How splendid the announcement by Bishop Mark of Shrewsbury that, this coming Sunday, he will be receiving into full Communion Gavin Ashenden. Ashenden was formerly a Chaplain to the Queen, but then left the C of E and secured Episcopal Consecration from one of the 'Traditional Anglican' splinter groups which proliferate in North America. Bishop Mark announced also that he was sending to Rome Gavin's 'episcopal pedigree' in the hope that it might be recognised.
It is this latter detail which has moved me to bring forward and to print today a piece which I wrote some weeks ago and stored to be published on 6 January 2020, the ninth Anniversary of the day when Bishop Graham Leonard passed to his reward. Readers will detect the relevance of the second, third , and fourth paragraphs below to the Ashenden situation. I should add that the American source of Ashenden's episcopal orders may not be prove to be as straightforward as the English situation. In England, the 'Old Catholic' bishops taking part as 'Aequiprincipal Consecrators' in English Consecrations signed and had witnessed an extensive protocol in Latin making clear what they were doing; what they meant by it; and the Latin formula they used.
I doubt whether very many bishops, of whatever Church, elicit, upon their deaths, such an avalanche of heart-felt tributes as did Graham Leonard, sometime Bishop of London, Dean of the Chapels Royal, and Privy Councillor. He was one of the first diocesan bishops in the Church of England to welcome the Catholic Revival with a wholeheartedness that included no ifs or buts. His and my paths crossed when he was President of the Woodard Corporation; in which role he maintained the Catholic Faith without giving an inch to bigots. The same was true of his ministry as Bishop of Truro; his orthodoxy being all the more marked by contrast with the smoke of Satan which billowed into that diocese, hitherto perhaps the most 'Catholic' in England, under his successor in the 1990s.
Upon his entry into Full Communion, Bishop Graham sent to the CDF copies of all the documents in the Pusey House Archive relating to the praxis, since the 1930s, of the formal participation in Anglican Episcopal Consecrations (using the formula in the pre-Conciliar Pontificale Romanum of Pope Clement VIII) of bishops from the 'Old Catholic' sect (whose Orders, of course, Rome has always accepted). After requiring and receiving vota, the CDF judgement was that there was doubt whether the negative verdict of Apostolicae curae applied in this new situation, and that his priestly Ordination should only be repeated sub conditione. He told me he was convinced that the reason why Rome did not formally consider the validity of his Episcopal Consecration was Rome's knowledge that if she did so, she would have to declare it valid and would thus find herself embarrassed by the presence of a married bishop.
It also deserves to be put on record that Bishop Graham considered it significant that Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict always addressed him as 'Bishop', even after he had entered into Full Communion. He felt that such a usage, on the lips of a principled theologian with a precise mind, could not merely be a meaningless ecumenical courtesy. Yet, in his great humility he took part in the 'reordination' of priests whom he had, as Bishop of London, already ordained to the Sacred Priesthood.
[His obituary in The Times, incidentally, bears the marks of having been written by somebody who was close to things ... does any reader know by whom?]
His portrait, in episcopal garb, dominates the study of my Ordinary in Warwick Streat. I have no doubt that there will be priests, former Anglicans, all over England who will be saying his Requiem around this time with the prayers pro defuncto episcopo.