Monday, October 19, 2009

Notes on Holy Order

It could be argued that Pope Leo XIII was partially prophetic in his declaration of September 1896, in that Holy Orders now conferred in several provinces of the Lambeth Anglican Communion are in many places invalid due to the invalidity of ministers of episcopal consecration and priestly ordination - that is, women who purport to be bishops or men purportedly consecrated to the episcopate by women. In those cases Apostolicae Curae is undoubtedly correct, but not for the reasons identified by the Roman Pontiff. It is not the defect of intention or form, but defect of minister, which renders such ordinations invalid. Subsequent to 1896, all of the world's Anglican bishops, from 1932 in England and 1946 in the USA, have received episcopal consecration in a line from the Old Catholic Churches of the Utrecht Union, which are held by Rome to be undoubtedly valid.

The infusion of Old Catholic Orders, coupled with the use of the 1662 Anglican Ordinal (which Ordinal was not condemned by Apostolicae Curae but in fact was rather asserted by Leo XIII rightly to acknowledge each Order being conferred in each ordination rite), created a situation never envisioned by Leo in the nineteenth century. We should remember it was the 1550 Edwardine Ordinal, not the 1662, which was claimed to have a defect of form. Every living validly-ordained Anglican bishop and priest now possesses Orders from a source that Rome is compelled, at least theoretically, to recognise as valid.

In our own case, Bishop Grundorf was initially consecrated by bishops of the English Matthew Old Catholic line in 1976 before he was conditionally consecrated by Anglican Communion bishops in 1991, thus settling this issue for us permanently. But Apostolicae Curae, it has been said rightly by others, is the second Galileo case, and presents a neo-scholastic theology riddled with inconsistent leaps of logic and largely devoid of patristic sacramental theology, as was amply demonstrated by the Archbishops of England in their Responsio of 1897, Saepius Officio. I for one have moral certainty that Anglican Orders have always been valid since the Reformation: Accipe Spiritum Sanctum!

Even if Apostolicae Curae were correct in its claim of defective form and intention for the Anglican Ordinal, Apostolic Succession undoubtedly was restored with Old Catholic co-consecration, even if the sacramental form utilised by the Old Catholics is not the one identified by Pius XII in 1947. But, of course, I hold Leo XIII was misled and misinformed by some members of his commission and was incorrect in his judgement of 1896. Four of the eight theologians of the 1896 commission held Anglican Orders were valid, but they were ignored principally in favour of Cardinal Vaughn of Westminster, who proposed to the Pope that the condemnation of Anglican Orders would lead to a mass exodus of Anglo-Catholics from the Church of England into the Roman fold. He too was incorrect and misjudged the situation.

All that being said, the position of the APA, the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province of Christ the King and some other Continuing Churches regarding validity of Orders is that of Saint Augustine of Hippo: where valid matter, form, minister, intention and subject are unquestionably found, the ordination in question is valid. This means that as long as male bishops consecrated by male bishops in an unbroken succession ordain male priests and deacons or consecrate other male bishops, using the laying on of hands and prayer for the gift of Holy Orders in a recognisable ordination rite, the Orders are always valid. Thus, we receive in Orders male bishops, priests and deacons from the Episcopal Church or other Lambeth Anglican Communion churches, so long as it can be substantiated that their ordaining prelates were male, consecrated by males.

The 1979 American rite, although certainly leaving much to be desired, is essentially a valid ordination rite and is accepted as valid by the APA, for the 1979rite contains the necessary essentials of ordination.

Usually only in cases where the ordaining bishop's succession is in doubt does the APA require ordination sub conditione. Sacramental intention is actually the simplest of all the necessary requirements for valid ordination, for the only necessary intention is 'generally to do what the Church does,' that is, to ordain bishops, priests and deacons as the Church has always done. One does not have to intend what the Church intends, but merely to do what the Church does.

A bishop may have in his mind and heart an heretical or schismatical intention or understanding of the sacraments, even of Orders, or may belong to a communion or sect that holds officially to false doctrine, even concerning the sacraments, and still validly ordain, so long as he intends seriously to perform the rite as practised by Christians or as instituted by Our Lord. As long as one intends in a general way to ordain according to the mind of Christ, or the New Testament Church, or the true Church, or God's will, the ordination is valid.

