Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the Gathering of Anglicans

I rather admire Archbishop John Hepworth, primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, he works tirelessly for Christian unity, and was instrumental in the Pope issuing Anglicanorum Coetibus, which as a former Catholic priest, now married, he will never personally fully benefit from.
Last week he issued a Pastoral Letter “On the Gathering of Anglicans”, which is well worth reading in its entirety.
For a Anglican friend of a friend who welcomes the Papal initiative but has grave issues of conscience concern re-ordination, he believes he is validly ordained and to deny this and repeat a sacrament would be an act of sacrilege, I reproduce this excerpt:
What of the re-ordination of clergy?
. . . Not only the ordination of women to all three sacred orders, but the redefining of the Anglican understanding of itself as part of the “Church Catholic” that the ordination of women has necessitated, has introduced more than grave doubt about the validity of any Anglican Communion ordinations. It is now difficult to determine whether any particular Anglican Bishop has any intention to do as the Church has always done, when he (or she) specifically intends to do that which the Church has never done. The almost complete elimination of what was once a dominant Anglo-Catholicism from many provinces of the Anglican Communion has removed the clearest statement of Catholic belief about Holy Orders from the Anglican consciousness.
. . . It is my wish, and I believe the wishes of my fellow bishops, that every deacon and priest in our Communion has a certainty of validity that rests, not on the winning of a theological argument, not on the best that was available at the time, but on the indisputable certainty of Catholic practice. I have said to a number of priests that when they are saying Mass in the crypt of St Peter’s on the tombs of the Apostles, I want them to be able to look to one side and the other and to know with absolute certainty that their priesthood has the same objective reality as the priesthood of those on either side.
Finally, I commend this development to your prayers and the deepest parts of your conscience. I believe with all my heart that this is a work of God and an act of great generosity by Pope Benedict. The Anglican tradition that we treasure will only survive, I believe, across the generations yet to come if it discovers the protection of apostolic authority. It is my cherished wish that each of us can stand at the altar with our fellow Christians and receive the same Eucharistic Christ. That is the ultimate test of unity. In the centuries since the church in the West became fractured there has been no offer such as the one that is now before us. For Anglicans, Unity has been a dream beyond reach. Now it is a dream that can be fulfilled. I understood when I became a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (in a dark period of my life when it became impossible to practice my priesthood in a diocese about to ordain women) that this was a Communion heading towards a goal. It had separated from the Anglican Communion. Instead of drifting at the whim of wave and wind, it had chosen to head towards the only realistic destination, that from which Anglicans had separated centuries before. I was grasped by that vision of those who founded this Communion. We are now in the waves just beyond the harbour entrance. Pray God that we have the courage to enter and make our homes there.
thanks to Rorate Caeli


sedevacantist priest said...

I am surprise on this comment of this Anglican bishop. They are seperated from the main body of christ. Church of England is man made religion headed by the heretic King Henry VIII who want to divorce his first wife. Which Rome decline his demand.
It comes down to Apostolic Curea of Pope Leo XIII that Angllican order is null and void.
If they want to be catholic they have to ordain not claiming to be valid on the anglican point of view. Some problems they will encountered is that some of this bishop are married, the worse part this bishop is devorce and remarried. What a carry on.

Fr Ray Blake said...

1. Hepworth's priestly orders are valid, as I say, he was ordained a Catholic priest.
2. ApostolicAE CurAE, most probably doesn't apply anymore, its finding were noted by Anglo-Catholics, who then involved "Old Catholics" in their ordinations, so from the main point of Apostoliae Curae they are valid!
3. The doubtful part, is, as Hepworth points out: doubt as to whether Anglicans have the intention to do what The Church intends. That is a little more difficult to judge.

motuproprio said...

The statement of Cardinal Hume at the (conditional) ordination of graham Leonard is still worth noting.

"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."

Nonetheless it is necessary to keep in mind that ordination
conferred within the Anglican Communion is judged invalid in the
apostolic letter Apostolicae Curae. The value of this letter, given by His Holiness Leo XIII in 1896, has been upheld by the Holy See, even though some important theological clarifications relating to ministry and eucharist have been made by the Anglican

An exchange of letters between the president of the then-Secretariat for Christian Unity (July 13, 1985) and the two presidents of the second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, ARCIC II (Jan. 14, 1986) had expressed the hope that following dialogue and clarification such a unity of faith could be reached in the areas of ministry and eucharist that the way to a re-evaluation of these questions by the Catholic Church would be opened.

