Project Canterbury

Anglican Orders and the Papal Decree of 1948
On the Matter and Form of Holy Orders

by John Lovering Campbell Dart

London: Church Literature Association, no date.

EVER since the reformation it has been the constant object of Roman controversialists to prove that the Church of England is a protestant sect, the creation of either Henry VIII, or Elizabeth, with the assistance of their creatures. In popular circles Henry VIII is usually cited as the prime mover, because his matrimonial adventures make him especially vulnerable to attack, and it is hoped that some of the mud thrown at him may attach itself to the sect he founded. But it is usual, where the facts are likely to be known, to make Elizabeth the scapegoat. The reason for this is that in the reign of her sister, Mary, the Pope through his especially appointed Legate, Cardinal Pole, solemnly absolved both Church and Nation from all ecclesiastical "sins" committed during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Where this is known Henry VIII and his deeds can have no importance. Absolution washes away the guilt of past sin. The Church of England therefore, as an autonomous institution, must have begun after the reconciliation effected by Pole, that is to say in the reign of Elizabeth.

When this queen ascended the throne there were two sorts of bishops in England. Those who had been consecrated during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary with the old Roman pontifical and those who had been consecrated during the reign of Edward VI. The Marian bishops were opposed to all change and refused to consent to the acts of a Church which would not acknowledge the Papal Supremacy. In consequence the consecration of the bishops of the reformed order depended upon the Henrician and Edwardian bishops. There can be no doubt that the surviving Henrician bishops were real bishops. But were the Edwardian? The answer to that question depends upon the answer to the subject which we are to consider--was the Edwardian ordinal a valid one? The Archbishop of Canterbury, Pole, died within a few days of Mary. In consequence one of the first necessities was the consecration of his successor. Parker was appointed and his consecration is of supreme importance for he is a "bottleneck." The Anglican line of succession passes through him in such a way that if he could be proved to be no bishop all subsequent consecrations and ordinations must almost be judged invalid. "Almost," but not quite, because another bottleneck occurs with Archbishop Laud. His succession was enriched through union with the Italian line by De Dominis, Archbishop of Spalato, who took refuge in England from papal persecution and joined in consecrations of bishops in 1617. Also in recent years the English line has been supplemented through the participation of Old Catholic bishops in our consecrations and Rome recognizes the validity of the Old Catholics.


IN the seventeenth century Roman controversialists invented a story which has become known as the Nag's Head Fable. It was to the effect that Parker was never consecrated. All that happened was that the Queen's patent appointing him archbishop was handed to him one day when he was sitting with his friends in a public house in Cheapside, called the Nag's Head. The facts are as follows. Parker was elected by the Chapter of Canterbury on August 1, 1559, and the election was officially confirmed and received the royal assent on December 9 in Bow Church, Cheapside. The consecration took place in Lambeth Palace Chapel on December 17. Almost as if it was realized that the occasion might be the subject of libellous falsehoods, extraordinary care was taken at every step, so that no shadow of legitimate doubt might rest upon it. Two full accounts of the service were written down. One was laid up amongst the Lambeth records. The other was sent for preservation to Parker's college at Cambridge, Corpus Christi. Four bishops took part. The celebrant was Barlow, the Henrician Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was assisted by Coverdale, the Edwardian Bishop of Exeter, Hodgkin the Bishop of Bedford and Scory the Bishop of Chichester: of these Barlow and Hodgkin had been consecrated with the rite of the old Latin Pontifical. Scory and Coverdale with the new English one. On any showing, therefore, two of Parker's consecrators were certainly bishops. The record of the service is quite complete. It was early morning, between five and six in midwinter and therefore still dark, when Parker entered the Church, preceded by four taperers. The four bishops took up places on the south side of the altar; the archbishop elect, wearing the robes of a doctor of, divinity, on the north side. Matins was said by a chaplain and then Scory preached. Then the bishops retired to robe for the Communion Service. They returned through the North door of the chapel--Barlow, attended by two archdeacons, Bullingham and Guest as his deacon and sub-deacon, all vested in copes. The Writ of consecration was read by Dr. Yale; the Litany was sung by the choir. In the ancient place, after the gospel, Barlow was seated before the altar and the other bishops presented Parker to him. At the moment of consecration, when all the bishops laid their hands on him, there was an innovation. It was the custom for the consecrating bishop alone to pronounce the "Form," but in this case each bishop in turn repeated the words. AH the bishops, and some members of the congregation, communicated. To maintain that here there occurred a physical break of the apostolic succession is simply nonsense. Parker was as well and truly consecrated a bishop of the Catholic Church as the English Ordinal allows. It is said sometimes that the idea of the apostolic succession was foreign to the Church of England until the Oxford Movement introduced it. But in 1575 Parker published a book, entitled "De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae." It is an account of the Archbishops of Canterbury from St. Augustine, whom he calls "my first predecessor."


