Are Anglican Ordinations Valid?

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There are two reasons Anglican ordinations are no longer valid: the Anglican church altered (1) the form and (2) the intent of the ordination rite, rendering it invalid.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.

Thomas Cranmer

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.


  1. And before someone objects that sometimes there are validly ordained bishops present at Anglican ordinations, they should realize that Leo XIII went further than this in his argument. Although he did not use this imagery, we can picture the alterations to the ordination words and intention as being like slaughtering an animal and removing its heart. If someone later regrets that decision, and puts the heart back into the animal carcass, the animal remains dead; and there is in fact nothing natural that can be done to restore the dead animal to life. So it is with the Anglican ordination rite– it is permanently dead and invalid, no matter what revisions are made to its text, no matter what validly ordained bishop attempts to use it. (A new, living rite would have to be given by the Pope; or he could restore the life to the current rite, if convinced that belief and intention were once again what they should be.)

  2. We could almost wish it wasn’t so, then reunion would be easier. In the very beginning, Anglicanism was a pure schism, with Henry VIII not really intending to deny dogmas. But very soon, now separated from the See of St.Peter, with errors multiplying in Europe, Cranmer introduced a fatal one into Anglican liturgical life. We mean no offense to our separated brethren in the Anglican communion, but we cannot give into mere sentimentalism and make-believe. The Eucharist is a sacramental sharing in His sacrificial death. The two are inseparable. We Catholics long for the day when Anglicans will truly be “Anglo-Catholics” once more, as many of them even now desire to be.

  3. Hi Joe,

    I think I will always struggle to accept that Anglican sacraments are not valid, not operative. I see no way over that hurdle.

    The irony is that the Catholic insistence in the invalidity of Anglican holy orders and sacraments is the strongest factor in keeping me in that church. If we were in communion and could move freely from Anglican to RC and back without being forced to implicitly reject the sacraments being received by our brethren, I almost certainly wouldn’t still be an Anglican.

    Meanwhile I am looking forward to reading the responses to this call for papers on the subject “Why I am an Anglican and believe I shall remain so.”

  4. \the Eastern Orthodox have been much less clear about how to understand Anglican ordinations,\

    That is because Orthodoxy doesn’t look at the Mystery of Ordination in isolation, but as part of the faith taken as a whole.

    Apostolic orders cannot be separated from Apostolic faith.

    That ALL former Anglican clergy have been received by Chrismation (Confirmation) or even Baptism, and later received canonical Orthodox ordination should make the Orthodox position on Anglican orders quite clear.

  5. This whole subject (as well as many others) could be summed up in one simple sentence:

    Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

    Rome has spoken, the matter is settled.

    If there is some sort of problem or controversy within Christendom, then someone has to step forward and decide how to resolve it for everyone’s sake, as well as to keep things moving along, and to prevent the Church from breaking down into chaos.

    That someone might as well be The Pope.

    No one else has anywhere near the authority, or even the historical precedence, to make those decisions.

  6. About the Orthodox..

    When it comes to theological speculating, yes, there is some ambiguity. However, Bishop Kallistos Ware points out that in practice, converting Anglican clergy are always reordained while Roman Catholic clergy not usually.

  7. As a former Anglican, now Roman Catholic, I can’t agree with your assertion that Anglicanism is “religious methadone.” The Church has always distinguished three categories of non-Roman Christian bodies: (1) the Orthodox, (2) Protestants, and (3) Anglicans. There is much good in Anglicanism, perhaps not so much in its beginnings, but a legitimate tradition and patrimony of English Christianity was partially preserved. This is why it has never been a simple matter of just sucking it up and converting.

    There’s a series going over at Valle Adurni called “Il faut que la France survive” about what a shame it would be if France were to fall by the wayside. The same thing can be said for that peculiar brand of Christianity which has managed to limp forward through history via Anglicanism: the faith of Bede, Thomas Beckett, Julian of Norwich, the Stuarts, and C.S. Lewis. Obviously the Holy Father agrees, or the Apostolic Constitution which went so far as to invent a new category of ecclesial body in order to allow Anglican bodies to enter into full communion with the Holy See while preserving elements of their Anglican heritage would never have been issued.


