Excerpts From
Cranmer's Godly Order
by Michael Davies

The Priesthood and the Ordinal

THE DENIAL of the sacrificial nature of the Mass, explicit in the teaching of the Reformers and implicit in the 1549 Prayer Book, was logically followed by the abolition of the Catholic conception of the priesthood, with its seven degrees, and its replacement by a Protestant ministry in three degrees (bishops, priests, and deacons). 1 This has already been discussed at the conclusion of Chapter VI.

According to the Protestants, "there was no real priestly status into which one entered by the sacrament of order. In their ideas, faith is not communicated to us by a visible teaching body, the Church is not governed by an authority instituted by Christ, and grace is not given to man on the basis of outward signs but by confident faith. The Reformers, therefore did not recognise any specific status instituted by Christ for the ministry of this grace. Since they did not recognise the Sacrifice of the Mass they did not need a sacrificing priesthood either. 2 . . . All attacks on the priesthood of the Catholic Church thus go back to a denial that the Holy Mass is a true sacrifice entrusted by Christ to His Church, and ultimately to the denial of any visible Church to which Christ entrusted His work as mediator and redeemer." 3 That this is most certainly still the teaching of an influential section of the Church of England today is made clear by the Rev. J. Charley in his commentary on the "Agreement on the Doctrine of the Ministry" published by the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission in December, 1973. 4

The Council of Trent taught against the Reformers, in its Twenty-third session, that "Sacrifice and priesthood are by the ordinance of God so united that both have existed in every law. Since, therefore, in the New Testament the Catholic Church has received from the institution of Christ the holy, visible Sacrifice of the Eucharist, it must also be confessed that there is in the Church a new, visible, and external priesthood into which the old has been translated." 5 Anathema was pronounced upon anyone who denied this. 6

The Council also taught that in order that the priesthood "might be exercised in a more worthy manner and with greater veneration, it was consistent that in the well-ordered arrangement of the Church there should be several distinct orders of ministers, who by virtue of their office should minister to the priesthood . . . and from the very beginning of the Church the names of the following orders and the duties proper to each one are known to have been in use, namely those of sub-deacon, acolyte, exorcist, lector and porter, though these were not of equal rank; for the sub-diaconate is classed among the major orders of the Fathers and Holy Councils in which we read very often of other, inferior orders." 7 Anathema was pronounced upon anyone who denied "that besides the priesthood there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both major and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made to the priesthood." 8


This new rejection of the Catholic concept of the priesthood was made explicit by the replacement of the Catholic Pontifical by a New Ordinal, based on a German Lutheran rite, and breathing the spirit of Protestantism throughout. 9 No unprejudiced reader who examined the evidence could doubt for a moment that this Ordinal most certainly did not have the intention of ordaining sacrificing priests with the power to consecrate and offer the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Most Anglican ministers today would agree without hesitation that they do not consider themselves to have been ordained as sacrificing priests in this sense and would insist that there is no scriptural basis for such a concept. The scope of this study does not permit even a cursory examination of the deficiencies of the Anglican Ordinal. There is space only to cite a few of the judgments passed upon it. Those wishing to study the matter in any detail should obviously begin with Pope Leo XIII's Apostolicae Curae.

S. T. Bindoff assesses Cranmer's Ordinal as follows: ". . . the most significant change was the transformation of the priest endowed by Divine grace with the power to offer sacrifice into a minister appointed to preach, teach and conduct worship. This was, of course, the counterpart of the conversion of the Mass into the Communion." 10

The Catholic Bishops in their Vindication state: "Since the makers of this Ordinal have not inserted in it any clear mention of the sacrifice and the priesthood, but, on the contrary, took pains to strike out all such references from those prayers which they took over from the ancient rite; since, moreover, we know from their writings, and from the writings of a succession of your (Anglican) leading divines, unbroken until the second quarter of this century, that these omissions and suppressions were made designedly, out of that downright hatred for the aforesaid doctrines which has been a characteristic note of your Church throughout-----is there any fault to be found with Leo XIII's inference that your Ordinal cannot be deemed to signify definitely the conveyance of a sacrificial priesthood, and cannot therefore be a valid rite for that purpose?" 11

Fr. Francis Woodlock, S.J., passes a judgment on the new Ordinal and the 1552 Communion Service which provides an excellent summary of the end product of the revolutionary process which has been outlined in the preceding chapters. "Compare the Mass and Catholic Ordinal with the Anglican Communion Service and the Anglican Ordinal and you will find forty places where something has been cut out and that something has to do with the Real Presence or the Sacrifice of the Mass.

"Look at the two and compare them for yourself and you cannot fail to see what has happened. The Catholic Doctrine of Real Presence and Sacrifice has been cut out as carefully as a surgeon cuts out cancerous tissue in an operation. Cranmer did his work so well that his Ordinal stands in its historic context as an ordinal mutilated with a definite purpose, that of excluding a sacrificing priesthood from the reformed Church of England. And in excluding sacrificial priesthood he excluded the very essential and primary function of priesthood from the reformed Church of England, and hence, in the judgment of the Catholic Church, Anglican ministers today are not real priests.

"Bishop Ryle of Liverpool (an Anglican) spoke the exact truth when he said: 'The Reformers found the Sacrifice of the Mass in our Church. They cast it out as a "blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit" and called the Lord's Supper a sacrament . . . The Reformers found altars in our Church. They ordered them to be taken down, cast the word "altar " entirely out of our Prayer Book and spoke only of the Lord's Table and the Lord's Board. The Reformers found our clergy sacrificing priests and made them prayer-reading, preaching ministers-----ministers of God's word and sacraments. The Reformers found in our Church the doctrine of a real corporal Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper under the form of bread and wine, and laid down their lives to oppose it. They would not even allow the expression "real presence" a place in our Prayer Book.' " 12

1. RMP, vol. I, p. 564.
2. K. Rahner, The Teaching of the Church (Cork, 1967), p. 342.
3. Ibid., p. 339.
4. Agreement on the Doctrine of the Ministry, Grove Books, Bramcote, Notts, 1973.
5. D, 957.
6. D, 961.
7. D, 958.
8. D, 962.
9. RMP, vol. I, p. 564.
10. TE, p. 162.
11. VAC, p. 78.
12. The Reformation and the Eucharist (London, 1927), p. 50.

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