Decisions had already been given that such orders are invalid. The invariable practice also of the Catholic Church supposed their invalidity, since, whenever clergymen who had received orders in the Anglican Church became converts, and desired to become priests in the Catholic Church, they have been unconditionally ordained. In recent years, however, several members of the clergy and laity of the Anglican Church set forth the plea that the practice of the Catholic Church in insisting on unconditionally ordaining clerical converts from Anglicanism arose from want of due inquiry into the validity of Anglican orders , and from mistaken assumptions which, in the light of certain historical investigations, could not justly be maintained. Those, especially, who were interested in the movement that looked towards Corporate Reunion thought that, as a condition to such reunion, Anglican orders should be accepted as valid by the Catholic Church. A few Catholic writers, also, thinking that there was at least room for doubt, joined with them in seeking a fresh inquiry into the question and an authoritative judgment from the Pope.
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We have dedicated to the welfare of the noble English nation no small portion of the Apostolic care and charity by which, helped by His grace, We endeavour to fulfil the office and follow in the footsteps of "the Great Pastor of the sheep," Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The letter which last year We sent to the English seeking the Kingdom of Christ in the unity of the faith is a special witness of Our good will towards England. And, again, more recently, when it seemed good to Us to treat more fully the unity of the Church in a General Letter, England had not the last place in Our mind, in the hope that Our teaching might both strengthen Catholics and bring the saving light to those divided from us.
It is pleasing to acknowledge the generous way in which Our zeal and plainness of speech, inspired by no mere human motives, have met the approval of the English people, and this testifies not less to their courtesy than to the solicitude of many for their eternal salvation.
With the same mind and intention, We have now determined to turn Our consideration to a matter of no less importance, which is closely connected with the same subject and with Our desires. For an opinion already prevalent, confirmed more than once by the action and constant practice of the Church, maintained that when in England, shortly after it was rent from the centre of Christian Unity, a new rite for conferring Holy Orders was publicly introduced under Edward VI, the true Sacrament of Order as instituted by Christ lapsed, and with it the hierarchical succession.
For some time, however, and in these last years especially, a controversy has sprung up as to whether the Sacred Orders conferred according to the Edwardine Ordinal possessed the nature and effect of a Sacrament, those in favour of the absolute validity, or of a doubtful validity, being not only certain Anglican writers, but some few Catholics, chiefly non-English.
The consideration of the excellency of the Christian priesthood moved Anglican writers in this matter, desirous as they were that their own people should not lack the twofold power over the Body of Christ. Catholic writers were impelled by a wish to smooth the way for the return of Anglicans to holy unity. Both, indeed, thought that in view of studies brought up to the level of recent research, and of new documents rescued from oblivion, it was not inopportune to re-examine the question by Our authority.
And We, not disregarding such desires and opinions, above all, obeying the dictates of apostolic charity, have considered that nothing should be left untried that might in any way tend to preserve souls from injury or procure their advantage.
It has, therefore, pleased Us to graciously permit the cause to be re-examined, so that, through the extreme care taken in the new examination, all doubt, or even shadow of doubt, should be removed for the future.
To this end We commissioned a certain number of men noted for their learning and ability, whose opinions in this matter were known to be divergent, to state the grounds of their judgement in writing. We then, having summoned them to Our person, directed them to interchange writings, and further to investigate and discuss all that was necessary for a full knowledge of the matter.
We were careful, also, that they should be able to re-examine all documents bearing on this question which were known to exist in the Vatican archives, to search for new ones, and even to have at their disposal all acts relating to this subject which are preserved by the Holy Office or, as it is called, the Supreme Council and to consider whatever had up to this time been adduced by learned men on both sides.
We ordered them, when prepared in this way, to meet together in special sessions. These to the number of twelve were held under the presidency of one of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, appointed by Ourself, and all were invited to free discussion.
Finally, We directed that the acts of these meetings, together with all other documents, should be submitted to Our venerable brethren, the Cardinals of the same Council, so that when all had studied the whole subject, and discussed it in Our presence, each might give his own opinion.
