16 December 2008

Apostolicae curae again

My little piece seems to have acquired threads of comments in various places. Since I took up blogging, I have been intrigued to discover that the most decisive negative comments generally seem to come from those who haven't read the piece concerned and/or know very little. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that there is very little point in replying, because if they haven't read the first post, they probably aren't going to read a painstaking reply from me either. So I won't. The other thing that strikes me is that there are some people out there who quite desperately want Anglican Orders to be invalid. That somebody could regretfully come to such a conclusion, compelled by the facts, I could understand even though I disagreed. But the animus ...

Instead, I will attack the question from a different angle. In the bona fide attempts of the Anglican episcopate (back in the days when, whatever their failings, they believed in Christian Unity) to solve this question and establish that Anglican bishops are bishops in the same sense as Roman Catholic bishops, we seem to have been dogged by bad luck. The procedure used after 1933 was that the schismatic Dutch bishops executed and sealed Latin documents declaring their intention to convey, as principal consecrators, the episcopate they had received; and then imposed hands, at the same moment as the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying aloud the Form of Episcopal consecration. Or rather, they used the words which were once commonly held in manuals of Sacramental theology throughout the Western Church to be the Form. The Dutchmen deemed this to be safe, assured, and secure.

It wasn't. In the 1940s Pius XII declared that the words previously considered consecratory were not; instead, that a sentence in the long quasi-Eucharistic prayer in the Pontifical was to be held to be the essential Form. In fact there were good scholarly and theological reasons for this, but, for us, it had the unfortunate result of weakening the foundations of the procedures in use since 1933. Subsequently, in the aftermath of the Council, the Vatican apparently decided that the quasi-Eucharistic prayer concerned did not itself express terribly well the theology of the Episcopate; in the grotesque Bugniniesque passion for discontinuity of the time, the whole prayer was dumped and replaced by a prayer of questionable and oriental provenance (which has led the some of the more extreme members of the Lefebvreist tradition to wonder whether bishops consecrated with it are validly consecrated ... what a tangled web we weave ...).

We Catholic Anglicans face a future in which it is essential that we sever ourselves from the ministerial mass damnationis of the main ecclesial body. Within a few generations, the Anglican mainstream, with womenbishops as well as womenpresbyters, will be a body in which nobody will know whether a 'priest's' orders are valid without going through the chancellries checking an endless successsion of who-consecrated-whoms. We need, not as a luxury but as a basic survival-necessity, an episcopate separate from all this. The sooner we face up to this, the better. I am not certain that we are wise to be so singleminded in our struggle to secure some minimum structure for toleration within the mainstream that we leave this question on one side, for a later period of leisure that will never come. There are rumours that there is a retired bishop willing to be the first to brave the wrath of Henry VIII's wraith by committing the ultimate sin of 'illegal consecrations'. In my view, this cannot come soon enough. Apart from the theology, it would show that we really do mean business.

But there is something else that is necessary. The brave and careful attempt after 1933 to relegate Apostolicae curae to the history books foundered for the reasons I have skipped through above. The most that Rome - officially - will acknowledge, as in the case of Graham Leonard, is that the invalidity of some Anglican Orders is now a matter of doubt. We need to do '1933' again, and this time we need to get it right. I do not believe it would be impossible to find a bishop out there of impeccably valid orders who would be prepared to give us, so to speak, a hand. We should put the matter beyond question by having consecrator and consecrands signing documents giving a careful theological rationale of what is being done and, using a bit of deft overkill, perhaps the consecrator could use all three of the Forms which Roman Catholics have, over the last century, regarded as essential! And would there be any objection to all of us in ministerial office receiving a sub conditione reordination? Certainly not on my part.

Thus we could firm up our ecclesial identity as a preliminary to the most exciting ecumenical step forward since Cardinal Pole absolved this realm from schism on the Feast of S Andrew in 1554.


A Student said...

Would you be confirmed sub conditione, and make your confessions sub conditione too? Particularly confirmation would seem important in this respect.

William Tighe said...

Two petty quibbles.

First, shouldn't the year "1933" actually be "1932" as the first application of the Dutch Touch took place on 24 June 1932?

Secondly, shouldn't the phrase be "massa damnationis" rather than "mass damnationis?"

Independent said...

Thank you for the interesting further note. I find it difficult, except in one case, to detect any animus in what are sometimes fairly hard hitting comments on the previous one.

As one who is not too happy with the Responsio of the Archbishops, for reasons I gave in a previous post, I am greatly indebted to you for your article in the Messenger of the Catholic League in 1994.

