IT is natural to ask how we should regard the Papal Bull on English Orders. You may lightly answer that we should regard it with perfect indifference, that the Bishop of Rome and his opinions and judgments are nothing to us, that we may pass them by with silent contempt. But I think such an answer will not give you permanent satisfaction. It will occur to you that Christians are all members one of another, that, however much we may be sundered by controversy and by differences of practice, we are all members of the one Body of Christ, and the interests that we have in common are far more and far greater than those which divide us. Among these common interests there is none greater than the defence of the truth; and among Christian truths there are few more important than the truth of the sacred ministry--that ministry of reconciliation which the Lord Jesus Christ intrusted to the Apostles for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the Body of Christ. This ministry is spread throughout the Church, and upon the testimony of the whole Church we rely for our understanding of its nature and attributes. The fundamental doctrines of the faith are attested by the common teaching of all parts of the Church, so that no teaching which is denied or even ignored by a considerable part of the Church can be recognized with certainty as being true to the original type. In the same way the reality of the sacred ministry is attested by its existence in all parts of the Church alike. Any serious divergence, therefore, between different parts of the Church endangers the hold of all upon the truth. We in England know only too well what mischief is done by disputes about the reality of a ministry confessedly new and constituted by men who have separated themselves from the Church. Much greater is the confusion when the ministry which one part of the Church claims to have received by direct succession from the Apostles is denounced by another part of the Church as a mere empty shadow.
That is how the matter stands. The English Church claims the possession and use of a sacred ministry, a holy priesthood, which is common to the whole Church, which is, therefore, identical with that of the Roman Church. Futile distinctions have at times been drawn by men whose dislike of everything Roman has warped their judgment; but the testimony of the Church as a whole is unmistakable. In the Preface to the Ordinal is expressed the intention of retaining and continuing the orders which were conferred before the Reformation, and none will question their identity with those of the Roman Church. Priests ordained by the Roman rite have always, in spite of the fierce protests of the early Puritans, been recognized in practice as sharing the same ministry with us. The late Primate in his last message to the English people restated this obvious truth. The Orders of the English Church are identical with those of the Roman Church. But the head of the Roman Church declares them to be null.
Such a declaration was mischievous enough when it was supposed to deal only with a matter of fact. Until lately the authorities of the Roman Church apparently held that in the English Church real Orders were not in fact conferred, but no reasons for the denial were publicly given. Individual theologians might suggest reasons, but they had no authority. Others, again, were able to combat the denial by showing that there were no reasons at all on which to ground it. This is now changed. The Bull not only declares English Orders null, but gives a reason. And the reason given is that the forms used in conferring them are worthless; they were deliberately chosen to express an altogether inadequate conception of the sacred ministry. This is a far more mischievous declaration than the former. It is one thing to say that a part of the Christian Church, through some untoward accident, lacks a valid ministry; it is a far more serious thing to say that a part of the Church has deliberately wrecked the Christian priesthood. In saying this you break up the testimony of the whole Church to the truth of the sacred ministry. If the charge be true, you must face that consequence unflinchingly. If the charge be false, then you are responsible for the confusion of thought which ensues. To accuse a man falsely of heresy is not only an injustice to him, it imperils the truth which he has actually taught.
We know the charge against the English Church to be false. We can see the harm that will come from it. We may hold the Roman Church responsible. But we are not on that account without further interest in the matter. We may be unshaken ourselves; but we have not ourselves only to think of. Perhaps we are satisfied that the Roman Church will suffer most. Are we to congratulate ourselves on this? I would remind you of the wise and noble words spoken on this head by the Bishop of Rochester at the late Church Congress. If the Roman Church suffers the whole Church suffers, and we suffer who are members of that one Body.
I shall not on this occasion take up the cudgels in defence of the English ordinations. A question of even greater importance is stirred by the recent Bull. It is not only a personal matter for us English Churchmen. There is a truth at stake. What is Holy Order? I will call it a sacrament, if you will not misunderstand me. I will call it, with Hooker a carisma or gift of the Holy Spirit, and its effect a certain mark or character indelibly impressed upon the recipient. I will say, with Jeremy Taylor, that in ordination is conferred a twofold grace of sanctification, by which, on the one hand, the recipient is separated for the work of the ministry, and, on the other, he is rendered capable of worthily fulfilling his vocation. I will say with the whole Church that this grace is given by an outward sign, by public prayer with imposition of hands. When we have said this, the question whether ordination ought to be called a sacrament is a mere question of words.
