Apostolicae Curae and our orders

Parish Homepage of author, Fr Matthew Kirby


The Red Herring: Defective Form

In Apostolicae Curae (A.C. hereafter) the Pope addressed the validity of the Form of Anglican Orders thusly:

“Sacraments of the New Law … ought … to signify the grace which they effect”. Paragraph 24

“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 (sacerdotium) or its grace and power”. Paragraph 25, emphasis added. (It is unclear whether this means the rite must specify both the Order and its particular “power”, or one or the other.)

The simplest error of fact is the Pontiff’s implication that Anglicans relied upon the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” to be an absolutely sufficient form for ordination of priests and consecration of bishops. He does not quote the words that come after in each case, which are clearly an attempt to do what he requires: “signify the grace which [the Sacraments] effect”. And we will show that these words do “express … the grace and power” relevant to each circumstance. In other words, while we agree with the theological principle, we must challenge the presentation of the associated facts.

That the words after “Receive the Holy Ghost” specify which order is referred to in the case of priesthood is shown by comparison with the Tridentine canon referred to by the Pope (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, de Sacr. Ord., Canon 1). The connection of priesthood with the power of absolution is common to both Trent and the ordinal. The ordinal Form has the quotation of our Lord, “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained”, while the said Canon condemns those who deny the priest has the power to “forgive and retain sins”. Note: the words in the Ordinal come straight from the pre-Reformation Sarum rite, undoubtedly a Catholic rite. Compare this fact to the second papal statement in the next section.

There is therefore a clear reference to a power peculiar to the sacerdotium, as required by A.C. There are also other places in the rite where the words “priests” and “priesthood” are used. The reference to ministering the Sacraments immediately after the Form in the ordinal obviously refers primarily to the Eucharist, which is consecrated by the priest, and always has been in Anglican tradition, in accordance with the Prayer Book. For more on this point, see the section on the Delivery of the Instruments.

As for the qualifying words in the order for consecration of bishops, they are derived from Paul’s words to Timothy concerning the laying on of hands he had received (2 Tim. 1.6-7), since the traditional interpretation was that Paul had made Timothy a bishop when he had thus laid hands on him. This was based on the fact that Timothy ruled (1 Ti. 5.19-21) and ordained (1 Ti. 5.22) presbyters. They refer to the “grace of God … [given] … by the imposition of hands”. They deliberately “signify” the same grace given to Timothy by Paul, which is that of episcopal character, thus meeting the demands of A.C.

(If the Church of England had not believed the two orders were different, it would not have given different services! The numerous references in each rite to the order being conveyed are not the only reason to deny the claim that the “forms” deliberately avoid stating which order so as to obfuscate the distinction. If the framers of these services had wanted to show the presbyterium and episcopate were basically equivalent, and differing only nominally, they would have used identical or near identical forms. Instead, they use two dissimilar parts of the New Testament: one traditionally associated with a power of priesthood, the other with one of the earliest consecrations to the episcopate.[1])


What is priesthood, essentially?

It may be objected that we have not addressed the main objection in A.C., namely, the deliberate deletion of the most important element of the ministerial priesthood, offering the Eucharistic sacrifice. This argument is said to “suffice for all”, that is, to close the issue so that lesser objections need not even be considered.

“[T]he sacred Order of Priesthood (sacerdotium) … its grace and power, … is chiefly the power ‘of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord’” Paragraph 25

“From [the prayers of the Anglican Ordinal have] 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.” Paragraph 27, emphasis added.

The unbiblical imbalance of the first statement is confirmed even in recent studies by RC theologians. The role of the presbyter or Apostle in offering a Eucharistic sacrifice for Christians is not emphasised in the NT, and, in fact, is not explicitly mentioned at all. (This does not mean the concept is wrong or lacking implicitly as well, of course.) If there is a theological error in A.C., it is here in the word “chiefly”. The essence of the priesthood or presbyterate, that is, the unifying principle from which all other aspects of ministry proceed, is pastoral authority. The shepherd leads and tends the flock, guiding and disciplining. But he also feeds it with Word and Sacrament. He is willing to lay down his life for the sheep sacrificially, and symbolises the Great Shepherd in this role. Yet, it can hardly be denied, in the New Testament he is primarily a leader and teacher. The Eucharistic presidency, where he acts in persona Christi, derives from this. So, the Anglican ordinal’s focus on pastoral aspects of ministry is justifiable.