This order for discussing the matter having been determined upon, it was necessary, with a view to forming a true estimate of the real state of the question, to enter upon it, after careful inquiry as to how the matter stood in relation to the prescription and settled custom of the Apostolic See, the origin and force of which custom it was undoubtedly of great importance to determine.
For this reason, in the first place, the principal documents in which Our Predecessors, at the request of Queen Mary, exercised their special care for the reconciliation of the English Church were considered.
Thus Julius III sent Cardinal Reginald Pole, an Englishman, and illustrious in many ways, to be his Legate a latere for the purpose, "as his angel of peace and love," and gave him extraordinary and unusual mandates or faculties and directions for his guidance. These Paul IV confirmed and explained. And here, to interpret rightly the force of these documents, it is necessary to lay it down as a fundamental principle that they were certainly not intended to deal with an abstract state of things, but with a specific and concrete issue.
For since the faculties given by these Pontiffs to the Apostolic Legate had reference to England only, and to the state of religion therein, and since the rules of action were laid down by them at the request of the said Legate, they could not have been mere directions for determining the necessary conditions for the validity of ordinations in general. They must pertain directly to providing for Holy Orders in the said kingdom, as the recognised condition of the circumstances and times demanded.
This, besides being clear from the nature and form of the said documents, is also obvious from the fact that it would have been altogether irrelevant thus to instruct the Legate one whose learning had been conspicuous in the Council of Trent as to the conditions necessary for the bestowal of the Sacrament of Order. To all rightly estimating these matters it will not be difficult to understand why, in the Letters of Julius III, issued to the Apostolic Legate on 8 March , there is a distinct mention, first of those who, "rightly and lawfully promoted," might be maintained in their orders: and then of others who, "not promoted to Holy Orders" might "be promoted if they were found to be worthy and fitting subjects".
For it is clearly and definitely noted, as indeed was the case, that there were two classes of men; the first of those who had really received Holy Orders, either before the secession of Henry VIII, or, if after it, and by ministers infected by error and schism, still according to the accustomed Catholic rite; the second, those who were initiated according to the Edwardine Ordinal, who on that account could not be "promoted", since they had received an ordination which was null.
And that the mind of the Pope was this, and nothing else, is clearly confirmed by the letter of the said Legate 29 January , sub-delegating his faculties to the Bishop of Norwich.
Moreover, what the letters of Julius III themselves say about freely using the Pontifical faculties, even on behalf of those who had received their consecration "irregularly minus rite and not according to the accustomed form of the Church," is to be especially noted. By this expression those only could be meant who had been consecrated according to the Edwardine rite, since besides it and the Catholic form there was then no other in England.
This becomes even still clearer when we consider the Legation which, on the advice of Cardinal Pole, the Sovereign Princes, Philip and Mary, sent to the Pope in Rome in the month of February, The Royal Ambassadors three men "most illustrious and endowed with every virtue," of whom one was Thomas Thirlby, Bishop of Ely were charged to inform the Pope more fully as to the religious condition of the country, and especially to beg that he would ratify and confirm what the Legate had been at pains to effect, and had succeeded in effecting, towards the reconciliation of the Kingdom with the Church.
For this purpose, all the necessary written evidence and the pertinent parts of the new Ordinal were submitted to the Pope. The Legation having been splendidly received, and their evidence having been "diligently discussed," by several of the Cardinals, "after mature deliberation," Paul IV issued his Bull Praeclara Charissimi on June 20 of that same year. In this, whilst giving full force and approbation to what Pole had done, it is ordered in the matter of the Ordinations as follows: Those who have been promoted to ecclesiastical Orders.
But who those Bishops not "validly and lawfully ordained" were had been made sufficiently clear by the foregoing documents and the faculties used in the said matter by the Legate; those, namely, who have been promoted to the Episcopate, as others to other Orders, "not according to the accustomed form of the Church," or, as the Legate himself wrote to the Bishop of Norwich, "the form and intention of the Church," not having been observed.
These were certainly those promoted according to the new form of rite, to the examination of which the Cardinals specially deputed had given their careful attention. Neither should the passage much to the point in the same Pontifical Letter be overlooked, where, together with others needing dispensation are enumerated those "who had obtained both Orders as well as benefices nulliter et de facto.