Unfortunately this position has not yet been reached.

In particular and probably rare cases the authorities in Rome may judge that there is a "prudent doubt" concerning the invalidity of priestly ordination received by an individual Anglican minister ordain in this line of succession.
There are many complex factors which would need to be verified in each case... Of course, if there were other cases where sufficient evidence was available, the balance of that evidence may lead the authorities to reach a different judgment.

Michael Clifton said...

I am afraid Apolostolicae Curae does still matter even if a validly ordained Old Catholic Bishop takes part in the ordination. You would have to consider the rite used and the intention of the consecrators. That is why Rome will always demand at least conditional re ordination.

laicus said...

When I became a Catholic, I was baptized conditionally. That means that certainly thereafter I was a baptized person.

That fact (and its application to the then future) was much more important - infinitely more - than whether I had in fact previously been baptized, or had in fact not been. Face to the future!

It was the future that mattered, not the historical past.

As my nom-de-blog indicates, I am a layperson and always have been. So it was a matter of baptism, not ordination. But an analogy there, maybe, as regards your (unnecessarily) troubled Anglican friend? I hope so, as his heart is turning towards a new home with us.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Clifton, Of course it still matters but the issue of apostolic succession, amongst Anglo-Catholics, though not all Anglicans, was dealt with from 1929, with the "Dutch touch", the presence of Old Catholics at ordinations.
People like Abp Ramsay, doubtful of the acceptance of his Anglican episcopal ordination remedied this by ordination at the hands of a [renegade] Orthodox bishop.
But as Hepworth points out there are still doubts, serious ones about intentionality.

laicus said...

Archbishop Hepworth makes the point, succinctly, about those coming home: that, even though they were certain before, they will have "a certainty of validity that rests ... on the indisputable certainty of Catholic practice".

Crux Fidelis said...

Hepburn was an ordained Catholic priest who left the church to become an Anglican. Was he re-ordained when he became an Anglican?

Crux Fidelis said...

Sorry. That should have been Hepworth not Hepburn. Please edit, Father.

GOR said...

I, too, was of the view that Apostolicae Curae was the “last word” on Anglican Orders – until I started reading Fr. Hunwicke’s blog! I was aware of the Old Catholic bishops’ involvement in Anglican Episcopal ordinations post-Vatican I, but understood that this was in regards to just ‘some’ Anglican Episcopal ordinations. Accordingly I believed that some Anglican episcopal and priestly ordinations would have been valid. But how many, and which…?

Then Fr. Hunwicke brought up the “Dutch Touch”, whereby schismatic Dutch bishops (with valid orders, of course)participated in Anglican ordinations beginning in 1933 (go to Fr. Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes blog and do a search on “Dutch Touch” for details on this ).

That puts things in a very different light and could not have been foreseen by Apostolicae Curae. So, just saying: “we have Apostolicae Curae, end of discussion” will not do any more. Matters have become more complicated. I agree with Fr. Clifton that proper ‘Matter and Form’ are still requirements, as they are for all Sacraments. And while the Church will need some assurance of the validity of Orders – and conditional ordination may be the only solution here – every effort should be made to facilitate the entry of Anglican priests into full communion with Rome, with pastoral concern and fraternal charity.

But even if ordinations were to be absolute, that should not be seen as a stumbling block, as Pastor in Valle commented on Fr. Hunwicke’s blog: “Better to accept ordination, even if given in absolute form — one may always accept it conditionally (a matter recently acknowledged by a theologian of my acquaintance).”

The Holy Father has opened wide the door. Let’s not narrow the entrance.

Richard said...

Is it not correct that the new (post-VatII) Catholic rite of consecration of bishops is much closer to the Anglican one? So once the Old Catholic validity is brought in it is much easier to argue for continuing legitimacy from the point of view of the rite.

Indeed I've heard it argued (I don't know whether validly) that the format of the current Catholic Rite wouldn't pass the tests in Apostolicae Curae.

However intention is also crucial - there is no doubt about the validity of Catholic consecrations because of the Church's clear intention. The same cannot be said of the Anglicans.

One other question - are the Old Catholic orders still valid? I was told that they changed their rite of consecration in the early 20th century and that their validity is therefore also questionable. But I can't find anything on that.

Dominic Mary said...