  8. The Orthodox position is that validity of Apostolic orders cannot be separated from their Apostolic faith. In the case that a Roman Catholic or Anglican is received into Orthodoxy, their orders before would have been “graceless”, done according to a formalistic ritual perhaps but devoid of any merit or grace in God’s eyes; when they come into Orthodoxy God and the Church supply the grace to make them valid.

    Whether this requires re-ordination or not is a matter for dispute, an effect of the weak decentralized ecclesialogy they have followed since 1054.

    I should note that from the Roman Catholic perspective, not all Anglican orders are invalid. Many Anglicans have received ordination from renegade Orthodox and Old Catholic bishops, and are as valid as Roman Catholic orders.

  9. I remember this question being of great importance to me when I was still a Catholic, and even some time after.

    John Jay Hughes (Roman Catholic) wrote a book called “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void”, which makes the argument that the Pope’s declaration is not as strong as it seems, and there is still the possibility that the Anglican orders are indeed valid. It’s an interesting read, and gives a good history of the Papal document, and how it came about.

    Gregory Dix (Anglican) published an excellent defense of Anglican orders.

    There is also the argument about this from Basil Hume, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, that the letter only refers to the time it was written. Now that Anglicans are often (and in the conservative cases, always) ordained by both Anglican and Orthodox or Old Catholic Bishops, sometimes using the Roman Catholic form, at least some Anglican priests are validly ordained.

    Of course, now that I deny that there exists any objective chrism of priesthood whatsoever, arguments like this have become irrelevant.

    Nevertheless, I thought it would be of interest to you to know that there is a diversity of Catholic opinion on this topic.

    1. “Some Anglican” clergy may have valid priestly orders via the Orthodox or Old Catholic Churches, but not via their own; so “Anglican Orders”, as such, are not valid. Pope Benedict XV1 said Anglicans are an ecclesiastical community, and not a church, because of this deficiency.

  10. The notion that the Anglican church is one homogeneous united body is a falsehood. The past 40 years or so has seen continual splits and movements. For example, who represents the “true” Anglican church — Canterbury or GAFCON? Within the US there are clearly two distinct Anglican bodies — which is the real church? All the real estate & property disputes between them clearly show they aren’t in communion with one another.
    Also to equate the Anglican church as a sister of Orthodoxy is also an incorrect notion as well. The Western Rite Orthodox church may look somewhat like an Anglo-Catholic service they will never accept the female clergy that the modern US & UK Episcopacy embrace. (Of course not mention non-celibate homosexual clergy).

  11. Paul: “Now that Anglicans are often (and in the conservative cases, always) ordained by both Anglican and Orthodox or Old Catholic Bishops”

    What “Anglican” Bishops are being ordained by Orthodox?
    These Orthodox must be schismatic from the rest of Orthodoxy?
    Orthodox have a very strong belief in the visible body of Christ and concrete idea of what it means to be in “communion”. Further the Bishops of Orthodoxy have no power to ordain someone from another church/denomination. The power to ordain comes from with the Orthodox church body is not a charism in the same way the Catholic church may view it.
    Of course “Old Catholics” are not in communion with Rome and their liberal views would prevent them from ever being in communion with Rome, Orthodoxy, or the more conservative Anglicans.

  12. Dear Dave in Dallas,

    I am in Dallas as well, by the way. Maybe we could sit down sometime to discuss some of these things. They are still of some intellectual curiosity to me.

    You can at least write me an e-mail, if you are so inclined. saul{d0t}tentmaker[at]gmail(d0t)com

    In any case, yes, some Orthodox bishops will co-ordain Anglican men (definitely not women). I do not know much about the Orthodox Church, or how they view this.

    But the issue I wrote about is not how the Orthodox Church views Anglican ordinations. I wrote about how the Roman Catholic Church views Anglican ordinations. Since the Roman Catholic Church recognizes that the Orthodox Bishops are validly ordained, and since the Roman Catholic Church also recognizes its own form of ordination as valid, the Roman Catholic Church must, it seems, at least consider the validity (not the licitness) of some Anglican ordinations now.

    I do not know, and it does not much affect me, how Orthodox or even how Catholics or Anglicans themselves view ordination.

  13. I thought that Card. Newman settled these issues with his THE DIFFICULTIES OF ANGLICANS. He was quite clear that the C of E was a fraud, a simulacrum. Year in, year out, step by step the bureaucracy of that organization threw out the principles of a true Apostolic Church, beginning with the acceptance of the denial of the divinity of Our Lord in the Eucharist at the orders of the English Privy Council.
    Newman’s great concern was that their ministers were misleading those who listened to them; that they were a danger to their eternal salvation.

  14. \I should note that from the Roman Catholic perspective, not all Anglican orders are invalid. Many Anglicans have received ordination from renegade Orthodox and Old Catholic bishops, and are as valid as Roman Catholic orders.\

    Definitely not from the Orthodox viewpoint.

    Should an Orthodox clergyman fall away from Orthodoxy (as participating in a non-Orthodox ordination would indicate), he leaves his orders at the door of the Orthodox Church.

    FWIW, Orthodox bishops receive Old Catholic clergy by Chrismation and Ordination.

  15. Tess, thanks for the heads’ up about the papers — I’ll try and remember to keep an eye out for the results.

    Jack, Ryan, Dave, and Seraphim: good points on the Orthodox view of the sacraments. I do with that they were a bit clearer, as I said above.

    I do think that Paul raises a good issue: what to make of those Anglicans who claim succession through Old Catholic or Orthodox bishops? That’s certainly a separate issue from what I outlined above, and I’d want to know more particulars before commenting. As Paul said the issue isn’t what the Orthodox would make of an Orthodox ordination of an Anglican, but what we Catholics would make of such a thing. The whole idea of ordaining someone into a communion one isn’t a part of strikes me as extremely sketchy, but I’d be interested in more information on the subject.

    Dave, good point on the in-fighting within the Anglican Communion and historically-Anglican churches and communities. I was reading a traditional Anglican blog explaining what Episcopalian ordinations since the 70s should be viewed as invalid. I’m not sure how normative that view is, but it was certainly eye-opening.

    Thomas, I completely agree with you on the beauty of Anglican patrimony, and said as much yesterday.  I think that the Anglican Use Mass is absolutely beautiful.  When I called it religious methadone, I don’t mean that those distinctively English (or even distinctively Anglican) elements are inferior.  I meant that Anglo-Catholics are longing for the fullness of the sacramental life, in the fullness of the Apostolic Church, and that Anglicanism (even Anglo-Catholicism) cannot provide it. Out of curiosity, what was your motivation for converting?

    Gabriel, I haven’t read The Difficulties of Anglicans. Does he actually call it a fraud and a simulacrum?

    God bless you all,


  16. Hi Joe,

    I don’t really agree that anglo-catholics are ‘longing for the fullness of the sacramental life’ as they certainly believe they have it in those parishes where they hold sway. They clearly believe their sacraments are valid otherwise there would not be so much fuss and bother around trying to gain the oversight of ‘legitimately ordained’ male bishops for parishes that might soon end up under the authority of female bishops.

    I think anglo-catholics are much more interested in the unity of the church and the healing of schism (when they’re not fighting for their very existence as they now are).

    I could be wrong though, I’m no expert as you know.


  17. It should also be noted that Fr. John Jay Hughes, author of the book “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void” and formerly an Anglican priest, was conditionally ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.

  18. Tom,

    Very interesting, isn’t it. Conditionally ordained. Which would definitely suggest some uncertainty about how the Pope’s letter should be understood.

    Of course the real arguments are in the book.

  19. If we were in communion and could move freely from Anglican to RC and back without being forced to implicitly reject the sacraments being received by our brethren, I almost certainly wouldn’t still be an Anglican.

    The sentiment is not unknown.

    “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh”

    However, we have our marching orders on the matter:

    “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

  20. “Are Anglican Ordinations Valid?”

    Of course not!

    Only Roman Catholics priests, bishops, and cardinals, and popes have the special ‘blue gas’ that comes from the ‘right fingertips’.

    The Word of God actually having power in and of itself to accomplish what It promises?


    Let’s rely on that this one touched that one…and that one touched this one…(ad nauseum).

    Thanks be to God that I’m free of all of that which actually limits the gospel and places everything back into the hands of sinners.

  21. Old Adam,

    Given your snide mockery, I take it you think that you understand the Word better than the earliest students of the Apostles (who very much believed in Apostolic Succession, which you claim “actually limits the Gospel and places everything back into the hands of sinners”)?

    How are you so sure of yourself on this? It won’t do to simply say Luther taught it. This is a serious question, and warrants a sensible answer.

    God bless,


    1. Sorry for the late reply. I was looking (all this time) for a Scripture verse that says that Christ can only work through certain men…no women…who have been touched by certain men, who have been touched by certain other men.

      Speaking of mockery…that just makes a mockery out of the gospel and that Christ works His will amongst sinners who hear His Word.

  22. Mary,

    I am following Jesus’ commandment regarding father, mother etc (and his commandment about giving up possessions) by entering an enclosed monastic order in a couple of days, so I don’t think Jesus meant I had to hate (or reject) my Christian brethren (whether Anglican, Catholic or Reformed).

    Are you really implying that Anglicans can’t follow Christ without first ‘hating’ their former brethren? This is something that Protestants often say to Catholics of course, as if there was no true saving faith between the time of Augustine and Luther, but only works righteousness and idolatry.

    Mark 9:38-41 gives a very different feel to the above rather uncharitable approach!

    I will work always for unity and mutual love and respect between us, because the world is wicked and I would gladly stand alongside any Christian.

    At least we don’t burn or behead each other while we’re squabbling online. Maybe we’ve come further than we think?

    with love,

  23. You know I was hoping the comment feed for this post wouldn’t turn into the endless argument about whether Anglican Orders are valid or not. The Holy Father has settled this question once and for all, by promulgating Anglicanorum coetibus.

    Insodoing, he has said that the only way the question could ever really be settled is on a case-by-case basis, and has refused to enter into such a project because it’s just not good for anybody. Instead, he has sided with Blessed Cardinal Newman, who struggled with his own re-ordination and realized that all the Sacraments which bestow an indelible mark (and can thus only be conferred once) are by their very nature conditional. If it can only be conferred once, and it already has been, it can’t be again, and it’s something of an exercise in scrupulosity to worry about whether or not one should explicitly say it’s being conferred conditionally.

    More than that, he has drawn a line in the sand, once and for all. The only question now is whether or not one recognizes the Lord’s call through the Holy Father to be one with his Body fully.

  24. Hi Thomas,

    What is meant by the word ‘conditional’ in this context? Conditional on what?

    I confess that with the exception of your last line, I don’t really follow what you’re saying.

    with love,

  25. Hi Tess,

    There are those who suggest that, even if the Holy See won’t officially acknowledge the validity of Anglican Orders, at the very least, they could re-ordain former Anglican priests conditionally, as a sort of nod to the possibility that they might be. That means that, when the ordination rite was being performed, the bishop would say something to the effect of “If this man is not already ordained.”

    Conditional Baptisms are possible too. I considered getting conditionally re-baptized when I converted. One of the Church’s few conditions for valid Baptism is that the minister performing it intend to “do what the Church does.” Having been baptized a Southern Baptist, I thought I might do so just in case, seeing as they don’t believe in the regenerative nature of Baptism. The Church explicitly says that such Baptisms are valid, though, so my priest said it wasn’t necessary.

  26. The comment above reminded me that while many take the view that the Catholic church doesn’t recognize any sacraments from outside the church this isn’t the case.
    Take for instance Baptism. Catholics accept most Trinitarian baptisms, a stance that is far more generous than most Baptist churches and some Orthodox churches (there is disagreement on this issue and not a unified voice).
    On the subject of marriage, two Protestants married before becoming Catholic would not need to get re-married. Their marriage is considered valid. Again some Orthodox would not accept that.
    While being born and raised Catholic I’ve had my forays into Protestantism (Methodist and Anglican)and Orthodoxy and even Eastern Catholicism. From personal experience it is very difficult to find a church home. I researched what the earliest church believed and found that the Catholic (and the Orthodox) churches were the only apostolic churches still in existence today.

  27. @Thomas Beyer and dave in dallas:

    1) The Church does not recognize the sacrament of ordination to have taken place within Anglicanism/Episcopalianism, hence they are “invalid”. Thus, all Anglican men seeking ordination to the Apostolic priesthood, are not re-ordained, but initially ordained.

    2) Marriage: I would hesitate to say that marriage between two baptized non-Catholics is valid. Reason: if a non-Catholic couple were to get a divorce and then remarry, and convert, the Church would not consider them in adulterous…they would not have to seek a declaration of nullity. However, if the couple converts, they usually get their marriage blessed or authenticated by a priest or deacon.

    Also, when the Orthodox will accept an Anglican into the Church through Chrismation, and then Ordain them, they are making a clear statement: the Anglican ordination was invalid (why else would they need to re-ordain them?).

  28. It might also be beneficial to point out that by Leo XIII’s time, all form and substance from Apostolic Succession had been lost: the form was substantively changed, and by the late 1800s, the meaning of the priesthood was all but completely gone. As a result, it was nearly impossible for a validly ordained bishop to be present at an Anglican ordination.

    The situation changed a bit afterwords, and so, with the influx of validly ordained Old Catholics, it is possible that someone, somewhere, was ordained by a true bishop…hence the “conditional ordination”.

  29. Yes, Joe.

    I do think I understand the Word better than many of the folks in the Catholic Church.

    Like Luther said, “The lowliest pig farmer armed with Scripture is mightier than the mightiest pope without it.”

    But that’s OK. You guys revolve everything around the Church. We will continue to revolve everything around Christ and His gospel for the figiveness of our sins.

    Off to church to recieve the real body and blood of Christ.


  30. Tess,

    Not all Anglican sacraments are invalid. Baptism and Marriage are not invalid. The same with confirmation.

    Holy Orders are invalid, simply because of it’s deep association with the Mass, and the Eucharist.

    The Early church held that only a church with Apostolic succession could celebrate the Eucharist.

  31. Old Adam,

    I didn’t say “many of the folks in the Catholic Church.” I said “the earliest students of the Apostles.” My point is that you claim that the Word is contrary to Apostolic Succession. The earliest students of the Apostles said the exact opposite.

    In Christ,


  32. Hi Savia,

    Are you really saying that Anglican baptisms are valid, but an Anglican Eucharist celebrated by the same priest is not? What’s the reasoning behind that one? How can one be valid but the other not?

  33. tess,

    it all has to do with the minister of the sacrament

    see: Ordinary and extraordinary ministers of the sacraments

    given certain circumstances anyone, even a lay person (which techinically encompasses Anglican priests are valid) because they are disposed as extraordinary (not ordinary) ministers for that sacrament.

    on the other hand, there are NO exceptions with regard to consecration of the Eucharist on who can be a minister.

  34. This article is old news about which many disagree, even by those who have occupied Peter’s chair. This article is ill-timed and possibly not even civil at this time. This article seems to have been composed in a vacuum at a time when the Holy Father along with traditional Anglicans have agreed upon a method of making specific Anglican Orders licit without “rubbing it in the face”.
    The “holier than thou” slant of the article and many of its comments is beyond the ken. This article should be immediately deleted.

  35. Aaron, you’re right that the Church’s last official pronouncement on the validity of Anglican orders declared them “null and void.” Nevertheless, the situation is much more complicated than that. My point was, due to that complication, the Holy Father charitably side-stepped the whole issue.

    Also, it doesn’t seem that you understand the historical Anglican situation very well. It was precisely in the 1800s when the Tractarians came along and fanned the fire of renewed interest in apostolic Christianity and the Sacraments.

    As for Marriage, the Church presumes the sacramental validity of a Marriage contracted by two baptized Christians outside the Church. If one or both of these parties is not baptized, it is a natural marriage, but not a sacramental one. Nevertheless, it is still binding. This is the case in which a Protestant marriage should be “blessed by the Church” subsequent to its contraction and the parties’ later baptism. We must remember that the Church is not the minister of the Sacrament of Marriage; the couple is. The Church merely oversees it through her minister, usually a priest.

  36. Like Luther said, “The lowliest pig farmer armed with Scripture is mightier than the mightiest pope without it.”

    Ah. Quoting the opinion of a man who explicitly described a book of Scripture as an “epistle of straw” and who deliberately mistranslated the Bible and defended it on the grounds “Dr. Martin Luther would have it so.”

    Given his own contempt for the Bible thus evinced, I would seriously doubt his ability to judge who was and who was not armed with Scripture.

  37. Tess, scredsoxfan2 is mostly right. Baptism may be validly celebrated by anyone. Usually it is an ordained minister of the Church (bishop, priest, or deacon) but this doesn’t mean it cannot be performed by a lay person, even a non-Christian. As long as clean, running water is used and it is done in the name of the Trinity, or even just the Name of Jesus, though this is not ideal, (CCC 1256).

    Stop by my blog, PopSophia.

  38. Fr. Bauer,

    Is your problem with what I said, or how I said it?

    I meant nothing uncharitable or “holier than thou.”. Tess raised her struggle, as an Anglo-Catholic, with the idea that the Catholic Church views female Anglican clerics’ Orders as invalid. I thought it was important to explain that it wasn’t as simple as “we accept male Anglican priests, but not female.” I recognize that this wasn’t pleasant news (given her existing struggle), but it seemed only honest.

    If there’s a more irenic way to make that point, I’m more than willing to edit it, if you have any suggestions.

    In Christ,


  39. Hi Tess,

    This has to do with the origins of the priesthood.

    The Mass and priesthood points to HIS atoning sacrifice, if it points to something else it becomes a broken sign.

    The Mass is a gift for humanity, but it is first a gift for the Father.

    Christ offers himself in love to the Father.

    The Priest acts in the person of Christ.

    The priesthood, according to St. John Chrysostom, “is ranked among heavenly ordinances. And this is only right, for no man, no angel, no archangel, no other created power, but the Paraclete himself ordained this succession…”

    (On the Priesthood, 1977, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 70).

    The Priesthood predates the Apostolic ministry.

    If I am not mistaken, Holy Orders is not a sacrament in the Anglican church?

  40. I’m asking out of pure curiosity. If Anglicans are confident beyond a shadow of doubt of the validity of their orders, why then do they have Orthodox or Old Catholic Bishops participate in their ordinations? It would seem that they are lending validity to their ordinations when they incorporate non-Anglican bishops into their ordinations. At best, it may demonstrate an insecurity as to the validity of the ordinations of their own bishops. If there are other reasons for this please let me know as the question begs the answer.

  41. Marriage: I would hesitate to say that marriage between two baptized non-Catholics is valid. Reason: if a non-Catholic couple were to get a divorce and then remarry, and convert, the Church would not consider them in adulterous…they would not have to seek a declaration of nullity

    What gave you that notion?

  42. To answer Jack: as far as I’m aware the Old Catholics were invited to participate in Anglican ordinations in the early 20th century as an oecumenical gesture and not to sure up Anglican orders with a sure line of succession. One Dutch bishop participating in an Anglican episcopal or priestly ordination is not going to fix Anglican orders (if you consider they need fixing).

    To answer Savia: Anglican classical theology states that there are two Gospel Sacraments, “generally necessary for salvation”, Baptism and the Holy Communion. According to this understanding the five ‘commonly called sacraments’ are not instituted explicitly by Christ and lack the ‘divinely appointed form or matter’, therefore they are called ecclesial sacraments or rites. Ordination may not be considered a Sacrament of the Gospel in classical Anglican analysis but it is certainly a sacred rite and one which imparts the spiritual authority of Christ to preach the Word and celebrate the Sacraments in the Church of God.

    I’m thankful to Fr Bauer’s sage comment to this blog and am very uncomfortable with the description of the charism of ordination being referred to as a ‘power tool’. OK, it seems as if Apostolicae Curae is turning into an infallible dogma and Roman Catholic teaching states that the sacraments I receive by faith in my ‘ecclesial community’ are invalid and void, but God is merciful and it is a tenet of the Roman Catholic faith that God will not allow one of his baptised children to be deprived of grace – if the ordinary means of receiving that grace are unavailable. The source of sanctification in the sacraments is not human but divine, hence the term holy mysteries. Humans are secondary in sacramental theology: Christ is the one who blesses, consecrates and transforms.

    History shows that the line of succession in Anglican episcopal ordinations (the series of laying on of hands) was carefully preserved (even when some of the officiants were unconvinced of its necessity!) and the Nicene rule of three bishops or more as consecrators has been strictly observed. (Please note that the Roman Catholic Church has on occasion relaxed this ancient rule). The preservation of the orders of bishop, priest and deacon was a hallmark of the Anglican reformation and has been maintained at great cost and with great care.

    Our ordination rites emphasise the pastoral role of Christian clergy in accordance with the New Testament teaching on the sacred ministry. The sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist is one of its many facets but an over-emphasis can obscure its principal function of nourishing the baptised on the risen life of Christ. If Anglican ordinations omit rites such as hand anointing and the tradition of instruments, it is because those rites were unknown before the 11th century and only the laying on of hands with prayer can be considered the essential and enduring element of the ordination liturgy.

    You will not scare Anglicans into becoming Roman Catholic by talking about ‘power tools’. It is crude and unspiritual and reminds me of why our paths parted in the 16th century. The apostolic succession does not impart magical powers. The grace of ministry is a gift and a charism of the Spirit. God cannot be boxed or controlled and I believe his all-powerful grace is at work among the churches of the Anglican communion, despite all our foibles, fractures and faults.

  43. Judicious Hooker,

    I am not sure it is anywhere authoritatively taught that “it is a tenet of the Roman Catholic faith that God will not allow one of his baptised children to be deprived of grace–if the ordinary means of receiving that grace are unavailable.” Nevertheless, I tend to agree with that notion. I think God provides for his people, and I think Anglicans are his people, though not as completely as they ought to be.

    All of this is to say that while neither sanctifying grace nor salvation can occur outside the Church, the Church is bigger than we realize. Likewise, valid Holy Orders involve more than just a question of “Succession genetics.” That being said, as Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, and Christ himself have said, the heart of the Church is at Rome, with Peter, and union in Charity with him has always been necessary. To be presented with this truth, to understand it, and then willingly deny it, is to deny the Church itself.


  44. Judicious,

    I’ll ask you the same thing I asked Fr. Bauer: is your objection to the point that I raised, or how I raised it?

    I don’t mind changing the language, if it’s an unnecessary stumbling block, but I’m not capable of just jettisoning Leo XIII’s assessment of Anglican orders because it happens to make things awkward for us.

    As I’ve said before, I wish that Anglican Orders were valid, and I hope that enough reforms have been made since Leo’s pontificate that at least some Anglican Orders today are. I also think that certain Anglican leaders have been very, very good for Christianity — folks like N.T. Wright. As for conditional ordinations, I think that they’re a pastoral way of solving this problem delicately, and I support that.

    But the truth is, neither Catholics nor Orthodox believe the Anglican “Branch Theory,” and we wouldn’t be faithful to our own beliefs or honest with you is we pretended that we did for the sake of avoiding strife. You almost seem to be demanding that, for the sake of charity, we Catholics simply acknowledge the equal validity of Anglicanism — the very heart of what we deny. Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying in your post?

    God bless,


    P.S. It wasn’t power tools, it was about an electrical cord… and it was just an analogy. And it’s pure whitewash to claim that’s why Henry left the Church.

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