5 June 2018

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (1)

The Choir.
Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, qui ...

is how the little book begins; it was among my late Mother's effects. On the cover it reads: "This book is the property of the Diocese of Oxford and must not be taken away." But my Mother, God rest her soul, was rather inclined to keep little mementos of memorable occasions; and this was "The Form and Manner of Making and Ordaining of Deacons and Priests"; and she preserved it as a memento of my Deaconing in 1967 and my Priesting on 9 June 1968 in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. It has some interesting features.

It bears no date; but bibliographical considerations narrow its printing down to the period 1945-1947; and thus to the episcopate (1937-1955) of Kenneth Escott Kirk, predecessor of the Bishop Harry Carpenter who ordained me. I look upon both of these as sacerdotes valde magni; incidentally, for those Catholics (sometimes they write to me) to whom the papal condemnation of Anglican Orders in Apostolicae curae is a very important part of their Faith, I will in passing point out that each of those two bishops received the episcopate from coconsecrators including Bishop Bertram Fitzgerald Simpson, who was himself raised to the 'Old Catholic', i.e. Dutch Schismatic but indubitably valid, episcopate in 1932 by Henry Theodore John Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem (utpote per consecratorem aequiprincipalem). Rome has never condemned 'Old Catholic' Orders, and, indeed, accepts them as valid. Simpson left it on record that when he took part in subsequent consecrations, he carefully intended always to pass on the Dutch, as well as the Anglican, episcopal succession.

(Incidentally, I believe I am right in saying that Bishop Kirk used to consecrate the oils according to the Roman Pontifical (preConciliar, of course) in the Benedictine Abbey at Nashdom, within his diocese, where Mass and all the Offices were done in Latin. I wonder if he was the first Church of England bishop since Tudor times to consecrate the Holy Oils?)

Ecce sacerdos magnus is a significant starter to a service; it is what is sung in Catholic churches when a Bishop enters solemnly for a great liturgical occasion. Bishops Kirk and Carpenter certainly regarded themselves as Catholic Bishops in the fullest Catholic sense; both were distinguished Anglo-Catholic scholars and Oxford academics and it was Kirk who masterminded the collection The Apostolic Ministry (1946) which defended Catholic doctrines of priesthood and episcopacy. Among his close friends (and an Honorary Chaplain from 1946) was Canon Arthur Hubert Couratin, Principal of St Stephen's House (1936-1962; died 1988) and a considerable liturgist both theoretical and practical. He used to bring his 'circus', a gang of seminarian servers, to the Cathedral in order to 'do' Kirk's ordinations. I believe, from internal evidence, that the little book I am considering is a collaboration between Kirk and Couratin; and it exhibits ... as I have said ... some very interesting features, of which Ecce sacerdos magnus is the first.
To be continued. This is in five parts, and I shall not enable any comments until all five have appeared.


scotchlil said...

I think you are right about Bishop Kirk and the Oils. I remember Dom Augustine talking about it when we were working together on Simon Bailey's biography of D. Gregory. The seniors who were in the community then are all with God now, but the community chronicle for the period might confirm it.

Daniel Hayes said...

In reading of these interactions between Roman Catholics and High Anglican Catholics, I believe that one descriptor (from American economic history) would be that of "interacting directorates".

Reader said...

Father, I hope you will be able to read Peter Hitchens' "Lattimer and Ridley are Forgotten" at the First Things website and share your opinion of it with us: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/06/latimer-and-ridley-are-forgotten

Allen Coffey said...

Father, do you know if Fr. Ray Blake is well? He has not posted on his blog since Good Friday.

Grant Milburn said...

Fascinating. It's Anglicanism, but not as I knew it, having done my time as an Anglican in a low church environment out of necessity. There I learned that the Anglican Church does not have priests in the Catholic sense. The Anglican Church DOES NOT WANT PRIESTS IN THE CATHOLIC SENSE. And while I was still absorbing these lessons the C of E began to ordain women, thus confirming the Evangelicals’ conviction.

It seems that the Old Catholics have managed to reintroduce some genuine sacramental electricity into the Anglican network, albeit that the flow is impeded at critical nodes by the non-conductive presence of female clergy. At any rate it's just as well no priest with valid orders came our way in that Low Church environment: it would have resulted in unwitting irreverence to the Eucharist. Our minister told us that adoring the Host was as wrong as one could get. For Catholics, adoring the Host is as right as one can get. I think I may have identified the Achilles heel in the ARCIC talks.

Grant Milburn said...

Reader: an interesting article by Hitchens.

“By going to their deaths over the question of papal authority over the king, Fisher and More chose an issue peripheral to Christ’s teaching, which renders unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and is preoccupied with a kingdom that is not of this world.”

O...kay...that stacks the deck. If that article had been a card game I would have lost my shirt by the last paragraph. What is it with these papists and their insistence on Papal supremacy, when Anglican and Orthodox do just as well, or even better, without it? I must admit that the present incumbent of the Holy See tests our allegiance to the doctrine. But Americans know that it is not a peripheral part of their Constitution, and in fact essential to unity, that one accept as Head of State the lawfully elected incumbent of the White House, whether or not you personally like Barak or Donald.

And then there was Bess, bending over backwards to accommodate Catholics with carefully ambiguous services (if less ambiguous articles) but the papists preferred subversion and law-breaking. I know he's not excusing everything that Elizabeth did, just inviting us to see it from her POV. Bess couldn't care less what you believed. As long as you didn't attend or offer the Mass, and attended Anglican services weekly, she couldn't give the proverbial what you believed. Her concern was treason, not heresy.

