The final result was the Bull “Apostolicae Curae”, in which Anglican orders were declared to be invalid. As the Bull itself explains at length, its decision rests on. APOSTOLICAE CURAE. Pope Leo XIII. Apostolic letter of His Holiness by Divine Providence giving judgement on Anglican Ordinations, 13 September 1. Apostolicae curae et caritatis, qua Pastorem magnum ovium, Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum (Hebr. XIII, 20), referre pro munere et imitari, aspirante eius.

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Collections of ancient canons. Apostolicae curae is the title of a papal bullissued in by Pope Leo XIIIdeclaring all Anglican ordinations to be “absolutely null and utterly void”.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the Church of England aposttolicae to the papal charges with the encyclical Saepius officio in The principal objection to validity apostoicae Anglican ordinationsaccording to Leo XIII, was the alleged deficiency of intention and of form of the Anglican ordination rites.

Leo XIII declared that the rites expressed an intention to create a priesthood different from the sacrificing priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church and to reduce ordination to a mere ecclesiastical institution, an appointment or blessing, instead of a sacramental crae of actual grace by the action itself.

A Critique of Apostolicae Curae

What was not and could not be disputed was the actual fact of the unbroken succession by laying on of hands by bishops who had been consecrated with the Roman Pontifical sometimes referred to as ‘passing the baton’. The view of many Anglican bishops and defenders was that the required references to the sacrificial priesthood never existed in many ancient Latin-rite ordination liturgies, or in certain Eastern-rite ordination liturgies that the Roman Catholic Church considered to be valid.

In the Roman Catholic view, the differences between these rites are a matter of tradition or custom, and indicate no intention to exclude a sacrificing priesthood. Prior to Apostolicae curaedecisions had already durae given by Rome that Anglican orders were invalid.

Those who were interested in a corporate reunion of Rome and Canterbury thought that, as a condition to such reunion, Anglican orders might be accepted as valid by the Roman Catholic Church. A few Roman Catholic writers thought that there was at least room for doubt and joined with them in seeking a fresh inquiry into the question and an authoritative judgment from Pope Leo XIII who permitted the question to be re-examined.

He commissioned a number of men, whose opinions on the matter were known to be divergent, to state the grounds for judgment in writing. He then summoned them to Rome and directed them to exchange writings.

The pope placed at their disposal all the documents available and directed them to further investigate and discuss the matter.

CATHOLIC LIBRARY: Apostolicae Curae ()

Thus prepared, he ordered them to meet in special sessions under the presidency of a cardinal appointed by him. Twelve such sessions were held in which “all were invited to free discussion”. He then directed that the acts of those sessions, together with all the documents, should be submitted to a council of cardinals, “so that when all had studied the whole subject and discussed it in Our presence each might give his opinion”.

The final result was the papal apostolidae Apostolicae curaein which Anglican orders were declared to be invalid. The extrinsic grounds were said to be in the fact of the implicit apoetolicae of the Holy See given to the constant practice of unconditionally ordaining former Anglican priests who desired to be priests in the Roman Catholic Church and, also, in the explicit declarations of the Holy See as to the invalidity of Anglican orders on every occasion when its decision was given.

Those powers were alostolicae not intended to deal with an abstract state of things, but with a specific and concrete issue”. They were directed towards providing for holy orders in England “as the recognized condition of the aposgolicae and the times demanded”.

The powers given to Pole on 8 March distinguished two classes of priests:.

The intrinsic reason for which Anglican orders were pronounced invalid by the bull, was the “defect of form and intention”. The same was held to be true of episcopal consecration. The pope went on to state that the Anglican ordinal had included what he felt were the errors of the English Reformation. It could not be used to confer valid orders, nor could it later be purged of this original defect, zpostolicae because he felt the words used in it had a meaning entirely different from what would be required to confer the sacrament.

The pope felt that not only was the proper form for the sacrament lacking in the Anglican ordinal, but the intention was also lacking.

He concluded by explaining how carefully and how prudently this matter has been examined by the Holy See. He stated that those who examined it with him were agreed that the curaw had already been settled, but that it might be reconsidered and decided in the light of the latest controversies over the question.

He then declared that ordinations conducted with the Anglican rite were “null and void”, and implored those who were not Roman Catholic and who wanted apostoolicae to return to the one sheepfold of Christ where they would find the true aids for salvation. He also invited those who were the ministers of religion in their various congregations to be reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church, assuring them of his sympathy in their spiritual struggles.


