Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The the UK's Tablet, AKA, Bitter Pill or the UK's National Chismatic Reporter (NCR)

Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position

09 May 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity

09 May 2017 | by Christopher Lamb
Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity
Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position

One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”

In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum.

“This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!”

For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision.

But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question.

“The question of validity [regarding the non-recognition of Anglican orders, while the Pope would give pectoral crosses, rings or chalices to Anglican clergy], however, is not a matter of law but of doctrine,” he explains in a question and answer format. “We have had, and we still have a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity: this is valid, and that is not valid. One should be able to say: ‘this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid another context’.”

Cardinal Coccopalmerio also recalled Pope Paul VI’s meeting with then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in 1966. It was a famous meeting as the Pope gave the archbishop his episcopal ring and also, according to the cardinal, a chalice.

“What does it mean when Pope Paul VI gave a chalice to the Archbishop of Canterbury? If it was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it was meant to be done validly, no?” he explains. “This is stronger than the pectoral cross, because a chalice is used not just for drinking but for celebrating the Eucharist. With these gestures the Catholic Church already intuits, recognises a reality.”

Pope Francis has also pushed ahead with a number of symbolically important ecumenical initiatives such as travelling to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation. The Pope has also called for Christian denominations to act as if they are already untied and leave the theological disagreements to be resolved later.

Yet the major difficulty for the Catholic Church in recognising Anglican clergy would be the perception of validating women priests, something that was strongly ruled against by John Paul II.

The new collection of papers also includes the records of two discussions that took place between Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI - when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - and the former Anglican Bishop of the Diocese in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell.

On Anglican orders, Bishop Rowell quotes Cardinal Ratzinger as saying: “we cannot do anything about Leo XIII’s words but there are, however, other ways of looking at things.”

While the Pope Emeritus does not follow up with any suggestions, he does accept that Anglican eucharist services have value.

“When an ecclesial community, with its ordained ministry, in obedience to the Lord’s command, celebrates the eucharist, the faithful are caught into the heavenly places, and there feed on Christ,” he says.

Elsewhere in his contribution, Cardinal Coccopalmerio distinguishes between the “differences” and “divisions” between Christians: the latter, he stresses, should only be over fundamental things such as the divinity of Christ.

“Today, Churches are divided, or, rather, they say that they are divided because they lack common elements which, however, are not fundamental because they are not a matter of faith,” he explains.

“We say: ‘you don’t have this reality, which is a matter of faith, and therefore you are divided from me. But in fact it isn’t a matter of faith, you only pretend it to be.”

While a revision of Leo XIII’s position on Anglican orders would be a milestone, the cardinal also stresses the situation is currently somewhat “unclear.”


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The question arose at the recent National Workshop on Christian Unity held this year in Minneapolis. It came up in a brief discussion among the Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical officers about the canonization of converts to Catholicism as a help/hindrance to ecumenical dialogue.

"Absolute" statements are, at times, not as final as they may appear. Recall the words of Pope Clement XIV in Dominus ac Redemptor Noster in the suppression of the Jesuits: "Having further considered that the said Company of Jesus can no longer produce those abundant the present case, we are determining upon the fate of a society classed among the mendicant orders, both by its institute and by its privileges; after a mature deliberation, we do, out of our certain knowledge, and the fullness of our apostolical power, suppress and abolish the said company: we deprive it of all activity whatever... And to this end a member of the regular clergy, recommendable for his prudence and sound morals, shall be chosen to preside over and govern the said houses; so that the name of the Company shall be, and is, for ever extinguished and suppressed."

But "forever extinguished and suppressed" wasn't forever. The balance seems to be in the in the nature of a papal text. Is it legislative? Is it doctrinal? Is it infallible or intended to be infallible? (This is in the same area as the assertion of Quo Primum that the rite used at that time was to be used "in perpertuity, that it could never be revoked or modified."

I'm sure much has been written on the nature of Leo XIII's "absolutely null and utterly void." Further investigation seems warranted.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think some high Anglicans, such as the former Anglican/Episcopal priest become a lay Catholic, Fletcher Bingham believed his Anglican Orders were valid because in high Anglicanism, some who are to be bishops search for a bishop who has Eastern Orthodoxy orders which are valid. Not sure how that works, but it is the case for some Anglican priests thus validating their Holy Orders.

