One of the great barriers to Anglican Catholics considering corporate reunion with Rome is that we perceive a demand on the other side of the Tiber for a mere submission which would involve two deliberate lies by us. The first would be an unqualified affirmation that Rome’s actions and common or approved teachings in the past (relevant to the broken relationship between our Churches) have not been at fault. The second, related to the first, is a dishonest denial of our identity. This demand is implicit in the official approach, wherein we are characterised as properly schismatic, heretical and without valid Orders, and explicit in the polemic of those I will call Anti-Anglican Roman Catholic Apologists (AARCAs herein), in particular those apologists for the RCC who engage Anglican Catholics with the attitude and arguments of Cardinal Newman and take Apostolicae Curae as at least practically infallible.
My aim in this post is to lay out some of the admissions Rome would have to make before many of us could take seriously its claim to pursue honest reconciliation. Subsidiary to that aim is another one. The history of the unending controversy between us and the AARCAs is such that further conversation appears utterly futile unless AARCAs are willing to stipulate to certain facts and some manifest moral implications before we would be obliged to consider or listen to anything new they had to say. (This is partly because we need to clear the ground of outdated irrelevancies and summarise established historical facts.) I will contend, therefore, that the abovementioned admissions are a precondition for further conversation about these matters at the popular level. Indeed, I will suggest that in future, Anglican Catholic apologists should simply link or refer to this list of admissions and tell their AARCA interlocutors they will not be engaged in debate until they make the necessary stipulations. This may seem an arrogant or presumptious attempt to curtail the debate, but the deepest reason for my pursuing this secondary aim will, I hope, become abundantly clear below.
The admissions that will be posited as a sine qua non for progress deal with: the Roman denial of the validity of Anglican Orders; the Papal Supremacy claimed and imposed by Rome at the time of separation; and the moral and doctrinal errors and superstitions officially approved, encouraged or tolerated by Rome at the time of separation. There will be very little debateable arguing and much recounting of simple fact. I will generally let the facts speak for themselves.
First, I will lay out in roughly chronological order the reasons commonly given for denying the validity of Anglican Orders by AARCAs and the Vatican from the 16th Century onwards, in conjunction with certain relevant and undeniable facts relating to these reasons. A to I below come from the 16th Century and early 17th Century, D to H being sourced from some of the most active early AARCAs, men such as Sanders, Parsons and Kellison. The rest date from the later 17th Century onwards, and J to L (and, it is sometimes claimed, M) were eventually included in the abovementioned Papal Bull, Apostolicae Curae.
A. Orders given by the Edwardine Ordinal were simply asserted to be invalid or “counterfeit” by RC divines at the Marian restoration of papal jurisdiction. Detailed theological reasons were not given at this stage. Fact: There is scholarly debate about how universally affected clergy were re-ordained and precisely what portion of the ordination was repeated. The instructions from Rome to Cardinal Pole had ambiguities, with it being unclear whether certain commands to ordain referred to those ordained by the English rite or those not ordained at all who received “benefices” or those ordained by another reformed rite but illicitly allowed to function as clergy in their own congregations by King Edward. There is early testimony that some clergy only had the anointing of the hands supplied. And other testimony that various Marian bishops clearly taught the invalidity and need for absolute reordination, as noted above. There was no binding decision on the English Ordinal as such.
B. After Elizabeth’s accession to the throne and restoration of the English Ordinal and Book of Common Prayer, orders so bestowed were said to be either illicit or invalid because performed by schismatics and canonically ultra vires, invalid because performed by married men, or because the Roman rite was not used, or even because the ordinal had not been approved by Parliament when first used! Facts: No modern Roman theologian today accepts any of these as sufficient to invalidate orders. The official modern Roman position on Anglican Orders does not refer to any of these factors.
