Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Leo XIII's Decision on Anglican Orders: The Extrinsic Argument

by Paul R. Rust, O.M.I.


This article limits its scope to an examination of the historical context which frames Anglican orders. It emphasizes one important fact generally by-passed by Anglican apologists, i.e., that Apostolicae Curae was merely one more papal document which, when read in conjunction with the earlier documents of Popes Julius III, Paul IV, and Clement XI, attests the three-century judgment of the Holy See on the validity of Edwardine orders.

Larger Work

Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Publisher & Date

Joseph E. Wagner, Inc., July 1961

Vision Book Cover Prints

The paragraphs which follow commemorate an historic anniversary, for it is just sixty-five years ago that Pope Leo XIII published his definitive — but not de fide — judgment on Anglican Orders. Apostolicae Curae, the encyclical which embodies the complete text of the papal judgment, historically and theologically validates a recent entirely unrelated sentence which relates to the character of the sacred minister in the Church in England and in the Church of England: "The priest is sometimes thought to be God's deputy, and sometimes the peoples' leader; sometimes he is done without."1 "Sometimes he is done without . . ." underlines the judgment which Leo XIII gave in 1896, namely, that "ordinations performed according to the Anglican rite have been and are wholly invalid and absolutely null."

Public Opinion 1896

It comes as no surprise that this decision excited much interest and occasioned widespread comment sixty-five years ago. It was bound to because of the nature of the finality with which it was published. Is it not characteristic of the faith of our people that English Catholics received the papal encyclical with unanimous applause and honored it with every expression of genuine satisfaction?

A false and embarrassing position which had developed over centuries of uncertainty had been clarified by the Chief Bishop of Christendom in a single sentence, i.e., "Anglican orders are null and void." When Pope Leo gave his decision, he gave Catholic Britons, in particular, a renewed energy, either as converts from Anglicanism or as "cradle Catholics," to labor ardently for the conversion of their compatriots. The universal pleasure which Apostolicae Curae stimulated was expertly editorialized by one of England's more powerful Catholic oracles, The Tablet:

In the face of this document of the Holy See, our first duty is to express our gratitude to the Vicar of Christ for the fatherly zeal wherewith he has vouchsafed to put an end to the weighty and important question of Anglican Orders. We are sure that the gratitude to which we give expression will be shared not only by Catholics of England and of English-speaking countries, but also of the whole world.2

More cordial yet was the warm welcome accorded the papal utterance by the secular as well as by the non-Catholic religious press in Great Britain. It published Apostolicae Curae either in its entirety or in generous and unedited excerpts. For the most part, like the London Times which we quote here, the press frankly admitted the fairness and the justice of the papal condemnation:

Henceforth it is evident that he who desires to be a Catholic and to have the sacraments, as Catholics understand them, with all the supernatural powers of the priesthood, must be united and subject to Rome. The via media invented by some, and the union fancied by others, without the submission to the jurisdiction of Rome, are things to be despised. Better thus. We Englishmen have never pretended to have valid orders in the sense of the Pope, that is, such as confer the mysterious powers of the Catholic priesthood. Let us remain, therefore, what we are.

In much the same spirit wrote Low Church Anglicans, who still comprise a vociferous minority of the membership of the Anglican Church. While it is perhaps true that they pretended to share little interest in the papal document, actually their publications nullified their show of indifference. They were willing to admit that Pope Leo was championing a truth attested by history.

Two papers which emanated from this party — even though neither of them actually voiced an opinion consonant with the Anglican majority — did speak clearly for the minority. (Moderates, rather than Evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics, have always represented a majority opinion in Anglicanism.) The Rock, one of these two publications, put the minority view in this way:

The Pope has spoken with a promptness and with a determination which many did not expect. We are fully in accord with him, and we can subscribe to almost all his arguments. It is precisely what we have always held, namely, that by the Reformation the heads of the Church of England deliberately and effectively separated from the Church of Rome, repudiated her teaching on the priesthood and the episcopacy, and therefore in ordination they never had any intention of conferring the priesthood, since they considered sacerdotalism an injury to the Priesthood of Christ, without foundation in the Scriptures, and repugnant to all the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel.3

A day later the other publication editorialized that Pope Leo had finally said what ought to have been said long ago, that the Holy See completely understood the facts of the English Reformation. "If any disastrous consequence is to follow the publication of the Pontifical Bull," it concluded, "the disaster will not be due to the Church of Rome, but to those who have departed from the principles of the Reformation."4

While it is true that the majority of Anglicans, who are churchmen of the Moderate school, did not partake of the sentiments expressed by the Evangelicals, agreeing, as they did, with the criticisms voiced by the Reply of their two Archbishops, yet not a few Anglicans did applaud the conclusions we have quoted above.

