Project Canterbury


Ordination Problems

Reordination and Ordination “Per Saltum” and Home Reunion


By John Wordsworth, D.D.


London: SPCK, 1909.




General Principles as to the Conditions of Ordination considered as a Sacramental Act.


I. Practice of Reordination in the West in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries


II. Reordinations during the period of Reform in the eleventh and twelfth centuries

Morals of this history. Bearing of it on the treatment of Anglican Ordinations and on internal questions concerning the Anglican Church


Appendix. Prayer from the Sacramentary of Sarapion for the Benediction of Presbyters


A Review of “Les Reordinations,” par l’Abbé Louis Saltet


THIS valuable book[1] is one of a series of Études d’histoire des dogmes et d’ancienne literature ecclésiastique, issued by that school of French Ecclesiastics of which Mgr. Batiffol is best known in this country, and of which, without disrespect to his learned colleagues, he may be described as the leader. It is a school possessed of the three great literary virtues of candour, learning, and intelligence; and it has a yet further quality, which English Churchmen cannot but value—it is reasonably conservative, and at least properly careful of its orthodoxy. As such, it is to be distinguished from what we in this country understand by “Modernism,” in so far as Modernists exaggerate the right and duty and the competency of private judgement and leave the future aspect of most theological questions hazy and nebulous. It is in fact the modern representative of the old French historical school of which the great Oratorian, Jean Morin (1591-1659), was perhaps the most conspicuous ornament, profiting by the more detailed knowledge which has been accumulated, and by the exercise of the comparative historical method which has been developed, since the seventeenth century. It desires to clear dogmas and rites from accretions and exaggerations, and to express and describe them in terms which will be applicable to modern life, but to leave their substance thereby more, and not less, substantial.

M. Saltet calls his work Étude sur le sacrement de l’ordre. This second title seems to me quite defensible, though it is criticized by Dr. Kattenbusch in an appreciative review which appeared in the Theologische Literatur-Zeitung in July last. Clearly to some readers it seems to promise more than it actually performs. It does not attempt completeness historically or theologically, except in the period of Western Church history extending from the seventh to the thirteenth century. Even there the survey of scholastic teaching is incomplete, though we are grateful to M. Saltet for much information about less-known canonists, some of it drawn from manuscript sources. He is a good and sure guide, being acquainted with the literature of his subject, both ancient and modern, with a fullness of knowledge which is, I am inclined to think, very rare in any country. I think that more space might well have been given both to the description of the rite of Ordination (such as the holding of the book over the head, as signifying the presence of Christ) and to the development of the ideas respecting it. For instance, M. Saltet seems to lose an opportunity quite at the beginning of his book, where he enumerates the three prerogatives of the Church as “Ministère de la parole, pouvoir sacrementel, don des miracles.” Here, in such a book, we should expect an indication of the breadth of the diffusion of these prerogatives according to the teaching of the New Testament. A reference to our Lord’s “Forbid him not,” spoken concerning the man who worked miracles in His Name, and yet declined to follow the Apostles, would surely have been in place here. So would a mention of St. Paul’s satisfaction in regard to his schismatic opponents, that at any rate, “whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached” (Philip, i. 18). So would have been a discussion of the somewhat obscure ipso facto Ordinations of charismatic persons and confessors of which we have traces in early Christian literature. It would seem natural to connect the final judgement of the Church as to the objectivity of Sacraments—that is to say their independence of the personality of the minister—with the earlier freedom of the primitive Church, of which, in my opinion, this doctrine is in some sense a survival.

