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Anglican Orders

History and status

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Anglican Orders.— In the creed of the Catholic Church, Holy Order is one of the Seven Sacraments instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Its office is to transmit and perpetuate those mystic powers of the priesthood whereby the Blessed Sacrament of the altar is consecrated and offered up in sacrifice; and whereby alone the Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, and Extreme Unction can be validly administered. Holy Order is in three degrees: those of bishops, priests, and deacons, the bishops possessing the priesthood in its plenitude, that is, with the power not only to exercise this ministry personally, but also to transmit it and the diaconate to others. Thus the bishop is the only minister of Holy Order, and for its valid administration it is essential that he (I) should himself have received a valid episcopal consecration, and (2) should use a rite in which are preserved all the essentials of validity as instituted by Christ. To have received or failed to receive orders under these conditions is to be within or without the Apostolical succession of the Catholic ministry.

In the sixteenth century this doctrine of a priesthood endowed with mystical powers was pronounced superstitious by most of the Protestant Reformers, who, accordingly, rejected Holy Order from among the number of their sacraments. They recognized, however, that from primitive times downwards there had always been a body of clergy set apart for the pastoral duties, and this they desired to retain in their separated communions; in some cases organizing it in two degrees only, of presbyters and deacons, in others of three degrees, which, in accordance with ancient practice, they continued to designate by the names of bishops, priests, and deacons. But their doctrine in regard to these ministers was that they could possess no powers beyond those of other men, but only “authority in the congregation” to preach and teach, to govern churches, and to preside over services and ceremonies; and that the rites, of imposition of hands or otherwise, whereby candidates were inducted into the grades of their ministry, were to be regarded merely as simple and impressive external ceremonies employed for the sake of decency and order. This view of the Christian ministry is very distinctly expressed in the public formularies and private writings of the continental Reformers. In England it was certainly shared by Cranmer, Ridley, and others who with them presided over the ecclesiastical alterations in the reign of Edward VI. That the present Anglican clergy are bishops, priests, and deacons in the latter sense admits of no dispute. But are they so also in the former and Catholic sense; and are they in consequence in the true line of Apostolical succession, and endowed with all its mystical powers over the Sacrifice and sacraments? This is the question of Anglican orders.

THE CHARACTER OF CATHOLIC ORDINALS.—From time immemorial a group of ordination rites have been in use in the Catholic Church and in those Oriental schisms which broke away from it in early times, but whose orders it has always recognized as valid. When these various rites are compared, they are found to differ indeed in the text, but to be entirely alike in the essential character of the “forms” appointed to accompany the imposition of hands. All, that is to say, signify in appropriate terms the order to be imparted, and supplicate Almighty God to bestow upon the candidate the divine gifts necessary for his state. In the Western Church, though there are traces of a now obsolete “form” anciently employed in parts of Gaul, the form of the Roman Church is the only one that has persisted, and it quickly passed into universal use. This is the prayer, Deus honorum omnium, which can be found in the “Pontificale Romanum.” Its earliest appearance in writing is in the so-called “Leonine Sacramentary”, referred by Duchesne to the sixth century; that it should appear there is proof positive that it must have been in existence for some time previously, at least as orally preserved, the force of which proof is greatly strengthened by the testimony to the conservatism of the Roman Church which we have from Pope Innocent I. For this Pope, writing in A.D. 416, to Decentius, Bishop of Eugubium, complains that “if the priests of the Lord desired to preserve ecclesiastical ordinances as they were handed down to us by the Blessed Apostles, no diversity, no variety would be found in the very orders and consecrations themselves”, but adds, “Who does not know and consider that what was delivered to the Roman Church by St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and is to this day kept (by it), ought to be observed by all, and that no practice should be substituted or added without being sanctioned by authority or precedent.” When we trace downwards the history of this Roman rite we find that the conservative principle enunciated by St. Innocent has been faithfully followed. Thus Morinus, a great authority, writes, “We deem it necessary for the reader to know that the modern Roman Pontifical contains all that was in the earlier Pontificals, but that the earlier Pontificals do not contain all that is in the modern Roman Pontifical. For some things have been added to the recent Pontificals, for various pious and religious reasons, which are wanting in all the ancient editions. And the more recent Pontificals are, the more these additions obtrude themselves. But this is a wonderful and impressive fact, that in all the volumes, ancient, more modern, and contemporary, there is ever one form of ordination both as regards words and as regards ceremony, and the later books omit nothing that was present in the older. Thus the modern form of ordination differs neither in word nor in ceremony from that used by the ancient Fathers.” Among the additions which Morinus has in mind as having been made during the early Middle Ages, the tradition of the instruments, that is, of the paten and chalice in the case of the priesthood, and that of the book of the Gospels in the case of the episcopate, are the most important. Indeed, these drew to themselves so much attention that for many centuries they and the words accompanying them were supposed by many to be more essential even than the imposition of hands and the prayer, Deus honorum. Still there was never any danger that the prevalence of these theological views would affect the validity of the ordinations given, for the simple reason that the principle of never omitting anything was rigidly adhered to.

