Why Are Anglican Orders Invalid?

So I was hoping that someone more versed in Reformation history and ecclesiology could answer this question for me. If the bishops in England originally had apostolic succession, then why do they no longer?

They did - but they so altered both the form and wording of their ordination, and had such a very different view of what ordination was and what priesthood entailed, that that link of Apostolic succession was broken and the ordinations performed no longer valid.

A bit like how many will say the Mormons are not really Christian because while they profess acceptance of the Bible and of Jesus Christ, they have such a radically different understanding from mainstream Christianity that the label really no longer applies.

For a Catholic perspective you might want to read Apostolicae Curae. Of course the Anglicans have their own views on the matter :slight_smile:

Catholic Encyclopedia on Anglican Orders:

Pope Leo XIII: Apostolicae Curae:


And the form and intent, too.



Boom-tish :smiley:

I was wondering how long it would be before you sniffed out this thread and joined in, seeing as how it is one of your pet topics.

Sensitive nose, that’s me.

Coincidentally, it has also surfaced today, in a casual way, on another board I infest.


From my perspective, “enlighten” is a far better description than “infest”.

You are very kind.

“That I inhabit”, perhaps.


I’m learning, so I was hoping you could offer a little insight… The way I understand it is that England used to be Roman Catholic 1000 years ago -during the times of St. Osmund. They had established their own Rites of the Mass, and there was unity.

What are some of the stumbling blocks that prevent unity today?

Well, that’s a challenge. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a question in this area posed in such an opened-ended manner. Not sure how to approach it; it’s rather sweeping.

I’d certainly suggest some reading for an historical overview, something like Moorman’s HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN ENGLAND, for a general history of the Church, from it’s murky origins in England around 200 AD, and Scarisbrick’s HENRY VIII, for a detailed look at the moment of fracture between the Roman Catholic Church and what Anglicans tend to call the Church in England. But yes, at the time of Osmund of Salisbury, England was Roman Catholic. And up to the point at which Henry VIII, for a complex set of reasons, made a break with Rome, in 1534, remained so.

Like all of history, it’s complex and full of details that folks can chew over and have a fine row about. I’ve been known to do that, myself. But it’s not easy to get one’s arms around, in detail, in a venue like this, in such a large chunk…

Stumbling blocks, for those that find there to be such, are generally related to what one must affirm to be considered in communion with Rome, which Anglicans, generally, do not so affirm.

Complicated. But if any more manageable questions might suggest themselves, I’d have a shot. As I said, I’ve done that before.



From my perspective (and I know this is not an official teaching of the Catholic Church, but I believe it helps), one loses their Apostolic Succession not just when the laying on of hands is broken, but also when the orthodoxy of the faith is lost. It’s not just a legalistic matter of Bishop-hand-on-Bishop-Elect-head, but when anyone (even an archbishop or a patriarch) loses the truth of the faith - which is MUCH more important - they automatically lose their apostolic succession. This is also what the Orthodox Church teaches.

As you likely recognize, that is not the case with the judgment in Apostolicae Curae, which concerns the sacramental validity of the form and the intent (of certain persons using that form) in Anglican ordinations and consecrations, the particular subject of the thread. Nor is it generally the case for the RCC in making such judgments, as can be seen in Ott, FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA.


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