We must, however, be very grateful for what M. Saltet gives us. He is very helpful in asserting the judgement of the ancient Church as to the conditions of a valid Ordination, and he gives in a compact and telling manner some of the practical reasons why the Church has come to the conclusion which it has reached. He does not, I think, state quite clearly the theological reason which is thus summed up by Thomas Aquinas, that heretics “per fidem Ecclesiae continuantur passioni Christi: quia quamvis in ea non sint secundum se, sunt tamen in ea quantum ad formam Ecclesiae quam servant” (Dist. in iv. lib. Sent. xxv. 1, 2). As to practical results, M. Saltet puts it clearly that to make Sacraments depend for their validity upon the personal character, or the orthodoxy, or the ecclesiastical status and professed loyalty of the minister (though their sacredness naturally demands all these conditions) would lead to a state of chaotic uncertainty. No one would be secure that he had received the Divine gifts offered to him in the Sacraments. Hence the general doctrine of the objectivity of the Sacraments, or, as it is sometimes expressed, that they produce their effect ex opere operato,[2] is a necessary protection to the members of the Church, for whose benefit the Sacraments were instituted. It is also, as Aquinas reminds us, an assertion of their Divine and spiritual character. It connects them with the Passion of Christ. We are sometimes tempted to accuse those who speak strongly of the “objectivity” of Sacraments as degrading them to the position of material, mechanical, or magical instruments acting outside the sphere of moral considerations. This might be the case if we did not distinguish the grace of the Sacraments from their regular and necessary effect. God’s power is always behind and in them, but man does not always use it to his salvation. These considerations of the largeness of the Divine charity, and of the relative unimportance of the human channel through which it flows, all make for freedom and for the conception of a larger unity of Christendom outside the limits of ecclesiastical regimen. They enable us to see how heretics and schismatics, as well as men of very imperfect, or evil lives, may be somehow bound together in carrying on the Divine life of the Church. Nevertheless, the conditions of sacramental efficacy cannot be so lax as to leave it to a man’s arbitrary choice to say, “I am a Bishop, or Priest, and declare that this is a Sacrament (say of Baptism), because it has some likeness to and kinship with the Gospel Sacrament, and because I desire to make it so.”

The Church has the duty of defining what is necessary to maintain the substantial character and permanent identity of the Sacraments. What are the conditions which make a Sacrament the means of any particular form of Divine grace? The schoolmen treated these conditions under the four heads of matter, form, intention, and minister, and though they accumulated a considerable amount of needless detail and erroneous conclusions in so doing, a consideration of all four points is needed. This consideration we rather miss in M. Saltet’s book. He takes the discussion very much for granted, especially as regards matter and form, and thereby, I think, he loses an opportunity of making his book more permanently useful.

On the general conclusion, however, both as regards the Sacraments in general and as regards Ordination, we are in complete agreement with him. Using the word “Sacrament” in the broader sense given to it by ancient theology, which, of course, includes under the term other efficacious signs of sacred realities than those of the two great Sacraments of the Gospel, we hold in the Church of England, quite as strongly, I think, as it is held in any part of Christendom, that the “Sacrament of Order” requires laying-on of hands, with prayer suitable to the office conferred, and with a general intention of making a man what the Church intends as a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon. We hold that such an Ordination conferred by a Bishop, as sole or chief minister, who has been himself so ordained, even if he is a heretic, is valid and cannot be reiterated without sacrilege, and that it is impossible to bind the power so conferred by Church censure. This opinion, as M. Saltet says (p. 8), is proxima fidei, though not de fide. It is nowhere, I believe, laid down by canon or dogmatic decree binding either upon ourselves or on Roman Catholics. It is supported, of course, by the general consensus as to Baptism, and, in the Roman Church, by the express decree of Trent on that great Sacrament of the Gospel when administered by heretics (Sessio VII, De Sacramentis; Canon IV, De Baptismo).

The tradition as to Baptism has, indeed, been fairly consistent in the West since the controversy between St. Cyprian and Pope Stephen I in the ‘third century; and therefore the Council of Trent ran little risk in affirming it. It probably shrank from defining the same doctrine as to heretical Confirmation and Ordination because of the great variety of opinion and practice on the subject in centuries not far removed from its own date. In fact, a great part of the book before us is taken up with the patient and laborious demonstration of the thesis that Roman tradition on the subject of reordination was very far from being consistent up; to the thirteenth century; or, rather, that both the Popes and other leading prelates of Western Europe, but the Popes more frequently than others, again and again reordained persons who had been quite validly (if irregularly) ordained. The proof of this thesis occupies the central and most important part of the book, which contains the history of the subject and may be summarized under two principal heads—(1) from the seventh to the tenth century inclusive, and (2) the period of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I will summarize the principal facts of the first period in my own words, and borrow those of M. Saltet’s résumé for the second. But first a few sentences of preface are needed.

