Are Anglican Orders Valid?

Although I have known that there was an Anglican Church since my history studies of the Tudor age in school, I wasn't ever hugely aware of the importance and value of an established church in our country until, probably, the first influx of Anglicans came home to Rome back in 1992. That was on the back of the ordination of women; if you want to understand what the Catholic position is regarding that I would suggest you have a look at this wonderful exposition by Megan Hodder.

More recently (January 2011), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a Decree which formally established a ‘Personal Ordinariate’ in England and Wales for groups of Anglican faithful and their clergy who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. The establishment of this Ordinariate was the first fruit of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, issued by Pope Benedict XVI on 4 November 2009. The purpose of this was to respond to petitions received “repeatedly and insistently” by the Pope from groups of Anglicans wishing “to be received into full communion individually as well as corporately” with the Catholic Church.

During his address to the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales at Oscott in September 2010, Pope Benedict was therefore keen to stress that the Apostolic Constitution
“should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.”
In this way, the establishment of the Ordinariate is clearly intended to serve the wider and unchanging aim of the full visible unity between the Catholic Church and the members of the Anglican Communion.

One member of the new Ordinariate is Father Ed Tomlinson, who answers a lot of the common questions about the Ordinariate on his blog. He describes an "Ordinariate" in the following way:
The Ordinariate is a specific ecclesiastical jurisdiction which is similar to a diocese and will be led by its own ‘Ordinary’ who will be a bishop or priest. However, unlike a diocese its membership will be on a ‘personal’ rather than a ‘territorial’ basis; that is, no matter where a member of the Ordinariate lives within England and Wales they will, in the first instance, be under the ordinary ecclesial jurisdiction of the Ordinariate and not the diocese where they are resident.
The Ordinariate will be made up of laity, clergy and religious who were formerly members of the Anglican Communion. Following reception into full communion with the Catholic Church, the laity and religious will become members of the Ordinariate by enrolment in a register; with ordination as priests and deacons, the clergy will be directly incardinated into (placed under the jurisdiction of) the Ordinariate.
The institution of the Ordinariate led to a further influx of Anglicans who, wonderfully, wanted to be in full communion with the successor of Peter. This has brought Anglicanism firmly back on the radar for me and led to me meeting and fostering relations with a number of superb Ordinariate priests. I am fortunate at this point to call several very good friends. It has also facilitated an opportunity for me to ask lots of questions about what has happened from an Anglican perspective. I have found out a great deal about the Anglican church as a result and its somewhat unusual status. What do I mean by that? Well, some might ask "what was Pope Paul VI actually doing when he slipped that episcopal ring on the finger of Archbishop Ramsey? Come to think of it, what was Archbishop Nicholls signifying by inviting Archbishop Williams to preach in his Cathedral on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Cope and Mitre, and co-bless at the end?"

The answer to that question is simply that we Catholics have been going to the most extreme lengths in showing ecumenical goodwill. However, given what is currently happening, one might be forgiven for wondering how much longer this may continue, whether in Rome or in Westminster?

The Anglican communion, since at least 1992, has taken a direction increasingly in conflict with the successor of Peter and the Apostolic See, forcing us to see an ever widening gulf. Those of us who long and wish for re-unification feel this is becoming increasingly impossible as the Church of England pursues an agenda ever more modernist, relative and temporal. More dangerously, the Church of England is mimetic, misleading souls that they can be Catholic in almost every way, whilst refusing to conform to Catholic moral teaching. Meanwhile, the priests of the Ordinariate have come to terms with this reality in the context of ever more visible problems within the Anglican church and have come home to full unification with Rome, which has been a source of deep joy for them.

Part of that journey involves an acceptance of the invalidity of Anglican orders and re-ordination. This is fascinating, and humbling, as there can be no doubt that these men considered their orders and ministry valid. When they distributed the sacred species, they considered that they were really and truly distributing Christ's body and blood. And who is to say that God, recognising their sincerity, would not give efficacy to their ministry? After all, the Spirit blows where He will (Jn 3:8).

Yet sincerity dictates that one must recognise that right and wrong do matter. They especially matter when one is not ignorant of the reality of binding and loosing (Mt 16:18) and the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the fides quae until the Parousia. They matter when one understands the sacramental reality of form and matter and when one understands Apostolic Succession as more than some spiritual form of passing on a rely baton. This is not about "slavish adherence to the Magisterium", it is about humility before God.

In the interests of understanding both perspectives, I did a bit of research which makes the situation much clearer regarding Anglican orders and you might find it interesting also. My bold emphasis demonstrates areas I feel are particularly pertinent to the debate.