If the grace of the ministry is a gift of the Holy Ghost, conferred by a sacramental sign, what are the powers of the Church in this regard? The Church can but act ministerially. The Church, in the person of a bishop, can give or withhold the grace of the ministry by imparting to a man or refusing him the external sign. But when once the grace has been given the Church cannot take back the gift. It is as with baptism. The Church may give a man baptism, or for a good cause may refuse it. But once he is baptized the Church cannot undo his baptism. Neither, on the other hand, if he has not been properly baptized, can the Church by any sort of decree produce in him the effect of baptism. [Yet the practice kat oikonomian of the Eastern Church is not to be ignored. The wise decretal of Innocent III de presbytero non baptizato is another matter: "Respondemus presbyterum, quem sine unda baptismatis extremum diem clausisse significasti, quia in sanctae matris Ecclesiae fide et Christi nominis confessione perseveraverit, ab originali peccato solutum, et caelestis patriae gaudium esse adeptum, asserimus incunctanter." Lib. III Decr. tit. 43, cap. 2. Denzinger, Enchiridion, No. 343.] The Church can only inquire into the facts of the case, and when the facts are known declare that as a matter of fact the man is or is not baptized. A priest, as representing the Church, does this whenever a child is brought to him after being privately baptized. He holds a formal inquiry, takes evidence, and declares the result. It is the same with ordination. The Church can inquire whether a man has been properly ordained or no, and may be able to decide the fact upon the evidence. But no decision can alter the facts. A defective ordination cannot be made good, a valid ordination cannot be annulled, by any subsequent decree.
The question of the validity of baptism is usually a simple one, though difficult cases do sometimes occur. It is simple because the principal conditions of a true baptism were ordained by our Lord himself, and so are undoubtedly required. He taught the necessity of baptism by water, and he taught his Church to baptize In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In the language of theologians he thus appointed specifically the matter and the form of baptism. If this matter and this form were not used we decide at once that there was no true Christian baptism. [But see Nicholas I, Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, cap. 104: "Hi profecto si in nomine sanctae Trinitatis vel tantum in Christi nomine, sicut in Actibus Apostolorum legimus, baptizati sunt (unum quippe idemque est, ut sanctus exponit Ambrosius), constai eos non esse denuo baptizandos."]
For ordination, on the other hand, there is no clear evidence that our Lord himself appointed any specific matter or form. We may think it probable that he did so, and since probability is the chief guide of life we shall be careful to act on this view; we should not dare to ordain a man without using that matter and form which our Lord may have appointed. But there is no certainty of this, and therefore a decision about the validity of an ordination is far less simple than one concerning baptism. You can never say curtly and definitely--"Certain things are absolutely required by the teaching of Christ for a valid ordination. This man was ordained without those requisites. Therefore his ordination is null and void."
What, then, can the Church decide in such a case? It can be ruled with perfect certainty that a given ordination is good and valid. If it be found on inquiry that a man has been ordained in a way which the Church ordinarily accounts sufficient, it is clearly impossible to go behind the facts. He may at once be pronounced validly ordained. But if the ordination has been effected in a manner unusual or not fully recognized, it is not so simple a matter. Such an ordination cannot claim immediate acceptance; but neither can it be at once declared null. The form employed may be a valid one, though unusual. An inquiry is called for. On what lines should it proceed? What sort of decision can be looked for?
Two separate questions will present themselves. What are the essential elements of a valid ordination? And were those elements duly observed in the supposed case? The former question raises a very great difficulty. The essentials of a valid ordination have never been defined. We know that certain forms are sufficient, but we do not know whether they are necessary, or whether other forms might not be substituted. Can the Church define what is necessary, so as to rule out all ordinations that lack any part of it?
There is a difference of opinion among theologians which bears upon this question. Some believe that, although there is no record of such appointment in the Gospels, yet our Lord did really appoint a proper matter and form of ordination, and taught the Apostles to use it. Others believe that he left to his Church the power to appoint the matter and form. It is hard to say which of these two opinions has the greater weight of authority on its side.
