|Pope Leo XIII: Anglican Orders are "null
and utterly void." Apostolicae Curae
then spewed up rock to make a new island. Fascinating creation in the physical world, eh? But what would such an event do in the spiritual world? And is that what we see happening today in the Church with the constant introduction of new theories about the Catholic faith and the headlong race to knock down all inconvenient obstacles to ecumenism? Are these ripples like an underground volcano that threatens to create a new Church...or turn the Church into one more Protestant sect?
The latest novelty on the ecumenical front (As if eulogizing Martin Luther weren't enough!) suggests that Anglican orders are valid. That's what Cdl. Francesco Coccopalmerio did recently when he made statements that appear to undermine Pope Leo XIII's 1896 papal bull, Apostolicae Curae, stating unequivocally that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”
Canon lawyer Ed Peters in his interesting and informative blog makes a strong case supporting Leo XIII's conclusion that Anglican orders are not valid, at the same time pointing out that they nevertheless can be a source of grace for the recipient.
Homiletic and Pastoral Review ran an article on this question in 2013 that pointed out the historical fact of mutual non-recognition of orders by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. It wasn't just the Catholics saying Anglican ordination was invalid. The Anglicans themselves in the Article of Religion outlining their beliefs, rejected the Sacrament of Holy Orders. here's what Article 25 says:
Those five commonly called Sacraments—that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction—are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.So trying to say now, in the enthusiasm for ecumenism, that the Anglicans thought they were ordaining Catholic priests seems ridiculous on the face of it.
Does any of this really matter? Absolutely!
The entire discussion of validity and invalidity should deeply concern us. If a convert enters the Church and their Baptism is questionable (Say, rose petals were dropped on their heads instead of water.) the Church will give a conditional Baptism. Why? Because Baptism is essential to becoming a Christian and is the prerequisite for all the other Sacraments. If the words of Consecration are altered during the local Call to Action gong show Mass, there is NO Transubstaniation, and those who receive Communion do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, only bread and wine. The validity of Confession depends on the penitent to tell every mortal sin, to be truly sorry and to have a firm purpose of amendment. If he withholds a mortal sin, he not only remains in his terrible state, he commits ANOTHER mortal sin and his last state is worse than his first.
Even on the human level, validity is important. If I'm hiring a surgeon for the local hospital I want to be sure that the medical degree I'm presented is valid. Did the applicant really graduate from a fully-accredited medical school or is he a fraud? It will certainly matter to the patients, just as the valid ordination of doctors of the soul is important.
Ed Peters puts it this way:
...the cardinal’s further statement, one directly attributed to him, also deserves a closer look: namely, that the Church has “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.'”
That, folks, is huge.Not only is it huge, but incredibly troubling. And it is one more huge confusion coming from a high level cleric who is already a source of horrible confusion. Cardinal Coccopalmerio is one of the Amoris Laetitia (AL) cheerleaders advocating the sacraments for couples living in a continuous state of sin, both adultery and fornication. In a booklet he wrote on Chapter 8 of AL, he wrote:
The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabitating, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way.... Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion should be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment.As I said, the volcano is erupting and, in many ways, the island rising up is unrecognizable from the rock on which Jesus founded His Church. Maybe the fire and brimstone offer a clue to its origins.
Want to read more? The USCCB has a 1990 report on Anglican Orders here, although if you're like me, you don't put much stock in the USCCB whose staff is loaded with liberls.