Nonetheless, I want to quote something by the Church of England priest Fr. John Hunwicke, with whom I agree about many things, and disagree about other things. Writing from within the Canterbury Communion, what he expressed, in the following remarks back in 2006, is very close to the Continuing Anglican view:
I am not in favour of criticising and trying to unpick Apostolicae curae. That would simply put us in the same position as all those other people who are so totally loyal to the Holy See ... except in one particular matter. The only point I would make is that that the actual bull sealed for Leo XIII described the question as hoc caput disciplinae, and this is what was first officially published. It appeared to situate the question in the area of discipline and not of dogma. Pressure from the English RC hierarchy resulted in the removal from subsequent editions of the word disciplinae...Now, of course, we are nearly in agreement with Rome about the dubiety of Anglican Orders anyway. We believe that a large and growing percentage of Anglican Ordinations are invalid: the purported ordinations of women, and of both men and women by 'women bishops'. That is why, if we are to hang on in the C of E, we need a separate episcopate and clear mechanisms for the reordination of men who come to join us having been invalidlty ordained within the 'mainstream' Church.
Like Fr. Hunwicke, we also do not see the See of Rome as the judge or arbiter in this matter, but also see many current Anglican orders as invalid, due to the "ordination" of women in some Anglican churches of the Canterbury Communion. That is why we have already in place a "separate episcopate."
Nonetheless, one little bit of confusion may as well be addressed, if only to say "checkmate" and put the whole matter of Apostolicae Curae to rest, if only for the sake of our own people, Continuing Anglicans. That is because, after 1896, the Church of Rome conceded one by one over the years that all of their supporting arguments for the 1896 Bull were wrong, that is all but the one they hold to stubbornly. As Fr. Hunwicke also said in the same little essay, "Remember that in 1662 the C of E had made the formulae in presbyteral and episcopal ordination (which Leo [XIII in 1896] had asserted were insufficiently clear), more explicit." What he referred to is this.
At least as early as the thirteenth century, when the Church of England usually held ordinations on Sundays, they used the formula that began in each case Accipe Spiritum Sanctum for ordinations to the priesthood, and consecrations to the episcopate. This means "Receive the Holy Spirit." These words were followed by quotations of II Timothy 1:6,7 for the episcopate, and of John 20:22, 23 for the priesthood. The words were first translated for us in the first English Ordinal in 1550:
(In the form for consecration of bishops)
Then the Archebisshoppe and Bisshoppes present, shal lay their handes upon the head of the elect Bisshop, the Arohebisshoppe saying.
(In the form for ordination of priests)
¶ When this praier is done, the Bisshoppe with the priestes present, shal lay theyr handes severally upon the head of every one that receiveth orders. The receivers humbly knelyng upon their knees, and the Bisshop saying.
RECEIVE the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen.
The Bisshop shall deliver to every one of them, the Bible in the one hande, and the Chalice or cuppe with the breade, in the other hande, and saying.
TAKE thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes in thys congregacion[, where thou shalt be so appointed].)
By using the words of II Timothy 1:6,7 the office of bishop was identified. By using John 20:22,23, the office of priest was identified. The scholars of the era knew that Timothy was the first Bishop of the Church in Ephesus, and that the power to forgive sins, mentioned by the Risen Lord in John 20:22,23 was a charism given to all priests. Most of the laity did not know Latin and could not follow the service before 1550. But, for the educated, as early as the first use of these formulae in Latin centuries before the English Reformation, the identification was obvious. The words from Paul's Epistle to Timothy referred directly to the episcopate, and Christ's words recorded by John to the priesthood. The sacramental actions and words were seen as following the pattern of each. Because, by 1662, it had become necessary to refute the Puritans and put an end to their influence, the High Church Caroline designers of the new edition of the Prayer Book and Ordinal thought it wise to add the words, "...for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God..." and "...for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God..." directly after "Receive the Holy Ghost," and before the rest of the old formula.
At present the Church of Rome concedes that the Form is valid, but the problem is that they say that it became valid, and attribute the lack of those additional words to a lack of Sacramental Intention between 1550 and 1662; then they conclude that the gap was too long, and no bishop in Holy Orders survived to keep valid Orders alive in the Church of England (ignoring the Italian lines of Archbishop William Laud, and the "Dutch Touch"-not that they really matter anyway; but still...).
Before we accuse the See of Rome of Biblical illiteracy, even though they throw themselves wide open to it, let us understand their dilemma. With priestesses in the Church of England and the Canterbury Communion in general, what else can they do? We sympathize with their problem. They have given in on every other point, and to admit now that they have no real argument for their 1896 Bull might encourage some of their own people to go into churches presided over by actresses, playing the role of men, in reality female transvestites in mock Holy Orders (and God knows what else goes on in those sacred sleazy joints). Better to leave the disciplinae intact without letting the facts complicate the matter.
But, much as we sympathize, we cannot let ourselves be affected by their solution to a problem that we, in equal measure, find appalling. The simple fact is, the 1662 Ordinal added nothing substantial; the Intention had been stated clearly all along, inasmuch as the men responsible for the whole thing knew exactly what they were doing and what it all meant in every relevant language, and therefore had an obvious Intention whether or not they expressed it to all the laity in the clearest of terms. Since the issue is Sacramental Intention, there can be no justification for the Roman point of view.
The Supreme Being
Nonetheless, why they zero in on the Accipe Spritum Sanctum portion is not clear. With Rites named to specify the meaning, with appropriate ministers of the sacrament (one bishop for ordination of a priest, three for consecration of a bishop), with prayers and examinations specifying priest or bishop, the Intention is rather obvious anyway. Sacraments are not magic, depending simply on a perfect "Harry Potter" type of formula. Sacraments are supernatural cooperation between man and God to give us a means of His grace.
In the English comedy movie Time Bandits, the Supreme Being is played by Sir Ralph Richardson, who appears near the end in an impeccable suit, acting like the definitive headmaster in an English Public School. When one of the dwarfs he has been chasing presumes to inform the Supreme Being about something, he replies in a dignified manner: "I know. I am the Supreme Being; I'm not entirely daft."
I sometimes think that the real God of heaven and Earth could say the same thing in response to the Roman position on Anglican Orders. As it stands now, they seem to be telling us that the Supreme Being (to use that objectionable term, though it is better than "the Man upstairs" I suppose) is daft, and He failed to understand the Intention because He needed it spelled out more clearly. Because the designers of the first English Ordinal did not inform God in very clear terms, and because the doddering old codger had forgotten the scriptures after all those centuries, He just did not know what to with that Matthew Parker chap, and there went Anglican Orders to heck in a hand basket.
Somehow, we find that hard to accept.