Page 4, 4th June 1937

4th June 1937
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Page 4, 4th June 1937 — Standard Work On Anglican Orders
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Standard Work On Anglican Orders

Dr. Messenger's Second Volume

The Reformation, The Mass and the Priest hood: A Documented History with special reference to Anglican Orders. Vol. 11, Rome and the Revolted Church, by Ernest C. Messenger, Ph.D. (Louvain), (Longmans, 30s.) Reviewed by Fr. THOMAS CORBISHLEY, It is a common mistake to regard the question of the validity of the Orders conferred by bishops of the Anglican Church as a purely modern one. Somewhere about 1890, it is supposed, when the idea of " Corporate Reunion " was beginning to be mooted, an attempt was made to persuade Rome to admit that, however far the "separated " brethren of England had strayed from the truth in certain details, they had at lekst always preserved an unbroken continuity of validly ordained bishops and priests since the unfortunate happenings of the sixteenth century. The result was Leo X111's Bull Apostolicae Cum., in which, for the first time, Rome spoke her mind clearly. No one who reads Dr. Messenger's work-the epithet "monumental " is all but inevitable-can fail to have any such misconception removed for ever.

In his first volume he showed how thoroughgoing was the revolt of the English Reformers under Henry VIII and Edward VI from the Catholic doctrine on the Mass and the Holy Eucharist, and in this second one he takes up the story with the short-lived Marian Restoration and carries it on through the reigns of Elizabeth and the Stuarts, down to the revision of the Prayer-Book in 1662. He makes it clear that, whatever the significance of the changes introduced at that time, its doctrine touching the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass remained uncompromisingly Protestant. Even the attempted vindications of Anglican Orders put forward by bishops and divines in the seventeenth century "all agree that the Anglican 'priesthood' does not include the power to transubstantiate bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood. and to offer that Body and Blood to God the Father in the Sacrifice of the Mass."

In other words from the time of Edward to the time of Charles II the Anglican Church officially repudiated all intention of ordaining a sacrificing priesthood. In the light of that repudiation it is impossible for modern Anglicans to make good their claim to possess continuity of Orders from pre-Reformation days.

Nevertheless there arc not wanting those who vainly strive to do so, and it is to meet every conceivable method of attack that Dr. Messenger has compiled this vast and erudite work. If, at times, we get the impression that he continues to batter away at a wall long after it has been breached beyond repair, this is because he realises only too well that he has to do with Englishmen who, above all in encounters of logic, never know when they are beaten.

On the Roman side of the question. the most striking evidence brought forward to show how, from the very beginning. the Catholic Church rejected the validity of the new " Orders," is furnished by the list of names of men who, having been ordained under the Edwardine Ordinal, were required to undergo re-ordination in the years 155354, when Cardinal Pole was carrying out the gigantic task of reconciling England to the Church. Some of these candidates were actually reordained by the very bishops who, three or four years earlier, had attempted to "ordain " them as " priests " of the Church of England. Again, in the years 1684 and 1704, we find the Holy Office called upon to pronounce on the validity of the Orders received by individuals at the hands of Bishops of the Establishment. The first of these concerned a young Calvinist, who, "having gone from France to England, was according to the custom of that sect, ordained deacon and then priest by the pseudo-Bishop of London." The young man afterwards became a Catholic and wished to marry. The question naturally arose as to whether the " orders" he had received constituted an impediment. It is impossible not to he struck by the thoroughness with which the theologians appointed to investigate the case set about collecting their evidence. The decision, published by Cardinal Casanata in 1685, makes it clear that Anglican Orders were pronounced invalid " not on any historic grounds such as the supposed Nag's Head story, but on the firm dogmatic ground of the defect of form and in!en:ion." A similar decision was arrived at in 1704, in the case of the converted Anglican Bishop of Galloway, John Gordon.

On the other hand, the attitude of the Anglican Church itself is strikingly manifested in a series of quotations from repre sentative theologians and bishops. Thus. the " judicious Hooker" declares categorically that ". . Sacrifice is now no part of the Church's ministry," whilst, in 1580. the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge used 'language which is fortunwely no longer found on the lips of dons or deans. In his Answer of a True Christian to a Counterfeit Catholic, he says. " We defy, abhor, detest and spit at your stinkir:, greasy. antichristian orders." Whilst in 1662, Bishop Wren, one of the commission appointed to revise the Prayer-Book, spoke of the "fancy of Transubstantiation." It is not surprising that, in a Church represented by such utterances. Rome has always refused to see any intention to ordain a sacrificing priesthood "according to the order of Melchisedech."

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Dr. Messenger's work will become the standard authority on the whole subject. The arrangement of the matter is clear and well done, and the development of the argument unmistakable. despite an enormous mass of quotation, reference and documentation. Doubtless, specialists in certain fields will find small errors of detail, but it is impossible to believe that any serious discredit can be cast on the book's main

thesis. Some readers will probably share the reviewer's mild irritation at Dr. Messenger's fondness for the note of exclamation, but the style, if undistinguished, is wholly workmanlike and admirably restrained. Dr. Messenger has placed under his debt all who are interested in the nature and genesis of the Reformation in England. in the Protestant theology of the Eucharist and in the still important problem of the validity of Anglican Orders.




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