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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 14||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||November 1987|
Hunting the "Heresy-Hunters" - Brian W. Harrison
Recent Thought on Anglican Orders - Brian W. Harrison
by Brian W. Harrison
by Brian W. HarrisonAre Anglican orders valid? Have they ever been - or could they ever be - valid? What would the conditions for validity have to be?
Moreover, incapable as it was of conferring valid orders by reason of its original defectiveness, and remaining as it did in that condition, there was no prospect that with the passage of time it would become capable of conferring them.3Cardinal Willebrands, however, says that if the Catholic and Anglican Churches came to agree about essential doctrine "concerning the Eucharist and the Ordained Ministry," then in that case
the Roman Catholic Church would acknowledge the possibility that in the context of such a profession of faith the text of the Ordinal might no longer retain that "nativa indoles" which was at the basis of Pope Leo's judgment.4Here, it might seem, we have a real and insuperable contradiction: Leo XIII allowed "no prospect that with the passage of time" the Anglican Ordinal might become capable of conferring valid orders. Cardinal Willebrands, on the other hand, states that there is at least a possibility that in future the Ordinal might lose that defective character which Leo XIII said was permanent.
(Ordained) ministry is not an extension of the common Christian priesthood but belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit (Article 13).Nor would Cranmer and the other Reformers have been overjoyed with the 1979 ARCIC "Elucidation" on the Eucharist,7 which (from their point of view) would have sounded suspiciously close to "papist" doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice:
In the celebration of the memorial, Christ in the Holy Spirit unites his people with himself in a sacramental way so that the Church enters into the movement of his self-offering (Article 5).It remains true, however, that statements such as these are not clear enough to satisfy the exacting and permanently valid standards of the Council of Trent. To see how the Vatican has been able to raise the possibility of recognizing Anglican orders, therefore, it will not be sufficient to point to the results of recent ecumenical dialogue. These have probably been no more than a catalyst. To understand the crucial issues we must go back to the Bull of Pope Leo XIII, and see precisely why it was that he then declared Anglican ordinations to be null and void.
the rite is changed with the manifest purpose of introducing another rite which is not accepted by the Church, and of repudiating that which the Church does and which is something that by Christ's institution belongs to the nature of the sacrament, then it is evident, not merely that the intention necessary for a sacrament is lacking, but rather that an intention is present which is adverse to and incompatible with the sacrament.8This means that even if some true Bishop at a later stage of history uses the Anglican Ordinal with a fully correct and Catholic intention, his attempt to impart priestly powers by the use of that rite will not succeed. Since, according to Pope Leo, the form of the sacrament found in that document is invalid, it simply is not capable of performing the task expected of it. Just as the strongest axeman on earth cannot fell a tree with a plastic paper-knife, so the Pope himself, with the best intention in the world, could not impart the priesthood to any man by the use of the Anglican rite.
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty Father, to this Thy servant, the dignity of the Priesthood; renew the spirit of holiness within him, that he may hold from Thee, 0 God, the second rank in Thy service and by the example of his behaviour afford a pattern of holy living.9Now look at the parallel prayer in the Anglican rite. This is the version found in the 1662 Prayer Book, which remains substantially unchanged today:
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 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.As can be readily seen from a comparison of these two prayers, the Catholic form of ordination does not verbally express Catholic doctrine about the priesthood more clearly than the Anglican form. Indeed, the latter - if we were to interpret it superficially and in isolation from its context - might even be considered superior to the Catholic form, insofar as it seems to be including the priest's power of absolving from sin by quoting the words of John 20:23.
these prayers have been deliberately stripped of everything which in the Catholic rite clearly sets forth the dignity and functions of the priesthood. It is impossible, therefore, for a form to be suitable or sufficient for a sacrament if it suppresses that which it ought distinctively to signify.10The inevitable consequence of this deliberate suppression, the Pope continues, is that even though this or that Anglican prayer "conceivably ... might be held to suffice in a Catholic rite which the Church had approved,"11 the fact remains that words such as "priest" or "bishop," occurring in the existing Anglican Ordinal,
cannot bear the same sense as they have in a Catholic rite. For, as we have seen, when once a new rite has been introduced denying or corrupting the sacrament of Order and repudiating any notion whatsoever of consecration and sacrifice, then the formula, "Receive the Holy Ghost" (that is, the Spirit who is infused into the soul with the grace of the sacrament), is deprived of its force; nor have the words, "for the office and work of a priest" or "bishop," etc., any longer their validity, being now mere names voided of the reality which Christ instituted.12Leo XIII's argument could be summed up, then, as being based on the principle that a rite cannot convey something which it was intended specifically to exclude and repudiate. And in fact, as the Pope and many others since have pointed out, there have always been many Anglicans who agree entirely with Leo's condemnation of Anglican orders - in the sense that they do not believe their rite conveys those powers which Catholics ascribe to ordained priests, and indeed, would be totally opposed to any attempt to convey such powers. They do not want their orders to be valid in the Catholic sense! A recent study by an Evangelical Anglican scholar, Colin Buchanan,13 expresses this viewpoint very clearly, underlining the fact that Cranmer knew what the Catholic doctrine was and wanted to make quite sure it was utterly excluded from his new rite of ordination.
