Are Trad Priests lllicit or Doubtfully Valid? The Answer Matters…
+ Our Lady of Mt. Carmel +
Finally back on the site and hope to be posting these regularly. My apologies to all.
It seems that the argument of validity versus liciety of Traditional “priests” ordained personally by Lefevbre and Thuc will not go away, despite irrefutable proofs offered to the contrary. To begin with a distinction must be made between those ordained as priests by these men and those consecrated as bishops. Not many if any Traditional priests, to my knowledge, can any longer claim direct descent from Thuc and Lefebvre. (While some believe Lefebvre was validly ordained and consecrated, questions concerning the Masonic affiliations of Lefebvre’s ordaining bishop and consecrator Achille Lienart clearly bring his own ordination, hence later consecration, into serious doubt). Some of the priests created by these two men subsequently have been “consecrated” bishops, and as such are vitandus-level heretics. Others may still be functioning as priests, yet their ordinations were never verified as certainly valid, nor can they be at this late date. And papal documents cited only later in the Traditional game prove they are not just illicit but doubtfully valid, and cannot function unless dispensed by the pope himself. This is because all those who followed Lefebvre and Thuc engaged in heresy and schism, and could not be abjured and absolved because no one possessed the necessary faculties to accomplish this. And Can. 2314 adds to heresy — and it has been proven without a doubt that that both Lefebvre and Thuc were heretics — the vindicative penalty of infamy of law, which requires a dispensation only the pope can grant, (Can. 2295). We have no true pope, ergo…
Therefore Lefebvre’s priests’ ordinations, also Thuc’s, are doubtfully valid AT BEST. Why is it important to make this distinction? First of all, because the truth matters. Secondly, because Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII have infallibly decreed that this is the case. And thirdly, some believe that because these priests are only “illicit” they may be called to give last rites in danger or death, and there are a (rare) few validly ordained priests left to call. Some canon lawyers and theologians have opined, however, that when summoning a heretic for Extreme Unction under Can. 2261§ 2, there is always a danger of perversion so one is better to simply make a perfect Act of Contrition and Spiritual Communion, or if unable have others pray for and with the person who is dying. Most are in a compromised mental when close to death, and certainly this is not time to try and ward off dangers to the faith. But when the person in question is doubtfully valid, there is actually serious doubt that one is even receiving the Sacrament. The Church teaches that this risk cannot be taken without endangering one’s soul, and so those priests whose ordinations were performed by Lefebvre or Thuc or any other schismatic or heretic bishop cannot be summoned in danger of death.
In his decision that schismatic bishops can never appoint or elect Catholic bishops to an office, Pope Pius IX taught in Etsi multa:
“24. But these men, having progressed more boldly in the ways of wickedness and destruction, as happens to heretical sects from God’s just judgment, have wished to create a hierarchy also for themselves, as we have intimated. They have chosen and set up a pseudo-bishop, a certain notorious apostate from the Catholic faith…
“25. But as even the rudiments of Catholic faith declare, no one can be considered a bishop who is not linked in communion of faith and love with Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ; who does not adhere to the supreme Pastor to whom the sheep of Christ are committed to be pastured; and who is not bound to the confirmer of fraternity which is in the world. 26. Therefore following the custom and example of Our Predecessors and of holy legislation, BY THE POWER GRANTED TO US FROM HEAVEN, We declare the election of the said [Old Catholic bishop], performed against the sanctions of the holy canons to be illicit, null, and void. We furthermore declare his consecration sacrilegious. We additionally excommunicate whoever has adhered to them and belonging to their party has furnished help, favor, aid, or consent. We declare, proclaim, and COMMAND that they are separated from the communion of the Church. They are to be considered among those with whom all faithful Christians are forbidden by the Apostle to associate and have social exchange to such an extent that, as he plainly states, they may not even be greeted,” [VITANDUS!] (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9etsimu.htm). In Quartus Supra, Pope Pius IX clearly states that even without a formal declaration, the Armenians resisting the authority of the papal see were considered schismatics. Likewise all who “avoid carrying out their orders” (those of the Roman Pontiffs) are reckoned as schismatics.