Oui...mais...as Zadig said. Of course most papists did conform to the C of E and became Anglican in the course of time. I think Hitchens finds it baffling and regrettable that the remnant did not do likewise, although he admires the courage of some of the recusants. At least he has me wondering how things might have gone, had Popes Carafa and Ghislieri been more accommodating.

Maureen Lash said...

Does not Littledale and Vaux's "the Priest's Prayer Book" published in 1893 contain the form for the consecration of the oils by the bishop within the service of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday? You are probably right that Bishop Kirk was the first English Diocesan since the Reformation to do this, but one presumes that there were others - returned colonials like Bishop O'Rorke - who blessed oils at their early celebrations of the Communion on Maundy Thursday morning. One thing that we can be almost entirely certain of, is that none of those great names of Anglo-Catholicism - Charles Lowder, Henry Fynnes Clinton, Hope Patten, Conrad Noel, Alban Baverstock etc - ever attended a "chrism mass" although they all most certainly used holy oils in their ministry. Whence did they procure them?

Fr John said...

When I was looking after the diocesan Mass of the Oils, which I did from 1976-87, I inherited the file and in it I found a wonderful letter in Arthur Couratin's own hand in 1955 to +Harry telling him what when he went to Nashdom for the Mass of Oils. I left it in the file and I really do hope it survives as it was a wonderful part of the history of the Catholic movement in the Church of England.

William Tighe said...

Here are my comments on the Hitchens piece in first Things, which I sent to a few friends (including Fr. Hunwicke) on May 13:

This was sent to me by Fr. R., and is worth reading:


BUT I'm not sure that its rather flaccid apology for the Church of England/Anglicanism has much "bottom," and certainly it has a lot of problematic features, of which I will mention only three:

First, that old chestnut about Elizabeth I not wishing "to make windows into men's souls." First, there's no evidence she ever said it; second, its author was almost certainly Francis Bacon; and third, the genuine version of the statement reads "... window's into men's hearts," not "souls," which has a somewhat difference nuance. All of this is set forth in detail in Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch's 2005 Prothero Lecture (Royal Historical Society):


(p. 89, n. 32) which you may be able to read at the link above; and in greater detail in this other article of his with a slightly different focus, "The Latitude of the Church of England" (which can be read in its entirety at the link below):


(p. 13, n. 25 [p. 32]) both of which are very well worth reading.

Second, when Hitchens opines By going to their deaths over the question of papal authority over the king, Fisher and More chose an issue peripheral to Christ’s teaching, which renders unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and is preoccupied with a kingdom that is not of this world he is merely bloviating; neither Catholics nor Protestants at the time thought this, and nor do serious Catholics and Protestants today. (Indeed, although MacCulloch's not-wholly-explicit target in his oeuvre on these subjects is what might be termed "Anglo-Catholic mythmaking," the kind of historical amnesia which he is wont to attribute to them - and in a sense to the whole "high church" Anglican faction - is fully displayed by Hitchens in his FT article, whose theological stance seems to be a kind of High Church Conservative Latitudinarianism.)

(to be continued)

William Tighe said...


Thirdly - and repeating myself on a subject on which I have posted numerous times over many years, "the King's Great Matter," Henry VIII's quest for a annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon - while it may be the case, as Hitchens writes, "My own guess is that the Vatican has wished for centuries that it had yielded to King Henry on this point," I really do not think that the matter is anything like as simple as those who write "if Clement VII was not totally under the thumb of Charles V after 1528 Henry would have got the annulment" assert. He might possibly have done: Henry Ansgar Kelly, the author of what still remains, in general, the best book on the canon law underlying Henry VIII's marital annulments (all three of them, or four, if you count the two different denouements of Henry VIII's first marital annulment case in 1533, in Rome, on the one hand, and under Cranmer, on the other):


says that there were a few highly technical "drafting errors" (not touching any matter of substance, though) in the papal dispensation of 1504 allowing the marriage (which did not take place until 1509) which might have been exploited to void it if there were a will to do so, but he argues at length (and I think proves) that the only argument which Henry allowed to be made on his behalf, that the marriage of a man to his deceased brother's widow was both in all circumstances "against the Law of God" and that the pope had no authority, thus, to allow such a marriage, was an absolute non-starter in Rome, and was bound to fail (most of Catherine's defenders argued that such a marriage was not "against the Law of God," merely against ecclesiastical law, a few that even if it were against "the Law of God," the pope had the power to dispense from it); Kelly also demonstrates that the idea, first broached in 1968 by J. J. Scarisbrick in his magisterial biography of Henry VIII, that Wolsey's proposal that Henry argue his case for an annulment on the basis that the 1504 papal bull had not dispensed Henry and Catherine from the lesser impediment of "public honesty" when dispensing them from the greater impediment of "affinity" (or "consanguinity by affinity") - "public honesty" was "the thing" if the marriage of Catherine and Prince Arthur had not been consummated; "affinity/consanguinity" if it had been - might have had a better chance of success than Henry's preferred argument (Henry would not allow that argument o be put on his behalf), is mistaken (as the "canon law doctrine" that a dispensation from a greater impediment automatically obviated all lesser impediments, even if those latter were not explicitly dealt with, had long thitherto prevailed in Roman canonical jurisprudence); and Scarisbrick recently conceded to a mutual acquaintance that Kelly was right.