(rerun from June 11, 2009)
For those who are not familiar with the history of this Infusion, I will explain briefly and simply, as to the historic facts and to the concept. In the 1930s the Church of England invited Old Catholic Bishops to participate in consecrations of new bishops. The Dutch Old Catholic bishops, Mgr. Henry van Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem, and Mgr. John Berends, Bishop of Deventer, took part in the consecration of Anglican bishops in St. Paul's Cathedral, in 1931 and 1932. The first co-consecration was that of Bishop Graham-Brown, a well known Anglican of the Evangelical party (as it was defined in the 1930s, which is considerably different from how contemporary Reassereters have redefined it). From Bishop Graham-Brown infused orders spread; and the co-consecrations were repeated in several venues, such as co-consecrations with bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church in the United States, so that by the early 1960s every Episcopal priest had these orders in his lineage, catching up with the rest of the Anglican Communion which had been thoroughly infused since some time during the 1950s. Therefore, the Orders of all Continuing Anglicans began (1978) with this in our history; all Continuing Anglican Orders have the Infusion somewhere in their family tree. And, to this interesting fact I have only a two word reaction:Who cares?
Unfortunately, some of our Roman Catholic detractors have assumed, wrongly, that the Anglicans sought co-consecration because Rome considered Old Catholic Orders valid, and this meant that Anglicans could supply what was missing, or fix their allegedly bad and defective orders. But, as documented by Brian Taylor 1 from correspondence between Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang and other high ranking Church of England officials, the expressed, written and recorded motive was ecumenical. Not only was it to serve as a way to improverelations with the Old Catholics, but to make Anglican orders "more acceptable to Rome in the event of some future Reunion." 2
The idea, therefore, was never to make them valid, or more acceptable to ourselves. It was an ecumenical gesture, and as such a potential gesture for some day in which it may please God to grant Catholic unity in the West. But, Anglicans had already defended their orders many times over the centuries, and at no time after the Infusion was it mentioned as a relevant factor by any serious Anglican apologist, not even by those who noted it, such as Claude Beaufort Moss in 1965. 3 Dom Gregory Dix made no mention of it in 1944 when writing The Question of Anglican Orders, Letters to a Layman 4. Neither did E. J. Bicknell's book A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, in any of its later editions after revision in the 1950s, so much as say one word about it in the portion of the book where Anglican orders are defended. 5 In short, the Anglican apologetic treatment of the Infusion appears to be summarized by my own reaction: "Who cares?"
Frankly, Saepius Officio,written in 1897 by the Archbishops of England (Canterbury and York) said everything that needed to be said in defense of our Orders, and the best summary anywhere is that of Bicknell.
As for the subject of the Infusion itself, it is a relic of an innocent age of ecumenical hope, that innocence and hope that would suffer destruction for the official Anglican Communion in 1976. If the Infusion may help someday between orthodox Anglicans of the Continuum and Rome or, restart some ecumenical relations with the Polish National Catholic Church, then maybe it will not have been a big wasted effort after all.
Until such a time, who cares?
1. In his 1995 paper, published in Great Britain, Accipe SpiritumSanctum.
As our reader who goes by the name of Canon Tallis also pointed out in a comment months ago:
"Marc Antonio de Dominus, sometime Archbishop of Spaleto and Dean of Windsor, participated in Anglican consecrations in the Caroline age before he made the mistake of returning to Rome and their so kind ministrations? I think someone in the Continuum needs to reprint Littledale's The Petrine Claims and make it required reading for both postulants and the clergy."
2. This possibility was never rejected by Anglicans. See this older post analyzing a section of Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
3. THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church MarylboneRoad London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004
4. Westminster : Dacre Press, 1944.
5. A Theological Introduiction to the Thirty-Nine Articles, (Downloadable) Wittenberg Hall Copyright: © 1955 Public Domain (originally printed before revisions in 1919)