It's amazing - no matter how long one stays away, one can return and find a new iteration of a topic that's been beaten to death time and yet again. I don't believe that I've had the pleasure of meeting Kerdy before now. Let me throw in two cents - maybe even a nickel here.
The theological praxis of Catholics and Orthodox as to the validity of orders and the dependent issue of the validity of sacraments differs significantly. That is fact and we can discuss, debate, and disagree over whether the other's stance is or is not rational, but it won't change the fact that it is what it is. The resolution of such will only occur, if it ever does and hopefully it ultimately will, in circles more august than this revered forum.
There are basically two theories of apostolic succession and, in most instances, the application of the theory held by a given Church effectively determines the validity accorded to claimed presbyteral and episcopal orders and, ipso facto
, the validity of sacraments administered by those claiming to possess valid orders, whether presbyteral and/or episcopal (putting aside issues as to form and intent, since if there is no validity to the orders of the sacrament's minister, other considerations are of no consequence to either Church).
If the orders claimed to be possessed are themselves invalid, the sacraments derived from him who claims to possess orders will, in turn, be invalid if the sacrament is one which requires conferral by an ordained minister - essentially any except Baptism in extremis
in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and Marriage in the Latin Church, where the priest is seen as witnessing rather than conferring the sacrament.The Augustinian theory
effectively holds that valid episcopal ordination confers an indelible character that is not affected by any schismatic or heretical act or excommunication taken in response thereto or for any other reason. Accordingly, a validly ordained priest, once validly ordained to the episcopate, retains his capacity to exercise that order, though he may have been deprived juridically of the office or jurisdiction by which he performed episcopal acts. The latter considerations affect only the licitness of his acts.The Cyprianic theory
effectively holds that a valid episcopal ordination is affected by schismatic or heretical acts and by excommunication taken in response thereto or for any other reason. Accordingly, a validly ordained priest once validly ordained to the episcopate retains his capacity to exercise that order only so long as he continues in communion with the jurisdiction under the authority of which he was ordained to the episcopate (or such other jurisdiction into which he may have subsequently been accepted) and is exercising the office or jurisdiction by which he has the right to perform those acts.
There is no distinction made as to licitness.
The Catholic Church adheres to the Augustinian theory; the Orthodox Churches to the Cyprianic theory, (although the latter have exercised oekonomia
in application of it to instances in which schismatic bodies have returned to communion).
Frankly, the Augustinian theory has been or certainly has become a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church. It effectively assures that all manner of independent hierarchs, both those who pursue their perceived vocation with spiritual and intellectual honesty and those who are episcopi vagante
in the most perjorative connotation accorded to the phrase, can sleep at night with at least a modicum of assurance that they possess valid episcopal orders, unless form or intent are at issue. The time-honored practice in the so-called "independent" Catholic and Orthodox movements of garnering multiple episcopal consecrations or, subsequently, being re-consecrated sub conditione
is effectively a means of leveraging the Augustinian theory.
Most such hierarchs operate on the premise that "more is better" or "there has to be at least one good one here somewhere". With most having an episcopal genealogy that traces back through an average of 30 ancestral lines of succession, from combinations of dissident Latin Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs, they can feel reasonably secure. Those lines which cannot be proven valid because there is serious doubt as to the validity of one actor (e.g.
, the so-called Melkite-Aneed Line) can and do feel comfortably buffered by Duarte and Ofiesh Lines.
People sometimes point to subsequent acts by bishops of these "Churches" which break faith with Catholic doctrine and erroneously perceive these as breaking the line of apostolic succession. For instance, no bishop, regardless of the validity of his episcopal orders, can validly ordain a woman. But, that he did so would not invalidate his subsequent ordination of a man, with proper intent and according to proper form. So, it is possible to go rather far afield theologically yet still retain apostolic succession.
None of this is to say that all such entities have valid orders or sacraments (e.g.
, the Liberal Catholic Church is certainly suspect), but an inordinate amount of effort has to be put into tracing and verifying or rejecting such when presbyters or hierarchs of these Churches are received into communion.
(Reportedly, the Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Confession greatly facilitated doing so in its own cases for decades. They are said to have dutifully sent notice of each episcopal ordination to Rome which, in turn, notified the OCC of its canonical displeasure - an exchange that reputedly traces back more than a century
. You have to sometimes look at the light side; I know it's sick - humor me - I picture clerical minions on each side, situated in subterranean rooms, cranking out elaborate documentations with seals affixed and dispatching them posthaste to their horrified counterparts.)