The second quote falsifies itself by the use of the sweeping generalisation highlighted in bold. We have already shown above that one very important “dignity” of priesthood, absolution, has been inserted into the main part of the service! And the points made in the previous paragraph also prove that the “dignity and office” of the priesthood is manifest in the service. The second quote is therefore another error in fact rather than theology.


The Fundamental Objection: Defective Intention

According to Pope Leo XIII, it would seem that what has been done to the rite, even more than the rite as it is in itself, whatever its intrinsic deficiencies of form, proves both a lack of sincere intention to confer the historic orders and a deliberate intention not to do so.

  1. The Church of England acted with the following design. “[I]f 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.” Paragraph 33 [Emphasis added.]
  2. “[T]he Sacrament of Order is adulterated or denied, and … all idea of consecration and sacrifice has been rejected” in the Anglican Ordinal. Paragraph 31.
  3. The English Reformers acted “under a pretext of returning to the primitive form”. Paragraph 30.

The application of statement 1 (which is true in itself) to the Church of England at the Reformation is refuted in the next section and the third paragraph of the last section.

Statement 2 is untrue, as will be shown below in the sections “Delivery of Instruments and Article 36” and “Sacerdotalism and the Church of England at and after the Reformation”.

Statement 3 assumes the purported attempt to restore a primitive form was not, as claimed, a reflection of a desire for primitive or true Catholicism but an ingenuous ruse. This is unjust. See the response to statement 1.


Original Intent and Original Rite

Before I deal with what the Rite does say, another point must be made about omissions from it. The preface to the Prayer Book of 1549, “Of Ceremonies”, which has continued throughout all its revisions, states that some omissions are justified, not because the things in themselves were wrong, but because they had been abused so much “that the abuses could not be taken away, the thing remaining still.” While referring particularly to ceremonies rather than rites, the principle may be assumed to have been applied more generally, as words as well as actions can be misinterpreted or artificially invested with incorrect connotations. Therefore omissions in themselves are not necessarily proof of anything in this historical context.

The intent in the ordinal to “do what the Church does” is stated unambiguously in its Preface, where it has said from the beginning: “It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. … And therefore, to the intent that these Orders should be continued and reverently used and esteemed in this Church of England, it is requisite that no man … shall execute any of them, except he be called, tried, examined and admitted according to the form hereafter following.” [Spelling and punctuation modernised. Emphasis added.]

The priestly functions emphasised in the rite are “to teach, to premonish, to feed”, as it says in the longest exhortation by the ordaining bishop, through Word and Sacrament and absolution, as it makes clear in the part of the service generally accepted as the Form.[2] In other words, priests are seen as pastors whose authority extends to kerygmatic, didactic, sacramental and benedictory roles.

The Episcopal position is compared to the Apostolic in an address to the congregation, where the chief consecrator says: “BRETHREN, it is written in the Gospel of Saint Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, [before] he did choose and sent forth his twelve Apostles. It is written also, in the Acts of the Apostles, that the disciples which were at Antioch did fast and pray before they laid hands upon or sent forth Paul and Barnabas. Let us, therefore, [follow] the example of our Saviour Christ, and his Apostles”. The Form[3] accompanying the laying on of hands makes a similar connection with the ordination of the “Apostolic Man”, St Timothy, as noted above. Apart from this, it may fairly be said that the pastoral and teaching aspects of ministry are stressed even more in the rite for the Consecration of Bishops than in that for the ordination of priests, which accords well with the ancient emphasis on the bishop’s special responsibility for discipline and preaching.


Delivery of Instruments and Article 36

In A.C. it is said that “every trace” of reference to “the power of consecrating and offering”, among other things, “was deliberately removed”. In fact, the original Edwardine Ordinal contained the Delivery or Tradition of the Instruments, though this was removed in the second. However, the first Ordinal is defended in these terms in the 39 Articles: “[it] doth contain all things necessary … neither hath it any thing, that of itself is superstitious and ungodly.”[4] [Emphasis added.] Therefore the omission of this ceremony cannot be used as evidence that the consecratory aspect of the priestly ministry was being rejected, since the ceremony is implicitly defended.[5]

The Prayer Book has always reserved Eucharistic consecration to the priest or bishop, As for whether this power of consecration was seen as excluding any concept of offering, see below.


