3 December 2010

Ordinariate consciences

Yet again, the other day, someone asked me how an Anglican priest could possibly allow himself to go through a process of reordination so as to join an Ordinariate.

I continue to have great problems understanding those who ask this question. Let me be autobiographical. In the 1960s, there was a scheme for Anglican Methodist Unity. This would have involved a "Service of Reconciliation". In that service, an Anglican Bishop would have laid hands on all the Methodist ministers and prayed: "Pour out thy Holy Spirit, to endue each, according to his need, with grace for the office of a priest in the Church of God". I eventually voted for this scheme. (I certainly wouldn't have done later. But, back in the 1960s, we all took seriously the idea of Christian Unity; this was well before the Liberals decided that their own new dogmas took precedence over Unity.) I became convinced that the business was just about kosher after bishop Eric Kemp, then Dean of Worcester, explained to us Oxford clergy that this rite was an adequate form of Conditional Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, and would transform the Methodist ministers into priests.

In turn, if this scheme had gone forward, the Anglican clergy would in turn have knelt before a Methodist minister, who would have imposed hands and prayed : "Pour out thy Holy Spirit upon them for the work of a minister in thy Church". This scheme received the approval of a large majority in the Church of England, especially among the bishops.

I have some difficulty understanding why we were (nearly) all so willing then to undergo this 'reordination', which would have made us all into Methodist ministers acceptable to take any manner of service within Methodism, whereas now there seems to be some gigantic, enormous problem, among some people, about undergoing a similar rite to make us acceptable to fulfil every kind of priestly ministration within the Roman Catholic Church.

I s'pose it's a good sign really. We live in so amoral a world that the mere existence of such amazingly superscrupulous and such bewilderingly, unbelievably, hypertender consciences, is to be warmly welcomed. Yet doubts persist in my mind. If it is so terrible, so unthinkable, to be 'reordained' - if the superscrupulous conscience so decisively vetoes it - why do many of these same people have no qualms about all the compromises which are necessary to coexist with women priests? Why, for example, does a conscience which has no trouble about being in communion with a bishop who licences and institutes women to the care of souls, suddenly get so picky when it comes to the formalities which are necessary to ensure that every Roman Catholic in the world can be without qualms about the Anglican priesthood?

Yeah, pull the other one.


You may be wondering what happened to that Unity Scheme. It failed to get over the 75% hurdle required. 75%, you ask? Well, er, yes; it was after this that, with an eye doubtless to the future, the Great and the Good lowered the hurdle in such matters to 67%. What a good thing they did so. Otherwise, there would be no chance of the Ordination of Women getting through now! Foresight!


Doodler said...

I have also noted a recent trend in many places for any new ministry to be commissioned by anointing and laying on of hands with prayer. It is a sign to them and others that the ministry is valid and authorised.
(Re-)ordination would present me with no problems, in fact I think it would help in the process.

Little Black Sambo said...

St Chad.

Fr Ted said...

I am minded of a report of a conversation between two clergy, a Cardinal Archbishop and an Anglican religious in priestly orders.

"Tell me, father", asked the Anglican, "Am I a priest or am I not? Yes or No!" "Of course you are", replied the Cardinal and paused before adding with a twinkle in his eye,"for your own people."

Apocryphal or not, the story seems to have a ring of truth about it.

Rubricarius said...

Of course many RC clergy are re-ordained when entering the Greek Church - supporting "Fr Ted's" anecdote.

Paddy said...

Presumably the problem that some have with the idea with re-ordination is that they find it suggestive that their previous ordination (& hence their ministry & (esp.) their administration of the sacraments) was invalid.

However, my understanding of the purpose of conditional re-ordination is that it does not so much maintain that the recipient's orders are invalid but rather is inteneded to put the matter beyond doubt. It ensures that the person's orders are clearly and unequivically recognised by all within that part of the Body of Christ to which he is minister as a priest from that time forward.

I would therefore find it difficult to understand why any Anglican priest who sincerely wished to be in full commununion with the Petrine See and continue as a priest would find the prospect in any way objectionable.

William said...

Si quis dixerit, in tribus sacramentis, baptismo scilicet, confirmatione et ordine, non imprimi characterem in anima, hoc est signum quoddam spirituale et indelebile, unde ea iterari non possunt: an. s. (Conc. Trid., sess. VII.; DS 1609; referred to in CCC 1121)

Is it "superscrupulous" to suppose that there may be some kind of a problem if the very act by which one's ministry in the Catholic Church is inaugurated is also an act of disobedience to the defined teaching of that Church?

