatican-approved innovations which blur the distinction between priest and layman, notably the introduction of Communion in the hand and the appointment of "lay-ministers" of Holy Communion.
The tactic of all apologists for the post-Conciliar reform has been to justify each change in isolation. When the changes are considered as a whole it seems impossible to believe that any Catholic of integrity could deny that the parallel with Cranmer's reform is evident and alarming. It is quite obvious that there are powerful forces within the Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations determined to achieve a common Ordinal at all costs; further evidence of this is provided in Chapter IX.
The sixteenth century Protestants changed the traditional Pontificals because they rejected the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood. Archbishop Bugnini and his Consilium changed the Roman Pontifical in a manner which makes it appear that there is little or no difference between Catholic and Protestant belief, thus undermining Apostolicae Curae. Chapter IX will make clear the extent to which major Protestant denominations are following a similar policy.
The doctrine of the Church's indefectibility, explained in Appendix X, requires us to accept the validity of any sacramental rite promulgated by a pope. Nonetheless, it is not without interest to note the extent to which some comments by Canon Estcourt concerning the Lutheran and Anglican reforms can be applied to the 1968 ordination rite-----without, of course, impugning its validity:
Though they retained the old names of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, they were careful to frame their statements of doctrine in a sense perfectly consistent with their Lutheran ideas, and also so to frame the language of their new forms as to avoid any expression that might imply any special gift of sacramental grace to be looked for or communicated through the rite. Some scanty portions of the ancient rite still appear; but in adaptations, mutilated and broken, robbed of their very spirit and life; for every word expressive of an interior sanctification, of a sacramental consecration, or of a gift of spiritual power, is studiously omitted; or else the sense is perverted, and no higher idea left than that of the grace for the faithful discharge of the duties of an office. The imposition of hands is retained, and is given with words taken from the ancient rite, viz. "Receive the Holy Ghost, etc.," both for the Priesthood and the Episcopate: but these words in themselves are ambiguous and do not clearly show that they are used in the sense of conferring a sacrament, and if judged by the context, such a sense is excluded from them. And to these words is added a formula invented by Luther to deny the grace of Holy Order and the power of the Priesthood. Then to this ambiguous form, so clogged and fettered already with mutilations and additions made in a depraved sense, and for the purpose of introducing error, the revision of 1662 made another addition, which tied and limited the meaning to that of receiving the grace of the Holy Ghost solely for the discharge of the office and work of a priest or bishop, but not as a sacramental character, or a spiritual power. Thus the due sense and right intention are absolutely excluded from the rite, and no one can be the minister or recipient thereof with the intention of conferring or receiving the Sacrament of Holy Order such as the Church believes and understands. 4
Canon Estcourt's book was published in 1873, twenty years before Apostolicae Curae (1896). It is interesting to note the conformity of his conclusions to those of Pope Leo XIII.
From them (the prayers of the Ordinal) has been deliberately removed whatever sets forth the dignity and the 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).
The problem which the new ordination rite poses faithful Catholics is that it does not contain a single mandatory prayer signifying that the grace and power of the priesthood is chiefly the power of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord.
It is only fair to examine two arguments which have been put forward in defence of the new rite. Firstly, it is claimed quite correctly that the matter of the Sacrament is the imposition of the hands and that this ceremony is given greater prominence in the new rite. It is further argued, and again it can be conceded with some justice, that despite the decision promulgated by Pope Pius XII in Sacramentum Ordinis (see Chap. VII), the traditional rite still gave the impression that the power to consecrate was conferred by the tradition of the instruments and the prayer Accipe potestatem, and the power to forgive sins by the second imposition of hands at the end of Mass and the prayer Accipe Spiritum Sanctum.
Pope Leo XIII himself can be cited in answer to these objections. Firstly, he points out in Apostolicae Curae that the imposition of hands "signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confirmation" (para. 24). He shows that the matter in this rite must derive its significance from the form; that the 1552 Anglican rite contained no words "which definitely express the Sacred Order of Priesthood, or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power 'of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord' (Council of Trent, Session XXIII, de. Sacr. Ord., Canon 1.)" (para. 25).
Now as is explained in Appendix I, where the words of the specific form itself do not signify the effects of a Sacrament, this must be looked for in other parts of the rite. But in the new Catholic rite there is no longer a single mandatory prayer signifying that the imposition of hands, which Pope Leo rightly points out signifies nothing definite, confers either the power to consecrate and offer the true Body and Blood of the Lord or to forgive or retain the sins of the penitent. Thus, while it is possible that with the old Ordinal some of those present at an ordination might have confused the precise moment at which the ordinand received the powers to consecrate and to absolve, at least they could have been in no doubt at all that these powers were conferred. In the new rite there is no mandatory prayer indicating that these powers are conferred. It is surely far less harmful (if, indeed, it is harmful) to mistake the precise moment at which the priestly powers are conferred than not to know that these powers are, in fact, conferred at all. It is also worth repeating, and this is a point that cannot be repeated too often or stressed too much, that it is alien to the whole ethos and tradition of Catholicism to omit or reform anything in forms bequeathed to us by immemorial tradition. The comment regarding this sound method which the Catholic Church has always followed, made by the Catholic Bishops in their defence of Apostolicae Curae, is extremely relevant here (see Chap. IV).