Sacerdotalism and the Church of England at and after the Reformation

The early English Reformers universally accepted the Eucharist was a sacrifice of thankful remembrance, but universally rejected the description “propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead”, and thus deleted, as A.C. notes, all references to such sacrifice by the priest. To know precisely what they meant (and didn’t mean) by this we need to attend to the detail of their doctrinal statements and the liturgy they created or accepted. Among the ideas specifically and vehemently rejected by the Reformers and their successors under Elizabeth are the following:

  1. That Christ’s historical and redemptive Sacrifice is repeated in Holy Communion.[6]
  2. That any action is really performed upon Christ (as a passive object in the Host) by the human priest after consecration which constitutes an independent immolation or “slaying”.[7]
  3. That Christ performs any action in the Eucharist which involves a new offering of himself. Instead, his active self-offering is seen as complete, as demonstrated by the frequent reference to the relevant verses in Hebrews underlining the “once for all” character of Christ’s offering.[8]

However, they affirmed the following

  1. The Eucharist is

a)                 a sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving

b)                 that also sacramentally represents and commemorates the Sacrifice of the Cross.[9]

  1. In this context we apply the benefits of that One Sacrifice

a)                 by intercessory prayer to the whole Church[10]

b)                 by Communion to receivers of the Sacrament.[11]

Now, it can not be denied that various errors regarding the Sacrament were widely held in the English Church, including denial of the Real Presence, though even in that matter the Calvinist opinion was not universal among the “Reformed” bishops (nor, certainly, the lower clergy), which is why the authoritative Anglican Formularies deliberately allowed a range of interpretation[12]. And it must also be admitted that the intimate connection between 1b and 2a above is not apparent in the earliest Reformers, but neither is it denied.[13] Later writers made the connection very clear from early in the 17th Century, for example, Richard Field, Lancelot Andrewes and Francis White.[14] That the doctrine these men taught was not only permitted in the 17th Century Church of England but encouraged is shown by their consistent preferment subsequent to preaching or writing in accordance with these beliefs. This “High Church” approach to the Eucharist was coupled with a Catholic conception of Orders and their necessity, and has continued within the Church of England (and its derived churches) from that time onwards. In other words, even if a committed and definitive rejection of orthodoxy is detected in the 16th Century (which is here disputed), it can not be fairly ascribed to Anglicanism after this. Ambiguities, yes. Outright negation, no. To the objection that this does not matter if the Apostolic Succession was already lost, we respond by referring the reader to the next two sections.

It is also important in judging the intention of Anglican churches (compared to the wider Catholic tradition) to note that, unlike many European Reformed bodies, Anglicans have always recognised the validity of Roman and Orthodox Orders and never re-ordained those Roman Catholic priests who have come to them – whereas they have consistently re-ordained ministers from Protestant churches without episcopal succession.[15] This is despite the offence this has caused fellow heirs of the Reformation. These practices demonstrate that the Church of England always saw its clergy as being in the same orders as Roman Catholic clergy, thus signalling its acceptance of Roman Catholic rites as valid and effective, despite its preference for its own reformed versions. This is hardly “rejecting what the Church does,” even if “the Church” be interpreted as the Roman Catholic Church simpliciter!

It may be objected at this point that we have gone too far afield to help us in understanding the intent of the Ordinal itself. But this has been necessary for two reasons. First, this larger context was appealed to in A.C. in paragraph 30. Second, the references to “ministering the Sacraments” in the Ordinal receive their full significance from the rest of the Prayer Book[16] as understood by the Church using and authorising it, not merely as understood by the individuals who had a hand in writing Anglican rites. Indeed, whether it is the Ordinal, Liturgy or Articles we are considering, they must be taken to mean what the Church of England has interpreted them to mean, not necessarily what the original authors have.[17] This is the same for any Church’s rites.