THE ORIGIN OF THE ANGLICAN SUCCESSION.—It was this venerable ordination rite, as preserved in the English varieties of the Roman Pontifical, which was in use in the country when Henry VIII began his assaults on the ancient religion. He did not himself venture to touch it, but in the next reign it was set aside by Cranmer and his associates who, under the rule of Somerset and Northumberland, were engaged in remodeling the whole fabric of the Church of England to suit their extreme Protestant conceptions. These men pronounced the ancient forms to be utterly superstitious and requiring to be Replaced by others more in conformity with the simplicity of the Gospel. Hence the origin of the Edwardine Ordinal, which, under the sanction of the Act of 1550, was drawn up by “six prelates and six other men of the realm learned in God‘s law, by the King’s Majesty to be appointed and assigned”. This new rite underwent some further changes two years later, and was thus brought into the form in which it remained till the year 1662, when it was somewhat improved by the addition of clauses defining the nature of the orders imparted. As the Ordinal of 1550 had no lasting influence on the country, we may disregard it here, as we may also disregard, as of less consequence, the rite for the ordination of deacons. In the Ordinal of 1552 the “essential form”, that is, the form adjoined to the imposition of hands, was, in the case of the priesthood, merely this: “Receive the Holy Ghost. 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“; and these other words, whilst the Bible was being delivered, “Take thou authority to preach the Word of God and to minister the Holy Sacraments in this Congregation, where thou shalt be so appointed.” In the case of the episcopate it was, “Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by imposition of hands, for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of soberness”; and these others, while the Bible was delivered, “Give heed unto reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Think upon these things contained in this book.. Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd not a wolf; feed them, devour them not; hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind together the broken, bring again the outcast, seek the lost…” The additions made in 1662 were, in the case of the priesthood (after the words, “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”; and in the case of the episcopate (after the words, “Take the Holy Ghost“), “for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands “By this new Ordinal seven bishops and a number of inferior clergy were made during the last two years of Edward VI. On the accession of Mary in 1553 it was discarded, and the Pontifical resumed, but on the accession of Elizabeth in 1558 its use was restored, and has continued (with the addition of the defining clauses since 1662) down to the present day. The Anglican clergy are thus the creation of this Ordinal, and, primarily, the validity of their orders is dependent on its sufficiency—that is, on its sufficiency In its earlier form, for if that be wanting, the Apostolical succession must have lapsed long before 1662, and could not be resuscitated by the additions then made. It was on this consideration of the character of the Edwardine rite that the Holy See based its definitive decree of 1896. Still, for the complete understanding of the history of the subject it is necessary to know something of the circumstances under which Archbishop Parker was raised to the episcopate, and of the further defects which the Anglican succession has been thought to inherit from its relation to the same. This Dr. Matthew Parker was chosen by Queen Elizabeth to be her first Archbishop of Canterbury. The metropolitan see was then vacant by the death of Cardinal Pole, and all the other sees of the kingdom, with a single exception, were vacant likewise, either because of the death of their previous occupants, or because the bishops who survived were, m the eyes of the Government, deprived for refusing to conform to the new order of things. The Queen intended through Parker to raise up a new hierarchy, but a difficulty confronted her. When consecrated himself, Parker could consecrate his intended colleagues; but how was he to get consecrated himself? None of the Catholic bishops still living would consent to perform the ceremony, and in default of them she had recourse to four ecclesiastics of no very high reputation, three of whom (William Barlow, John Scory, and Miles Coverdale) had been deprived by Mary, and the fourth (John Hodgkins) was a turncoat who had been consecrated suffragan Bishop of Bedford in 1537 and had consistently changed with every change of the times. To Barlow was given the lead, and he, with the others as his assistants, consecrated Parker, December 17, 1559, in the private chapel at Lambeth, using the Edwardine Ordinal. Three days later Parker, with the aid of Barlow, Scory, and Hodgkins, consecrated four others at Bow Church. From these ancestors the whole Anglican succession is sprung. Was, then, the consecration of Parker a valid act? This is the other ground of dispute round which, as a matter of history, the controversy has gathered.

THE PRACTICE OF THE HOLY SEE.—Apart from exceptional circumstances, such as arose in 1896, the Holy See does not indulge in purely theoretical pronouncements on questions like that of Anglican Orders, but limits its intervention to cases of practical difficulty that are brought before it—as when persons or classes of persons who wish to minister at the Church‘s altars have undergone ceremonies of ordination outside its fold. And even in thus intervening the Holy See is chary of doctrinal decisions, but applies a commonsense rule that can give practical security. Where it judges that the previous orders were certainly valid it permits their use, supposing the candidate to be acceptable; where it judges the previous orders to be certainly invalid it disregards them altogether, and enjoins a reordination according to its own rite; where it judges that the validity of the previous orders is doubtful, even though the doubt be slight, it forbids their use until a conditional ceremony of reordination has first been undergone. Such a class of cases requiring its intervention arose when Queen Mary set to work to draw order out of the chaos in which her two predecessors had involved the affairs of the Church. What was to be done with those who had received Edwardine orders? The question was investigated at Rome, whither the needful information and documents were sent by Pole, and, although we have no record of the discussion, it is clear from what has just been said about its known principles of action that the Holy See judged these orders to be invalid, for it sent directions to Pole to treat them as nonexistent. That this was so appears (I) from the letters of Julius III and Paul IV, and the sense in which they were taken by Pole, for these letters direct that all recipients of Edwardine Orders shall, if accepted for the Church‘s ministry, be ordained afresh; (2) from a comparison between the Edwardine and Marian registers which reveals several double entries of names of persons who received first Edwardine and afterwards Catholic ordination; (3) from the course taken in punishing recalcitrant Edwardine ecclesiastics, in the ceremony of whose degradation no account was taken of their Edwardine orders. And the practice thus initiated during the reign of Mary was adhered to ever afterwards, when Anglican clergymen came over to the Catholic Church and sought admission into the ranks of the priesthood.

