Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Anglican Orders

Anglican Orders QUESTION from A. Basto on September 28, 2002 Dear Mr. Slavek:
I had promised to write to you backing up my information on the statuts of Anglican Orders.
I hereby confirm my previous post on the status of such pseudo-Orders, pointing out to Brother Ignatius answer to the question Doctrinal and Canonical Status of Anglican Orders, submited by Deacon Foley on November 3rd, 2002.
Brother Ignatius provides, in his answer, a link to the document Apostolicae Curae, of Pope Leo XIII. The prevalent opinion in the Church had always been that the Anglican Orders were invalid, but since some theologians disagreed, Pope Leo XIII decided to allow a special study on the issue, so that it could be settled. His encyclical settled the mater confirming the prevalent opinion and judging, with His authority, that the Anglican Orders were invalid. The question is now closed.
Those are some extracts of the document:
3. For an opinion already prevalent, confirmed more than once by the action and constant practice of the Church, maintained that when in England, shortly after it was rent from the center of Christian Unity, a new rite for conferring Holy Orders was publicly introduced under Edward VI, the true Sacrament of Order as instituted by Christ lapsed, and with it the hierarchical succession. For some time, however, and in these last years especially, a controversy has sprung up as to whether the Sacred Orders conferred according to the Edwardine Ordinal possessed the nature and effect of a Sacrament, those in favor of the absolute validity, or of a doubtful validity, being not only certain Anglican writers, but some few Catholics, chiefly non-English. The consideration of the excellency of the Christian priesthood moved Anglican writers in this matter, desirous as they were that their own people should not lack the twofold power over the Body of Christ. Catholic writers were impelled by a wish to smooth the way for the return of Anglicans to holy unity. Both, indeed, thought that in view of studies brought up to the level of recent research, and of new documents rescued from oblivion, it was not inopportune to reexamine the question by our authority.
6. This order for discussing the matter having been determined upon, it was necessary, with a view to forming a true estimate of the real state of the question, to enter upon it, after careful inquiry as to how the matter stood in relation to the prescription and settled custom of the Apostolic See, the origin and force of which custom it was undoubtedly of great importance to determine.
9. To all rightly estimating these matters it will not be difficult to understand why, in the Letters of Julius m, issued to the Apostolic Legate on 8 March 1554, there is a distinct mention, first of those who, rightly and lawfully promoted, might be maintained in their orders: and then of others who, not promoted to Holy Orders might be promoted if they were found to be worthy and fitting subjects. For it is clearly and definitely noted, as indeed was the case, that there were two classes of men; the first of those who had really received Holy Orders, either before the secession of Henry VIII, or, if after it, and by ministers infected by error and schism, still according to the accustomed Catholic rite; the second, those who were initiated according to the Edwardine Ordinal, who on that account could not be promoted, since they had received an ordination which was null.
24. In the examination of any rite for the effecting and administering of Sacraments, distinction is rightly made between the part which is ceremonial and that which is essential, the latter being usually called the matter and form. All know that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, ought both to signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify. Although the signification ought to be found in the whole essential rite, that is to say, in the matter and form, it still pertains chiefly to the form; since the matter is the part which is not determined by itself, but which is determined by the form. And this appears still more clearly in the Sacrament of Order, the matter of which, in so far as we have to consider it in this case, is the imposition of hands, which, indeed, by itself signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confiirmation.
25. But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, Receive the Holy Ghost, certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Ordel of Priesthood (sacerdotium) or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, de Sacr. Ord. , Canon 1) in that sacrifice which is no bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross (Ibid, Sess XXII., de Sacrif. Missae, Canon 3).
26. This form had, indeed, afterwards added to it the words for the office and work of a priest, etc.; but this rather shows that the Anglicans themselves perceived that the first form was defective and inadequate. But even if this addition could give to the form its due signification, it was introduced too late, as a century had already elapsed since the adoption of the Edwardine Ordinal, for, as the Hierarchy had become extinct, there remained no power of ordaining.
27. 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 when show this to be insufficient for the purpose in the Anglican life, 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.
28. The same holds good of episcopal consecration. For to the formula, Receive the Holy Ghost, not only were the words for the office and work of a bishop, etc. added at a later period, but even these, as we shall presently state, must be understood in a sense different to that which they bear in the Catholic rite. Nor is anything gained by quoting the prayer of the preface, Almighty God, since it, in like manner, has been stripped of the words which denote the summum sacerdotium .
29. It is not relevant to examine here whether the episcopate be a completion of the priesthood, or an order distinct from it; or whether, when bestowed, as they say per saltum , on one who is not a priest, it has or has not its effect. But the episcopate undoubtedly, by the institution of Christ, most truly belongs to the Sacrament of Order and constitutes the sacerdotium in the highest degree, namely, that which by the teaching of the Holy Fathers and our liturgical customs is called the Summum sacerdotium sacri ministerii summa . So it comes to pass that, as the Sacrament of Order and the true sacerdotium of Christ were utterly eliminated from the Anglican rite, and hence the sacerdotium is in no wise conferred truly and validly in the episcopal consecration of the same rite, for the like reason, therefore, the episcopate can in no wise be truly and validly conferred by it, and this the more so because among the first duties of the episcopate is that of ordaining ministers for the Holy Eucharist and sacrifice.
30. 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 authorized. 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 cognizant 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.
31. In this way, the native character or spirit as it is called of the Ordinal clearly manifests itself. Hence, if, vitiated in its origin, it was wholly insufficient to confer Orders, it was impossible that, in the course of time, it would become sufficient, since no change had taken place. In vain those who, from the time of Charles I, have attempted to hold some kind of sacrifice or of priesthood, have made additions to the Ordinal. In vain also has been the contention of that small section of the Anglican body formed in recent times that the said Ordinal can be understood and interpreted in a sound and orthodox sense. Such efforts, we affirm, have been, and are, made in vain, and for this reason, that 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.
32. Many of the more shrewd Anglican interpreters of the Ordinal have perceived the force of this argument, and they openly urge it against those who take the Ordinal in a new sense, and vainly attach to the Orders conferred thereby a value and efficacy which they do not possess. By this same argument is refuted the contention of those who think that the prayer, Almighty God, giver of all good Things, which is found at the beginning of the ritual action, might suffice as a legitimate form of Orders, even in the hypothesis that it might be held to be sufficient in a Catholic rite approved by the Church.
33. 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 unbaptized, 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.
I hope this might be helpful.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on October 1, 2002 Dear Mr. Basto,
Yes, I'm sure that this will be helpful. Thank you.
Mr. Slavek
Back to Index Page

You have successfully subscribed!