SINCE one of the reasons why Leo XIII pronounced Anglican Orders invalid is because of defective intention, it is right to state clearly what that doctrine is. St. Thomas Aquinas laid it down that "the minister of a sacrament acts in the person of the whole Church, whose minister he is: and m the words he utters it is the intention of the Church that is expressed, and this suffices for the perfection of the sacrament, unless the contrary is outwardly expressed." All that is required is that in the words of the Council of Trent, the Ministers of a sacrament have "the general intention of doing what the Church does." When therefore the Pope declared that in the Church of England there is a "defect of intention" he must mean that the Elizabethan bishops had not the intention of consecrating bishops and ordaining priests in the sense which the Church has always done. But when did the Church of England invent or accept a new doctrine of Holy Orders? Where does it say that it regards the Ministers of the Church in a new way? When did it attempt to remove from them any authority that the Catholic Church believes that our Lord gave to them, or which the Apostles exercised, or which the Universal Church recognizes? The answer to these questions is "never." It found in England a three-fold Ministry, and it declared unequivocally its intention of retaining it. It asserted that such a Ministry had existed from the Apostles time and that it was determined to "continue" it. The Preface to the Ordinal makes a perfectly clear and straightforward statement of intention. "It is evident to all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church: Bishops, Priests and Deacons. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued and reverently used in the Church of England; no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said functions . . . except he hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination." When a part of the Church speaking officially, in its accepted liturgy, solemnly asserts that it intends to continue to do one thing, to say, as Pope Leo XIII did, that it intends to do something else is simply to be gratuitously insulting.


But, say the Roman controversialists, whatever the reformers declared in words, their acts prove that they did not intend to continue the historic ministry of the Catholic Church. The Pope puts it like this "Let this argument suffice for all: from them (i.e. the English ordination services) has been deliberately removed whatever sets forth the dignity and office of the priesthood in the Catholic rite. That form consequently cannot be considered apt or sufficient for the Sacrament (of Holy Orders) which omits what it ought essentially to signify." Had the Pope actually read the services which he criticized?

Consider first the Ordination of priests. It is called the "Form and Mariner of Ordering of Priests." It is ordered that there be a sermon "declaring the duty and office of such as come to be admitted Priests; how necessary that Order is in the Church of Christ and also how the people ought to esteem them in their office." Then according to immemorial custom, "the Archdeacon shall present to the Bishop (sitting in his chair near to the Holy Table) all them that shall receive the Order of Priesthood." These terms "Priest" and "Priesthood" are the only ones which the Church of England uses to indicate the second order of the ministry. They have a very important bearing on the matter under discussion. The Ordinal has never been officially translated into Latin, but the Prayer Book has. Whenever the word Priest occurs in the English book it is always translated as "sacerdos." For example, in the rubric before the recital of the Commandments there is the direction "Then shall the Priest rehearse"--"tunc recitabit Sacerdos;" "after the collects the Priest shall read the Epistle"--"Post hac collectas, Sacerdos;" in the Visitation to the Sick "the Priest entering"--"ingrediens Sacerdos." The point of this is that there is another term, which it would have been possible to use, the word Presbyter. If there is any difference in meaning then "sacerdos is a somewhat stronger word. In classical Latin it meant "one who sacrifices." Presbyter, or Elder, is the New Testament term, and does not necessarily carry with it any sacrificial connotation. But "sacerdos" is inextricably mixed up with sacrificial ideas. Rome in the Form which, as we shall see presently, is now declared to be the essential Form, is content to use "presbyter." But the Church of England always uses the term "priest" or "sacerdos" whenever the second order of ministry is indicated. In the ordination service of Elizabeth, including rubrics, the term occurs twelve times. In 1662 still another was inserted. It is clear then that men being ordained are raised to a "sacerdotal" rank and dignity. Following the "Examination" of the candidates the bishop prays "Almighty God, . . . which by Thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers orders of ministers in Thy Church: Mercifully behold these Thy servants called to the office of Priesthood and so replenish them with the truth of Thy doctrine and innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve Thee in this office." Is it possible to take higher ground for invoking God's help than that the office to which men are being ordained is of divine institution? This prayer is followed by an exhortation, addressed by the bishop to the candidates, couched in the most solemn terms of which the English language is capable, setting forth "of what dignity and of how great importance this office is whereunto ye are called," and again how they are to have "in remembrance into how high a dignity, and to how chargeable an office ye are called, that is to say, to be the Messengers, the Watchmen, the Pastors and the Stewards of the Lord."

