This came up in the comments with Tess, an Anglo-Catholic with a love for the Catholic Church that I wish more Catholics shared. She mentioned that we Catholics reject the validity of female Anglican clergy. But the truth is: we Catholics reject the validity of all Anglican clergy. Let me explain why.
|Pope Leo XIII|
Back in 1897, Pope Leo XIII put it in no uncertain terms, in Apostolicae Curae, declaring Anglican ordinations “absolutely null and utterly void.” It’s strong language, but we should be thankful for it: the Eastern Orthodox have been much less clear about how to understand Anglican ordinations, and it’s to no one’s advantage when the trumpet can’t sound a clear call (1 Corinthians 14:8).
There are two reasons Anglican ordinations are no longer valid: the Anglican church altered (1) the form and (2) the intent of the ordination rite, rendering it invalid.
By was of history, during Edward’s reign, the Protestantizing forces within the Church of England declared the Catholic ordination rite superstitious, abolished it, and replaced it with the Edwardian Ordinal. The Edwardian Ordinal was (and is) intentionally Protestant, and borne out of a thoroughly deficient understanding of the priesthood. It’s the brain-child of folks like Thomas Cranmer who desired this very rupture, and who denied Apostolic Succession.
Here’s what the Thirty-Nine Articles (the articles of faith for the Anglican church) say about the Mass: “Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.” Clearly, unambiguously, then, this is a denial of the sacrificial priesthood, and of basic Catholic beliefs about the priesthood and the Mass.
Since there was no intent to carry on the sacrificial priesthood, or ordain men into the same, it’s without question that the Anglican church deliberately snuffed out Apostolic Succession. As such, when Leo declared the ordinations “absolutely null and utterly void,” a great many Anglicans agreed.
This ultimately is the problem. Some Anglicans want to be Catholic, some want to be Protestant, and some want to tread an imagined via media, yet they’re using the defective Protestant Ordinal. The “power cord” of Apostolic Succession has been totally severed, and the mere desire that it wasn’t so is inadequate.
That’s a tough message, but I raise it for good reason. There are many Anglo-Catholics who, like Tess, long for a sacramental Christianity, one where they’re not left to be their own popes. That’s a holy and winsome desire, but one which the Anglican church cannot meet. No priesthood means no Eucharist, no Mass, no absolution in Confession, no Anointing of the Sick, and of course, no Holy Orders. Put more simply: Anglicanism is just another form of Protestantism.
Anglo-Catholicism hungers for authentic Catholicism, and many Anglo-Catholics are rightly growing tired of the religious methadone they’ve been settling for. This desire for sacramental Christianity, and for a solid connection to the Apostolic Church, should be a motive to join the Catholic Church. It’s not always an easy step, but one which must be taken nonetheless. Heed Our Lord’s warning in Matthew 10:34-38, and His promises in Matthew 19:29, and step forward in faith, trusting always in His Goodness.