Insertions of Universally Accepted Lines of Succession in England

The Italian line was inserted in the seventeenth century through Archbishop de Dominis. Eastern Orthodox lines were inserted in the nineteenth century. These consecrations occurred after the Caroline Divines had strengthened the doctrines of Eucharistic Sacrifice and Holy Orders in the Church of England. The Eastern insertion occurred after 1662, when the Ordinal’s forms had been made more explicit and the Prayer of Consecration explicitly named so in the Eucharistic Canon.[18]


The Chambers Succession and Episcopalian Form and Intent

Bishop Chambers, the chief consecrator of the first ACC bishops, had as one of his consecrators a bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, whose orders are recognised by Rome, as we understand it. The rite used was that in the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer. This Prayer Book has re-inserted explicit sacrificial language in the Eucharistic Canon and refers to the “sacerdotal” ministry of the priest in its form for the letter of induction into a parish. Therefore the wider context of the Ordinal proves a deliberate intent to convey a sacerdotal ministry in ordination. These changes obviate the objections of A.C., even if one admitted they applied to the English rites. So, a rite and a consecrator in conformity with Rome’s demands are undeniably present in the recent past of our Succession. Even if the Apostolic Succession had not been present in this Anglican “line” up till then, it would have been so since that time.


The status of A.C.: What even the pope cannot be infallible about

While the infallibility of the Church is not restricted to occasional statements defining what is de Fide for Christians, that is formulating dogmas, there are limits, even on Roman theory, to its extent. For example, in excommunicating a heretic and anathematising his purported heresy, it is generally acknowledged that it is possible for even an Ecumenical Council to err in ascribing the said heresy to the person involved, through misinterpretation or misreporting of his words or intent.

Similarly, even if all or most[19] of the strictly theological assertions in A.C. were considered to be infallible, as may have been implied by Cardinal Ratzinger in a note appended to a recent Papal document[20], their application to the historical situation at the English Reformation could not possibly be so. This is because the application of general principles to particular historical cases is intrinsically inerrant only insofar as the understanding of those cases is inerrant. But the only history that the Church is guaranteed indefectible knowledge of is that tied up with and essential to Divine Revelation. And this rules out infallible interpretations of the works or words of anybody after the Apostolic age.

Therefore, if it can be shown that the Church of England did not intend to stop ordaining priests and bishops of the Catholic Church to perform the ministrations proper to these orders, including Eucharistic sacrifice, then the conclusion of A.C. fails, however correct the theological syllogisms contained therein. That the Church of England had a positive and explicit intention to continue Catholic episcopacy and priesthood for the purposes of ministering Word and Sacrament, particularly the Eucharist, and absolving sinners is conclusively shown above. That it did not intentionally reject the Catholic doctrine regarding priesthood and sacrifice, as represented by the consensus Patrum, is clear from statements such as the following by Cranmer in his Declaration of August 1553, “we will join with them [i.e., the ‘Papists’] in this point that that doctrine and usage is to be followed which was in the Church fifteen hundred years past. And we shall prove that the order of the Church set out by this realm … is the same that was used fifteen hundred years past.” Similarly, there is a Canon made by a Synod in England, A.D. 1571:—“Let Preachers above all things be careful that they never teach aught in a sermon to be religiously held and believed by the people, ex­cept that which is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, and which has been collected from the same doctrine by the Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops.” And, of course, there is the previously quoted preface to the Ordinal.

The three crucial questions then are these.

  1. Did the Church of England in practice have an intention to create new orders to replace the old because of formal rejection[21] of a fully orthodox conception of the presbyterate and episcopate (with respect to their sacerdotal powers)?
  2. Or was their intention unreserved and sincere but vitiated by such an error in belief concerning what Catholic Orders were?
  3. And would either deficiency be enough, if proven, to invalidate the sacramental intention?

To answer the first question, as noted above, the constant claims of the English Reformers and those that followed them that they believed themselves to be keeping continuity with the Catholic Church’s ministries and to be in conformity to Catholic doctrine regarding these ministries should be assumed to be true. Otherwise we pretend the ability to judge men’s hearts in spite of their words and actions, which only God can truly do. Pope Leo XIII disclaims such powers in the Bull (paragraph 33), but, unfortunately, also makes no reference to the abovementioned written, public claims of the English Reformers.

As to the second question, we hope it is clear from the discussion above that, despite verbal denials of propitiation, the Anglican Church, as a Church, did not deny the essential elements of Eucharistic sacrifice. In other words, their “error” related largely to logomachies, related confusion, and imperfect integration of insights in the areas of propitiatory sacrifice and, hence, the ministry.