C. Pope Paul IV denied the validity of the Anglican episcopate because the Anglican Ordinal included an explicit denial of papal jurisdiction, since the pope believed that episcopal ordination did not give new sacramental grace (the episcopate being then commonly seen as the same order as the priesthood, except with larger pastoral powers and having the authority to confirm and ordain “unbound”) but did signify the grant of episcopal jurisdiction by the Pope. Hence, rejection of papal jurisdiction meant the episcopate could not be given. Facts: No modern Roman theologian today accepts any of these as sufficient to invalidate orders. The official modern Roman position on Anglican Orders does not refer to any of these factors. Indeed, this theory of the episcopate was effectively abandoned at Vatican II.
D. One early accusation against the Anglican hierarchy was that no “Matter” was used in their ordinations, not even the laying on of hands, notwithstanding what the Ordinal says. A related early accusation denied the use of any “Form”. There was, in fact, a denial that some bishops had been consecrated at all before they took up their posts. Fact: These are false accusations, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.
E. The “Nag’s Head Fable” claimed that Archbishop Parker, the first Elizabethan Primate, had not been really consecrated at all, but appointed in some way at the Nag’s Head Tavern. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.
F. It was alleged that a later Archbishop of Canterbury, Whitgift, had received his ordination from the Queen. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.
G. It was alleged that the records produced which contradicted the Nag’s Head story had been forged by Anglicans. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.
H. It was then claimed that it didn’t matter what really happened with Archbishop Parker anyway, since his chief consecrator, Bishop Barlow had never been consecrated himself. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.
I. It was commonly asserted that the absence of the “Tradition of the Instruments” in the Anglican rite made it invalid, since an earlier Pope had defined this as the Matter of the sacrament of order. Fact: This ceremony is not the true Matter and is not necessary to valid ordination, as now admitted by all RC theologians and as definitively taught by the RCC.
J. The original Form of the English Ordinal was said to be invalid because it specified neither the precise order to be conferred nor any of the primary roles appropriate to that order. The words “Receive the Holy Ghost”, used for both priests and bishops, are thus insufficient. Facts: The words in what was commonly considered the Form of the English rites were not only “Receive the Holy Ghost” but as follows: For the priesthood, “RECEIVE the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen. TAKE thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes …” (Emphasis added. NB: The Council of Trent particularly connected the sacerdotal office with the key role of forgiveness of sins by absolution.) For the episcopate, “TAKE the holy gost, and remember that thou stirre up the grace of god, whiche is in thee, by imposicion of handes: for god hath not geven us the spirite of feare, but of power, and love, and of sobernesse. GEVE hede unto reading, exhortacion and doctrine. Thinke upon these thinges conteined in this boke [the Bible just then given], be diligent in them, that the encrease comyng therby, may be manyfest unto all men. Take hede unto thyselfe, and unto teaching, and be diligent in doing them, for by doing this thou shalt save thyselfe, and them that heare thee; bee to the flocke of Christ a shepeheard, not a wolfe: feede them, devoure them not; holde up the weake, heale the sicke, binde together the broken, bryng againe the outcastes, seke the lost. Be so mercifull, that you be not to remisse, so minister discipline, that ye forgeat not mercy; that when the chief shepheard shal come, ye may receyve the immarcessible croune of glory, through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.” (Emphasis added. NB: The Council of Trent particularly connected the episcopal office with the key role of preaching.) The quotations from Scripture within each form were those specifically associated with these offices by contemporary respected scholars, including Erasmus. Also, it is virtually universal opinion in the RCC that ecclesiastical rites must be interpreted as a “moral unity”, so that each part gives contextual meaning to each other part. This is why it is now accepted and officially taught that the essential form and matter of the old Roman rites were not simultaneous (the Form preceeding the Matter) and did not need to be. Here are some excerpts of earlier prayers in the English rite. For priests, “mercifully behold these thy servantes, now called to the Office of Priesthode, and replenish them so wyth the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of lyfe, that both by worde and good example, they may faythfully serve thee in thys office”. For bishops, “sende thy grace upon him, they he may duely execute the office wherunto he is called … mercifully beholde this thy servaunt, now called to the worke and ministerie of a Bisshoppe, and replenishe him so with the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of life, that both by worde and dede, he may faithfully serve thee in this office”. Apostolicae Curae mentions that some of these prayers might have sufficed as supplying an adequate form, but for the next two objections.
