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Notes on the Decree of Leo XIII.
Against the Validity of Anglican Orders.

By the Rev. Wm. J. Seabury, D. D.,
Charles and Elizabeth Ludlow Professor of Ecclesiastical Polity and Law
in the General Theological Seminary.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, n.d.

IT is necessary to renew the objection which applies to all the papal pronouncements, viz., that, so far as relates to the Church of England and her affiliated branches, they are absolutely devoid of authority, and are to be regarded as mere controversial allegations. There is nothing in this Bull which has not already been controversially alleged against us, and repeatedly and abundantly refuted, not only by Anglicans, but also by reputable Romans; and while it adds nothing to the weight of these statements that the Bishop of Rome should assume responsibility for them, such action on his part has the effect of bringing him down into the arena of controversy, so that we have only to consider the intrinsic value of the statements made.

To say that our Orders are condemned by the Pope on account of the failure of matter, or form, or intention, is of much the same effect as to say that our jurisdiction is null, as not being derived from the Pope; or that our mission has failed by reason of our being in heresy or schism because we do not hold that which accords with papal judgment. Papal authority determines our error, therefore we are wrong. Yet it is obvious that, so far as authority is concerned, the weight of decisions against our Orders depends upon the determination of the previous question whether the authority exists. If so, the case is closed without argument or reason. There is no need to stay for either. All that the Pope need to do is to declare the Orders invalid. The question is settled, or rather there is no question to be settled. That his Holiness should condescend to the use of reason and argument is doubtless to be attributed to the plentitude of his Apostolical care for the Anglican lambs, lest they should conceive that their possession of reasonable minds had been overlooked. But after all, in spite of his assumption of authority, he does base his decision on reasons; and by the value of those reasons, the worth of his pronouncement will be tested, and not by the pretence of authority.

The substance of these reasons is, that even if the Ordinal tinder which the English succession was continued were sufficient in regard to the matter of the Sacrament, it was deficient in the form and intention requisite to make the matter determinate. There are two ways of treating this charge: one by traversing the details by which it is supported, and showing that they do not suffice to sustain the charge; the other by showing affirmatively the position actually assumed by the Church of England. The latter is here preferred, first because the former will be more generally taken, and the critic may safely enough be left to his criticisers; and secondly, because the real question at issue is not whether the Ordinal lacks this or lacks that, but whether it has that which, by the rule of God's Word as interpreted by primitive practice, is sufficient for the purpose. We cannot fit our shoe to every man's last; and we do but waste time in discussing whether the authoritative statements of the Church of England be apt and meet for the expression of such theological notions as in other quarters may be deemed essential verities of the Gospel.

II. But before considering what the position of the Church of England is, it may be worth while to note the anxiety manifested by the author of this paper to show his conformity with his predecessors in respect of the ruling as to Anglican Orders. This, indeed, is immaterial to us. It may be a desirable point for his Holiness to prove, but we are not concerned with the question. We have at least so much respect for him as to concede to him as much authority as we concede to his predecessors; and it is manifest that the value of all these rulings depends upon the worth of their pretence to authority. At the same time the statements have relation to matters of fact; and as Infallibility is not supposed to apply to questions of fact, we cannot account his Holiness, even on his own principles, as other than a narrator of what he alleges to be history; nor can we justly be blamed if we decline to believe what he alleges, merely because he alleges it, when there are competent and candid historians who present, and give their evidence for an entirely different state of facts. The proper conclusion upon this question of historical interest can only be drawn from the evidence.

III. In considering the question of the sufficiency of the Ordinal adopted by the Church of England in the sixteenth century, it is important to note the liberty of the Church in this matter.

This appears from the general recognition of the principle that the right belongs to each Church to regulate its own ritual, subject to the analogy of the common faith and order. That the papacy should constitute itself the judge of what is required by that analogy is of course to be expected; and if the claim be well founded there is, equally of course, nothing further to be said. But apart from that claim, it is as certain as anything in history that the right has been originally and continuously claimed and exercised: and it is to be further noted that in the most primitive times this right was regarded as belonging not merely to each Church, considered in its national or provincial association, but to each Bishop in and for the Church in his own Diocese.