It is the ecumenical aspect of these omissions which is of crucial importance. If the new Catholic rite is considered satisfactory, then the entire case put by Apostolicae Curae is undermined, particularly with regard to the Anglican rite in its 1662 version containing the additional words "for the office and work of a priest". If the new Catholic rite, shorn of any mandatory prayer signifying the essential powers of the priesthood, is valid, then there seems no reason why the 1662 Anglican rite should not be valid too, and still less can there be any possible objection to the 1977 Anglican Series III Ordinal. It was explained in Chap. IV that the participation of Old Catholic Bishops in Anglican ordinations was irrelevant to validity where the Anglican Ordinal was used, as the rite itself is incapable of conferring valid Orders. However, in the light of the new Catholic Ordinal, Anglo-Catholics could quite logically argue that the 1662 rite must certainly be adequate and that, as a result of Old Catholic participation, many Anglican clerics now have valid Orders.
Bearing in mind the participation of Protestant Observers in compiling the new Catholic rite (see Appendix III), it seems quite reasonable to conclude that the omissions from the traditional rite have been made not to focus attention upon the imposition of hands but to undermine Apostolicae Curae.
It has also been argued that the new rite is clearly intended to ordain sacrificing priests, since it is incorporated within the context of a Mass which the new priests concelebrate with their bishop. Had the Mass not been modified so drastically this argument would have far more force. But it is now possible to celebrate the Mass in a manner which Protestants find quite acceptable, so great is the degree to which its sacrificial nature has been minimized. This is particularly the case where Canon II is used. [A detailed explanation of the extent to which Canon II is acceptable to Protestants is provided in Pope Paul's New Mass.] However, if it is conceded for the sake of argument that the sacrificial nature of the Mass is safeguarded in Canon II (even if in the most muted possible tones), this has no bearing at all on the acceptability of the new Catholic rite as a step in the direction of a common ordinal, a factor to which the next chapter will be devoted. The new (1977) Anglican Ordinal makes provision for the newly ordained ministers to concelebrate ("join with the President in reciting the Thanksgiving"). 5
It is not the fact that a concelebration takes place that is important, but of precisely what the concelebration consists. There is nothing in the new Catholic Ordinal, and very little in the New Mass (where Canon n is used), to indicate that it is not simply a Protestant memorial.
An important qualification must be made here. The new Missal contains a Preface of the Priesthood for use during the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday. A passage in it states that Our Lord
chooses from among His brethren men who with the laying on of hands will share His sacred ministry. They will renew in His name the sacrifice of our redemption.
This passage is explicitly sacrificial but, like the passage cited from the Bishop's Charge, it is not mandatory. As with the inclusion of the Roman Canon as an option in the New Mass, the optional passage in the Bishop's Charge and the optional use of this Preface provide those who have misgivings about the new rite with an excuse for overlooking its deficiencies. The Preface itself is not part of the ordination rite-----the Sacrament is conferred by the laying on of hands and the words of the form. [The fact that the Preface of the Priesthood is not mandatory can be proved by referring to the second Latin edition of the new Missal (1975) where it states (p. 742:d) "nisi dicenda sit praefatio magis propria, quando fit Ordinatio sacerdotum sumi potest praefatio quae habetur in Missa Chrismatis."] The prayers in the old rite which appear to confer the power to offer sacrifice or absolve sins only make explicit powers which were conferred implicitly when the ordinand was raised to the dignity of the priesthood.
As a final comment on the new Catholic Ordinal, I would like to quote a passage from Apostolicae Curae and to ask any reader to demonstrate to me how the words which Pope Leo XIII wrote of Cranmer's rite cannot be said to apply to the new Catholic Ordinal, at least where mandatory prayers are concerned. Pope Leo wrote of the authors of the Ordinal:
and 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 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. In this way, the native character-----or spirit, as it is called-----of the Ordinal clearly manifests itself (paras. 30/31). [See the comment of Dr. Francis Clark upon this passage quoted in the Introduction.]
1. J. Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (London, 1955), p.423.
2. ESR, pp. 191-194.
3. J. W. Charley, Agreement on the Doctrine of the Ministry (Grove Books, 1973).
4. QAO, pp. 258/9.
5. Ordination Services (SPCK, 1977), p. 6.