The English Catholic Church and the validity of Anglican Orders
From The Biography of Cardinal Herbert Vaughan
When Herbert Vaughan was Archbishop of Westminster, he became involved in an issue that, in Edward Norman's opinion, was both "unnecessary and irritating." In order to initiate a discussion between Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians, the French Catholic Abbe Portal, and a leading layman of the Church of England, Lord Halifax, chose a topic which instead became the focus for suspicion and misrepresentation. The "device," as it was later referred to, was the validity of the orders of the Anglican priesthood. They hoped that a discussion of Anglican orders would initiate a gradual rapprochement between the Churches that might one day lead to a corporate reunion.
Instead, it resulted in the Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII on 13 September 1896:
"We pronounce and declare that Ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been and are absolutely null and utterly void."
It was, according to John Jay Hughes, Herbert Vaughan "on whose stubborn and unyielding opposition the soaring hopes of Halifax and Portal were to suffer shipwreck “
The problem of Anglican orders for the Roman Catholic Church did not begin with Portal, Halifax or Vaughan. It was, according to George Tavard, "a creation of the past two centuries." It became a topic among several French theologians in the early eighteenth century when they studied the history and ritual of ordinations in the Church of England. Their debate was reactivated in the nineteenth century. In 1852, at the first synod following the restoration of the hierarchy in England, it was suggested that Anglican ordinations be "solemnly declared null and void." The synod did make such a declaration, for the members believed that Anglican ordinations had already been declared invalid by several popes. The central question concerned the rite of ordination: "Is it capable of doing what is done by the corresponding rite in the Pontifical" of the Roman Church?
"What had been a question turned into a problem when, urged from both sides, Leo XIII examined the thesis of the validity of Anglican orders and found it wanting." He disappointed the expectations of many Anglican clergy who were obliged to be ordained unconditionally if they wished to enter the Catholic communion as priests, and others, both Roman Catholics and Anglicans, who hoped to move towards a corporate reunion. The legacy of the controversy, and the disappointment of many who looked forward to reunion, remains alive.
Cardinal Herbert Vaughan was a leader of the opposition and he did not stand-alone. He represented the English bishops. He established a commission set up to study the issue in 1895. It was made up of Canon James Moyes, Dom Adrian Gasquet, and the Franciscan David Fleming. They concluded in their 1896 report that Anglican orders are null, and Anglican clergy who converted must always be ordained again absolutely and not conditionally. In Rome, the future Cardinal Raphael Merry del Val acted as the agent for the English bishops at the Vatican and lobbied on behalf of a negative answer by the Pope to the proposition.
There were English Catholics who did not share that view. Among the upper classes some were sympathetic to the English Church Union, a society of Anglican clergy and lay people formed for the defense and maintenance of Catholic principles in the Church of England. The Union was founded in 1844 by Anglo-Catholics, within the Anglican Church. From 1868 its president was Charles Lindley Wood, the second Viscount Halifax, a man personally inclined toward the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope had censured Roman Catholic members of the Union in 1865. Between 1894 and 1897 the old schemes of the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom (APUC) were revived, "despite the censure of its attitudes and assumptions by the Holy See in 1865." In the 1890s, Anglican sympathizers initiated the idea of reunion. Lord Halifax was its leading promoter.
Lord Halifax while on the island of Madeira with his family in the winter of 1889-90, met a French Vincentian, thirty-four-year-old Abbe Etienne Fernand Portal, a student of the reforming Bishop Felix Dupanloup of Orleans. Abbe Portal was on the island partly for his health and partly in connection with work, he was doing for the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul. Halifax found him extremely kind and one of "the quickest and most intelligent people I have ever met." According to Snead-Cox, the men soon discovered they had many common interests, and took long walks together discussing the condition of religion in their own countries. Portal was equally impressed with Halifax. "Here was a representative of the Anglican Church, the President of the English Church Union, and yet what a little seemed to separate him from Catholicism!" Following their meeting, for the "astonished Abbe, all things seemed possible, while the work of doing everything that could be done to put the position of the Anglican Church fairly before Catholic Europe became an imperative duty. To bring about a reunion between England and Rome seemed a project which required only patience and good-will."