However, coming to the third query, even if a genuinely heretical understanding of Holy Orders was substantiated at the earliest stages, it is by no means obvious that this would undermine an admitted intention “to do what the Church does”, which is all that is normally asked for in the way of intention. For example, the clear denial of Baptismal Regeneration by most Protestants has not prevented the Roman Catholic Church from recognising the validity of their Baptisms.

Nevertheless, it has been asserted by some RC scholars in the Twentieth Century, e.g., Francis Clarke SJ, that it is in fact this heterodox understanding of Holy Orders that the author of the Bull says cancels out the intention to do what the Church does. This interpretation of the Bull claims the general intention is admitted to be present, but that a simultaneous positive and deliberate intention not to convey a primary effect of the sacrament is identified as the reason the general intention is insufficient in this case.

The problem with this interpretation, designed to counter the traditional Anglican appeal to clear evidence in the Ordinal of their intention (which is not even referred to let alone refuted or disputed in A.C.), is that the document itself nowhere admits such a sincere general intention. Instead, it implies such an intention is absent by stating that there was a “manifest intention … of rejecting what the Church does” and that the claimed motive of returning to more primitive forms was a “pretext”. Clarke’s interpretation assumes the Pope is arguing that the Anglican hierarchs using their Ordinal did intend to do what the Church did in ordaining, but, because of the deletion of sacerdotal language, also intended consciously and specifically to withhold or prevent the execution of sacrificial ministry in the Eucharist. Not only does the Bull not give clear evidence of any such nuanced reading of the situation, but this rationalisation lacks intrinsic plausibility in that it tries to prove a positive and deliberate intention to prevent or actively deny a certain result from omissions, rather than overt statements.[22]

Given that the omissions were made by one person or group of people responsible for the formation of the rite, whereas the rite so modified was used by a later and different group of people, it is impossible to simply identify the intentions in making the omissions with the intentions of those using the rite. The users of the rite had their intention “informed” (in the technical sense) by the rite itself, not the authors’ intentions, so what it has rather than what does not have is all that matters. The only way the authors’ intentions could constrain the users is indirectly. If the objection is made that both groups belonged to the same Church, the obvious answer is that the Church is just as little committed to authorial intentions in construction of the rite. The Church’s approval of a rite does not depend primarily on the process leading up to the production of a rite, but on the product itself.

In addition, if someone did not believe that a particular grace was effected by a sacrament because that grace did not exist, e.g., the power to immolate Christ, they could not intend to withhold or refuse to convey it. If I do not believe giving someone a spacesuit makes them safe from radiation, I do not give them the suit with the explicit intention of denying them that property. There is a difference between not explicitly intending to cause the effect of a sacrament while still intending to really perform the sacramental act, and explicitly intending to inhibit that effect while still having the correct general intent. The former would leave validity unaffected, as acknowledged by all theologians in treating Protestant baptisms, whereas the latter is quite a juggling act, and the Pope gave no indication he posited such complex ambivalence in the original Anglican Ordinals. The more natural reading of A.C. is that it says there is no real intent in the Edwardine Ordinals to do what the Church does because all essential and distinctive effects of the Sacrament are omitted, no indications of the precise Sacrament being ministered are included, and the Catholic terminology that is used is a nominal remnant given different meanings and referents. It is a purported lack of Catholic intent, rather than a mixture of a genuine general intent and a qualifying specific “anti-intent”, so to speak, of which we were accused.

And so, if the answer to the first crucial question asked above -- which assumes particular, deliberate denials of elements known to be essential to the order being conferred -- was yes, it would be difficult to deny the sacramental intention was insufficient. Hence, the answer to the third question would be yes with respect to this deficiency.

But what would happen if the answer to the second question (which assumes material but not formal error in the minister’s understanding of the effect of the sacrament) was yes is also fairly clear – validity would not be affected. Hence, the answer to the third question would be no, unless the error was imprinted positively on the rite, especially the Form, such that it explicitly denied some or over-wrote all essential elements. Omission of good elements is not enough. A.C. assumes all essential elements are missing (over-written) or entirely re-defined.

Given that a good case can be made that Pope Leo XIII erred in his assessment of the “native spirit” and intent of the Anglican Ordinal, as well as ignoring some of its particular ingredients, that the precise nature of the purported deficiency of intent is not made clear therein, and that historical developments since the occurrence of the problems identified by the Pope have made the question of whether the Succession was maintained at that point of time moot, we assert that, at the very least, the Roman Catholic Church could recognise our Orders as valid at present and possibly valid in the past without abandoning its principles.