The term Steward is worthy of consideration. It is a translation of the Latin "dispensator" and comes to us from St. Paul. It recurs in the Form "Be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God and of His holy Sacraments." It is not only scriptural, but also a most comprehensive term carrying with it the thought of ambassadorial power.

The Exhortation ended the candidates are solemnly asked if they believe that they have the inward and outward call to the "ministry of the Priesthood." Presently there follows the imposition of hands by the bishop and all the priests present, the bishop using the very words of Christ when He ordained His apostles. This Form and the Matter of ordination will be considered presently. After jurisdiction has been given to the newly-ordained priests, the Creed is sung and the Communion service is continued.

The Ordination service is set in the middle of the Communion service, in the ancient place between the Gospel and the Creed. Yet the Civitta Catholica, the official organ of the Vatican and the Inquisition, when it explained the Bull of Leo XIII stated that the Holy Communion service "is found outside of the rite of ordination." The remark poses the questions, can the Roman authorities have read the services which they condemned? Or were they content with biassed accounts of them drawn up by men who had a vested interest in their condemnation?

The Priest ordained by the Anglican rite, is invested with four powers--to absolve, to dispense the Word of God, to baptize, to celebrate Holy Communion. These four powers, which were conferred on the apostles by our Lord, have ever been taken to be the essential powers of the priesthood. The Pope has declared that the essential power of the priesthood is the offering of sacrifice. He hints that the Church of England believes that Holy Communion is a "nude commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross." This is simply untrue. The Pope attributes to the Church of England a Calvinist heresy to which it has never subscribed. He comes very near to bearing false witness. But his red herring is outside the scope of the present argument. It is the fact that many rites of ordination of unquestioned validity contain no explicit references to sacrifice or even (as in the ancient parts of the Roman rite itself) to the Eucharist at: all. St. Thomas Aquinas, whose authority no Roman Catholic can question, in his discussion of Order does not even allude to sacrifice. The sacrifice of the Eucharist is not something over and above the sacrament itself. In conferring the authority to celebrate Holy Communion, the Church confers, and intends to confer, all that is included in its ministration. Therefore, of necessity, along with the authority to consecrate, it confers also that of offering the eucharistic sacrifice in accordance with the will of our Lord, The only sense in which the Holy Communion can be a sacrifice is that which He intended. The Church of England intends to do everything which is essential to the carrying out of His will when He instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Can anyone intend more?

From the beginning to the end of the Anglican service, through the exhortations, litany, collects, prayers, and by means of scripture lessons, carefully chosen so as to equate what is being done with our Lord's commission and the apostolic ministry, neither the bishop, nor the candidates, nor the congregation are ever allowed to forget that the "high dignity and chargeable office" which is being conferred is that of the priesthood. Nevertheless, the Pope has said that whatever sets forth the dignity of the priesthood has been deliberately removed!


WE are faced here with a difficulty. The Church has never quite made up its mind about whether the episcopate is a separate Order, or whether it is merely the "fullness" of the priesthood, that is to say the High Priesthood. Into the historical reasons for this we need not go, except to say that in the beginning the bishops were the only priests, in that they alone possessed the authority to baptize, to absolve and to celebrate the Eucharist. It was only by degrees that these rights were delegated to the second Order of the ministry. This caused many teachers in the West to claim that the three Orders of the sacred ministry are Priests, Deacons and Sub-deacons, with the papacy as a crowning, almost a fourth, Order. The bishops come into this scheme as the possessors of the full priestly dignity. The great name of St. Jerome can be cited as evidence for this point of view. The uncertainty shows itself in the Roman service for the consecration of a bishop, wherein there are clear references to the High Priesthood and pontifical dignity, but only a rather oblique one to the episcopate; "grant him, O Lord, the Episcopal Chair to rule Thy Church."

The first curious point about the Roman service is that the person consecrating is not called Archbishop or Bishop, but simply "Consecrator," Of course he always was, and is, a bishop, but considering the use which has been made of the Nag's Head fable, it. is not difficult to imagine what might have been said if the English Ordinal had been guilty of such careless language. This Roman nomenclature throws into clear relief the precise Anglican regulations. In spite of all the upheaval of the reformation period, the Ordinal lays it down that the consecrator shall be "the Archbishop (or some other Bishop appointed)" and that he shall be assisted by at least two other bishops.