A list of twenty such reordinations has been gathered by Canon Estcourt from the “Douay Diaries”, and others could be gathered from the registers of the English College at Rome and other sources. Nor is the fact disputed—save perhaps as regards a few isolated cases, the documentary evidence for which is deficient. Moreover, Leo XIII, in his Bull “Apostolicae Curae“, speaks of many such cases as having been formally referred to the Holy See at different times, with the result that the practice of reordaining was invariably observed. Two of these cases were, in 1684 and 1704, the second of which attracted a certain amount of attention. It was that of John Clement Gordon, who had received all the Anglican orders, the episcopate included, by the Edwardine rite and from the hands of the prelates who derived their orders from the Anglican succession. The decision was that, if he would minister as a priest, he must receive the priesthood and all previous orders afresh.

THE HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY.—Though such was the practice sanctioned by the Holy See for dealing with Anglican orders administratively, the Holy See did not, as it usually does not, publish the motives of its decision. The duty of vindicating its action in regard to these orders was thus left to the zeal and industry of private theological writers, whose method was to inquire into the facts as best they could and apply to them the same theological tests as the Church authorities were known to recognize. In this way there came into existence that series of controversial treatises on either side which covered the whole period from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the present day. Now that the Holy See has given not merely a final decision, but one supported by the motives on which it is based, these ancient treatises have lost a good deal of their interest. A very brief account of them may therefore suffice here, but the reader who requires more may be referred to the pages of Canon Estcourt. That the controversy did not begin till early in the reign of James I is, perhaps, explicable on the ground that the first generation or two of the Anglican clergy were too Zwinglian or Calvinistic to care about having Apostolical succession. But in 1588-89 Bancroft, in a celebrated sermon at Paul’s Cross, took up the higher ground, which was powerfully maintained a few years after by Bilson and Hooker, the pioneers of the long line of Jacobean and Caroline divines. Then the writers on the Catholic side began to controvert this position, but in the first instance not very happily. The circumstances of Parker’s consecration had been shrouded in much secrecy and were unknown to the Catholic party, who accordingly gave credence to a piquant rumor called “The Nag’s Head story”. This was to the effect that, as no Catholic bishop could be got to consecrate Parker, he and others, when together at the Nag’s Head in Cheapside, knelt down before Scory, the deprived Bishop of Chichester, who placed a Bible on the neck of each, saying at the same time, “Receive the power of preaching the Word of God sincerely”; and that this strange ceremony was the fountainhead of the whole Anglican succession. This story was first published by Kellison in 1605, in his “Reply to Sutchffe”, and was taken up by some other Catholic writers in the following years. To these Mason in his “Vindiciae Ecclesize Anglican” replied on the Anglican side, in 1613, and was the first to call attention, at all events effectively, to the entry in Parker’s “Register” of his consecration on December 17, 1559, in the private chapel at Lambeth. In the following year (1614) Archbishop Abbot, to clench this statement of Mason’s, caused four Catholic priests, prisoners in the Tower, to be taken to Lambeth and there shown the “Register”, on the genuineness of which they were invited to declare. An inspection under such circumstances (for they were all the time under the jealous eyes of seven Protestant bishops) was not calculated to convince, and Champney, who wrote in 1616, suggests, what was clearly the general opinion of the