Take the former hypothesis. Then the essentials of a valid ordination are what our Lord appointed. The Church has only to find out what these are; every ordination which has them will be valid, every ordination which lacks them will be void. But how are they to be found? How can we recover any teaching of our Lord which has not been recorded? We may study the practice of the Apostles. What their Lord taught them to do they certainly did. If he commanded them to ordain men to the sacred ministry in a certain way, they would undoubtedly do it in that way and no other. But we find the Apostles ordaining by imposition of hands, with prayer. The same mode of ordaining was continued in the Church and remained in use without variation or addition for several hundred years. So far as Christian antiquity has been explored no other kind of ordination is found. [I had not forgotten my own studies in the consecration of bishops with imposition of the Gospel text (supra, pp. 7, 16), but was only stating an hypothesis which I myself rejected.] In the greater part of the Eastern Church there is nothing else to this day, and in the Western Church, while many additions have been made to the rites of ordination, the old elements remain side by side with the new. There is no ordination without prayer and imposition of hands. If then our Lord prescribed any mode of ordaining, it must have been this. But further, it may be asked what sort of prayer was required? It is clear that no fixed form was appointed, since there is great variety among those which the Church has used.
Is there no limit then? May any prayer be used? Can holy orders be conferred, for example, by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, with imposition of hands? Again we look to the practice of the Church. We find that in all the prayers that have been used, widely as they differ, there is a common element. This common element may be very briefly expressed. There is a prayer for the ordinand that he may receive the grace necessary for the worthy accomplishment of the duties of the order to which he is called. This we find in all the prayers, and therefore we may suppose it necessary. We may presume that our Lord commanded such a prayer to be used. But, after all, this is only a presumption, and it is based on imperfect evidence. We do not possess all the prayers which were ever used in the Church for conferring Orders. Should more of them come to light, we may possibly find these lacking some part of what we have thought universal and essential. The possibility has been recently illustrated. A distinguished French theologian, M. Boudinhon, in view of the controversy about English Orders, lately undertook the very task that I am describing. He compared all the known prayers of ordination recognized as valid by the Roman Church. He found that all contained an express mention of the order to be conferred. He therefore took this to be essential. Soon after he had published the result of his studies, I pointed out to him that he had left out of count the ordination prayers contained in the Canons of Hippolytus, which were in use at Rome during the third century. Of these the prayer for a deacon has no mention of the diaconate. M. Boudinhon at once admitted that his conclusion must be modified; the mention of the order could not be required as essential. [Achelis, p. 66. I would not now assert the Roman character of these Canons. In his Condanna delle Ordinazioni Anglicane (p. 53), Father Brandi pointed out that the word servitium in Achelis' rendering may represent an orginal diakonian. This critic handled both M. Boudinhon and me rather severely, and not unjustly, for arguing from a Latin translation made by a German from an Arabic version of a lost Greek original. I kiss the rod; but I do not know why my castigator himself underlined the words Diaconus and Diaconatus in this same doubtful translation. They occur in the text of the Canon; we were concerned, of course, only with the wording of the Prayer of Ordination which the Canon contains. The incident retains its interest as illustrating the precariousness of an argument drawn from a necessarily imperfect collation of the rites used in the Church. Indeed, Father Brandi's criticism enhances its interest; for here is confessedly a form of ordination probably used in the Church, the exact wording of which cannot be recovered. See also Introduction, pp. 14-17.]
The weakness of the method pursued by M. Boudinhon is evident. He was building on imperfect evidence; and it is hard to see how the evidence can ever be completed. You can never get beyond a presumption that certain things were prescribed by our Lord as essential to a valid ordination. You may take it for certain that the ordinations used in the Church do really contain what the Lord commanded; but you cannot be sure that any particular element in them was so required. Something which is common to them all may nevertheless have been added by human authority. On the hypothesis of a matter and form appointed by Christ himself, it is safe to declare an ordination valid because it conforms to the usage of the Church; but any judgment must be highly precarious which condemns an ordination as void for lack of something which may not after all be essential.