K. The Intention to convey the traditional Catholic Orders was said to be absent, an intention to create a new set of offices sharing only the name was said to replace it. Facts: The Preface to the Ordinal specifically states the intent, using the very word intent, as follows: “from the Apostles tyme, there hathe bene these orders of Ministers in Christes church, Bisshoppes, Priestes, and Deacons, … therfore to the entent these orders shoulde bee continued … no man (not beynge at thys presente Bisshop, Priest, nor Deacon) shall execute anye of them, excepte he be … admitted, accordynge to the forme hereafter folowinge” [emphasis added]. Apostolicae Curae does not quote or mention the Preface at all, not even to dispute it.
L. The Intention was said to be proven absent from and adverse to the sacrament of Order in our rites by the complete denial of Eucharistic Sacrifice generally in the church and by the inbuilt heresy (the “native character” as the bull put it) involved in deletion of all references to consecration of the Eucharist and offering sacrifice in the Ordinal. Facts: Although direct reference to consecrating the Eucharist is not made in the rite, all acknowledge that such consecration is included in “ministering the sacraments”, which is mentioned. The Book of Common Prayer, in which the Ordinal is placed, has always reserved that consecrating role to priests and bishops. In the Elizabethan period, when the denial of Eucharistic Sacrifice is purported to have vitiated all episcopal consecrations from Parker onwards, the following Anglican statements appeared. The Prayer Book’s Liturgy calls this service a “perpetual memory” of the Sacrifice and a “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”. The 28th of the 39 Articles says that the “Supper of the Lord is … a Sacrament [= “effectual sign” according to Article 25] of our Redemption by Christ’s death”. In other words, the Sacrament signifies and effects our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross. Bishop Jewel (1522-71), in his defence of the Anglican position, quotes St. Augustine with approval: “ ‘Christ hath given us to celebrate in His Church, an image or token of that Sacrifice for the remembrance of His Passion.’ Again he saith, ‘After CHRIST’S ascension into heaven, the Flesh and Blood of this Sacrifice is continued by a Sacrament of remembrance.’ ” [emphasis added] Defence of the Apology. Part II. And then there is the subscription in 1567 of Archbishop Parker and 14 other bishops to the mediaeval homily of Archbishop Aelfric (A.D. 995), containing the following (with spelling modernised): “Once suffered Christ himself but yet nevertheless his suffering is daily renewed at the mass through mystery of the holy housel” [emphasis added]. Housel was the old English word for sacrifice, especially in reference to the Eucharist. It is appropriate to again compare these historical facts with the statement of the papal bull that “all idea … of sacrifice has been rejected”. And to compare the above statements with the fact that Aquinas in the Summa Theologica gives two reasons he considers sufficient to call the Mass a Sacrifice, namely that it “commemorates” and “represents” as an “image” the Sacrifice of the Cross and that it conveys its saving effects (P3, Q73, A4; P3, Q83, A1), which original Sacrifice itself can never be repeated (P3, Q22, A5). Similarly, the RC theologian Masure in the 20th Century taught that the Eucharist is a sacrifice simply because it “efficaciously signifies” the Sacrifice of the Cross, but that there is no fresh immolation of Christ on the altar (The Christian Sacrifice, 1943). Both these men’s works, of course, have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, meaning they are within the bounds of Roman orthodoxy. In Saepius Officio, the official response of the two English Primates to the papal bull, the Anglican doctrine is explained similarly, drawing on the liturgy: “We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ … we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord’s Passion for all the whole Church” [emphasis added]. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s letter in response said that this doctrine was “not that of the Roman Catholic Church.”
