Proofs That Illicit Bishops and Priests Cannot Function
He who deserts the Church will vainly believe that he is in the Church; (Amantissimus, Pope Pius IX, paragraph 3).
To adhere to a false Bishop of Rome is to be out of communion with the Church. Consequently, just as in the exercise of their episcopal authority the bishops ought to be united with the apostolic see so should the members of the clergy and the laity live in close union with their bishops.
St. Cyprian (Epistle LXVII, 6): Such persons might indeed be admitted to penance, but should forever be debarred from all orders of the clergy and from all sacerdotal honors.
St. Augustine, De Fide et Symbolo, 21:
We believe, too, in Holy Church, assuredly the Catholic Church. For heretics and schismatics call their assemblies ‘churches’. But heretics, since they hold false ideas of God, violate the faith itself, while schismatics, although believing what we do, have by their wicked divisions broken away from fraternal charity. Heretics, then, do not belong to the Catholic Church-for it loves God; nor do schismatics-for the Church loves its neighbor.
Council of Chalcedon:
Canon 6: No one is to be promoted to the priesthood or deaconate or to any other ecclesiastical order, unless the one to be promoted is specially affiliated to a church or a city or village, or a martyry or monastery. In regard to those who have been ordained absolutely, the holy council decided that such ordination is invalid, and that they can function nowhere to the disgrace of the one who ordained them.
Commentary in Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: The council declared absolute ordinations, that is, sine titulo, invalid. Though it used the word (null, void), it is very probable that it had in mind “void of effect” through permanent suspension, (Pg. 96. See Mansi, VII, 901, 945.)
Council of Nicea:
Canon 10: The lapsi who have been ordained either through the ignorance or in spite of the knowledge of those who ordained them, are no exception to the law of the Church, and they will be excluded as soon as their irregularity becomes known.
Canon 11: With regard to those who during the tyranny of Licinius apostatized without compulsion or confiscation of property or peril or any other pressure, the council has decided to treat them with kindness, though they have shown themselves unworthy of it. Those, therefore, who are truly repentant and were believers before their fall, shall do three years of penance among the audientes and seven years among the substrati; for two years more they shall take part with the people in the prayers, but without offering the sacrifice themselves
Saint Thomas Aquinas:
Schismatics do not, of course, lose the power of order; their priests can say Mass, their bishops confirm and ordain. But they lose all jurisdiction, so that “they cannot either absolve, excommunicate, or grant indulgences, or the like;’ and if they attempt anything of the kind the act is null” (II-II q39 a3)
Pope Pius VI, Charitas:
For the right of ordaining bishops—belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained, thus invalidating their future actions. They dared to do this, even though the first two of these churches have their own lawful pastors and the other two have not yet been created episcopal sees by Apostolic Authority. So today the Pope as a duty of his office appoints bishops for each of the churches, and no lawful consecration may take place in the entire Catholic Church without the order of the Apostolic See (Trent, session 24, chap. 1, de Reformat.)
Council of Trent: Session 6, Canon 5 on reform:
No bishop is allowed under pretext of any privilege to exercise the pontifical functions in the diocese of another, except with the expressed permission of the ordinary of the place, and for those persons only who are subject to the same ordinary. If the contrary is done, the bishop is ipso jure suspended from the exercise of pontifical functions and those so ordained from the exercise of their orders.
Session 14, Canons 2, 3 on reform:
Canon 2 on Reform, Session 14: Since some bishops or churches located in partibus infidelium, having neither clergy nor Christian people, being well-nigh wanderers and without a fixed residence, seeking not the things of Jesus Christ, but other sheep without the knowledge of their pastor, and finding themselves forbidden by this holy council to exercise Episcopal functions in the diocese of another without the expressed permission of the local ordinary, and then only in regard to the persons who are subject to that ordinary, do in their boldness, by evasion and in contempt of the law, choose as it were an Episcopal see in a place which belongs to no diocese, and presume to make with the clerical character and even promote to the sacred order of the priesthood any who come to them, even though they have no commendatory letters from their bishops or prelates, whence it happens very often that persons are ordained who are but little qualified, who are untrained and ignorant, and have been rejected by their own bishops as incompetent and unworthy, neither able to perform the divine offices nor to administer rightly the sacraments of the Church; none of the bishops, therefore, who are called titular, even though they reside or sojourn in a place within no diocese, even it be exempt, or in a monastery of whatsoever order, may, by virtue of any privilege granted them for a time, promote those who come to them, or promote or ordain to any sacred or minor orders, or even the first tonsure, the subject of another bishop, even under the pretext that he is his domestic or companion at table, without the expressed consent of or with dimissory letters from the person’s own bishop. Those acting contrary to this shall be ipso jure suspended for one year from the exercise of pontifical functions, and the one so promoted shall likewise be suspended from the exercise of the orders as long as his own prelate
shall see fit
Session 14, Canon 3 on reform:
A bishop may be suspended for as long a time as he may see fit from the exercise of the orders received, and may prohibit from ministering or from exercising the functions of any order, and of his clerics, especially those who are in sacred orders, who have been promoted by any authority whatsoever without his previous examination and commendatory letters, even though they shall have been approved as competent by him who ordained them, but whom he himself shall find unfit and incapable to celebrate the divine offices or to administer the sacraments of the Church.