Let us pass to the second hypothesis. We are now to suppose that our blessed Lord intrusted to his Church the power of appointing the matter and form by which the grace of the ministry was to be conferred. We stand here on surer ground, for if this power was given to the Church it seems clear that the Apostles exercised it when they performed their first ordination with prayer and the imposition of hands. These they made the essentials of ordination. Then it would seem that any ordination conferred in this manner, with suitable prayer and imposition of hands, must be accepted as valid. But a further question arises. Can the Church, after appointing the essential elements of ordination, change them and appoint others in their stead? It seems a not unnatural conclusion. We can hardly suppose the powers of the Church to have been exhausted by the first exercise of them. Some theologians have maintained that a change of this kind has in fact been made. In the Eastern Church, they say, the priesthood is still conferred, as in the beginning, by prayer and the imposition of hands; but in the Western Church there has been substituted the Porrection of Instruments with the accompanying words, "Accipe potestatem offerendi sacrificium, etc." The truth is that St. Thomas Aquinas and his followers did indeed take this for the essential matter and form of priestly ordination; but they probably supposed it to have been in use from the beginning. With a better knowledge of Christian antiquity the scholars of a later age detected their historical mistake, but the great authority of St. Thomas delayed the rejection of his theological opinion, and therefore an actual change of the matter and form was insisted upon. This raises a heavy crop of difficulties. By what authority can such a change be made? Clearly it need not be made by the whole Church, or for the whole Church at once. What then? May any individual Bishop change the usual matter and form, and substitute another at his discretion? Or what sort of intermediate authority is required? Again, if a new matter and form has been introduced by competent authority, will that deprive the old matter and form of their efficacy, so that Orders conferred by them will be no longer valid? The most learned of the Popes, Benedict XIV, cuts these knots in a summary and, I think, a satisfactory manner:--"Even if such power has been given to the Church," he says, "it is a pure and arbitrary assumption to say that she has used it. Where and when, in what age, in what Council, or by what Pontiff, has any such change been made?" [De Syn. Dioec., lib. viii. cap. x., § 10.] A change of this moment could only be made by a formal legislative act of the Church; and no such act can be shown. [What is of importance is not the question whether the Church, or a part of the Church, has power to introduce a new mode of ordination, but whether it is possible to invalidate a mode previously in use. On the hypothesis under discussion, the former question seems to demand an affirmative answer; the latter question may be answered theoretically in the affirmative, but there is no ground for supposing such a power to have been exercised in practice.] Some would refer to the decree Exultate, in which Eugenius IV defined the porrection of the instruments and the accompanying words as the essential matter and form of priestly ordination. But in no way can this definition be regarded as having legislative force, above all for the Western Church. It was addressed to the case of the Armenians who were seeking reconciliation with the Roman see; and Armenians are not Westerns. It was not meant to bring in a new custom, for it is a definition, according to the Pope's mind, of what is and always has been the matter and form of Holy Order. Modern theologians of the Roman schools, who almost all repudiate this definition, labour to avoid the appearance of contradicting a Papal decision. They speak of the decree as dealing only with the accessories of ordination, or as merely describing the actual Latin rite. [Benedict XIV, ibid. § 8. Gasparri, De Sacr. Ord., n. 1007.] There seems no ground whatever for attributing to it legislative force. Nor is there anything else of the kind. No formal change of the matter and form of ordination can be traced. The original institution therefore stands. Imposition of hands and prayer formally constitute the rite of ordination. The contents of the prayer are not fixed, for the prayers used in the Church are known to have varied widely. On the hypothesis which I am now considering the Church might indeed impose a certain form, and make it necessary for the future. But such a step must be taken in the most formal and public manner, and it could in no case affect the validity of Orders conferred in the past. We are thus brought almost to the same position in which the former hypothesis landed us. It is safe to declare ordinations valid which conform to the usual pattern. It is highly precarious to declare an ordination void on the ground of something wanting in the prayers which accompany the imposition of hands.