Catholics at the time, that the entry in question was a forgery. On one or two occasions previously it had apparently been seen by individual Catholics, but its existence had not become generally known till Mason’s book appeared, and then the fact that an appeal to it should not have been made by the Anglican party till so long after the reputed date of the occurrence seemed to be highly suspicious. Nor will these suspicions appear unnatural to anyone who reflects on the curious reticence shown by the Elizabethan writers when challenged to say how their Metropolitan was consecrated; such as, for instance, was shown by Jewell in his replies to Harding’s direct inquiries. Probably, however, the real motive of this reticence was in the reputation of the consecrators to whom Parker was driven to have recourse; for there can be no question, to us who know all the lines of converging evidence that tell in its favor, but that his consecration did take place on the day and in the manner described in the “Register”, and that the latter was a contemporary document. On the other hand, the Nag’s Head story is too unsupported by solid evidence and too incredible in itself to be accepted as historical, although to say this is by no means the same as saying that those who brought it forward in the first instance, or maintained it during several generations, were acting dishonestly. It is, however, an error to suppose that the early Catholic controversialists rested their case against Anglican orders exclusively on the spuriousness of the Lambeth “Register” or the truth of the Nag’s Head story. On the contrary, although they intermingled some proofs like those mentioned which have had to be abandoned, it is wonderful how sound was the position they took up from the first in their general statement of the argument. Thus Champney, the first systematic writer on the Catholic side, directs his first and chief attack against all orders conveyed by the Edwardine Ordinal, whether in the reign of Edward VI or subsequently, and contests their validity on the ground of the insufficiency of the rite itself. Moreover, though inclining, with most of the theologians of his time, to hold that other ceremonies besides imposition of hands and the words, “Receive the Holy Ghost“, were essential to validity, he gives due weight to the contrary opinion of Vasquez, and takes up exactly the same position as was afterwards taken up by Morinus in regard to the practical course to be followed. “The determinate matter”, he says, “and form of some sacraments—and, among others, of Holy Orders, are not so clearly and distinctly declared in the Councils and Fathers, but that various opinions, based on weighty reasons and authorities, have been held and defended with good probability of truth… (But) the Church does not suffer any harm or loss (from this uncertainty) because she knows for certain that she has (in her rites) the true matter and form which Christ gave to His Apostles, although no one can define precisely in what things and words it is contained. provided that there is no omission of any part (of the rite) which the Church is wont to use in administering her sacraments, and in which it is universally agreed that the true matter and form is contained. But if anyone were obstinately to follow his own opinion, and exclude all other things, actions, and words in administering the said sacraments, save such as he himself judges essential, he would render those sacraments untrustworthy, and would in consequence be inflicting on the Church a most serious harm.” It is only when he comes to treat of Elizabethan orders in their relation to Archbishop Parker that Champney alleges other grounds of invalidity, and he then comprises his entire case against them under the following five heads—(1) the truth of the Nag’s Head story; (2) the spuriousness of the Lambeth “Register”; (3) the want of episcopal character in Barlow, Parker’s chief consecrator; (4) the insecurity of the rite used, in view of its many omissions; (5) the probability that it does not contain the essentials of a valid Ordinal. These are the same arguments which the subsequent writers debated and developed, except for a somewhat different handling of the fifth, the necessity for which became apparent not long after Champney’s time. For Champney, as we have seen, though without speaking too positively, contended for the necessity of other elements in the matter and form than the mere imposition of hands and the words attached to this. In 1655, however, Morinus’s epochmaking work, “De Sacris Ordinationibus”, appeared, and proved by irresistible documentary evidence that not only, as was previously recognized, had imposition of hands been all through the sole matter of ordination, episcopal and sacerdotal, in the Oriental rites, but that even in the Western rite it had been so for about 900 years, the ceremonies of tradition of instruments and of unction not being found in any text of more ancient date, still less that of the second imposition of hands in the ordination of priests. The discovery of this liturgical fact necessarily influenced the Anglican controversy, and though the Holy See, in its rigid adherence to the practical rule indicated by Champney, still insists on the retention of the other ceremonies in all Western ordinations, the general tendency since the publication of Morinus’s work has been to reject the Anglican rite mainly on the ground of the insufficiency of the “form” attached to the imposition of hands. On these lines the controversy was continued in the latter part of the seventeenth century by Talbot and Lewgar on the Catholic side, and by Bramhall, Burnet, and Prideaux on the Anglican. At the commencement of the next century, in 1704, the case of John Clement Gordon, to which reference has already been made, was taken before the Holy See and examined. The result was to elicit from the Holy Office a formal reaffirmation of the necessity of reordaining convert clergymen; nor was this decision motived, as an incorrect publication of the decree by Le Quien suggested, by any acceptance of the Nag’s Head story, but, as is now known, by the nature of the Edwardine rite, a copy of which was procured and specially examined by the Sacred Congregation. A few years later the scene of the controversy shifted to France. The Abbe Renaudot wrote a “Memoire”, published in 1720, in which he rejected Anglican orders on the grounds of the Nag’s Head story, and of the novelty and insufficiency of the Anglican rite. He was answered shortly after by the Pere Courayer, whose works in defense of Anglican orders, as coming from the Catholic side, caused a great sensation in England, where the author was held in high favor; and later, when he had to leave France on a charge of unsound doctrine, he was invited over to this country and was given a pension by George II. The principal answer to Courayer was that of the Abbe Le Quien, whose “Nullite des ordinations anglicanes” appeared (Paris) in 1730, but Father John Constable, S.J., embodied a great part of it in his “Clerophilus Alethes”, an English work published very shortly after. In the nineteenth century, with the rise of the Tractarian party, and of the more Catholic ideas of the priesthood which it caused to prevail, the question of Anglican orders was felt to be of vital importance for the High Church clergy, and the controversy became proportionately more acute. As, too, the principles of historical evidence had by then come to be better understood, and the facilities for the study of documents were vastly improved, a series of works resulted which has considerably advanced our knowledge of the subject. Of these the most valuable on the Anglican side were Mr. A. W. Haddan’s edition of Bramhall, and his own “Apostolical Succession in the Church of England“, Dr. F. G. Lee’s “Validity of the Holy Orders of the Church of England“, and more recently Mr. Denny’s “Anglican Orders and Jurisdiction”, the last being perhaps the most complete work that has appeared in defense of these orders. On the Catholic side, Canon Estcourt’s “Question of Anglican Orders Discussed” and Mr. W. A. Hutton’s “Anglican Ministry” were the most noticeable. The former, though it errs in giving away an important argument, through misconceiving the purport of a decision of the Holy Office, still bears the palm among Catholic treatises for its scholarly investigation of many historical points; the latter is chiefly valuable for its exposition of the broader aspect under which Newman preferred to regard the subject.

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS ON EITHER SIDE.—TO some extent the proofs and disproofs cast to and fro by the disputants have necessarily been indicated above, but it will be well to summarize them here as a preliminary to an account of the Bull “Apostolic Curae” (which see also s.v.).

1. Of the Nag’s Head story nothing more need be said, as no person of intelligence now believes in it.

2. Nor is there any doubt but that Parker really did undergo a ceremony of consecration on December 17, 1559, at Lambeth, in which the Edwardine rite was employed, and the consecrators were Barlow, Scory, Coverdale, and Hodgkins. Machyn’s and Parker’s diaries prove conclusively that a consecration did then and there take place. A paper in the State Paper Office (in which the order of procedure to be followed at the consecration is drawn up by a clerk, and Cecil’s and Parker’s annotations are in the margin) proves that they intended to have a consecration by bishops according to the Edwardine rite, whilst there was nothing to prevent them from carrying their intention into effect. And the Commission of December 6, 1559, issued to Kitchen, Barlow, Scory, Coverdale, and Hodgkins, shows that these, or some of them, were the prelates who were to perform the ceremony.

