Thursday, September 23, 2010
On the Validity of Holy Orders in the Reformed Episcopal Church
Republished in reference to an ongoing conversation at The Continuum blog:
The only cogent arguments I have ever encountered opposing the sacramental validity of REC Orders have been developed from the autobiographical writings of Bishop Charles C. Grafton of Fon du Lac, a great Saint of the Church, who maintained REC Orders were absolutely invalid based on defective ministerial intention. PECUSA as a whole opposed the said Orders on canonical grounds at Lambeth Conference 1888 but did not seem to have very compelling arguments from a sacramentological point of view. The arguments then put forth have more to do with Bishop Cheney's PECUSA deposition from Holy Orders and his solus consecration at the hands of Bishop Cummins than from any defective liturgical and theological position. Bishop Grafton held that the REC's 1873 changes made to the Anglican Ordinal, in which all references to the word 'Priest' and all statements affirming the conveyance of the Holy Ghost through the imposition of hands were purportedly expunged, rendered the REC Ordination rite incapable of validly conferring the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Hence the liturgical changes purportedly demonstrated and manifested a defective intention regarding the Sacrament. Bishop Grafton's line of argument is virtually identical to that of Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae (1896) and thus seems extremely dangerous indeed for any Anglican to use. By so invalidating REC Orders with such an approach, we hazard the danger of declaring our own Orders invalid, or so warned the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their Response to the Pope in 1897 concerning Rome's position vis-a-vis Anglicanism.
I am not an expert sacramentologist: but I am a committed Anglican Catholic, a bishop of the Society of the Holy Cross, who believes in the Seven Sacraments, the Real Objective Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Catholic Sacramental Priesthood, and who also believes that the episcopal orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church are valid. To take one precedent from our Anglo-Catholic side of things, the saintly Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King, held, as I do, that the sacramental orders of the REC are 'valid but irregular.' The following reflections were written some time ago precisely in order to address the concerns which have been raised. You may find my line of thinking thoroughly unconvincing, but I have tried very diligently to apply only the most orthodox standards of Catholic sacramental theology to this controverted question. In the following words I assert that indeed the necessary minimal intention of 'doing what the Church does' is in fact what is exactly present in the REC transmission of Holy Orders. Please bear with me.
The episcopate of the Reformed Episcopal Church depends for its sacramental validity upon those same five components which are necessary for any valid consecration and ordination: proper minister, matter, form, subject and intention. The necessary intention for a valid ordination is, simply, 'generally to do what the Church does.' This is not to intend what the Church intends, but to do what the Church does, i.e., ordain. This general intention suffices, even if the minister and the subject hold to an heretical doctrine of the sacrament being conferred. So long as one intends seriously to perform and receive the rite of ordination, that is, seriously to perform the Christian rite however understood, the intention is valid for the administration of the sacrament. So long as one merely intends to do what Our Lord Jesus Christ or the true Church do in Ordination (even in opposition to the Catholic Church's actual doctrine), such an ordination is valid, even if heretical views are maintained on ordination itself. Heretical views on the sacrament of order do not invalidate ordination, just as heretical views on baptism do not invalidate baptism (see the decision of the Roman Holy Office on Oceanic Methodist Baptisms 1872). This position is precisely the position Saint Augustine of Hippo took against the Donatist schism, and it has been the general and authoritative teaching of the Western Church since the fourth century. Saint Thomas Aquinas echoes this teaching in the Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 38, Second Article. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine defends this very point in his On the Sacraments In General I.21. Those who dissent from the Catholic Church can validly baptise and ordain, even if they hold doctrines on these very sacraments themselves at odds with the Church, as long as the Church's basic rule on baptism and order is preserved.
