Taylor Marshall, a former Anglican, now Catholic writer and commentator, has a post up that has been getting a lot of reaction on social media. Since it is about the validity of Anglican holy orders and consequently of the Eucharist, it might be worth revisiting here. An excerpt:
Now then, there are Anglo-Catholic priests that have received valid ordinations by dissenting Catholic bishops and who openly profess belief in transubstantiation. Is their Mass valid? Perhaps. Yet many of these priests openly concelebrate with “women priests” or allow “women deacons” to serve their liturgies. This alone reveals that they do not believe in the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood and Eucharist. The orthodox doctrine of Holy Order prohibits the ordination of women to any degree of Holy Orders (even to the ministerial diaconate).
Those Anglo-Catholics who do not compromise by serving alongside women clerics are still living a double life. Even if a man were validly ordained and had proper intent to consecrate and sacrifice, his willingness to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ apart from the Holy Father in Rome renders every consecration as an act of schism. While the Mass is itself valid and glorifying to God, it is still a sacrilege for the priest who celebrates it. Think of a Catholic priest. If the priest is in mortal sin, he commits sacrilege, but his Mass is valid.
The Catholic priesthood and the Eucharist were never meant to be severed apart from the Pope and the local Catholic bishop. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch said, where the Catholic bishop is, there is the Catholic Church.
In the run-up to our community’s being received into the Catholic Church, we heard some accusations out there in social media that our clergy, by continuing to celebrate the Eucharist in our parishes as Anglicans, were committing sacrilege.
I do vaguely recall a Eucharistic fast perhaps during Lent—maybe someone can refresh my memory—but I also vaguely recall this was not something imposed on us by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith —i.e. a letter from on high saying, “Cease and desist your sacrilege immediately.” No, everything was handled much more delicately that that.
After we were received into the Catholic Church, our clergy then no longer wore their collars, but would show up in suits and ties on Sunday until they were ordained as Catholic priests. There were no conditional ordinations.
There is a comment I saw in relation to Marshall’s piece that alas, I cannot find now, but it is regarding the way Pope Francis has treated the Archbishop of Canterbury Welby from a ceremonial standpoint. Something about the “full pontifical vestments” Welby wore in a recent liturgy with Pope Francis and even side by side chairs, when under Pope Benedict, the ABC of the time wore choir dress and did not occupy a chair next to the Pope. So, from the standpoint of optics, the commentator was arguing, the Pope is treating the Anglicans as if their orders are valid.
Then there is the matter of Bishop Tony Palmer,
the friend of Pope Francis who belonged to a newer Anglican-style group called the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches
that could not really be called a breakaway, or “Continuing” Anglican group, but was more a self-styled group of charismatic evangelicals attracted to Anglican elements of worship.
It was easy to love Tony Palmer as a brother in Christ. He was loving, enthusiastic, brimming with the confidence often seen in charismatic circles. Had he not died, he would have been a keynote speaker at the Fire and Fusion conference in Ottawa that drew Catholics and charismatic Protestants together to seek unity by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than through theological discussion.
I confess, some things Tony Palmer said scandalized me at the time, just as some things Pope Francis has done since becoming Pope have scandalized me. After all the trouble I had gone to, all the deeper conversion to assent to everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true, I found some of those teachings I had assented to challenged by none other than the Pope and his good friend! I had just learned about “indifferentism” as a thing, and it seemed there was a whiff of indifferentism afoot when it came to Catholic distinctives.
I am not among, however, nor were we required to be upon entering the Church, what Fr. Hunwicke calls Hypersuperueberpapalists
A papal remark on a plane, or off the cuff during a speech or a footnote or ambiguous passage in an apostolic exhortation do not have the same weight as Holy Scripture. Everything must be interpreted in continuity with Holy Tradition. Just as Catholics do not take one or two Scripture verses to build a theology, but look at every verse in context with other verses in the Old and New Testaments, it is Catholic to read papal documents in context of other papal documents, Scripture and how the Church has always interpreted them.
A holy bishop I know told me that he tries to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through every Pope as the Vicar of Christ, while at the same time being conscious of the personal baggage every pope brings with him to the post. That’s helpful.