While Anglicans for many years have not been unanimous in recognizing the 39 Articles of Religion of the Established Church as anything more than a sixteenth-century set of doctrinal formulae — an effort of the Church of England to define its dogmatic position in relation to the controversies of that century of the Reformation — and, in the light of the well-known spirit of doctrinal tolerance which animates the Anglican Church, a highly anachronistic set of formulae at that — yet Article 31, to which Anglican clerics must still subscribe, remains in its original wording: "The sacrifices of Masses . . . were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits." It may be viewed now, we repeat, as an unpleasant anachronism, but it was very much to the point in expressing the doctrine of the Anglican Church during those crucial few years, between 1559 and 1563, when the 39 Articles were in preparation, and when the Ordinal (which would have reflected their Eucharistic doctrine) was brand new.5

Is it inconsistent with the text of Article 31 to presume that Anglican Archdeacon Taylor of Liverpool may even have had it before him upon his desk when, in reference to Apostolicae Curae and the Anglican Reply, he wrote what we quote?

With all due respect for the eminent prelates who have sent it forth, I cannot but regard it as altogether unsatisfactory and unworthy of the occasion. Far better to have left the Bull unanswered altogether. Their lengthy document contains a great amount of theological and liturgical research, but it simply omits altogether the real point at issue. The question is plainly stated in the words of the Papal Bull, but is passed over by proving what no one denies, namely, that the Reformers intended to continue the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons in the Church. This is not the question; but whether they intended that the priest should discharge precisely the same functions as before.6 The argument of the Bull is simple, intelligible, and, on the premises laid down, conclusive; and we owe the Pope a debt of gratitude for so clearly proving the thoroughly Protestant character of our Church.7

Anglo-Catholics and Apostolicae Curae

Among the Anglo-Catholic minority in the Anglican Communion some there were in 1896 and some there are today who strive to be "more Catholic than the Catholic Church." These "Protestants in Catholic disguise," to recall the criticism of the Exeter Western Times of 1896, are ultramontane both in their beliefs and in their liturgical rites. For that matter, if one were to pass a judgment on contemporary Anglicanism, he would have to allow that the tendency among Anglicans has been to "Catholicize" the doctrine they preach. There is a definite doctrine heralded by many Anglican ministers that our supernatural life is perfected by the reception of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. These are the spirits who preach that Anglican "priests" as well as Roman priests have been endowed by Holy Orders with the power to offer acceptable oblations, to consecrate these oblations, and also to absolve sacramentally from sin.

Since such power must be transmitted validly, it need not be explained why Anglo-Catholics have ever been concerned about the validity of Anglican orders. The consistent practice of the Catholic Church to reordain absolutely ministers of the Established Church who had converted to Catholicism and who desired to exercise the priesthood moved some of them — with Lord Halifax as their spokesman — to beg the Holy See to examine a brief they had drawn up in favor of Anglican orders.

These Anglicans saw the advantage of even the acknowledgment by Rome of some kind of a conditioned validity; that even that half a loaf was better than no loaf at all; that such an acknowledgment from the Pope's mouth would at least silence Catholics who had never admitted convert ministers to the exercise of the priesthood without absolute ordination. A not unhappy vision of even reconciliation of Canterbury and Rome loomed prominently on Anglo-Catholic horizons.


Anglo-Catholics, who had pinned their hopes on some kind of papal recognition of Anglican orders, could hardly have had to counter a blow so completely devastating as the blow delivered by >i>Apostolicae Curae. Even today, sixty-five years later, Anglicans bristle at the mere mention of the never-to-be-forgotten name of Leo XIII.