M. In response to Anglican reference to the Ordinal’s Preface to verify their intention to “do as the Church does”, RC theologian Clark replied that the bull did not really argue that the Anglicans did not have a general intention to do as the Church does (cf. K), nor that this intention was undermined by a mere heretical understanding (cf. L). Instead, he claimed that the Pope had in fact argued that the admitted general intention was vitiated by a positive contrary intention to exclude the conferring of a sacrificial role, this contrary intention being imposed by the omission of all sacrificial language from the Ordinal. Facts: The group responsible for the original English Ordinal probably had a mixture of more Catholic and more Protestant churchmen, and accepted the pattern recapitulated in the canons of an ancient Council of Carthage. However, it is generally accepted by theologians that a Church is not committed to the beliefs of any of the authors of a rite except as those beliefs are expressed in the rite itself so as to “inform” the intent of the users of it. There are no positive statements denying the sacrificial aspect of priestly ministry in the Ordinal. However, such a statement was supplied in a suggested draft by the Lutheran Bucer to the English Reformers. They did not include it. The Book of Common Prayer specifically notes the principles behind various omissions made at the Reformation in the preface “Of Ceremonies”, and says that some were omitted due to number and complexity, some due to eventual abuse despite their original goodness, and some but not all due to their intrinsic unworthiness. That is, not all omission was outright rejection at the English Reformation. As for the Pope’s real meaning in Apostolicae Curae, it is notable that he nowhere admits or implies even the Church of England’s general intent to do as the Church does, nor does he refer to any duality or inconsistency of intention. He says the correct intention is “wanting” and the actual intention involved “rejecting what the Church does”. He does not speak of an intention to reject one particular part of what the Church does while accepting the rest.
N. Clark, however, seems to have had a kind of fallback position, in that he argued that the RCC can simply declare and make sacraments invalid by, for example, changing the acceptable conditions for validity by fiat, as it has done before with Marriage. Specifically, he states that the RCC “has an effective power to restrict sacramental validity” (Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention, 1956:10). Therefore, the decision that the Anglican Ordinal fails to satisfy the necessary conditions might theoretically be seen as incontestable and self-fulfilling. In a sense, they would then be invalid because Rome said they are. Facts: This approach, which ironically leads us back to A to a large extent, is obviously unanswerable if its premisses are granted. It is, however, not the argument of Apostolicae Curae, which appears to assume an argument is actually necessary.
I cannot (and I do not believe I am obliged to) accept that any Roman Catholic, once made aware of this history, has any right to begin a new attack on our Orders without at least first admitting that part or most of the past record of RCs and their Church in this regard has been deeply shameful. I am morally certain that the above facts speak for themselves to a great extent and display a significant amount of malice, disingenuousness and vincible ignorance on the other side. The constant shifting of ground by AARCAs as each place staked out is washed away by the truth, in combination with the refusal to stop and consider what has gone before, convinces me that enough is enough. I ask AARCAs either to show that the statements above are untrue or to stipulate that they are factual. In the latter case, if such a stipulation does not include acceptance of the shamefulness abovementioned, it may be that further conversation is still worthless, since an inability by an AARCA to agree with us on the theological shallowness of B and C or the disgraceful calumny of D to H, for example, would indicate moral and other premisses too incommensurable for further conversation to have any hope of genuine communication.
As M appears to confirm, Anglican Catholics cannot make any headway with many of their AARCA interlocutors because of an act of will (to assert Anglican Orders null and void) by them that is effectively a priori and incapable of ever being overturned by reasoning. At best, this is impossible for them to avoid as they perceive this to be necessitated by their act of faith in all RC doctrine. For people such as these, I have no criticism, only the request to at least pause, take seriously the above facts and understand why we will remain unconvinced of their position and perhaps be unwilling to debate the point further with them. At worst, an AARCA may believe that such an intransigence is not absolutely necessitated, but choose it out of pride and contempt towards us or possibly blameworthy ignorance. I say blameworthy because much of what is above should be known by those who claim any expert knowledge in this area, and without such expert knowledge it is doubtful one should make arguments that one knows will offend (because they deny the fundamental self-understanding in sacred matters of your “opponents”), since one will be causing offence without the objective assurance that might justify such action. Put simply, if people (who are not morally certain on other grounds related to an act of faith) want to tell us we belong to pseudo-churches consisting solely of laymen, with some laymen pretending to be Catholic clergy, they are obliged to be very, very sure of themselves because they have done all the necessary research.