This is specially clear when the word is used in the same way about Orders as about "ecclesiastical benefices". These, by the undoubted teaching of the sacred canons, were clearly null if given with any vitiating defect.
Unless this declaration had applied to the actual case in England, that is to say, to the Edwardine Ordinal, the Pope would certainly have done nothing by this last letter for the removal of doubt and the restoration of peace of conscience. Further, it was in this sense that the Legate understood the documents and commands of the Apostolic See, and duly and conscientiously obeyed them; and the same was done by Queen Mary and the rest who helped to restore Catholicism to its former state.
The authority of Julius III, and of Paul IV, which we have quoted, clearly shows the origin of that practice which has been observed without interruption for more than three centuries, that Ordinations conferred according to the Edwardine rite should be considered null and void. This practice is fully proved by the numerous cases of absolute re-ordination according to the Catholic rite even in Rome.
In the observance of this practice we have a proof directly affecting the matter in hand. For if by any chance doubt should remain as to the true sense in which these Pontifical documents are to be understood, the principle holds good that "Custom is the best interpreter of law. But not only did the Apostolic See tolerate this practice, but approved and sanctioned it as often as any particular case arose which called for its judgement in the matter.
We adduce two cases of this kind out of many which have from time to time been submitted to the Supreme Council of the Holy Office. The first was in of a certain French Calvinist, and the other in of John Clement Gordon, both of whom had received their orders according to the Edwardine ritual.
In the first case, after a searching investigation, the Consultors, not a few in number, gave in writing their answers or as they call it, their vota and the rest unanimously agreed with their conclusion, "for the invalidity of the Ordination," and only on account of reasons of opportuneness did the Cardinals deem it well to answer with a dilata viz. The same documents were called into use and considered again in the examination of the second case, and additional written statements of opinion were also obtained from Consultors, and the most eminent doctors of the Sorbonne and of Douai were likewise asked for their opinion.
No safeguard which wisdom and prudence could suggest to ensure the thorough sifting of the question was neglected. And here it is important to observe that, although Gordon himself, whose case it was, and some of the Consultors, had adduced amongst the reasons which went to prove the invalidity, the Ordination of Parker, according to their own ideas about it, in the delivery of the decision this reason was altogether set aside, as documents of incontestable authenticity prove.
Nor, in pronouncing the decision, was weight given to any other reason than the "defect of form and intention"; and in order that the judgment concerning this form might be more certain and complete, precaution was taken that a copy of the Anglican Ordinal should be submitted to examination, and that with it should be collated the ordination forms gathered together from the various Eastern and Western rites.
Then Clement XI himself, with the unanimous vote of the Cardinals concerned, on Thursday 17 April , decreed: John Clement Gordon shall be ordained from the beginning and unconditionally to all the orders, even Holy Orders, and chiefly of Priesthood, and in case he has not been confirmed, he shall first receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is important to bear in mind that this judgement was in no wise determined by the omission of the tradition of instruments, for in such a case, according to the established custom, the direction would have been to repeat the ordination conditionally, and still more important is it to note that the judgement of the Pontiff applies universally to all Anglican ordinations, because, although it refers to a particular case, it is not based upon any reason special to that case, but upon the defect of form, which defect equally affects all these ordinations, so much so, that when similar cases subsequently came up for decision, the same decree of Clement XI was quoted as the norm.
Hence it must be clear to everyone that the controversy lately revived had already been definitely settled by the Apostolic See, and that it is to the insufficient knowledge of these documents that we must, perhaps, attribute the fact that any Catholic writer should have considered it still an open question. But, as We stated at the beginning, there is nothing we so deeply and ardently desire as to be of help to men of good will by showing them the greatest consideration and charity.
Wherefore, We ordered that the Anglican Ordinal, which is the essential point of the whole matter, should be once more most carefully examined. In the examination of any rite for the effecting and administering of Sacraments, distinction is rightly made between the part which is ceremonial and that which is essential, the latter being usually called the "matter and form".
All know that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, ought both to signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify. Although the signification ought to be found in the whole essential rite, that is to say, in the "matter and form", it still pertains chiefly to the "form"; since the "matter" is the part which is not determined by itself, but which is determined by the "form".