Halifax, however, represented only a very narrow section of his co-religionists. Within the Church of England, ritualism and Anglo-Catholicism were attractive to some, but aroused fierce antagonism on the part of many others. One faction called it "Anglo-Romanism," and felt that the movement did not belong within the Protestant establishment. Ritualism, especially in the use of the confessional, was unpopular among the middle classes and evangelical churchmen. In addition, there were divisions and tensions within the Anglo-Catholic movement, which surfaced later in the Cavalier case of 1899. Therefore, Lord Halifax was representative of an ambiguous position within the Anglican Church. Nonetheless, during 1892, Portal and Halifax corresponded and searched for a way to unify the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in the near future. They decided that a discussion about the validity of Anglican orders was one way to reach the goal of corporate reunion. According to John Jay Hughes, theirs was a daring idea for the time "too daring as the sequel was to show." In July 1892, Halifax visited Cardinal Vaughan at Westminster and presented his plan. From the outset, Vaughan made it clear that the recognition of the Pope's primacy was the decisive element and not the validity of Anglican orders. According to Hughes, Vaughan was honestly convinced that Halifax's movement was a threat to the Roman Catholic Church and faith. "He made use of every means at his disposal to thwart what Halifax and Portal were attempting. Given his convictions, it is difficult to see how Vaughan could have acted otherwise."
Vaughan wrote in February 1894:
“Halifax and his party are anxious to get some kind of recognition anything that and could be twisted into a hope of recognition will serve their purpose. They wish to keep people from becoming Catholics individually and tell them to wait for a corporate reunion. He wrote this will never be until after the Last Judgment and all the poor souls that will be born and die in heresy before reunion must suffer in their own souls for this chimera of corporate reunion. They are also most anxious to get some kind of assurance about their Orders, at least the statement that they are possibly valid! But, this again is to keep souls back from submission to the Church”.
What Hughes terms Vaughan's "ruthlessly logical approach" finds support in observations made by Snead-Cox and Wilfrid Ward. Snead-Cox noted that Vaughan's application of some theological proposition to everyday life often had "little regard for the special circumstances and without a thought for such an irrelevancy as the feelings of the person concerned." Wilfrid Ward saw Vaughan as a man with "a curious combination of romantic ideals with intensely unromantic details." He had seen a Vaughan who could override, "almost brutally, the romance of ordinary home life and human love if they stood in his path. Nothing could be more practical than the means he took. He followed the well-known General's advice to his soldiers, for according to Ward, "he kept his powder dry while he said his prayers. In the mean time Portal had thrown himself into the scheme and published in France, under the pseudonym F. Dalbus, a pamphlet entitled "Les Ordinations Anglicanes." In it, he called the consecration of Matthew Parker, who had been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559 by Elizabeth I, valid in terms of the "historical facts," but expressed doubt concerning the "intentions" of the consecrator. The pamphlet achieved "an astonishing popularity, and attracted the attention of many scholars on both sides of the English Channel" when it was reviewed by Abbe Louis Duchesne, a church historian and author of the Liber Pontificalis, in the Bulletin Critique. Duchesne used Catholic teaching on the sacraments to argue against Portals' treatment of intention and said, that "the conclusion is, that Anglican Orders may be regarded as valid.’’ Hughes considers the purpose in bringing up the issue of "intention" as a tactical move to get the discussion moving.
Just as Ambrose Phillippe De Lisle had convinced Nicholas Wiseman, who had in turn convinced Pope Pius IX, that a substantial part of the Church of England was ready to reunite with Rome, so also did Portal and his supporters in Rome convince Leo XIII that the Anglican Church was ready to submit. "I hear they are on the point of coming over," Pope Leo told Vaughan, who, Edward Norman writes, "had to bear the onus of seeming to be unresponsive and un-open to the daring vision of a wider movement of opinion." Even the historian Abbot Gasquet, "with realism that was like Vaughan's, whose opinions he was representing in Rome on the question-was lectured by Leo on 'how the whole nation was being drawn to Catholicism.'
