Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Anglican Orders


As the Ordinariate begins to be formed one central issue, and indeed event, for many will be the issue of re-ordination for Anglican priests. Indeed for some of them the requirement so to be ordained appear to be a barrier to acceptance of the Roman offer. They find it difficult to accept the implication, however subtle the way it is expressed, that they are not already in Orders, or that those Orders are somehow deficient. Whilst I can appreciate their own feelings I also recognise that all converts have to accept that they need the sacrament of Confirmation - we all have to admit that we have been outside the perimeter of the Church, even if we have been pressed up against the boundary and leaning over into the hortus conclusus for years. So for the clergy accepting Ordination afresh strikes me as not a problem, but a fulfillment.

Fr Blake in Brighton has a judicious and insightful posting about Anglican Orders and how the need for fresh Ordination should be understood. It is written with characteristic humanity, and has generated a number of comments. His article can be read here.

3 comments:

  1. (Your link seems to be broken).

    Indeed for some of them the requirement so to be ordained appear to be a barrier to acceptance of the Roman offer. They find it difficult to accept the implication, however subtle the way it is expressed, that they are not already in Orders, or that those Orders are somehow deficient.

    I'm not surprised it's a barrier. I mean, our orders are valid, or they aren't. If you don't believe that your orders are valid, you have no business remaining as an Anglican for a moment; the only thing to do is to go over. And if you do, then it would be hypocritical - in my view - to participate in an 'ordination' you don't believe to be any more valid than a rebaptism would be.

    The difficulty, of course, is that believing that the C of E has done something incompatible with catholic order/ understandings of the priesthood (I don't think it has, as it happens, but that's irrelevant) doesn't necessarily entail believing that our orders were never valid. They're two entirely separate issues, and I can't blame anyone for not wanting to say that the Masses they celebrated were an empty and idolatrous ritual, and that when they gave Benediction they were worshiping, and leading other people to worship, a piece of bread, if they don't actually believe that's what they were doing. It's not just about feelings, it's about integrity.

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  2. I have repaired the link.

    In response to your first point I would raise the point that it may not be "either/or" in respect of validity, but that there might be degrees of validity - which opens up many new problems of course - but that a second Ordination could be interpreted as removing doubts. I am not asserting that as being my position, but it is a view held by some.

    With regard to your second point I do not doubt the integrity of those who believe they are offering valid sacramental ministry. I believed in its validity for many years. It is painful when those doubts come. How they are resolved is a matter of serious soul searching. If someone has acted in good conscience then that must be respected. The difficulty arises when some continue to do things they no longer believe to be valid.

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  3. "Degrees of validity"? I think one would struggle to find much support for this in Catholic theology. Discussions of the logic of sacramental validity always treat it as bivalent: a man is either a priest or he is not. When he utters the words of consecration, transubstantiation either takes place or it does not. Just as there is no such thing as a partly-valid baptism, or marriage, or absolution, there is no such thing as a partly-valid ordination. While I appreciate the difficulties felt by those who possessed credible lines and yet are now being asked to submit to unconditional ordination if they wish to serve as priests in the Catholic Church, I do not think the solution lies in embracing nonsense.

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