Apostolicae Curae argument in summary

Anglican answer

1. A church cannot intend “to do as the Church does” sacramentally if it deliberately and positively excludes in that intent what is essential to the sacrament.


2. The Church of England did this at the Reformation in the Edwardine Ordinals by

2.1 Deleting or omitting all words and phrases relating to the distinctive grace and power of priesthood and episcopacy, and thus not signifying the graces specific to each separate order,

2.2  Not signifying the orders themselves in the forms,

2.3  Excluding entirely a sacerdotal understanding of ministry, as shown in the authors’ opinions expressed elsewhere and definitively imposed on the rite, through not referring to consecrating or offering the Eucharist anywhere in the rite,

2.4  And insincerely claiming to have returned to a simpler rite in order to return to more primitive patterns.

Contra 2.1, while some things were omitted, compared to the late mediaeval rite, pastorally authoritative teaching, ministering the sacraments and absolution (this last in the Form sensu stricto) were included, which are powers specific to priesthood, and the Episcopal mission is modelled on that of Timothy and the Apostles.

Contra 2.2, the names of the distinct orders are specified within the rites which supply the context for the forms, and these names are defined traditionally in the Preface.

Contra 2.3, the authors and the Church using their rites after their death accepted a doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice which, while perhaps imperfect, retained the essential concepts of sacramentally signifying and pleading the One Sacrifice and conveying its benefits through the Eucharist. It was also made clear that the priest is the consecrator of the Sacrament, despite not using the word “consecrate” in the Ordinal.

Contra 2.4, the return to more primitive patterns was based on a sincere and justifiable desire to avoid an unbalanced sacerdotalism while keeping with Tradition. After all, they could have settled for the innovative Continental Reformed rites and structures, but did not.

3. (1 & 2) Therefore this body did not intend to do as the Church does in its ordinations.

This is effectively a reductio ad absurdum, as the English rite is the only one in Catholic history with an explicit statement of intent actually using the word “intent”!

4. The absence of intention “to do as the Church does” invalidates the sacrament.


5. (3 & 4) Anglican orders are invalid.

Fails due to contra 2 & 3.


Note: Strictly doctrinal assertions (1 & 4) of A.C. are affirmed in the above table. Fallible and fallacious assertions about English historical events and documents are not. There is little doubt that if all the claims about the content of the English rite and its wider context were correct, the decree of invalidity would follow as an indisputable theological conclusion.


A.C. argument from precedent

Anglican answer

1. A constant tradition of judgement in practical application of doctrine by the Church expresses the mind of Christ.


2. The Catholic Church has always judged Anglican Orders to be invalid and acted accordingly.

Earlier Roman Catholic practice was not always so uniform, nor based on fully accurate information regarding our rites. See Saepius Officio, the response of the Archbishops of the Church of England to A.C. Also, if we accept, in an ecumenical context, that the opinions and practice of the Eastern Orthodox are relevant to determining the consensual position of the Catholic Church, then their statements affirming the validity of Anglican orders and their very occasional participation in Anglican consecrations are important counter-precedents.

3. (1 + 2) Anglican orders are not valid.

Since 2 is dubious, so is the conclusion.






[1] It is worth noting that the English Church had only three years before the composition of the reformed Ordinal ordered the Paraphrase of Erasmus (translated into English) to be set up in every parish church. And this very work explains the verses used in the Edwardian Forms precisely consonant with their use there. In particular, it says of 2 Tim. 1.6-7 in the original Latin, “Donum Dei quod per impositionem manuum mearum episcopus ordinatus accipisti suscites tua industria vigilantiaque fortique et infracto animo peragas tibi delegatum munus” [Emphasis added]. There can thus be no doubt that the Form was chosen very deliberately to use a Biblical reference to episcopal ordination, not as an ambiguous reference designed to obscure the difference between the presbyterate and episcopate, as some Roman Catholic apologists have claimed. In addition, preceeding statements and prayers in the Edwardian rites specify the respective offices explicitly, and all theologians now agree that such rites must be judged as a whole (a “moral unity”) to determine their meaning. E.g., the consecration of bishops included these prayers: “blesse this our brother elected, and to sende thy grace upon him, they he may duely execute the office wherunto he is called … ALMIGHTIE God, gever of all good thynges, which by thy holy spirite hast appointed diverse orders of ministers in thy Church: mercifully beholde this thy servaunt, now called to the worke and ministerie of a Bisshoppe, and replenishe him so with the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of life, that both by worde and dede, he may faithfully serve thee in this office” [emphasis added].