The early history of sacramental theology exhibits a considerable tendency to divergence between the Eastern and the Western Church as to the reiteration, first of Baptism and then of Ordination. We see this divergence in the early history of the Novatian controversy in which St. Cyprian and the Churches of Asia Minor were arrayed against Pope Stephen I. We see the two tendencies apparently struggling one against the other in the Canons of Nicaea. We see it in the softening influence of a residence at Rome upon St. Athanasius in regard to Arian Ordinations, to which M. Saltet rightly draws attention (p. 46). We see it above all in the different treatment of the Donatist schism in the West, and of the Monophysites in the East. The Donatists reordained Catholic clergy, and forced them to do penance. This led to the remarkable assertion of the objectivity of Sacraments by St. Augustine, which has had so decisive an effect upon the Western Church, and practically rules its counsels at the present day. It would be difficult to find a more lucid and effective statement of the opinion now generally accepted in regard to Baptism and Ordination than the 28th chapter of the second book of his treatise, Contra Epistolam Parmeniani, written circa A.D. 400. On the other hand, the Monophysites suffered from reordination by Catholics, and protested against the principle whether applied to themselves or others. What the present doctrine of the Eastern Church is is not easy to say. M. Saltet draws attention to the fact that in the Canons of the Trullan Council (A.D. 692), which are the chief repertory of disciplinary rules still in vogue in the East, the letter of the Church of Constantinople to Martyrius of Antioch (A.D. 450-71) was promulgated as Canon 95, but with a suppression of the order to reordain Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, Sabbatiani, and Apollinarists (p. 58); but silence on such a matter is not equal to a condemnation of the contrary practice of reordination, and I am inclined to believe that the Eastern Churches keep in reserve their liberty to reordain those whom it may be thought right specially to brand as heretics.

Canon 69 of the Canons of the Apostles is still part of their code. It is very explicit and general: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon shall have received a second ordination from any one let both the ordained and the ordainer be deposed, unless he shows that he has his Ordination from heretics: for those who are baptised or ordained by such can neither be members of the Church or clergy.”—Cp. Canons 46 and 47 of the same series.


I. Practice of Reordination in the West in the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Centuries.


Such being the general tendency of lenity in the West and severity in the East, it is somewhat difficult to understand how the West for so many centuries after Pope Gregory the Great took a contrary line—a line, apparently, dictated not so much by principle as by a spirit of vindictiveness and political expediency. We find an early trace of this spirit in the angry words of Pope Pelagius I (556-61) against the schismatics of Milan and Aquileia on the subject of the “Three Chapters.” His sentence “Non est Corpus Christi quod schismaticus conficit” was often remembered and quoted in after-years, though it probably went further than his settled judgement would have gone (pp. 78-83). But the first definite movement in the direction of a general policy of reordination is ascribed by M. Saltet to our Archbishop Theodore. In his case this is easily attributable to the influence of Greek theology, and we are not wholly surprised to find that he treated the Sacraments of British Bishops as null. The British were by him and his contemporaries described as “Quartodecimans” on account of their old-fashioned and inexact computation of Easter; and they gave a certain colour themselves to the appellation by claiming for their error the authority of St. John, as the real Quartodecimans had done for theirs. M. Saltet shows that it was on this ground in particular that Theodore disputed the validity of British Ordinations. He discusses the treatment of St. Chad by Theodore, and makes out a very good case for accepting the statement of Eddius that Chad was actually reordained “per omnes gradus ecclesiasticos” (p. 90), and did not merely receive some confirmatory rite, as has been frequently, and perhaps generally, concluded from Bede’s summary statement—“[Theodoras] dixit non eum episcopatum dimittere debere; sed ipse ordinationem eius denuo catholica ratione consummavit” (H. E. iv. 2, Saltet, p. 92). But this action of Theodore’s—however indefensible in our eyes—was based on something of principle. He really thought the Britons heretical. The action of the Popes and other Western prelates from the eighth century onwards seems to have been dictated almost entirely by policy, unless, with Morin, we suppose that they imagined the Pope to have had the right to establish conditions necessary to the valid exercise of the power of Order (p. 372), or, with Professor Von Schulte, we accept the suggestion that they looked upon Ordination as a Sacrament not conferring an indelible character (p. 380). They undoubtedly frequently confused what was irregular and illegitimate with what was null and invalid. The temptation to this confusion was evidently closely connected with the change in the circumstances of the Papacy which took place almost silently but very decisively about the middle of the eighth century. “After the year 754 (writes Mgr. Duchesne) there is no mention of the Duke of Rome” (Beginnings of Temporal Sovereignty of the Popes, p. 40, E. T.). This is the epoch of the actual beginning of that temporal power which lasted, with all its fateful consequences, to the year 1870. The Papacy became an earthly sovereignty, and was henceforth more than ever an object of secular ambition. It is impossible not to connect this change with the case of Pope Constantine II (A.D. 767-9). He was the elder brother of a certain Duke Toto, living outside the city, and a soldier, not a clerk. His brothers and their followers elevated him to the Papacy by a tumultuous election. He was promoted to the different orders up to the diaconate inclusively without the Canonical intervals, and then consecrated Pope (as usual from the diaconate), all these Ordinations being extra tempora. He was deposed thirteen months later by a counter-revolution supported by Lombard troops. His Ordinations were declared invalid by his successor, Stephen III, at a large Council held in 769, and thus a very ill-founded precedent was set for the confusions of the following centuries.