And also from Graves ac diuturnae, Pope Pius IX teaches on such Old Catholics: “They repeatedly state openly that they do not in the least reject the Catholic Church and its visible head but rather that they are zealous for the purity of Catholic doctrine declaring that they are the heirs of the ancient faith and the only true Catholics. But in fact they refuse to acknowledge all the divine prerogatives of the vicar of Christ on earth and do not submit to His supreme magisterium…You should remind them to beware of these treacherous enemies of the flock of Christ and their poisoned foods. They should totally shun their religious celebrations, their buildings, and their chairs of pestilence which they have with impunity established to transmit the sacred teachings. They should shun their writings and all contact with them. They should not have any dealings or meetings with usurping priests and apostates from the faith who dare to exercise the duties of an ecclesiastical minister without possessing a legitimate mission or any jurisdiction. They should avoid them as strangers and thieves who come only to steal, slay, and destroy…”
The Old Catholics were the model for ALL Traditional organizations. It is clear from these teachings that no one without committing mortal sin can associate with or receive doubtfully valid Sacraments from such persons without also becoming heretics and schismatics. Pope Pius VI further taught in Charitas: “10. “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…24. They must not grant dimissorial letters for ordinations. Nor must they appoint, depute, or confirm pastors, vicars, missionaries, helpers, functionaries, ministers, or others, whatever their title, for the care of souls and the administration of the Sacraments UNDER ANY PRETEXT OF NECESSITY WHATSOEVER… 26. “We command those who have been or are to be elected, to behave in no way as archbishops, bishops, parish priests, or vicars nor to call themselves by the name of any cathedral or parochial church, nor to assume any jurisdiction, authority, or faculty for the care of souls under the penalty of suspension and invalidity.”
These men cannot function in the capacity of bishops whether elected or self-appointed, (DZ 967). They may have received orders but not jurisdiction, and the pope is declaring the acts they perform null and void for want of an office approved by him and the subsequent jurisdiction that goes with it. Pope Pius XII, in Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, only reiterates the teachings above, applying them specifically to an interregnum such as we have experienced for the past 58 years come this October.
“1. “We decree that whatever power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff, while he is alive (unless in as far as it is expressly permitted in this, Our Constitution) the meeting of Cardinals itself may have taken for exercising, is null and void. 3. “Laws given by the Roman Pontiffs are in no way able to be corrected or changed through the meeting of the cardinals of the Roman Church [the See] being vacant; nor is anything able to be taken away or added, nor is there able to be made any dispensation in any manner concerning the laws themselves or some part of them. This is very evident from pontifical Constitutions [on]…the election of the Roman Pontiff. But if anything contrary to this prescript occurs or is by chance attempted, we declare it BY OUR SUPREME AUTHORITY to be null and void,” (Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, paras.1- 3, Ch. 1; Pope Pius XII, 1945.)
The laws of the Church concerning dimissorial letters and assignments to a diocese were violated and these priests never received an office, as Pope Pius VI teaches above. This was a law, “…given by the Roman Pontiff(s).” According to Can. 147, “An ecclesiastical office cannot be validly obtained without canonical appointment. By canonical appointment is understood the conferring of an ecclesiastical office by the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons,” (Can. 147). In addition, “Those who have been assigned to the divine ministry at least by the first tonsure are called clerics,” (Can. 108). Can. 118: “Only clerics can obtain the power of either orders or ecclesiastical jurisdiction…” Rev. Charles Augustine, commenting on Can. 118 explains that the nature of first tonsure clearly indicates that it arises from the Ordinary’s office as an act issuing from his jurisdictional faculties granted by the Pope and not specifically the power of Orders, since tonsure is not an order but a ceremony or rite. These men are ordered by Pope Pius VI to assume no “jurisdiction, authority, or faculty.” And Thuc and Lefebvre lost their jurisdiction through their many heresies.