If the reader senses some exasperation and anger, he is not led astray by this intuition. It is hard to stress too much the sorrow and affront caused by the Roman claims against our Orders and the history of their development. We have been, in effect, told we are self-deceived frauds, yet often through manifestly fraudulent or erroneous assertions. It is made worse by the fact that they come from those with whom we share so much, and with whom we would have peace and reconciliation. Indeed, they proceed from a Church whose Orders and whose men in Orders we have always received as equivalent to our own, while being told by it that we intended to replace those very Orders. So, we ask that AARCAs not attempt to continue the attack without first either refuting or stipulating to the above history, and in the latter case admitting the very poor impression justifiably created by this history.
As for official dialogue between the Churches, even here I think that such a stipulation of facts should be requested by the Anglican Catholic side when it comes to discussing Orders. Since the aim of such dialogue — reconciliation — is different to the aim of mutually opposed apologetical debates — proving your side right and the other wrong — admission of past blame for invalid and egregious arguments is far less relevant (especially since the institution is not automatically responsible for all its apologists’ tactics). But we should still make sure relevant and significant facts in our favour are out in the open early. And we owe it to Rome to be honest with them about our moral certainty that we have the Apostolic Succession and our refusal to accept absolute re-ordinations in the event of reunion, since such acceptance would constitute deliberate sacrelige on our part.
Our second topic is the Papal Supremacy as it existed and operated, and according to the powers it claimed for itself, at the time of the English Reformation. Historic Facts: Briefly, it may be said that the highly authoritative Unam Sanctum of the 14th Century, which taught that the Pope could command the civil power and the use of its “sword” and, in this context, decreed that it was “absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff”, created the impression the Pope was claiming imperial rather than spiritual powers. This impression was reinforced by other acts. There had been tensions between England and the Papacy over Roman interventions in both temporalities and spiritualities for centuries. These and related facts, in combination with the papal excommunication of 1570 which purported to also depose Elizabeth, and papal machinations to have her assasinated or her country invaded, confirmed for the Church of England at that decisive time that the Papacy was now committed to unspiritual, proud and violent usurpation. This was the kind of Papal jurisdiction rejected. Purely spiritual primacy was not dogmatically rejected. For example, Queen Elizabeth I acknowledged in her negotiations on behalf of Church of England the right of the Pope to preside at a free General Council, though not as “universal bishop”. King James I acknowledged Roman primacy if it followed the pattern of the original Petrine primacy. Theologians and bishops such as Bramhall similarly distinguished between usurped papal powers, especially civil, and a valid and beneficial universal primacy. Corresponding modern facts: The modern papacy now makes no such claim to imperium, is encouraging some devolution of authority in the Church and has begun to return to “first millenium” principles in explaining its Primacy, effectively admitting the unnecessary nature of certain later accompaniments to this Primacy. That is, elements we criticised have been abandoned or are being modified. This is not the papacy then refused by us. Indeed, the papacy refused by us is now, to an increasing degree, disclaimed by the “papists”, despite the difficulty caused by Vatican I in the meantime.
Our third topic is the erroneous teaching allowed or approved by Rome at and after the time of the Reformation, even though not dogmatised. A similar treatment of this issue appear earlier on this weblog.
Historic Facts: It was maintained at that time in the RCC without censure in approved works that the worship paid to the Divine nature, latreia, was also due to images of Christ, the Trinity, to relics of the “true Cross”, to relics supposedly of Christ’s blood, hair or nails, and to crucifixes. Even the Council of Trent did not make entirely clear that adoration of Christ could not be paid via an image of him, in that it said “by the images … we adore Christ”. On the other hand, it denied any divinity in the images “on account of which they are to be woshipped” and made all honour to images “due honour”. After Trent there were still writers uncondemned by Rome who justified adoring the divinity represented in the image, using the image as a proximate object of worship. Corresponding Doctrinal Fact: This is not in accordance with the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which only allows a maximum honour of proskunesis to any image. It is, according to this Council, the objectively mortal sin of idolatry, and is heretical.
