There follows, in four parts, a Letter which approaches from different angles the the problem of the requirement that priests joining the Ordinariates be 'reordained'. As well as reaffirming Newman's belief that the conditionality of such rites is implicit in the mind of the Church, the Letter will examine the question against a wide background, suggesting that the requirement is historically the sort-of-thing-that-has-always-happened, and offering from within the liturgical Tradition ways of understanding and welcoming it. (I may not enable irritable comments unsympathetic to the human dilemmas involved. In fact, most of you don't need to read this at all.)
Dear Father *********
Thank you for your letter; I am glad that you and **** are in good health. Pam and I return your greetings; we are feeling on a bit of a high because Senior Granddaughter has just been offered an Oxford place. You know the feeling! By my calculation, your ******* must now be in his second year.
And thank you for taking me into your confidence about why you have not felt able 'this time round' to accept Pope Benedict's offers embodied in the Ordinariates he created. I am very moved by your evident sincerity ... and grief.
You remind me of the developed teaching of the Western Church with regard to the iteration of those sacraments which confer character. No informed Catholic could deny the truth of what you write. And I sympathise with your conscientious unwillingness to appear to indicate, to yourself and to those whom you served in the the priesthood for so many years, that you were not a 'real' priest celebrating 'real' sacraments. Moreover, like you, I deplore the unavailability of explicitly conditional ordination for Anglican priests entering presbyteral ministry in full communion with the See of Peter: which, at a stroke, would eliminate these problems. After all, there is the precedent set by what the CDF decided in the case of Bishop Graham Leonard - who, as we all know, was not required to be ordained to the Diaconate and whose presbyteral ordination was private, low key, and sub conditione. After all, there can be few clergy under the age of 100 who do not, as Graham did, have the Dutch Touch in their 'pedigree' of orders! But, as I hope to get round to arguing before the end of this missive, conditionality can be implicit.
Some of our mutual friends, such as Fr ***** and Fr **********, have "longed for Catholic Unity in communion with the See of Peter" all their lives ... but now decline to accept Rome's gracious offer of the Ordinariates. They give this particular problem as their reason. It would be easy to suspect that their bluff has been called and that they find this a convenient pretext for staying where they feel comfortable; but we are bidden by the Lord not to judge others. However I know you well enough to be confident that you are not in that position. You long to take this opportunity of exercising your priesthood in communion with the Church Universal. It is a genuine scruple of conscience which delays you. All I can do is to explain my own thinking. I am afraid some of it may look rather like walking round and round a couple of mulberry bushes!
May I begin by boring you with the laudable Prebendary Dudley of Lichfield, and the admirable Farmer Hodgetts? It is by their doing that over the High Altar of Pugin's Catholic Cathedral at Birmingham repose the relics of S Chad, rescued from Lichfield Cathedral at the 'Reformation' by the Prebendary and preserved (over his bed!) by the Farmer. S Chad is an interesting saint, not least because, unlike most of us, he was consecrated Bishop twice. Indeed, if we are to believe S Wilfrid's biographer Stephanus (otherwise known as the Aeddi who was invited by S Wilfrid from Kent to Northumberland in order to teach genuinely Roman chant to Northerners), S Chad was not only twice consecrated bishop, but ordained twice through all the Orders! You see why there lingers in my mind the thought that his 'case' may have some relevance for us.
We do not know why the reforming Greek-Syrian Archbishop of Canterbury, S Theodore, insisted upon treating S Chad in this way. Chad had turned up in Canterbury for Consecration only to discover that Archbishop Deusdedit was dead. He then betook himself to the only 'canonically consecrated' bishop he could find in England, Wine at Winchester ... who duly consecrated him. Wine, however, was suspected of simony. Is that why S Theodore was so worried about S Chad's consecration? Or was it the fact that S Chad was consecrated to an already occupied See, that of York? Or was it the fact that two 'British' bishops took part in his consecration? Theodore's reason may have been any combination of these pretexts ... but the association in the Consecration of the two Cornishmen has often been thought to be the most probable reason why S Theodore assured S Chad that he was not "rite consecratus". Theodore was moved by the humility of S Chad's reaction; assured him that did not need "episcopatum dimittere"; and then "ordinationem eius denuo catholica ratione consummavit". The interest of this episode rests not least upon the fact than none of these reasons - simony; attempting to occupy a See already lawfully occupied by another; participation in a Consecration by Cornishmen - would be regarded as a remotely possible basis for a verdict of Nullity of Consecration according to the later (and present) Western teaching with regard to Sacramental Validity. Not even S Bede - a man who never had a moment's doubt about the necessity of doing everything according to the Roman Book - doubted the reality of S Chad's episcopal status.