The bull concludes with the usual declaration of the authority of an apostolic letter. No official reply was promulgated by the Church of England or by any other Anglican church. At the Lambeth Conference of a subcommittee report made reference to “an examination apostooicae the position of the Church of England” by the Pope, but they declined to submit any resolution concerning “the Latin communion”.

According to this view, the required references to the sacrificial priesthood never existed in many ancient Catholic ordination liturgies and also in certain current Eastern-rite ordination liturgies that the Roman Catholic Church considered valid.

First, they asserted that the ordination ceremonies in question were biblically valid. They then provided pages of quotations, detailing Roman and Orthodox liturgies that they considered guilty of the same alleged offenses. According to the apowtolicae, if the ordinations of the bishops and priests in the Anglican churches were invalid then, by the same measure, so must be the ordinations of clergy in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

On the charge of intent, the response argued that the readmission of the required phrases in were addressed more to the Presbyterian rather than the Roman controversy. They asserted also that the Book of Common Prayer as a whole contained a strong sacrificial theology in the ordinal.

They then demonstrated that not one priest was deprived on account of defect of order. Some were voluntarily reordained and others received anointing as a supplement to their previous ordination. Some, and perhaps the majority, remained in their benefices without reordination. By contrast all who were married had to put their apostolicaf away as invalidly married. In some cases, Edwardian priests were promoted to higher positions in the Roman Catholic Church.

Saepius officio was not presented as an official response of the church. Neither author represented low church or evangelical views [a] and some evangelicals distanced themselves from the response. He stressed “the strength and depth of the Protestantism of England” and regarded other differences with Rome as much more important than its views on Anglican orders. Helped by articles in The TimesApostolicae curae was understood to mean that orders conferred in the Church of England were not, to the Pope, orders in the Roman Catholic sense.

Anglican resentment began to abate. Vaughan’s biographer comments that, “there would probably have been much more resentment had the Holy See declared in favour of Anglican orders and declared Anglican clergy ‘massing priests'”.

Arguing that “It is a commonplace of all theology, Roman or Anglican, that no public formulary can be or ought to be interpreted by the private sense attached to it by the compilers”, [14] and that consequently the views of Cranmer were irrelevant, in Gregory Dixmonk of Nashdom Abbeypublished an eloquent defence of Anglican orders.

Looking at the Edwardian ordinal, Dix found sufficient mention of the priesthood in the service, the actual formula at the laying on of hands being concerned not only with the priestly act of forgiving sins but also with administering the sacraments and sufficient mention of intention in the prefaces to the ordination rites, to make it impossible to believe that the priesthood was not being conferred and the traditional ministry continued.

Nevertheless, he concluded by arguing that, if Anglican authority committed itself to unity schemes that equated Anglican orders with those of Methodists and other Protestants, their action would justify Leo XIII and declare Apostolicae curae to be right. He argued that the present Book of Common Prayer wording introduced in the ordinal signifies the orders being bestowed in the clearest of terms and would meet Leo’s requirements, while that of and did not.

Furthermore the answer of the archbishops in his view has in itself removed another apostolicwe, as it shows an intention on the part of the archbishops that is clearly adequate by the tests of Trent and the Holy Office. The final obstacle, the gap between andto which Pope Leo refers, has also disappeared. Old Catholic bishops, recognized as valid by Rome, have acted as co-consecrators in episcopal consecrations with Apostolicse.

ByDufort argued, all Anglican bishops are now also in the Old Catholic succession. He argued that Apostolicae curae had been overtaken by events. In more recent times, John Jay Hughes, among a few other Roman Curaae writers, concluded that there were enough flaws in and ambiguity surrounding the pope’s apostolic letter to merit re-examination of the question of the invalidity of Anglican holy orders. Hughes himself had previously been an Anglican priest and was subsequently conditionally ordained in the Roman Catholic Church.

Other Anglican theological critics argued that apostolic succession had never been aplstolicae in the first place, due to valid ordinations tracing back to Archbishop William Laud and beyond to Archbishop Matthew Parker. Cardinal Basil HumeRoman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster London, Englandsuggested that the conclusions of Apostolicae curae can only relate to the situation aposrolicae and that the involvement of Old Catholic bishops in Anglican ordinations since the Bonn Agreement in the 20th century, along with changes of the consecratory prefaces, had re-established apostolic succession within Anglicanism.