Their disappointment was all the more keen because the hopes they had seeded in the soil of their hearts had been unsparingly fertilized not only by their leaders in the English Church Union (E.C.U.), but even by an indiscreet Catholic writer here and there who had supported one or another point in the brief they had presented to Pope Leo's special commission. The Abbe Boudinhon was typical of such Catholic writers who had espoused the Anglican cause (although these writers ungrudgingly supported Apostolicae Curae when it appeared).

Our article reiterates something that has been repeated ad nauseam, namely, that nothing short of indisputable evidence conjoined with a charitable attention to the deep feelings of Anglicans could have induced this scrupulous Pontiff to pronounce the judgment which a solution of the case compelled him to utter. For that matter, Apostolicae Curae stressed the importance of leaving "nothing untried that might in any way tend to preserve souls from harm or procure their advantage."

Who is there, Catholic or non-Catholic, who remembers in 1961 what Leo XIII did in 1896, who would be so uncharitable as to doubt these words of Apostolicae Curae which stand as a record of the integrity of the papal conscience? Permit us to quote directly from the encyclical.

We have given to the interests of the noble English nation no slight part of the Apostolic care [Apostolicae curae] and charity with which, aided by His grace, We endeavor to fulfill the office, and to follow in the footsteps of the great Pastor of the flock, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

These noble words, in perpetual remembrance, not only introduce the encyclical; they literally frame its entire text.

Historic Origins of the Problem

Time indeed has blurred many of the faces which were all too recognizable four centuries ago in England. But time has failed to blur four historic faces — those of the Tudors who played out to the end their own personal role in the fascinating drama of the British cleavage with the Holy See — Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth. Their reigns, two very long and two unseasonably short, spanned nearly an entire century, 1509-1603. The first and the last of these four Tudors reigned long enough to inaugurate and to establish on a permanent basis the Church of England. Edward VI did not rule long enough to Calvinize what Henry, his father, had established as Catholic sans Pape. Mary's reign of five years was too brief to revive the Church in England.

To bring us up to date. The decisive years of the sixteenth century, so far as religious anarchy is concerned, are 1534 and 1559. The year 1534 dates the schism between Rome and Canterbury; 1559 dates the second and last separation of England from the Universal Church. Henry VIII stands at one extremity; Elizabeth at the other.

Two dates of minor importance, 1549 and 1553, are minor only to the over-all portrait of the English Reformation. To our article they are of major importance, in particular the former date, 1549. The year 1549 dates the abolition, and 1553 the restoration of the Mass. Cranmer's 1549 Book of Common Prayer substituted a Communion liturgy for the Mass. His Ordinal, the l'enfant terrible of Apostolicae Curae, took the place of the Pontifical in 1550.

This last fact must be borne in mind because it tells us that the all-important "accustomed form" of the Church was used by the schismatic English church between 1534 and 1550; that the Ordinal was used between 1550 and 1553. Accordingly, Apostolicae Curae expresses no interest in the ordinations which took place between 1534 and 1550; nor does it concern itself with any ordinations apart from those which took place between 1550 and 1553. Our interest in the "consecration" of Matthew Parker in 1559 is due to the fact that the Ordinal of 1552 was the one employed by his "consecrators." We shall touch upon this historic event in a later paragraph.

Cranmer and the Ordinal

It is to Cranmer, Henry VIII's and Edward VI's Archbishop of Canterbury, and not to Henry or to the adolescent Edward, that we owe the composition of the Ordinal rites. It is Cranmer's Ordinal — named, however, the "Edwardine Ordinal" because it dates from the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) and none other that was examined impartially by Leo XIII in 1896. Edward's Ordinal it was that was characterized by Apostolicae Curae as a "new rite" (novus ritus) because this rite had departed from rites which were essential to the validity of Holy Orders.

Is it only cavil which prompts Catholic scholars to inquire why Cranmer did not adopt the ordination rites of the schismatic Orthodox Church with whom he had no quarrel, for these rites are equally as effective as the rites of the Western Church for the conferring of Holy Orders? Anglicans can hardly plead Cranmer's ignorance of the Eastern rites, for scholars acclaim him as a learned liturgist and the inspired creator of the "incomparable" Book of Common Prayer.