Next we note the similar harsh treatment of the German Chorepiscopi, or assistant-Bishops, notwithstanding the protest of Rabanus Maurus in the ninth century (P.L. 110, p. 1195 ff.). These officers had certainly received Episcopal consecration, but they were ordained only by one Bishop, and not to a regular Episcopal See, and sometimes it would seem without any title. But the real objection to the institution was a practical and, apparently, a well-founded one. They were misused to promote the increasing secularization of the Church. Diocesan Bishops who wished to attend the court and to live like laymen, confided their spiritual duties to such assistants, very much as among ourselves mediaeval Bishops employed Scottish or Irish suffragans, and in later days wealthy non-resident Rectors used to assign their pastoral care to their curates. Kings in like manner employed Chorepiscopi to take the charge of Dioceses which, in their cupidity, they wished to keep vacant or from which they had banished the Diocesan Bishops. The letter of Rabanus addressed to Drogo, son of Charles the Great and Bishop of Metz, is dated somewhere between A.D. 842 and 847. But it was ineffectual. The powers of these assistant-Bishops were much reduced by the 44th Canon of the Council held at Meaux in 845 (Labbe 7, p. 1833), and they fell into further discredit by the publication of the forged letter of Damasus to the Bishops of Numidia which began to be circulated a year or two later—the period of the Forged Decretals (see pp. 110-24).

A still more serious attack upon the true doctrine of Order was made by the Council of Soissons in 853, which pronounced that the Ordinations of the deceased Ebo or Ebbo, Archbishop of Rheims, performed after his deposition, were invalid. This decision was of course entirely in the interest of his rival Hincmar; but M. Saltet is perhaps a little hard upon the latter in giving the impression that the decision was Hincmar’s personal work. He was technically in the position of a plaintiff appearing before the Council, and therefore not in a position to intervene actively in wording its decisions. The recollection of this fact may incline us to judge less harshly his after-conduct, which, indeed, showed much duplicity and shiftiness, when he was forced to acknowledge that these Ordinations could not really be held to be invalid, and tried to explain their validation by inventing a theory of dispensation (see pp. 125-37). It is interesting to note that during this process of Hincmar’s a case of saltus, omitting the diaconate, was discussed, and the person affirmed to have been so promoted was degraded.[3]

Next comes a striking case of Papal arbitrariness—the annullation by Pope John VIII in 880 of a consecration performed by Ansbert, Archbishop of Milan. Ansbert had been excommunicated for contumacy, but he nevertheless consecrated Joseph, Bishop of Vercelli, in his Province. The Pope required Joseph to be reordained (pp. 146-52). This was an extreme case of political or personal vindictiveness, since in the previous year John had admitted the Ordinations of Photius of Constantinople, notwithstanding the formal declarations of Nicolas I and Hadrian II to the contrary (p. 152).

Following close upon these, the best known and most discreditable case of all is the extraordinary treatment of the acts of Pope Formosus (A. D. 891-6). For thirty years and more, according to the accident of party success in capturing the Papacy, these acts were treated now as invalid and-now as valid. The whole procedure, which was sometimes disfigured by a strange brutality, has left a peculiarly dark stain on Papal history.

