Valid Holy Orders or Not?

I have, and am presently in the process of researching the historical feud between Roman and Anglican Catholics about the validity of Anglican Holy Orders. What I have found so far seems to be convoluted, contradictory, and disingenuous on the part of the Roman Church especially as to the question of “Matter” and “Form” in the Ordinals. Can you enlighten me? I’m sure I will have more questions in the future.

Form and intent is the argument, in Apostolicae curae, which, like lots of stuff, is a tale of history, personalities, politics and theology. Complicated. If you search my board name on this particular forum, and keywords like Apostolicae curae, Hughes, Clark, and similar, I think I’ve posted somewhere around 35,000 times (just a guess) on the matter (and the form and the intent. Little pun there) Some more thorough than others.

Or ask a more specific question.


Paging GKC…:smiley:

I do hope you had saved your detailed responses prior, so as to just cut and paste…:p:)

I have saved a ton of my detailed posts, on a myriad of subjects. They are in a folder labelled “ton of detailed posts”.

You can see the next problem.


You might pursue the work of Blessed John Henry Newman. I don’t know the specifics myself but I suggest you look at historic Vatican documents. At the very best Henry VIII created a schism with Rome. But in time the Anglican orders themselves came to be regarded as invalid, thus, except in the case of a priest or bishop ordained as Catholic but converted to Anglicanism, Anglican orders are invalid. And with the Anglican Church currently ordaining women as priests and now as bishops, now the situation is even worse.


All of these point are interesting ones. Got a ton of posts in that file on Henry and his Great Matter. But nothing you say here bears factually on the OP.

Except yes, the situation is worse. That’s spot on.


Thanks Linusthe2…I’m not from an Anglican Province that is in Communion with Canterbury. We broke from the Episcopal Church in the late 70s when it started ordaining women. My lineage is through Bishop Albert Chambers of Springfield, Ill. and the Continuing Anglican Church.

If my history is correct Bishop Chambers Consecrated four Bishops of the newly formed Anglican Catholic Church with several Bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church as Co-Consecraters.

GKC I think you hit the nail on the head! Politics!!! The question,more to the point,…why did the Church throughout the history of this argument keep changing the rules of the game??? What was said to make Anglican Orders invalid were the same Ordinals used by the Church in its earliest times and during the Middle Ages as well.

No. +Chambers, who did have PNCC lines, having a PNCC bishop present at his own consecration in 1962, in accordance with the practice of joint episcopal consecrations begun between the Episcopal Church and the PNCC in 1946, was present. No PNCC bishops were in attendance, though a bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, +Francisco J. Pagtakhan was, and a letter of consent was sent from Bishop Mark Pae of the Korean Anglican Church.

I am also in the many splintered Continuum


The Church of England officially denied the sacerdotal and sacrificial priesthood of the Catholic Church including her belief in transubstantiation. This is seen today in the Anglican belief that women can be validly ordained. This entails that Anglicanism does not and never has enjoyed a valid priesthood. Even if there are rare exceptions, it would be objectively evil for such priests to celebrate the Mass while being in schism with the Holy Father of Rome.

There are two reasons for the invalidity of Anglican Orders and Eucharist:

First Reason Against Anglican Eucharist: Invalid Form of Priestly Ordination

In 1550, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (a convinced Protestant) changed the ordination rite for bishops, priests, and deacons. Sacerdotal language was removed and the Roman form was abolished. Without valid bishops, you don’t have valid priests. Without valid priests, you don’t have valid Eucharists. If you don’t have valid Eucharists, you don’t have the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Here’s the timeline for understanding the decline of the Catholic priesthood in England:

1533 King Henry VIII entered into formal schism with the Catholic Church

In 1550, Cranmer changed the Ordinal – the Ordination rite for the Church of England. This is the official date by which Holy Orders ceased in England.

The truth is that the Book of Common Prayer was built and structured to frame the Calvinistic theology of Cranmer, Bucer, and Vermigli. A false theology that holds that Christ is not objectively present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Not merely politics, but all that stew together. Main point: the judgement on Anglican orders, in Apostolicae curae, is based on an intertwined judgement of sacramental form (in the ordinal) and sacramental intent.

Here’s a start. One of the last times I addressed this point here, slightly changed. I now quote me:

For a number of reasons, which normally are not considered in discussions in venues like this, in 1896, Pope Leo XIII issued an Apostolic Letter, Apostolicae curae, which made a number of assertions and judgements on Anglican orders, summed up by saying that they were absolutely null and utterly void. Hence Anglicans cannot confect such sacraments as require apostolic succession and valid orders. This judgement should be affirmed by all RCs, at the appropriate level of theological certainty. Anglicans are open to a wider variety of reactions.

