+St. Bede the Venerable+

Articles from long ago justifying the function of Traditionalists all these years keep resurfacing, and readers are taking note. Incredibly this latest example provides the fodder for an even more weighty indictment of their operations. This most recent justification, proposed by a “priest” in the 1980s who later became a “bishop,” is the application of Can. 20 to the Traditionalist situation (the text of Canon 20 below is taken from Dom Charles Augustine’s A Commentary on Canon Law):

If a general or a particular law contains no definite prescription concerning a case, unless there is a question of applying a penalty, the rule for deciding such a case must be taken from laws given in similar cases, from the general principles of Canon Law based on equity, from the methods and practices of the Roman Court [Curia] or from the common and constant teaching of approved canonists.” The canonists Bouscaren-Ellis remark in their commentary that where there is a question of applying penalties, no further action is needed because the law already has been stated. Below, each rule for deciding the new law will be examined.

  1. In his work Canon Law, Abp. Amleto Cicognani states: “If there is a law covering the case, this rule [Can. 20] is not to be applied according to the meaning of Can. 18…” (p. 621). In a case of doubt, Canon 18 requires that Traditionalists first resort to parallel passages of the Code, if any; to the end and circumstances of the law and to the mind of the legislator. In this particular case, the mind of the legislator, Pope Pius XII, is clear. The 1945 election constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, hereafter abbreviated as VAS; also the authentic interpretation of Can. 147 sealed with censures by Pope Pius XII, (both entered into the AAS), provide a definite prescription (or express provision of law) for our circumstances. VAS specifically governs interregnums and it makes null and void any attempt to contravene a papal law during the vacancy of the Holy See. So Can. 20 cannot be applied because an infallible papal law and an authentic canonical interpretation already exists.
  2. Regarding the application of penalties, they are many and multiplied in the case of Traditionalists. These include penalties for schism, heresy and communicatio in sacris; penalties attached to Canon 147; penalties for conferring and receiving episcopal consecration; penalties for receiving ordination without dimmissorial letters; penalties for receiving ordination and/or consecration from schismatics and penalties for simulating mass and sacraments. Nearly all these penalties are specially reserved to the Holy See, meaning they cannot now be resolved because we have no pope. And until they ARE resolved, no one can function because this alone — outside of any papal determination of the validity of their ordersraises questions regarding the validity of all their ecclesiastical acts. The excommunication for schism and communicatio in sacris, resulting in a vindicative penalty, voids all their ecclesiastical acts (see Can. 2294).
  3. In considering laws in similar matters (referring to decisions rendered by the Sacred Congregations, Rev. Augustine’s Canon Law commentary) these decisions show that in times of necessity even (validly ordained) schismatic clergy are forbidden to confer the sacraments. These decisions cited by the Sacred Congregations are mentioned in this article (https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/additional-proofs-traditional-clergy-cannot-function/) regarding reception of the Sacraments from schismatics; however, the validity of the ordination and consecration of those in question is not addressed, only the fact of their schism. This is a separate issue that precedes all others and must be resolved first before considering Can. 20. The questionable validity of Traditionalists’ orders is further discussed in the following articles: https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/the-traditionalist-movement-was-never-catholic/ and in these links: https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/reference-links/7-recent-articles/binding-power-of-papacy-voids-traditionalist-acts/ also https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/a-pope-and-council-endorse-home-alone/and https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/reference-links/1-what-constitutes-the-papacy/apostolic-constitution-vacantis-apostolicae-sedis/).

Rev. Augustine does say that while decisions of the Sacred Congregations must be received respectfully, strong reasons could override them. But this would not extend to making certainly valid what was probably never valid at all, a decision only the Roman Pontiff can execute. Here we are not talking just decisions of the Sacred Congregations, but an infallible decision of the Roman Pontiff (VAS) which cannot be dismissed.

  1. In the case of ordination and episcopal consecration, involving the administration of the Sacraments, equity or epikeia is not able to be used as a mitigating factor because the Sacraments are of Divine law and Can. 20 comes under the heading of ecclesiastical laws. Also, “EPIKEIA HAS NO PLACE IN INVALIDATING LAWS, for the common good demands certitude concerning the validity of acts” (Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Canon Law). See https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/canon-law-doubts-of-law-and-epikeia/ .
  2. Methods and practices of the Roman Curia would not be something possible for us to emulate today because that process is not readily known or available for scrutiny. Even if it was available, those once familiar with it cannot now be consulted.
  3. The common and constant opinion of approved canonists regarding papal elections is that bishops could elect a pope from among their number in an imperfect (not a general) council, according to St. Robert Bellarmine, or an election could be posited by the “universal Church” after the manner employed at the Council of Constance. Six opinions constituting the necessary probable opinion in this matter are available on this subject. But let us remember we have no certainly valid and licit bishops to accomplish such an act. If this refers to opinions for providing Mass and Sacraments where the validity of the Sacraments has been questioned, and without communion with the Roman Pontiff, it is not only the common opinion but the unanimous opinion of modern theologians that such Sacraments can neither be conferred or received. (See epikeia link in no. 2 above.)