I do think there is a case for saying that grace is given in Anglican and Protestant Communion Services despite the fact there is no validly ordained priests. I don't know to what extent the "Church Supplies" what is lacking would apply here, but we can't box God in terms of saying that He isn't present in some way even if minimally or non sacramentally.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I do think the ordination of women in all forms of Holy Orders is problematic. I fear under the current way things are done at the Vatican now under stealth and accusing so many who in good faith want the law to be observed but now are being ridiculed (which is what i was taught in the 1970's concerning law and how the pope uses the same 1970's apologetic or Scriptural basis for his on-going ridiculing of the law--or worse rediculing those who follow the letter of the law) is a way to put forward a heterodox ideology as a pretext for inclusivity and reuniting the Church.

Marc said...

One of the problems with "further investigation" into the apparently hidden meaning of papal and other doctrinal documents is that questioning one means that all are subject to questioning.

If Leo XIII was wrong to declare Anglican orders invalid, what have all the other popes been wrong about? And what makes us so sure that the current pope is "more right" than all the others who came before him?

The end result is the complete destabilization of doctrine -- and not just the particular teaching in question about Anglican orders, but every teaching throughout history.

With regard to the particular issue of Anglican orders, it is difficult to imagine how papal infallibility as defined at Vatican I would survive in any meaningful sense if Leo XIII's pronouncement is undone. Papal infallibility is so much air if it is not invoked by the precise language used in Apostolicae Curae. The questioning here brings to mind the Orthodox argument against papal infallibility: The problem with the doctrine is that there is no infallible list of infallible papal pronouncements. Indeed.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, the dogma of Papal Infallibility is two-fold having to do with the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church (the pope and bishops acting in concert in an ecumenical council to define a doctrine as dogma or to make dogmatic statements, such as is the case with the development of the Nicene Creed as a result of the Council of Nicea. This would be considered infallible, but the presence of the pope is required.

The other is the Extraordinary Magisterium, when the pope along, elevates to a dogma that which is a theology only. Vatican I expounded on this aspect but it is in reference to an infallible decree elevating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to a dogma required to be believed by Catholics. This was done in 1854 prior to Vatican I and may have necessitated Vatican I to deal with the controversy surrounding this papal decree presented as infallible. So papal infallibility was elevated the doctrine of papal infallibility to dogma by Vatican I whereas prior it was a doctrine only. However, Vatican I is an Ordinary Magisterium elevation of a doctrine to a dogma.

The only other doctrine elevated to a dogma by a pope in the extraordinary magisterium is the Dogma of the Assumption of the BVM in 1950.

One can make a case that the elevation of deceased Faithful Departed to the status of a saint is a work of the extraordinary Magistarium too and infallible.

Marc said...

Father, that is a good summary of papal infallibility. But there is a debate about the number of times it has been invoked. Some, like you, say twice. Others say three times. Still others take a much broader view and claim it has been invoked rather often.

The point here is that when a pope says, "Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void."

At the very least, this is the pope recognizing and restating the ordinary and universal magisterium's teaching, which is infallible since this is a teaching on faith. If the pope can misstate the ordinary and universal magisterium on faith and morals, as a revisiting of this doctrine suggests, then not only is papal infallibility undermined, the teaching authority of the Church as a whole is undermined.

The pope was not "present" at the Council of Nicaea. But your statement about councils bolsters my point: as the Vatican Councils teach, when the Church teaches, it is the presence of the pope that is the guarantor of the truth of the teaching. If popes can teach incorrectly in areas that are presumptively infallible -- by virtue of belonging to either the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium -- then the teaching authority of the Church is eviscerated.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc your sources about the pope and Nicea are wrong. This is the Church's history:

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Marc says, "One of the problems with "further investigation" into the apparently hidden meaning of papal and other doctrinal documents is that questioning one means that all are subject to questioning."

No, it does not mean that all are subject to questioning.

Your error is in assuming that all declarations of belief and practice are of equal weight and value. They are not.

Words used in one document may not have the same meaning when used in a document of a different legislative/doctrinal authority. See my comments on the document suppressing the Jesuits and Quo Primum.

Servimus Unum Deum said...

I can't take this cleric seriously. Isn't this the one who wrote that book on "healing" about how to kiss with your mouth?

Servimus Unum Deum said...

I must correct myself. I was thinking of the priest who ghost-wrote Laudato Si. However, this cardinal is ignoring the valid criticisms of Amoris Laetitia (of which the doctrinal confusion he denies are now exemplified by the Maltese Bishops and more to come.) see here: This is why I do not trust what he says.