Pope Leo XIII says that a "form cannot be considered apt or sufficient for the Sacrament which omits what it ought essentially to signify." We agree, and agreeing, we deny altogether that the Anglican ordinations to the priesthood can rightly be condemned on the ground that they do not "signify" the priesthood. But the Pope contrives to do it and continues "the same holds good of episcopal consecrations." He then asserts that the prayer of the preface "Almighty God" has been "stripped of the words which denote the High Priesthood." "So it comes to pass that as the Sacrament of Orders, and the true Priesthood of Christ were utterly eliminated from the Anglican rite, hence the priesthood is in no wise conferred truly and validly, in the Episcopal consecration of the same rite; for the like reason, therefore, the Episcopate can in no wise be truly and validly conferred by it; and this the more so because among the first duties of the Episcopate is that of ordaining ministers for the Holy Eucharist and Sacrifice." This fairly takes ones breath away.

First, let us enquire what things are "apt and sufficient" for the Episcopate which our rite ought to signify. The Roman pontifical makes the Consecrator enumerate them. "It belongs to a Bishop to judge, to interpret, to consecrate, to ordain, to offer, to baptize, to confirm." "To offer" probably has reference to the offering of the Eucharist. If that is so, then it is a function, which by common consent, is shared with the priesthood. Baptism, also by common consent, has ceased to be an episcopal function. Even confirmation in the Roman rite, though not in the Anglican, is frequently administered by a priest. That leaves us with four peculiarly episcopal functions--judging, interpreting, consecrating and ordaining. We will examine the Anglican ordinal to discover whether or no these essential functions were "eliminated."

"To judge." In the litany the consecrating bishop prays "Almighty God . . . mercifully behold this thy servant now-called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop; and replenish him . . . that both by word and deed he may faithfully serve Thee in this Office to the ... well-governing of thy Church." Then, sitting in his chair, he says to the bishop-elect, "Brother . . . we should not be hasty in laying on hands and admitting any person to Government in the Church of Christ." In the examination the bishop elect is asked "Will you maintain . . . love and peace . . .: and such as be unquiet, disobedient, and criminous, within your Diocese, correct and punish, according to such authority as you have." Prayer is then made that the new bishop will "use the authority given to him, not to destruction but to salvation, not to hurt, but to help." In the Form of Consecration, he is told "remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thee by this Imposition of our hands: for God has not given unto us the spirit of fear, but of power." When he receives jurisdiction he is told, "be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf... so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy." Could any words be found which suggest more clearly that the bishop is consecrated to be a judge and ruler of the Church?

"To interpret," In the examination the bishop elect is asked, "will you faithfully exercise yourself in the holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer, for the true understanding of the same; so as you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?" "Are you ready, with, all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine?" Is it not clear that the bishop is given the ancient duty of guardian and interpreter of the faith?

"To consecrate." The Preface lays down the law that no one shall be taken to be, or accounted, a lawful bishop, or suffered to execute any of the functions of the episcopate unless he has had episcopal consecration. The Form of Ordaining or Consecrating an Archbishop, or Bishop, is so drawn up that the consecrator must be a bishop, assisted by two bishops, one of whom is ordered to read the epistle and the other the gospel. In this way the presence of at least three bishops is ensured. At the Form of consecration it is ordered that all the bishops present "shall lay their hands upon the head of the elected bishop."

"To ordain." The Church of England suffers no man to ordain, save a bishop. The Making of Deacons and the Ordering of Priests are so compiled that they can be used only by a bishop. In the examination the bishop elect pledges himself, by the help of God, to be "faithful in Ordaining, sending, or laying hands upon others."

These four "authorities" are rightly listed as those which appertain to the Office of a bishop. All through the long history of the Church they have been the distinguishing marks of the episcopate. They are the distinguishing marks of the Anglican episcopate, and the Ordinal proves it. Wherein have any of its traditional powers been diminished or removed?

Finally, let us turn to the general spirit of the Ordinal. The three ranks of deacon, priest and bishop are clearly marked. The deacon is subordinate to the priest and he is not allowed to exercise any function of the priesthood. The priest is allotted all the traditional duties of his office--he can absolve, teach, celebrate and bless. The deacon can do none of these things, except teach, and this he does under the supervision of the priest. The bishop adds to them the sole right of consecrating, ordaining, and confirming, together with the oversight of the teaching given by his priests, and the government of his diocese. All these things are in the Ordinal. The episcopate is the key Order, for if there are no bishops there are no priests and no valid sacraments. The intention of the Church of England to appoint successors of the apostles is made clear by the scripture lessons belonging to a consecration. The first exhortation to prayer sums up all catholic teaching on the subject. "It is written in the Gospel of St. Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, before He did choose and send forth His twelve Apostles. It is written also in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Disciples who were at Antioch did fast and pray, before they laid hands on Paul and Barnabas, and sent them forth. Let us therefore, following the example of our Saviour Christ, and His Apostles, first fall to prayer, before we admit, and send forth this person presented unto us, to the work whereunto we trust the Holy Ghost has called him." Here it is explicitly claimed that the Church of England at a consecration is doing the same thing which the Church has always done. It is conferring the very same apostleship that Christ, instituted.