Session 22, Ch. 16 on reform:
Since no one ought to be ordained who in the judgment of the bishop is not useful or necessary to his churches, the holy council, following the footsteps of the sixth canon of the Council of Chalcedon, decrees that no one shall in the future be ordained who is not assigned to that church or pious place for the need of utility of which he is promoted, where he may discharge his duties and not wander about without any fixed abode. But if he shall desert that place without consulting the bishop, he shall be forbidden the exercise of sacred orders. Furthermore, no cleric who is a stranger, without commendatory letters from his ordinary, be admitted by any bishops to celebrate r\the divine mysteries and to administer the sacraments.
Session 23, Canon 8:
If anyone says that the bishops who are chosen by the authority of the Roman Pontiff are not true and legitimate bishops, but a human invention; let him be anathema, (DZ 968). The council then refers us to Chapter 4 (DZ 960): The holy Synod teaches, furthermore, that in the ordination of bishops, priests, and of other orders, the consent or call, or authority of the people, or of any secular power or magistrate is not so required for the validity of the ordination; but rather it decrees that those who are called and instituted only by the people, or by the civil power or magistrate and proceed to exercise these offices, and that those who by their own temerity take these offices upon themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be regarded as “thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door” (See John 10:1).
Session 23, Chapter 7, on reform:
The conferring of sacred orders shall be celebrated publicly, at the times specified by law, and in the cathedral church in the presence of the canons of the church, who are to be summoned for that purpose; but if celebrated in another place of the diocese, in the presence of the local clergy, the church holding the highest rank should always, so far as possible, be chosen. Each one shall be ordained by his own bishop. But if anyone should ask to be promoted by another, this shall under no condition, even at the times specified, be permitted him unless his probity and morals be recommended by the testimony of his ordinary. Otherwise the one ordaining shall be suspended from exercising the orders received for as long a period as his ordinary shall see fit.
Session 23, Ch. 15 on reform:
Although priests receive by ordination the power of absolving from sins, nevertheless the holy council decrees that no one, even though a regular, can hear the confessions of seculars, even priests, and that he is not to be regarded as qualified thereto, unless he either holds a parochial benefice or is by the bishops, after an examination, if they should deem it necessary, or in some other manner, judged competent and has obtained their approval, which shall be given gratuitously; any privileges and custom whatsoever, even immemorial not withstanding.
Canon 955§ 1
Everyone shall be ordained by his own proper bishop or with legitimate dimissorial letters received from him.) Unusquisque a proprio Episcopo ordinetur aut cum legitimis ejusdem litteris dimissoriis.
Trent Session 6, Canon 5; Session 14, Canons 2,3 Session 23, Canons 3, 8, 10 and Pope Pius IX’s Apostolicae Sedis, October 12, 1869
DZ 1087: Those ordained by schismatic bishops, who have been otherwise duly ordained, the due form having been observed, receive, indeed, ordination, but not jurisdiction. (Clement VIII, August 30, 1595)
St. Robert Bellarmine, de Romano Pontifice, Bk. 2, Chapter 40:
The Holy fathers teach unanimously not only that heretics are outside of the Church, but also that they are ipso facto deprived of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dignity.
St. Robert Bellarmine, de Romano Pontifice:
Saint Nicholas I (epist. Ad Michael) repeats and confirms the same. Finally, Saint Thomas also teaches (II-II, Q39, A3) that schismatics immediately lose all jurisdiction, and that anything they try to do on the basis of any jurisdiction will be null.