3. In regard to Barlow’s episcopal character, the Anglican case is that (I) although there is no record of his consecration in the “Archiepiscopal Register”, this only proves that the “Register” was very negligently kept; that (2) there is no record in this “Register” of the consecrations of several other bishops, Gardiner included, yet no one doubts that these were really consecrated; and that (3) it is not conceivable that Barlow could have gone on acting as bishop for over twenty years without attention having been called by some person or other to his want of consecration. The Catholic writers, on the other hand, point out that it is not merely the absence of just a single entry in Cranmer’s “Register” which stands against him, but (I) the absence of an entire set of documents which should have borne reference to his consecration if it occurred; (2) the discovery of one document which is exceptionally worded, and so worded as apparently to provide for the avoidance of consecration; (3) the views of the nonnecessity of consecration which Barlow held and expressed; (4) the difficulty of assigning a date when the ceremony could have taken place; (5) and the likelihood that, as the King and Cranmer are known to have shared his views, he might have been able to keep his secret to himself and pass as a consecrated bishop. Still the Catholic writers do not maintain on these grounds that it is certain he was not consecrated, but only that it is not certain that he was, and hence, that orders derived from him, as are those of the Anglican clergy, must be considered doubtful, unless supplemented by a conditional ceremony.

4. For the sufficiency of the Anglican Rite, as it stood in the first century of its use, the defenders argue that, although it may have been undesirable to substitute this new rite for the ancient and venerable rite which preceded it, the change was within the competence of the Edwardine and Elizabethan authorities, since every national Church has authority to select its own rites and ceremonies, as long as it eliminates no element which, in the judgment of the Universal Church, is essential to validity. To this it is replied that no evidence is forthcoming to show that any such authority has ever been recognized in national Churches; that, on the contrary, though local churches have at times added further prayers and ceremonies to the rites handed down to them from time immemorial, they have, as Morinus has told us, never ventured to subtract anything that was in previous use, fearing lest in so doing they might touch something which was essential. To this the defenders reply that at least the Anglican rite has retained all that is to be found in the Roman Ordinal in its earliest known form, as well as in the Eastern ordinals, which the Holy See has ever recognized as valid and that it must be held therefore to have retained all that can reasonably be claimed as necessary. But in the first place, though the course of theological opinion inclines to judge that the tradition of instruments and other added ceremonies in the modern Western rite might be laid aside without danger to validity, the Holy See, as has been said, feeling that in a matter of such supreme importance it is best to follow an absolutely safe rule, is loth to trust to speculative opinions, and has always required a conditional reordination whenever any one of the added ceremonies has been omitted. Moreover, it is not correct to say that the Anglican rite retains all those elements which the Eastern and early Western rites have in common. For what these have in common (cf. App. IV of the Vindication) is imposition of hands accompanied by a prayer in which the order to be imparted is defined either by its accepted name, or by words expressive of its grace and power, which is chiefly the power to consecrate and offer up in sacrifice the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. The original Anglican rite, on the contrary, contained no words whatever in the “form” accompanying the imposition of hands to define the order to be imparted. In the rite for the episcopate the consecrating bishop says, “Take the Holy Ghost“; but he does not say for what—whether for the office of a bishop, or priest, or deacon—so much so that Dr. Lingard could suggest that it was a form as suitable for the admission of a parish clerk as for the consecration of a bishop. And so, too, with the priesthood, though in a somewhat less degree. For here the words of the “form” are, “Receive the Holy Ghost; 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“; whereas the power to forgive sins does not discriminate between the priest and the bishop, and besides is only a secondary and incidental, not the primary and essential, function of the priestly office. Still the defenders of the Anglican Ordinal have their further rejoinder. It is not necessary, they contend, that the nature of the order imparted should be defined by the words of the “form” taken by itself alone; it is sufficient if the meaning of this “form” is determined to a definite sense by the context, or other prayers and ceremonies which precede or follow; and they point out that in the titles of the rites—”The form of ordering Priests” and “The form of consecrating an Archbishop or Bishop“—in the presentation of the candidates, and in several of the prayers, the needful mention of the order to the imparted is declared. Moreover, they refer to a decision of the Holy Office, April 9, 1704, in regard to some Abyssinian ordinations, as witnessing that the Holy See itself has recognized the words, “Take the Holy Ghost“, to be sufficient, when said with the imposition of hands, if the remainder of the rite is sufficiently determinate. But, in the first place, as regards this Abyssinian case, its nature has been misapprehended, as may be seen from the documents published by Father Brandi, in his “Roma e Canterbury”. In the second place, none of the rites, ancient or modern, which the Holy See has ever recognized lends any support to this theory of an indeterminate form determined by a remote context. In the third place, it is contrary to the analogy of all the other sacraments and is unreasonable in itself. It is as if, writes Cardinal Segna (Revue Anglo-Romaine, February 29, 1896), in a wedding ceremony, “the bride and bridegroom should stand at the altar and in many an eloquent phrase declare their mutual love, but when the moment has arrived for pronouncing the decisive word `I will’, should shut their lips in stubborn silence.” And in the fourth place, the remote context, instead of determining the words, “Receive the Holy Ghost“, to signify the bestowal of a true priesthood, determines them to an exactly opposite sense. It is true that the traditional names of the three orders occur in places, but, as explained at the head of this article, these names at the Reformation were often used in a sense from which all notion of the priesthood and its mystical powers had been drained off. That this was the sense in which they were intended by those who framed and authorized the Edwardine rites is proved by the statements of classical Anglican writers like Hooker, who defend the retention of the old names on the plea that “as for the people, when they hear the name [priest] it draweth no more their minds to any cogitation of sacrifice than the name of a senator or of an alderman causeth them to think upon old age, or to imagine that every one so termed must needs be ancient because years were respected in the nomination of both” (Eccles. Polity, V, lxxviii, 2). There is, moreover, the broad fact that, when the old and the new rite are compared, it appears that the difference lies just in this: that the framers of the new have cut out all that in the old gave expression to the idea of a mystic sacerdotium in the Catholic sense of the term. There is also the connected fact that the introduction of the Edwardine Ordinal was the outcome of the same general movement which led to the pulling down of the altars and the substitution of communion tables, in order that, as Ridley expressed it, “the form of a table shall more move the simple people from the superstitious opinions of the Popish mass unto the right use of the Lord’s supper”.