I have examined these two hypotheses at length, because there is sometimes a danger of sliding imperceptibly from one to the other, and the natural result is much confusion of thought. The essentials of ordination depend either upon the institution of Christ, or upon the appointment of the Church. In either case the practical result for our purpose is much the same. In the former case it is perhaps impossible to arrive at an exhaustive definition of the essentials. In the latter case this is possible, but it has ne ver been done. In the Roman Church, and in all the Churches that bow to Rome, this fact has usually been recognized. In the Council of Trent care was taken to avoid anything which might seem to be such a definition. [The subject was treated in the Church Quarterly Review, Vol. V. See also Denny, Anglican Orders and Jurisdiction, p. 193.] In practice the Roman Church allows the validity of ordinations conferred by all manner of rites, if only with prayer and the imposition of hands. In consequence of a succession of movements towards reunion, mostly abortive, the Roman Church has had occasion to accept or reject Orders conferred by almost every known rite used in any part of the Church, orthodox or heretical; and in every case save one such Orders have been acknowledged as good. The one exception, I need not tell you, is that of the English Church. In no single case have the ordinations thus accepted any resemblance to those of the Roman Church as finally developed during the middle ages. In no single case, as the great French scholar Morinus testified, could any matter and form be found in them, save the imposition of hands and prayer; and the Orders so conferred have been recognized as good. The prayers thus used are very diverse, some expressing with great fulness the characteristic powers of the various orders, others conceived in the most general terms; some alluding more or less clearly to the power of offering the eucharistic sacrifice, others ignoring it altogether. I have already mentioned M. Boudinhon's comparative study of these forms. Carefully separating what is common to all, and so presumably essential, he finds that it amounts to this--
"Deus qui . . . respice propitius super hunc famulum tuum, quern ad diaconatum (vel presbyteratum, vel episcopatum, seu summum sacerdotium) vocare dignatus es; da ei gratiam tuam, ut munera huius ordinis digne et utiliter adimplere valeat." [De la validité des Ord. Angl., p. 50. As I have said, he afterwards modified this, no longer regarding the actual naming of the order necessary.]
With him agrees entirely Mgr. Gasparri, who notes also that many of the rites thus recognized are those of heretical Churches, probably dating from a time when their authors had already broken away from the unity of the Church. Thus the ordinations of the Nestorians, of the Armenians, and of other branches of the Monophysites, and even of the barbarous Church of Abyssinia, have been recognized as good, without any inquiry into their origin. [Gasparri, De la valeur des Ord. Angl., p. 42.] It was enough that they were effected by a rite analogous to those used in the Catholic Church.
It was put to me by a distinguished person when I was in Rome that there was a practical difficulty in the way of recognizing English Orders, because that could not be done without defining the essentials of ordination, a definition from which the Roman Church had always shrunk. I pointed out in reply that there was no such need, since the English Ordinal certainly contained those elements at least which are common to the various Eastern ordinations recognized at Rome. My remark was received with polite incredulity by one who, however eminent in his own way, probably knew little of the English Ordinal and less of the Oriental rites. His attitude, however, is instructive. If it was impossible to recognize English Orders without defining the essentials, still more was it impossible without such a definition to condemn them as void. You cannot say that a rite lacks essentials unless you first determine what the essentials are. And if it does not lack essentials it is valid.
You will, perhaps, take me up here with a demurrer. Is it, then, impossible for the Church ever to pronounce any ordination invalid? Must everything be accepted which its authors put forward as a rite of ordination? I answer that it would be extremely precarious to declare absolutely invalid the Orders conferred by any bishop, even by a rite of his own appointment, and that the Roman Church has never done this except in dealing with England. But short of this the authorities of the Church can do much. It is one thing to have genuine Orders, or Orders which may possibly be genuine; it is quite another thing to have the right to exercise them. It may be difficult or impossible to declare a man's Orders absolutely void; it is easy, and it may be right, to forbid him to use them. If they are doubtful, this ought to be done; but where there is room for doubt there is room for conditional reordination. The internal practice of the Roman Church follows this rule. On the ground that some theologians have raised a doubt whether the porrection of instruments be not in the Western Church essential to a valid ordination, the Roman Church requires conditional reordination, if by accident that ceremony has been omitted. On the same principle any particular Church might lawfully exclude from its altars a priest ordained in another Church, and might insist on a conditional reordination before admitting him. [I would not say this now. A bishop may certainly, subject to established rights of appeal, forbid a priest ordained elsewhere to exercise the sacred ministry within his diocese; but to make reordination one of the terms of admission seems to be an offence against the fundamental unity of the Episcopate analogous to those of which St. Cyprian complained in his controversy with Stephen of Rome.] If the Roman Church were to consider our English ordinations doubtful, and to rule that no English priest should be admitted to officiate at Roman altars without conditional reordination, I do not know that we should be at all concerned, and I am sure that no confusion would be imported into the science of theology.