Agreeing therefore with the Pope's doctrine that the ordinal must contain what the sacrament of consecration ought essentially to signify, we maintain that that is exactly what the Anglican ordinal does. It is true we prefer to use the New Testament title "bishop" rather than the Old Testament one "High Priest," but what of it? The Ordinal makes it quite clear that the bishop is a high priest. Compare the Form for the ordination of a priest with that for the consecration of a bishop.


Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God and of His holy Sacraments. In the Name, etc.


Receive the Holy Ghost. And remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is given thee by this Imposition of our hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness.

which accompanies the delivery of the Bible


Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the Sacraments, in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto.


Give heed unto reading, exhortation and doctrine. Think upon the things contained in this Book. Be diligent in them that the increase coming thereby may be manifest to all men. Take heed unto thyself and to doctrine, and be diligent in doing them; for by so doing thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee. Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, and not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost. Be so merciful, that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy; that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear you may receive the never-fading crown of glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is quite clear that the bishop, who it must be remembered is already a priest, receives something more. He receives the fullness of the priestly powers, in the sense that to the authority of the ordinary priest is added that of superintendence, a pastoral power derived from the Good Shepherd, and together with this (as the rest of the Ordinal indicates) the special functions which have always been reserved to the Bishop.

The epistles of St. Paul to St. Timothy have ever been taken by Anglicans, Romans and Easterns--by the whole Catholic Church--to contain the scriptural pattern of the bishops' power and jurisdiction. The "charge" to St. Timothy forms the epistle read at the consecration of a bishop. St. Paul's words "stir up the gift of God, which was given thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power," are incorporated in the Anglican Form. This means that the Church of England believes that by episcopal consecration a man becomes a bishop in exactly the same way that St. Paul made St. Timothy one. The more the Anglican rite is studied the more incredible it will seem that anyone could bring against it the fantastic accusations that it does not intend to do what the Church has always done, or that it means something new when it talks about bishops, priests and deacons.


THE question arises, if the reformers intended to continue the ancient three-fold ministry, why were they not content simply to translate the old services? Why did they compile new ones? They acted as they did because of the extraordinary and confusing complexity of the old rites. In the beginning the forms in use at Rome had been very simple. But in the course of centuries, ceremony after ceremony had been incorporated until, by the end of the Middle Ages, the original pattern had been completely obscured. So confusing had the service of ordination become that a Jesuit writer can say "it is certain that the subject of the ceremony, who was not a priest at the beginning, is a priest at the end, but the difficulty is to tell at what part of the ceremony he became a priest." It was to clear up all this ambiguity that as Jewel, one of the first Elizabethan bishops wrote, "we have returned again unto the primitive church of the ancient fathers and apostles, that is to say, to the ground and beginning of things, unto the very foundations and headsprings of Christ's Church." References to Aaron and Levites, tonsuring, the delivery of different vestments at different times, anointings, "traditions" of instruments were all swept away. Some of them had Old Testament associations which threw little, if any, light on the New Testament ministry, others were survivals of pagan customs connected with the grant of authority, or had been taken over from feudalism. The Church of England preserved whatever the New Testament, and the earliest teaching of the Fathers, proved to have been in keeping with the practice of the primitive Church. It is not fantastic to say that the Bishops of Rome during the first centuries would have understood the reformed Anglican ordinal far more easily, and would have been far happier in using it, than that of their successors.


IT is time now to turn to the Form and Matter of ordination. The very best intentions in the world do not in themselves suffice to make valid sacraments. Thus the question arises, does the English ordinal provide Form and Matter which are sufficient to effect that which is intended, that is to say, the ordination of real priests and the consecration of real bishops? Pope Leo said that it does not. Roman controversialists have maintained usually that the Prayer Book "Matter," which is the "Laying on of Hands" is insufficient. Most Roman scholars know that this opinion is wrong, if only because for centuries it was the only "Matter" in use at Rome itself. If it is insufficient now, it was insufficient then, and in consequence Roman ordinations must be invalid--which is nonsense. But the controversialists have had a good deal of authority behind them. In 1439, at the Council of Florence, Pope Eugenius IV, in a decree addressed to the Armenians, laid it down that the Matter of ordination was the delivery of a chalice and paten to the ordinand. In the eyes of many the removal of this ceremony from the Use of the Church of England invalidated its ordinations. But the teaching of the Roman Church about the question has varied greatly.