And this appears still more clearly in the Sacrament of Order, the "matter" of which, in so far as we have to consider it in this case, is the imposition of hands, which, indeed, by itself signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confirmation. But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, "Receive the Holy Ghost," certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Order of Priesthood sacerdotium or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power "of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord" Council of Trent, Sess.
XXII, de Sacrif. Missae, Canon 3. This form had, indeed, afterwards added to it the words "for the office and work of a priest," etc; but this rather shows that the Anglicans themselves perceived that the first form was defective and inadequate.
But even if this addition could give to the form its due signification, it was introduced too late, as a century had already elapsed since the adoption of the Edwardine Ordinal, for, as the Hierarchy had become extinct, there remained no power of ordaining. In vain has help been recently sought for the plea of the validity of Anglican Orders from the other prayers of the same Ordinal.
For, to put aside other reasons which show this to be insufficient for the purpose in the Anglican rite, let this argument suffice for all. From them has been deliberately removed whatever sets forth the dignity and office of the priesthood in the Catholic rite. That "form" consequently cannot be considered apt or sufficient for the Sacrament which omits what it ought essentially to signify. The same holds good of episcopal consecration. For to the formula, "Receive the Holy Ghost", not only were the words "for the office and work of a bishop", etc.
Nor is anything gained by quoting the prayer of the preface, "Almighty God", since it, in like manner, has been stripped of the words which denote the summum sacerdotium. It is not relevant to examine here whether the episcopate be a completion of the priesthood, or an order distinct from it; or whether, when bestowed, as they say per saltum, on one who is not a priest, it has or has not its effect.
But the episcopate undoubtedly, by the institution of Christ, most truly belongs to the Sacrament of Order and constitutes the sacerdotium in the highest degree, namely, that which by the teaching of the Holy Fathers and our liturgical customs is called the Summum sacerdotium sacri ministerii summa. So it comes to pass that, as the Sacrament of Order and the true sacerdotium of Christ were utterly eliminated from the Anglican rite, and hence the sacerdotium is in no wise conferred truly and validly in the episcopal consecration of the same rite, for the like reason, therefore, the episcopate can in no wise be truly and validly conferred by it, and this the more so because among the first duties of the episcopate is that of ordaining ministers for the Holy Eucharist and sacrifice.
For the full and accurate understanding of the Anglican Ordinal, besides what We have noted as to some of its parts, there is nothing more pertinent than to consider carefully the circumstances under which it was composed and publicly authorised. It would be tedious to enter into details, nor is it necessary to do so, as the history of that time is sufficiently eloquent as to the animus of the authors of the Ordinal against the Catholic Church; as to the abettors whom they associated with themselves from the heterodox sects; and as to the end they had in view.
Being fully cognisant of the necessary connection between faith and worship, between "the law of believing and the law of praying", under a pretext of returning to the primitive form, they corrupted the Liturgical Order in many ways to suit the errors of the reformers. For this reason, in the whole Ordinal not only is there no clear mention of the sacrifice, of consecration, of the priesthood sacerdotium , and of the power of consecrating and offering sacrifice but, as We have just stated, every trace of these things which had been in such prayers of the Catholic rite as they had not entirely rejected, was deliberately removed and struck out.
In this way, the native character or spirit as it is called of the Ordinal clearly manifests itself. Hence, if, vitiated in its origin, it was wholly insufficient to confer Orders, it was impossible that, in the course of time, it would become sufficient, since no change had taken place. In vain those who, from the time of Charles I, have attempted to hold some kind of sacrifice or of priesthood, have made additions to the Ordinal.
In vain also has been the contention of that small section of the Anglican body formed in recent times that the said Ordinal can be understood and interpreted in a sound and orthodox sense. Such efforts, we affirm, have been, and are, made in vain, and for this reason, that any words in the Anglican Ordinal, as it now is, which lend themselves to ambiguity, cannot be taken in the same sense as they possess in the Catholic rite.
For once a new rite has been initiated in which, as we have seen, the Sacrament of Order is adulterated or denied, and from which all idea of consecration and sacrifice has been rejected, the formula, "Receive the Holy Ghost", no longer holds good, because the Spirit is infused into the soul with the grace of the Sacrament, and so the words "for the office and work of a priest or bishop", and the like no longer hold good, but remain as words without the reality which Christ instituted.