Important Can. 20 article omitted

Touting Can. 20 is only an excuse to write into the law whatever those acting as priests and bishops see fit to propose. As Abp. Amleto Cicognani warns in his Canon Law under Can. 20: “It does not appear that we should admit a too facile liberty devoid of arguments and conclusive reasons for exceeding those limits [set by the Code] since this seems to be fraught with dangers of excess… Beware of unfounded conclusions… that lead to liberty or imaginary equity” (pgs. 624-625). And Rev. Augustine notes, leading into his commentary on Can. 21: “Applying these rules, and especially that of equity, one may persuade himself that a certain law does not apply to himself under given circumstances. This may be true. However, since the law is intended for the common welfare, it is necessary to consider the rule laid down in Can. 21: Laws given in order to guard against a common danger must be observed,” even when there is no danger. And this includes laws guarding the faithful from false christs who mislead the flock to fleece them for their own benefit.

So if this Traditionalist in question here had researched a bit further, he would easily have seen that there is danger in the use of epikeia listed under this canon, and those dangers are acknowledged by canonists and theologians (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/canon-law/the-origin-and-use-of-epikeia-links/). Every author quoted in these articles, and there are more than six as required to arrive at probability, warns of these dangers. The article the Traditionalist refers to and says he contributed to (although his name is not on the article), is one I am very familiar with. It has been sitting in my files for over 35 years!  And another more pertinent article by the same author, (Prof.) B. F. Dryden, was written at about the same time.

This second article, entitled For New Problems, a New Canon, was used as part of a series advocating the holding of an imperfect council with myself as one of the contributors. It was first published in the August 1988 issue of the Francinta Messenger, a Traditionalist newsletter edited by John Beauclair of Boise, Idaho.  Dryden’s part of the series appeared in the April 1989 edition. This series, written to help determine what could be done to re-establish the papacy, ran nearly a full year before my ill-fated book promoting a papal election was released.

It is not known whether the Traditionalist collaborated on writing this particular article on Canon 20 or not, but it would seem strange if he at least did not know about it and had read it. The opening paragraph of this article asks: “What do you think of the 1981 consecration of [Thuc] bishops? And how can a legitimate pope ever again be elected? No satisfactory answer can be given to either question without an understanding of Can. 20.” Dryden then goes on to summarize the teaching of the Belgian canonist, Capuchin Gommarus Michiels, who authored Normae Generalis Juris Canonici, (General Norms of Canon Law), 1929, Lublin Poland. Some quotes provided from this article below will be quite illuminating.

Application to the New Bishops — In the light of Fr. Michiels’ commentary, does Canon 20 make licit the consecration of Bishops Carmona and Zamora in October, 1981? Certainly not unless it first be shown that Canons 953 and 2370, forbidding and penalizing such consecrations without papal authorization, are null and void under present circumstances. Fr. Michiels shows… that any change in penal and other “odious” laws must be made by express legislation, not by Canon 20.

“Further, it is often stated that the consecrating bishop, Msgr. Ngo Dinh Thuc, was a member of the non-Catholic Conciliar sect at the time of the consecrations. lf this allegation is true, the consecrations were illicit for that reason, and could not be made licit by the very clear profession of adherence to the Catholic Church which Msgr. Thuc made some two months later. The allegation is supported by biographical data published by the staff of Einsicht magazine, friends and backers of the Vietnamese prelate, and by a published letter from the new Mexican bishops asking Msgr. Thuc why he concelebrated with a Modernist bishop. By way of refutation, nothing at all has come to our notice but a statement made by Rene Rouquette in his ‘Lettre Non-Conformiste that Msgr. Thuc had privately and satisfactorily apologized to the Mexicans.

“These new bishops would therefore be wiser to rely, not immediately on Canon 20, but first of all on the theological principle that the letter of a law is not to be observed when its observance no longer produces good but rather harm to the Church [i.e., epikeia], and is therefore unjust and immoral. Bishop Carmona does so argue, but in a rather summary and unimpressive fashion. Some not only may, but do doubt that deprivation of priests and valid sacraments until a pope is elected is sufficient harm to render observance of Canons 953 and 2373 unjust and immoral.

“As to that Apostolic succession which is a mark of the true Church, its chief element is the succession of mission, i.e., of jurisdiction, handed down from one legitimate pope to another, from St. Peter to the present, when the office stands vacant. This succession can be assured only by election of a pope, successor to Pius XII, not by the consecration, licit or illicit, of any number of bishops. For such consecrations are performed also in some schismatical churches, in an unbroken chain going back to the Apostles, without conferring any succession of mission. [!!!]

