21 August 2010

My opinion on Apostolicae curae

I welcome the bull for various reasons. It represented a crucial stage in the acceptance by the Roman Magisterium that the Imposition of Hands is the sole Matter of the Sacrament of Order. It was a reaffirmation of the principle that Schism does not, on its own, invalidate orders. It reaffirmed that heresy in itself did not eliminate an adequate intention (it saw the problem as lying in the fact that heresy had led to the substitution of an inadequate Form). Incidentally, judging from a recent post, Fr Zed is unaware of this basic principle of Western sacramental theology: although he thinks that things have not yet become that bad, it is in his view possible that defective episcopal orthodoxy might invalidate orders. And Apostolicae curae, by its very silence, implied the reformability of a pontifical document as solemn as the Decree of Eugene IV for the Armenians ... and thereby logically implied its own reformability. It was a useful slapdown for our Anglican arrogance. And, by that word disciplinae, it limited its own doctrinal scope.

In the last resort, however, I contextualise its celebrated conclusion theologically and historically thus:
(1) It is an echo of the old gut feeling that the people-I-don't-like-have-invalid-Orders. Its juridical foundation was a decision of the Holy Office, which in the seventeenth century had declared null the Orders of a Scottish bishop (whose consecration is now thought not to have been by the Church of England's Ordinal). And the Holy Office, like British courts, is bound by its own precedents. The participation of Dutch Tutchers I regard as adequate to settle any doubts there may be; the hoards of Roman theologians who thought that Accipe Spiritum Sanctum is an adequate Form of Consecration satisfy me. The action of the Church of England in getting the Tutch I regard as a solemn, significant and meaningful ecclesial act, and in this context I regard the reality of the diffusion of the Tutch as morally certain.
(2) It is an ultra-rigorist application of the principle that, in the matter of valid orders, it is important to be certain beyond any possibility of cavil. This principle is indeed far superior to Anglican habit of being lackadaisical ... and then going all Hurt and Wounded when other people don't feel so sure that what you've done is right. But ultra-rigorism can be taken too far. There are plausible stories about scrupulous RC bishops in the old days who reordained all their neopresbyteri in the sacristy immediately after the ordination as a matter of course, just to be absolutely sure that there could be no possibility of a fatal slip having occurred (I wonder if it ever occurred to them that if perchance their own ordination had been technically vitiated, this would not be much use). I don't really believe that God is quite the sort of God which this scrupulosity implies. And Rome itself is less categorical now about invalidity than it used to be; what would Leo XIII's generation have said if asked to judge upon the adequacy of a Eucharistic Prayer (Addai and Mari) which lacked an Institution Narrative? And this is in effect a return to a slightly less regimented Roman praxis: in the 1860s, the Holy Office declared that Abyssinian priests were to be regarded as validly ordained, notwithstanding the fact that the Abyssinian rite of priestly ordination, as found in their books, "in praxi paene abolitum est, neque alio modo presbyteros ordinari quam per impositionem manuum cum his verbis dumtaxat, Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, quae in libris non inveniuntur ...". One recalls Newman's discovery, when he arrived in Rome in 1846, "various persons there in the belief that [Anglican Orders] were valid, and none, I think, clear that they were not".

I am not insensitive to the rhetoric about how the Anglican rites were stripped of sacrificial language in the sixteenth century (nevertheless, Catholic praxis accepts the validity of Baptism by ecclesial bodies which have stripped the liturgy of Baptism of any mention of Regeneration). And I am more amused than I probably should be to find that some integralists, especially among sedevacantists, use precisely Dr Messenger's and Leo XIII's argument to argue for the invalidity of the Orders of the post-conciliar Church (even within SSPX, the argument is heard that some postconciliar Orders may because of dodgy intention be invalid; that each case should be considered individually). Plausibly; for the Sarum formulae mentioning sacrifice, which Dr Messenger and others so pedantically listed as having been eliminated by Cranmer, are pretty well the elements eliminated also by Bugnini. Who, while he kept the Porrection of the Instruments, provided it with a new formula which most certainly would not have been regarded as an adequate Form by those earlier writers who thought of this rite as the essential part of the Ordination. Perhaps Anglicans, in order to feel totally confident of their Orders, should ask to be reordained according to the Tridentine Pontifical and by a bishop who was consecrated with that Pontifical.

