2 August 2010

Apostolicae curae and the Armenians

At the last session of the Council of Florence, Pope Eugene IV issued a Decree to the Armenians who were seeking unity with the Holy See. "We have considered it expedient, lest in future there be any hesitation among the Armenians about the truth of the Faith, and so that they might believe in all things with the Apostolic See, and that the union itself may last, stable and perpetual without any scruple ... to hand over, with the approval of this Council of Florence, the truth of the orthodox Faith in a brief compendio." In what followed, he defined the matter of Order as "the Porrection [handing by the bishop to the ordinand] of the chalice with wine and of the paten with bread".

It was common belief among medieval Latins that this ceremony was indeed the "matter", the essential ceremony, for conferring the Sacrament. It is, of course, not ancient; the Western Churches themselves lacked it during the first millennium. What is even stranger is that there were Armenians - and Greeks - at Florence, who had been ordained without this ceremony; and there was no suggestion that they should be reordained. Strangest of all, when in subsequent centuries groups of Orientals (such as the Ukrainians and the Melkites) sought unity with the Holy See, there was never any suggestion that there was any flaw in their orders, or even that they should add the Porrection of the Instruments to their rites for the future.

Did I say strangest of all? Wrongly; because even stranger was the fact that this rule, that priestly ordination is conveyed by the Porrection of the Chalice and Paten, a rule given to Orientals but then ignored both by them and by the Holy See in its dealings with them, was actually applied ruthlessly within the Western Church. In fact, it continued to be the rule in the West until the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis of Pope Pius XII in 1947. Let us be quite clear what this means.

In big pontifical rites of the pre-modern period, things were by no means as tidy and rehearsed as they are now. It was, apparently, possible for ordinations to happen in which some ordinands got missed out during some parts of the rite. A series of Roman decrees dealt with the question of what happened if an ordinand received the laying on of hands but missed the Porrection of the Chalice and Paten. The rule was that the ordination was invalid and must be repeated in toto and unconditionally. (It even had to be repeated conditionally if an ordinand had touched the wrong bits of the vessels, or if some clumsy fool in the sacristy had put more water than wine into the Chalice.)

Imagine yourself in London in 1946. A young man, let us imagine, at an ordination in Westminster Cathedral, by accident receives the laying-on of hands but not the Porrection of the Instruments. Across the city, an Anglican youth receives the Anglican rite of ordination, in which, at that time, the Porrection of the Instruments was not included. In the eyes of Rome, both young men equally have failed validly to receive the Sacrament of Order, the Catholic just as much as the Anglican.

It is not difficult to see why Roman praxis, from Cardinal Pole until the 1890s, routinely treated Anglican Orders as invalid.

To continue.


Mgr Andrew Wadsworth said...

This is a very interesting point. Pius XII's clarification cites an important example:
"All agree that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible signs which produce invisible grace, must both signify the grace which they produce and produce the grace which they signify. Now the effects which must be produced and hence also signified by Sacred Ordination to the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy, namely power and grace, in all the rites of various times and places in the universal Church, are found to be sufficiently signified by the imposition of hands and the words which determine it. Besides, every one knows that the Roman Church has always held as valid Ordinations conferred according to the Greek rite without the traditio instrumentorum; so that in the very Council of Florence, in which was effected the union of the Greeks with the Roman Church, the Greeks were not required to change their rite of Ordination or to add to it the traditio instrumentorum: and it was the will of the Church that in Rome itself the Greeks should be ordained according to their own rite. It follows that, even according to the mind of the Council of Florence itself, the traditio instrumentorum is not required for the substance and validity of this Sacrament by the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If it was at one time necessary even for validity by the will and command of the Church, every one knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established." [Pius XII, Sacramentum Ordinis, 3]

Gideon Ertner said...

Even if it was once held that porrection was the matter of the Sacrament, this opinion was certainly not held in the time of Leo XIII. AC itself states (art. 24) that it is imposition of hands that is the matter.

The whole point of AC is that it is the form, not the matter, that was defective in the Edwardine rite.

And the Pontiff goes on to say,

"It is important to bear in mind that this judgment was in no wise determined by the omission of the tradition of instruments, for in such a case, according to the established custom, the direction would have been to repeat the ordination conditionally."

It seems you are fighting windmills, Father.

Dale said...

Often simple, and local,traditions take upon them the sense of essentials. Many of us can still remember that during the Words of Consecration, it was absolutely necessary whilst saying the words over the elements to say them, and breath, upon the elements at the same time. Hence the rubric to lower oneself upon the wrists and to say the words directly over the Host and the same rubric to say the words directly into the chalice in the same manner; for many if these traditions were not followed to the letter, the act of consecration did not happen (I am certain many of us still saying the old Mass continue to follow this tradition). But once again, this tradition is not followed in most of the eastern rites used in the Roman Church and is a mistake that such rubrics are part of the validity of consecration of the elemens.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Actually, the Bull rather shiftily says "quatenus hoc loco se dat considerandam", pecisely, Gideon, because theologians were NOT agreed. Theologians then took to arguing about whether this did or did not solve the question, and it wasn't until 1947 that Pius XII decided the matter.

Gideon Ertner said...

Point taken. But AC still states explicitly that the issue of porrection was irrelevant, and that the problem was one of form.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

My understanding is that Leo is in effect saying "For the sake of argument, let's assume the Anglican Matter is sufficient: in that case, what's wrong is ..."