What happened to Graham Leonard should have happened to practically all those who were received with him, as so many had been ordained by bishops such as Montgomery Campbell who had had Simpson as one of their consecrators.

Iacobus said...


Do you then believe it sin to be absolutely (re)ordained upon one's submission to Roman authority? Or does the fact that the priest convert is obeying the Holy Roman Pontiff negate, or at least counterbalance the offense?

motuproprio said...

I always thought it was a mistake that the so-called 'Polish Plot' was allowed to founder. My impression was that this was partly from reluctance in the PNC to be seen to be acting anti-ecumenically against the CofE, (particularly when the WO debate had not yet split them from the European Old Catholics), and partly as a quid pro quo when the offer of 'flying bishops' started to become a reality.
As I have mentioned before in another context, Graham Leonard was prepared to participate as a presbyter in the absolute ordination in communion with the Roman Pontiff of some of those he had previously ordained to the presbyterate using Anglican formularies, suggesting that he at least did not consider such an ordination to be de facto sacrilegious.
By the way, some of us were told that Graham Leonard had access to documents that could not be made generally available. Had all the documentary evidence relating to his case that was considered by Rome actually been published, others might have felt able to pursue the sub conditione route. As it was, total submission to the will of the Roman Pontiff was acceptable to our consciences.

Unknown said...

I have never felt a burning need to condemn Anglican Orders as invalid (though it does neatly mean one does not have to worry about all the sacrilegious behaviour of Anglican clerics before the Oxford Movement). Be that as it may, I offer two objections:

a) The CONTEXT of the ordinations with the Dutch bishops was still one of an Anglican service. Such a context (if Apostolicae curae is right) constitutes an extra-liturgical cenacle and, as such, renders the consecration invalid.

b) The INTENTION is, today, clearly faulty in the vast majority of Anglican bishops as they 'ordain' women and in so doing prove that they have a false idea of what ordination and the priesthood is. They do not intend to do what the church does. The 'flying' bishops do, of course, avoid this. Never the less if any of them were ordained by a heretical bishop then they clearly do not have valid orders themselves so cannot confer them validly.

Father Bartus said...

I question the idea that the intention is "clearly faulty in the vast majority of Anglican bishops as they 'ordain' women and in so doing prove that they have a false idea of what ordination and the priesthood is. They do not intend to do what the church does." The reason is, they truly are intending to do what the Church does, just upon women as well. It's quite ridiculous of course, and they clearly do not understand what a priest is, but it does not seem that the intention to ordain a priest is not there. Maybe it's just naïvity on my part or even wishful thinking, but it seems like an argument like this does not quite hold water without some kind of checklist of which issues a bishop must be entirely clear upon in order for his intention to pass muster.

I'd welcome criticism or reaction. Thanks.

Andy B.

motuproprio said...

What the Church does is to confer orders that are only capable of reception by the male of the species. To intend to confer androgynous orders is not what the Church does. Male gender is not of the plene esse nor the bene esse of orders, but pertains to its esse .

Unknown said...

Motu has pretty well said all I would say but your objection was interesting and valid.

Independent said...

Andy B - I think you have the agreement of the Council of Trent in that the intention required is only to have the intention at least of doing what the Church does, the expression "intendere facere quod facit Esslesia" having been current since the early 13th century.Heresy is no bar to the transmission of holy orders. This seems to me Catholic teaching but I stand open to correction.

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

I realize that what I will say is off point, but I think it of utmost importance. I am not an academic by any means and am not qualified to speak to the status of Anglican orders. I seek only the salvation of souls, for as Christ says, "What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul in the process."

Perhaps one should consider that what is most important is the salvation of souls. While in some cases the Church can supply what is wanting (ecclesia supplens), this is not always the case. Think of the souls subject to the Baptism debacle in Australia that, because of invalid form, are not baptized and thus are incapable of receiving any other sacrament. Their souls are in peril. It is the laity who pay the price.

If one is truly serious about serving Christ and his Church, it seems that he would resolve absolutely every and all doubt as to the validity of his orders leaving no possibility for question. Because, if you are not a validly ordained priest, you cannot consecrate, absolve, confirm, or anoint and you will answer to God for all souls lost because you did not absolutely resolve the doubt.

And keep in mind that the truth is not what you want it to be, but what is. If you won't very seriously and prayerfully resolve any doubt for yourself, do it for the people of God who deserve nothing less.