Or am I being "superscrupulous" when I refuse to re-baptise someone who was baptised as an infant?

William said...

Fr Levi: I fear you miss the point. Conditional (re-)ordination is precisely what is not on offer, unless there is a change of heart in the relevant Roman dicastery. If it were, then the conscientious difficulties of many (whether superscrupulous or hypertender, I forebear to judge) would be assuaged.

Some time ago in (I think) New Directions, someone wrote to the effect that if the price of corporate reconciliation with Rome (still being talked about at that stage) were that he had to undergo conditional re-ordination every year for the rest of his life, it would cause him no problems. (An absurd notion, of course, but said in order to make the necessary point.) But absolute re-ordination would be an impossible hurdle. There are many who are in that position, and it serves no good purpose to belittle their concerns.

Enrico Dante said...

Of course, in the Good Old Days, when conditional baptism was administered, the priest would hear the baptizand's confession beforehand. He would then go to confession himself, since at least one of those sacraments would have been invalid. Perhaps those bishops who absolutely re-ordain Anglicans do the same - it certainly isn't for individuals to ask them!

Paddy said...

Dear Fr William,

perhaps I do miss the point - I am a great one for doing that ... sometimes wilfully so! If there is information available online that would assist me in having a clearer understanding of this matter, I would be most grateful to be pointed towards it.

Currently, my own take on the matter is that both before and after Apostolicae Curae the RCC has always chosen to treat Anglican priests who wish to convert differently to a 'regular' candidate for the priesthood - presumably because she recognised that such cases were outside the norm.

The conditional conferring of an indelible sacrament is covered by Canon 845, which states:

§1. Since the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders imprint a character, they cannot be repeated.

§2. If after completing a diligent inquiry a prudent doubt still exists whether the sacraments mentioned in §1 were actually or validly conferred, they are to be conferred conditionally.

Now I would suggest that 'prudent doubt' must work both ways if both the letter and the spirit of the canon is to be honoured: there must be a sincere doubt that the the sacrament was actually or validly conferred; but there must also be an openness to the possibility that they were actually or validly conferred (or else there could exist no doubt whatsoever and it would be wrong to confer them conditionally).

It would seem to me, therefore, that in applying conditional ordination under the auspices of Can 845 to Anglican priests, Mother Church is graciously providing for these priests to make their transition with dignity. Or am I adding wishful thinking to my list of failings along with missing the point?

David said...

Back in '94 when a friend (now sadly departed this life) and I were considering asking to be received into the RC Church he maintained that he could not undergo Confirmation a second time and never took the matter further. I did not believe that I would gain anything I didn't already have, but, that there should be "no possible doubt, no possible, probable shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever" would happily accept Confirmation again, and trust in the goodness of God to understand what I had done. I have never regretted my decision and would echo Jeff Downie's comment in rresponse to a previous entry about the warm welcome I received.

Paddy said...

Fr William,
having just re-read your post, perhaps I have completely missed the point you were so kindly attempting to draw to my attention - which is that 'conditional' re-ordination is not on the cards for Anglican priests who are to be priest in the Ordinariate; in which case what I have had to say on the matter is irelevant (as usual!).


Derek Christenson said...

In an earlier age, such a reunion might well have been expected to be accompanied by a revised statement with regard to Anglican orders, mentioning something about the "Dutch touch," etc., perhaps, and thereby changing "absolute" to "conditional" ordination for Anglican priests entering full communion with Holy Rome. However, in the current climate with women clergy -- including bishops in, for instance, here in the USA, is it any wonder that Rome has declined to do so? I can understand the sensibilities of all involved, but I doubt very much that this will change, especially with the way things are now going. It is a sad symptom of the brokenness which we all hope to heal.

Little Black Sambo said...

Fr William, no matter what anybody says, the (re-)ordination of Anglican priests is inherently conditional. Undergo the ordination and leave it in the hands of God. The result is, you are a priest, not only in the eyes of God (which you already believed yourself to be) but in the eyes of all to whom you may be called upon to minister - which is extremely important. I am with Fr Levi on this (or at least I think I am?).

Paddy said...

Little Black Sambo,
your comment 'I am with Fr Levi on this (or at least I think I am?)' is priceless and says it all! Confession being good for the soul, I have to confess that I was somewhat confused about this issue. I initially thought that the (re)ordinations of the ordinariate priests would be conditional in the formal sense. (& incidentally, there is precedent in the case of Dr Graham Leonard's conditional ordination by +Basil Hume in 1994 for arguing that priests who can make a valid case could be ordained thusly.)