Canons 20 and Papal Election — The election of a pope, on the other hand, does clearly cry out for the use of Canon 20. The need for a pope is evident from Christ’s institution of the papacy, from the need for a single unifying authority in faith and discipline, and from the catastrophic ills the Catholic remnant suffers for lack of this papal authority. Yet apart from Canon 20, election of a pope is impossible without cardinals, and there are no cardinals and none can be appointed except by a pope. Since no rule for such a situation exists elsewhere, a rule of electoral procedure must be devised from the sources listed in Canon 20.

“The work of devising this rule, far from being completed, has hardly been begun, hardly thought of. Yet we may expect our ills and misfortunes to grow apace until it is begun, accomplished, and used effectively in the election of a pope “[end of Can. 20 article excerpt).

This article just quoted was written in the mid-1980s or shortly before. There is no date on the original. Prior to the “papal election” in 1990 which I helped promote then participated in, there first was an attempt made to interest Traditionalists in an imperfect council, and there was discussion of this at length, even after the “election.” But nothing ever came of it. When the election was being planned people were asked to weigh in on it and to offer opinions and proofs pro and con. No one ever offered sufficient theological proofs it couldn’t be done or volunteered to help do the research. But everyone certainly condemned and ridiculed those who followed through with it once the “election” was held, even though the my ONLY intention was to champion the papacy (and no, I did NOT campaign for the election of the one who later ruled as “pope” and this can be proven).

And yet this Traditionalist’s connection to the writer of the Can. 20 article (a connection unknown to me at the time) proves that these concerns were known and even understood in their proper light; it was understood that a true pope should be elected. Excluding the erroneous part of the article about the legitimate use of epikeia in this case and the bishops consecrated being only “illicit” versus questionably valid and incapacitated to act, it was relatively on point considering the time frame in which it was written. This further reveals the true intention of Traditionalists to rule uncontested and do absolutely nothing.

Some questions need to be posed based on the above and Traditionalists are obligated to answer them.

  1. Where is the positive proof that Lefebvre and Thuc could validly ordain or consecrate anyone given the current penal laws of the 1917 Code and Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis?
  2. If the proof for no. 1 could ever be provided (and it cannot), where is the definitive document demonstrating that in the absence of a reigning pontiff, bishops can be validly consecrated without the papal mandate?
  3. Arguments against the use of epikeia for sacramental purposes have circulated since the 1980s; the article on epikeia showing it cannot apply to Divine law has existed on this site since 2009. (A more recent blog piece is provided as a link above.) Why has no one thoroughly researched this principle and discovered it cannot and does not apply to doubts regarding the validity of the Sacraments?!
  4. If the need for a true pope was realized so very long ago, why didn’t these so-called true bishops elect one? Could it be that they suspected their own orders were not valid or licit, and electing a pope on that basis was a step even they hesitated to take? Or was it because the idea of a pope they would then have to obey was repugnant to them? Or are they flying under false colors perhaps and never intended to even consider restoring the papacy?

Traditionalist clerics are quick to cite those canons they believe will keep them in business but refuse to address the most crucial issue: their doubtful validity.  Canon 18 cannot solve their problem because there are no parallel passages of the Code that remedy invalidity, the end and circumstances of the law show only that the faithful must be protected from invalid sacraments and the mind of the legislator shows all their acts are void. It is a scholastic principle that “Laws justly declaring an incapacity to act or to receive benefits invalidate the attempted act or reception even if they are inculpably known or facts pertaining to their application in a concrete instance are unknown” (Summary of Scholastic Principles, Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S.J., # 341). This is the very principle infallibly enshrined in Pope Pius XII’s VAS. Traditionalists either ignore VAS or declare it is unjust because it deprives the faithful of the means to salvation, but this is a false claim. Baptism and Matrimony are still available to them as well as Spiritual Communion and the Perfect Act of Contrition.

Rather than seeking ordination or episcopal consecration they should instead have searched out retired and worthy bishops (not Thuc or Lefebvre) who reportedly were still alive at that time and insist they elect a true pope. That would have eventually granted them the status they long to possess today. Unfortunately, a true pope can no longer be elected because there are no verifiably valid and licit bishops left to elect him. There are many who insist such bishops still exist but as explained in the blog series article at https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/do-any-valid-bishops-still-exist/, the chances of confirming such individuals as truly valid is nearly non-existent. This crisis could possibly be resolved satisfactorily, but not until Traditionalist clerical pretenders abandon their claims, which they were long ago obligated under the law to do. Their followers must also refuse to attend their masses and receive their sacraments under Canons 2259 and 2294 §1. This also binds under penalty of Can. 1325 which orders them to defend the faith. Christ will not be mocked forever.





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