To impartial minds the reason why Cranmer composed ordination rites, which bore little resemblance either to the Western or to the Eastern forms in details which are required for validity, was because the Eastern and the Western ordination forms, all of them, herald the Catholic doctrine of a sacrificing priesthood. Because Cranmer repudiated this Catholic doctrine, he was compelled by the exigency of his own heresy to "fabricate" a novus ritus — a new rite which would substitute a ministry (ministerium) for the ancient priesthood (sacerdotium). His Ordinal of 1550 admirably achieved this Protestant objective.

Every Catholic ordination rite is comprised of prayers which express the priestly power of offering and of consecrating the Body and the. Blood of Our Savior in a genuine sacrifice. These prayers nowhere suggest the Protestant doctrine, embraced by Cranmer, that the Eucharist is merely a Communion service.

Consider, for one example, that essential prayer, called by liturgists the Prayer of Consecration. It is common to all Catholic rites. In Cranmer's Ordinal it has been changed and adulterated; it has been separated from the imposition of hands (where it belongs), and it is recited as any preparatory prayer.

More than this, not one of the Ordinal forms, i.e., the words recited when the sacrament is conferred, expresses either the order which is being conferred or the power which the rite is transmitting to the ordinand.8

Ordinal under Elizabeth and Mary

Some saw an ill-starred omen in the death of Edward VI. The young monarch died July 6, 1553. It marked the eighteenth anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas More. Edward was succeeded by his half-sister Mary. She was the sole surviving child of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's discarded wife. Her ascent to the throne inaugurated one of the shortest as well as one of the most unsatisfactory reigns in history. She was to die in November, 1558, lamented by few, lampooned by many, defamed by not a few historians to the present day as "Bloody Mary."

One of Mary's first regnal acts was to procure legislation which abrogated the Edwardine liturgy and which revived the Catholic rites. Edward's Book of Common Prayer was suffered to continue unmolested until its official demise on December 20, 1553. It is doubtful if it was used in many churches after Mary's accession, and it is quite possible that parishes hidden away in rural sections had not even been introduced to the "Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion, Commonly Called the Mass."

It is to the first two years (1553-1555) of Mary's five-year reign (1553-1558) that the four pontifical documents cited by Apostolicae Curae belong. Of these four, two (those of August 3, 1553 and October 8, 1554) were from the pen of Pope Julius III. The latter two, bearing the signature of Pope Paul IV, are dated June 20 and October 30, 1555 respectively.

Critical examination of the text of these four important documents testifies that the question of the validity of Anglican orders had been decided all of three centuries before Apostolicae Curae ended future papal judgments.

The decision of Clement XI (1704) and Leo XIII (1896) merely reiterated pontifical decisions given by Popes Julius and Paul between 1553 and 1555.

Ordinals of 1550-1552 Compared with Ordinal of 1662

At the very beginning of her reign Queen Elizabeth was confronted with an ecclesiastical dilemma. How was she to establish an episcopal church? The Marian hierarchy refused to collaborate with her as it had with her father, Henry VIII. It is doubtful if we shall ever know if Elizabeth was genuinely religious, if she had any concern beyond that of setting up an episcopal form of church government. It would seem, judging from the enigmatic character of the Queen, that above all she desired "order" in her church. We have no reason to contest that fact. But whether she actually gave a serious thought to "orders" is another matter, the answer to which will, we fear, never be known. This much is certain: Elizabeth despised and dreaded a presbyterian form of church government. It was, we feel, this dread and contempt which was the genuine raison d'etre for the establishment of the episcopal genre of church organization.

It appears, too, that Elizabeth, following the dictates of Lord Burghley's heart rather than her own, for he was her trusted servant and "Prime Minister," adopted Edward's second Ordinal of 1552 for Parker's 1559 consecration. At least she was consistent, for Parliament earlier that year of 1559 had chosen the 1552 Book of Common Prayer in preference to Edward's first Book of 1549. The 1552 Book was expressive of Cranmer's fully mature religious beliefs, and so it was the more Protestant of the two original Books of Common Prayer.