Many of the more shrewd Anglican interpreters of the Ordinal have perceived the force of this argument, and they openly urge it against those who take the Ordinal in a new sense, and vainly attach to the Orders conferred thereby a value and efficacy which they do not possess. By this same argument is refuted the contention of those who think that the prayer, "Almighty God, giver of all good Things", which is found at the beginning of the ritual action, might suffice as a legitimate "form" of Orders, even in the hypothesis that it might be held to be sufficient in a Catholic rite approved by the Church.
With this inherent defect of "form" is joined the defect of "intention" which is equally essential to the Sacrament.
The Church does not judge about the mind and intention, in so far as it is something by its nature internal; but in so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it.
A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do intendisse what the Church does.
On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament.
All these matters have been long and carefully considered by Ourselves and by Our Venerable Brethren, the Judges of the Supreme Council, of whom it has pleased Us to call a special meeting upon the 16th day of July last, the solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They with one accord agreed that the question laid before them had been already adjudicated upon with full knowledge of the Apostolic See, and that this renewed discussion and examination of the issues had only served to bring out more clearly the wisdom and accuracy with which that decision had been made.
Nevertheless, We deemed it well to postpone a decision in order to afford time both to consider whether it would be fitting or expedient that We should make a fresh authoritative declaration upon the matter, and to humbly pray for a fuller measure of divine guidance.
An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church
Leo XIII. According to this view, the required references to the sacrificial priesthood never existed in many ancient Catholic ordination liturgies and also in certain current Eastern-rite ordination liturgies that the Roman Catholic Church considered valid. First, they asserted that the ordination ceremonies in question were biblically valid. They then provided pages of quotations, detailing Roman and Orthodox liturgies that they considered guilty of the same alleged offenses. According to the archbishops, if the ordinations of the bishops and priests in the Anglican churches were invalid then, by the same measure, so must be the ordinations of clergy in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Although it calls itself an apostolic letter, it is sent in the name of Leo XIII Leo episcopus, servus servorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam , and the conclusion is formulated in the first person plural commonly used by the pope. The pope therefore agreed to reexamine the question and remove every doubt. Recalling that a special commission had been formed, the text goes on: "We finally directed the findings of these sessions, together with other documents," to be placed before the cardinals of the Holy Office. Following the introduction, part one gives the history of the question before the present pontificate. Part two studies the Ordinal, which it finds inadequate for the validity of ordination because of a defect of form, which is then interpreted as pointing to a defect of intention. Part four is a pious exhortation to "those who sincerely desire and seek the blessings of Orders and Hierarchy: May they return to the one fold of Christ!
A Critique of Apostolicae Curae
The letter which last year we sent to the English seeking the Kingdom of Christ in the unity of the faith is a special witness of our good will towards England. And, again, more recently, when it seemed good to Us to treat more fully the unity of the Church in a General Letter, England had not the last place in our mind, in the hope that our teaching might both strengthen Catholics and bring the saving light to those divided from us. It is pleasing to acknowledge the generous way in which our zeal and plainness of speech, inspired by no mere human motives, have met the approval of the English people, and this testifies not less to their courtesy than to the solicitude of many for their eternal salvation. With the same mind and intention, we have now determined to turn our consideration to a matter of no less importance, which is closely connected with the same subject and with our desires. For an opinion already prevalent, confirmed more than once by the action and constant practice of the Church, maintained that when in England, shortly after it was rent from the center of Christian Unity, a new rite for conferring Holy Orders was publicly introduced under Edward VI, the true Sacrament of Order as instituted by Christ lapsed, and with it the hierarchical succession. For some time, however, and in these last years especially, a controversy has sprung up as to whether the Sacred Orders conferred according to the Edwardine Ordinal possessed the nature and effect of a Sacrament, those in favor of the absolute validity, or of a doubtful validity, being not only certain Anglican writers, but some few Catholics, chiefly non-English. The consideration of the excellency of the Christian priesthood moved Anglican writers in this matter, desirous as they were that their own people should not lack the twofold power over the Body of Christ.