The Orthodox Churches, relying on the canonically legal status of the hierarch conferring orders (his status in communion with a recognized jurisdiction to which the Church accords canonical status), have a much simpler task before them in assessing validity and, since they do not make the distinction of licitness, the end result is clear-cut.
Given its historical ties to the Cyprianic theory, it stands to reason that the Orthodox sometimes will not accord validity to Catholic orders or sacraments and that any do so must be seen as an exercise of charity on their part, applying a measure of recognition to the common historical origins of Catholicity and Orthodoxy. We, as Catholics, can dislike the fact that all do not choose to do so, but it is not our place to impose upon others our theological precepts and require that they adopt them.
The potentially most ironic consideration here is that, applying the Augustinian theory, the Catholic Church would in some instances likely accept the validity of presbyteral and episcopal orders, and, consequently, sacraments, of "independent Orthodox" (and by that I do not mean those essentially mainstream Orthodox Churches which are typically termed "non-canonical" or "of iregular status", such as the "True" Churches, but those of the so-called "independent movement")
whom the Orthodox themselves would, rightfully, never deem to be of their Communion, under even the most liberal of interpretations.
I think you'd find that, in practice, the recognition given by the Orthodox to sacraments administered through the Ofiesh line differs significantly, in large part by how far removed the recipient is from the point of origin. Certainly, there has been some movement among the Antiochians toward "rehabilitating" Ofiesh's memory - I think, in part, because he'd thus be less of an embaressment but, the further removed one is from the direct laying-on of the hands of Archbishop Aftimios, the less credence is ordinarily accorded to the validity of sacraments received from his successors of later presbyteral and episcopal generations.
Among Catholics, Thuc lines are among the most suspect and least likely to be accorded validity by the Catholic Church because there are serious questions as to his mental capacity to have conferred the sacrament.
With no effort whatsoever, I could post links to more than a hundred so-called "independent/autocephalus movement" Churches that label themselves "Catholic" or "Orthodox". (Those don't even include Churches that might actually be entitled to be accorded some measure of legitimacy, albeit non-canonical.) The 'independents' vary from highly organized bodies with temples, clergy, and faithful to "archdioceses" that, on examination, would be found to operate from someone's basement family room and a "patriarch" (one of my favorites) whose pontifical vesture most resembles a sofa throw belonging to a grandaunt of which my grandmother once said "the Sallies (Salvation Army) wouldn't give it to a naked man in a snowstorm, if it were the last piece of cloth they had".
Neither Catholics nor Orthodox spend much time or put much effort into publicly addressing these issues. The closest thing to an official statement on the matter from either Church is the recognition by the Catholic Church of the episcopal and presbyteral orders and sacraments of the Polish National Catholic Church (which included its subsumed constituent Czech, Lithuanian, Bohemian, and Slovak entities, but not its (former?) jurisdiction in Poland). By extension, to accord validity to the PNCC lines, which originated largely from the Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Communion/Confession, was to hold the OCC/Utrecht lines to be valid, at least to the point in time when the PNCC broke with Utrecht.
Determinations as to the validity of orders in individual instances are usually not given much publicity because of a desire to not encourage the phenomenon and its proliferation - not that it does much good.
And, as to copyrighting or trademarking "Roman Catholic", there have been a few localized attempts to do so - most recently one in Georgia and another in Florida, as best I recollect - both within about a decade past. As memory serves, one succeeded and one failed in the courts.
The good news in all of this, if there is any to be had, is that the Catholic Church has, in recent years (during Benedict's reign as pontiff) taken a stance in some instances that suggests it may be leaning toward the Cyprianic theory. Emmanuel Milingo, the flamboyant and outspoken Zambian archbishop, who was excommunicated about a decade ago, sparked this when Rome announced that it would not recognize any ordinations, episcopal or presbyteral, performed by him as having either validity or licity.
And, by the way, there is indeed a Catholic ritual for 'defrocking' a bishop. When the Old Catholic Bishop, Prince Rudolph de Landes Berghes, submitted to the authority of the Roman Church in 1919 at St Patrick's Cathedral in NYC, it likely represented the last public (if not last formal) usage by the Catholic Church of the ancient "Ritual for the Degradation of a Bishop".