For the purposes of this discussion, I shall leave aside the debate on the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of the Declaration of Principles of the REC. It may suffice to say that its teachings regarding the Real Objective Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Christian sacerdotium are not in accord with the received Tradition of the ancient and undivided Catholic Church. Its orthodoxy or otherwise, however, does not affect the substance of the argument I here present - for this reason. It is the rite that matters, not the internal belief or error of the celebrant. Sacramental intention, for Anglicans at least, is usually understood as external or exterior intention, which is manifested ritually, in the liturgical rite used for the administration of the sacrament. Internal intention or personal intention are not usually brought into the discussion because it is impossible to determine in any given case what the personal or interior intention of the minister of a sacrament is. If the sacraments depend on the personal orthodoxy or right belief or interior disposition of the minister, no sacrament could ever be held to have a moral certainty of validity, as one could never determine such a needful state in the mind or heart of the bishop or priest in question. Sacraments are by nature ecclesial, ecclesiastical, and this is particularly the case with ordination.
Sacraments belong to the Holy Catholic Church. What matters is the Church's intention. The necessary intention of the Church, and of the minister who functions publicly as the agent, officer and representative of the Church, is put forward in the Church's official rite, the matter and form, used for the conferral of the sacrament. On the basis of these principles, the episcopate of the Reformed Episcopal Church is valid from 1873 forward. As long as the proper matter and form of ordination remain, prayer with the laying-on-of-hands for the conferral of the particular order, with the intention to ordain a baptised man as a bishop, priest, or deacon, changes to the rite of ordination do not and cannot void the sacrament on the basis of defective intention. Otherwise, Pope Leo XIII and Apostolicae Curae (1896) are right, and all Anglican Orders were invalidated by the changes Archbishop Cranmer made to the Pontificale Romanum in the construction of the 1550 Anglican Ordinal.
Let us look at the original reformed Ordinal used for the consecration of Reformed Episcopal bishops from the 1870's -
It is, in fact, a very slightly altered version of the 1662 English Ordinal. It is virtually identical to the 1789 American version. It clearly identifies the Order of Bishop as that being conferred. It includes the traditional collect for the Eucharist of episcopal consecration. The traditional lessons clearly refer to the episcopate, Acts 20.17ff and St John 21.15ff or St Matthew 28.18ff. The Litany invokes the grace of God upon the consecrand for the Office of Bishop, 'our Brother.' The collect at the end of the Litany prays for the one 'called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop.' The vows unambiguously charge the candidate with episcopal authority and oversight. The Veni Creator Spiritus is sung over the consecrand, invoking the Holy Ghost upon him. The Prayer of Ordination before the imposition of hands is the 1662 English version, replete with its prayer for grace for the candidate. The imposition of hands is accompanied with the formula: 'Take thou Authority to execute the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God now committed unto thee...' This change is the only major alteration in the Consecration Service and is modelled on the alternative formula for the ordination of priests in the American Ordinal. The final prayers are exactly the same as those found in the Anglican Ordinal.
What does this all mean?
1. Proper matter: imposition of hands is the matter of the Reformed Episcopal Ordinal.
2. Proper form: prayer for the grace of the episcopate is found throughout the Ordinal and suffices for validity; the formula at the imposition of hands fixes the intention of the rite as the transmission of the authority and office of the episcopate.
3. Proper minister: undoubted bishops in the Anglican line of succession, beginning with Bishop George David Cummins of Kentucky, have always presided at consecrations in this rite. One bishop in apostolic succession is required for validity, three for regularity.
4. Proper subject: the original REC bishops were episcopally-ordained priests; however, per saltum ('by a leap') consecrations are valid. Even if the candidate were not himself a priest, he would still receive the character of the episcopate with this rite. Per saltum consecrations are valid but irregular, and were actually administered by the Church of England to titular Scottish bishops in 1610. The Lambeth Conference of 1908 recommended per saltum consecration as the way by which to introduce episcopacy into non-episcopal bodies.
5. Proper intention: the intention of the Ordinal in question is to consecrate a Bishop in the Church of God. That is all that is necessary.
