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William Morse wrote:

Hi, guys —

Both the Orthodox and the Anglican churches claim Apostolic Succession and typically have the succession chart in their respective Cathedrals.

Rome recognizes the Orthodox orders as legitimate but denies the Anglican orders.

  • Was this always the case, and
  • Why?

Thank you,


  { Why does Rome recognize Orthodox holy orders as legitimate but deny Anglican orders as valid? }

Eric replied:

William —

Pope Leo XIII's Apostolic letter of 1896, Apostolicae Curae (on Anglican orders) declared Anglican orders absolutely null and utterly void owing to the fact that Thomas Cranmer had altered the ordination rite to exclude the concept of sacrifice as a chief purpose of a priest.

Since a priest was no longer ordained to offer sacrifice, this fundamentally corrupted the very nature of Apostolic Succession for the Anglicans, effectively breaking it.


John replied:

Hi William,

Adding to what Eric said, the 39 Articles of the Church of England deny that Holy Orders is even a Sacrament instituted by Christ.

As a consequence, if you don't believe it's a sacrament, you obviously don't have the proper intention when you ordain 'priests and bishops'. If the intention is not there, the sacrament is invalid and hence Apostolic Succession is interrupted on both the basis of an improper:

  • form and
  • intention.

Now that they are ordaining woman, they have changed the matter as well. Hence there ain' t nothing left to their Orders except a nice ceremony which conveys absolutely nothing on a sacramental level.


William replied:

Thank you.

I thought about this over night. I mean no disrespect but the answer doesn't make sense to me.

My understanding of the validity of Anglican orders is based on what I was taught as a child. Let's start with the truth that the vast, vast, vast numbers of Popes, Bishops and Priests [are were] holy men, called of God, who faithfully served Him.

Having said that, there have been some, and it only takes one to make the point, bad apples in robes throughout history. I was told that their unfaithfulness in no way negated their Apostolic or Priestly calling. They may have been evil, but as ordained men:

  • When they served at the alter, their consecration was valid.
  • When they were ordained, it was valid.
  • When they heard confessions, their priestly ministry was valid . . .

    not due to being men themselves, but due to their holy orders.

If that is true, then a Catholic Bishop who changed to Anglican was still a Bishop regardless of whether or not he was holy or evil. If he was a valid Bishop, those he consecrated must be valid and so on, otherwise the sacrament of the original Bishops would have been invalid.

Either what I was taught in school was wrong or you are wrong.  Both views can't be right.

  • What are your thoughts on this?

AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam),


Eric replied:


I' m not sure what you mean.

The argument has nothing to do whatsoever with whether the priests were holy or evil. It has to do with why they were ordained.

If they were not ordained to do what our priests do, then they cannot do what our priests do.

In other words, Anglicans deliberately stopped doing what our priests do and that is offer sacrifice, condemning the entire concept. 

They stopped passing on the power that our priests receive of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, they do not celebrate as we do and we do not recognize their orders.

  • Does that make more sense?


Mary Ann replied:


You are right:

The Catholic bishops who became Anglican retained their power to validly ordain, but to make a sacrament, two things are necessary:

  • the power to do it, and
  • the intention to do what the Church does.

In Baptism, absolutely anyone has the power to baptize and the intention is contained in the words, so that one is simple.

With Holy Orders, the bishop must intend to ordain priests who will have the powers of Orders to do what the Church does. The intention of any sacrament must be to at least intend to do what the Church intends, regardless of the beliefs of the minister. (An atheist priest can still validly offer Mass.)

Some of those bishops may have had such an intention, which is why Anglican priests, who convert, are conditionally ordained.

Besides those who did not convert, there were also 'bishops' consecrated by 'bishops' who were not validly consecrated, even if they were validly ordained. (A bishop must consecrate a bishop) so there was really no way to sort out the tangled mess, especially since the Anglican theology was all over the map about it.

Mary Ann

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