5. According to Catholic doctrine, it is necessary for validity that the minister of a sacrament should not only employ a proper form, but should also have a proper intention. Thus Pole, in his instructions to the Bishop of Norwich (which Leo XIII cites in his Bull of condemnation), tells him to treat as not validly consecrated those pretending bishops in whose previous consecration ceremonies “the form and intention of the Church had not been observed”, thereby implying that this double defect was present in the Edwardine consecrations. On this point the defenders of Anglican orders urge that (I) to admit that the mental intentions of the minister can affect the validity of the Sacrament is to involve in uncertainty all ordinations whatever—for how are we to know what internal lapses or deflections from the due intention may not have been secretly made by those on whose acts the orders of whole generations of Christian ministers have been dependent?—and (2) even granting this doctrine of intention, no defect of due intention should be imputed to the Anglican prelates of any generation, since, according to theologians like Bellarmine, even an heretical minister’s intention is sufficient as long as it is a general intention to do what Christ does or His true Church does, whatever this may be. But, it is replied, it is impossible not to recognize that the minister’s intention is an essential element. Why, for instance, is there a valid consecration at Mass when the priest pronounces the words, “This is my Body”, but no valid consecration when he pronounces the same words in the presence of bread whilst reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel in a community refectory? Still the Church trusts to the Providence of God to watch over all such defective intentions as are not externally manifested, and assumes that the minister’s intention is correct in every serious administration of her own rites, even when he is—like Cranmer, for instance—a person of heterodox opinions. Where, however, a defective intention is manifested externally, she must deal with it, and that is what has happened in respect to the Anglican ordinations. The rite, as has been explained, was altered in Edward VI’s time to give expression to a heterodox belief concerning the nature of Holy Orders, and was likewise adopted in this sense by the Elizabethan authorities. When, then, they proceeded to administer it, the only reasonable interpretation of their action was that they conformed their intention to their rite, and hence that, from a Catholic point of view, their acts were invalid on a twofold ground: the defect of the form and the defect of the intention.

6. In modern times the Anglican clergy often appeal, as confirmatory of the above doctrinal and historical considerations, or even as having an independent value, to what may be called an experiential argument. “It is all very well”, they say, “to bring forward these external arguments to discredit our orders. But we have an internal testimony which appeals to us more powerfully, namely our intimate consciousness of the spiritual benefit we experience when we make use of the sacraments of which our orders are the source to us. If they were invalid orders, how is it conceivable that God should so bless their use to those who have recourse to them?” This is an argument which no one has stated more forcibly than Cardinal Newman in the Third Lecture of his “Anglican Difficulties”, where, too, the most searching answer to it may be found. Here it will be enough to say (I) that for those who bring it forward it proves too much, since Wesleyans and others could claim as much, and on the same grounds, for their own ordinances, which no one supposes to be dependent for their efficacy on the validity of an Apostolical succession; (2) that it confounds the efficacy of a rite ex opere operato, or as an appointed channel of sacramental grace, and its efficacy ex opere operantis, or as a stimulus to the piety of well-disposed hearts; (3) that the rule of the Catholic Church is, while by no means undervaluing the evidential power of internal experience, to interpret this and detect its true bearing by applying the test of her own divinely authenticated external teaching.