In Ethiopia, the Coptic Archbishop was accustomed to hold ordinations when many hundreds of candidates had been gathered together. They were arranged in ranks and the Archbishop passed along them laying his hands on each and saying "Receive the Holy Ghost." In consequence of the great multitude, and confusion, and the haste in which all was done, it followed that some did not receive the laying on of hands at all, for some the words were omitted, some lacked both Matter and Form. The Roman missionaries applied to Rome for guidance as to what they ought to do in the case of priests so ordained, when they were received into the Roman Communion. Were they to be accepted as validly ordained priests? The answer of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, given in 1704, was: "The ordination of a priest with imposition of hands and pronouncement of the form, as stated in the case, is valid."

Here then is a more serious confusion even than that which exists in the Roman rite itself. For this is a contradiction of doctrine. Eugenius and the not-so-learned scholars find the essential Matter of ordination in a ceremony which was unknown before the eleventh century. Real scholars and the Holy Office find it in the Laying on of Hands. Anglicans agree with the latter, for they know that the Laying on of Hands is the only Matter which is universal and which can be traced back to the custom of the Apostles.

Happily the question has at last been settled for Roman Catholics. In 1948 the Pope published a decree, a translation of which is given in full in Appendix A. In it he says "so as indeed to do away with every controversy and to close the way to scruples of conscience, we declare by our Apostolic Authority, and if at any time it has legitimately been settled otherwise, we ordain that at least in future the Delivery of the Instruments is not necessary for the validity of Holy Orders." What then is the essential Matter? The Pope declares it to be the "Laying on of Hands." This is tantamount to acknowledging that Anglicans have always been right, for ever since the reformation that is exactly what we have maintained. The decree goes on to declare that for this laying on of hands even "moral contact" is sufficient for validity. Had the Pope in mind the queer case of the Ethiopian ordinations to which reference has just been made? No reason is given, but the phrase "moral contact" would cover it, for it seems to mean that if the ordaining bishop merely stretches out his hands towards the candidates it suffices for validity. It is not necessary to enquire whether this is really true. The Church of England has always practised an actual laying on of hands by the ordaining or consecrating bishop, accompanied, in the case of an ordination, by the laying on of hands of all the priests present and, in the case of a consecration, by the laying on of hands of at least two other bishops. Our custom, it would seem, must now be accepted as valid, even by Roman Catholics, for the Pope has declared that the Laying on of Hands is the Matter of both episcopal consecration and priestly ordination.


N.B. (The Anglican Forms, which will be quoted, are those of the Elizabethan Prayer Book. These were enlarged in the time of Charles II. But we stand, or fall, by the earlier rite, for if that was invalid, improvements, made more than a century later, would have come too late.)

Unlike Matter, there has never been any universally accepted Form for ordination and consecration. But there is general agreement with the Council of Trent's, and Pope Leo's, teaching that the Forms of the sacrament must "signify the grace which they effect." The Pope went en to argue that the Anglican Ordinal did not signify the order of the priesthood, or the episcopate, "their grace and power," and concluded "we pronounce and declare that ordinations performed according to the Anglican rite are utterly invalid and therefore void." If the Pope's facts had been right his conclusion would have been inevitable. But we have seen how very far from accurate his facts were with regard to the Ordinal as a whole. Now we have to narrow down our argument to the actual Form which makes a man a bishop or a priest. Happily here we have clear guidance in the papal Decree of 1948, for in it the Pope has selected from the several quasi-Forms of the Roman Pontifical and declared what are the actual Forms by which a priest is ordained and a bishop consecrated. It will be convenient to place the Roman Forms side by side with the Anglican, so that they may be more easily compared. It must be borne in mind that the Form must "signify the grace" which it confers.



Give we beseech Thee, Almighty Father, to this Thy servant the dignity of the Presbyterate: renew within him the spirit of holiness, that accepted by Thee, O God, he may hold the office worthily and win a good report by the example of his life and conversation.


Receive the Holy Ghost, whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Is it not simply fantastic to argue that the Roman Form signifies the grace of the priesthood and the Anglican one does not?



Confer on Thy priest the highest dignity of Thy Ministry, and furnished with every honour, sanctify him with the dew of heavenly unction.


Take the Holy Ghost; and remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is given thee by this imposition of our hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and soberness.

The whole clause in the Anglican rite beginning "and remember" is taken from the second Epistle to St. Timothy. No scripture could be selected which would show more clearly the belief that in conferring the episcopate the English Church was doing exactly the same thing which St. Paul did when he consecrated St. Timothy. The original Latin of both the Roman Forms is given in Appendix B.