The case was a particularly shocking one, since Formosus had died, apparently of fear; and when his enemies the Princes of Spoleto forced the new Pope to try him three years later, his body was exhumed for the purpose. The chief ground chosen for attacking the regularity of his acts was his translation from the See of Porto contrary to Roman tradition. Yet one of his recent predecessors, Marinus, had been equally translated from a neighbouring See. There was also another irregularity which we should consider of a graver kind, if it were proved—viz. his own voluntary reordination as Bishop of Rome. This was intended, I presume, if it were a fact, to cover any objection that might be made to his translation. But of anything really invalidating his acts there seems to have been no question whatever. As regards the second consecration, M. Saltet, who refers to it, does not discuss it as we wish he had done. Auxilius, who defended Formosus a few years later, says that if he received a second laying-on of hands as Pope, it was not a fresh Ordination, but only an increase of honour. Then he asserts that those who were present say he never received it. The case, then, is an obscure one, like that of one of our own Edwardian Bishops, Thomas Lancaster, of Kildare, who is said to have received a second consecration when promoted to Armagh in 1568. It may be urged that Formosus was more likely to have submitted to, or to have desired, this further consecration for the reason suggested, than Lancaster, who had apparently nothing to gain by it.[4]

Again, what the Popes did in regard to one another they might naturally be expected to permit in other prelates. Such a thought obviously suggested the consultation of the Roman Church by Ratherius, Bishop of Verona, who determined to reordain all the clerks ordained by his opponent Milo during the twelve years in which he had invaded the See. Whether Ratherius received a favourable reply to his own declaration of policy or not is uncertain; but in the next year (964) John XII declared null the Ordinations made by his predecessor, Leo VIII,[5] acting on the precedent of 769 (p. 168) thus justifying the course proposed by Ratherius.

There were indeed some theologians who raised their voices during this period in favour of the doctrine of Augustine, among whom Rabanus, Auxilius, Vulgarius, and Liutprand of Cremona deserve mention; but as far as administrative authority went, it seems to have been generally admitted that what was convenient or expedient for the rulers of the Church to do in this matter could be done by them if the Pope was weak enough to allow it.


II. Reordinations During the Period of Reform in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.


A different stage is reached when we enter the eleventh century. The Church was then infected by simony in an extraordinary degree, and a just horror of this detestable sin led to measures of violent reform. The spread of simony must not, however, be simply ascribed to the depravity or perversity of human nature. It was occasioned by temporary causes, which are not difficult to explain. The break-up of the Carolingian Empire, and the consequent absence of a central authority exercising at once a certain moral control and a protecting power, led to the development of feudalism. Feudalism, so far as it affected the Church, meant a system by which strong laymen contracted to defend ecclesiastical persons and ecclesiastical property on condition of advantage to themselves and of subservience or vassalage on the part of ecclesiastics. Sometimes ecclesiastical lands passed into the hands of lay-tenants, who paid a very moderate or wholly insufficient rent on the understanding that they undertook to preserve them from attack by other nobles. Sometimes the ecclesiastics were in the position of tenants farming not only their lands, but their ecclesiastical rights and dues and fees for the benefit of the lay landlords. This second relation led, of course, to the struggle about investitures. The selfishness and worldliness which was engendered on both sides by this relation of economic dependence is obvious. The Priests, the Abbots, the Bishops entangled in this system ceased almost entirely to be spiritual persons. Promotion could not be had except by bargaining. The ministry ceased in great measure even to be a learned profession, much less a vocation. It became a business. The power of Order which Bishops had bought for money they sold for money, and the same spirit affected every department of Church life. Such a state of things naturally raised a revolt on the part of pious, right-thinking men, and it is easy to imagine how they shrank from admitting the right of those who were soiled by these transactions to teach or feed them or others in spiritual things. Among the leaders of this revolt was the musician Guide of Arezzo, whose letter to Archbishop Heribert, of Milan, came in some strange way to be attributed to Paschasius Radbertus and then to Pope Pascal I. To it is due the currency of the phrase “simoniacal heresy,” which gave colour to the treatment of such Ordinations as null. The remainder of the history may be summarized in the words of M. Saltet, which it would be difficult to condense and which it is unnecessary to expand (pp. 389-91):—

On this basis (viz. the denial to “Simoniacal heretics” of all power of Order) a theology is built up of which Cardinal Humbert is the architect. It required a long time to extirpate the inexact ideas thus put into circulation. Pope Leo IX acted upon the ideas of Humbert, and proceeded to perform numerous Ordinations. Peter Damiani upholds the true doctrine, but has to struggle against very decided oppositions, of which the Cardinal Deusdedit is a good representative. The latter develops with wonderful ability the traditional texts which seemed to favour him and draws the others to his side.