[2] The Form being: “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; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” That part in square brackets was added in 1662. Spelling updated.

[3] This Form is: “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; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.] 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.” That part in square brackets was added in 1662. Spelling updated.

[4] These words are applied to the Ordinal “set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth”, which could refer to either edition, but a statement further on specifies “that Book, since the second year of the forenamed King”.

[5] There was one school of thought in England at the time (conforming to foreign Reformed opinion) that inanimate objects could not be blessed or hallowed, thus rejecting the concept of a “Prayer of Consecration” in Holy Communion. For these people, it was the faith and mental acts of remembrance of the recipients that mattered, that is, the use of the sacramental elements. However, when an English priest named Robert Johnson put this idea into practice by distributing wine over which the words of institution had not been recited (having run out of consecrated wine), he was brought up on charges and sentenced in 1573 to a year’s jail. He died in prison. The court had unanimously rejected as preposterous his plea that consecration was unnecessary. (See pp.121-122 of The Recovery of Unity by E. L. Mascall, 1958, Longmans; and p.562n of Liturgy and Worship Ed. W. K. Lowther Clarke and Charles Harris, 1932, Macmillan )

[6] In defending the replacement of stone altars with wooden tables, Bishop Ridley rhetorically asked, “Now, when we come unto the Lord’s board, what do we come for? To sacrifice Christ again, and to crucify Him again, or to feed upon Him that was once only crucified and offered up for us?” (Quoted in A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, Vol. II, by Darwell Stone, Longmans & Co., 1909, p. 186) But cf. the positive statements by Ridley below.

[7] Such teaching was found in the mediaeval Church, which had a great variety of theories as to how the Mass was a sacrifice, including some which posited a real immolation based on the diminution and “humiliation” of Christ’s dignity due to his association with the sacramental accidents. Whereas some scholars associated the moment of sacrifice with the consecration (e.g., Aquinas), others considered it an action performed with the sacred elements after consecration (e.g., Cano, Bellarmine).

[8] Ridley notes in his answer to the third of three propositions proposed to him in the disputation (trial) at Oxford, April 12, 1554, “by the Apostle to the Hebrews it is evident that there is but one Oblation, and one true and lively Sacrifice of the Church offered upon the Altar of the Cross, which was, is, and shall be for ever, the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and where there is remission of the same, there is, saith the Apostle, no more offering for sin … But where CHRIST suffereth not, there is He not offered in verity; for the Apostle saith, Not that He might offer up Himself oftentimes (for then must He have suffered oftentimes since the beginning of the world).” However, he does not deny Eucharistic Sacrifice but says “the whole substance of our Sacrifice, which is frequented of the Church in the Lord's Supper, consisteth in Prayers, Praise, and giving of Thanks, and in remembering, and in showing forth of that Sacrifice once offered upon the Altar of the Cross; that the same might continually be had in reverence by Mystery”. See also the footnote following.

[9] E.g. Answer of Bishop Ridley at his trial to the question, “What is the Oblation and Sacrifice of Christ in the Mass?” “The Representation and Commemoration of CHRIST'S Death and Passion, said and done in the Mass is called the Sacrifice, Oblation, or Immolation of CHRIST; Non rei veritate, (as learned men do write) sed significandi mysterio.” (Emphasis added.) Also, the 28th of the 39 Articles says that the “Supper of the Lord is … a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death”. Article 25 defines sacraments as “effectual signs of grace”, that is, it teaches they effect what they signify. In other words, the effects of Christ’s Sacrifice are conveyed by the Sacrament. Bishop Jewel (1522-71), in his defence of the Anglican position, quotes St. Augustine with approval: “ ‘Christ hath given us to celebrate in His Church, an image or token of that Sacrifice for the remembrance of His Passion.’ Again he saith, ‘After CHRIST'S ascension into heaven, the Flesh and Blood of this Sacrifice is continued by a Sacrament of remembrance.’ ” Defence of the Apology. Part II. And then there is the subscription in 1567 of Archbishop Parker and 14 other bishops to the mediaeval homily of Archbishop Aelfric (A.D. 995), containing the following (with spelling modernised): “Once suffered Christ himself but yet nevertheless his suffering is daily renewed at the mass through mystery of the holy housel.” Housel was the old English word for sacrifice, especially in reference to the Eucharist. It is appropriate to compare this historical fact with the statement of A.C. that “all idea … of sacrifice has been rejected”. The Church that re-authorised the reformed Ordinal in 1559 was the Church that in 1567 undeniably affirmed the renewal in “mystery” of the sacrifice of the Cross in the sacrifice of the Mass.