It might be argued that none of these Forms is wholly satisfactory. The Anglican Form for the bishop might well specify his office directly, rather than indirectly by a quotation from scripture. On the other hand the Roman Form for a priest might well speak of the priesthood rather than the presbyterate. Do the Roman Forms really satisfy the conditions laid down in the recent Decree in a way which the Anglican do not? Are "power and grace" to be found in the Roman rite and are they absent from the Anglican one? Taking both together is there really anything to choose between them from the point of view of signifying the grace conferred? If there is then, it is submitted, the Anglican Forms are to be preferred, in that as a matter of fact, they more clearly "signify what they effect." It is sheer nonsense to say that the Roman Forms are valid and the Anglican are not.

It must be remembered that no Form exists in a vacuum. It is set in a service and as it has been shown over and over again the Anglican services emphasize the character and the dignity, the purpose and the powers, of the Orders which are conferred in them.


POINT by point the Roman accusations have been examined. No evidence of faulty intention has been discovered to discount the declaration of intention to "continue" the historic threefold Ministry which is made in the Preface. On the contrary both the service of Ordination of Priests and that of the Consecration of Bishops furnish abundant proof that the Church of England fully implemented that declaration. Further it makes use of Matter and Form which, by the standards of the late papal Decree, are wholly sufficient. The Bull of Leo XIII stated that "if the rite is changed with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church, and of rejecting what the Church does, and what by the institution of Christ belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to, and destructive of, the Sacrament." Most certainly. But there is no single rite of Holy Orders "approved by the Church." This is acknowledged by the Pope in the recent decree, when he says that notwithstanding the essential unity of the various rites "certain variations have been added in the execution of the rite in the course of the ages at different times and places." If anything this is an understatement, for although it is true that the Church everywhere has always intended the same things, yet there has been the greatest possible variation of "use." From as far back as it is possible to go different parts of the Church--in Gaul, in Spain, in Italy, in Greece, in Syria, in Mesopotamia, in Egypt--had their own rites. Therefore the Church of England changed no "rite of the Church," for there never has been any such thing. What it did change was the rite of the Roman Church of its day. So far from framing its own rite because it rejected what "the Church" does, it cut away unessential ceremonies in order to make it clear what" the Church "has always done, and what, by the institution by Christ and the practice of His Apostles, belonged to the nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It made its intention to do this plain by incorporating in its rite all the scripture passages which most clearly justify and explain what is being done. It carefully continued the essential, universal Matter, and its Form is entirely adequate by the standards of the present Pope. If the Decree of 1948 had been published in 1888 instead of in 1948 it would hardly have been possible for Leo XIII to have issued his Bull condemning Anglican Orders. It would seem true that the time has now arrived when the papal authorities, in the interests of truth and of Christian charity, should study again the rite which they condemned and repair the great wrong which was committed when Anglican Orders were declared null and void.


De Sacris Ordinibus Dicconatus, Presbyteratus et Episcopatus. 1948
Pius Episcopatus
Servus Servorum Dei
Ad perpetuam rei memoriam

1. The Sacrament of Orders was instituted by Christ, the Lord: in it spiritual power is delivered and grace conferred rightly to discharge the ecclesiastical office. The catholic faith avows that the sacrament is one and the same for the whole Church; for as our Lord Jesus Christ gave the Church but one and the same government under the Prince of the Apostles, one and the same faith, one and the same sacrifice, so He gave but one and the same treasury of the efficacious signs of grace, that is of the sacraments. Nor has the Church in the course of the centuries substituted, nor is she able to substitute, other Sacraments for those Sacraments instituted by Christ the Lord, since, as the Council of Trent teaches, the seven Sacraments of the New Law were all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and no power belongs to the Church as regards the "substance of the Sacraments," that is in what, according to the eye-witnesses and sources of divine revelation, Christ: the Lord Himself ordained should be preserved in the sacramental sign.

2. It must however be noted as regards the Sacrament of Orders with which we are dealing, that it has happened, notwithstanding its unity and identity which no Catholic can ever call in question, that certain variations have been added in the execution of the rite in the course of the ages, at different times and places. This indeed was the reason why theologians began to enquire which of those variations pertained to the essence of the Sacrament of Orders and which did not: and also it proved a cause of doubts and anxieties in particular cases. Again and again, therefore, the Holy See has humbly asked that the supreme authority of the Church should at length determine what was required for validity in the conferring of Holy Orders.