If you compare the Ordinal of 1552 with the Ordinal of 1662 (the official Ordinal of the Church of England ever since), you will underline in red ink only one important alteration. To the indeterminate "forms" of the 1552 Ordinal the Caroline revisers of a century later added these words which make the original Edwardine "forms" determinate: "for the office and work of a bishop/priest in the church of God." We shall carefully explain why these modifications of 1662 had no bearing on the judgment of Pope Leo XIII.

Matthew Parker

Quiet, scholarly, grave, reticent, kindly, courteous Matthew Parker was Queen Elizabeth's choice for the primacy of the Established Church. From an entry in his Register it is clear that her preference was not his. He accepted the royal mandate most reluctantly, but, being recognized as a "Queen's man," he bent his will to hers.

How was the primatial office to be transmitted to him, for as yet he was only in priest's Orders, Roman Orders at that? With Roman prelates spurning the mandates issued to them to consecrate Parker, what was to be done? Naturally, there was only one thing that could be done: issue new mandates to men who could be counted upon to accept them. This Elizabeth did, and her mandate named four men whom she knew would be not only willing but anxious to execute her will. Two of these men, Coverdale and Scory, had received Ordinal consecration; two, Hodgkins and Barlow,9 Pontifical promotion to the episcopate.

Our present article does not question the fact of Parker's consecration. Undeniably it took place in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, the near-London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unquestionably the rite was performed early morning, Dec. 17, 1559.10

Why Apostolicae Curae?

One sentence answers our question. Anglican orders were judged to be invalid due to two vitiating defects: a) defect of "form"; b) defect of "intention." (Bear in mind that the Edwardine Ordinal alone was in question, not the Ordinal of 1662.)

Apostolicae Curae makes it clear that Pope Leo gave his own decision after he had weighed the evidence of Pope Julius III, Pope Paul IV, Pope Clement XI, and only after he had made a careful examination of the practice of the Church since the Reformation in dealing with ministers who had submitted to the Holy See and who desired to exercise the priesthood. Absolute ordination has been the practice followed in every single case known.

Pope Julius and Pope Paul

Julius III (1553-1554)

This Pontiff's decision on Edwardine orders is of the greatest importance because his judgment was given at the very time the Ordinals of Edward VI had been suppressed — inn flagrante delicto, so to speak. His documentation describes the exact procedure followed by the Holy See in dealing with clerics who had been ordained or who had been consecrated by the Ordinal and not by the Pontifical.

Among the Julian documents we find the faculties which instructed Cardinal Pole, Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary Tudor, how to treat all English clerics who had exercised the sacred ministry during the years of the schism, between 1534 and 1553.

Technical terms, which are not hard to translate into easily understood English, were employed to distinguish between Pontifical and Ordinal clergymen. The terms employed by Pope Julius were a) rehabilitation and b) habilitation. They classified all clergymen who had exercised the ministry during the twenty years of the Henrician-Edwardine schism.

a) Rehabilitation related to Pontifical clergy, i.e., "those only who, before their lapse into heresy, had been duly and lawfully promoted and ordained." These enjoyed valid Orders.

b) Habilitation related to Ordinal clergy, i.e., "those who had been ordained not following the accustomed form of the church." These did not enjoy valid Orders. However, if these clerics were judged worthy, they could be ordained absolutely to Holy Orders.

Is it possible that Pope Julius's decree cannot easily be understood? He had only two rites before him when he was preparing his instructions: that of the Pontifical; that of the Ordinal. None other was in use in England between 1534 and 1553. Accordingly, Pope Julius III found one rite defective, that of the Ordinal.

Paul IV (1555)

Paul's judgment was a reiteration of Julius'. We know this from the careful recital of the details outlined in Apostolicae Curae. It appears that Mary Tudor had dispatched an embassy to Pope Paul in February, 1555, to solicit absolution for her schismatic subjects and the reconciliation of her realm with the Holy See.

The text of the Pauline reply to Mary, dated June 20, 1555, reveals that his judgment on Ordinal orders differed in no way from that of Julius III, despite the fact that he spoke of the "form of the Church" rather than the "accustomed form," a point now widely interpreted in favor of Anglican orders by Anglican controversialists. Our next heading will examine this point more closely.

