17 September 2015


Whether to genuflect in an Anglican church where there is the customary white light burning before the Tabernacle? This is not a small problem; I wish to propose a solution, with the help of Mgr Ronald Knox and the Magisterium of the Church.

One is obliged to worship the Lord present in His most blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Not to do so is a grave irreverence. But, (Knox) there is "danger of idolatry. For, if Christ is not present in a particular host, then every gesture of of adoration which you address towards it is, materially, an act of idolatry. (I say materially, because of course it is not a formal sin of idolatry in one who mistakenly supposes Christ to be present)".

What is the current juridical situation for Catholics with regard to Anglican Orders? Addressing the circumstances of the 1890s, Leo XIII declared them absolutely null and void. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, reconsidered the question in the 1990s when the former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, became a Catholic. After examining the considerable documentation regarding the participation of Dutch schismatics with valid Orders in Anglican episcopal Consecrations since the 1930s, the CDF declared that there was "a doubt about the invalidity" of his presbyteral ordination and recommended that Bishop Graham be ordained sub conditione. Which recommendation was ratified by S John Paul II, and is accordingly Magisterial. The same circumstances apply to many if not most male Anglican priests in England.

So there is a real doubt about whether the contents of that Tabernacle are the Lord's Body; and, equally, a doubt about whether they are bread. (In fact, Pope Benedict XIV pointed out that, logically, even in the Catholic Church, there is no total certainty that any particular host is validly consecrated. This is because it is theoretically possible that the celebrant was mad or bad and deliberately witheld his intention validly to consecrate; or that his ordaining bishop somehow failed validly to ordain him; or that the manufacturer accidentally used flour other than wheat flour; or that somebody for some reason has been tinkering ... there is a story from our own period of an officious but uninstructed Catholic Sacristan who thought that he was helping the clergy by keeping the ciboria inside the Tabernacle 'charged' by 'topping them up' regularly with ... unconsecrated hosts!)

Back to Knox. " ... the best you can do is a kind of conditional adoration; you can tell our Lord that you adore Him in all the consecrated Hosts of the world, and here in this host if indeed He is present here. This does not sound much better than the famous prayer 'O God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul', but, as I say, it is the best you can do. And that kind of conditional adoration cannot bring with it any danger of idolatry, any more than, e.g., the priest who conditionally administers Extreme Unction when it is uncertain whether life survives is in danger of profaning the Sacrament".


Joshua said...

I am relieved to learn this - this was in fact just my thinking, dating back to University days, when having a look around a few Anglican churches out of curiosity.

Pax Britannica said...

This is the sort of clear, supremely helpful comment that makes your blog an essential daily read for many of us.

Aaron Sanders said...

While I take your point, Father, that morally one *could* conditionally adore such a putative Eucharist if one were so inclined, it seems to me that a larger hurdle must be overcome before concluding that one *should* do so. After all, the operative presumption, as expressed by your quotations in the post, is of *in*validity, which invalidity is nonetheless uncertain enough as to recommend conditional ordination. Now, starting at an absurd extreme, I do not genuflect (with appropriate mental reservation) in every grocer's, baker's, and vintner's on the off chance that some cantankerous clerk has consecrated the elements at hand, precisely because while this may be possible I presume it has not happened. The substance reserved in an Anglican tabernacle has, thanks to the introduction of the Dutch touch, an immensely greater chance of being our Eucharistic Lord than do the baker's wares, but given that the official (albeit overturnable) presumption is against such validity, why would it be advisable to act openly (with attendant risk of scandal) against that presumption?

H said...

" priest who conditionally administers Extreme Unction when it is uncertain whether life survives is in danger of profaning the Sacrament"

Here (Argentina), Extreme Unction has been renamed to Unction of the Sick and it is given to people who is just old or sick, even if they are not under reasonable risk of death.

Pulex said...

Perusing the text of Apostolicae curae one definitely gets the impression that the recipient of the 'Dutch touch' (i.e. ordained by an Old Catholic bishop using the Old Catholic liturgical books) cannot transmit this same 'touch' to another person using the Anglican books (those Edwardian with or without later amendments). This is why the Catholic Church investigates each individual case on its merits, the ordination pedigree of putatively ordained man. It appears that Fr. G. Leonard has been consecrated with an Old Catholic bishop as a co-consecrator, although using the Anglican ordinal.

In any case, Card. Hume in connecion with this case has affirmed the Apostolicae curae (https://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/LEONARD.TXT). Later, in 1998, the CDF even mentioned the Pope Leo's judgement as an example of teachings "connected to revelation by historical necessity" that can be rejected only under peril of "rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine" and being "no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church" (https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM).

Fr John Hunwicke said...

No; Bishop Leonard was not consecrated with the presence of a Dutch bishop; and, as my piece above makes very clear, the judgement passed by the CDF related only to his presbyteral ordination (I do so so so wish people would read what I write before they dash to comment!!). Bishop Leonard was convinced that the reason why Rome did not consider the validity of his episcopal consecration was an apprehension that they might find themselves landed woth a validly consecrated married bishop.

Sue Sims said...

H: Mgr Knox was not referring to Extreme Unction being administered to someone not in danger of death, but to the former (and I would say laudable) practice of adminstering the Sacrament to a person who has just (apparently) died before a priest could reach him on the grounds that life might seem to be extinct but actually not completely so - generally up to two or three hours after apparent death. In that case, the Sacrament would be given conditionally, since obviously a corpse couldn't benefit from Extreme Unction.