Friday, May 12, 2017

Anglican Orders Redux

As this story from The Tablet recounts, a curia Cardinal is revisiting the issue of the validity of Anglican orders:

One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”

In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum.

“This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!”

For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision.

But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question.

To put this into historical and current context, therefore, is this article from the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, which points out that Anglicans, at least in the Thirty-Nine Articles, deem Catholic orders invalid (sacramentally):

The preoccupation with the Catholic rejection of Anglican orders in the past century has been accompanied by forgetfulness regarding the equally strong Anglican rejection of Catholic orders. Yet, the recognition that Anglican orders are not Catholic ones is not just a Roman Catholic pronouncement; it is also Anglican doctrine. Long before Pope Leo XIII declared, in 1893, that Anglican orders were deficient from a Catholic perspective, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1570, declared the Catholic view of orders deficient from an Anglican perspective.

The central points of Anglican belief are stated in the Articles of Religion, which were articulated and revised over a period of several decades during the tumultuous 16th century. Although Catholic-minded Anglicans since the Oxford Movement of the 1830s have often questioned them, the Articles were clearly intended to be an authoritative statement of Anglican belief. Though today, they do not carry the same kind of juridical authority as Roman Catholic doctrine, originally they carried even more. Conformity to them among the clergy was originally enforced on pain of death. Until the 19th century, it was a requirement for civil office in England. They have been included in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer in Great Britain and North America up to the present day, and are routinely cited by participants in Anglican theological discourse as representing the mind of the church.

Initially intended to affirm Catholic teaching in the face of the Lutheran reform, in successive revisions, the Articles came to adopt Protestant, and even explicitly anti-Catholic, views. Beginning with six articles stating points of Catholic doctrine by King Henry VIII in 1536, they had been expanded to 42 articles incorporating Lutheran ideas by Henry’s Protestant-leaning son, Edward VI, by 1552. These were eventually pared to 39 articles in 1570—following a convocation and the excommunication of the Pope by Queen Elizabeth. As John Henry Newman observed following his famous, but failed, attempt to interpret the Articles in a Catholic sense, “{i}t is notorious that the Articles were drawn up by Protestants, and intended for the establishment of Protestantism.”

Article 25 states that Ordination is not a sacrament (does not confer Sacramental Grace) in the Church of England:

Those five commonly called Sacraments—that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction—are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer did not intend that ministers in the Church of England be like Catholic priests at all, because he did not believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist as Catholics do. Therefore, ministers in the Church of England did not have a sacramental sacrificial role:

. . .“Christ made no such difference between the priest and the layman that the priest should make oblation and sacrifice of Christ for the layman … but the difference between the priest and the layman in this matter is only in the ministration.” . . . .

The ministers of the Church of England were intended to be ministers of the Word, by speech in preaching, and by act in symbolic sacraments, and not priests of the true, substantive Body and Blood of Christ.

As a reminder, this is the Catholic teaching (from the Council of Trent) on priesthood:

Sacrifice and priesthood are, by the ordinance of God, in such wise conjoined, as that both have existed in every law. Whereas, therefore, in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has received, from the institution of Christ, the holy visible sacrifice of the Eucharist; it must needs also be confessed, that there is, in that Church, a new, visible, and external priesthood, into which the old has been translated. And the sacred Scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this priesthood was instituted by the same Lord our Saviour, and that to the apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, was the power delivered of consecrating, offering, and administering His Body and Blood, as also of forgiving and of retaining sins. . . . 

Whereas, by the testimony of Scripture, by Apostolic tradition, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that Order is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of holy Church. For the apostle says; I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love of sobriety.

The author, Father Donald Paul Sullins, is himself a former Anglican minister who became Catholic and was ordained under the Pastoral Provision issued by Pope St. John Paul II. He continues his article with a discussion of Anglican ministers becoming Catholic priests by sacramental ordination and states:

The Catholic Church today views the relation of Catholic to Protestant, not as the difference between wrong and right, but as between part and whole. It recognizes that many elements of genuine sanctity, doctrine, and orders are to be found in the separated churches of the Reformation, among whom, moreover, Anglicanism is held to have a special place. The bishops of England and Wales, in a joint statement, have made this explicit: “We would never suggest that those now seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church deny the value of their previous ministry. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the liturgical actions of their ministry can most certainly engender a life of grace, for they come from Christ and lead back to him and belong by right to the one church of Christ.” 18

If one’s personal experience of grace in Anglican priestly ministry does not prove that the underlying orders are valid, it is equally true that a defect in the underlying orders does not nullify the experience of grace. . . . [Pope Leo XIII's document] 
Apostolicae Curae’s declaration of nullity of Anglican orders in no way denies the genuine grace and truth that is present in Anglican ordained ministry. The Catholic Church recognizes with joy and thanksgiving, and affirms the legitimacy of, the fruits of the Anglican priesthood.

Please read the rest there. It's also appropriate to recall Pope Leo's encouragement of Anglicans who wanted the fullness of the Christian faith to come home:

38. Hitherto perhaps, while striving after the perfection of Christian virtue, while devoutly searching the Scriptures, while redoubling their fervent prayers, they have yet listened in doubt and perplexity to the promptings of Christ who has long been speaking within their hearts. Now they see clearly whither He is graciously calling and bidding them come. Let them return to His one fold, and they will obtain both the blessings they seek and further aids to salvation; the dispensing of which He has committed to the Church, as the perpetual guardian and promoter of His redemption among the nations. Then will they 'draw waters with joy out of the fountains of the Saviour', that is, out of His wondrous sacraments; whereby the souls of the faithful are truly forgiven their sins and restored to the friendship of God, nourished and strengthened with the bread of heaven, and provided in abundance with the most powerful aids to the attainment of eternal life. To those who truly thirst after these blessings may 'the God of peace, the God of all consolation', grant them in overflowing measure, according to the greatness of His bounty.

39. Our appeal and Our hopes are directed in a special way to those who hold the office of ministers of religion in their respective communities. Their position gives them preeminence in learning and authority, and they assuredly have at heart the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Let them, then, be among the first to heed God's call and obey it with alacrity, thus giving a shining example to others. Great indeed will be the joy of Mother Church as she welcomes them, surrounding them with every mark of affection and solicitude, because of the difficulties which they have generously and courageously surmounted in order to return to her bosom. And how shall words describe the praise which such courage will earn for them in the assemblies of the faithful throughout the Catholic world, the hope and confidence it will give them before Christ’s judgement seat, the rewards that it will win for them in the kingdom of heaven! For Our part We shall continue by every means allowed to us to encourage their reconciliation with the Church, in which both individuals and whole communities, as We ardently hope, may find a model for their imitation. Meanwhile We beg and implore them all, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, to strive faithfully to follow in the open path of His truth and grace.

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