That Julius and Paul were of one mind is seen from a decree of Mary and from the final Brief of the latter Pontiff, dated October 30, 1555.

a) Mary — "As to those who have already been promoted to any kind of orders according to the newly fabricated method of ordaining, seeing that truly they have not been ordained at all, their diocesan bishop may supply what was wanting in the said persons."

b) Pope Paul &51; "We declare that it is only those bishops who have not been ordained and consecrated in the form of the Church that cannot be said to be duly and rightly ordained." Only Poynet, Hooper, Coverdale, Scory, Taylor, and Harley can be thus classified, for they had been consecrated by the Ordinal rite.

In the (Accustomed) Form of the Church

Anglicans consistently fail to see "servata forma ecclesiae," i.e., "in the form of the Church," as meaning exactly what it says. They also seem perplexed that the Latin word "forma" ("form") is a technical and theological term which denotes the words recited by the ordaining prelate. This is seen of more recent date in the controversial writings of Anglican Dom Gregory Dix, O.S.B. Despite his prodigious scholarship, Dom Dix found it possible to see the Pontifical and the Ordinal rites as each falling into the theological terms employed by Popes Julius and Paul, i.e., in "the (accustomed) form of the Church."

Our Anglican disputants likewise fail to translate the Latin term "promovere," i.e., "to promote," in its doctrinal sense: "to ordain." As in most controversies fought out on the battleground of paper, terminology plays, unfortunately, too important a role in the perpetuation of a misunderstanding. For this reason one ought to be most circumspect in defining his terms. Our present article has borne this point in mind throughout.

We have bracketed the adjective "consueta" ("accustomed") because it was used by Julius III and omitted by Paul IV. Here and there Anglican critics of Apostolicae Curae make much of the omission, professing to believe that these two popes were treating of unrelated matters. These men have endeavored to explain that Pope Julius' "in forma Ecclesiae consueta (accustomed)" and Paul's "in forma Ecclesiae" might be understood to refer not to the Catholic form or rite of the Pontifical, but to the essential "form" of the sacrament which is always the "forma Ecclesiae" ("form of the Church").

However, these and other similar suppositions were quite well known to Pope Leo XIII when he was preparing the text of Apostolicae Curae. It was for this precise reason that Leo notices with admirable clarity that the force of the said words was by no means vague or left to the determination of individual caprice, as was the case of the "form" of the Ordinal before it was revised in 1662.


In practice this is how the English Catholic prelates dealt with Ordinal clergymen, nor has their practice suffered revision during the past four centuries:

a) The Bishop of Norwich put into effect faculties subdelegated to him by Cardinal Pole (the last Catholic Archbishop of England) which admitted to the exercise of the ministry, without reordination rites, all Pontifical schismatics who had been deemed worthy of continuing the work of their ministry.

b) Ordinal clerics were ordained as laymen receiving Orders for the first time. It is a matter of the record that no bishop, no priest ordained with the Ordinal was ever admitted to the exercise of the Catholic ministry.

c) At the time Mary was reestablishing a validly ordained and a validly consecrated ministry this question was put to the cleric whose status was being inquired into by the bishops: "Were you ordained before the death of King Henry VIII (1547)?" This was necessary before his status was determined because the Ordinal was not used until 1550.

d) Ordinal Taylor's deprivation reads: "Deprived because of nullity of consecration." Ordinal Harley's reads: "Deprived because of marriage and heresy, and because of nullity of consecration.

Ordination of Ordinal Clerics After 1555

While it is customary to use the term "reordination" when discussing Ordinal clergymen who returned to the unity of the Faith and who were then promoted to Orders, actually such terminology is not precise. "Ordination" is a better word to use, because these men were treated as laymen who had never received genuinely valid Orders.

Our citation of the sixteenth-century Marian record in relation to these absolute ordinations by the Pontifical is chiefly of interest because it is proof positive that a policy and practice was at that time initiated by the Church which has prevailed until the present day.