In an interview on his first day as Archbishop, Vaughan was asked about Protestants and the Church of England. He stated clearly that "I recognize Protestants as fellow Christians but I do not recognize their religion as the true faith." He continued: "There are two currents even in the Church of England itself today-one towards Catholicism and the other towards rationalism. It is only what I would expect in a church of so many inconsistencies." In September 1894, Portal visited Halifax in England and was introduced to Anglican bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury, E. W. Benson, was very cool to the idea and just as sure of his convictions as Herbert Vaughan. At the same time, Vaughan was annoyed that Portal did not come to visit him at Westminster. Vaughan, writes Hughes, could understand the Church of England as a "thoroughly Protestant and Erastian institution" but not the position of an Anglican like Halifax, nor Portal's advocacy of "friendly theological discussions" that might lead one day to corporate reunion. The Church of England, as he saw it, was a familiar enemy he could come to grips with, "an age-old foe which had oppressed his forefathers." He would not accept dealing with a Church, that claimed to be "the ancient Catholic Church of this land," whose archbishop and others denounced him and other Roman Catholics with scorn as "the Italian mission," who "claimed to feed its children in the Eucharist with the true body and blood of Christ, and to forgive their sins in the sacrament of penance as truly as the pope himself this was too much for Herbert Vaughan."
Vaughan's answer to calls for a "gradual 'rapprochement' was characteristically simple and straightforward submission." He was to repeat it time after time "with a sublime disregard of its negative 'psychological effect. Individual submission to the see of Peter, he said in a speech at Bristol on 9th September 1895, was the only hope there was for reunion, and the greatest obstacle to this submission was pride." Any other path suggested for reunion was to him a snare and a delusion, a "trick of Satan to keep people back from the truth.”
Portal went to Rome and saw Cardinal Rampolla, the Vatican Secretary of State, to whom he gave his impressions of the Church of England. The next day he met with Pope Leo XIII for an hour. Portal suggested that the Pope call for a conference between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. He returned on the third day in hope of receiving a letter from the Pope for Archbishop Benson of Canterbury, but instead he received one from Cardinal Rampolla. The Secretary of State's.1etter praised Portal's efforts and expressed a hope that England "return to the only center of unity."
Portal then traveled to England to visit the Archbishop of Canterbury again and received an even cooler reception than the first time. Benson considered it imprudent for such a momentous interview with Halifax and Portal to be just sprung upon him and was "deeply annoyed, and made no attempt to dissimulate his feelings." Snead-Cox quotes Benson: "Portal had seen only one side of English Church life with Lord Halifax; and that the Pope could have no complete view of England before him.
Halifax met Pope Leo XIII and proposed a direct offer to the Anglican bishops, bypassing Cardinal Vaughan. Abbot Gasquet brought the news to Vaughan that the Pope had decided to write such a letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Vaughan asked Gasquet to return to Rome, and the Cardinal came close behind, arriving on the evening of 19 January 1895. The next day he saw the Pope at 12 noon.
Vaughan wrote to Fr Farmer at Mill Hill about his visit to the Pope. He had gone first to Cardinal Rampolla and suggested that if the Pope wrote the letter “Ad Anglos”, he should do it as an appeal to all who were seeking the truth in England, just as Jesus did when he taught his disciples how to pray. "I urged upon him the need of trusting more thoroughly to the supernatural in the central government of the Church."
On 28 January 1895, Vaughan went to see the Pope. He had been warned by Gasquet through Moyes that the Pope had been convinced by Dalbus and the "French influence" in Rome about the possibility of reunion. "One idiot," Gasquet continues, "advised the Pope to write to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York." "We Catholics have all along misjudged most unfairly the position of these good men," the Pope wrote in a letter received privately by Gasquet. In the matter Gasquet thought "it a most fatal policy to give home authority away like it has done.. No doubt the Cardinal will hear about it when he goes to Rome."
Vaughan gave Farmer an unflattering description of Pope Leo's appearance during his visit: "When he opened his mouth there appeared here and there some rather unpolished tusks-probably not over four or five-a great mouth and dark eyes in a deeply set-face crumpled and not well shaven."