The recent condemnation of English Orders does impart confusion into the science of theology. In this respect it concerns us. Practically we may ignore it; but from the scientific point of view we are almost as much interested as the Roman theologians themselves. Theological science is not the property of this or that Church; it is the property of all Christians. Where we differ there is controversial theology; where we agree there is the far wider and more important sphere of dogmatic theology. Now for some time past the theology of Holy Orders has been passing from the controversial sphere to the dogmatic. I do not mean that all open questions were in the way of being closed, but that on all sides there was a growing agreement on certain great principles; and one of these principles was that Holy Orders were validly conferred by imposition of hands with a prayer for the ordinand, conceived in however wide and general terms. The recent condemnation of English Orders cuts sharply across this tendency. Our belief will not be affected by it, but we can hardly venture to say as much of Roman theologians; and whatever the effect on individuals may be, you must remember that the only solid basis for theology, so far as it goes beyond the express letter of Holy Scripture, is the general agreement of all parts of the Church. There is more than one source of such agreement. It may be sustained by tradition; it may be arrived at by patient study; it is reached sometimes through vehement controversy. When it is attained, we can teach as from a sure standing place.
And how is such agreement frustrated by the recent Bull? This pronouncement cuts across the current of theology; it is out of harmony with the practice of the Roman Church itself. You will say that it only confirms the practice of three hundred years. Yes, the practice as regards England. But the reasons alleged for the decision render the practice of the Roman Church as regards the Oriental Churches utterly irrational. You will know to what I refer. It has been proved to demonstration that in the English rite are found all the elements which are common to those Eastern ordinations which the Roman Church acknowledges for good. [See the analyses in Gasparri, De la Valeur, etc., and Boudinhon, De la Validité, etc.] They are sufficient there, but here they are held insufficient. The Roman Church, departing from its traditional caution, ventures, at least by implication, on a definition of the essential form. The English form, says the Bull--we will not ask for the moment what constitutes that form, for I am now criticizing the theology of the Bull and not defending our Ordinal--the English form is insufficient, because its words "minime sane significant definite ordinem sacerdotis vel eius gratiam et potestatem, quae praecipue est potestas consecrandi et offerendi verum corpus et sanguinem Domini." That is to say, no form can be valid which does not definitely signify the sacerdotal or sacrificial powers which are attached to the presbyterate. Now it has been abundantly shown that both the ancient Roman rite, and some of the Eastern rites allowed by the Roman Church, have not the slightest allusion to these powers. [It has often been said that to argue thus is to ignore the vel in the passage quoted; all recognized forms mention either the presbyterate or the power of sacrificing. But the prayers of the English Ordinal expressly mention the presbyterate, and of these prayers it is said immediately below: "detractum esse quidquid in ritu catholico dignitatem et officia sacerdotii perspicue designat. Non ea igitur forma esse apta et sufficiens sacramento potest quae id nempe reticet quod deberet proprium significare." That is to say, mention of the presbyterate is not sufficient.] What follows? Shall we draw the absurd conclusion that the Pope condemns as null and void the Orders of his predecessors during nine hundred years; that he condemns as theologically invalid the Orders of Easterns which in practice he acknowledges for good? There is only one possible evasion of this conclusion. We may suppose the Pope to mean that when once the expression of these powers has been introduced in any part of the Church, it becomes in some way essential; and so, since the English Church once employed it and then gave it up, something that was become essential was abandoned. If this be his meaning he is still hopelessly at cross purposes with all recent theology, and we may leave him to battle with Benedict XIV, who will ask him how, when, where, by whom, these things were made essential.
