The following study paper is published on the website of the Catholic League. It is prefaced by these words:
Fr Lunn notes that, after a century of theological rupture, the Restoration Prayer Book of 1662 supplants the Reformed theology, that denied the ex opere operato nature of sacraments, with a reasserted agreement in the Anglican formularies with the teaching of the Catholic Church – “right form, right matter, right intention, right minister, right candidate, indelible character”. He goes on to note, however, the prevalence of an alternative Anglican divinity, which has been damaging to Anglican-Catholic reunion, namely the belief that sacraments (including Order, notable episcopacy) are of the bene esse of the Church, rather than of its esse – you might say of benefit to it, rather than integral to its very being. One could add that a similar redefinition has occured with regard to the use of the word “Catholic” in ecumenical dialogue, wherever its use by different people rests unnoticed on different meanings and assumptions. For instance, one meaning is “comprehending the range of diverse beliefs and forms”; the other means “integrating all in the one binding truth”. Fr Lunn therefore calls for the reassertion of the common understanding about sacraments held by Anglicans and Catholics in their respective magisterial teaching authority, in order to clarify the massive misunderstanding about terms and teaching that has blighted ecumenical progress towards unity between the Catholic Church and “the Church of England entire”.
He argues that, if the two do indeed hold different sacramental theologies, then questions of mutual recognition and validity surely do not matter. It is only because the sacramental theology in both is fundamentally the same that it matters to Anglicans that their sacraments according to their formularies are valid by Catholic criteria; it also matters to Catholics that the Catholic Church has formed a judgment that they do not, after all, meet those same criteria. How to overcome this impasse? Fr Lunn believes that a step forward can be made, not through the unrealistic dream that one position or the other can be made to prevail, but through each recognising that the other’s position is conscientious. Thus Anglican interlocutors are unlocked from the point of grievance and disputation over validity according to the Roman Catholic judgment, and Catholic interlocutors need not be constrained to regard Anglican sacramentality solely in adverse terms: without resiling from its settled judgment, it is at least possible to recognise freely that the Anglican judgment is different, and that the Anglican conviction is to be respected as conscientious.
Fr Lunn sees this recognition of each other’s conscientious position as an important step towards the “regularization of Sacraments” on the road to corporate reunion within an Ordinariate. The ecumenical resonance would be strong and positive. Respect for conscience and integrity does no harm to the different convictions, teaching and practice of the other, at the same time as it recognises that basic principles and faith are actually held in common.
He then cites for study purposes a formula, suggested in 1994, that does justice to both conscientious positions. It sought to place the ordination of a former Anglican priest into the sacerdotal presyterate of the Catholic Church in context. In practice and in principle, no Anglican cleric in the last half century has been asked to go against their conscience and deny their original Christian faith and ordination. Cardinal Hume addressed this problem for Anglican consciences at the time by saying that the doubt was not nowadays about validity, but invalidity. But still, he said, the Church and its faithful require absolute certainty. And so the Church requested Anglican clergy, who it recognises as “ordained in some sense” (even fully valid for Anglican purposes – and was that not some recognition of the Anglican conscientious position?), to seek and accept ordination without conditionality and beyond doubt in the Catholic Church. Indeed Cardinal Hume was responsible for obtaining the agreement of the Congregation for Divine Worship for a form of prayer to be inserted into the rite of ordination of former Anglican clergy, to articulate the reality of what was going on (the ordination of the ordained) liturgically. The prayer (which has been used widely at the Ordinariate ordinations) recognises that “not a few of the sacred actions of the Christian religion as carried out in communities separated from her can truly engender a life of grace and can rightly be described as providing access to the community of salvation”, recognises and thanks God for the number of years of the candidate’s previous ministry in the Anglican Communion “whose fruitfulness for salvation has been derived from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”, and prays that it be brought to fruition in the full ommunion and presbyterate of the Catholic Church. These wordings, which reflect the terms and teaching of the Decree on Ecumenism from the Second Vatican Council, demonstrate a great deal of respect for conscientious conviction and also a recognition of Anglican sacramentality by the very act of the Catholic Church’s receiving it.
