This is the last of a letter in four sections which are to be understood closely in relation to each other.
I must be both personal and frank. I never doubted that on June 9 1968 I was truly ordained to the Catholic Priesthood by Harry Carpenter, Lord Bishop of Oxford, and that since then I was truly, morning by morning, confecting and offering the propitiatory Sacrifice of the Lord's Body and Blood. If I had so doubted, I would, of course, have stopped performing what would have been a sacrilegious simulation of so great a Sacrament. I am sure that the five bishops and hundred-or-so priests in the English Ordinariate would say the same.
But it is a frightening thing to back ones own judgement against the solemn and considered judgement of the Successor of S Peter. Moreover, I always understood why others did have their doubts (or worse than doubts) about Anglican Orders. In 1994 I wrote: "The great historical fact is that, for hundreds of years, the community of which we are inheritors defined itself in broad, popular, international and cultural terms by opposition to Rome, to priesthood, and to sacramental religion. We helped to torture and to kill those who perceived themselves - and were perceived by others - to be maintaining these things". And, of course, I was aware that the Bull Apostolicae curae of pope Leo XIII, as a judgement upon the situation as it still remained in the 1890s, was still in the 1960s part of the juridical Magisterium of the Church, and indeed is still as applicable today wherever the same situation still exists as existed in the 1890s. But as a consequence of 'Old Catholic'* participation in Anglican episcopal consecrations since the 1930s, the situation did not remain unchanged within the provinces of Canterbury and York. That is what the CDF decision in the case of Bishop Graham acknowledged. And it is obvious that the decision then made by the Holy See implicitly applies to all those who are in exactly the same position as Bishop Leonard. If the documentation which he supplied to Rome led the Consultors of the CDF to accept that there was a doubt about the invalidity of his priestly Orders, that is, a doubt about whether the decision of Apostolicae curae still did apply in the changed circumstances of his case, and if the Sovereign Pontiff with his own hand sanctioned this judgement, then, in the mind of the Church, that judgement applies also in principle to those who are in exactly the same position ... like you. And when Bl John Henry Newman entered priestly ministry in full communion with the Holy See, he was uncertain about the invalidity of his orders, but underwent the ceremony required of him, confident that the conditionality of the rite was 'implicit in the mind of the Church'.
And there is more to this than the merely technical or historical. When Fr Aidan Nichols preached with much elegance, grace, and clarity at Bishop Andrew Burnham's First Mass in Full Communion with the Holy See, he spoke of him as now "a Catholic priest in the full, unclouded, indisputable, sense of these words". For Bishop Andrew's status was, hitherto, 'clouded' by our historical inheritance. It was (even if mistakenly) 'disputed' and now needed to be rendered "indisputable". He was now to be a Catholic Priest in a 'full' sense, that is, in terms of an overt, public, social, identity (rather than merely of a technical - and questioned - validity) that would be recognised by any Catholic ... or, indeed, any anti-Catholic ... throughout the world.
S Theodore "consummavit" the Episcopal Consecration of S Chad; arguably a greater Saint than he was himself; and a Bishop whose bishophood would be doubted by no modern Western theologian - as it clearly was not doubted by even so resolute a Romaniser, and critic of all 'Celtic' waywardness, as S Bede the historian. Anglican priests joining the presbyterate of an Ordinariate have repeatedly been reassured, by Roman Catholics of any and every eminence, that they will not be denying the reality of anything that they were or did by virtue of their Anglican Orders. But it seems to me entirely appropriate that - even if our Anglican ordinations were valid - as we enter the presbyteral community of the Latin church, we should enthusiastically receive, as S Chad so willingly did, the signaculum, the sphragis of the Universal Church, and the healing consummatio, of that priesthood which, in 1968, I believed I received in sad separation from the See of Peter.
Personally, I was most moved at my 'second ordination' by the laying on of hands by the members of the visible presbyterium in which I was thereafter to function - a very real sphragis, in the terms of Pseudo-Hippolytus. And I was glad to receive some of those ceremonies which had been absent from my ordination by Bishop Harry - anointing, vesting, the Porrection of the Instruments. Equally, I was glad that those traditional ceremonies which had survived into the Prayer Book Ordinal were not repeated; that would have made it look as if there had been no effect in what had happened to me 'first time round' (the Veni Creator, such a moving part of the Prayer Book rite, was omitted - in the post-Conciliar pontifical it is optional - and Receive the Holy Ghost ... , which the Prayer Book inherited from medieval pontificals, could not have been used in 2012 anyway because Archbishop Bugnini had chopped it, together with much else of a specifically sacramental nature, out of his post-Conciliar pontifical).
But, I suggest, it is most important of all that in submitting to a rite of ordination in the Catholic Church, Anglican clergy should also in total, complete, humility be totally, completely, open to the possibility that, despite their own previous moral conviction that they were ordained to the Sacred Priesthood, they, yes, may have been plain wrong. Even you and I, dear Father, are not infallible! Perhaps this question of the Validity of Anglican Orders was just too close to our eyes for us to be able to see it in a balanced way. So, the proper intention when joining the presbyterate of the Ordinariate must be that, if such be the case, one receives ab initio and without any ambiguity the Sacrament of Order ... joyfully and thankfully.
My dear Father, yours very truly in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
*'Old Catholics' are Dutch schismatics the validity of whose episcopal succession is accepted by the praxis of the Catholic Church. As part of a formally documented ecclesial process, Dutch bishops have taken part in Anglican consecrations as 'Aequi-principal Consecrators', using the form and matter of their Pontifical, which was the same as that of the Catholic Church before Pius XII, and with an intention - again, formally documented in Latin protocols - of transmitting the Catholic Episcopate as the 'Old Catholic' succession had received it. In 1994, the CDF considered the documentary evidence which had been carefully preserved in the archives of Pusey House in Oxford. Its judgement, based (so Bishop Graham told me) upon the vota of its consultors, was that a "prudent doubt" existed about whether the judgement of Apostolicae curae applied to the presbyteral ordination of Dr Graham Leonard, formerly Bishop of London. In an instruction formally approved by Bl John Paul II, Cardinal Hume was instructed to ordain Bishop Graham sub conditione to the presbyterate. (He received no diaconal ordination - the Pontiff with his own hand deleted a provision for that from the CDF draft put before him - and the CDF did not consider the question of his Episcopal Consecration, which is thus juridically still open. It was Bishop Graham's conviction that they deliberately declined to consider the validity of his Episcopal Consecration because of an unwillingness to find themselves possibly saddled with a married but validly consecrated Bishop. Such a situation is in fact not entirely without parallel in the recent history of the Church ... but that is what Bishop Leonard said to me.)