The former Bishop of London, Dr Graham Leonard, has been conditionally ordained as a Catholic priest: one of the reasons was that his orders were in the apostolic succession through the Old Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht. A former Anglican co-secretary of ARCIC explains the link with Canterbury.
The conditional ordination to the priesthood of the former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, has again focused attention on the status of Anglican ordinations. Cardinal Basil Hume, at a press conference after the Low Week meeting of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, admitted the possibility that Anglican clergy might be conditionally ordained (The Tablet, 23 April). Though the (negative) papal bull Apostolicae Curae (1896) remains in force, the Cardinal alluded to cases of possible validity when Anglican priests could trace the lineage of their ordination back to Old Catholic bishops. This is the case with Dr Leonard. Father Edward Yamold • SJ, a member of the first Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), spoke to The Tablet of wider implications:
This would indicate that the Catholic Church is no longer officially committed to the view that Anglican orders are necessarily invalid.
It is therefore opportune to clarify the "Old Catholic factor"; not least because there is considerable ignorance amongst both Anglicans and Roman Catholics of the origins of the Old Catholic participation in Anglican episcopal consecrations. Nor is what actually happens widely known, though it has never been secret. There is also confusion as to its significance.
It may be as well to make quite clear from the beginning that by Old Catholics we are talking only of the bishops in communion with the ancient see of Utrecht. The Old Catholic Church has its origins in an eighteenth-century dispute between Rome and the cathedral chapter of Utrecht — a recusant body in Calvinistic Holland. Utrecht resented the interference of the Jesuits in the affairs of their local Church; Rome accused Utrecht of heresy. By 1724 three bishops had separated from Rome. Some other Catholics, especially from German-speaking countries, joined the Old Catholic communion after the First Vatican Council (1870). The important thing in this context is that we are not talking about bogus episcopi vagantes belonging to the sects with titles which often include the words "Old Catholic". We are talking about Churches recognised by Rome in much the same terms as the Orthodox: Churches separated from Rome but whose orders, ministry and sacraments have never been in question.
Official Anglican contacts with the old Catholics go back to the Lambeth Conference of 1878. In 1925 Utrecht acknowledged the validity of Anglican orders. In 1931 the "Bonn Agreement" between Anglicans and Old Catholics was signed. This, when officially accepted, established what was called "intercommunion" between the two Communions. The relationship was defined as the reciprocal admittance of members to the sacraments. It should be noted that the mutual recognition of ministry came before the achievement of communicatio in sacris (shared sacramental worship). And only after Canterbury and Utrecht had come into sacramental communion did the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Utrecht implement the agreement to share mutually in episcopal consecrations. In other words, the action of one Church sharing in the consecration of the bishop of another was an act of existing communion, not a device to establish communion. Such a sharing in consecrations between neighbouring Churches in communion has been customary since at least the Council of Nicaea (325), which enjoined the practice. The practice was never viewed as a kind of covert, supplemental ordination. In the case of Anglicans and Old Catholics, both Churches had already recognised each other's ministry. Both Churches were already in communicatio in sacris. Anglicans, accordingly, have also shared, from time to time, in Old Catholic episcopal consecrations. All such sharing in consecrations has been carefully recorded in the registries of the Archbishops of Canterbury and Utrecht. Tne whole matter is official, ecclesial.
At the consecration itself, a formal Latin protocol is signed which makes the intention of both the Church of England and the Old Catholic Church perfectly clear. It states that the Old Catholic bishop or archbishop is a genuine co-minister with the Anglican archbishop; of equal authority and not just a mere assistant or witness to the consecration. What is being conferred is said to be episcopal order according to the mind of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. It has the same episcopal character as is enjoyed by the Old Catholic bishops, that is the fullness of all sacerdotal functions as understood in the Catholic Church everywhere, always and by all. Finally, the two existing streams of succession from the Apostles are acknowledged as being joined.
When the Prayer Book ordinal was generally used, the Old Catholic coconsecrator not only joined in the laying on of hands but added the formula of his own Church; accipe spiritum sanctum (receive the Holy Spirit): the consecrating Anglican archbishop having just spoken the English formula from the ordinal, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God . . .". The Old Catholic formula was, of course, identical with the pre-Vatican II text from the Roman Pontifical. With the newer ordinal of the Alternative Service Book, a separate Old Catholic formula has become redundant; moreover, the new Old Catholic rite at this point now enjoins the laying on of hands in silence, as in the contemporary Roman pontifical. The ASB ordinal never
theless retains the explicit formula of 1662. (It will be remembered that Apostolicae Curae deliberately avoided a judgement upon the 1662 formula, contenting itself with a condemnation of the less explicit formula used prior to 1662.) The only thing of further significance to add is that those bishops receiving the Utrecht succession in conjunction with that of Canterbury have themselves shared in numerous other episcopal consecrations, using the same rites and having the same intention. Fr Yarnold is therefore certainly correct in the assertion he made in The Tablet last July that:
. . . many, perhaps all, priests of the Church of England have by now been ordained by bishops whose line of succession derives not only from Matthew Parker's consecration at the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, but also from Old Catholic co-consecrators.
In fact Fr Yarnold might have spoken of most of the clergy of the Anglican Communion, as records of inter-Anglican consecrations from the 1930s onwards would show.
Finally, Roman Catholics ought also to be aware that the Old Catholic bishops are by no means the only ones to share in Anglican consecrations. Certain other episcopal Churches have also shared in episcopal ordinations, the first, historically, being the Church of Sweden from 1921. The practice, as with the Old Catholics, is reciprocal and also presupposes a prior recognition of ministry and sacramental communion, of which the sharing is a sign.
No easy answers
These are the historical and liturgical "facts". How they are interpreted by Anglicans and Roman Catholics is another matter. Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians today would surely want to start with a consideration of the whole Church, rather than a lineal consideration of the succession of the ministry. Moreover, Edward Yarnold, a good and longstanding "ARCIC friend", sensed that Anglicans would not generally favour a solution to the problem of the Roman view of their ministry which conferred progressive validity only from the 1930s onwards. Characteristically, his discernment is correct. Nevertheless, he was also right to remind Roman Catholics in his Tablet Viewpiont (10 July 1993), that as this is a problem Roman Catholics have made for
themselves, it is up to them how they solve it.
In the teasing-out of this historical ecumenical problem, regard must be paid not only to the present short-term pastoral question of former Anglican clergy but (and more important) to the continuing long-term goal of the reconciliation of ministries, notwithstanding the ordination of women. In this context it may be useful for Roman Catholics to know something of the historical detail and intention of this act of communion in the ministry.
The Roman Catholic Church has held firmly for many centuries to the Augustinian doctrine about the validity of the sacraments: a valid ministry is conferred by the Church through appropriate prayer and the laying on of hands — the "form" and "matter" of ordination — by a valid minister who has the intention of doing what the Church does. The question posed to the Roman Catholic Church by Old Catholic co-consecrations, by the contemporary Anglican ordination rites and by the considerable degree of agreement on Eucharist and ministry achieved by ARCIC, can be put simply: in what respect do present Anglican ordinations fall short of the traditional Augustinian criteria?