The schism occasioned by the struggle between Gregory VII and King Henry IV of Germany brought up afresh the question of the validity of the power of Order when exercised outside the Church. The heavy responsibility of resolving this question fell upon Urban II. As regards principles, two points are undoubted. First, in the Sacrament of Order Urban II considered unction as the essential rite, the only one which could not be reiterated; secondly, Urban II, applying to Ordination the traditional texts which refer to the reconciliation of heretics by the laying-on of hands, reconciled clerks ordained in the schism by the reiteration of all the rites of Ordination except the unction. Applied to priests, this ceremonial, contrary to the intention of the Pope, amounted to actual reordination. Further, Urban II considered as null the diaconate and inferior Orders conferred for money, and reiterated them. He considered null and reiterated the diaconate and inferior Orders conferred in schism or heresy by a Bishop consecrated outside of the Church. Urban II saw a real difference between these Sacraments according to their administration by a minister 6rdained within or outside of the Church; but, except probably in the case of the Eucharist, this real difference could not be expressed by the ideas of validity and nullity. The decisions of Urban II inserted by Gratian in his Decretum have been interpreted by a whole school of Bolognese Canonists in the sense of the theory of the “ordinatio catholica.” For Magister Boland (Alexander III), Rufinus, John of Faenza, Bernard of Pavia, and others, only those Ordinations conferred outside of the Church are valid which have been celebrated by a Bishop who has been consecrated by Catholics; all others are null and can be reiterated. Further, according to the same authors, perpetual deposition and degradation, without depriving a minister of the power of Order, bind this power in such a manner that it is practically ineffective and null. This doctrine had great vogue in the School of Bologna and was applied several times by the [Roman] Curia in the twelfth century. At Paris certain theologians had even attributed to degradation the effect of entirely effacing the power of Order from the soul of a minister of the Church.

This theory was successively combated by Gandulph, Huguccio of Pisa, and Raymond de Pennaforte. It reappeared as a scholarly survival (comme un souvenir d’école) during the Great Schism [A.D. 1380 and 1397]. But from the middle of the thirteenth century onwards the great schoolmen have set forth, with all necessary clearness, the doctrine applicable to these questions. They have not troubled themselves to harmonize or to explain the divergent witnesses contained in the texts. With great theological sense they have declared in favour of the principles of St. Augustine. This courageous declaration was, for the time being, the best solution possible.

The first duty, I think, of a reviewer, after familiarizing himself and his readers with the main contents of a book of this sort, is to ask himself what is the object with which the book is written, and, secondly, whether the author has fulfilled his object. The object of M. Saltet is, certainly in my opinion, really to ascertain the truth, not to blacken the character of mediaeval Popes and prelates. I believe he has succeeded, and that he has shown and partially explained the strange lack of clearness of principle which characterizes the two periods particularly under review. The moral of the first period is, “Worldliness and ambition in the Church are destructive of theological principle.” The moral of the second is, “Violent attacks on worldliness, made by men ignorant of theology, are almost equally dangerous to theological principle.” Of course the second period, following on the first, was hampered by the confusion engendered by the violent opportunism and general ignorance of the first.

A third moral is that a careful theology does in the end triumph, and save the Church from persistent wrongdoing—in some regions at least of theology. This may be a consolation to those scholars who, in the midst of much discouragement and clamour, try to work out the true principles of Sacramental theology, and to illustrate them by the lessons of history.