The original presence of Bishop G. Cummins alone as sole consecrator does not affect validity; the hierarchies of both the Polish National Catholic Church and the entire Old Catholic Union of Utrecht originated from solus consecrations and are regarded as valid by Rome. The presence of and imposition of hands by non-episcopally ordained ministers or episcopally-ordained priests in the consecration of REC bishops also do not affect validity, as long as the consecrator himself is in valid episcopal orders. Bishop Cummins's public statements at and before the consecration of Bishop Cheney, by which he personally asserted a 'low' view of the episcopate, a bene esse view, do not render his sacramental acts invalid. By following the Ordinal described above, he clearly intended to confer the episcopate of the Church of God, and that is all that is necessary.
As Dr John Wordsworth writes: 'The "Sacrament of Order" requires laying-on-of-hands, with prayer suitable to the office conferred, and with a general intention of making a man what the Church intends as a Bishop, Priest or Deacon. We hold that such an Ordination conferred by a Bishop, as sole or chief minister, who has been himself so ordained, even if he is a heretic, is valid and cannot be reiterated without sacrilege.' A stricter requirement than this in the matter of intention would be contrary to the main theological tradition of Western Christendom and might involve difficulty concerning earlier ordinations in history. Such has been the formal position of the Church of England for the duration of her history.
In fine, it is my prudent judgement that neither the American Report of the House of Bishops 1888, the Lambeth Conference of 1888, nor Bishop Charles C. Grafton of Fon du Lac were fully and sufficiently informed on this subject. And that is exactly the prudent judgement of Bishop Frank Wilson of Eau Claire in his 1941 report affirming the validity of the Reformed Episcopal episcopate. I firmly believe Bishop Wilson, himself a faithful Anglican Catholic, was correct.
Let us avoid the nineteenth-century scholastic mistake of judging the validity of Orders on the primary basis of the orthodoxy of formularies, what Leo XIII called the 'native spirit' of a church. REC Orders are valid in spite of the heresy of the Declaration, just as our Orders are valid in spite of heresies held by some sixteenth and seventeenth century Anglicans. Were that not so, Apostolicae Curae would be right and we would all be laymen. We must be very careful not to take the very theological paradigm used by Rome to condemn Anglican Orders and then turn around and apply that same paradigm to other Churches whose theology we correctly find erroneous but which have preserved in its substance the Apostolic Ministry. By doing that, we could hazard the same indictment of Pope Leo, who was admonished by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their 1897 Reply to Apostolicae Curae, Saepius Officio: 'Thus in overthrowing our orders, he overthrows all his own, and pronounces sentence on his own Church.'
The Church of England in her official formularies never formally attempted to redefine the nature or the meaning of the Threefold Apostolic Ministry, save for the fact that the Preface to the Ordinal and the ordination rites themselves sought to clarify the original, that is, the primitive and apostolic, character of Holy Orders and to re-express a more bibliodidactic and pastoral role for the Sacred Ministry. Certainly the situation in 1873 with the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church is not an exact parallel of the English Reformation, although one must point out that many divines and churchmen in sixteenth and seventeenth century Anglicanism clearly held to views similar if not identical to those espoused by the founders of the REC. It was on that very basis that the REC organisers could claim they were continuing and restoring the principles of the English Reformation. At one early stage, the Edwardine, 1547-1553, the Church of England was spared something like the Declaration of Principles because of the interplay between the Monarchy and Church authorities, not to mention the untimely death of King Edward VI which brought the protestant campaign to an end with the accession of Mary Tudor. By the time of Blessed King Charles I and Blessed Archbishop Laud, general Anglican views, having passed through the Settlement and the refinement of the Elizabethan age, had moderated from those held by the protestantising bishops and divines who had inaugurated the Reformation in England almost two generations before. Surely we were rescued by the Caroline Divines from the more extreme protestant views which would come to define only a party within Anglicanism, and not the whole.