However, even without Can 845 S2 being formally invoked, the 'special treatment' the Petrine See has always accorded Anglican priests in relation to (re)ordination makes it arguable that such (re)ordinations are de facto conditional even if they are not de jure.

In any event, for any Anglican priest who believes he is called to enter into full communion with Rome it is a necessary step if he is to continue in priestly ministry. I do appreciate the scruples of those who feel that such a step may seem to deny his previous sacred ministry. However, I think such a person must trust in his vocation and accept what the Church requires in order to fulfil it. Or, as you said already LBS 'Undergo the ordination and leave it in the hands of God.'

Fr. Ernie Davis said...

Before I was ordained a Catholic priest, I was never asked to renounce my ministry and sacramental acts as an Episcopal (USA) priest. I still believe my Episcopal ministry was as valid as the Episcopal Church could make it. But did the Episcopal Church have the authority to ordain me as a Catholic priest? When I was an Episcopalian, I thought so. Now that I am Catholic, the whole idea seems absurd. So it makes very good sense that the Catholic Church ordained me - not conditionally and did not re-ordain me - a Catholic priest

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Maybe the solution is to ordain all Anglicans as Byzantine-rite Catholic priests and then give them bi-ritual faculties. As the bishop, having put his omophorion and hands on the candidate's head, says in the Byzantine tradition: "Divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout Deacon (name) to the office of Priest. Let us, therefore, pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him." This, it seems to me, nicely avoids the question of just how much is lacking in individual cases, and recognizes that everyone advancing to ordination is infirm and in need of grace.

Unknown said...

The notion of authority to minister - present in the Edwardine Ordinal - identifies precisely what Anglican priests lack in relation to the Universal Church. One may find oneself accepted here and there at Catholic altars - but stories of such acceptance are presently declining, it seems, for obvious reasons - but universal acceptance as a priest, the experience of Communio throughout the world and throughout the ages, is necessarily elusive for a priest not in communion with the Holy See.

A further point: convert clergy seem to divide into those who do and those who do not believe that they were priests before they 'became Catholic' or even 'entered the Church'. There is here, therefore, precisely that experience of sacramental uncertainty which has led traditional Anglicans not to accept the ministry of women priests or sometimes even the sacramental ministry of those who purport to ordain them.


Enrico Dante said...

Despite seeking at all times to be guided by the lamp of Charity...

I can't help feeling that in not a few cases, worries of this kind are a fond thing vainly invented - an excuse, if you will.

I think Dr Pusey was a sacerdos Domini. I don't think I'm sure whether he was a presbyter ecclesiae.

Anonymous said...

There is disagreement amongst 'traditionalist' Catholics, as to whether the episcopal sonsecrations performed according to the new rite of Pope Paul VI be valid, and consequently, and whether priestly and diaconal ordinations peformed by such ''bishops'', even according to the old ordination rite, be valid. Those who are convinced of the invalidity of said ordinations are admittedly a minority of traditionalist Catholics, and a very small minority of Cahtolics in general. THough i do not subscribe to the non-validity view, still, I consider myself lucky that i was ordained by a Bishop who was consecrated before the RIte of Paul VI came into effect.

Joshua said...

A great deal of trouble arises from this being a classic definition argument - what is meant by conditional being at issue.

As may be at further length investigated, "conditional" re-ordination (or re-confirmation, or re-baptism) is done when a prudent doubt exists that the sacrament was conferred validly: BUT this means, NOT "it may have been valid, so let's confer it again conditionally", BUT "we're pretty sure it was valid, however, as in regards the sacraments absolute certainty is necessary, let's do it again sub conditione".

Regarding Anglican ordinations (and confirmations, not to mention the baptism of members of the Royal Family - one prelate pouring the water, the other saying the words), the Church says as it were, NOT "we are reasonably but not absolutely sure all this is done aright, so let us administer the sacrament conditionally" BUT "we are not in fact at all sure one way or the other about all this, so therefore we will administer the sacrament absolutely".

It is, by the way, an utter furphy to say that submitting to "absolute" ordination requires that one repudiate one's belief in the previous efficacy of one's Anglican ordination. Indeed, the special prayer inserted in such an ordination of a former Anglican clergyman specifically mentions their former ministrations as, God granting it, occasions of grace - it is merely that the Church does not know their exact status. Apparently the Church is being lambasted for declaring she cannot know this, just as, by WO advocates, she is lambasted for declaring that she has no power to do so!

