'Via Media' : Anglican & Lutheran

There’s been a fair amount of discussion on apostolic succession as a path to unity; either uninterrupted episcopacy in England and Sweden or reclamation of broken lines due to state enforced mergers or under Nazi and Soviet control.

Anyone reading:

Together in Mission and Ministry: The Porvoo Common Statement, With, Essays on Church and Ministry in Northern Europe : Conversations Between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches

Now we hear of Methodist & Presbyterian bishops in apostolic succession.

Sweden is the ‘via media’ according to this archbishop:

What made the Church of Sweden an evangelical-catholic church was to Archbishop Söderblom the fact that the Reformation in Sweden was a ‘church improvement’ and a ‘process of purification’ which did not create a new church. As a national church, the Church of Sweden succeeded in bringing together medieval Swedish tradition with the rediscovery of the gospel which the Reformation brought with it. Archbishop Söderblom included the historic episcopate in the tradition-transmitting elements. The Church of Sweden was, according to Söderblom, in an even higher degree than the Anglican Church a via media. —Together in Mission and Ministry: The Porvoo Common Statement[92]

Any thoughts?

Per a discussion on another thread

It is Roman Catholic doctrine that the teaching of Apostolicae Curae is a truth to be “held definitively”, as evidenced by commentary by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.[84] Cardinal Basil Hume explained the conditional character of his ordination of Graham Leonard, former Anglican bishop of the Diocese of London, to the priesthood in the following way: “While firmly restating the judgement of Apostolicae Curae that Anglican ordination is invalid, the Catholic Church takes account of the involvement, in some Anglican episcopal ordinations, of bishops of the Old Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht who are validly ordained. In particular and probably rare cases the authorities in Rome may judge that there is a ‘prudent doubt’ concerning the invalidity of priestly ordination received by an individual Anglican minister ordained in this line of succession.”[85] but this opinion is not widely endorsed. Since Apostolicae Curae was issued many Anglican jurisdictions have revised their ordinals, bringing them more in line with ordinals of the early Church.

Graham Leonard is one of only two cases of an Anglican priest who was ordained as a RC priest sub conditione, post 1896, rather than absolutely, the other being Fr. John J. Hughes, in the 1950s. Father Hughes (whose writings on the sad story of* Apostolicae Curae* are superb) similarly opined that the Dutch touch may have been a player in his ordination. To be pertinent to the issue, the term “ordination” in the quote would have to refer to the joint consecration of bishops since the Dutch touch refers to that, not priestly ordination.
As noted, no definitive statement on what it all means has been made by the RCC.

The last sentence of the quote is not relevant, since the Edwardine Ordinal was revised ( for reasons not related to this controversy), in 1662, changing the point raised against it in Apostolicae Curae.


I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be discussing.

One focus can be the importance of apostolic succession to the Church as a means to unity among all Christians, especially Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran.

Here’s an interesting quote:

The story of the Church in Britain and Ireland, will it is hoped, show Lutherans why Anglicans have so emphasized the historic episcopate. In the reign of Elizabeth I it was only just possible to secure four bishops to consecrate Archbishop Parker on the death of Cardinal Pole in 1559. In Ireland there was an independent Anglican secession but only where English rule was able to be imposed. In Scotland the abuse of episcopacy was in some ways similar to that of Denmark; episcopacy and the threefold ministry waxed and waned in a predominately Reformed church, being finally excluded in the established Church of Scotland in 1689. Meantime, episcopacy had also been abolished in England in 1646 and had the Interregnum lasted even just ten years longer than it did, the Anglican episcopal succession might well had been extinguished completely. The oscillating history of episcopacy in the British Isles in the sixteen and seventeen centuries explains the heightened emphasis on the threefold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon at the Restoration of the Church and monarchy embodied in the 1662 Act of Uniformity, Prayer Book and Ordinal. This was in reaction to the Presbyterian, Congregationalists and Independent polity rather than against the continental Lutheran churches.

