In his analysis of the significance of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, states that ‘the ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896’.
I can’t find this stated explicitly in either the Apostolic Constitution itself nor the accompanying Complementary Norms, but neither is the possibility of ordination sub conditione in the manner of the ordination of Mgr Graham Leonard, and so it is fair to assume that ordination of former Anglican ministers will be, as Fr Ghirlanda says, absolute on the basis of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of Anglican orders as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’.
Some of my Anglican colleagues will find this deeply troubling – though not so troubling I would hope that they felt ultimately unable to respond positively to the erection of Personal Ordinariates for people such as us.
Others – Anglican and Catholic – may regret that an opportunity wasn’t made for a review of Apostolicae curae, not because Anglicans per se have given the Catholic Church any particular incentive by our corporate behaviour to reconsider the validity of Anglican orders – we haven’t; but simply perhaps to resolve possible queries of historical accuracy in Apostolicae curae, as raised in Saepius Officio and from time to time by others.
I would however want to suggest to those who might find absolute rather than sub conditione ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism troubling that it is infinitely preferable to what seem to me to be either of the most obvious alternatives.
The first of these – forensic investigation of the ‘ordinal DNA’ of each former Anglican minister, followed by sub conditione ordination for those whose personal lineage is up to scratch and absolute ordination for everyone else - would be tortuous and time-consuming and, worse, invidious in the different treatment of persons coming from the same essential background and seeking the same thing of the Church.
The second – sub conditione ordination for all former Anglican ministers entering a Personal Ordinariate erected under Anglicanorum coetibus – might seem on the face of it generous and pastoral, but would implicitly deny the need for absolute and objective assurance for the whole Catholic Church and all the faithful with regard to the validity of the sacraments celebrated within the Ordinariates, and could have the feel of Anglican fudge about it.
Subjectively and emotionally, the denial of ‘my priesthood’ is for some Anglicans a serious obstacle presented to them by absolute ordination, but I would suggest it is entirely proper in the context of the need for absolute and objective certainty for all concerned.
After all, Anglican fudge in the matter of Holy Order – as exemplified in the concept of a period of reception in the matter of the ordination of women: are they; aren’t they? - is certainly not one of the treasures of Anglican patrimony that Personal Ordinariates are being erected to perpetuate.