This is because the intention necessary for valid ordination is expressed ritually, exteriorly, in the rite itself - and thus ordination is always valid when a valid rite is used. A valid bishop and subject and a valid rite effect a valid ordination. The problem now is that under Mrs Jefferts-Schori 'bishops' are ordained who are not bishops for lack of a valid minister of consecration. So we must do our homework to ensure that the ordaining bishop in every case is in fact a bishop.

Most Continuing Churches follow the historically Augustinian-Western approach to this subject. I should deem the practice of some other Continuing Churches, the Polish National Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy to be Cyprianic in origin.

It is indeed difficult to know exactly how far an ecclesial body has to go into heresy, even heresy regarding Holy Order, before its sacramental intention, the ritual ecclesiastical intention of a Church as a corporate body, is rendered null and void. The Anglican precedent would maintain that such a corruption would have to be of the most extreme and severe kind. The Arians presumably had valid orders, as do Nestorians and Monophysites today, but, of course, their heterodoxies are Christological and not directly sacramental. The Episcopal Church presents an almost unique situation of being a Church having had Apostolic Succession that has introduced a heresy targeting specifically Holy Orders (and, by relation, Christian anthropology in general, as we have seen with the homosexualism and deconstruction of Matrimony crises). There are few examples of this particular kind of error in history of which I am aware, for most sects that strayed over time from orthodoxy as far as TEC eventually abandoned altogether even the semblance of Holy Order - I think of the Montanists, Albigensians, Cathari, and other sects of a gnostic orientation. Such abandonment of Order is now inevitable for the Episcopal Church. TEC will follow suit and has initiated the process of eliminating the Catholic priesthood one ordination at a time.

Even the protestantising 'heresies' of Archbishop Cranmer and his associates, which are said to have denied the mediatorial-sacrificial character of the priesthood and in some cases even sacramental grace in ordination, did not destroy the valid intention of the Church of England, for the Preface to the Ordinal and the Anglican Rite themselves ensured the necessary transmission and preservation of the essentials of Holy Order by establishing the intention of the whole Church. What matters is the intention of a Church openly declared and expressed in the liturgical rite and action of ordination.

The private opinions of Archbishop Cranmer and friends did not eradicate the necessary intention because the rites used were and are valid. In such a case heretical opinions may exist subjectively - but the valid rite confects objectively. Otherwise no one could ever know or have any assurance or guarantee whatever that any sacraments at any time were valid, and that state would thwart the very purpose for which the sacraments were instituted: the efficaciousness of the sacraments is given by Our Lord through the covenantal signs of grace, not through the personalised or interior beliefs of the celebrant. Thus when the sacrament is celebrated according to the Church's rite with the Church's mandated essentials as given by Our Lord and the Apostles, the sacrament is valid.

If we go too far in our requirements concerning sacramental form and intention in ordination we may fall into Leo XIII's trap, but we must maintain the irreducible minimum of what is actually required by the Church for the valid conferral of the Church's own Apostolic Ministry. Even the Episcopal Church and the 1979 rite officially intend to continue both the Apostolic Ministry of bishops, priests and deacons as received by the historic Catholic Church, and the transmission of the grace of Holy Order. But in practice a defect of ministers and subjects breaks the succession in many places.

I would assert that to lose the grace of ordination a Church must so corrupt an ordination rite that one of the essential requirements for validity has been eliminated. Where the sacraments are concerned, the Church always takes the safer course and requires a certitude for the validity of sacraments - it would not be permissible for the Church to risk the loss of sacramental assurance and grace for the People of God by allowing doubtful Orders and sacraments to be administered in her communion. Orders are presumed valid when the proper form, matter, minister and subject are present - for then you have intention with them. When one of these necessary elements is in doubt, the only solution is conditional ordination.


frbader said...

Why would you deem PNCC to have a Cyprianic view of Orders?