Vaughan was greeted "affectionately" and asked, if he had anything interesting from England. "I said I had brought him the results of the bishops' meeting of January 4th." Vaughan first spoke of their request to withdraw the prohibition against Catholics attending Oxford and Cambridge. He then commented to Farmer about the conversion of England: "If he appears before England as the Doctor of prayer like his Divine Master, no better preparation could be made for any doctrinal encyclical he might issue later on.. This is a matter that needs much prayer." The "great work for the conversion of England is thus now in the balance and next week or so may determine whether I am under a delusion or not as to one of the measures that have to be adopted by the Holy Father. "Halifax "and his party" were looking for recognition. "They are also most anxious to get some kind of assurance about their orders, at least a statement that they are possibly valid! But this again is in order to keep souls back from submission to the Church. I have my hands quite full with pressing these facts on people here. At the same time it is most important to keep in touch with these people and if possible to lead them to the truth." In his conversation with the Pope, Vaughan emphasized that there was no chance of corporate reunion and the only prospect was in the increasing number of converts who were coming into the Roman Church.. He warned the Pope of Anglican intentions and that they were "all opposed to the supremacy of the Pope, and that his letter could not alter that.." Leo Xll finally told Vaughan that he would issue an "Encyclical on the Church and her Head in the middle of this year, if he lived so long?“
From the English College Vaughan wrote to Carmel, Notting Hill, concerning the issue, on 25 February 1895: "It has been an unspeakable consolation to me to find that the Vicar of Christ has fully entered into the supernatural way of dealing with England by means of prayer. Lord Halifax is coming out to see and argue! with the Pope. I am in correspondence with him and he is in great need of prayer.. Though so good and earnest, it will be a miracle if he, the head of a sort of sect, is converted. But what cannot prayer do! 'If Stephen had not prayed, Paul would not have been converted' says St. Augustine." On 13 March he wrote again from Rome that "Lord Halifax arrived today and came to me at once to have a good talk. The Holy Father will see him, but I have not much hope of a good result.
Abbot Gasquet had seen the Pope at the end of January in the presence of the new Secretary of State, Rafael Merry del Val. After the Pope finished speaking, Gasquet took the opportunity to support the warning given earlier by Vaughan. Merry del Val, part English himself, supported Gasquet. According to Hughes, without the assistance of Rafael Merry del Val, "none of those who worked so hard for the condemnation of Anglican orders-not: Gasquet, nor Moyes, nor even Cardinal Vaughan himself could have achieved the outstanding success which ultimately crowned their efforts." By 1896, for example, Merry del Val, a confidant of the Pope, was convinced that Portal was "spreading heresy and poisoning people's minds." The Pope called in Rampolla, and Gasquet repeated what he had told Pope Leo. "That interview was decisive, and the Pope knew that the dream of corporate reunion was not to come true in his time."
On 14 April 1895 the Pope issued an apostolic letter, Amantissimae voluntatis, addressed to the English people, urging that a discussion of the validity of ordinations might lead to a conference which could start the process towards reunification. According to Derek Holmes, it is clear that this call by the Pope
for the English people to pray for the light to know the truth in all its fullness was influenced by Gasquet, Vaughan and Merry del Val. The letter was published in England on 22 April. It was not addressed to the Anglican Archbishops or to the Church of England, but to the whole nation: "To the English people who seek the Kingdom of Christ in the unity of the Faith." It was an invitation for England to pray for the truth. Towards the end of the letter Ad Anglos, the Pope urged Roman Catholics to pray the rosary for the conversion of England and granted indulgences for doing so. In general, the letter was well-received in England. Even Archbishop Benson spoke of its "honest appeal" but noted that it made no mention of the Anglican Church. Vaughan wrote to Carmel from Paris on 11 May 1895, informing Mother Mary that had he been that day to see the Cardinal Archbishop about an appeal he planned to make throughout the convents of Europe for prayers for England. He had already begun at Orleans. "I have today recommended you and your anxiety to the Mother at Notre Dame des Victoires. I spend my mornings there, not without fruit. "
Vaughan explained to Fr Farmer that he had written directly to the Pope: "My letter to him has been a very bold thing to do--but I have done it deliberately." The letter referred to was probably that of 25 August 1895: "The extreme importance to the Church in England of the way in which the Anglican question is treated by Rome is my apology for writing direct to your holiness." Vaughan warned that it would be a serious mistake if a decision on Anglican orders were made in Rome, "reversing the practice of the Church from the very beginning of the Anglican heresy," without having fully heard from the theologians and historians of the Catholic Church in England. He did not object to "French Ecclesiastics identifying themselves with Lord Halifax," but asked that the Pope allow the English hierarchy to "see their
statements and arguments." "We fear lest matters closely concerning the Church in England should be discussed and carried on towards a decision without our knowledge and behind our back."
Vaughan was in favor of an examination of the question but "if the representatives of the Catholic Church in England are excluded, while foreigners who are partisans obtain a place and a dominant influence in certain quarters, the discontent and mischief in England will be of the gravest kind."