M. Saltet, of course, says nothing about the recent controversy on Anglican Ordinations, on which, nevertheless, his book has a very real bearing. Granting M. Saltet’s facts to be correctly stated—and I believe they will bear rigorous examination—the best explanation of the treatment of our Orders by the Papal Curia under Leo XIII in 1896, in the Bull Apostolicae Curae, is that it was a survival of the old arbitrary tradition—a sort of souvenir d’école—of which a future generation will be ashamed. In that case Leo XIII will find plenty of company among his predecessors, whose principles and decisions in similar cases have to be summarily set aside by the verdict of impartial inquiry, and have to be explained as not coming within the region to which the Vatican decree of Papal Infallibility must be held to extend. We need not think of the old Popes as all intentional wrongdoers, nor do we think so of him. Many of them simply saw that some practical need required a sharp and quick solution of a difficulty, and they seized the one that came easiest to hand, following the fatal precedent of A.D. 769. How far Pope Leo XIII was moved by considerations of pure expediency—of the danger of leniency in retarding, and the probability of the success of severity in hastening, the “conversion” of England—I have no means of judging. But I think that a sense of the danger of departing from precedent—the precedent of 1704 in the case of John Gordon, Bishop of Galloway—was probably the determining factor in his decision. Our Archbishops’ reply to the Papal Bull showed how curiously obscure that precedent was; and it is discreditable to the Papacy that its obscurity has never been dispelled by a full publication of the documents. In any case it is to be expected that lapse of time will bring increase of wisdom to Roman theologians on the general question involved. It took a number of centuries to get rid of the hallucinations on the “matter” of the “Sacrament of Order”—hallucinations that unction or the delivery of the instruments were the essential parts of the rite. I trust it will not take quite so long to get rid of the hallucination about the “form” which underlies the Papal Bull of 1896. The Sacramentary of Sarapion, published in 1899, gave a definite reply from the past to the Pope’s contention that the “form” must express “the order of priesthood (sacerdotii) or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord” (Apostolicae Curae, § 7). Sarapion’s prayer (No. 13, see Appendix) expresses neither. And as to the “intention” of our fathers in cutting out prayers and ceremonies, which is one of the principal points made by the Papal Bull, it is sufficiently evident that they left all that was essential, when we consider the Puritan complaint: “Their Pontifical . . . whereby they consecrate Bishops, make ministers and deacons, is nothing else but a thing, word for word, drawn out of the Pope’s Pontifical” (quoted by Whitgift, Works, P.S. ii. 408). A reasonable criticism of our Ordinal must consider the circumstances of the time in which it was drawn up, and this remark extends to other cases of the sort—for example, that of Sweden. Discussions like M. Saltet’s are useful in many ways in preparing for such a clearance of old errors from the pathway of the Church towards unity.

The bearing of the discussion raised by this book upon some questions of internal policy affecting the Anglican Communion may be just indicated in conclusion. There are three which may be named.

The first is that of the treatment of certain small schisms in America and England. The facts of deposition or degradation, or of heresy in the ordaining Bishop, must in such cases be set aside. Clergy validly ordained by a degraded or heretical Bishop cannot be reordained. Whether they should be readmitted on penitence and licensed to officiate is quite another question, and of course the presence of the four conditions of a valid Ordination must be ascertained.

The second is our relation with the Church of Sweden. I have no intention of forecasting the judgement of the Committee which will discuss our future relations with this large and well-organized national Church, of which the Bishop of Kalmar, Dr. H. W. Tottie, was so dignified and impressive a representative at the last Lambeth Conference. But it is clear that the matter contained in this book will be of much service to the Committee.

The third is our relation to the Presbyterian Churches. If we find, as I think we do, that the old Presbyterian doctrine agrees substantially with our own as to matter, form, and intention, and only differs as regards episcopal ministry, there is surely a great ground for hope that the schism between England and Scotland may be healed in time. Nearly everything depends on the question whether the modern Presbyterian Churches continue to adhere to their own Catholic tradition on this matter, or (for one or more reasons) take the line of least resistance and become Congregationalists in their theory of Ordination. It is a case where Sacramental theology becomes of intense practical importance. The definite adhesion of a single body of Presbyterians, like that in Australia, to the old theory represented by the Ius divinum ministerii Evangelici of 1654 and by Principal Hill (the “Harold Browne” of Scotland) at the beginning of the last century, and their determination to follow its lead, would be a turning-point in the history of reunion of the utmost moment for the future. It might very well be the “prerogative vote” which would lead to a great movement in the direction of Catholic reunion within these islands.

