The Ordinary of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham has recently adopted a shield of arms, designed for him by "a Spanish Expert in Heraldry". (The Archbishop of Birmingham acquired a Grant from the College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street; the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, at the instance of Fr Fynes Clinton, got a grant, with a very fine design, from the College. They do a good job.)
What interested me most was the fact that the Ordinary's shield is surrounded by a hat with tassels ... indications that a prelate is a Bishop.
Prima facie, hostile pedants might argue, this sits uneasily with the 1896 bull Apostolicae curae, which declared Anglican Orders null and void. Anglo-Catholics nevertheless claimed that, despite the endless misbehaviour of official Anglicanism, Anglican Orders were technically valid on Catholic grounds which had been ignored in Apostolicae curae.
This Anglo-Catholic claim received oblique support from an unusual and entertaining quarter when sedevacantists took to pointing out that the arguments deployed in Apostolicae curae also render doubtful or worse the Orders of the 'post-Conciliar Church'! (Efforts to refute this thesis are hampered by the different interpretations which different Catholic writers have, over the years, put upon the logic and argument of the bull.)
Can there possibly be anything new to say?
Since the bull Apostolicae curae was issued, there has occurred what I named as "the Dutch Touch": the participation in Anglican episcopal Consecrations during and since the 1930s of Dutch schismatics with irreproachably valid orders and using a formula from the pre-Conciliar Roman Pontifical, the adequacy of which for validity ... even on its own ... was strongly urged by as gigantic an authority as Cardinal Gasparri, the great Begetter of modern Catholic Canon Law.
Those with acute historical minds will have noticed that the Dutch Touch occurred nearly half a century after Apostolicae curae, so that Bull can hardly be claimed to address the new elements in the situation created by the Dutch Touch.
The formal decision of S John Paul II, upon the advice of the CDF in the case of Graham Leonard, formerly Bishop of London, was to proceed on the basis that the 'Dutch Touch' rendered it no longer certain that Apostolicae curae still applied to the dutchified situation.
This papal precedent cannot easily be treated as non-existent. A very distinguished and traditionalist Catholic theologian wrote to me, even before the Leonard decision, that the "applicability of its [Apostolicae curae] teaching to [Anglican] orders today is not itself unconditionally proposed by the contemporary Roman church" (emphasis original).
Another factor of which few people seem to be aware is that the bull Apostolicae curae, in the text published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 29 (1896-7), explicitly limited its scope to 'discipline', not doctrine. A distinguished Catholic theologian wrote to me that the ASS "is the official version of the text. ... However, in the [later] collected edition of the Acta Leonis XIII the word is omitted ..." Dr E C Messenger wrote "The omission would seem to have been deliberate". It would be interesting to know who it was that contrived this deft and significant excision; my nominated suspect is Merry del Val, operating in the interests of Cardinal Vaughan, who realised that this limitation could provide an opportunity to question the doctrinal force of the bull.
There is something which is not quite kosher about these proceedings!!
Furthermore, just the other day I checked via my computer the text of Apostolicae curae on the official Vatican website. The text there does include the limiting term disciplinae!! Stone the crows!
Some writers, both those ferociously arguing against Anglican Orders and sedevacantists ferociously denying the Orders of 'the Conciliar Church' as if their very lives depended upon it, give the impression that God has an eagle eye which he constantly has open to the possibility that there might be a technical detail rendering a sacrament invalid. There are stories of pre-Pius XII bishops reordaining all their ordinands sub conditione in the Sacristy immediately after their ordination, so as to be on the safe side! I must confess to having quite the opposite suspicion. Sacramental grace, I think, is, by the Divine Will, much more like water ... perhaps like the flood water which, so ably assisted by Anthropogenic Climate Change, just keeps getting into the homes of poor people all over the world. It so often seems to find ways of seeping through or getting in round the side, even despite the best attempts of human wilfulness to block it out. I am an Essex Man; I know about all this! Memories of 1956!