Ultimately Cardinal Hume's remarks are the vital ones. Yes, there are Anglicans who, via the 'Dutch Touch' are in valid Orders within the Apostolic Succession : but there are then questions of rite, and intention, which several people have noted.

What the good Cardinal said was that 'There are many complex factors which would need to be verified in each case' - and I think it really boils down to that : there is no single, simple, solution to this one - as well as the mainstream Dutch Touch line, there are other Anglicans who have been reordained (sub conditio or otherwise) by various people whose Orders are incontestably valid and who have then participated in Anglican ordinations . . .

Sorting out the maze of factors for every convert priest would be a nightmare, and often impossible - hence conditional re-ordination is the prudent AND charitable course.

William said...

Father, as I suspect I may be the "friend of a friend" to whom you refer, may I thank you for linking to Abp Hepworth's Pastoral Letter (of which I was previously unaware).

One of my colleagues wrote an article some time ago in which he said something to the effect that he would gladly submit to being conditionally re-ordained once a week for the rest of his life (an absurd idea, of course, but one intended to illustrate a point) if that was what it would take to end the unhappy separation of the CofE from the Holy See; but that he could not, while believing in his present orders, submit to absolute re-ordination.

That is very much my position – one based, not on arrogant rejection of (perfectly proper) concerns for certainty of validity, nor on feelings of pique that one's previous ministry may not be being valued sufficiently, but on respect for the catholic teaching that the sacrament cannot be repeated without sacrilege. Indeed, for those Anglican clergy who believe in their own orders, to accept re-ordination in absolute form is surely to intend to participate in an act of sacrilege – which, quite apart from any other considerations, would seem a most extraordinary way to inaugurate one's new ministry!

In the same way that, at the ablutions, any white particle of dubious origin is not casually brushed off on to the floor lest it may be the Blessed Sacrament, similar care should surely be taken to avoid even a slight risk of sacrilege in the Sacrament of Holy Order. I have yet to be convinced that that risk can be avoided where (re-)ordination is conferred absolutely. (Pastor in Valle's hypothesis, referenced above by GOR, is interesting but not, so far as I know, mainstream or widely accepted.) As Dominic Mary says above, conditional re-ordination is prudent as well as charitable.

Maurice said...

The test of Orders is not about 'Dutch Touch' bishops sharing in a non-Catholic act but about being in Communion. If you're not ordained by a bishop (or bishops) in communion with Rome or Orthodoxy then you're not a priest as far as Rome or Orthodoxy understands priesthood - regardless of the 'magic' of supposedly validly ordained bishops. You can't have orders exisiting outside of communion. It's blatant nonsense. Mr Humnwicke wants his cake and eat it, I'm afraid.

Lee Gilbert said...

Conditional re-ordination would clear up problems of conscience for both the priests AND the laity. Who would want to receive the eucharist from or confess his sins to a priest about whom there was the least doubt?

And unless ALL the incoming Anglican priests are conditionally ordained, there will be doubts, will there not?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr William,
You might well be that Anglican Priest, I feel deeply for you and admire your theological sensitivities.

I can only suggest that the situation following AC is slightly different than previously, in that the lawgiver is quite aware that there are are many men in your situation, hauled to the shore in Peter's net. The law is set to accomodate the majority, where there is a question of validity, not the minority where conditional ordination might be more appropriate.
Is it not reasonable to understand that a just lawgiver assumes people like you are free to assume their Catholic ordination is actually conditional.

Is your problem that you are interpreting a Latin law in a very Anglo-Saxon way?

Joe C said...

If the "intention to do what the Church intends" is necessary for Holy Orders to be conferred, then is there a risk that some ordinations carried out by liberal/unorthodox Catholic bishops may also not be valid, on the basis that they have an unorthodox understanding of the priesthood?

Independent said...

I understand that according to St Cyprian orders are the act of the Church and cannot be conveyed outside it. In following him some Orthodox declare that all orders outside their communion are invalid, except when taking into account the principle of economy (this would seem to be like ecclesia supplet). However following St Augustine the Catholic Church has recognised orders properly conveyed following the correct criteria conveyed outsie her limits as valid but irregular.

On Anglican orders epecifically oddly enough Wikipedia has quite a good article on Apostolicae Curae.

Henry VII and his marital troubles, not uncommon in Europe at that time,is quite irrelevant to the discussion as during the reign of Mary his acts were all repealed. The Church of England still depends upon the Elizabethan Settlement.