The sad and lengthy story of the subject is woven from many strands: historical, political, personal and theological. What I deal with is the theological, in such places as this. The judgment on Anglican orders in AC was based upon a supposed invalidity of two elements required for a valid sacrament: an intertwined consideration of sacramental form and sacramental intent. Each was judged as invalid, but each has to be considered in conjunction with the other to reach that conclusion. Technical details are involved: the invalid form was judged invalid for its failure to name the specific office to which the subject was being raised, and to note the full sacerdotal power of that office (i.e. to confect the sacrifice of the Eucharist). The form of the rite in question was found in the Edwardine Ordinal, which was used from around 1549, and replaced the Pontifical still used in Henry’s day, It was not unique in not naming the specific order to be conveyed, or its specific authority. Other rites that did not do so were considered by Rome to adequately convey valid orders. But it was not the fact that those elements were absent from the Edwardine ordinal, but that they were (apparently) deliberately suppressed, that made the form invalid, in Rome’s eyes.

The ordinal itself does not reflect sacramental intent, which inheres in the sacramental minister, in a particular sacramental action. As Apostolicae curae notes, this is normally considered an internal situation not accessible to judgement. If all other sacramental factors are normal; that is, valid in themselves, the sacramental intent is also considered to meet the standard for validity, to intend to do what the Church does (facere quod facit ecclesia, in that sacramental action. However, if there is some sacramental factor that might be used as an indicator of the internal intent of the minister, this might be considered as a means to permit a determinatio ex adiunctus of the sacramental intent. In* Apostolicae curae*, this was judged to be the use of the invalid form of the Ordinal, in the consecration of Archbishop Parker in 1559. ++Parker is a bottleneck in the Anglican episcopate.Hence if he was invalidly consecrated, apostolic succession is broken.

It is, in fact, not obvious just whose sacramental intent is meant, in Apostolicae curae, but the intent of the consecrators of ++Parker is taken as the correct interpretation. The work of (then Jesuit priest ) Francis Clark, ANGLICAN ORDERS AND DEFECT OF INTENTION is the best exposition on this point. For the best understanding of the entire mess, I always recommend Fr. John J. Hughes’ ABSOLUTELY NULL AND UTTERLY VOID, which concentrates on the personal, historical and political points, and STEWARDS OF THE LORD, which concentrates on the theological. Other titles are also available.

Much historical detail and other interesting minutia are passed over here, though, heaven knows, I’ve not always been so reticent. Possibly there are more questions.

After I smoke a pipe. The subject is long, tangled, and sad.


Parts of this are accurate, but you would have to search for them.


I don’t know too much about the Anglican Church; would like to learn more. In the Anglican Church is it believed that a sacramental conferral of grace takes place during the Eucharistic sacrifice?

Generally, yes. But the answer would depend on which Anglican you asked.


Hello AnglicanMonk.

Both groups aren’t capable of creating valid Orders though.


The PNCC is considered by the RCC has possessing valid, though illicit (if exercised ) orders. Hence they ordain validly/illicitly, assuming all other sacramental factors are valid.


to the Anglican Monk

sure formula for vail orders-make sure that your ordination includes an Old catholic Bishop or a Polish National Catholic Church-GKC now refers to them as “the Dutch touch” and the “Polish Pat”

really this issue has been discussed ad nauseum -if one looks for an unbroken chain of the impositon of hands from the Apostles the Anglicans have it -the issue of validity is with the Roman Church-but not apparently with two of its branches the Old catholic and the PNCC

I would suggest careful screening of an Old Catholic/Utrecht bishop. They’re getting Episcopalian-iffy.


Hello GKC.

I know you know lots more than me, and correct me if I’m wrong. While in an emergency a person can go to the PNCC and experience Confession, but there is more to licitness/validity to the Sacrament of Orders. Otherwise the SSPX folks would all be licitly Ordained as well. It isn’t like Baptism. It requires permission to validly Ordain. I thought that without this permission given, no Ordination can be given and that it is part of the matter/form that must be in place for a Sacrament to be real. So, while the Sacraments in the PNCC are considered valid and in an emergency a Catholic can resort to them, but they cannot validly Ordain.


I don’t think you can go to confession to a PNCC priest, illicit sacraments not being capable of conveying grace. But I’m always willing to learn.

SSPX are validly ordained. But they are not licitly ordained. Nor may they licitly function in their orders, though they do so validly. Licit refers to the authority (through full communion with Rome), to exercise priestly functions. Form and matter are not a part of that equation, assuming the form (rite) and matter (imposition of hands) are valid and validly followed. And other sacramental requirements such as intent and subject, likewise.

You are playing around with the correct idea, when you say “without permission”. That is the authority to exercise their office. Otherwise, it is illicit.

On the question of who can validly ordain, see Ott, FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA, p. 458.


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