Is it in anyway lawfully possible for the Catholic Church to one day recognize the Anglican Church as having valid orders?

If not why?

If yes?...does the present day scope and political spectrum suggest it's in the near future?

What would it take to undo the Reformation in that sense: for the Anglican order so to speak under Catholicism perhaps?

To summarise following a well put comment below:

(a) Is it possible for the Catholic Church to accept the Anglican Church back? or

(b) Is it possible for the Catholic Church and Anglican Church to merge? or

(c) Is it possible for the Catholic Church to recognize the authority of the Anglican Church?

  • 3
    May I ask for clarification? Are you asking (a) is it possible for the CC to accept the AC back? (b) Is it possible for the CC and AC to merge? or (c) is it possible for the CC to recognize the authority of the AC? Please edit your question with the clarification. Thanks!
    – JBH
    Jul 11, 2018 at 23:21
  • @JBH good point, I've edited the question to include all your points as I would be interested in all aspects. Cheers.
    – David
    Jul 12, 2018 at 7:23
  • If they decide to, then they can change any rules that might currently not allow it. The "is it possible" questions don't really have any other answer. "What would it take" is a better question. You could draw a parallel with the Eritrean Catholic Church, which I think is the most recent church to join the Catholic Church.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 12, 2018 at 7:49
  • Isn't the point of the Anglican Church that the King/Queen is the head of the church? How is that reconcilable with CC?
    – kutschkem
    Jul 12, 2018 at 8:38
  • Can someone explain what "valid orders" or "orders" in general even means? I think its something that is clear to Catholics, but from the outside I dont understand whats in question
    – L1R
    Jul 12, 2018 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


Is it in anyway lawfully possible for the Catholic Church to one day recognize the Anglican Church as having valid orders?

The short answer is yes.

But will that ever happen is another matter.

In 1896, Pope Leo XIII published the now famous bull, Apostolicae curae in which he declared Anglican ordinations to be "absolutely null and utterly void".

The principal objection to validity of Anglican ordinations, according to Leo XIII, was the alleged deficiency of intention and of form of the Anglican ordination rites. Leo XIII declared that the rites expressed an intention to create a priesthood different from the sacrificing priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church and to reduce ordination to a mere ecclesiastical institution, an appointment or blessing, instead of a sacramental conferral of actual grace by the action itself. - Apostolicae curae (Wikipedia)

Here is what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops say about Apostolicae curae:

Apostolicæ Curæ presents a theological defense of this tradition of Vatican rejection of the validity of Anglican orders. It is based on the argument that the Church of England ordinal was defective in 'intention' and 'form'. By 'defect of intention' Leo XIII meant that by the omission of any reference to the eucharist as a sacrifice and to a sacrificing priesthood in the ordination ritual of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England intended to introduce a radically new rite into England, one markedly different from those approved by the Roman Catholic Church. By 'defect of form' Leo XIII meant that the words of the Anglican ordination prayer, 'Receive the Holy Ghost', did not signify definitely the order of the Catholic priesthood with its power to consecrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the eucharistic sacrifice.

Leo XIII thus decided that historical proof of a continuation of sacramental validity with the Church of England was not the central question between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. History is not the question. Theology is the question. For there to be sacramental validity within the Church of England from the perspective of Rome, Anglicans and Roman Catholics must be in one institutional community of faith, which implies agreements about the theology of sacraments and ministry, and some Anglican recognition of the papacy. - Anglican Orders: A Report on the Evolving Context for their Evaluation in the Roman Catholic Church

But that alone is not the whole picture.

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).

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. - Taylor Marshall on validity of Anglican orders

Pope John Paul II made the ordination of women to the priesthood impossible in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994).

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

For the Catholic Church to recognize all Anglican Orders as valid, a number of things must be done. This does not mean that Anglican are Catholic, since the pope is head of the Catholic Church and the reigning king or queen of England is the head of the Anglican Church.

1.) All bishops must be able to prove to Rome that they have been validly ordained priests and then consecrated a bishop by someone who is a valid bishop. This may mean that many bishops may have to be ordained (perhaps conditionally) a priest once again and then consecrated a bishop once again by a bishop who has proof of apostolic succession.

2.) All priests must be able to prove that their priestly ordination was valid and be ordained again by a true bishop in the cause where doubt is present.

3.) The ritual used to ordain priests and consecrate bishops must conform in wording to the theology of the Catholic Church.

4.) The ordination of women as bishops, priests and deacons must be suppressed and declared invalid by the Anglican Communion.

  • 4) Or the Catholic church must recognize the ordination of women as valid, at least in this case. Not out of the question, since the Catholic church can allow married men to become priests in exceptional circumstances. Jul 12, 2018 at 14:58
  • @DJClayworth Married men to the priesthood has nothing to do with the ordination of women. Married priests in the Eastern Rites has always been allowed.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 12, 2018 at 20:15

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