No; only joking. But it would be a nice experience. Is Mgr Rifan due to be in England soon?

One more.


Gideon Ertner said...

"It is an echo of the old gut feeling that the people-I-don't-like-have-invalid-Orders."

Fr. Hunwicke, I still think that this judgment is manifestly untrue and, if I may say so, unjust.

Rome was never any more keen on the Eastern Schismatics than she was on the Anglicans, but she never doubted the validity of the former's Orders. Even, as you yourself say, the Ethiopians, who generally have some decidedly weird customs (all of which were solemnly accepted as compatible with Catholicism by the same Pope who wrote AC, mind you).

The Pontiff makes it clear in AC itself that he is perfectly aware that recognizing Anglican Orders would facilitate conversion of Anglican priests, in tones that suggest that for this reason alone he would very much like to have recognized them if it were at all possible.

Accordingly, I don't see the slightest hint of "gut reaction" in the conclusion of the Pontiff. If anything, it seems to go quite contrary to his wishes. Thus AC serves as a good illustration of the truth that a Pope cannot simply do as he wishes but is bound by Tradition.

Rubricarius said...

"No; only joking. But it would be a nice experience. Is Mgr Rifan due to be in England soon?"

But Mgr. Rifan was not consectrated according to the 'Tridentine' Ponficial. Neither for that matter were the Lefebvrist four nor their episcopal cousins descending from Abp. Ngo-Dinh Thuc. All were consecrated using the new rite introduced in 1947 which contained some not insignificant changes.

Never fear! If you want to be really sure seek out a bishop consecrated pre-1947 (as of course both Lefebvre and Thuc were). There is one, and only one, still alive at the grand age of 103+, Mgr. Francis Yong Hong-ho, Bishop of P'yong-yang.

GOR said...

”There are plausible stories about scrupulous RC bishops in the old days who reordained all their neopresbyteri in the sacristy…”

Years ago when Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin ordained priests, he was noted for one thing: the laying on of hands. But John Charles didn’t just ‘lay’ hands on your head, he pressed down hard. Though not a large man he could exert quite a deal of pressure! He would explain afterwards that he did this so that there would be no doubt in the newly-ordained’s mind that he had indeed received the laying on of hands.

Apparently, in his early days as a bishop some priests he had ordained later questioned whether in fact he had laid hands on them. He resolved at that point that in future there would be no doubts about the matter.

Pastor in Valle said...

At one time, two bishops of England and Wales that I can recall would not lay on hands, but preferred mystically to hover their hands over the heads of the ordinands. I think that it probably fulfilled the requirement, but it used to worry the ordinands not a little. One confessed to jerking upwards so that his head contacted his bishop's hands.
One of these prelates has died, the other is still in office, though, I believe, now laying hands on properly.

Trisagion said...

At my own diaconal ordination, just about my only memory is of the not inconsiderable downward pressure of my Bishop's hands at the laying-on of hands. Having observed him at subsequent diaconal and sacerdotal ordinations, it would appear to be very much a part of his ars celebrandi.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Rubricarius: though orthodox Old Roman Catholic bishops too have been ordained using the Tridentine Rite pre-dating 1947 and there is one active in this country... ;o)

David said...

Father, how was the "Dutch Touch" diffused beyond England? Was any effort made to spread this certainty to other provinces of the Communion. I know that in Canada it was normal for the Polish National Catholic bishop to be among the co-consecrators but I don't know if he would recite the words.

Austin said...

Father, who was the 17th c Scottish Bishop?

William Tighe said...

"Father, who was the 17th c Scottish Bishop?"

John Gordon, quondam Bishop of Galloway. Consecrated in Glasgow Cathedral in 1688, he became a Catholic in 1704.

Anonymous said...

What exactly was changed in the Roman rite of episcopal consecrationn in 1947? I have never heard of this before. I thought that Pius XII had only determined authoritatively the matter and form of holy orders, including episcopacy, (the form of which Paul VI changed quite imprudently caused to be changed.)

Anonymous said...

Also, I am now extremely curious as to the matter and form of episcopal consecration and priestly ordination in the Abyssinian Church, which Rome - and the Eastern Orthodox - recognise.
As for Addai and Mari, regardless of John Paul II's recognition of the validity of that canon sans consecration, many traditionlly-minded RC priests - myself included - find the reasoning behind the vatican's recognition to be ludicrous, and the ruling itself worthless.
I accept much more readily Fr. Hunwicke's considerations on the validity of Anglican orders, than the Vatican's rationalisations justifying the recognition of the validity of a defective canon of the schismatical Church of the East.