Again, one of the prayers which we use in the consecration of a bishop is treated as an insufficient form, on the ground that it makes no mention of the summum sacerdotium: and of this expression also there is no trace in other rites approved by the Roman Church. Elsewhere it is said that in the whole Ordinal "nulla est aperta mentio sacrificii, consecrationis, sacerdotii, potestatisque consecrandi et sacrificii offerendi." I pass by the astounding assertion that in the English Ordinal there is no mention of the priesthood; it is more germane to my present purpose to note that in other rites as well none of these things are mentioned. Nay, the Roman form itself, says Gasparri--meaning, of course, the ancient prayer which he regards as being the essential form of the existing Roman rite--"the Roman form for the presbyterate says nothing of the power of consecrating and of sacrificing." [De la valeur, etc., p. 40.] Yet again, that prayer of the English Ordinal which, as M. Boudinhon says, corresponds precisely to the common form obtained by abstraction from a comparison of all the forms in use--the prayer beginning Almighty God, the giver of all good things--is ruled out on the ground of some vague doubts about the supposed opinions of the authors of the Ordinal; as if their opinions could affect the meaning of words contained in a public formulary.
This treatment of the English Ordinal is in sharp contrast with the teaching and practice of the Roman Church in dealing with the Eastern Churches, orthodox or heretical. Expressions are here treated as essential, the absence of which in Eastern rites is not regarded as fatal. The forms of those rites are accepted simply for what they say; here the words are not to be taken in their natural sense, but in a sense doubtfully attributed to their authors. Everywhere else a form sufficient in itself is taken as sufficiently claiming an orthodox meaning; here we are told that a certain form is on extrinsical grounds to be rejected "etiamsi forte haberi ea posset tanquam sufficiens in ritu aliquo Catholico quern Ecclesia probasset." The question forces itself: If the form were not sufficient, how could the Church approve it; if it were sufficient, how could the Church refuse approbation?
In this way the Bull imports confusion into the theology of Holy Order. It is not the first time that a Pope has wrought such confusion by a rash assertion. The Roman Church, so staunch a witness to certain truths, has a bad record in this matter. In the ninth century infinite trouble was caused by Popes who declared the ordinations of their predecessor, Formosus, null and void, merely because he had not been canonically elected. Other Popes, again, declared them valid. Contradiction followed contradiction. Men were reordained, and again excommunicated because of their reordination. It was long before the stream of ecclesiastical tradition ran clear.
Again, Eugenius IV in the fifteenth century defined the porrection of the instruments as the matter of priestly ordination. He did but utter the contemporary teaching of the schools; but it is one thing for an opinion to pass current in the schools, it is another for a Pope to propound it in a formal decree. The Decretum pro Armenis seems to have slept for a time, but it was revived in the middle of the sixteenth century. Pole seems to have published it in his Legatine Council for England. It dominated for another century the schools of theology. As a consequence the ordinations of the Uniat Greeks were challenged, and would probably have been condemned, had not the French Oratorian Morinus come to the rescue and by his profound erudition shattered the authority of Eugenius.
The stream of theology again ran clear; prayer and imposition of hands were all but universally recognized as the only essentials of ordination, and comparative study was narrowing down the requisites of the prayer. Now comes this ill-considered utterance. Ill considered it is. Do not be misled by the show of erudition and careful investigation which ushered it in. It does not represent the learning of those who were called in council--of an historian like Duchesne, of a theologian like De Augustinis, of a canonist like Gasparri. It ignores their arguments, hardly deigning to pay them the compliment of an answer.
It must do mischief--mischief practical and scientific. It confuses the plain lines of theology. It hinders the holy work of the reunion of Christians. But will the mischief abide? History forbids us to believe it. The like mischief done in the past by the like means had its day and then was healed. The condemnation of English Orders will go the way of the condemnation of the ordinations of Formosus; the Bull Apostolicae curae will go the way of the decree Exultate. Its arguments already shattered, its blunders exposed, it will one day lose also the extrinsic authority which attaches to a Papal utterance.
[That very eclectic theologian, Dr. C. A. Briggs of the Union Seminary at New York, writes in his Church Unity (p. 121), "Pope Pius X assured me in a private interview that this decision of his predecessor as to Anglican Orders cannot be brought under the category of infallible decisions." I understand, however, that the accuracy of his memory has been challenged. See also, below, the section on Gregory IX and Greek Ordinations.]