30 July 2016

Anglican Orders

I shall not consider any comments on this post until those interested have read the Footnote which I plan to print tomorrow.
 It was the view of pope Leo XIII that Anglican Orders were null and void, in the sense that they were not identical with the sacerdotal Orders which the Church considers herself to inherit from the Apostles. That is still the official juridical view of the Catholic Church.

What is often not noticed is that this is also now the view of the Church of England.  Since the 1990s, the Church of England has entered into formal relationships with ecclesial bodies which undoubtedly lack Catholic Orders. The 'Porvoo' arrangement inserts her into the Porvoo Communion in which, even where there is a quasi-episcopal structure, that 'episcopate', in Norway and Denmark, can make no claim to Apostolic Succession (as Professor Tighe has demonstrated, the same is almost certainly true even of the Swedish Church, of which more optimistic judgements had previously been officially made by the Church of England). And ordinations in Scandinavia are not exclusively performed by Bishops (but sometimes by cathedral deans). (It is also worth looking at the published text of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant, in which, instead of even a perfunctory attempt to show that the Methodists believe the same as Anglicans about Holy Order, there is a cheerful assurance for Methodists that Anglicans don't believe anything different from Methodists.)

Faced with a very similar threat in the 1940s (at that time, the threat was posed by the 'CSI', a proposed pan-Protestant body called the Church of South India), Dom Gregory Dix, a robust defender of the validity of Anglican Orders, wrote: "As regards the question of Orders, what these proposals amount to is an official Anglican admission that Pope Leo XIII was right after all in his fundamental contention in Apostolicae Curae. In spite of face-saving phrases about 'the Apostolic Ministry' and the future confining of the act of Ordaining to men styled 'Bishops' [in fact, the Porvoo Scandinavians did not even undertake this], we would be committed to a formal declaration that by 'Bishops, Priests, and Deacons' could be meant only the new sixteenth-century conception of the Ministry disguised under the old titles ... And, whether we like it or not, that would be to justify Leo XIII in the teeth of all our own past history. Thus, if these proposals were to be put into practice, the whole ground for believing in the the Church of England which I have outlined would have ceased to exist ... "

The other major Anglican theologian who mounted a persuasive defence of Anglican Orders was Dr Eric Mascall. He wrote: "When the preface to the Anglican ordinal declared that its purpose was the continuation of the threefold ministry which had existed 'from the Apostles' time', it was pointing to a concrete recognisable entity ... there was a lot to be said for avoiding theoretical statements ... and for pointing instead to the concrete reality which it was intended to perpetuate ... To the question 'what does ordination effect?' the fundamental answer is given ... by pointing to priests. ... defining it by telling you where it is and inviting you to go and look at it."

Well, the Church of England has, since the 1990s, certainly made quite a business of pointing to concrete realities and defining her views on priesthood by telling us where it is and inviting us to go and look at it. And where her formal, synodical pointing finger points to is to Denmark and Norway and Sweden.

But Scandinavia is a long, long, long way ... well, perhaps not so very far away. But Scotland is undoubtedly even closer. And the projected "Columba agreement" ... sorry; I do feel I have to break off here while you indulge your natural outrage that such a very Catholic Saint should have his name hijacked for yet another of these mushy verbal fudges that will further humiliate the poor pathetic little remnants of "Catholic" sentiment still surviving ("enjoying space to flourish" is the official terminological inexactitude) within the Church of England.

OK? Ready? I'll continue. We all know how "Columba" will end: another of these concordats the essential meaning of which will be that Anglican priests are identical to Protestant ministers; that an ecclesial body without an episcopal polity is no less "Church" than a body that thinks it has one. The Church of England has been saying this, more often, with greater force, and with regard to geographically closer or more significant bodies, ever since the poor little Jerusalem Bishopric so upset Newman ... through South India in the 1950s ... and Scandinavia in the 1990s. How many times does the C of E have to say the same thing before those of its members who call themselves "Catholics" realise that it really does mean what it keeps on and on saying?

Porvoo, not the ordination of women, was the point at which I realised that the Church of England was not a body in which I could have a permanent home; after that, the practical question was simply how to get out, acting corporately rather than as an individual; a question so graciously answered by Benedict XVI.  

The Church of England officially and enthusiastically agrees with the judgment that Leo XIII made. Those who retain a Catholic doctrine of Holy Order, and still remain in the Church of England, can only do so by saying that the Church of England, and Leo XIII, were both wrong; and that "I understand Catholic teaching about Sacramental validity better than did Leo XIII; and, although the C of E says that its ministry is equivalent to Protestant ministries, it has in fact misunderstood its own truest nature ... which I understand better."

Logically tenable ... but what a very uncomfortable position to hold! I know, because I've been there!

I have not quite said everything which I think has to be said on this matter ... No comments will be enabled.


El Codo said...

Father . You write with such erudition but also feeling, far more converting than the dry if brilliant juice of the late lamented Dr Mascall. Many of us loved the church in which we came to Faith but as Blessed John wrote, once a pile of clothes in the corner is no longer a Polar bear, the game is up. The net is broken and we are free.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I was unaware of the Apostolic Succession until I had already decided leaving "Svenska Kyrkan" due to female "priesthood".