Taylor Marshall on validity of Anglican orders

Taylor Marshall, a former Anglican, now Catholic writer and commentator, has a post up that has been getting a lot of reaction on social media.   Since it is about the validity of Anglican holy orders and consequently of the Eucharist, it might be worth revisiting here.   An excerpt:

Now then, there are Anglo-Catholic priests that have received valid ordinations by dissenting Catholic bishops and who openly profess belief in transubstantiation. Is their Mass valid? Perhaps. Yet many of these priests openly concelebrate with “women priests” or allow “women deacons” to serve their liturgies. This alone reveals that they do not believe in the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood and Eucharist. The orthodox doctrine of Holy Order prohibits the ordination of women to any degree of Holy Orders (even to the ministerial diaconate).
Those Anglo-Catholics who do not compromise by serving alongside women clerics are still living a double life. Even if a man were validly ordained and had proper intent to consecrate and sacrifice, his willingness to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ apart from the Holy Father in Rome renders every consecration as an act of schism. While the Mass is itself valid and glorifying to God, it is still a sacrilege for the priest who celebrates it. Think of a Catholic priest. If the priest is in mortal sin, he commits sacrilege, but his Mass is valid.
The Catholic priesthood and the Eucharist were never meant to be severed apart from the Pope and the local Catholic bishop. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch said, where the Catholic bishop is, there is the Catholic Church.
In the run-up to our community’s being received into the Catholic Church, we heard some accusations out there in social media that our clergy, by continuing to celebrate the Eucharist in our parishes as Anglicans, were committing sacrilege.
I do vaguely recall a Eucharistic fast perhaps during Lent—maybe someone can refresh my memory—but I also vaguely recall this was not something imposed on us by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith —i.e. a letter from on high saying, “Cease and desist your sacrilege immediately.”   No, everything was handled much more delicately that that.
After we were received into the Catholic Church, our clergy then no longer wore their collars, but would show up in suits and ties on Sunday until they were ordained as Catholic priests.  There were no conditional ordinations.
There is a comment I saw in relation to Marshall’s piece that alas, I cannot find now, but it is regarding the way Pope Francis has treated the Archbishop of Canterbury Welby from a ceremonial standpoint.  Something about the “full pontifical vestments” Welby wore in a recent liturgy with Pope Francis and even side by side chairs, when under Pope Benedict, the ABC of the time wore choir dress and did not occupy a chair next to the Pope.  So, from the standpoint of optics, the commentator was arguing, the Pope is treating the Anglicans as if their orders are valid.
Then there is the matter of Bishop Tony Palmer, the friend of Pope Francis who belonged to a newer Anglican-style group called the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal  Churches that could not really be called a breakaway, or “Continuing” Anglican group, but was more a self-styled group of charismatic evangelicals attracted to Anglican elements of worship.
I interviewed Tony Palmer via Skype only three weeks or so before his death in July 2013. He told me he was ready to become Catholic, but that Pope Francis had told him he was more useful to the Church where he was in serving unity efforts.
It was easy to love Tony Palmer as a brother in Christ. He was loving, enthusiastic, brimming with the confidence often seen in charismatic circles.  Had he not died, he would have been a keynote speaker at the Fire and Fusion conference in Ottawa that drew Catholics and charismatic Protestants together to seek unity by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than through theological discussion.
 I confess, some things Tony Palmer said scandalized me at the time, just as some things Pope Francis has done since becoming Pope have scandalized me.  After all the trouble I had gone to, all the deeper conversion to assent to everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true, I found some of those teachings I had assented to challenged by none other than the Pope and his good friend!   I had just learned about “indifferentism” as a thing, and it seemed there was a whiff of indifferentism afoot when it came to Catholic distinctives.
I am not among, however, nor were we required to be upon entering the Church,  what Fr. Hunwicke calls Hypersuperueberpapalists.
 A papal remark on a plane, or off the cuff during a speech or a footnote or ambiguous passage in an apostolic exhortation do not have the same weight as Holy Scripture.  Everything must be interpreted in continuity with Holy Tradition.   Just as Catholics do not take one or two Scripture verses to build a theology, but look at every verse in context with other verses in the Old and New Testaments, it is Catholic to read papal documents in context of other papal documents, Scripture and how the Church has always interpreted them.
A holy bishop I know told me that he tries to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through every Pope as the Vicar of Christ, while at the same time being conscious of the personal baggage every pope brings with him to the post.  That’s helpful.

9 thoughts on “Taylor Marshall on validity of Anglican orders

  1. WOW ! Taylor Marshall says it all. ” If you don’t have valid Eucharists, you don’t have the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament.” Sorry …. a lot of pretense out their otherwise ! And of course — the critical issue of the “39 Articles” as he as well discerns — has sort of been pushed to the back burner as well.


