MAY 31, 2017
Quo Vadis, Papa Francisco?
61-CURIAL CARDINAL QUESTIONS TEACHING OF POPE LEO XIII ON ANGLICAN “ORDERS”
Curial Cardinal questions Papal Teaching on Anglican “Orders”
May 26, 2017
At a recent ecumenical forum, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio called into question the formal declaration in 1896 by Pope Leo XIII that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”
A Novel Approach to Validity
The presentation by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, who since 2007 has been President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, was published in an anthology of papers and discussions from the “Malines Conversations” held in Rome. In his talk the Cardinal argued the Catholic Church today has “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity,” whereas “one should be able to say: this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid another context.” Such an approach, in his view, could lead to rapprochement in ecumenical relations with the Church of England.
Startling headlines notwithstanding, Catholic teaching about the nullity of Anglican orders is part of the unchangeable papal Magisterium, set forth authoritatively in a papal Bull. Until now it had not been questioned in more than a century, which has included fifty years of Catholic-Anglican modern ecumenical dialogue. Coccopalmerio has no delegated authority from the Pope to engage in ecumenical dialogue; the statements that he made at the forum are his personal views as a canon lawyer.
The Question of Succession
Giving the Cardinal the benefit of the doubt, lay canonist Edward Peters noted that in isolated cases Catholic or Orthodox co-consecrators of Anglican clergy may have established some claim to apostolic succession. In any event that “succession” would be short-lived, because the rare validly-ordained Anglican bishop would not ordain validly, lacking the proper intention. But Coccopalmerio does not discuss this historical argument at all.
What is the Cardinal talking about, then?
“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’…This about the life of a person and what he has given…these things are so very relevant!”
Coccopalmerio also mentioned symbolic gestures, such as the alleged gift of an episcopal ring and a chalice by Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1966. “With these gestures the Catholic Church already intuits, recognizes a reality.”
The Teaching of Sacramental Theology
Catholic sacramental theology teaches that anyone, even a non-Christian, can baptize validly in an emergency, provided that in pouring the water and reciting the Trinitarian formula they intend to do “what the Church intends.” It also teaches that when two baptized Christians marry, their marriage is sacramental. In this sense and only in this one, the Cardinal is right: valid sacraments may occur even in an Anglican parish.
The Anglican rite has been declared certainly invalid in a definitive manner, because of “defect of form and intention” in the Bull Apostolicae Curae issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1896. Without valid Holy Orders, there is no Eucharist, there is no absolution. The existence of women “priests” and “bishops” in many parts of the Church of England today should be proof enough that something went drastically wrong with their “apostolic succession” after the sixteenth century.
Coccopalmerio tries to paper over these obvious theological facts by making a conceptual distinction: he says that there are “differences” between Christians and then there are “divisions” between them. He claims that “divisions” should exist only over fundamental beliefs like the divinity of Christ.
“Today, Churches are divided, or, rather, they say that they are divided because they lack common elements which, however, are not fundamental because they are not a matter of faith. We say: you don’t have this reality, which is a matter of faith, and therefore you are divided from me. But in fact it isn’t a matter of faith, you only pretend it to be.”
For Anglicans to belong to the Catholic Church which is the unique Spouse of Christ – outside which there is no salvation – there requires unity in the Faith, sacraments, and governance. Conserving some truths of faith and some sacraments does not allow possession in the virtue of Faith, not to mention their lack of unity to the Holy See, both of which preclude membership in the Catholic Church.
APOSTOLICAE CURAE-ON THE NULLITY OF ANGLICAN ORDERS LEO XIII SEPTEMBER 18, 1896
Anglican Orders not “invalid” says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position
By Christopher Lamb, May 9, 2017
Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity.
One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”
In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”
“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum.
“This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!”
For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision.
But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question.
“The question of validity [regarding the non-recognition of Anglican orders, while the Pope would give pectoral crosses, rings or chalices to Anglican clergy], however, is not a matter of law but of doctrine,” he explains in a question and answer format. “We have had, and we still have 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’.”
Cardinal Coccopalmerio also recalled Pope Paul VI’s meeting with then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in 1966. It was a famous meeting as the Pope gave the archbishop his episcopal ring and also, according to the cardinal, a chalice.
“What does it mean when Pope Paul VI gave a chalice to the Archbishop of Canterbury? If it was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it was meant to be done validly, no?” he explains. “This is stronger than the pectoral cross, because a chalice is used not just for drinking but for celebrating the Eucharist. With these gestures the Catholic Church already intuits, recognises a reality.”