He then reminded the Pope that the previous April he had asked that if a commission on the subject of Anglican orders were formed, he would be informed and the Pope would appoint two or three English experts to the commission. Shortly after an announcement at the Preston Conference, in September 1895, that Rome was going to reopen formally the question of the validity of Anglican orders, a committee was formed in London to consider the evidence. The year 1896 was also to see the publication in June of the encyclical De Unitate addressed to all the bishops of the Church. In March 1896 Pope Leo XIII appointed an international commission to meet in Rome to look into the question. Cardinal Mazzella presided and Merry del Val was secretary; Merry del Val kept Vaughan informed. The members of the commission were Gasquet, de Augustinis, Duchesne, Gasparri, Fleming, and Moyes. The pro-validity members also had the help of Anglicans, Lacey and Puller, who supplied them with information from England. Two more members were added: Fr T. Scannell and Jose Calasanzio de Llevaneras.
On 30 April 1896 Vaughan wrote to Archbishop James Smith in Scotland asking for his support:
"The English Bishops have unanimously desired me to express to the Holy See their opinion on Anglican orders. They consider that any departure from the tradition of 300 years, during which the Church has treated them as invalid, would be a shock and a scandal to the faithful. They hold that Anglican Orders are not valid and would pray the Holy See to declare them invalid, if such be its judgment. They consider that this modern pretension of Anglicans to possess sacerdotal powers is being pushed, and that recognition of them by Rome is being sought, in order to give color to the Anglican Communion to be an integral part of the Church Catholic, and hinder conversions. It would be exceedingly valuable if we could add the adhesion of the Irish and Scotch Archbishops to our letter to the Holy Father. I should, therefore, be very grateful if your grace would give me your adhesion to this letter, or a letter, which I might use, not of course for publication!
The commission met on twelve occasions between 24 March and 5 May 1896. Vaughan's letter, in the name of the bishops of England and Wales, accompanied by letters of support from Archbishop Smith and the bishops of Ireland and Scotland, was sent to Mazzella on 10 May 1896. Tavard considers the document disingenuous: "It showed both a ferocious determination to stop any recognition of Anglican orders, and a great ignorance of the theological mood of the Church of England past and present." In his opinion, the emotional appeal of the letter needs to be remembered. The devil was "at work in the Anglo-Catholic movement," and a happy result might be expected from a condemnation; a large influx of converts. It was a line of thought that could not be dismissed by a pastorally-minded pope, who lived before the start of the ecumenical movement." The final vote took place on 7 May 1896. Voting for recognition of Anglican orders were Louis Duchesne and the Jesuit Emilio De Augustinis. Pietro Gasparri and another member said that the orders were doubtful. "The Vaughan group voted against it." According to Tavard, the commission could not reach a conclusion and handed its documentation to the Dominican Raffaele Pierotti. Leo XIII asked him to sum up the commission's work and present the findings to the Holy Office, which would make a formal recommendation to the Pope!
On Thursday, 16 July, the Holy Office met in the presence of the Pope and voted unanimously that Anglican orders were not valid. Only the Secretary of State, Mariano Rampolla, was absent. On 10 August Vaughan wrote to Mother Mary of Jesus from Llandrindod, Wales:
I am having a novena to our Lady to help the Holy Father in the matter of Anglican Orders. It is important that nothing should be said of his intentions, because your Abbe Portal, and my Halifax and one of my own colleagues in Rome would exert every effort to hinder the condemnation of Anglican Orders, if they thought a condemnation likely. I hear all over the country they are resting in their sacerdotal offices and care very little for the Encyclical compared to the idea that they are sacrificing priests. This is the last ruse of the devil to keep the people in heresy and schism. Much prayer is therefore needed just now."
The validity of Anglican orders was formally rejected in the papal document Apostolicae Curae of 13 September 1896. It was composed by Merry del Val.32
The expectation that the numbers of conversions would increase if submission to the authority of the pope was clearly demanded was not fulfilled. The Pope, one month after the decision, sent a letter to Vaughan concerning the economic hardship experienced by converted Anglican clergymen. Leo XIII expressed his own ideas on conversions from the Anglican Church and, from his initiative, the Convert's Aid Society was formed.
Labels: anglican orders, anglican priesthood; Anglican church; Anglo catholic; True faith; Ad anglos: Apostolicae Curae, protestant priests