It is also to be remembered that in fact the usage in regard to the mode of conferring Orders differed in various times and places; different Diocesans having their own forms for ordering Priests and Deacons, and different forms being used for the continuance of the Episcopal Order: the most primitive being the simplest, and the essentials of Ordination, as appears by comparison of these forms with the facts recorded in the New Testament, consisting of the use of imposition of hands with prayer.

IV. In order to understand the position of the English Church and the true intention of its Ordinal, it is important to observe that the Anglican Orders have been in fact continuous. The English Church certainly had Orders up to the time when the Edwardine Ordinal, now objected to, was put forth, and to these Orders no exception is taken. The purpose was to preserve and perpetuate these Orders, and no others. There was no intention to constitute new and unheard of Orders: but distinctly, professedly and unmistakably to continue the old Orders. In providing a form for the purpose which was thus proposed, those who moved in the matter took the liberty of thinking that the form previously in use was not in all respects suitable to the purpose in hand. Whether they were justified in this view is a separate question. But the purpose-is clear, and the fact of the accomplishment of the purpose is also clear.

1. This appears first, from the removal of the previous form for the conferring of the several degrees of Holy Orders on the ground of superstitious usages connected with it, and the substitution of another form with the same object. No objection, therefore, is made to the thing itself, but only to the mode of doing the thing.

2. The same appears from the Preface to the Ordinal declaring that these three Orders of Bishops, Priests and Deacons had been in Christ's Church from the Apostles' times; i. e., that the Orders for the perpetuation of which they were now providing were the same which they had received as handed down from the beginning.

3. The purpose also appears from the provision of three separate forms for the continuance of these three Orders, and the careful discrimination between the effects designed in the three several forms, insomuch that each from, in its whole context and circumstances, shows without possibility of mistake what Order it was designed to confer.

With regard to the absence of the word Bishop (i.e. in the charge accompanying the imposition), which was afterwards supplied, the same absence was characteristic of the Roman as well as of the Edwardine form. But the different charge given to the Ordinand in each of the three English forms of Ordination, and the difference in the nature of the questions put to each Ordinand make the purpose so clear that no one but a wilful mistaker can mistake it. And to this is to be added the observation of the difference in the three Rites in the imposition of hands--the Deacon receiving imposition only of the hands of one Bishop; the Priest receiving that, together with imposition of hands of the Priests present; the Bishop receiving imposition of hands of several Bishops, without that of Priests; all three differences being in accordance with known and general practice, and the ancient rule of Carthage.

4. The purpose to perpetuate the same Orders which had been in the Church from the Apostles' times, is further shown by the use of the same ministry of Ordination which had always been used to that end, i.e. the ministry of Bishops.

5. The same purpose manifestly appears from the use of the same matter and form previously used, i.e. that of imposition of hands with prayer. That various ceremonies and their accompanying words were omitted is true; but these were not of the substance of Ordination, that is, they were not matter and form essential to the transmission of Orders.

As to this point, his Holiness and all his holy brethren may take their choice. Either these ceremonies, additional to imposition of hands and prayer, are essential or they are not. If they are not, the Anglican Ordinations were with valid matter and form, for Orders were thus transmitted by Edward's Ordinal. If they are, then neither Greeks nor Romans had a valid priesthood for many hundred years: for these ceremonies are conspicuously absent from the older forms. And although of their piety the Romans diligently from, time to time engrafted them upon their Ordinal, yet they were "introduced too late;" "for as the hierarchy had become extinct, there remained no power of ordaining."

V. If the foregoing observations are just, they show that the Edwardine Ordinal to which exception is now taken, was used to constitute for the Church of England, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, as being those officers of Christ's Church which had always been therein. The Ordinal was used, not to constitute Judges or Sheriffs, but the Ministry of Christ; not to constitute a ministry of Superintendents, Pastors and teachers, or of ruling and teaching Elders, but of Bishops, Priests and Deacons by that name; the three forms being set out for the continuance of those three Orders so named, as having been in Christ's Church from the Apostles' times.