Ancient diocesan records, now made available to scholars doing research work, establish the credibility of this fact. Most recently the Reverend Charles A. Hoare, a Father of Sion, has republished Bishop Frere's list of thirty-eight absolute ordinations of Ordinal clergymen during Mary's brief reign.11 Had Elizabeth not revived the schism, doubtlessly the list would be much lengthier. England's proto-martyr, Cuthbert Mayne, is numbered among the thirty-eight names on Bishop Frere's list. Dr. Brown, once Anglican bishop of Stepney, confirmed the truth of Dr. Frere's findings in a letter to the London Times (May 1, 1896).

Anglicans would do well to correct those who contend that this practice of absolute ordination of Ordinal converts began in 1704 with John Clement Gordon. This man was Anglican bishop of Galloway in 1688. He had been consecrated by a Scottish Ordinal of 1620, a rite which had been under careful analysis in Rome in 1636. The reigning Pontiff, Clement XI, decreed, April 17, 1704, that the "said John Clement Gordon be ordained fully and absolutely to all Orders, and particularly to that of priesthood." In any event, 1704 marks nothing more than the adjudication of a case which inaugurated a new series of documents emanating from the Apostolic See.

In relation to the question of Anglican orders, however, the Gordon case cannot be lightly dismissed. In adjudicating the case, Clement XI grounded his judgment of the Anglican orders of Gordon on defect of "form." Great importance is attached by Catholic controversialists to the fact that the papal action is the connecting link in clear-headed consistency on the part of Rome. This is important to bear in mind because the Gordon case is cited by our Anglican brethren as an example of Roman "ground-shifting."

The case of "a young French Calvinist," whose identity is still not given by historians, was proposed to the Holy Office July 24, 1684, by the Bishop of Fano, Apostolic Nuncio in Paris. The case had reference simply to "a young man, a Calvinist . . . ordained deacon and afterwards priest by the pseudo-Bishop of London." This youthful Ordinal cleric had embraced the Catholic religion and, following his conversion, he desired to contract marriage. His petition to the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris was referred to the Holy See. On August 13, 1685 a unanimous resolution of the Consultors of the Holy Office declared that this man's Anglican orders were invalid. While the case was decided chiefly on grounds of defect of "form," defect of "intention" was also mentioned in the report of Monsignor Genetti who had investigated the case for the Holy Office.

Such, then, is the argument, historical and extrinsic, against the validity of Anglican orders. We invite you to accompany us through the labyrinthine maze of another argument — the intrinsic argument. This equally compelling argument is derived from an analysis of the Ordinal text itself. With it we shall discuss what the Apostolicae Curae singled out, defect of intention in a minister who seriously recited over the ordinand the "form" of the Ordinal (of Edward VI, be it remembered). We shall consider these two points in our next and concluding part.


1 Old London Churches, by Elizabeth and Wayland Young (Faber, London, 1961).

2 September 26, 1896.

3 September 25, 1896, "Poor Lord Halifax."

4 Exeter Western Times, September 26, 1896.

5 Cardwell, Annals, 1, 241, is an Anglican witness to the fact that the Protestant bishops instructed their ministers to teach that "the mass is not a propitiatory sacrifice."

6 Article 31, as Catholics interpret it, excludes not the title but the sacrificial office of priesthood. Anglicans fail to see this.

7 Quoted by The Tablet, March 27, 1897.

8 During Edward VI's reign (1547-1553) exactly six prelates were consecrated bishops by the Ordinal, and these consecrations were performed between 1550 and 1553. These are the "bishops" who became the subject of Pope Leo's investigation, and not Matthew Parker who was consecrated in 1559. Parker's consecration is of interest because two of his co-consecrators were Scory and Coverdale, each of whom had been consecrated by the Ordinal. It is from the Parker consecration that the present Anglican hierarchical succession derives.

9 Barlow's doubtful consecration has no bearing on the validity of Parker's, and so is no concern of this article.

10 The Consecration of Matthew Parker, by J. C. Whitebrook (London, 1945), purported to prove an October, 1559 Pontifical consecration for Parker. S.P.C.K.'s Elizabeth's First Archbishop (London, 1948) disproved Whitebrook's argumentation, point by point.

11 The Edwardine Ordinal (Bristol, England, 1957). The author quotes Bishop Frere's Marian Reaction.

Part Two: Leo XIII's Decision on Anglican Orders: The Intrinsic Argument

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