ANGLICAN ORDERS - SOME KEY DOCUMENTS RELEVANT
TO THE PRESENT "STATUS QUAESTIONIS"
I - Leo XIII: Bull Apostolicae Curae, 13 September 1896.
25. Now the words which until recent times have been generally held by Anglicans to be the proper form of presbyteral ordination - "Receive the Holy Ghost" - certainly do not signify definitely the order of the priesthood (sacerdotium) or its grace and power, which is pre-eminently the power to consecrate and offer the true body and blood of the Lord" in that sacrifice which is no "mere commemoration of the sacrifice performed on the Cross." (Citations from Trent.)II - ARCIC - Final Report.
26. It is true that this form was subsequently amplified by the addition of the words "for the office and work of a priest;" but this rather proves that the Anglicans themselves had recognized that the first form had been defective and unsuitable. Even supposing, however, that this addition might have lent the form a legitimate signification, it was made too late when a century had already elapsed since the adoption of the Edwardine Ordinal and when, consequently, with the hierarchy now extinct, the power of ordaining no longer existed.
27. Some have latterly sought a help for their case in other prayers of the same Ordinal, but in vain. To say nothing of other reasons which show such prayers, occurring in the Anglican rite, to be inadequate for the purpose suggested, let this one argument serve for all: namely, that these prayers have been deliberately stripped of everything which in the Catholic rite clearly sets forth the dignity and functions of the priesthood. It is impossible, therefore, for a form to be suitable or sufficient for a sacrament if it suppresses that which it ought distinctively to signify.
31. The native character and spirit of the Ordinal, as one may call it, is thus objectively evident. Moreover, incapable as it was of conferring valid orders by reason of its original defectiveness, and remaining as it did in that condition, there was no prospect that with the passage of time it would become capable of conferring them. ... (E)ven though some words in the Anglican Ordinal as it now stands may present the possibility of ambiguity, they cannot bear the same sense as they have in a Catholic rite. For, as we have seen, when once a new rite has been introduced denying or corrupting the sacrament of Order and repudiating any notion whatsoever of consecration and sacrifice, then the formula, "Receive the Holy Ghost" (that is, the Spirit who is infused into the soul with the grace of the sacrament), is deprived of its force; nor have the words, "for the office and work of a priest" or "bishop," etc., any longer their validity, being now mere names voided of the reality which Christ instituted.
32. ... The same argument by itself is fatal also to the suggestion that the prayer "Almighty God, giver of all good things," occurring towards the beginning of the ritual action, can do service as a legitimate form of Order; although, conceivably, it might be held to suffice in a Catholic rite which the Church had approved.
33. With this intrinsic defect of form, then, there was joined a defect of intention - of that intention which is likewise necessary for the existence of a sacrament.
Concerning the mind or intention, inasmuch as it is in itself something interior, the Church does not pass judgment: but in so far as it is externally manifested, she is bound to judge of it.
Now if, in order to effect and confer a sacrament, a person has seriously and correctly used the due matter and form, he is for that very reason presumed to have intended to do what the Church does. This principle is the basis of the doctrine that a sacrament is truly a sacrament even if it is conferred through the ministry of a heretic, or of one who is not himself baptized, provided the Catholic rite is used.
But if, on the contrary, the rite is changed with the manifest purpose of introducing another rite which is not accepted by the Church, and of repudiating that which the Church does and which is something that by Christ's institution belongs to the nature of the sacrament, then it is evident, not merely that the intention necessary for a sacrament is lacking, but rather that an intention is present which is adverse to and incompatible with the sacrament.
1973 Agreed Statement on Ministry and Ordination:
13. ... So our two traditions commonly use priestly terms in speaking about the ordained ministry. Such language does not imply any negation of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ by any addition or repetition. There is in the eucharist a memorial (anamnesis) of the totality of God's reconciling action in Christ, who through his minister presides at the Lord's supper and gives himself sacramentally. ... (Ordained) ministry is not an extension of the common Christian priesthood but belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit.1979 Elucidation:
2. The Statement (para. 13) explains that the ordained ministry is called priestly principally because it has a particular sacramental relationship with Christ as High Priest. At the eucharist Christ's people do what he commanded in memory of himself and Christ unites them sacramentally with himself in his self-offering. But in this action it is only the ordained minister who presides at the eucharist, in which, in the name of Christ and on behalf of his Church, he recites the narrative of the institution of the Last Supper, and invokes the Holy Spirit upon the gifts.1979 Elucidation on the 1971 Agreed Statement on the Eucharist:
5. (On Anamnesis and Sacrifice): The Commission believes that the traditional understanding of sacramental reality, in which the once-for-all event of salvation becomes effective in the present through the action of the Holy Spirit, is well expressed by the word anamnesis. ...III - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Observations on the Final Report of ARCIC, 27 March 1982.
