The previous posts on this subject (this is the end of the series) have deliberately avoided going over the old questions in all the old polemical books and pamphlets. I have tried to edge into greater prominence both forgotten details ("idem caput disciplinae") and bigger questions of context, as well as historic developments since Leo XIII. I hope to have written enough to give some background to what Fr Aidan Nichols said in a paper which, most appropriately, he read at Littlemore (in 1993):
" ... the state of the question has shifted from an outright determination of the invalidity of Anglican Orders, in the bull Apostolicae curae, to the tacit admission, in the open letter from Cardinal Willebrands to the Co-Chairmen of ARCIC II in 1985, of a doubt about the invalidity where more recent ordinations are concerned. Unlike a doubt about validity, which has the (positive) presumption of validity as its background, a doubt about invalidity has the contrary negative presumption behind it, and so it does not license conditional, as distinct from absolute, ordination. However, those Anglican clergymen who feel morally certain of the sacramental reality of their Orders can draw consolation from the fact that, whereas the practice authorised by Apostolicae curae still continues (since the teaching of that bull remains the thesis in possession), the applicability of its teaching to their own Orders today is not unconditionally proposed by the contemporary Roman church." [Italics of the author.]
I would also contend that the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus points in the same direction. As you know, it provides that the Ordinary, even if only in priest's orders, may ask the Holy See for the right to wear pontificals ... well, actually, it doesn't say anything of the sort. If the Ordinary was merely a presbyter in his Anglican days, there is not the hint of a suggestion that he can ask for the jus pontificalium. It is Ordinariate clergy who were Anglican bishops who can make this application, whether they are Ordinaries or not. In other words, the right to seek a grant of jus pontificalium is totally unrelated to the status of a man within the Catholic Church; the right arises solely from the fact of his Consecration as a bishop in the Church of England. It is blindingly irrelevant to point out that there are categories of presbyter in the RCC who have the jus pontificalium, such as Abbots or Monsignori. Because what Anglicanorum coetibus means is this. In the Ordinariate, Fr Bob, a married priest formerly a PEV but not now an Ordinary, has come (at the Ordinary's direction) to sing a Pontifical High Mass and to do a Confirmation. He is formally presented with Holy Water in the same way as on his last visit, and led to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for prayer. Having vested, he enters the church - while the choir sings Ecce sacerdos magnus - wearing the same zucchetto stuffed under the same mitre, the same dalmatic to make him sweaty under the same chasuble, the same ring and pectoral cross, as when he came to do the same jobs in the old pre-Ordinariate days. Quite possibly, his same daughter may be in the congregation wearing the same rather striking coat that is exactly the shade of Dad's zucchetto. "Thanks for coming to see us again, Bishop", say the same Churchwardens as the 'bishop' and his wife (same one) and daughter drive off afterwards in the same car.
If our Holy Father really does now continue to expect Ordinariate Anglicans to subscribe heart and soul to the complete applicability in current circumstances of the findings of Apostolicae curae, that Anglican Orders are completely null and utterly void, he has devised a most extraordinarily bizarre and counter-indicative way of manifesting this expectation. Come off it. Anglicanorum coetibus constitutes a deliberate and considered refusal to rub our noses in Apostolicae curae. If such an attitude is good enough for the most learned Sovereign Pontiff since Benedict XIV, why isn't it good enough for some Roman Catholics?
A completely different, and final, point. The old cry of Anglican Catholics, that Apostolicae curae ought formally to be declared of no effect, has now been completely overtaken by events, and it is the very height of folly to persist with it. We are now in a position of having profound doubts too about the Orders of many Anglican 'priests' ... well, doubts does not put it strongly enough. Given the percentage of women priests in the Anglican churches, and the growing numbers of men 'ordained' by women bishops, campaigns to vindicate the validity of Anglican Orders as a category: that is to say, the Orders of ALL who have received Anglican Ordination, are anachronistic to the point of complete folly. An increasingly large percentage of them are completely null and utterly void from our point of view too. As every year goes by, every decade in which the cancer of the new religion spreads it its lethal influence, the amount of clear blue water between us and Vatican praxis gets tinier. We are joining the ranks of those who demand "You must be ordained because your Anglican 'Orders' are invalid"! We will increasingly incur the same hurt anger that until recently was reserved for proponents of Apostolicae curae! Remember what an outraged uproar there was in General Synod when it was explained that if a priest ordained by a woman bishop wished to work in one of our parishes, he would have to be reordained!
The Roman Magisterium, the General Synod, and the March of History, have joined forces to make the question of the status of Apostolicae curae a piece of dead antiquarianism (rather like the question of whether Benedict V's election as pope was valid ... was it? Do you care?). Isn't that good enough for us? It is for me.