3. But it is agreed by all that the Sacraments of the New Law, namely the sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, confer grace, and effect what they signify, and signify what they effect. Now the effects which ought to be produced and therefore signified by Holy Ordination to the Diaconate, Priesthood and Episcopate, namely power and grace, are found in all the rites of the Universal Church in different times and places, to be sufficiently signified by the imposition of hands and the words determining it. Further, no one is ignorant that the Roman Church has always considered valid the Ordinations conferred by the Greek rite, without the delivery of the instruments, so that at the Council of Florence itself, when the union of the Greeks with the Roman Church was dealt with, it was by no means imposed on the Greeks that they should alter the rite of Ordination, or insert the delivery of the instruments: on the contrary the Church wished that in Rome itself the Greeks should be ordained according to their own rite. From which it may be gathered, that even according to the mind of the Council of Florence, the delivery of the instruments is not, by the will of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, required for the substance and validity of this Sacrament. If at any time by the will and decree of the Church the delivery of the instruments had also been necessary for validity, everyone knows that the Church has power to change or abrogate what she has decreed.

4. Since these things are so, having invoked the divine light, by Our supreme Apostolic Authority and certain knowledge we declare, and as far as is needed, we decree and enact: the sole matter of Holy Orders for the Diaconate, the Priesthood and the Episcopate to be the imposition of hands: the sole form also to be words determining the application of the matter, which unequivocally signify the sacramental effects--that is the power of Orders and the grace of the Holy Spirit--which are accepted as such and used by the Church. Hence it follows that we declare, so as indeed to do away with every controversy, and to close the way to scruples of conscience, we declare by our Apostolic Authority, and if at any time it has legitimately been settled otherwise, we ordain that at least in future the delivery of the instruments is not necessary for the validity of Holy Orders for the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopate.

5. Concerning the matter and form for the conferring of each Order, by Our same supreme Apostolic Authority, we decree and ordain what follows. In the Ordination of Deacons the matter is the one imposition of the hand of the Bishop which occurs in this rite. The form consists in the words of the Preface, of which these are essential and therefore required for validity, "Send forth upon him, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, by whom he may be strengthened by the sevenfold gifts of Thy grace to fulfil the work of Thy ministry." In the Ordination of Priests the matter is the first imposition of the hand of the Bishop which is done in silence, but not the continuation of that imposition by the extension of the right hand, nor the last imposition to which are added the words: "Receive the Holy Spirit: whose sins ye remit, etc." The form consists in the words of the Preface of which these are essential and therefore required for validity: "Give, we beseech Thee, almighty Father, to this thy servant the dignity of the Presbyterate; renew him with the spirit of holiness, that accepted by Thee, O God, he may hold the office worthily and win a good report by the example of his life and conversation." Lastly in Episcopal Ordination or Consecration the matter is the imposition of hands performed by the consecrating Bishop. The form consists in the words of the Preface of which these are essential and therefore required for validity: "Confer on thy Priest the highest, dignity of thy ministry, and furnished with every honour, sanctify him with the dew of heavenly unction," But let everything be as was laid down by our Apostolic Constitution "Episcopal Consecration" of November 30, 1944.

6. Lest any occasion for doubt should arise, we ordain that the imposition of hands in the conferring of any Order should be by touching physically the head of the ordinand, although even moral contact suffices for the accomplishment of the Sacrament.

Finally as regards what we have decreed and laid down above about the matter and form, it is by no means to be understood as allowing the other rites laid down in the Roman Pontifical to be somewhat neglected or set aside; rather indeed we command that every rule given in the Roman Pontifical is to be faithfully observed and carried out.
The decrees of this Our Constitution have no force as towards the past; but anything doubtful is to be submitted to the Holy See.

These things we establish, declare and decree, there being no hindrances whatever, even deserving special mention, and therefore we wish and command that they shall be made evident in the Roman Pontifical. It is not lawful for any man therefore to infringe this Our Constitution secretly, nor boldly to oppose it.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, the thirtieth day of November, on the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, in the year 1947, the ninth of Our Pontificate.


In case any question should arise about the accuracy of the translation of the papal Decree the original Latin of the essential points is here given.

The Matter

"Divino lumine invocato, suprema Nostra Apostolica Auctoritate et certa scientia declaramus et, quatenus opus sit, decernimus et disponimus: Sacrorum Ordinum Diaconatus, Presbyteratus et Episcopatus materiam eamque imam esse manum impositionem."

The Form

In Ordinatione Presbyterali Forma autem constat verbis "Praefationis" quorum haec sunt essentialia ideoque ad valorem requisita "Da quesumus, omnipotens Pater, in hunc famulum tuum Presbyterii dignitatem; innova in visceribus eius spiritum sanctitatis, ut acceptum a Te, Deus, secundi meriti munus obtineat censuramque morum exemplo suae conversationis insinuet."

In Ordinatione seu Gonsecratione Episcopali. . . . Forma autem constat verbis "Prefationis," quorum haec sunt essentialia ideoque ad valorem requisita: "Comple in Sacerdote tuo ministerii tui summam, et ornamentis totius glorificationis instructam coelestis unguenti rore sanctifica."

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