Blog Template Theology of the Body: An Urgent Day for the Anglicans at Lambeth...

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Urgent Day for the Anglicans at Lambeth...

.... Against the backdrop of a very longstanding invitation.

As many of you know, Pope Leo XIII was both the author of St. Michael's invocation for the protection of the Church and the architect of the basis of the Catholic social thought brought to fruition by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus and The Theology of the Body.

In 1894, Leo XIII responded to a contention pressed upon the notice of some French ecclesiastics by Anglican leaders who were discussing with them the prospects of corporate reunion. The Pope was moved by what he heard, and determined that he would have the whole question of Anglican orders re-investigated thoroughly. Accordingly, he selected eight divines who had made a special study of the subject, and of whom four were known to be disposed to recognize Anglican orders and four to be disposed to reject them. They were given access to all documents from the archives of the Vatican and the Holy Office which would throw light upon the points at issue, and they were bidden to sift the evidence on either side with all possible fulness and care. After sessions which lasted six weeks, the Commission was dissolved, and the acta of its discussions were laid before a judicial committee of cardinals. These, after a two months' study, in a special meeting under the presidency of the Pope, decided by a unanimous vote that Anglican orders were certainly invalid.

The full text of the ensuing Apostolicae Curae is available here.

In his declaration on the absolute nullity of Anglican Orders, the Pope echoed the teaching of his predecessor Pope Innocent I in A.D. 416: "if the priests of the Lord desired to preserve ecclesiastical ordinances as they were handed down to us by the Blessed Apostles, no diversity, no variety should be found in the very orders and consecrations themselves... Who does not know and consider that what was delivered to the Roman Church by St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and is to this day kept (by it), ought to be observed by all, and that no practice should be substituted or added without being sanctioned by (that) authority or precedent."

Pope Leo's own pronouncement that "the ordinations carried out according to the Anglican Rite have been, and are, absolutely null and void," which belongs to a class of ex cathedra utterances for which infallibility is claimed on the ground of the constant practices of the Holy See, was made with the intention of "(passing final judgment and (settling) the question forever- absolute judicare et penitus dirimere- (such that)... Catholics were bound to receive (the judgment) with the fullest obedience as perpetuo firmam, ratam, irrevocabilem." (Leo VIII, Letter to Cardinal Richard of 5 November 1896, qtd. Smith, Sydney. "Anglican Orders." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1)

Within the Bull itseld, the Pope clarified: We decree that these letters and all things contained therein shall not be liable at any time to be impugned or objected to by reason of fault or any other defect whatsoever of subreption or obreption of Our intention, but are and shall be always valid and in force and shall be inviolably observed both juridically and otherwise, by all of whatsoever degree and preeminence, declaring null and void anything which, in these matters, may happen to be contrariwise attempted, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by any person whatsoever, by whatsoever authority or pretext, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Pope followed this clear pronouncement with a consoling word of welcome:

"...In the name and in the love of the Great Shepherd, in the same We appeal to those who desire and seek with a sincere heart the possession of a hierarchy and of Holy Orders: Perhaps until now aiming at the greater perfection of Christian virtue, and searching more devoutly the divine Scriptures, and redoubling the fervour of their prayers, they have, nevertheless, hesitated in doubt and anxiety to follow the voice of Christ, which so long has interiorly admonished them. Now they see clearly whither He in His goodness invites them and wills them to come. In returning to His one only fold, they will obtain the blessings which they seek, and the consequent helps to salvation, of which He has made the Church the dispenser, and, as it were, the constant guardian and promoter of His redemption amongst the nations. Then, indeed, "They shall draw waters in joy from the fountains of the Saviour", His wondrous Sacraments, whereby His faithful souls have their sins truly remitted, and are restored to the friendship of God, are nourished and strengthened by the heavenly Bread, and abound with the most powerful aids for their eternal salvation. May the God of peace, the God of all consolation, in His infinite tenderness, enrich and fill with all these blessings those who truly yearn for them.

...We wish to direct our exhortation and our desires in a special way to those who are ministers of religion in their respective communities. They are men who from their very office take precedence in learning and authority, and who have at heart the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Let them be the first in joyfully submitting to the divine call and obey it, and furnish a glorious example to others. Assuredly, with an exceeding great joy, their Mother, the Church, will welcome them, and will cherish with all her love and care those whom the strength of their generous souls has, amidst many trials and difficulties, led back to her bosom. Nor could words express the recognition which this devoted courage will win for them from the assemblies of the brethren throughout the Catholic world, or what hope or confidence it will merit for them before Christ as their Judge, or what reward it will obtain from Him in the heavenly kingdom! And We, ourselves, in every lawful way, shall continue to promote their reconciliation with the Church in which individuals and masses, as We ardently desire, may find so much for their imitation."

Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae 38-39

HT: on point