Readers of this Study Paper may also refer to Study Paper I, section V, in which Fr Lunn proposes practical terms for the Church of England and the Catholic Church to take each other at their respective words and follow their ecumenical pledge not to do apart what can be done together. With regard to the Ordinariate and its Anglican patrimony shared with the Church of England, should it not in due course mean that (other than in the celebration of the sacraments) Ordinariate clergy could receive, like Free Church pastors and ministers, an authorisation to officiate. If Anglicans and Catholics are committed ecumenically to the mutual exchange of gifts, it is a principle of Catholic Church life that members of its Ordinariates do not turn their back on those with whom they share the Anglican tradition, but come to the fore in mutual friendship, pastoral collaboration, cultural links and bonds as close fellow Christians. It will have to be in the end that Anglicans receive a warm and honoured welcome when they come to a Catholic Church belonging to the Ordinariate, and there sense a deep sense of affinity and spiritual ecumenism. By the same token, just as Anglican regulations in England provide a place for fellow Christians from other Churches in its systems (PCC members, ecumenical canons, church-sharing agreements and local ecumenical partnerships), it ought to be that members of the Ordinariate also play their part in this generous ecumenical space. The Ordinariate’s Anglican identity and heritage thus serve not as points of rivalry and rupture, but as the very means by which Catholic and Anglican closeness on the road to visible unity in the same apostolic faith can be strengthened.
Here is the paper in full:
This is the third of three Study Papers intended to facilitate consideration of the Apostolic
Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI given at Rome on 4
November 2009, together with the accompanying Complementary Norms from the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. [CTS Booklet Do 826]
This third Study Paper explores a particular issue which is one of the main concerns of
Anglicans considering entering into full communion with the Roman Apostolic See.
This is the compilation of one person. Is it helpful? Does it cover the subject adequately,
at least by way of introduction? Does it encourage useful discussion? Are there obvious
omissions? Are any parts superfluous or irrelevant? Constructive criticism would be
You may get through it in half-an-hour, with yes/no answers. This is not its purpose.
The purpose of the questions is to provoke thought rather than definitive answers.
Though intended primarily for group study, it may be used individually.
Common Anglican and Roman Catholic Understanding
Many issues which divide Christians are closely related to fundamentally different
understandings of sacraments. Catholic teaching emphasizes the divine institution of
sacraments. If we faithfully carry out what God has instituted, then certain effects
necessarily follow. The sixteenth century saw very different understandings come to the
fore – the rejection of the concept ex opere operato, the rejection of indelible character,
the assertion of receptionism, the idea that sacraments are of the bene esse, not of the
esse, of the Church, and so on.
The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (BCP), following an unsettled period, set out
Anglican formularies which witness to a common understanding with the Roman
Catholic Church over the nature of sacraments:
a) BCP Catechism
Sacrament means ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace
given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the
same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.’
b) BCP Publick Baptism of Infants
Following the baptism – ‘Then shall the Priest say, seeing now, dearly beloved
brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s
c) BCP Private Baptism of Infants
‘But if they which bring the Infant to the Church do make such uncertain answers
to the Priest’s questions, as that it cannot appear that the child was baptized with
Water, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (which
are the essential parts of Baptism,) then let the Priest baptize it in the form before
appointed for Publick baptism of Infants; saving that at the dipping of the Child in
the Font, he shall use this form of words. If thou art not already baptized, N. I
baptize thee In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
d) Preface to the Ordinal
‘It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors,
that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s
Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in
such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them,
except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as
are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands,
were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the
intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed, in
the Church of England; no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop,
Priest or Deacon in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said
Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto,
according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had formerly Episcopal
Consecration, or Ordination’.
e) Article XXVI
‘Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the
In short – right Form, right Matter, right Intention, right Minister, right Candidate,
indelible character, ex opere operato, true sacraments actually convey what they signify,
and are pledges of God’s grace – in short, the Anglican formularies witness to a common
understanding with the RC Church over the nature of sacraments.
This common understanding between Anglicans and Roman Catholics reminds us that
Jesus is the sacrament of God, for he actually conveys what he signifies, being fully God
and fully man. The Church is the sacrament of Jesus, again conveying what she signifies,
being the body of Christ. This sacramental understanding reaches right out to all the
faithful, by virtue of our baptism.
Notwithstanding the clarity of the Anglican formularies on the nature of sacraments,
there is a strand among Anglican writers which is incompatible with the teaching of the
Church. This strand sees sacraments as of the bene esse of the Church, not of the esse.
That is, they are useful for the wellbeing of the Church, but not essential.
This fundamental difference of understanding of the nature of sacraments indicates a
fundamental difference as to how God relates to us, and works with us to carry out his
saving work in this world. A failure to acknowledge this difference is a source of
misunderstanding in our ecumenical relationships. Those Anglicans seeking to enter the
Ordinariate may reasonably be expected to have grasped the difference.