However, the entire point of my submission is this: even if the REC Declaration of Principles radically redefines the meaning of Holy Order by its revision of essential doctrines, most particularly the doctrines of the Real Presence, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic oblation and the sacerdotal nature of the Apostolic Ministry, nevertheless, so long as the REC retains the minimal intention to ordain Sacred Ministers, bishops, presbyters and deacons, in conformity to the mind of Our Blessed Lord and the New Testament Church, such Orders are sacramentally valid ex opere operato, on the basis of the promise and institution of Christ. So long as one intends to ordain according to the teaching of Holy Scripture, the institution of Our Lord and the practice of the Apostolic Church, with proper laying-on-of-hands and prayer, the ordination is valid, even if the minister and subject have totally misunderstood what Our Lord, the Scriptures and the earliest Church have given and instituted concerning ordination. The original consecrators in the REC episcopate believed that they were making genuine bishops, presbyters and deacons according to the true mind of Christ and His Church, and deliberately employed a rite which the Anglican Communion herself has used essentially unchanged since 1550. That minimal intention, expressed liturgically and ritually, suffices for validity. Where proper form, matter, minister and subject are present, the Church, as I understand it, has always presumed in favour of proper intention. Therefore the onus of responsibility for adjudging such orders invalid would fall on those who reject them; one must then prove theologically that a proper and necessary minimal intention was not present, and that would be very difficult to achieve. Defect of form and defect of intention are so closely bound together in the organic unity of sacramental action that it is difficult to separate them. Leo XIII tried, and, I think, failed. There is a moral unity in any sacramental rite.
The principles of sacramental theology which I have attempted to postulate would supply that a necessary sacramental intention is a remarkably easy, uncomplicated and direct element in the administration of the sacraments. A minister of ordination would have to try extremely hard or be mind-numbingly negligent to lack the necessary minimal intention. Regarding ordination, the only way to lack such an intention 'generally to do what the Church does' would be to form, liturgically and personally, a clear intention not to ordain. A purposed intention not to ordain, such as in play, jest or mockery, would be the only radical denial which could eradicate necessary sacramental intention.
I recommend that one consult Dr RD Fenwick's magisterial work The Free Church of England. Originally, the Church of England accepted the validity of REC Orders, at least in theory. In 1878 a Convocation was established to examine the question of Reformed Episcopal Orders. In 1879, the Counsel of the Convocation advised the Archbishop Tait of Canterbury, that 'the orders conferred by Bishops Gregg and Toke [of the REC] are as undoubtedly valid as any conferred by your Grace.' This was the legal opinion given to the episcopal committee of the Church of England, which was later challenged by the American Bishops. On 5th April 1885, Bishop Richardson of the REC wrote to Archbishop Benson of Canterbury claiming that REC Orders had been acknowledged as valid by no less a figure than Dr Pusey. It is true that in a letter of 8th February 1882, Dr Pusey had referred to Bishop Gregg as a 'Bishop'. Bishop Edward King of Lincoln acknowledged the validity of REC Orders as well. The expert legal opinion that REC Orders were 'valid but irregular' ran counter to the American desire, plainly political, to see the REC mitigated as a potential influence over the evangelical wing of PECUSA. Eventually an American Memorandum rejecting REC Orders as null and void was considered and entered into the record by the Lambeth Conference 1888.
However, on 20th July 1886, the Dean of the Court of Arches, Sir Walter Phillimore, issued a legal opinion on behalf of the Bishop of Bath and Wells stating that REC Orders were 'valid though irregularly and improperly conferred.' The Church of England did not officially decide to administer absolute ordination to former REC ministers until after the submission of the 1888 American judgement. To maintain the unity of the Anglican episcopate, the Church of England from henceforth followed the American lead on the subject. As late as 1891, Archbishop Benson was unsure of what course of action to take with former REC clergy; he could not decide if REC Orders were valid or not - he clearly did not want to reiterate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, hesitating to administer absolute ordination in the case of REC ministers. Finally Archbishop Benson stated that the re-ordination of REC ministers was 'a matter on which each Bishop exercises his own discretion.' In order not to rile Rome on one hand, which at the time was busily examining the validity of Anglican Orders and the legitimacy of the Anglican episcopate in dialogue with Lord Halifax and the Anglo-Catholic constituency, and PECUSA on the other, which was threatened by the existence of a new rival church, the Church of England determined to maintain solidarity with the American Church rather than introduce a dispute that could undermine the unity of the Lambeth Conference.