No one is denying that men fit for ordination become priests when unquestionably validly ordained by validly ordained and consecrated bishops, (and I do believe that Lefebvre’s ordination AND consecration were doubtfully valid). But those asserting their validity must prove:
1. Their fitness for ordination under the 1917 Code, (Canons 973-974, also Canons 983-988);
2. Absolution from the proper bishop, abjuration made for such heresy and schism;
3. Dispensation from infamy of law by a true pope;
4. Possession of dimissorial letters, (Can. 955).
And without such proofs, which they cannot provide, there can be no certitude of their validity! In 1347, the Holy See condemned the heresy that certainty cannot be obtained by resorting to the Thomistic method, (DZ 553-54; 556). All these teachings come to us from the very decrees of Christ’s vicars whose decisions we are bound to abide by, regardless of our “opinions” or the teachings of self-appointed “experts.” We are certain these men are invalid because they are proclaimed to be such from the mouth of infallible formal certitude. The Vatican Council teaches that where papal teaching is concerned, “It is not sufficient to shun heretical iniquity, unless those errors are also shunned which come more or less close to it,” (DZ 1820). Language matters; liciety is lawfulness, and without it one cannot function as a legitimate pastor according to DZ 967. But validity means such men are conducting ceremonies which amount to idol worship, simulating Mass and Sacraments and worshipping a piece of bread as the Body of Christ. For even those who justify their attendance at Traditional “masses” by claiming their actions are only “illicit” believe they are receiving Christ in the Eucharist, (although gravely sinning in the process). This reduces Traditionalism to nothing more than paganism.
As St. Robert Bellarmine taught, a doubtful pope is no pope. Therefore a doubtful priest is no priest, just as a (truly) doubtful law is no law. Yes, Trads have cited the canon saying that orders have the presumption of validity, but presumption must yield to infallible truth under the law itself (Can. 1827) and the teachings of Trent echoed in the Sacred Canons. Infallible papal laws and teachings cannot help but prevail over presumptions which hold for the usual, not the extraordinary case. In the 1347 errors of Nicholas Autrecort, one error stands out as particularly applicable to the situation today. Autrecort falsely held that evidence from one matter could not be used to draw inferences from or arrive at conclusions regarding another matter. This is precisely how the rules governing doubtful laws read in Canon Law. One is to use parallel passages in the Code, the purpose and circumstances of the law and determine the intent of the legislator to resolve a doubtful law. Here the legislator is assumed to be the pope (in most cases) and the councils, as commentators on the Code have affirmed.
The footnotes to the Canons, recommended for use in Can. 6 §4 in cases of doubt where one must follow the old law, also are a fruitful source of remedies. Traditionalists, in citing the laws and practices of the Church in the past to justify the absence of a papal mandate regarding episcopal consecrations totally ignore Canon Law. For while it was true that in the past there were bishops chosen without papal mandate in certain cases, recent laws issued by Pope Pius XII make it clear that such practices are no longer tolerated, (Ad Apostolorum Principis and Mediator Dei). Canon 22 states: “A more recent law given by the competent authority abolishes a former law…if it is directly contrary to the old law.” Also no evidence is admissible, Rev. Amleto Cicognani says, against documents signed by the Roman Pontiffs. This was precisely the reason for the Vatican Council definition of the jurisdictional supremacy of the Roman Pontiff; once Rome has spoken, the cause is finished.
Maintaining that bishops may validly exercise orders received from heretics and schismatics outside the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff is a subterfuge which qualifies as heresy on two different counts. First of all, it contradicts the infallible decision of Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corpus and Ad Sinarum Gentum that bishops receive their jurisdiction only through the Roman Pontiff who has the right to regulate such jurisdiction; not directly from Christ Himself. Secondly, it denies that the Pope has the power to exercise this right over bishops and limit such jurisdiction, when the Vatican Council has decreed that “The Roman Pontiff has the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals but also in those things which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church,” (DZ 1831). Those who count as only illicit the ministrations of Traditionalists must ask themselves: Do I accept papal teaching in its entirety, believing all the popes, St. Peter through Pius XII, have taught concerning divine revelation, without reservation? Because THAT is the true measure of a Catholic.