From Catholic Encyclopedia: In the creed of the Catholic Church, Holy Order is one of the Seven Sacraments instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Its office is to transmit and perpetuate those mystic powers of the priesthood whereby the Blessed Sacrament of the altar is consecrated and offered up in sacrifice; and whereby alone the Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, and Extreme Unction can be validly administered.

Holy Order is in three degrees: those of bishops, priests, and deacons, the bishops possessing the priesthood in its plenitude, that is, with the power not only to exercise this ministry personally, but also to transmit it and the diaconate to others. Thus the bishop is the only minister of Holy Order, and for its valid administration it is essential that he should himself have received a valid episcopal consecration, and should use a rite in which are reserved all the essentials of validity as instituted by Christ.

To have received or failed to receive orders under these conditions is to be within or without the Apostolical succession of the Catholic ministry.In the sixteenth century this doctrine of a priesthood endowed with mystical powers was pronounced superstitious by most of the Protestant Reformers, who, accordingly, rejected Holy Order from among the number of their sacraments. They recognised, however, that from primitive times downwards there had always been a body of clergy set apart for the pastoral duties, and this they desired to retain in their separated communions; in some cases organising it in two degrees only, of presbyters and deacons, in others of three degrees, which, in accordance with ancient practice, they continued to designate by the names of bishops, priests, and deacons.

But their doctrine in regard to these ministers was that they could possess no powers beyond those of other men, but only "authority in the congregation" to preach and teach, to govern churches, and to preside over services and ceremonies; and that the rites, of imposition of hands or otherwise, whereby candidates were inducted into the grades of their ministry, were to be regarded merely as simple and impressive external ceremonies employed for the sake of decency and order. This view of the Christian ministry is very distinctly expressed in the public formularies and private writings of the continental Reformers. 

In England it was certainly shared by Cranmer, Ridley, and others who with them presided over the ecclesiastical alterations in the reign of Edward VI. That the present Anglican clergy are bishops, priests, and deacons in the latter sense admits of no dispute. But are they so also in the former and Catholic sense; and are they in consequence in the true line of Apostolical succession, and endowed with all its mystical powers over the Sacrifice and sacraments? This is the question of Anglican orders.

Excerpt from an article by Fr. Stanley L. Jaki: The Church of England has never officially declared itself to be Protestant. Indeed, during this century the Church of England has been undergoing a distinctly Catholic process. After Pope Leo XIII had declared that Anglican ordinations were invalid, several Church of England bishops had themselves reconsecrated either by Orthodox or by Old-Catholic prelates.

Today, every Church of England bishop can trace his episcopal consecration to one or the other of those reconsecrations. This is why Pope Paul Vl reopened the question of Anglican orders. This is why as late as last November, Pope John Paul II accepted a chalice from Dr. Carey as a token of a future reunion. And this only a day after Dr. Carey had declared in Rome that he fully supported the ordination of women!

Rome did indeed go to the most extreme lengths in showing ecumenical goodwill. Rome was willing to adopt tactful privacy in repeating the warning which Paul Vl had given to Dr. Ramsey, the first archbishop of Canterbury to visit Rome in 400 years. Then Paul VI said nothing less than that the prospects of reunion would come to naught were the Church of England ever to ordain women. This warning made no impact on Dr. Ramsey, who, following his visit, told newsmen that he would not be surprised if women would eventually be ordained in the Church of Rome. Nor was Dr. Coggan, Ramsey's successor, any better impressed after he had received, in 1975, in the form of a letter from Paul VI, the official word about the Catholic position on the ordination of women. John Paul II begins his apostolic letter by quoting from that letter of Paul Vl: The "living teaching authority" of the Catholic Church "has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for His Church." The swiftness with which Rome now put the matter beyond any doubt stands out against the relative slowness of another pontifical act which was also triggered by a move of the Church of England. 

On the last day of 1931, Pope Pius Xl issued the encyclical Casti Connubii. It is best remembered for its rejection of contraception as something inherently immoral. What triggered the encyclical was the declaration, a full year and a half earlier, in August, 1930, by the Anglican bishops' Lambeth Conference that in special circumstances contraception was not sinful. The declaration was the first by a Christian church to throw the door ajar, however slightly, on contraception. Unlike now, Rome then waited a year and a half. This time, two and one-half months were enough! In 1930, the Church of England was the established religion of a world empire, with enormous cultural and social influence. In 1994, the Church of England is still globally influential in at least one sense: It is the only Protestant church with an impressive semblance of Catholicism which it displays over much of the globe through its 60 million or so communicants. It therefore can seduce a great many Catholics into thinking that Catholicism is possible in an Anglican fashion: with all the spiritual comfort which all those sacred rituals can give, but without significantly curtailing the individual's freedom in matters of faith and especially in sexual morality. 