[10] This is done in the following petition in the Book of Common Prayer: “[We desire] thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching Thee to grant, that by the merits and death of Thy dear Son JESUS CHRIST, and through faith in His blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of His passion.” This was part of the Consecration in the first prayer book of 1549 but a post-communion prayer in later editions. However, it should be noted that what remained of the Sacrament would still have been on the altar after the communion, since the general practice was to consume these after the final blessing, so the connection between Sacrament and impetration remained.

[11] The second application, to communicants, is taught in this prayer in the liturgy: “Grant us … so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.”

[12] For specific examples, see pp. 210-213 & 219-225 of A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, Vol. II, by Darwell Stone, Longmans & Co., 1909. Further proof that the Liturgy and Articles of Religion were not intended to impose Calvinism on the Church is contained in two important facts. First, certain unambiguously Calvinist and anti-Catholic language in the (earlier and unauthorised) 42 Articles was excised and replaced. Second, the Puritans tried again and again through Anglican history to modify or replace the Articles and Liturgy because of their demonstrable inconsistency with Calvinism in a number of respects.

[13] An intimation of the connection is possibly found in another of Ridley’s statements at the disputation of 1554 already referred to, “There is also a doubt in the word 'propitiable,' whether it signify here that which taketh away sin, or that which may be made available for the taking away of sin; that is to say, whether it is to be taken in the active or in the passive signification.”

[14] Richard Field says in his Appendix to Of the Church, Book 3 (published in 1606) “we offer to Thy view, and set before Thine eyes, the crucified body of CHRIST Thy Son, which is here present in mystery and Sacrament, and the Blood which He once shed for our sakes, which we know to be that pure, holy, undefiled, and eternal Sacrifice, wherewith only Thou art pleased; desiring Thee to be merciful unto us for the merit and worthiness thereof, and so to look upon the same Sacrifice, which representatively we offer to Thy view, as to accept it for a full discharge of us from our sins, and a perfect, propitiation; that so Thou mayest behold us with a pleased, cheerful, and gracious countenance.” Francis White in his Reply to Fisher (1622) says “the Fathers term the holy Eucharist, an unbloody Sacrifice, not because CHRIST is properly, and in His substance offered therein, but because His bloody Sacrifice upon the Cross is, by this unbloody commemoration represented, called to remembrance, and applied” (Emphasis added.)

[15] There were probably (though not certainly) a very few illegal exceptions in the 17th Century.

[16] When exegeting any document, reference must be made to other documents related by common source or authorisation to establish the meanings of words, phrases and overarching concepts.

[17] Interestingly, however, it is quite possible that the first English “Reformed” Ordinal was the product of a mixed group, some Catholic in their sacramental theology and some more Protestant. See p.662 of Liturgy and Worship Ed. W. K. Lowther Clarke and Charles Harris, 1932, Macmillan.

[18] The changes of 1662 in the Eucharistic rite mean that the power of consecration is undeniably included in the reference to ministering the Sacraments in the Ordinal. The changes in the Ordinal itself specify more overtly the order being conveyed.

[19] No-one believes every word of such a statement is necessarily Divinely inspired or inerrant, where so many obiter dicta must be contained.

[20] Ad Tuandem Fidem

[21] That is, a deliberate rejection of what was known to be genuinely Catholic doctrine.

[22] Another problem with assuming omission is the same as explicit denial is that in the proposed Ordinal provided to the English Reformers by Bucer (De Ordinatione Legitimata) there was such denial as part of the preliminary examination of the candidate. To wit, “Horribile facere D. Majestati contumeliam, qui sacramentum hoc Eucharistiae in sacrificium vertunt pro vivis et defunctis”. The Anglican Ordinal used Bucer’s work for its section examining the candidates, but did not include this.