Historic Facts: Other serious deficiencies affecting popular instruction or guidance in faith and morals were: the multiplication and encouraged veneration of and trust in false relics; disapproval or deliberate lack of encouragement of lay access to Scripture in their own tongue; authorised prayers to the Saints worded so they implied to the common man Saints were direct authors of benefits; assertions that Mary could command Christ and that she was to be approached as the more merciful when a Christian was afraid to approach Jesus, since He is the Judge; portraying the Intermediate State as temporary Hell-fire inflicted primarily as divine vengeance; teaching that the Mass involved an extra, fresh immolation of Christ, that is, a repeated offering of Him; and permitting or commanding the torturing of “heretics” to gain confessions.
Corresponding Relevant Facts: Every single one of these problems had been long-lasting and widespread but has since been effectively corrected in some way by the RCC since that time, but not all at the time of Trent and the Counter-Reformation. Every single one of them was a reason the English Reformers said they were justified in carrying out reform independent of Rome and those in submission to it and sharing these deficiencies. Thus a break in communion was accepted (though not initiated) by the Church of England on the basis of identified errors in the Western, Papal communion that were serious and appeared to Anglicans to be practically authoritative in that communion.
Such breaks in communion had occured in the past for perceived misbehaviour or error at a less than dogmatic level. E.g., the removal of Pope Vigilius from the diptychs at the Fifth Ecumenical Council till he would confirm an earlier anathematisation of heresy. Also, the Acacian schism began due to a papal decision to break communion not because of heresy personally held or taught by Acacius but his tolerant communion with a hierarch who fluctuated between Chalcedonian orthodoxy and Monophytism. The schism persisted because of the refusal of one of Acacius’ personally orthodox successors to anathematise his predecessor, even though he did excommunicate undoubted Monophysites. (A number of afterwards universally recognised Saints lived and died faithful communicants on each side of this schism, though it was complete at the time. This has been pointed to by some theologians as evidence that this schism for reasons other than error in dogma did not really cause either side to be outside the Catholic Church.)
Unless the facts listed in part 1 are admitted, our nature as particular Churches will continue to be impugned or denied carelessly and automatically and this will darken any dialogue that occurs. Unless all the above facts in parts 2 and 3 are admitted, the nature of the original schism between Rome and the Church of England cannot be fairly characterised or put into context. Especially since it is not the case that all theologians in good standing in the RCC or Eastern Orthodox Church assert or accept that every kind of schism affecting the Catholic Church must leave one side properly out of it, as I have noted before. We do not need to approach Rome as if repentant rebels, begging for re-admittance to the Fold.
Finally, and on a more eirenic note, it is incontestable that Anglican Catholics too must stipulate to important and undeniable facts: Anglican Churches also tolerated or even encouraged at various times much material heresy among their bishops, clergy and laity, despite also not “dogmatising” the heresies by imposing manifest error on their officially binding formularies. They allowed the corruptions of latitudinarian indifference to infect their faith and practice, such deficiencies being no less destructive than the corruptions within the Roman communion. Anglican theologians were often slow to admit the logical deductions from their principles and separate Patristic and Catholic wheat from the chaff of certain Western mediaeval excesses. They also did not sufficiently discriminate in their criticisms between common opinion and true doctrine in the RCC, and did not always interpret those doctrines with a just or charitable eye. Many of our liturgies were for a long time unecessarily minimalist in certain areas, such as prayer for the dead, where only implicit requests or traces remained, e.g., pleading the Sacrifice of the Cross “for all [God’s] whole Church” in Holy Communion, or asking God in the Burial office “to hasten [his] kingdom” that both the living and the “departed in the true faith” might have their “perfect consummation and bliss” at the Resurrection, but not referring at all to the intermediate state in this prayer. And, although the English State’s bloody persecution of RCs for treason was often unjust, the English Church did not do enough to challenge this wickedness, and often defended these actions as if all those executed were truly malicious towards or a danger to the State, overlooking the vicious and insincere motivations of certain agents of that State. So, both sides do have things of which to repent, but both sides should approach each other as genuine sister Churches, realising that each has in fact already moved toward the other.