The best summary of the Church of England is that it is the consummate form of  "mimic Catholicism." Hence Rome's concern. As in the biological world, in the spiritual realm, too, mimicry is a most alluring instrument of survival and expansion. To put that label "mimic Catholicism" on the Church of England will lose its apparent rudeness as soon as one identifies the one who coined it, John Henry Newman

He did so in the context of a series of 12 lectures he delivered in London between April and June, 1850. The general title of his lectures, "Certain Difficulties Felt by Some Anglicans in Catholic Teaching," reveals those whom he wanted to reach above all. They were his former comrades-in-arms in the Oxford Movement, soon to be known as Anglo-Catholics, who failed to follow him into the Catholic Church. To them, Newman said nothing less than that it was impossible to be Catholic and Anglican at the same time, because the Church of England was essentially Protestant. 

Anglo-Catholics reluctant to recognise this were, so Newman warned them, putting their eternal salvation in jeopardy. The lectures were in part triggered by the failure of the Anglican hierarchy to stand up, shortly before Newman gave those lectures, on behalf of baptismal regeneration, or the very Catholic doctrine that Baptism imparts a new, a supernatural nature. About that failure of "dogmatic nerve" Newman showed in those lectures that it was but part of a long chain of similar failures, a chain amounting to a sinister inner logic at work within Anglicanism. And he laid down the truth with no words minced, among them his cry that "the Establishment is a wreck...." A prophetic anticipation of the spiritual wreckage that looms large at a time when England has barely completed the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the birth of its most lecherous and perfidious monarch, Henry VIII. Plain words once more had their desired effect, although not as humans would like to have their desires fulfilled. Newman himself hoped that most of the hundreds of Anglo-Catholics who attended the lectures would make the move he urged on them. Only a few listened in such a way as to recognise the futility of an illusion: to remain as Catholics within the Church of England.

Among the few were Henry Manning and James Scott Hope. Manning gave up the almost complete certainty of becoming the archbishop of Canterbury. Hope, although the most prominent lawyer in the House of Lords, had to face subtle forms of social disgrace for the rest of his life. Catholic Newmanists, and especially "ecumenists," have long tried to keep the lectures, now reprinted as Anglican Difficulties, under cover or to dismiss them as a momentary deviation on Newman's part. This was an element of their technique to present Newman as one who was always a Catholic rather than a Roman even as a Roman Catholic. Consequently, they had to give a strange twist to what the Oxford Movement was truly about. In doing so, they gave great comfort to Anglican specialists on the movement. All of them tried to avoid Anglican Difficulties. No wonder. The lectures are Newman's most authentic portrayal of the real driving force of the Oxford Movement. It was a movement inherently and inevitably directed toward Rome as its only fulfilment  

The lectures are also his most trenchant unfolding of the inner logic of the Church of England. The logic is an irresistible trend toward naturalism-to put in a nutshell Newman's elaborate claim argued throughout the lectures. On seeing the naturalism of feminism gain full hold of the Church of England, Newman would today refer to those lectures, long out of print and long ignored even by those most in need of it, namely, the Anglo-Catholic clergy. The lectures represent Newman's prophetic foresight at its strongest, his anxiety for the salvation of Anglo-Catholic souls at its keenest, and his theology of the notes of the true Church at its most persuasive. For the last five lectures deal with the notes of the true Church, with two of those lectures devoted to the note of holiness! It is in these lectures that Newman first went into print with his great cry: "Let my soul be with the saints!" Any failure of nerve, any shortcoming within the Church of England, caused Newman great sadness. But he knew that those failures had to happen. He knew that divisions among Christians had to come so that the true Church may be seen all the more vividly. 

He was never an optimist. He had a tragic sense of history, including ecclesiastical history. He was never swayed by the lure of "progress." This is why he was at loggerheads with Lord Acton, the darling of "liberal" Catholics in England and elsewhere. And this is why, during these last 30 years or so, no stone has been left unturned by some "leading" Newmanists to present a theologically "civilised" image of him. This effort reached, sadly enough, its high point during the celebrations of the centenary of his death in 1990. Even the exodus of Anglo-Catholic clergy, which is now reaching a stampede, may fail to impress those Newmanists. But they come and go as do all fashions. 

The true Newman remains and looms larger with every passing decade. For he always took the long view which he saw tied to the "cathedra sempiterna." Newman's lectures also constitute a most enlightening answer to the difficulties felt by many Catholics in these increasingly troubled ecclesiastical times. 

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