THE BULL OF LEO XIII.—From the foregoing account it can readily be understood why the practice of reordaining convert clergymen has subsisted. Anglicans, however, have always resented this practice, and maintained that the Holy See could never have sanctioned it had the facts been properly presented. In 1894 this contention was pressed upon the notice of some French ecclesiastics by some Anglican leaders who were discussing with them the prospects of corporate reunion. The result was that the French ecclesiastics brought the matter to the notice of Leo XIII, assuring him that this impression prevailed among many well-disposed Anglicans, who felt that they were being unfairly treated. The Pope was moved by what he heard, and determined that he would have the whole question reinvestigated thoroughly. Accordingly, he selected eight divines who had made a special study of the subject, and of whom four were known to be disposed to recognize Anglican orders and four to be disposed to reject them. These he summoned to Rome and formed into a consultative commission under the presidency of Cardinal Mazzella. They were given access to all documents from the archives of the Vatican and the Holy Office which would throw light upon the points at issue, and they were bidden to sift the evidence on either side with all possible fullness and care. After sessions which lasted six weeks, the Commission was dissolved, and the acta of its discussions were laid before a judicial committee of cardinals. These, after a two months’ study, in a special meeting under the presidency of the Pope, decided by a unanimous vote that Anglican orders were certainly invalid. After an interval for prayerful consideration of this vote, Leo XIII determined to adopt it and accordingly published his Bull “Apostolicae Curae” on the 18th of September, 1896. In this Bull he begins by expressing his affectionate interest in the English people and his desire for their return to unity, and by reciting the circumstances which had led to the issue of this solemn decision. He then calls attention to the action taken in the same matter by his predecessors. In the reign of Mary, when she and Cardinal Pole were engaged in reconciling the kingdom, letters of direction were sent to the latter, which, as their text shows, required him to treat those who had received orders by a form other than “the accustomed form of the Church“—a phrase which, says Pope Leo, can only refer to the Edwardine Ordinal—as needing to be ordained or consecrated afresh. At that time, then, the Holy See judged the Anglican form to be insufficient, and that it persisted in this adverse judgment is manifest from the fact that for more than three centuries it has sanctioned the practice of reordaining absolutely the holders of orders obtained through this form; for “since in the Church it has always been a firm and established rule that the sacrament of Order ought not to be repeated, it never could have silently acquiesced in and tolerated such a custom”, had it deemed the Anglican form to be in any way sufficient. Moreover, continues the Bull, the Holy See not only acquiesced in the practice, but on many occasions gave it renewed sanction by express judgments, to two of which, the second being that of John Clement Gordon, it calls particular attention, repudiating in connection with this latter the allegation that the rejection of Gordon’s previous orders had been motived by any other cause than the character of the Anglican rite (a copy of which was procured and examined by the judges), or even that in judging of the rite the essential point considered was the omission in it of any tradition of the instruments. This account of the practice of his predecessors forms the first part of the “Apostolicae Curae“, and in view of it Leo XIII observes that the question could not really be considered still open. He has wished, however, “to help men of good will by shewing them the greatest consideration and charity,” and he proceeds to expound the principles on which the Anglican Rite is judged by himself, as well as by his predecessors, to lack the conditions of validity. “In the examination”, he says, “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, 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 Orders, 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 confirmation. 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 Order of Priesthood, 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., Can. 1) in that sacrifice which is `no nude commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross’ (ibid., Sess. XXIII, de Sacr. Miss., Can. 3).. 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 from that which they bear in the Catholic rite.” In this passage the Bull sanctions the principle that a sacramental rite must signify definitely what it is to effect, and that this definite signification must be in the essential “form”, or words in proximate connection with the “matter”; also that, in the case of Holy Order, what must be definitely signified is, in the ordination of priests, the Order of the Priesthood or its grace and power, and similarly in the consecration of bishops; the grace and power in each having reference to the accomplishment of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This principle accepted, it follows at once that the Anglican Ordinal, at least as it stood till 1662, lacks the essential conditions of sufficiency. But the Bull further examines how far the remainder of this Ordinal, or the circumstances under which it came into being, can be held to determine the ambiguity of the “essential form”. And here it sanctions the judgment which the Catholic writers had already formed. “The history,” it says, “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 heterodox sects; and as to the end in view…. 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, but 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. Hence, if, vitiated in its origin, it was wholly insufficient to confer orders, it was impossible that in the course of time it should become sufficient, since it remained always what it was (i.e. of vitiated origin).. For once a new rite has been initiated, in which, as we have seen, the Sacrament of Orders is adulterated or denied, and from which all idea of consecration and sacrifice has been rejected, the formula, `Receive the Holy Spirit‘ (the Spirit, namely, which is infused into the soul with the grace of the Sacrament) no longer holds good, 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.” Likewise in regard to the defect of intention, the Bull endorses the judgment adverse to Anglican ordination which Catholic writers had always urged. “When anyone has rightly and seriously made use of the due `form’ and `matter’ requisite for effecting or conferring the sacrament, he is considered by that very fact to do 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 a 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.”

These are the defects in the Anglican Succession, on the existence of which the Bull bases its decision. It will be noticed that they are of the most fundamental kind, and are independent of any defects that may be thought to arise out of the omission in the Ordinal of a tradition of the instruments, or of the doubt about Barlow’s consecration. To examine into the nature and bearing of the latter when a sufficient basis for a certain conclusion had been supplied by the former would have been a superfluous task, and for the same reason it is unlikely that even for the private inquirer these other considerations will retain in the future the interest they had in the past. At the same time the Bull has in no way pronounced them to be frivolous or unfounded, as has been suggested. It remains to give the formal definition of the Bull, which is in the following terms: “Wherefore, strictly adhering in this matter to the decrees of the Pontiffs Our Predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by Our authority, of Our own motion and certain knowledge We pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been and are absolutely null and void.”

