I am unsure that the implicit insistence of the Church of England itself, since the 1990s, that Leo XIII was right to condemn Anglican Orders, quite ties up all the loose ends.
Although the Church of England was already moving in an unhealthy direction, when, in the 1950s it established partial communion with the interdenominational Church of South India, it at least did so with the proviso that only South Indian ministers who were episcopally ordained would be able to officiate in English Anglican churches. And when, in the late 1960s, the first attempt was made to do a corporate deal with the Methodists, there was at the basis of that scheme a service deliberately constructed to be an adequate Conditional Ordination of the Methodist ministers. I remember Eric Kemp, then Dean of Worcester, a competent canonist, explaining this very lucidly to the clergy of the diocese of Oxford.
So there we had some sort of corporate and formal Anglican witness to the necessity for Catholic Order of episcopal Ordination. But this witness was one of the casualties of the following quarter century, as I demonstrated in my previous piece. Anglo-Catholics nevertheless claimed that, despite any misbehaviour of official Anglicanism, Anglican Orders were technically valid on Catholic grounds which had been ignored in Apostolicae curae. This claim received oblique support from an unusual quarter when sedevacantists argued that the principles of Apostolicae curae render doubtful or worse the Orders of the 'post-Conciliar Church'. Efforts to refute this thesis are hampered by the different interpretations which different Catholic writers have put upon the logic and argument of the bull.
And, since the bull Apostolicae curae there has been the Dutch Touch: the participation in Anglican Consecrations of Dutch schismatics with irreproachably valid orders and using a formula from the pre-Conciliar Roman Pontifical, the adequacy of which was strongly urged by none other than Cardinal Gasparri, the great Begetter of modern Canon Law.
The formal decision of S John Paul II, upon the advice of the CDF in the Leonard case, was to proceed on the basis that the 'Dutch Touch' rendered it no longer certain that Apostolicae curae still applied to the dutchified situation. This papal precedent cannot easily be treated as non-existent. A very distinguished and traditionalist Catholic theologian wrote to me, even before the Leonard decision, that the "applicability of its [Apostolicae curae] teaching to [Anglican] orders today is not itself unconditionally proposed by the contemporary Roman church" (emphasis original).
A factor of which few people seem to be aware is that the bull Apostolicae curae, in the text published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 29 (1896-7), explicitly limited its scope to 'discipline', not doctrine. A distinguished Catholic theologian wrote to me that the ASS "is the official version of the text. ... However, in the collected edition of the Acta Leonis XIII the word is omitted ..." Dr E C Messenger wrote "The omission would seem to have been deliberate". It would be interesting to know who it was that contrived this deft and significant excision; my nominated suspect is Merry del Val, operating in the interests of Cardinal Vaughan, who perceived that the limitation could provide an opportunity to question the doctrinal force of the bull. There is something which is not quite kosher about these proceedings.
Some writers, both those ferociously arguing against Anglican Orders and sedevacantists ferociously denying the Orders of the 'Conciliar Church' as if their very lives depended upon it, give the impression that God has an eagle eye which he constantly has open to the possibility that there might be a technical detail rendering a sacrament invalid. I must confess to having quite the opposite suspicion. Sacramental grace, I think, is, by the Divine Will, rather like water ... perhaps like the flood water that just keeps getting into the homes of poor people in Somerset or Cumberland. It so often seems to find ways of seeping through or getting round the side, even despite the best attempts of human wilfulness to block it out. That, surely, is the basic and untechnical meaning of S Bellarmine's famous teaching on Intention, in which he demonstrates that even a heretic who believed that the [Calvinist] Church of Geneva was the True Church, could (given adequate Matter, Form, and Minister) validly confect the Sacraments.
I accept, as the C of E now implicitly does, Leo XIII's general proposition that Anglican Orders have now to be categorised, at least and certainly juridically, as not identical to Catholic Orders. Official Anglicanism has made its bed, and individual Anglicans can hardly whinge if they are required to lie upon it. This does not, in my view, necessarily entail the proposition that no individual in the Anglican Ministry is truly a Catholic priest. The very evident signs of Sacramental Grace within Anglicanism might suggest otherwise. It might even indicate (another suggestion I have heard from a distinguished and traditional Catholic theologian) that Deus supplevit per desiderium.
But there can be no question that sacramental certainty needs to be secured and assured. The whole Anglican business has now become far too messy for this need to be fudged. And after all, it is not exactly the fault of the Catholic Church that there is so much confusion about the status of Anglican clergy. Rome never invited the Church of England to change the rites of ordination unilaterally in the sixteenth century; nor, in twentieth, to introduce women into the transmission of orders and to make endless public statements about the interchangeability of Anglican and Protestant ministries. Anglicans have a long history of wanting, not just to have things both ways, but of wanting to have everything in as many ways as it is possible to have them.
But what is to be done?
We are not the first to meet these problems. After his conversion, Newman "could not say that Anglican orders were invalid", and "I was surprised, when I got to Rome in 1846 to find various persons there in the belief that they were valid and none, I think, clear that they were not" (and this despite the assertion to be made in 1896 by Apostolicae curae that the matter had "iam pridem ab Apostolica Sede plene fuisse et cognitam et iudicatam"). His "difficulty" about being reordained was removed by the assurance that, although ordination would not be explicitly conditional, the 'condition' would be "implied ... in the Church's intention".
Conditional Ordination seems to me by far the most Catholic solution to this matter; Fr Aidan Nichols' original idea was the tactfully private rectification of the Orders of English Anglican priests seeking Full Communion. Since the diaconate does not impinge upon sacramental validity, diaconal ordination need not be part of the procedure; readers will recall that S John Paul II with his own hand struck out that provision in the draft documentation put before him for dealing with Bishop Graham Leonard.
In other words, I suggest that the best process is exactly what Basil Hume, on instructions from Rome, did for Graham Leonard: Conditional Ordination to the Presbyterate well away from the public eye and in his private chapel.
(It may be remembered that this arrangement was the result of the CDF receiving copies of the entire Dutch Tutch archive from Pusey House, plus evidence about the theological views of the Anglican hierarchs involved in the processes leading from the Douch Touch up to Bishop Graham's presbyteral ordination; and sending it all to consultors whose vota formed the basis of the decision. Cardinal Hume subsequently said that other Anglican clergy who could provide identical documentation could expect to receive the same treatment ... but that the process would take very much longer than the abbreviated processes which were within the competences of the English Bishops. Anglican enquirers took the hint!)
I felt that the very public 'Re-Ordinations' in places like Westminster Cathedral were indecorous, insulting to Anglicans, and had an unfortunate public appearance of rubbing their noses in it.
I sha'n't accept comments except from Anglicans.