Validity of Anglican Orders
There are three Holy Orders in one sacrament: bishop, priest, and deacon. To "ordain" a man means to place him in one of those "orders."
The Anglican Church is also known as the "Episcopalian Church" because it has bishops (Greek, episkopoi, overseers, the root of our word "bishop"). The name "Anglican" is shorthand for "The Church of England." Anglicans have made an effort to make sure that they have a valid episcopacy by enlisting Orthodox bishops to participate in their ordination of bishops.
As a consequence, if the Anglicans have valid apostolic succession, the Catholic Church would have to recognize the validity of all Anglican sacraments, just as it recognizes the validity of all of the sacraments in the Orthodox and Oriental Churches.
After examining the question in great detail, in 1896 Pope Leo XIII solemnly declared that the Anglican Orders are "null and void," and therefore that we do not stand in the same relationship to that body as we do to the Orthodox and Oriental Churches.
- A Bull of Leo XIII issued 15 September, 1896, and containing the latest papal decision with regard to the validity of Anglican orders. 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.
- The Pope therefore permitted the question to be re-examined. He commissioned a number of men, whose opinions on the matter were known to be divergent, to state, each, the ground of his judgment, in writing. He then summoned them to Rome, directed them to interchange writings, and, placing at their disposal all the documents available, directed them to further investigate and discuss it. Thus prepared, he ordered them to meet in special sessions under the presidency of a cardinal appointed by him.
- Twelve such sessions were held, in which "all were invited to free discussion." He then directed that the acts of those sessions, together with all the documents, should be submitted to a council of cardinals, "so that when all had studied the whole subject and discussed it in Our presence each might give his opinion". The final result was the Bull "Apostolicae Curae", in which Anglican orders were declared to be invalid. As the Bull itself explains at length, its decision rests on extrinsic and on intrinsic grounds.
- Extrinsic grounds
- The extrinsic grounds are to be found in the fact of the implicit approval of the Holy See given to the constant practice of unconditionally ordaining convert clergymen from the Anglican Church who desired to become priests, and in the explicit declarations of the Holy See as to the invalidity of Anglican orders on every occasion when its decision was evoked.
- Intrinsic grounds
- The intrinsic reason for which Anglican Orders are pronounced invalid by the Bull, is the "defect of form and intention."
- The episcopate undoubtedly by the institution of Christ most truly belongs to the Sacrament of Orders and constitutes the priesthood in the highest degree. So it comes to pass that, as the Sacrament of Orders and the true priesthood of Christ were utterly eliminated from the Anglican rite, and hence the priesthood is in nowise conferred truly and validly in the episcopal consecration of the same rite, for the like reason, therefore, the episcopate can in nowise 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.
- Not only is the proper form for the sacrament lacking in the Anglican Ordinal; the intention is also lacking. Although the Church does not judge what is in the mind of the minister, she must pass judgment on what appears in the external rite. Now to confer a sacrament one must have the intention of doing what the Church intends. If a rite be so changed that it is no longer acknowledged by the Church as valid, it is clear that it cannot be administered with the proper intention.