The conclusions I have presented are based squarely on the premises which I have provided; of course, one would have to accept deductively the premises here given to arrive at the same conclusion I have discovered.
Catholic Anglicans certainly want, and should assert, the necessity of maintaining an orthodox doctrine on the sacramental eucharistic priesthood, or if you will, the sacrificing priesthood, and of the anamnetic re-presentation of Our Lord's one perfect offering of Himself in the eucharistic sacrifice. The said doctrines are integral to an authentic and biblical understanding of the sacramental system given to us by Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles. Having come through the Tractarian Revival, we Catholics clearly see the need to emphasise afresh these key catholic doctrines of the Church and the sacramental life. However, to insist that the orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church are invalid because it lapsed into error regarding the nature of the sacerdotal priesthood and the objective sacrificial character of the Mass is precisely to invoke the argument and the theological matrix of Apostolicae Curae of Pope Leo XIII.
I believe this is extremely dangerous territory for Anglicans to tread upon. Our orders were condemned by Rome in 1896 specifically because the Vatican held that the construction of the Anglican Ordinal and the ethos of the Anglican Church in which it was and is used construes an invalidating defect - by rejection of the very same dogmatic realities which the REC rejected. By using the argument of Apostolicae Curae to reject as invalid REC orders is to demonstrate, by logical extension, the possibility that our own orders are invalid. Is Rome right when she says that the Anglican Ordinal is defective because it removes all reference to the power of offering and consecrating the true Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharistic sacrifice? We should say absolutely not! But then, if this standard cannot apply to us, then it cannot apply to the REC either. Pope Leo XIII would have us believe that the Anglican Church rejected the priesthood and the eucharistic sacrifice at the Reformation because it altered its rite of ordination purposely to remove all references to the power of offering sacrifice to God and of transforming the Eucharistic oblation into Our Lord's Body and Blood, and that therefore all orders conferred with the Anglican Ordinal are not the orders of the Catholic Church, although the titles of bishop, priest and deacon are used for the three orders of the Anglican hierarchy. Rome officially holds that all orders ever conferred by the Edwardine Ordinal of 1550, and amended in 1662, are always and everywhere invalid because of defect of intention and defect of form, based upon the supposed anti-sacerdotal 'native spirit' of Anglicanism. This is exactly what some say about the REC. But if it can be said of the REC, then, saith Rome, it can be said of us as well, and we all fall equally under the judgement of 1896.
We may vociferously disagree with the Roman assessment that the rite of ordination, in order validly to confer the grace of Holy Order, must make explicit reference to the power of the sacerdotium to offer the eucharistic sacrifice, and well we should, as Saepius Officio brilliantly points out, taking the examples of the earliest patristic Western ordination rites and the catechism and rites of the Eastern Churches. If we are correct in our judgement about Apostolicae Curae, then we should conclude that if the REC uses the Anglican rite of ordination without substantial change, it possesses by virtue of the liturgy, exterior and ecclesiastical intention, thus employed, the intention of the Anglican Church in the conferral of Holy Orders. The private intentions of the ordaining and ordained, even expressed on paper by the Declaration of Principles, would not override the intention of the Anglican Ordinal, and thus the intention of the Church, used for the administration of the sacrament.
This debate brings to mind the words of Apostolicae Curae: '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 or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power "of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord" in that sacrifice which is no "bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross"'. Anglicans have always said that it is not the power of eucharistic consecration and offering which must be explicitly signified in the sacramental action of ordination (the porrectio instrumentorum or the anointing with chrism), but the grace of the Holy Ghost for the office and work of the priesthood which is of necessity. The Eastern ordination rites lack any explicit gesture signifying the power to offer sacrifice. The grace of the sacrament, the Holy Ghost Himself, is signified by the laying-on-of-hands and prayer for grace and for the conferral of the order in question, and the Anglican Ordinal does exactly this. But so does the rite used by the REC.