I could not in practice dismiss all Anglican Orders as “null and void” because I know that a number of Anglican Bishops have in fact had apostllicae presence at their ordination of an Old Catholic or an Orthodox bishop, that is, somebody who, in the traditional theology of our Church, has been ordained according to a valid rite.


As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, I think it needs to look carefully again at Apostolicae Curae and its status. We need to discover whether the historical background upon which it apoostolicae working and the argumentation upon which it was based is consonant with historical and theological truth as theologians and historians see it today.

By his opinion was that doubts could exist about the invalidity of certain Anglican ordinations:. While firmly restating the judgment of Apostolicae Curae that Anglican ordination is invalid, the Catholic Church takes account of the involvement, in some Anglican episcopal ordinations, of bishops of the Old Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht who are validly ordained.

In particular and probably rare cases the authorities in Rome may judge that there is a “prudent doubt” concerning the invalidity of priestly ordination received by an individual Anglican minister ordained in this line of succession.

There are many complex factors that would require verification in each case.

Of course, if there were other cases where sufficient evidence was available, the balance of that evidence may lead the authorities to reach a different judgment. Since the church must be in no doubt of the validity of the sacraments celebrated for the Catholic community, it must ask all who are chosen to exercise the priesthood in the Catholic Church to accept sacramental ordination in order to fulfill their ministry and be integrated into the apostolic succession.

Hume made these statements in relation to Graham Leonardformerly a bishop of the Church of England, who became a Roman Catholic after retirement and, inwas ordained a priest by Hume. This ordination was conditional due to “prudent doubt” about the invalidity of his ordination in the Church of England. Rome agreed with Hume’s assessment that there was uncertainty in Leonard’s case.

Induring the Malines Conversations, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio questioned the opinion expressed in Apostolicae curae: If it was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it was meant to be done validly, no?

This is stronger than the pectoral cross, because a chalice is used not just for drinking but for celebrating the Eucharist. With these gestures the Catholic Church already intuits, recognises a reality. Similarly, though speaking with respect to Lutherans” Cardinal Ratzinger argued in a Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that among the Christian churches there is a real yet imperfect koinonia, or communion. This imperfect communion allows for the possibility that ministers ordained outside the Catholic sacramental system can nonetheless celebrate the Eucharist in a way that makes available the salvific presence of the Lord.

Inthe Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a doctrinal commentary to accompany Pope John Paul II ‘s apostolic letter Ad tuendam fidemwhich established the formula of the profession of faith to be made by those assuming certain offices in the church.

The congregation’s commentary listed Leo XIII’s declaration in Apostolicae curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations as an example of “those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed”. Anyone who denies such truths “would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”.

Anglicanorum coetibus introduces a canonical structure that provides for groups of Anglican clergy and faithful to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church “while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony”.

In the essay, approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ghirlanda commented that “the ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, “. In recent decades several developments have complicated the possible re-examination of Anglican orders by the Roman Catholic Church. The ordination of women as priests and bishops in the Anglican Communion has been interpreted as expressing an understanding of ordination differing from that of the Roman Catholic Church, which holds that male-only priesthood is a definitive teaching.

Similarly, the decision of some Anglican bodies to extend intercommunion to churches without the traditional understanding of apostolic successionsuch as various Lutheran churches see Porvoo Agreementalso indicates a breaking with apostolic teaching and practice according to the Roman Catholic Church. He noted that “a final solution [to recognition of Anglican orders] can be found only in the larger context of full communion in faith, sacramental life and shared apostolic vision”.

He specifically mentioned obstacles like “lay presidency, the ordination of women, and ethical problems such as abortion and homosexual partnerships. Kallistos Warefor example, notes in his book, The Orthodox Church:. For Orthodoxy, the validity of ordinations does not depend simply on the fulfillment of certain technical conditions external possession of the apostolic succession; correct form, matter and intention.

The Orthodox also ask: What is the sacramental succession and priesthood? How does it understand the eucharistic presence and sacrifice? Only when these questions have been answered can a decision be made about the validity or otherwise of ordination. To isolate the problem of valid orders is to go up a blind alley.