There is therefore one historical, unrepeatable sacrifice, offered once for all by Christ and accepted once for all by the Father. In the celebration of the memorial, Christ in the Holy Spirit unites his people with himself in a sacramental way so that the Church enters into the movement of his self-offering.
B:I:1 Eucharist as Sacrifice:
... But one still asks oneself what is really meant by the words "the Church enters into the movement of Christ's self-offering" and "the making effective in the present of an event in the past." It would have been helpful, in order to permit Catholics to see their faith fully expressed on this point, to make clear that this real presence of the sacrifice of Christ, accomplished by the sacramental words, that is to say by the ministry of the priest saying "in persona Christi" the words of the Lord, includes a participation of the Church, the Body of Christ, in the sacrificial act of her Lord, so that she offers sacramentally in him and with him his sacrifice. Moreover, the propitiatory value that Catholic dogma attributes to the Eucharist, which is not mentioned by ARCIC, is precisely that of this sacramental offering (cf. Council of Trent, DS 1743, 1753; John Paul II, Letter Dominicae Coenae, no. 8, par. 4).B:II:1 Ministerial Priesthood: (Commenting on Elucidation, 2, last sentence, cited by us on p. 2 above).
But this formulation only means that he is a priest, in the sense of Catholic doctrine, if one understands that through him the Church offers sacramentally the sacrifice of Christ. Moreover, it has been previously observed that the document does not explicitate such a sacramental offering. Because the priestly nature of the ordained minister depends upon the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, lack of clarity on the latter point would render uncertain any real agreement on the former (cf. Council of Trent, DS 1740-41, 1752, 1764, 1771; John Paul II, Letter Dominicae Coenae, no. 8, par. 4 and no. 9, par. 2).IV - Letter from Joannes Card. Willebrands to the Co-Presidents of ARCIC-II, July 1985.
Leo XIII's decision rested on a doctrinal basis, a judgment that the doctrine concerning eucharist and priesthood expressed in and indeed controlling the composition of the Anglican Ordinal of 1552 was such as to lead to defects both in the sacramental form and in the intention which the rite itself expressed. ... Thus his decision that the orders thus conferred were invalid rested above all on what he described as the "nativa indoles ac spiritus" ("native character and spirit") of the Ordinal as a whole.V - The current essential form in the Anglican ordination of a priest, (the 1662 version, which is substantially unchanged today):
Since that decision ... there have been a number of important developments. On the one hand this century has seen a remarkable process of liturgical renewal in both our Communions. In the Roman Catholic Church this has led to the promulgation of new rites of ordination in the Pontificale Romanum of Pope Paul VI. In the Anglican Communion many member-Churches have introduced new Ordinals, while at the same time retaining some use of that of 1552-1662. ... On the other hand, the dialogue of the last twenty years ... has produced statements and elucidations on the Eucharist and on the Ministry. ...
As the processes of evaluation proceed, the position of both Communions will become clearer. ... If at the end of this process of evaluation the Anglican Communion as such is able to state formally that it professes the same faith concerning essential matters where doctrine admits no difference and which the Roman Catholic Church also affirms are to be believed and held concerning the Eucharist and the Ordained Ministry, the Roman Catholic Church would acknowledge the possibility that in the context of such a profession of faith the text of the Ordinal might no longer retain that "nativa indoles" which was at the basis of Pope Leo's judgment. This is to say that, if both Communions were so clearly at one in their faith concerning the Eucharist and the Ministry, the context of this discussion would indeed be changed.
In that case such a profession of faith could open the way to a new consideration of the Ordinal (and of subsequent rites of ordination introduced in Anglican Churches), a consideration that could lead to a new evaluation by the Catholic Church of the sufficiency of these Anglican rites as far as concerns future ordinations. Such a study would be concerned with the rites themselves, prescinding at this stage from the question of the continuity in the apostolic succession of the ordaining bishop.
In our view, such a possibility (even though one could not yet foretell with any certainty the outcome of such a study) could do much to assist the climate of the whole discussion.
"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."SOME USEFUL COMMENTARIES ON THE QUESTION:
Buchanan, Colin O., What Did Cranmer Think He Was Doing?, Bramcote, Notts., Grove Books, 1982 (2nd edn.) A Low-Church Anglican study insisting on Cranmer's intention of totally excluding the idea of Eucharist as a sacrifice.
Clark, Francis, Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention. London 1956.
Probably the classic statement of the traditional R.C. position.
Hughes, J.J., Absolutely Null and Utterly Void: the Papal condemnation of Anglican Orders, 1896, London, Sheed & Ward, 1968. A forthright defence of Anglican Orders by a Catholic (cf. esp. ch. 14, "A Reappraisal of Anglican Orders?").
Yarnold, E., Anglican Orders - a Way Forward? London, Catholic Truth Society pamphlet, 1977. A brief introduction to the current discussion. Yarnold raises the key questions without arguing for a particular position.
Also the Anglican Archbishops' reply to Apostolicae Curae (1897) and the subsequent Vindication of the Bull by Cardinal Vaughan and the English Roman Catholic Bishops (1898) are key documents in the history of the debate over Anglican Orders.
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