The regularization of Sacraments
On the basis of the above described common understanding Anglicans believe that
Confirmation, Eucharist, Orders, Penance and Anointing are valid when celebrated by
Anglicans in accordance with the above Formularies and understanding. Thus, given the
common understanding of the nature of sacraments, there are, officially, contrary
judgements of the validity of sacraments celebrated by Anglicans. [NB. Anyone can
administer Baptism, provided that all the other conditions are met. The bride and the
bridegroom are the ministers in the sacrament of marriage.]
Given these two conscientious positions, both presuming the sacramental teaching of the
Catholic Church, yet reaching different judgements on Anglican practice of this teaching,
the challenge is simple – how do we regularize the different conscientious positions
without in any way requiring either party to deny their conscience? Any solution which
requires either position to deny its conscience is manifestly unacceptable.
It is possible, indeed it is essential, to recognize the good conscience of others. This does
not require one to agree with them or to modify one’s own conscience. At the risk of
labouring the point, both different conscientious positions accept the full teaching of the
Church. Thus a mutual recognition of each other’s conscientious positions seems to be a
fair answer. This would require Anglican clergy to be ‘regularized’ in order to be
recognized as having valid Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church. In this way the
official position of the Roman Catholic Church would be recognized and accommodated
by the Anglicans being ‘regularized’.
For their part the Roman Catholics could reciprocally recognize Anglican convictions
formally, in some appropriate statement. This could be formally included as a statute of
the Ordinariate and/or perhaps as a prefatory note to the Order of Service for the
Regularization of Anglican clergy. The following ‘Draft Preamble’ was written in 1994
as just such a suggested Prefatory Note.
Holy Church has the obligation to ensure that her sacraments are seen to be what
God intends them to be, guarantees and pledges of God’s grace to his people.
Thus, in Holy Orders, Holy Church requires the right Form of words; the right
Matter in the laying on of hands; the right Intention to do what the Church intends
in this sacrament; the right Minister, being a bishop recognized to be in the
Apostolic Succession; and the right candidate, being a baptized male who has not
previously had the particular Order conferred on him; Holy Orders conveying
indelible character and so, like Baptism and Confirmation, being unrepeatable.
According to the understanding of the Catholic Church, Anglican clergy have not
been ordained in accordance with these requirements. It is thus necessary, for
certainty of their Orders, that they be ordained according to the following Rite.
Those candidates now seeking to exercise the ordained ministry of the Catholic
Church have satisfied us of their common mind with us in the understanding of
Holy Orders. Generally it is their conviction that they have already received Holy
Orders, in accordance with the above requirements.
Should there be any case where a candidate is presented for ordination who is
already so ordained, as is the general Anglican conviction, then, as the sacrament
is unrepeatable, it cannot be again conferred. Either way, those candidates here
presented for ordination will, following the celebration of this Rite, most certainly
have Holy Orders conferred upon them. This is for the quieting of consciences
and the proper good of Holy Church.’
[For much of the above, cf. Reuniting Anglicans and Rome, a special issue of The
Messenger of the Catholic League, October 1994]
Questions on sacramental understanding
- Do you think that the above faithfully represents the sacramental teaching of the traditional Anglican formularies?
- Would you consider that you have at least an adequate grasp of the main points of the catholic understanding of sacraments – divine institution, outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, actually conveying what they signify, the concept of ex opere operato, guaranteed and pledged by God, conveying indelible character in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, valid if in conformity with the conditions as indicated above, and of the esse of the Church, not just her bene esse?
- Do the traditional Anglican formularies express a common understanding of sacraments with the teaching of the Catholic Church?
- Do you have a competent awareness of those various understandings indicated above which are incompatible with catholic teaching – the rejection of the concept of ex opere operato, the rejection of indelible character, the assertion of receptionism, the idea that sacraments are of the bene esse of the Church, not of the esse, and so on?
- Is this competent awareness sufficient for you to grasp the fundamental difference between the catholic teaching and that which is incompatible with it?
- Given this incompatibility, do you accept the catholic understanding of the sacraments?
Questions on the regularization of sacraments
- Do you accept that both the Anglican conviction that our Orders are valid and the formal Roman Catholic position that they are not may be properly described as conscientious positions and convictions?
- Do you accept that it is necessary to recognize good conscience wherever it may be found – even if you think that it is inadequately informed?
- Do you think that the Draft Preamble suggested above is a way of‘regularizing’ Orders which adequately respects the convictions of Anglicans and the formal position of the Roman Catholic Church?