Pope Francis has also pushed ahead with a number of symbolically important ecumenical initiatives such as travelling to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation. The Pope has also called for Christian denominations to act as if they are already united and leave the theological disagreements to be resolved later.
Yet the major difficulty for the Catholic Church in recognising Anglican clergy would be the perception of validating women priests, something that was strongly ruled against by John Paul II.
The new collection of papers also includes the records of two discussions that took place between Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI – when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – and the former Anglican Bishop of the Diocese in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell.
On Anglican orders, Bishop Rowell quotes Cardinal Ratzinger as saying: “we cannot do anything about Leo XIII’s words but there are, however, other ways of looking at things.”
While the Pope Emeritus does not follow up with any suggestions, he does accept that Anglican eucharist services have value.
“When an ecclesial community, with its ordained ministry, in obedience to the Lord’s command, celebrates the eucharist, the faithful are caught into the heavenly places, and there feed on Christ,” he says.
Elsewhere in his contribution, Cardinal Coccopalmerio distinguishes between the “differences” and “divisions” between Christians: the latter, he stresses, should only be over fundamental things such as the divinity of Christ.
“Today, Churches are divided, or, rather, they say that they are divided because they lack common elements which, however, are not fundamental because they are not a matter of faith,” he explains.
“We say: ‘you don’t have this reality, which is a matter of faith, and therefore you are divided from me. But in fact it isn’t a matter of faith, you only pretend it to be.”
While a revision of Leo XIII’s position on Anglican orders would be a milestone, the cardinal also stresses the situation is currently somewhat “unclear.”
Cardinal denies teaching on Anglican Holy Orders
By Trey Elmore, May 10, 2017
Cdl. Francesco Coccopalmerio has also voiced support for Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried
Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, is reportedly denying the teaching of Pope Leo XIII on the validity of Anglican holy orders, according to an article by Christopher Lamb of The Tablet, a liberal Catholic magazine based in the United Kingdom.
According to Lamb, the cardinal said in a recent book, referring to Anglican holy orders, “We have had and we still have 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 in another context.'”
The remarks constitute a complete departure from Pope Leo XIII’s words on these matters in his 1896 encyclical Apostolicae Curae, defining Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void.”
Canonist Dr. Ed Peters criticizes Coccopalmerio, saying his rejection of the Church’s “rigidity” on holy orders opens the door to Protestantism: “Once we go down that path, we don’t know anything anymore and we are pretty much Brother Billy Bob’s Faith Community in the old gas station down by the park.”
Coccopalmerio’s comments are not his first expression of heterodox views. In February, in a book by the cardinal titled The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he wrote that the faithful who “find themselves” in irregular unions without a declaration of nullity or an amendment of life can receive Holy Communion, provided they “want to change that situation, but can’t act on their desire.”
According to Catholic teaching, being a priest is more than wearing vestments and giving a sermon and witnessing marriages, as Protestant pastors and Catholic deacons are able to do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1583) teaches that when a priest is ordained, “The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently.”
The Church teaches that when a man is ordained a priest, he receives an indelible character upon his soul and becomes a priest ontologically through the sacrament of Holy Orders administered by the bishop. The indelible character, according to CCC 1582, referencing the Council of Trent, cannot be repeated or only temporarily conferred. Baptism and confirmation are the two other sacraments, which confer unrepeatable, permanent indelible characters on the human soul.
Because the character of the priesthood enables a man to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist, an invalidly administered sacrament of Holy Orders does not confer on a person the ability to consecrate the Blessed Sacrament. What Pope Leo XIII said about Anglican orders means that the Anglicans have no true Eucharist, despite their claims to the contrary.
Pope Leo’s encyclical was met by Anglican bishops who argued against the Holy Father’s definition. Today, Anglicans are divided on the nature and purpose of both Holy Orders, as well as the Anglican Eucharist. Self-professed “Anglo-Catholics” tend to hold Catholic beliefs about sacraments, while maintaining that the Anglican Communion retains valid orders and therefore a valid succession of bishops. Low-church, charismatic and evangelical Anglicans hold disparate, more Protestant understandings of the ministerial priesthood. So while the pope has definitively taught that Anglican priests are not true priests, Anglicans do not agree amongst themselves whether they are or not.
Saint John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, said regarding the nature and glory of the priesthood and the unique abilities of a priest:
Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you.” Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven.
3 of 13 readers’ comments
1. If Pope Leo is wrong and Anglican orders are valid then women can be validly ordained. That’s what this is all about. Thankfully Pope Leo isn’t wrong.