I may be pardoned for pointing out one literary desideratum in connexion with this latter topic. The Lambeth Conference, in its seventy-fifth resolution, referred to “the precedents of 1610.” This opens up the whole question of Ordination per saltum. We need an étude on this point, and it might be possible to look to one of our brethren in France to supply it, if Great Britain has not sufficient learning or leisure to do so. I much hope, however, that some competent native theologian will have both.


St. Simon and St. Jude’s Day, October 28, 1908.




I add here the prayer referred to above (see my edition of Bishop Sarapion’s Prayer Book, pp. 50 foll., and 73, S.P.C.K., 1889. I have slightly corrected the translation, using Canon Brightman’s text, J. Th. St, for January, 1900, i, p. 266) :—


13. Laying on of hands (or Benediction) of the making or Presbyters. “We stretch forth the hand, O Lord God of the heavens, Father of thy only-begotten, upon this man, and beseech thee that the Spirit of truth may come upon him. Give him the grace of prudence and knowledge and a good heart. Let a Divine Spirit come to be in him that he may be able to be a steward of thy people and an ambassador of thy divine oracles, and to reconcile thy people to thee the uncreated God. Thou who didst give of the spirit of Moses to the chosen ones (Num. li. 16, 25), even holy Spirit, give a portion of holy Spirit also to this man, from the Spirit of thy only-begotten, for the grace of wisdom and knowledge and right faith, that he may be able to serve thee with a clean conscience (1 Tim. iii. 9; 2 Tim. i. 3), through thy only-begotten Jesus Christ, through whom to thee (is) the glory and the strength in holy Spirit both now and for all the ages of the ages. Amen.


Here it will be noticed that the only reference to the title Presbyter is indirect—viz. to the “chosen ones” of Numbers xi. 16, &c.—and that there is no reference to Priest or priesthood. The powers first asked for on his behalf are those of steward and ambassador, and the only “sacramental” power referred to is that of reconciliation. The prayer is undoubtedly a valid “form” and it is closely akin to that of the Abyssinians, on which so much has been written.

[1] Les Reordinations. Étude sur le sacrement de l’ordre, Par l’Abbé Louis Saltet, Professor, d’histoire ecclésiastique a l’Institut Catholique de Toulouse. Paris: LeCoffre, 1907. Price 6frs.

[2] This is, of course, an expression which may be interpreted in many ways. Cp. G. L. Hahn, Lehre von den Sakramenten, pp. 895-400; Breslau, 1864. The sacraments of “penance” and “marriage” are generally treated on a somewhat different footing from the rest (Saltet, p. 4).

[3] See Labbe, Conc: 8, p. 90, ex actione VI “Et ostensum eat in eodem ex concilio Sardicensi, cap. 9, et ex aliia conciliis ac decretis, damnationis scripto secundum canonicam formam eumdem episcopum nihil de illius ordinatione attigisse: sed qui saltu sine gradu diaconi ad sacerdotium prosilierat, in degradationem debitam resilire deberet”. The case was that of one Halduin, whose Ordination as deacon under Ebbo was considered null.

[4] The Rev. Wm. Reynell, B.D., in his careful Life of Lancaster in the D.N.B. suggests that it was done to fulfil the requirements of the Irish Act (2 Eliz. c. 4) “for conferring and consecrating of Archbishops and Bishops within this realm.” The Act says nothing of translation. It prescribes, however, the gift of the “pall” with “other benedictions, ceremonies, and things requisite for the same.” Now we know from Cranmer’s Register that George Browne received the pall from Cranmer as Archbishop of Dublin in 1536. Hugh Curwen received it from the Pope in 1655. It seems likely that the Act of 1560 was carried out in the case both of Adam Loftus (1562) and Thomas Lancaster (1568). May not Lancaster’s “consecration” have been a delivery of the pall, with certain benedictions? Lancaster, it must be admitted, calls it a “consecration.” But the word was undoubtedly sometimes used loosely.

[5] M. Saltet in one place on this page writes accidentally Benoît VIII. The letter of the clergy of Verona may be found in Migne, P.L. 136, p. 479 foll.