By Fr. HERBERT KELDANY
Alol utely Null and Utterly Void by Fr. John Jay Hughes (Sheed and Ward 6s.) N SEPTEMBER 18, 1896, Pope Leo XIII issued the bull known as Apostolicae Curae after examining the pros and cons of Anglican ordinations together with the cardinals of the Holy Office. He declared that the question laid before them had already been adjudicated and that the new inquiry had confirmed tile previous decisions. The title of this book consists of the key words of this document which the author impugns in 3(X) pages.
The words may sound harsh to our ears but to many, perhaps most people, living two generations ago, whether Anglican or Catholic, they seemed inevitable. Neither side had recognised the sacraments of the other for centuries, since they did not think the English Reformers meant to perpetuate the Catholic priesthood. But Leo, who longed . for unity much as John XXIII did, had reopened the question to pacify Lord Halifax, the generous but not altogether representative lay leader of the High Anglicans. Naturally they were disappointed, but they persevered and Halifax
had another try at bridging the gap in the Malines conversations of 1921, which paved the way for the dialogue in progress today.
Meanwhile, the subject was the preserve of theologians. Opinions differed as to how it should be treated. Many considered the time was not ripe. Then came Vatican 11. the special mention of the Anglican Communion in the decree on Ecumenism. the visit of Archbishop Ramsey to Rome in quick succession. Now more recent events have brought the issue to the fore again.
Last January the Bishop of Munster ordained Fr. Hughes to the priesthood, conditionally, on the grounds that he may perhaps have been validly ordained already "due to the Old Catholic succession." At the time, Fr. Hughes, who had been a priest of the American Episcopalian Church, stated that he had not made a secret of his conviction as to the validity of his first ordination, or indeed of Anglican orders in general. The basis of his conviction is an extensive study of the question, now embodied in a doctoral thesis which has been accepted by the Catholic faculty of the University of Munstcr.
The present volume sets out the first more historical part, which deals with the events that led Pope Leo to publish his decision. A second one, entitled "Stewards of the Lord," is promised soon by the publisher, who states on the cover that it will examine the possibility of a way out of the apparent impasse.
Fr. Hughes has been to much trouble to trace the genesis of the Bull, as there has been no disclosure of documents by the Vatican archives.
Its hero is Halifax, who succeeded in opening up the whole issue, even if inconclusively. The villains are the opponents of validity, headed by the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vaughan, and his henchmen on the commission of theologians who worked on the preliminaries in Rome from March until June.
He is very severe with Merry del Val, and even more so with Gasquet and Moyes. They were very partisan. So is he. They were not always accurate in transcribing documents, but they did not falsify so much as select. But there is little in the way of fresh evidence against the English Memorandum which bears the brunt of his criticism.
It seems a pity that the text of the Bull is not given, nor indeed the Answer of the Anglican Archbishops of England, published the following March. Between them they would save a lot of further reading. Paragraph eight of the former, and the sixteenth of the latter show that there was little hope of agreement at the time. We look forward with interest to the second volumc.