Gregory Dix ,who wrote an excellent defence of Anglican orders, nevertheless pointed out that if the C of E took part in some pan-Protestant schemes it would be impossible to continue belief in a correct intention.
Older Anglican clergy like Fr Hunwicke ordained by Bishops themselves having co-consecrating Old Cathlic Bishops well before the modern unity schemes with Scandavian Lutherans, can no doubt defend their orders, but one must have strong doubts about the orders conveyed by Anglican bishops who have purported to ordain women and who acknowledge Lutheran pastors as an equivalwnt ministry. However the older Anglican clergy will not be around for ever.

laicus said...

Fr William,
Thank you for your sincere and very moving remarks.

Whether what is eventually decided from within the gates proves to be conditional or absolute ordination, what (I diffidently ask) do you think is God's will for those who apart from that aspect would come in?

You may think me too dogmatic for saying so, but I am sure that He doesn't wish you (and those of a similar mind to you) to stay outside those wide-opened gates disputing the welcomer's authority to decide.

laicus said...

I meant, of course "...who, accepting all Rome's conditions (Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example) except the ordination factor" would apart from that one aspect come in.

Independent said...

Are Latin laws not to be interpreted in an Anglo-Saxon way? Do you enviseage Father Blake that an attitude should be taken akin to that of France or Italy facted with a European Union regulation?

Richard said...

Maurice, that is (I think) the Orthodox view of Orders, but it is not the Catholic one. The Catholic Church has a concept of "valid but irregular" orders.

The most obvious example of this at the moment is the SSPX - priests ordained since its split with Rome are still considered validly ordained, and their Masses are valid.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am noty sur what you understand by "an attitude ... akin to that of France or Italy facted with a European Union regulation".

A Latin understanding would be interpretting Law according to the mind of a benign lawgiver who desires the common good, as opposed to individual case law.

It is the Latin understanding the Pope is urging us towards in the "hermeneutic of continuity": following the teaching of VII according to the mind of the Church, as opposed to the letter of individual statements.

Independent said...

Of course I meant faced not facted- please forgive my typing error. The Anglo-Saxon view of law seems to be that the words mean what they say, nothing more and nothing less. This would hold for Vi and Vii - although in each case "the spirit of" and "the mind of the church" - both undefined entities, rather obfuscates the issue.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not sure the words do mean what the say, they mean to a greater or lesser degree what the context as whole intends them mean.

Richard said...


I'm not a Canon Lawyer, and I would be very interested if one would comment here. But my understanding as a civil lawyer is that the method of interpretation proper to Roman canon law is much closer to the European approach of the European Court of Justice than it is to the "anglo-saxon" common law approach.

Canon law, from what I have seen of it, is much more influenced by context, and over-riding princples, than our English law.

George said...

Seems that all 'the problems', stumbling blocks and obstacles are of their own (Anglican) making. They cannot accept this or that etc... already talking like cafeteria catholics.

The Holy Father has opened the doors - the Catholic rules are very clear. You either abide fully and 'swim the Tiber' or take a while longer to pray, listen and discern that calling and 'tugging at the heart and soul'.

It's incredible to contemplate that Jesus never gives up seeking out His 'lost lambs', not until he has found and saved the very last will He ever stop knocking on the doors of our hearts.

One thing you can be sure of is that 'the Rock of Peter' will always remain steadfast and solid whatever the season, whatever the flavour of the day, whatever the spirit of the times. Despite all the attacks of the 'enemy' in so many ways over 20 centuries the Magisterium remains intact and Jesus remains with His Church - the ONLY Church He ever founded - the CATHOLIC Church.

That's what makes our Glorious Catholic Faith so exciting and so attractive to anyone who is genuinely seeking the Truth!

Diane Korzeniewski said...

Wow. Glad I stopped in - this was interesting.

Rob Z said...

Glad I stopped by here, too. I'm an American Episcopalian. One comment here seems more ultra-montanist and nit picky than the next. If I became an RC this is what I would have to deal with. ER ... no thanks.

George said...

Rob Z calls us 'ultra-montanists'!!

Oh really???

Surely all those in communion with the Pope (ie ALL Catholics) accept his supremacy.

To be honest Rob Z stick to being Episcopelian - that way you do not have to accept any other supremacy but your own. I can hear those whispers again.... 'ye will be like gods'.....

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...