Marc said...

Father, your link does not attempt to prove that St. Sylvester was present at Nicaea. I think it is agreed that the popes were not present for any of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils, actually. There were papal legates present at most of the councils -- although, there were no papal representatives and no pope present at the First Council of Constantinople.

Michael, I'm not assuming that all declarations of belief and practice are of equal value and weight. I agree that they're not. It is true that words used in different contexts can have either different or the same meanings. As for your Jesuit suppression comment, I think you'd agree that suppressing the Jesuits is not a question of faith or morals and so would never approach being magisterial. You'd probably say the same about Quo Primum as well, arguing that it is administrative-practical and not doctrinal.

The validity or invalidity of the Sacrament of Orders and its associated sacraments, though, bears directly on faith. So statements bearing on that question are of a different character than suppressing Jesuits. It is difficult to imagine a question bearing more on faith and salvation than the question of sacramental validity.

My point remains: if Leo XIII can be incorrect about who is or is not a validly ordained bishop and priest, then every papal determination about the sacraments is subject to dispute depending on further investigation. If papal statements about the sacraments are subject to dispute, then all papal statements and every other doctrinal statement is similarly subject to dispute.

Dr Robert Brown said...

Fr Kavanaugh,

1. You say that absolutely doesn't necessarily mean what it says, referring to Apostolicae Curae. Then you cite an example a papal text as not being absolute, even though it doesn't use the word.

Thus, you have proven nothing.

Further, anyone who has taken the time to study or merely read AC knows that it was the consequence of the Anglicans asking Rome to re-examine the question that had already been settled by Paul VI Praeclara Charissimi, triggered by the appearance of the Edwardine Ordinal.

Why did the Anglicans, who knew for over 300 years that Rome considered their Orders invalid (and were fine with it) then decide under Leo XIII that they wanted the matter re-examined? The occasion, which caused the Anglicans to get religion, was the plan to re-establish the Catholic Hierarchy in England.

I am, BTW, an ex Episcopalian.

2. Cardinal Coccopalmiero has shown on multiple occasions that he knows as much about theology as a pig knows about Sunday.

Dr Robert Brown said...

Fr McDonald,

Generally,the Extraordinary Magisterium refers to either the Pope alone or in Council with Bishops, defining dogma.

The Ordinary Magisterium can be either the Pope or a Council not defining dogma.

The Ordinary Universal Magisterium is considered infallible when it speaks definitely. According to Vat I this authority extends only to Primary Objects (credenda). Lumen Gentium, however, extended that authority to secondary objects (tenenda)--the basis for the Infallibility of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Православный физик said...

Loose lips, sink ships....that's about all I can say on this.....

Gene said...

The Church does not need to be considering any kind of rapproachment with any denomination until she gets her own house straight...and that is a long way off.

Anonymous said...

Bishop timothy Ware (of the Orthodox Church), who wrote a book on Orthodoxy back in the 1980s, noted in that publication the ecumenical difficulties in dealing with Anglicanism, namely, the comprehensiveness of it, the extreme ambiguities of Anglican formularies and the wide interpretations accordingly permitted. In Anglicanism's U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, you can go to some parishes which only believe there are two sacraments and others that observer the traditional seven. Some parishes have communion at all their Sunday services and others alternate with Morning Prayer (e.g., Communion on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays, Morning Prayer 2nd and 4th Sundays). You can tell something of how "catholic" an Episcopal cleric is by what they wear for the Eucharist---Atlanta's current Episcopal bishop dresses like a "Low Churchmen" for the Eucharist (even at the Easter Vigil), wearing basically choir vestments and an ugly stole, foregoing the alb and chasuble, of course the traditional dress for Mass. And as has been pointed out, the ordination of women priests only complicates matters. The late Pope John Paul 2 noted in the 1990s that the further a denomination gets away from the Eucharist as their main focus of worship, the more likely it is to ordain women.

Marc said...

The argument about Anglican orders is silly, and the idea that this is even a slightly open question is incredibly disingenuous. As I said before, people like this cardinal who promote the questioning of definitively closed questions are undermining the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. If the Church cannot teach definitively, which this sort of questioning assumes, then (1) every proposed teaching throughout the Church's history is subject to doubt, and (2) such an institution who cannot teach definitively cannot claim to be the Church founded by Christ, Who is the Truth Incarnate.

From the Professio Fidei of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

"With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: . . . the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations."