Anglicans and Apostolic Succession

The Get Religion blog asks the same question that I asked earlier this week: why did the Pope lump the Anglicans in with other Protestants in claiming that the Protestants are bot a church because they are not in the line of apostolic succession. After all, Anglicans are quite proud that this is not the case:

What a week for the Anglicans or the Episcopalians or whoever is near you who claims ancient ties to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

First there was the silence about Anglicanism in that much-covered Vatican document, the one that grants the Orthodox a unique, if wounded, status as a sacramental “Church.” In the past (please correct me if I am wrong), the Anglicans have usually received some kind of nod in Vatican documents to their historic roots and claims to apostolic succession. But in the new Vatican statement, there is silence. Does that mean that the Church of England is covered in the following reference?


Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?


According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery . . . cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.

That’s blunt. The Reformation communities have “not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery.”

For those really curious about this, here is a bit of history from wiki:

Pope Leo XIII stated, in his 1896 bull Apostolicae Curae that the Catholic Church believes specifically that the Anglican Church's consecrations are "absolutely invalid and utterly void" because of changes made to the rite of consecration under Edward VI, thus denying that Anglicans participate in the apostolic succession. A reply from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (1896) attempted to counter Pope Leo's arguments, with debatable efficacy. [7] It even suggested that if the Anglican orders were invalid, then the Roman orders were as well:

For if the Pope shall by a new decree declare our Fathers of two hundred and fifty years ago wrongly ordained, there is nothing to hinder the inevitable sentence that by the same law all who have been similarly ordained have received no orders. And if our Fathers, who used in 1550 and 1552 forms which as he (the Pope) says are null, were altogether unable to reform them in 1662, (Roman) Fathers come under the self-same law. And if Hippolytus and Victor and Leo and Gelasius and Gregory have some of them said too little in their rites about the priesthood and the high priesthood, and nothing about the power of offering the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, the church of Rome herself has an invalid priesthood...

Rome's position has since softened to now only conditionally ordain converting Anglican priests. These ordinations are conditional because it has been judged by the Roman Catholic Church that prior ordination as an Anglican may have been valid. This was an acknowledgment that even if the Anglican orders were indeed invalid from the time of Matthew Parker, all current Anglican Bishops have been consecrated in succession through Old Catholic or Orthodox lines whose holy orders are recognised by the Holy See. The Old Catholic Union of Utrecht, is in full communion with Canterbury and Anglicanism since the Bonn Agreement of 1931. It should also be noted that since the issuance of Apostolicae Curae, many Anglican jurisdictions have revised their ordinals, bringing them more in line with ordinals of the early Church.

Inspite of these change, the language of Pope Leo's statement was reinforced in the accompanying commentary to Ad Tuendam Fidem:

With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations...

Read it all here.


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