That, surely, is the basic and untechnical meaning of S Bellarmine's famous teaching on Intention, in which he demonstrates that even a heretic who explicitly believed that the [Calvinist] Church of Geneva was Christ's True Church, could (given adequate Matter, Form, and Minister) validly confect the Sacraments, despite all his personal heresies.
I accept, as the C of E now implicitly does, Leo XIII's general proposition that Anglican Orders have now to be categorised, at least and certainly juridically, as not identical to Catholic Orders. Official Anglicanism has made its bed, and individual Anglicans can hardly whinge if they are required to lie upon it. This does not, in my view, necessarily entail the proposition that no individual in the Anglican Ministry is truly a Catholic priest. The very evident signs of Sacramental Grace within Anglicanism might suggest otherwise. They might even indicate (another suggestion I have heard from a distinguished and traditionalist Catholic theologian) that Deus supplevit per desiderium.
But there can be no question that sacramental certainty does need to be secured and assured. The whole Anglican business has now become far too messy and mired in sacramental disorder for this need to be fudged.
After all, it is not exactly the fault of the Catholic Church that there is any confusion about the status of Anglican clergy. Rome never invited the Church of England to change the rites of ordination unilaterally in the sixteenth century; nor, in twentieth, to introduce women into the transmission of orders. Rome can hardly be blamed for all those endless Anglican public statements and agreements about the interchangeability of Anglican and Protestant ministries. Anglicans have a long and immensely slippery history of wanting to have things both ways. With Catholics, they sound amazingly Catholic; engaging with Orthodox ... Miracle! ... they are Orthodox; doing business with Methodists or Scandinavian Lutherans ... er ...
We are not the first to meet these problems. After his conversion, Newman "could not say that Anglican orders were invalid", and "I was surprised, when I got to Rome in 1846 to find various persons there in the belief that they were valid and none, I think, clear that they were not" (and this despite the assertion to be made in 1896 by Apostolicae curae that the matter had "iam pridem ab Apostolica Sede plene fuisse et cognitam et iudicatam"). The "difficulty" which S John Henry had about being reordained was removed by the assurance that, although ordination would not be explicitly conditional, the 'condition' would be "implied ... in the Church's intention".
Conditional Ordination does indeed seem to me by far the most traditionally Catholic solution to this matter; Fr Aidan Nichols' original suggestion was the tactfully private rectification of the Orders of English Anglican priests seeking Full Communion. Since the diaconate does not impinge upon sacramental validity, diaconal ordination need not be part of the procedure; readers will recall that S John Paul II with his own hand struck out Diaconal Ordination from the draft documentation put before him for dealing with the case of Bishop Graham Leonard.
It is still my view that by far the best process would have been exactly what Basil Hume, on instructions from Joseph Ratzinger's CDF in Rome, did for Graham Leonard: Conditional Ordination to the Presbyterate well away from the public eye; and in his private chapel.
This arrangement was the result of the CDF receiving copies of the entire Dutch Tutch archive from Pusey House here in Oxford, plus evidence about the theological views of the Anglican hierarchs involved in the processes leading from the Douch Touch up to Bishop Graham's presbyteral ordination. CDF sent all this material to consultors whose vota formed the basis of the decision. Cardinal Hume subsequently said that other Anglican clergy who could provide identical documentation could expect to receive the same treatment ... but that the process would take very much longer than the abbreviated processes which were within the competences of the English Bishops. Anglican enquirers took this very broad, if somewhat corrupt, hint!
Bishop Graham emphasised to me that Rome had been very careful not to consider, nor to pass judgement on, his episcopal orders ... because, he was convinced, Rome did not wish to find itself saddled with a validly ordained married bishop! (Professor Tighe, by the way, has uncovered other Latin examples of episcopal wives.)
My suspicion is that, in Mgr Newton, a Married Bishop is exactly what Rome does now have! Three cheers for his green galero with its twelve tassels!