Now one may say, 'but the REC deliberately rejected the sacramental character and grace of Holy Order.' Yes, that is true to the extent that the Declaration repudiated any special grace or character in the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but the rite the REC has consistently used prays for such grace and signifies the communication of such grace with the proper sacramental sign. In other words, the grace of Apostolic Succession is given even if the ordaining prelate and ordained subject do not accurately or rightly believe in this particular grace, because the liturgical rite objectively acts to confer the grace, bringing to bear with it the intention of the Church. All the sacraments act thus according to the 'working of the work,' ex opere operato.
Otherwise we could never know with moral certainty if any given ordinations in any church have ever been valid. In 1872, the Roman Holy Office affirmed that Methodist Baptisms administered in Oceania are valid, even when the minister publicly preaches at the service itself that there is no grace of regeneration in Baptism, because the proper matter and form are used and they suffice to fix the necessary intention of the Church in the sacramental act. Baptism is valid, even in ecclesial bodies which publicly and officially deny baptismal regeneration, because the intention of the Church is supplied when the proper matter and form are used. If this applies to Baptism, it must also apply to ordination. Ordination is valid, even in Churches which publicly and officially deny the grace of sacerdotium, because the intention of the Church is supplied when the proper matter and form are used. Heretical views on the sacrament of order do not invalidate ordination, just as heretical views on baptism do not invalidate baptism. Historic REC teaching and thinking on the subject of orders is probably just as muddled and confused as that held by some Anglicans during and after the Reformation, but because of the safeguard of the ordination rites held in common within Anglicanism, these problems do not jeopardise validity unless the rites themselves are voided of necessary matter and form. I confidently assert that that has not happened in the REC.
Theological Outlines by Rev. Dr. Francis J. Hall:
'The intention of a Sacrament is always the intention of Christ and His Church, unless the matter and form are so employed as visibly to exclude such intention, in which case the Sacrament is altogether invalid.'
The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology by Dr. C. B. Moss
Intention of Ordination
The intention of ordination is that the bishop ordaining or consecrating intends to admit the candidate to one of the three Holy Orders of the Catholic Church. It is not necessary that his personal belief about the functions of those who are ordained should be orthodox; nor is the internal intention necessary, for if it were, we could never be certain that anyone was rightly ordained. (In Spain in the fifteenth century there were many bishops who were secretly Jews; the notorious Bishop Talleyrand, afterwards Napoleon's minister, was an open unbeliever, but those whom such men ordained were held to be validly ordained.)
I shall add these points, just for my own clarification...
An important note - the Anglican Church in America has affiliated with the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas, which was co-founded by the REC and APA. The ACA's membership in FACA constitutes full communicatio in sacris with the Reformed Episcopal Church and thus the recognition of the validity of REC Orders. So it is now inaccurate to say that the APA alone of the Continuing Churches recognises the sacramental order and ministry of the REC. The ACA has now definitively decided in favour of the APA position on this matter.
Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae explicitly states that the Anglican Ordinal itself possesses an 'anti-intention' because of its claimed protestant origin, which contains, as he puts it, an 'anti-sacerdotal signification.' On the basis of purported defect of intention, orders conferred with the Anglican Ordinal are always held by the Roman Church to be invalid. If one too rigidly defines the meaning of 'generally doing what the Church does,' then one has moved from that Augustinian theological axiom to a theological novum, one which is not necessary to the valid administration of a sacrament, to wit, to 'intend what the church intends.' It is exactly this view which is being postulated by some Anglo-Catholics, i.e., to have valid orders a church must not only do what the Church does, but must also intend what the Church intends. Such a definition steps beyond the traditional Western Augustinian theological method and moves into the Eastern and Cyprianic view of sacramental validity. That is fine, of course, if one wishes to so define the meaning of sacramental intention, but that is not the classical Anglican approach to the subject.