Quartus Supra, January 6, 1873, Pope Pius IX:
18. When it was reported that the evil doctrines of a sect that Pope Pius VII had already condemned were being spread in the East, Pius VII became alarmed. Because they were trying to suppress the primacy of papal jurisdiction, the Pope decided on immediate measures to prevent their futile ambiguities and contentions from deceiving the faithful. Accordingly he ordered the ancient formula of St. Hormisdas, Our predecessor, to be sent to the patriarchs and eastern bishops. (34) In addition he commanded each within his jurisdiction to have every present or future clergyman subscribe to the profession of faith prescribed for men of the East by Urban VIII, unless they had already done so.
Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII:
Heresies and schisms have no other origin than that obedience is refused to the priest of God, and that men lose sight of the fact that there is one judge in the place of Christ in this world” (Epist. xii. ad Cornelium, n. 5). No one, therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside can command in the Church. Wherefore Optatus of Milevis blamed the Donatists for this reason: “Against which ages (of hell) we read that Peter received the saving keys, that is to say, our prince, to whom it was said by Christ: ‘To thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the gates of hell shall not conquer them.’ Whence is it therefore that you strive to obtain for yourselves the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven—you who fight against the chair of Peter?”
Ad Sinarum gentem, Pope Pius XII, Feast of the Most Holy Rosary, Oct. 7, 1954: paragraph 12: By virtue of God’s Will, the faithful are divided into two classes; the clergy and laity. By virtue of the same Will is established the twofold sacred hierarchy, namely, of orders and jurisdiction. Besides – as has also been divinely established – the power of orders (through which the ecclesiastical hierarchy is composed of Bishops, priests, and ministers) comes from receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successors of Saint Peter, to whom not only the simple faithful, but even all the Bishops must be constantly subject, and to whom they must be bound by obedience with the bond of unity.
Ad Apostolorum Principis, Pope Pius XII
38. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy, (11) and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff. (12) But if, as happens at times, some persons or groups are permitted to participate in the selection of an episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has allowed it in express terms and in each particular case for clearly defined persons or groups, the conditions and circumstances being very plainly determined.
39. Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter “Mystici Corporis” in the following words: “. . .As far as his own diocese is concerned each (bishop) feeds the flock entrusted to him as a true shepherd and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff”. (13)
40. And when We later addressed to you the letter Ad Sinarum Gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity”. (14)
41. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.
42. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: “He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber”. (15) The sheep indeed know the true shepherd’s voice. “But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers”. (16)
43. We are aware that those who thus belittle obedience in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have unrighteously assumed, defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise. In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying.
44. We mean that discipline which has been established not only for China and the regions recently enlightened by the light of the Gospel, but for the whole Church, a discipline which takes its sanction from that universal and supreme power of caring for, ruling, and governing which our Lord granted to the successors in the office of St. Peter the Apostle.
45. Well known are the terms of Vatican Council’s solemn definition: “Relying on the open testimony of the Scriptures and abiding by the wise and clear decrees both of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and the general Councils, We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, by virtue of which all the faithful must believe that the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and the Roman Pontiff himself is the Successor of the blessed Peter and continues to be the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him is the blessed Peter our Lord Jesus Christ committed the full power of caring for, ruling and governing the Universal Church….” (16)
46. “We teach, . . . We declare that the Roman Church by the Providence of God holds the primacy of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Toward it, the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both individually and collectively, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in matters which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world, in such a way that once the unity of communion and the profession of the same Faith has been preserved with the Roman Pontiff, there is one flock of the Church of Christ under one supreme shepherd. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation”. (17)
47. From what We have said, it follows that no authority whatsoever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the canonical appointment granted to any bishop; that no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See. (18)
48. Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred. (19)
10. AAS 4(1912) 658
11. Canon 331, sect. 3
12. Canon 329, sect. 2
13. Encyclical letter Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943: AAS 35
14. Encyclical epistle Ad Sinarum Gentem, Oct. 7, 1954: AAS 47 (1955) 9
15. John 10:1
16. John 10:4-5
17. Vatican Council, session IV, chap. 3; Coll. Lac., Vll, p. 484
18. Canon 953
19. Decree of Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, April 9, 1951: AAS
43 (1951) pp. 217-18
“A man who maliciously presents himself for ordination without dimissorial letters or with forged letters, or before he had attained the canonical age, or for ordination per saltem, is automatically suspended from the order unlawfully received.” (Qui sine litteris vel cum falsis dimissoriis, vel ante canonicam aetatem, vel per saltum ad ordines malitiose accesserit, est ipso facto a recpto ordine suspense.)