William Tighe said...

Indeed, Albertus, as I wrote elsewhere:

The best study of the anaphora of Addai and Mari (together with a critical edition and commentary) is: *The Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari* by A. Gelston (Oxford University Press, 1992).

In the tripartite discussions between Rome, the Chaldean Catholic Church and the "Assyrian" Church which went on between 1984 and 2003, and which resolved all significant theological and "liturgical" differences between the two, but which were broken off around 2003 because significant lay elements in the Assyrian Church were opposed to "reconciliation" with Rome (and their Chaldean "sister") on nationalistic grounds, Rome agreed not so much to accept the validity of that anaphora without the Words of Institution, as not to condemn it -- and made the "insistent request" of the Assyrians that in the event of their achieving "full communion" the Assyrians would insert (and always use) the words of Institution thenceforward in that anaphora (their other two anaphoras, that of Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia, contain the Words). As one Catholic intimately involved in the evaluation of those talks once wrote to me:

"The CDF's allowance of the continued use of the Addai-Mari anaphora supposed an untinterrupted usage (the fact of which is disputed) that should be respected. The CDF emphatically did not intend this anaphora to be treated as a model for possible eucharistic prayers that omit the words of institution. Unfortunately, some commentators interpreted the CDF action in this sense.

The volume you refer to was an issue of the journal Divinitas N.S. 47 (2004) devoted to the topic. Though printed by the Vatican Press, the journal is entirely independent and not an official publication of the Holy See.

An excellent collection of essays on the topic is: Uwe Michael Lang, ed., Die Anaphora von Addai und Mari, Nova & Vetera, Bonn, 2007 (ISBN 878-3-936741-39-1)."

The issue of the journal *Divinitas* referred to above had essays some of them supporting the "recognition" (or, rather, "theoretical possibility of regignizing") the validity of Addai and Mari as it stands and others strongly opposing it. Since it is treated as subject for debate, it can hardly be the case that the CDF closed the debate by recognizing it.

Rubricarius said...


I have a copy of a Pontificale that was used for the consecration of Cardinal Godfrey. It is full of ball pen crossings-out and pasted in typed pieces of paper, both rubrics and text. Unfortunately, the book is not to hand but I will be able to see it a the weekend. If I remember correctly the order of prayers was changed, I don't think there were net omissions.

The changes to the diaconal ordination rite were minimal the most noticeable being the ordaining bishop stops singing the preface and recites, no longer singing, the newly-defined form, then resumes singing the rest of the preface. The same, from memory, applies to the ordination of priests.

The consecration of bishops underwent more substantial changes, I'll look these up when I get the chance. I know the Byzantine rite authority Robert Taft makes a disparaging comment in one of his works about one of the changes i.e. the co-consecrators saying the words of the 'form' along with the consecrator whilst before they imposed hands in silence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much, William Tighe and Rubricarius, for the detailed information on the Addai and Mari affair, and the Pian Revision of the Ordination Rites. I appreciate it immensely.

Alexander said...

(you probably know this) but missing words are the lesser matter - it has much much more to do with historical intent. The English Church, that is among the English bishops over the centuries since the reformation, being so evangelical - that is rejection of the sacrifice of the mass (article 31) and a rejection of a sacrificial priesthood and instead viewed it (depending on the tastes of the person getting ordained and ordaining) as ascending to purely an office or as a calling to larger ministry, much like how Lutheran pastors view themselves when they become bishops, which caused the loss of sacramental apostolic succession.

BUT a lot developed since Pope Leo and some theorize (Cardinal Hume too as I recall) with the acceptance of Anglo-Catholicism and the involvement of Old Catholics, the Church of England had a number of valid orders by the 1960s, or did anyways until the advent of female ordination – though modern flying bishops probably have valid orders assuming they were ordained by men who were Anglo-Catholic and believed in a sacrificial priesthood, did not physically practice female ordination, and had direct Old Catholic roots.

The Church of England is not the only body to receive this treatment, clergy from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church are (re)ordained because of the haphazard ways the Ethiopians ordain people.