If you browse through the Pontificale Romanum as it so admirably was before the post-Conciliar depravations, you will discover that the most solemn liturgical blessings and consecrations both of persons and of things had one constant feature. They began like the Preface of the Mass, with Dominus vobiscum; Sursum corda; Gratias agamus; Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare .... This is how Major Orders were conferred; how Palms/Olives for Palm Sunday, the Chrism and the Paschal Candle, were blessed; how Abbots, Abbesses, Virgins and Queens, Churches and Altars, were solemnly blessed. The custom was, admittedly, not 'primitive'; but it did express very beautifully the 'primitive' understanding that it is by Thanksgiving, Eucharistia, that things are blessed and made over to God.
But since the post-Conciliar disorders, nearly all of that has disappeared from the despoiled rites of the Latin Churches. Nowadays, apart from the Mass itself, the blessing of the Paschal Candle appears to be the only survival in the Novus Ordo of this noble custom (apparently, in modern liturgical theology, candles are more sacral objects than Bishops or even Virgins!).
Couratin had provided the Prayer for the Ordination of Priests remodelled with Vere dignum ... restored as its opening. Here we have something more than just an elegant literary embellishment; it is in itself a theological statement. Priests are something more than the merely functional. They are consecrated, changed, just as the Eucharistic Elements themselves are consecrated and changed.
How very ironic and jolly ... that in the century when the Anglo-Catholic Upper Clergy of Oxford were conscientiously leafing through their copies of Pontificale Romanum to discover ways of traditionalising the Prayer Book rites of Ordination, in a different corner of Europe Dom Botte and his associates were beginning to elaborate crafty methods of detraditionalising the Pontificale!
TIME TO WAKE UP
The Rite of Ordination which I have described was only used in one Anglican diocese (as far as I know) and possibly only during two episcopates, those of Kirk and Carpenter. But that Diocese was a rather special star in our Anglican firmament (fuit Troia, fuimus Troiani ...), and Kirk was a profoundly significant figure in that sparkling but now long-vanished Anglo-Catholic world of Dix and Mascall and Farrer and their associates. Surely, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest precisely how just such a bishop solemnly administered the Sacrament of Holy Order in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford?
But I hope no-one will imagine that my narrative has anything to do with the old "question" of "the validity of Anglican Orders". On that front, the battle lines are even more strongly fortified than they were 130 years ago. There has been 'South India' ... then the British provinces of the Anglican Communion definitively repudiated the necessity of episcopal Ordination in the 'Porvoo' accord (1992) ... then came the complications of 'admitting' women to sacerdotal ministries ... in the last couple of decades we have had the 'baptismal' explanation of Ordination, which now, apparently, is 'official' in PECUSA (well dissected and analysed by Dr Colin Podmore; I plan to reprint some of my earlier thoughts on this over the next day or so).
No; despite all the silly froth of "Ecumenism", the gap between Tradition and Anglicanism, in the question of Ordination, gapes far wider than ever it did before 'the ARCIC Accords'.
Suggestions sometimes emerge in Rome regarding ways of nuancing its ruling that Anglican Orders are invalid. Some five years ago, one Cardinal Coccopalmerio published an article ...
At a time when Anglicans worldwide, in their theology and in their praxis, are moving more and more strongly and definitively away from Catholic teaching on priesthood, this seems a strangely perverse time to drop such hints.
It is not the Catholic Church which has been turning its back on Anglican 'partners in dialogue', and slamming all the doors shut.
Remember: Anglicanism is the Boris Johnson of the Ecumenical landscape.
If you ever believe a word it says, more fool you.
DEFINITELY NOT SAFE IN TAXIS.
No; what happened in Bishop Kirk's Oxford was a last brilliant efflorescence of Tradition within Anglicanism. It illustrates how fast the waters can come flooding in, once the military men have blown up the dam.
But there may be an exemplary function in my story. This is what can happen when you lack a Petrine Ministry, and Tradition is up for everyone to lunge at. Here is the tragedy of Bergoglianity: its senile, bloated and pompous hyperpapalism has robbed us of the Papacy we are entitled to have; a doctrinal Rock; a reliable remora. There are lessons Catholics can learn from the long, still on-going, Anglican tragedy.
So how did matters conclude among these dreaming spires?
Nobody now can sing the old song about
How happy are those Oxford flocks
How free from heretics;
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix.
Bishop Harry Carpenter was succeeded by Kenneth Woolcombe, an enthusiast for the the ordination of women who was put in despite scant experience of the parochial ministry, because he was regarded as a high-flyer who would almost certainly go on to Canterbury.
In today's Oxford's immensely troubled Anglican church life, OrthoDixy is not even a fragrant memory.