Moving from the minimalist view of doing what the Church does, a view held throughout the Western Church, into something more stringent or strictly defined, puts us exactly where Pope Leo wants us to be. Dr E. J. Bicknell reminds us that Anglican Orders are valid simply because the Anglican Church generally intends to do in ordination what Our Lord, the Apostles and the New Testament Church instituted, nothing more, nothing less. That can certainly be said of the REC, no matter how imprecisely the REC expresses that view or how imperfectly she has grasped the objective truth of it in the course of history.
The intention to do what the Church does in ordination exists even in ecclesial bodies which lack apostolic succession. They do not have valid orders, not because of defect of intention, but defect of minister, for only a bishop can validly ordain. The case could be strongly made that even classical Lutheran and calvinist ministries intend themselves to be true manifestations of the Office and Ministry of the Apostles. Such a general intention is all that is necessary for valid ordination.
Otherwise, to come full circle, we Anglicans have used Apostolicae Curae against ourselves. The sacraments always convey what they symbolise, ex opere operato, in the serious performance of the matter and form, with the deliberate intention of doing what the Church does in a general sense. In this case of ordination, it is 'ordination.' The minister and subject do not even have to intend to produce the objective grace or effect of the sacrament; they must only intend, in a general way, to do what the Church understands as 'ordination.' To demand anything beyond that is, for Anglicans at least, to confirm that Leo XIII is right.
The imposition of too rigid views on the validity of orders runs the risk of undoing the theology that has underpinned an Anglican understanding of the validity of orders since the sixteenth century.
The Catholic Church has always said that so long as proper matter and form are used in the administration of sacramental ordination, and proper liturgical expression is given to the sacramental act in question, the sacrament is valid, even if those who convey and receive it are heretics, not just heretics on Christology or Trinitarian theology, but heretics even on the question of Holy Orders itself. The only way ordination can be rendered invalid by way of intention is if an ecclesial body purposefully frames rites of ordination which clearly intend not to ordain to the three sacred Orders of the Catholic Church. That simply cannot be said of the REC Ordinal, which is virtually identical to the 1789 American Ordinal. Sacramental intention is always liturgical exterior intention, the intention of the Catholic Church enshrined in her rites and manifested in her liturgical action, not the private intention of the minister or subject. For that reason REC orders are as valid as those of the Anglican Communion.
I see the REC's historical position as analogous to that of the Church of Sweden and the Church of South India, churches of a more protestant character which nevertheless have transmitted unimpaired the true Apostolic Ministry. The Church of England, in the days of her orthodoxy, recognised the orders of the Swedish Church in 1920 (in the days of Swedish orthodoxy) and those of the CSI in 1955. Surely if the Anglican Communion has recognised those Churches as possessing the sacerdotium in spite of what may be perceived as lower or lesser views of the priesthood, Mass and sacramental system, it can and should do the same for the REC. Even Dr E.L. Mascall would come to our defence in this matter, as he did with the CSI in the 1950's.
The 1941 Report of the Joint Commission on Approaches to Unity of the Episcopal Church led by the Anglo-Catholic Bishop Frank Wilson of Eau Claire declares Reformed Episcopal Orders valid. The 1941 Report unequivocally asserts: 'The Historic Episcopate has been preserved in the Reformed Episcopal Church and the episcopal succession has been carefully maintained from this beginning' and 'Therefore it is now proposed that the Statement to the Lambeth Conference of 1888 should be considered as a significant document of an earlier generation but with no current authority and that it should not be allowed to stand in the way of negotiations looking toward the healing of this particular schism.' In 1960, in the days of its orthodoxy, the Church of England published the findings of its Faith and Order Advisory Group (FOAG) which stated: 'It is clear that the orders of this Church [REC] derive from an Anglican bishop; and that its bishops have been consecrated in due succession and its priests ordained with the use of the Anglican Ordinal, though in a slightly altered form. We cannot regard these alterations as being in themselves sufficient to call into question the validity of the ministry.'
Please join me on The Sacramentalist Podcast as we discuss the validity of Anglican Orders!
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