2. Father Coccopalmerio says “this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid in another context.”
Ah yes, the whole things-change-from-context-to-context argument. Straight from the pit of hell.
3. “So while the pope has definitively taught that Anglican priests are not true priests, Anglicans do not agree amongst themselves whether they are or not.” I think that sums it up. Now you can see how I converted.
The High and Low Anglican Church is kind of like ‘who’s on first? What’s on second? And I don’t know is on third.
Cardinal Coccopalmerio on Anglican Orders
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, May 11, 2017
Deacon Kandra reports here that Cardinal Coccopalmerio has suggested that Anglican orders may not be “absolutely null and utterly void” as declared by Pope Leo XIII.
In a recent book he writes, “When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,”
Deacon Greg says that the Cardinal is “one of the Vatican’s top legal minds.” If this is the top what’s the bottom?
The cardinal has set up a scarecrow–a straw man. Nobody was ever suggesting that in an Anglican ordination nothing has happened and that everything is completely worthless.
Leo XIII’s definition does not seek to define what has happened in an Anglican ordination. It seeks to define what has not happened. What has not happened is Catholic ordination.
After I converted to the Catholic faith people asked, “But what about your Anglican orders? Are you saying they were worthless? Were you not a priest?”
My answer was, “There is much that is worthy, good, beautiful and true in the Anglican Church. Catholics admit this and embrace it. We also thank God for all the graces that flowed to us in our Protestant experience. I’m not sure what my Anglican ordination consisted of, but what I do know is that I was not a Catholic priest. I was an Anglican priest.”
The church teaches that Anglican orders are null and void but it does not teach that they are worthless and meaningless. The proof of this is that they make an exception for men like me to be ordained and allow the ordinaries of the ordinariate to wear pontificals. If our orders are not only null and void but worthless, then why recognize that there is something different about us from laymen?
Therefore, if our orders were null and void, but not worthless and meaningless, Leo XIII’s definition leads us to ask, “Well, what is actually happening at a Protestant ordination?”
The question then remains–if Anglican orders are not Catholic orders what are they?
But that should be for the Anglicans to tell us–not for us to tell them.
We tell them–”Your orders are not valid Catholic orders. Now you tell us what you think they are.”
And that is where the problem becomes even more confusing because the Anglicans themselves don’t know what their own priesthood is.
They have no shared ecclesiology, no shared sacramental theology, and no shared theology of ministry or ordination.
An Anglo Catholic will pretend that he is “a Catholic but in the Anglican Church.” He believes he is a sacrificing priest confecting a true sacrament.
But an Evangelical Anglican will strenuously deny that he is a sacrificing priest and will intentionally repudiate such an idea that he is any kind of priest at all. Indeed he will insist that he is a “minister of God’s word.”–and so he is.
Meanwhile a modernist Anglican will say, “Priesthood! What a concept! Does anyone believe in that sort of thing nowadays?” As one modernist Anglican priest once said to me, “I see myself sort of like the shaman of the tribe.”
I suspect Cardinal Coccopalmerio–like most Catholics outside of England–has very little experience or understanding of Anglicanism at all, and is merely making ill informed, subjective and sentimental comments about the subject. The only Anglicans he has met are the ones the Anglicans send him–intellectual somewhat Anglo-Catholic diplomats who know how to talk Catholic when they need to.
He never meets the Calvinist Anglicans who can’t stand the Catholic Church or the radical homosexualist and feminist Anglicans who spit on the Catholic Church. He’s never met the radical modernists who think the Catholic Church is a dangerous monarchy from the Dark Ages. If he spent even one year in England observing and learning he would realize how silly his comments are.
Of course there are good Anglican priests who love Jesus and do good work. Nobody has suggested that their lives and faith are futile and worthless. But them being nice enough chaps who love Jesus is not the same thing as having valid Catholic orders.
Coccopalmerio’s dodgy theology of orders has a deeper, darker foundation, and this become clear in his further words on the subject:
The cardinal’s mindset is deeply relativistic. He writes, “”We have had, and we still have 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’.”
The cardinal should be careful not to cut off the branch on which he is sitting.
After all, if Anglican orders are maybe valid sometimes and maybe not valid other times depending on the context, then the same can be said of the authority of Catholic Cardinals.
If the cardinal can relativize Anglican orders saying “maybe they are sometimes valid in some circumstances and sometimes not, then one might also say, “You know, up till now we have had a very rigid understanding of the authority of cardinals. In many contexts what they say is true and valid. In other contexts what they say is total nonsense.”
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