    • To continuing with Dr. Marshall’s discernment of the “39 Articles”. As he writes – so accurately. “A real Catholic would perceive the words of the 39 Articles as a grave and public crime against the Kingship of Christ. The 39 Articles are a blasphemous denial of transubstantiation and also of the revered doctrine that the Eucharist should be reserved or lifted up. A real Catholic would publicly recant of these errors.”

      And as having been baptized, confirmed and received into Episcopal Church, the confession required of me as I entered the Catholic Church included my recanting of this error ! Is this confession even considered by those now entering the Ordinariate ?


      • I have never studied the “thirty-nine articles” in sufficient detail to know which of them are heretical and which are not. Nevertheless, what you are calling a “recantation” — that is, a rejection of doctrinal error — can be stated in either of two ways: negatively, as a denunciation of that which is false, or affirmatively, as acceptance of the contrary truth. The Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church generally takes the latter approach.



      • IF YOU wish to read a great article in regard to this topic, you may go to—- THE INVALIDITY OF ANGLICAN ORDERS AND THE ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER, as published in the HOMILETIC & PASTORAL REVIEW dated Sept. 22, 2013 by Donald Paul SULLINS. Contact at —– hpr@jesuits.net It is well worth reading.


  2. To assure Norm that he would be more than welcomed to venture over to Chestnut Hill and discuss the matter of the “39 Articles” further with Father Richard Bradford. Their Sunday Mass is very Anglican , the participants of all sorts are very friendly and offer a nice coffee/ fellowship hour following it. For those further AWAY ….ditto…… St. Lawrence has plenty of parking and it is easily reached by Boston public transportation, offering even a local bus stop directly in front of the Church.


  3. The provisions for the funeral of Bishop Tony Palmer need to be understood in the context of the privileges accorded to former Anglican bishops in Article 11 of the complementary norms to the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus (boldface and emphasis in original). Note that, by definition, “complementary norms” cannot modify or derogate from ecclesial law in any way. Rather, they can only prescribe guidelines and procedures for implementation and execution of ecclesial law.

    Former Anglican Bishops

    Article 11

    §1. A married former Anglican Bishop is eligible to be appointed Ordinary. In such a case he is to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Church and then exercises pastoral and sacramental ministry within the Ordinariate with full jurisdictional authority.

    §2. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate may be called upon to assist the Ordinary in the administration of the Ordinariate.

    §3. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate may be invited to participate in the meetings of the Bishops’ Conference of the respective territory, with the equivalent status of a retired bishop.

    §4. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate and who has not been ordained as a bishop in the Catholic Church, may request permission from the Holy See to use the insignia of the episcopal office.

    So what’s apparent from this text is that existing ecclesial law permits certain accommodations for those who served in episcopal office in other denominations, essentially giving them status consistent with what they have previously held — to wit, (1) membership in the episcopal conference of their territory with the same status as a retired Catholic bishop and (2) authorization to wear Catholic episcopal vesture and to use Catholic pontifical insignia. I’m not aware of any former Anglican bishops in any of the three ordinariates who have requested these faculties, but the unsolicited explicit publication thereof under Pope Benedict XVI strongly suggests that the Vatican intended to grant them fairly routinely.

    So, Pope Francis authorized the burial of Bishop Tony Palmer in the manner of a Catholic bishop — but what, exactly, does that entail?

    >> 1. The bishop is vested as for a Stational Mass, in violet vestments, including the pallium if the bishop is entitled to wear it, with pontifical insignia except the pastoral staff. If the bishop had received additional pallia from other sees, these are placed in the coffin.

    >> 2. The president of the episcopal conference or the metropolitan normally presides, with other bishops and the clergy of the diocese concelebrating. The celebration, therefore, follows the rubrics for a funeral in which a bishop presides.

    But there is no proper and no rubrics for the funeral of a bishop, so the funeral itself is exactly the same as the funeral of a lay man or woman.

    The ecclesial law of the Catholic Church does permit the celebration of a Catholic funeral for a non-Catholic Christian if circumstances warrant, with due regard for the sensibilities of the denomination to which the deceased actually belonged. If indeed “he was ready to become Catholic, but that Pope Francis had told him he was more useful to the Church where he was in serving unity efforts” as stated in the OP, such permission indeed would be very fitting! And the rest of “burial as a Catholic bishop” is nothing more than the permission to use episcopal insignia that the Vatican apparently grants routinely to former Anglican bishops who come into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

    The bottom line here is that this accommodation for Bishop Tony Palmer really is neither innovative nor the big deal that it might at first seem.



  4. As I recall, when someone questioned why you were going through celebrations of the Eucharist, and, as I recall, confirmations, in your dying days in the ACCC once you had made the descision to become Catholics your response was “that was what we were told to do”.


    • Also the ordination of Michael Trolly to the diaconate and the conditional ordination of Eric Melby to the priesthood.


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