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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Anglican Orders

by Catherine Frakas 24 May 2002

Anglican Orders QUESTION from A. Basto on September 24, 2002 Dear Mr. Slavek,
On the subject of Pope Leo XIII judgement on the validity of Anglican Orders, I think that I have read somewhere in this Q&A; website other questions dealing with the nullity of the ordinations, including one answer with links to the Papal document itself. If I remember well the document was pretty clear about the problem).
It seems that the problem is in the Apostolic Sucession. When the English hierarchy went into schism and broke the ties of communion with the Apostolic See, the rites of ordination were not changed immediately. But after a few decades, a new rite of ordination was composed. This rite is found in a liturgical book of the Anglican Communion issued during the reign of Edward VII, and the book is called the Edwardine Ordinal.
The biggest problem was in that rite. Ordinations performed the rites of the Edwardine Ordinal were invalid, because the formulas necessary for the accomplishment of the ordinations were lost. The formulas contained in the Edwardine ordinal were so deficient and theologically problematic to the point of affecting the validity of the sacraments.
Afterwards, the Edwardine Ordinal was replaced, and new rites were composed that better expressed the meaning and significance of the ordinations. So that if a vallidly ordained Bishop were to use this new rite, the ordinations would be valid. There would still be theological problems but the new rite had the minimum necessary for validity. The problem is that, by the time this new rite replaced the Edwardine Ordinal, all vallidly ordained Bishops of the Anglican Communion were in their graves. All the Bishops alive had been ordained with the use of the Edwardine book. Thus, Apostolic Succession was lost in the Anglican Communion.
Therefore, even with the improvement in the quality of the rites, no valid ordination would take place, because there was no true Bishop conferring the sacrament.
Now, the specific problems in the Edwardine Book seemed to revolve arround the fact that the prayers said after the imposition of hands were impoverished (or elliminated, I would have to check), so that it was impossible to infer what sacrament was being conveyed by the imposition of hands. The imposition of hands in silence, or the imposition of hands with the words Receive the Holy Spirit is not enough to accomplish the sacrament. In the Roman Rite then used, it was necessary for the prayer that follows the imposition of hands to be said, and such prayer would complement the formula of the sacrament. There are parts of the prayer that were, therefore, part of the essential formula of the sacrament. By tampering with the prayer, validity was lost. It was imposible to understand from the formula what kind of ordination was being granted (diaconal, priestly or episcopal).
Other problem was that the texts in the Roman Rite used as means to emphasise the Sacrificial nature of the Mass were lost.
I will research the matter and write to you if I find the specific passages to confirm that. Given the fact that I am already sending you this mail, I will try to verify the facts ASAP. People who read this should be warned as to the fact that this is still pending confirmation. I hope it helps...
From my workplace, September 24th, 2002.
Yours in Christ,
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on October 1, 2002 Dear Mr. Basto,
I thank you for the help.
Mr. Slavek
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