The Most Reverend Chandler Holder Jones, SSC said...

I indeed need to clarify and expand my statement regarding the Cyprianic nature of the Polish National Catholic Church's theology and discipline on the Sacrament of Holy Orders; please allow me to elaborate on that subject. Historically the PNCC has followed the Augustinian-Western theology and praxis regarding Holy Orders in that it has always recognised the validity of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other Old Catholic Orders. That policy, so far I know, does remain in place today.

But regarding Anglican Orders, which the PNCC recognised from the 1931 Bonn Agreement between the Church of England and the Old Catholic Union of Utretch and from 1946 in the United States when the PNCC entered into full communion with the Episcopal Church, the PNCC has shifted from an Augustinian to a more Cyprianic model. My understanding, one that I readily admit is based on anecdotal but reliable personal information, is that all Anglican priests who now enter the PNCC are re-ordained, regardless of the line or succession in question previously possessed by the ordinand: all Anglican Orders are held to be doubtful because of the innovation of purported women's ordination from 1976 in the USA.

Although there are several Anglican jurisdictions worldwide whose Orders are entirely unaffected by the introduction of female ordination, such as the Anglican Province of America and others, jurisdictions whose Orders are conferred in an unbroken and orthodox Anglican succession, the PNCC has chosen to approach the validity of all Anglican Orders from a Cyprianic viewpoint and does not recognise any of them as valid. It should be emphasised that the PNCC and the Churches of the Anglican Communion enjoyed full sacramental communion and co-consecration of bishops from 1946 to 1978, during which time many PNCC bishops served as co-consecrators of Anglican bishops and Anglican bishops served as co-consecrators of PNCC bishops. Today, the Anglican line of succession is completely infused with the Utretch Old Catholic line.

There was, of course, never any doubt about the validity of Anglican Orders on the part of the PNCC during that time, a period in which Anglican Orders were readily accepted and recognised. But that has now changed. So I should offer a rephrasing and amplification of my earlier statement and assert: 'I should deem the practice of the Polish National Catholic Church to be Cyprianic in origin regarding Anglican Orders.'

Fr. Gregory Wassen said...

Dear Father,

Though Orthodox often pay lipservice to a Cyprianic ecclesiology, in practice the Ecumenical Councils in dealing with schims and heresy have not endorsed but contradicted it. This paradox within Orthodoxy is the reason for so much confusion and variety within Orthodoxy regarding the nature of ecumenical relations.

Fr. Gregory+

Anonymous said...

I am also bewildered that Anglicans always seem to defend their orders in scholastic terms. Given the dim view of the school men taken by the 39 Articles, I have would have thought that perennial Orthodox principles laid down by the Basilian Canons, which purport to recognize ancient tradition and which were ratified in the Quintisext Council are more relevant.

Additionally, I would note the St Cyprian's rigid ecclesiology, which is inconsistent with the Basilian Canons and recognized as innovative by Cyprian himself has generally not been put into practice in Orthodoxy -- the exception being during short periods of extreme tension with the Latin communion.

Unfortunately, St Nichodemus of the Holy Mountain tried to synthesize the Basilian and Cyprianic approaches in his (in)famous canonical collection entitled "the Rudder." By and large, Nicodemus only managed to persuade fellow Athonites of the validity of Cyprian's innovative approach. But, as the cyprianic Orthodox are very vocal, and as Mount Athos claims such an important historical role in Orthodoxy, the confusion noted by Fr. Gregory does abound.

Anonymous said...


It does seem that Rome and the PNCC do take a Cyprianic tact when considering Anglican orders, but a Basilian approach when consider the Eastern churches. Of course, Romanward-leaning Anglicans find this inconsistency simply galling. In contrast, most Eastward-leaning Anglicans couldn't care less what Rome or the Poles think about Anglican orders, or any one else's for that matter.

Anonymous said...

All of the above is fine, but we have to keep in mind that "Apostolic succession" includes professing the right faith, and not simply having "valid orders". To believe otherwise is, in my opinion and that of the whole Orthodox church,to reduce holy orders to a magic rite.

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