When we last looked at the history of the Church of England we were examining the episcopal consecration of Matthew Parker, Elizabeth I’s Archbishop of Canterbury. Since all subsequent Anglican bishops can be traced back, at least in part, to Parker his consecration is crucial. Was the Apostolic Succession maintained or not?
We saw that among the four consecrating bishops for Parker, two were themselves indisputably validly consecrated, having been consecrated under Henry VIII according to the old ritual. The other two had been consecrated under Cranmer’s Edwardine Ordinal. As only one validly consecrated bishop is required, that condition is satisfied. The second problem is the Edwardine Ordinal itself and the rite by which Parker was consecrated in 1559. The third problem is valid intention and whether Parker had the intention of being consecrated a Bishop in a Catholic sense.
We saw that the prayer for consecration in the Edwardine Ordinal invoked the Holy Spirit upon the candidate but did not say explicitly that it was for the office of Bishop. Leo XIII, in his 19th century condemnation of Anglican Orders in the Bull Apostolicae Curae would give this as one of the reasons for which the form of ordination was defective. A careful examination of the entire rite, however, makes it very clear that the ordinand was being consecrated precisely for the office and ministry of a Bishop as differentiated from a priest or other minister of the Church. Furthermore, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as Catholic missionaries encountered some of the separated Churches of the East, in particular the East Syrian tradition, and accorded their orders recognition as valid, it was acknowledged that all that was needed for validity was the phrase “Receive the Holy Spirit…,” a phrase found in the Edwardine Ordinal’s prayer for consecrating a bishop.
On the other hand, Leo XIII was not the first pope to reject the validity of the Edwardine Ordinal. Julius III and Paul IV had both instructed Cardinal Pole, their legate in England in the reign of Queen Mary, that those men who had been ordained or consecrated under the Edwardine Ordinal had to be re-ordained according to the Catholic Rite. In other words, Rome had never recognized the validity of Anglican Orders. The question is, and it is unclear, did they not recognize Anglican Orders for theological reasons or for polemical reasons? Had they examined the rite and found it defective, or was it a blanket condemnation of the Protestantism that had “infected” the English Church? And—and this is a crucial question—did Julius III and Paul IV judge Anglican Orders invalid because of “form” or for failure of the consecrating bishops and those men being ordained or consecrated to have the correct intention?
All this does seem a bit dry compared to the exotic behavior of the katholic krazies, but we will come back to them after a posting or two on the Anglican Church. And we have some far more interesting subjects to deal with about Elizabeth and her Catholic subjects, but the validity of Anglican Orders was and remains a pivotal question in looking at the English Church. Meanwhile, let’s look at the issue of “intention.”
The Catholic Church says that for a sacrament to be validly conferred you must have the correct minister, the correct verbal formula and ritual action, and the correct intention. Did Matthew Parker’s consecrators intend to consecrate him a bishop in the Catholic sense and did he intend to receive the episcopacy in a Catholic sense?
Two of the consecrators, both themselves bishops since the days of Henry VIII and validly ordained, can be presumed to have the correct intention to pass on to Parker what they themselves had received in their episcopal consecration. They had been dragged out of retirement and recruited to participate precisely to show continuity with the medieval Ecclesia Anglicana. Elizabeth’s officials wanted no questions about the validity of Anglican Orders and were well aware that the papacy was not impressed by the Edwardine ordinations. Moreover the two co-consecrators who had been bishops under Henry were no theological radicals. So the question comes down to Parker: did he intend to receive the episcopacy in a Catholic sense?
The answer is clearly no. Parker was a convinced Protestant with nothing of the Catholic understanding of Holy Orders. He did not intend to receive the “power” to ordain priests who would offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice because he rejected the idea that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. Yes, he would ordain priests to preach the Word and minister the sacraments—but as for sacrifice, no. So his intention was defective.
Or was it? He intended to do what he believed Christ intended. He sincerely believed that Christ had no intention of perpetuating his sacrifice every time the Eucharist was offered. Was the Eucharist a memorial of Christ’s one eternal sacrifice? Absolutely. Was Christ to be sacrificed anew on the altar every time the “Mass” was offered—absolutely not.
And in that he was right. Christ is not sacrificed again and again, although many Catholics of the day believed so. The Protestant rejection of the concept of the “Sacrifice of the Mass” must be understood as a reaction to an exaggerated Catholic emphasis which, incorrectly, understood that Christ died over and over again in each Mass. That is not what the Church ever taught—but was what many churchmen taught their flocks and what many believed.
The Protestant understanding of “memorial” in which the Eucharist is a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, on the other hand, is an anachronistic use of “memorial” or “memory” in which we in the present recall a historical moment in the past, in this case “on a hill far away” and a long time ago when Christ died on Calvary. The Catholic understanding of “memory,” admittedly recovered in 20th century biblical scholarship, sees memory as a participation in those events which we recall. Just as devout Jews every year at Passover again participate in that Egyptian night when their ancestors await their deliverance from slavery, so too Christians, every time they break the bread of Christ’s Body and drink the chalice of his blood, stand at the foot of the Cross, proclaiming his death until he comes again. It is not that Christ dies over and over again, but that we become present to the one eternal sacrifice “in a time beyond time, and a place that knows no limitation.” Did Matthew Parker accept this? By no means. It was far beyond the theological boundaries of thought in the sixteenth century. Neither could sixteenth-century Catholics have articulated that, though Augustine and Ambrose and Chrysostom could have. Once again, the loss of the Patristic Tradition and its replacement by “Scholasticism” had robbed the Catholic Tradition of its very integrity and we should not blame Parker and other Reformers for looking at sixteenth-century scholastic theology and rejecting it as it had devolved into an intellectual malignancy, a cancerous threat to the authentic faith of the Church as contained in the Scriptures and Patristic Tradition. And it would get only worse in the nineteenth century with the Scholastic revival, but that is another issue. One of the great contributions of the Ratzinger years—both as head of the Congregation of The Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope—was Josef Ratzinger’s own emphasis on a return to the Patristic sources. But that too is topic for a posting at a future date. As for now, let us say that while he did not intend to become a bishop to ordain sacrificing priests, Matthew Parker did intend to become a bishop to continue the work in the Church of England that Christ began and left to his apostles. Implicit intention is sufficient for valid orders.
It does come down ultimately to the formula in the Edwardine Ordinal. As I wrote above, Julius III and Paul IV both found the Ordinal lacking, though whether from theological or polemical reasons we cannot say. Clement XI in 1704 would provide more of a theological rationale and say that Anglican Orders were invalid for reasons both of form and intention. Leo XIII would reaffirm that judgment in 1896. Cardinal Ratzinger, with the tacit support of John Paul II, would offer in 1993 to reexamine the issue if the Church of England did not go ahead with the ordination of women, but that became a mute point when the General Synod of the Church did, in fact, approve women priests. As it stands, at this point, the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Anglican Orders. It is a complicated issue, however, as not only has the ordinal been amended but also some Anglican bishops have sought to have Old Catholic Bishops (whose Orders we do recognize) among their consecrators. So let’s move on, in our next posting, from this turgid subject of Anglican Orders to the Elizabethan “persecutions.”