Belief in apostolic succession is a very good thing, and it may be a necessary step towards unity; but the obtaining of valid orders out of communion with the vicar of Christ is a great sacrilege.

Was there ever a time Anglicans dismissed apostolic succession and ordained without the previous Bishop’s approval? How many of the Bishops remained loyal to Rome, that left England?

I haven’t read then Cardinal Ratzinger’s reflection on the matter, but how can a historical judgement be held definitively (outside its historical standing) if the conditions of the judgement are changed – in this case, that the ordinals were changed back and that Anglican bishops are consecrated with, amongst others, old catholic bishops who have apostolic succession?

I understand that Apostolicae Curae stands in the Catholic Church. But it is a historical document. If we were to take this to its extreme, no Anglican priest could ever be given ordination in the apostolic succession – even in the Roman Catholic Church. But that’s clearly not the case. So what is it with Apostolicae Curae that makes Anglican orders null and void absolutely – even when the historical conditions for the judgement are changed?

Has Rome moved from its Augustinian emphasis – that validity has to do with the consecrators validity and nothing else – to a ‘Cyprianian’ emphasis – that validity has both to do with the consecrators validity and their communion with the Universal church?

I am wondering what Ratzinger meant by ‘historical necessity.’

As to your last question, no.

Apostolicae Curae ‘s expressed judgement was based on a finding that Anglican orders were lost, due to an intertwined validity issue of the sacramental form of consecration/ordination, as expressed in the Edwardine Ordinal, and of sacramental intent. While intent is the "simplest’ of the requirements to meet, for a sacramentally valid action, the point of Apostolicae Curae as to what intent was meant is complicated and unclear. Francis Clark (at the time a Jesuit priest) wrote the best treatment of the subject (ANGLICAN ORDERS AND DEFECT OF INTENTION), and the usual conclusion is that intent refers to the intent of the consecrators of ++Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559. Parker was a bottleneck in the Anglican episcopacy, and his consecration being judged invalid, on the intertwined issues of form and intent, it was declared that apostolic succession was broken, in the Church of England, at that point.

Theoretically, with a cured form (as was done, for other reasons, in 1662) and a valid minister (bishop possessing valid orders) and all other sacramental requirements being valid, apostolic succession could be/have been restored to the CoE. This is the point of various conjectures about what the participation of Old Catholics or the PNCC bishops in joint Anglican episcopal consecrations, beginning in 1932 and 1946, might mean. Per the logic in Ott (FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA, p. 458), theoretically, this would mean infusion of valid, if illicit, episcopal lines into Anglicanism. As noted, this might be a consideration in the two Anglican priests, post Apostolicae Curae, who were ordained in the RCC sub conditione. But there is no general statement on this subject, from Rome.

Apostolicae Curae is a complicated and sad tale, involving theology, history, politics, and personalities. Much of history is like that.


What exactly did Edward VI do to the rite of consecration that denied apostolic succession to Anglicans? Wasn’t Matthew Parker consecrated by “four bishops”? How many bishops must be present for a bishop’s consecration?

Here’s more on Apostolicae Curae. It suggests eucharistic theology is a factor:

According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery . . . cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.

That’s blunt. The Reformation communities have “not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery.”

Edward did nothing to the form, being too young; the Ordinal was issued in his name.

The defect in form alleged was that the Ordinal form was indeterminate, as to the offices of the priesthood, neither specifying the specific office by name in the Rite proper, nor addressing the specific sacrificial nature of the office (in the Eucharist). The logic of AC was that this was done, considering by whom, when, and under what conditions, specifically in denial of the the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and of the office of the presbyterate/episcopate in preforming that sacrifice, due to the invalid concept of the Anglican Eucharistic theology.

To the defect of form must be added the intertwined issue of defect of sacramental intention; specifically the sacramental intention (as is normally concluded, see Clark, op. cit) above) of the consecrators of ++Parker. The judgement was that the sacramental intent of these bishops (intent normally being an interior state, as Apostolicae Curae points out) being judged invalid by the use of the invalid form. The use of the form thus modified (per AC) indicated that the intent was not to consecrate to the priesthood, in the sense the Church had understood it. Hence they did not do so. Hence the Apostolic Succession was broken.

