Came across this comment by Fr. Michael Pahls. Thought is was helpful. The issue is how we are to regard the sacramental ministry of communions that are irregular in one way or another; or for that matter a modern ‘Prayerbook Presbyterian’ who has no intention of ministering the Body and Blood of our savior. I thought it was helpful.

 

 

‘Intention certainly plays a role, but the application is not rightly understood as a mechanism of exclusion. Rather, it has historically been deployed as a mechanism of inclusion. Let me contextualize this a bit.

First, lest it need to be said, Christ is the minister of the sacraments but he is at the same time free to work with, without, above, and even against the use of sacramental means, at his pleasure. This means that the Church’s determination of validity is never more than a provisional judgment.

Second, the use of categories like matter, form, intention, and subject is intended to establish a standard of continuity whereby the *faithful* may be confident in the Church’s administration of the sacraments in Christ’s name.

Third, because our determination of validity is provisional, our application of the above categories is prudential. We deploy them strictly with regard to ourselves as ministers, but generously and in keeping with the principle of divine mercy regarding other ministers and the faithful. Put more practically, I am rigorous in my own priestly ministry to the sacraments, carefully attending to the continuity of matter, form, intention, and subject in my own celebration. Were I a bishop (μὴ γένοιτο!), that rigor would extend to those under my jurisdiction. With regard to other priests, other provinces, and other communions, however, divine mercy summons me to a preferential option in favor of validity. This means that unless compelled by an undeniable defect — and undeniable means unarguable — it’s presumptuous and uncharitable (the latter being the greater sin) to question the validity of sacraments in other parts of our Lord’s vineyard.

This manner of judgment is biblical, historically warranted, and in keeping with Christian charity.

Whether we apply this historically to the situation of competing Jewish and Gentile house churches at Rome ca. 48 C.E. or to ourselves, the Apostle Paul explicitly warns us against our passing judgment on servants of another (Cf. Rom 14:4ff.).

Historically, the standard of continuity in matter, form, intention, and subject were hammered out amid the Novatianist and Donatist controversies. An apostate bishop, a midwife, or even an unbaptized pagan could validly administer the sacrament of baptism because the defect in the minister — regardless of whether that defect was a defect of sanctity, a defect of faith, or a defect in understanding — did not transfer to a defect in the ministrations of Jesus to the one receiving the sacrament. Even with regard to the sacramental ministrations of heretics (in his context, the Donatists), Augustine would not judge them invalid. Rather, he carefully distinguished between the use of the sacrament and its fruitfulness for those who willfully continued in heresy following their correction and admonition.

Finally — and this was the point I was making in the previous thread — Our Lord’s saving arm is not so short as you think. Those persuaded that the ordination of women is a faithful development in doctrine do not invalidate their orders or the sacraments they administer when functioning in good faith according to the doctrine and discipline of their diocese (in the case of the ACNA), of their province (in the broader Anglican Communion, including many GAFCON provinces), or of their communion. The question of it’s being a faithful or an unfaithful development is far from a settled question and absent a genuine ecumenical council to determine on the question the church’s ongoing process of discernment will likely outlive us both. Saying otherwise plays right into the erroneous ultramontanist judgment of Leo XIII (whose complaint was against the Edwardine Ordinal, not the Elizabethan Ordinal, BTW). Use that line of reasoning if you wish, but you will have invalidated your own orders long before you’ve gotten around to those of your ordained sisters.

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