These officers therefore had the powers belonging to their offices. If these offices were of Divine institution, the officers had the powers and functions attached by the Divine will to their offices. The proponents of this Ordinal certainly had these offices in such reverend estimation as this. What these official powers or functions were under the Divine will may not have been always or in all respects entirely clear; but whatever they were, those who had the offices had them, and those who intended that they should have those offices, intended that they should have those powers. Questions in regard to the nature and extent of these powers have been from time to time disputed in the Church; and at the time referred to, there were certainly the gravest differences of opinion, and such as involved most serious issues. The question was not as to the necessity of Orders, or the continuity of the same Orders, nor as to the fundamental articles of the faith which those Orders were designed to conserve; though doubtless in some aspects it very closely touched those fundamentals. But it was whether powers and functions with a certain significance demonstrably grafted upon those offices, were to be had in equal reverence with those which appeared by the Word of God and the testimony of the Primitive Church to have belonged to them in their original institution. Unless it will be held that the approval of the papacy, given to certain official functions in the significance attached to them, establishes their rectitude, it cannot be denied that the Church of England had the right to its own view of the questions involved, provided that view could not be shown to be in contravention of the Word of God.

With regard to the questions of Priesthood and Sacrifice now particularly alleged, they are certainly purely theological. What the nature of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is; what its relation to the Sacrifice of Christ; what the action of the Priest effects; upon these points the Church of England differed from the Church of Rome--notably as Roman teaching was commonly presented and understood. It had the right so to differ; and there were the most notorious and vital reasons for making that difference unmistakably plain, even to the point of abandoning the use of words which were indeed capable of proper explanation, but which in their common acceptation had been debased to unworthy uses.

When the whole act of Ordination is performed with scrupulous care by the Catholic minister of Ordination, with the use of the Catholic matter and form of Ordination, to the end that those three Orders which had been in Christ's Church from the Apostles' times might be without failure continued in the Church of England, for the exercise of those powers and functions which were inherent in their offices by the Divine will, as interpreted by the consent of primitive antiquity, which those who put forth this Ordinal ever professed to follow, the characteristic of a truly Catholic intention in the use of the Catholic matter and form cannot reasonably be disputed on the ground of the want of use of certain words, which because of their discreditable associations had become justly mistrusted by sober men; nor can an Ordinal which professedly admits a man to the priesthood which has always been in Christ's Church from the Apostles' times, be flouted because it does not instruct the man to maintain a notion of the priesthood which is demonstrably the fruit of mediaeval theological speculations.

But so far as relates to the use of the word, Priest, and the significance of his functions in the purview of the Ordinal, three things are worthy of being carefully noted: first, that the person ordained to the second Order has the name of Priest both in the other offices of the Church and also in the Preface to the Ordinal, as well as in the prayer therein which

speaks of those who are now called to receive the gift of the Priesthood; second, that he is charged in his Ordination to minister the Sacraments, which can mean no less than to execute the Will of Christ with respect to them, and in whatever sense the Eucharist is a sacrifice, he is thus of necessity empowered to offer that Sacrifice; and third, that the Eucharistic office, which is the only means of executing that function, as it was put forth about the same time as the Ordinal, had the formal Oblation, which the Roman office never had, while, as the Eucharistic Office was altered in 1552, it did but return, so far as the Prayer of Consecration was concerned, to a form substantially the same as the Roman form.

VI. All of these things being duly considered, it would seem that such allegations as are now again made against the effectiveness of the Edwardine Ordinal can have no power to disturb any who are willing to look the English Church in the face, honestly accepting her plain intention, and frankly recognizing her indomitable determination to hold fast the substance of Catholic Faith and Order, and to free herself from the incubus of the heap of opinions which have been craftily gathered and tyrannically imposed upon her. To those, if such there be, whose peace of mind in the Communion of the Anglican Churches can only be preserved by the conviction of the substantial agreement of the Anglican with the Roman Church in all things except the supremacy and infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, and whose devout longing for unity disposes them to stretch their reverence for the Primacy to the verge of acceptance even of these also, it may be disturbing to be thus lovingly and paternally assured that they cannot be regarded by their heavenly Father on earth as other than bastards and not sons. But those by whom the blessings of unity, highly as they may be venerated, are still held subordinate to the blessings of truth, cannot but be thankful for the stand taken by the English Church in the sixteenth century; and without attributing to her the infallibility which they deny to others, may still rejoice at the gift which she bestowed upon them in the assertion and defence of those principles of lawful liberty which have enabled them to distinguish Divine truth from human invention.

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