There is much more to be said on either side, and many technical details going one way or the other. But what would be required would be some in-depth study of the history, personalities, theology and politics involved in the long and sad tale, from the first meeting of Lord Halifax and the Abbe Portal, in 1890, to the sad conclusion of the Malines conversations, in 1927. I always recommend Clark’s book, above, for the best single exposition of the RC position. For the best exposition of the history, personalities, and politics, (all essential to the issue, without a doubt), plus an analysis of Anglican Eucharistic theology, as it might bear on AC, Fr. John J. Hughes’ two books ABSOLUTELY NULL AND UTTERLY VOID and STEWARDS OF THE LORD are absolutely essential. Fr. Hughes does not agree with Clark.

Fr. Hughes’ name may be familiar; I mentioned him elsewhere… He was the first Anglican priest to be ordained a RC priest, sub conditione, post AC. His books were written as a RC.

A point to remember. Apostolicae Curae is the RC judgement on Anglican Orders and is unlikely (and that not merely from the closing wording of the Letter), to be changed. Nor does the current path of contemporary official Anglicanism give any reason to suggest it should be.


Thanks GKC,

I start a discussion and then go away :o

I’m waiting for a copy of “Together in Mission and Ministry” since the full on-line version is limited. This is an Anglican publication.

"As we read the others’ history . . Anglicans may well be a little less emphatic about an unbroken episcopal succession when they see how precarious their secession was in the first 150 years after the Reformation . . .

. . We can also recognize a historical distortion of twenty-century ecumenical discussion of the episcopate due to the dramatic condemnation of Anglican Orders by Leo XIII in 1896. This was at the time of the first official discussion between the Church of England and Church of Sweden"

Two thoughts: From the perspective of Anglicans, stunned by Pope Leo [they never broke apostolic succession], is that they, nonetheless represent the historic Catholic faith in Western Europe. Sweden became a natural ally.

Also the concept of ‘Via Media’. Lutheran AS has never been addressed by Rome and viewed acceptable in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. But our priesthood is considered defective due, in part to the lack of universal episcopacy. There’s a favorable comment about this development [Called to Common Mission].

The reconciliation of the holy Church is taking shape.

That would depend, I would suppose, on what you think the holy Church might be.


That we follow Francis as the spiritual head of the Church.

And surely you then follow the teaching of the Church of which Francis is the leader. Including the definitive, de fide teachings of the masgisterium.


Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission’s ‘The Gift of Authority’

  1. The restoration of communion with the bishop of Rome as universal primate is an ecclesiological goal that many Anglicans would welcome, but its present implementation would be premature since Anglicans and Roman Catholics are still looking for the reformed understanding and practice of primacy that Pope John Paul II both acknowledges as needful and encourages (Ut Unum Sint, 95-96).
  1. What would full communion between the Anglican Churches and the Bishop of Rome necessarily involve? How would a papal primacy be exercised fully according to the principles of communion, collegiality, and subsidiarity?
  1. Synods of Bishops
    We recommend the regular participation of some Anglican bishops in the Synods of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.


Yes, I know. I read The Gift of Authority shortly after it came out, in 1999.

The ARCIC, started in 1969, with great hope and some prospects, by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, is now a meaningless paperwork exercise, and has been since the Anglican Communion first began to seriously drift toward hands on hairspray, and similar doctrinal aberrations. The output of the ARCIC is mainly bland happy talk, or bland neutral talk, or bland “bump in the road” talk. Nothing of consequence.


I don’t really like the “via media” explanation for Anglicans and Lutherans. Even though many have accepted it. I think its posturing on our part. No need to define ourselves by what we aren’t.

Forgetting the hairspray trope for a moment, it may be that while you are right about ARCIC you are also, in another way, mistaken …


If Francis is the spiritual head of the church, why aren’t you rushing to join into communion with him?

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