Reductio ad absurdum applies well here: if indeed the Church made men be ordained again whom she knew were certainly priests, that would result in an absurd situation whereby one would be perjuring oneself by denying one's orders and sinning - and it cannot be that the lawful ministrations of the Church bring not life but death, not grace but sin. It is not, therefore, a matter of the individual and their own self-perception, but of the judgement of the Church in the external forum.

I hope this helps.

Sir Watkin said...

(i) But did the Episcopal Church have the authority to ordain me as a Catholic priest? When I was an Episcopalian, I thought so. Now that I am Catholic, the whole idea seems absurd.

(ii) [...] universal acceptance as a priest, the experience of Communio throughout the world and throughout the ages, is necessarily elusive for a priest not in communion with the Holy See.

Thus (i) Fr Davis and (ii) Andrew argue similarly, and not unreasonably. This objection to Anglican orders has its attractions. It seems a softer one than the traditional arguments, and also seems to offer deliverance from sterile nit-picking and a very narrow view of "validity".

But how is this line of thinking squared with the fact that Rome regards as valid the ordinations of e.g. the Old Catholics and the P.N.C.C., to say nothing of the Eastern churches?

Is it so reasonable to think that the P.N.C.C. can have the authority to ordain a man as a Catholic priest, whilst holding it manifestly "absurd" that an Anglican church can? [Of course one can easily provide an argument for distinguishing between the two cases, but to so inevitably brings us back onto the old, "narrow" territory, which rather undermines Fr Davis' and Andrew's broader approach.]

Is universal acceptance as a priest elusive for one of those fierce Greek Orthodox monks whose anti-papalism would make Ian Paisley blush?

James G said...

Fr William,

You ask: Is it "superscrupulous" to suppose that there may be some kind of a problem if the very act by which one's ministry in the Catholic Church is inaugurated is also an act of disobedience to the defined teaching of that Church?

Or am I being "superscrupulous" when I refuse to re-baptise someone who was baptised as an infant?

If you are acting according to the judgment of the Church then you cannot be acting in disobedience to her. If one is seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate (or, logically, following the CCC and the decrees of the Council of Trent) then one has accepted that the Catholic Church is the Church and has the authority to bind and loose. So if you were to refuse to re-baptise someone that the Church has judged to not have been validly baptized then you would be being “superscrupulous.”

If you will bear it, I will make a comparison with my own life. Objectively I had an invalid marriage (the tribunal adjudicated it null). I understand this fact yet my heart objects to it. We loved each other very much, I knew what I intended and said my vows with full faith and with no known impediments. The wife of my youth was a good woman but not quite right in the head and left me in a mad fit a year and a half later. Had she not left I am sure that we would still be together and there would have been no need to investigate the validity of our marriage or any doubt in our minds.

So we have a case where two people were living as if they were married and doing the things that married people do without, in fact, being married. Engaging in acts proper to marriage without being married is gravely sinful yet we were not sinning because we were acting in good faith.

Take it from the other angle; what if the tribunal was in error and our marriage was in fact valid? Were I to attempt marriage again I would objectively be committing a grave sin (adultery and possibly sacrilege). However, again I would not be sinning because I would be acting in good faith with the approval of the Church in this matter.

To my knowledge we did everything necessary for validity and when we married I had no doubts as to the wife of my youth having proper intentions as I know I did. At times I still feel as if we truly had a marriage. Yet it is not my place to decide. I placed the matter before the proper authority and was given a judgment. It is my duty to accept that judgment with obedience and order my conscience accordingly. As such, no matter what twinges of feeling I have to the contrary I know that if I act in accordance with the Church’s (non-infallible) judgment in this matter I will not endanger my soul or act against my conscience because I am to order my conscience to the judgment of the Church.

James G

Anonymous said...

There seem to me two questions regarding "validity":
1. does Anglican Ordination impart the character of the priesthood? Apostolicae curae says that ordinations deriving from the Edwardine Ordinal do not.
2. does Anglican Ordination convey grace? and do Anglican Eucharists convey grace? If the Orders are not valid, then they do not do so ex opere operato; however, if received in good faith they may very well do so ex opere operantis. Hence Anglican Orders may well be a channel of grace in fact, and Anglican ministry fruitful in that sense.
The question of Anglican Ordinations not dependant on the Edwardine Ordinal is another thing again.

Mr CatOLick said...

whilst I understand your need to justify re-ordination, your recollection of opinion in catholic quarters concerning the Methodist union optionnin in the 1960's is not as many of us recall it. We rejected it then as ecclesiological nonsense and do so today.