The publication of the “Apostolicae Curae” caused, as was to be expected, much excitement in England; nor did the Anglican party, for whose sake it was intended, show any disposition to accept either its arguments or its decision. It was deemed, however, to have created a crisis sufficiently serious to require that it should be met by some formal reply. Accordingly, in the early part of 1897 there appeared, in both a Latin and an English edition, an “Answer of the Archbishops of England to the Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII on English Ordinations”, which was “addressed to the whole body of Bishops of the Catholic Church“. This answer, which came to be known by its Latin name of the “Responsio”, is a distinctly Low-Church document, of which the leading contention is that the Pope has misjudged the Anglican Ordinal through failure to recognize the right of national Churches to reform and revise their own formulas, and by applying to this Ordinal a false and untrustworthy rule. The true rule to which an ordinal should be conformed, it urges, is the rule of Holy Scripture, and it is in this rule that the Reformers sought their guidance. They found an enormous accretion of sacerdotalist ideas embodied in the words and ceremonies of the older Ordinal, whereas, in the New Testament, the sacerdotalist conception of the Christian ministry was altogether absent. And, on the other hand, they found that the aspects of the Christian ministry on which Our Lord and His Apostles had laid the most stress—those, namely, which concerned the pastor’s duty to go forth in His Master’s name as His steward, His watchman, His messenger, to tend the sheep, and, if need be, lay down his life for their sakes, to preach the word, to convert sinners, to remit offenses in the Church to render mutual services to one another, and much else of the same kind—were very insufficiently set forth in the Pontifical. Accordingly, in drawing up their new rite, they endeavored as far as possible to eliminate the former element and give prominence to the latter, while in their “forms” they assigned to the priesthood the words which, according to the New Testament, Our Lord used in promoting His Apostles to this office, and to the episcopate the words of St. Paul which “were believed to refer to the consecration of St. Timothy to be Bishop of Ephesus“. Nor, in following precedents so lofty, could they reasonably be charged with having endangered the efficacy of their rite. This is in brief the defensive argument of the “Responsio”. But it also charges the Pope with having, in his zeal to condemn the orders of the Anglican Church, overlooked the contradictions in which he was involving the position of his own Church. In condemning the Anglican “forms” as wanting in definite signification, he condemned, by implication, the orders of his own Church, since the Roman Pontifical in its premedieval text was not a whit more definite than the Elizabethan Anglican; and in attaching the sacramental virtue to the imposition of hands and the connected words he was condemning by implication his predecessor, Eugenius IV, who attached that virtue to the tradition of instruments and the words connected therewith, not even making mention of imposition of hands among the requisites. One thing was made clear by the “Responsio”, and by the other criticisms of the “Apostolic Curse” which poured forth from the Anglican press, namely, that the character of the Bull and its arguments had been greatly misapprehended. Hence, Cardinal Vaughan and the English Catholic Bishops, in the early part of 1898, published a “Vindication of the Bull `Apostolicae Curae,’ in reply to a letter addressed to them by the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York.” In this “Vindication,” after some preliminary observations on the extrinsic reasons which the Bull had given for its decision, attention is called to the false standpoint from which the two Archbishops had judged the arguments of the Bull. In their “Responsio” they are mainly occupied with challenging the soundness of the principles on which the papal decision had been based. They urge that it rests on a false and unscriptural conception of the priesthood, and that, if for this the more scriptural conception expounded by themselves had been substituted, the decision must have been different. But this, the “Vindication” points out, is ignoratio elenchi. Of course the Pope considers that the Catholic conception of the priesthood is in conformity with Scripture; but that was not the question under consideration. The Anglican grievance was that those of their clergy who came over to us were reordained; and to complain of this was to contend that even on our principles their orders ought to be recognized; while no doubt the particular section of the Anglican communion which took most to heart this practice of reordination was in substantial agreement with us as to our conception of the priesthood. Hence the Holy See, in examining the question, necessarily assumed the validity of its own principles, and inquired only if they had been duly applied. The “Vindication”, however, to facilitate the understanding of the Pope‘s reasons, sets itself to expand, explain, and vindicate by reference to the facts those points which the Bull, after the manner of legal documents, gives only in a highly condensed form. It is not necessary here to epitomize the “Vindication”, but mention may be made of its study of the opinions in regard to the Eucharistic Presence, the Mass, and the priesthood of Cranmer and his associates, as likewise of the opinions on the same subjects expressed by a series of Anglican divines during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which showed that the tradition initiated by Cranmer persisted.

THE AUTHORITY OF “APOSTOLICAE CURIE”.—The question has been raised whether the pronouncement of the Bull “Apostolicae Curiae” is or is not to be taken as an infallible utterance of the Holy See. But even if it were not it would not follow that it can be disregarded, and its eventual withdrawal confidently anticipated. What may be safely assumed is that it fixes the belief and practice of the Catholic Church irrevocably. This at least Leo XIII must have meant to signify when in his letter to Cardinal Richard, of November 5, 1896, he declared that his “intention had been to pass a final judgment and settle (the question) forever” (absolute judicare et penitus dirimere), and that “Catholics were bound to receive (the judgment) with the fullest obedience as perpetuo firmam, ratam, irrevocabilem”. Still, as a matter of speculative interest, it may be asked whether the definition is strictly infallible, and the answer may be stated shortly thus. It belongs to a class of ex cathedra utterances for which infallibility is claimed on the ground, not indeed, of the terms of the Vatican definition, but of the constant practice of the Holy See, the consentient teaching of the theologians, as well as of the clearest deductions from the principles of faith. To understand what is meant it is necessary to bear in mind the distinction between a dogma and a dogmatic fact, the former being a doctrine of revelation, the latter a fact so intimately connected with a revealed doctrine that it would be impossible without inconsistency to assert the former and deny the latter. It may be urged that the Vatican Council merely defined that the Pope when speaking ex cathedra has “that infallibility which the divine Redeemer wished His Church to have in defining doctrine of faith and morals”, without going on to define the range of infallibility which Our Lord wished His Church to have. But it must be remembered (I) that the Vatican Council, had it not been forced to suspend its sittings by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, intended to supplement this first definition by others which would have gone into details in regard to the object of infallibility; (2) that to suppose that Church authority can define a doctrine to be true, but cannot decide whether it is contained in or denied by any particular writing—such as an ordination rite—is to suppose that the power of defining doctrine is largely nugatory; and (3) that since the time of Jansenius there has been a practical consensus theologorum in holding that infallibility does extend to dogmatic facts, a judgment which would undoubtedly bring this Bull within the category of infallible utterances.


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