+ St. Gabriel, Archangel +
Some have asked if the Church allows lay people to participate in and establish prayer societies. I originally and mistakenly quoted Can. 686 on this subject years ago, but this canon does not refer to the type of society we recently invited people to join, for several reasons enumerated below. The Society for Reparation to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary:
- is not a community that lives in common, such as religious do;
- does not collect dues or participate in any sort of fundraising activities;
- is not offering anyone any special indulgences granted to it as a society;
- has no set minimum requirements for membership, only suggestions and
- has no governing body.
Therefore, it does not even exist as defined by the Church itself and is strictly a lay organization. The distinction between lay and religious societies in law is explained under Canon 1489, which discusses the St. Vincent de Paul Society, founded by lay people, not religious. This society is discussed by the canonists Woywod-Smith under Canon 686, where they comment that such lay societies are not included in those canons which refer to associations which are strictly ecclesiastical, and a lay society only is what we intended to establish and are able to establish.
Lay persons have a right to demand spiritual goods, and prayer in common is definitely a spiritual good. They have the obligation to do all they can to work for the salvation of souls, and this society is a society of reparation, to appease God’s anger and make reparation to Our Lady for the sorrows caused by her straying and confused children; also to pray for the conversion of sinners, the dying and the souls in Purgatory. Those belonging to lay societies are not required to organize under their diocesan bishop, only be subject to him in matters of faith and morals. This is according to a decision of the Holy Office on the lay status of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1920 (AAS 13-1335). But such obedience is demanded from all Catholics, not just members of lay and religious associations.
Troubling issues behind the questions
Catholics questioning the founding of this society have every right to do so. And no one is being compelled to join; it was merely established to provide a prayer link between like-minded Catholics praying for things in common. But what is disturbing about the motives prompting the questions are the (sometimes scrupulous) reasons they were posed in the first place, reasons tied to erroneous thinking that has been perpetrated by Traditionalists since they first arrived on the scene. The sources of this erroneous thinking are the three reasons most often cited by Traditionalists to justify their operations — epikeia, necessity and impossibility. Epikeia has been discussed at length on this site and in a more recent blog its Gallicanist origins were revealed. While Traditionalists adamantly defend their right to invoke it in the present circumstances, all modern theologians agree it cannot be used whenever the validity of the Sacraments is in question.
Rev. Lawrence Joseph Riley, A.B., S.T.L., in his The History, Nature and Use of EPIKEIA in Moral Theology, 1948), basically explains that for the use of epikeia to be considered lawful, the law in question must be assumed to be: a) deficient by reason of its universality; b) in need of correction or amendment; c) is challenged by one who goes against the clear rules of the law d) using a probable presumption that the legislator did not intend to include this particular case when fashioning the law. It cannot be said that legislators were ignorant of the possibility of extended interregnums. Or that they had never encountered cases where Catholics were without Sacraments for long periods of time such as during the Arian heresy, the Japanese in the 1600s and those behind the Iron Curtain, all of whom refused to allow schismatics to minister to them. Specifically regarding episcopal consecrations without the papal mandate, it has been seen that the mind of the legislator definitely DOES anticipate such cases, since these are implicated in the very context of the constitution Ad Apostolorum Principis as well as Pope Pius XII’s papal election law governing interregnums, The mind of the legislator also is demonstrated in papal decrees such as Charitas, not to mention numerous decisions of the Sacred Congregations barring reception of the Sacraments from schismatics. Regarding the use of epikeia in the reception of the Sacraments, Fr. Riley states the following:
“The inquiry is made as to whether in reference to them [the sacraments] epikeia may ever be lawfully used. This question should not be confused with what would at first glance appear to be a somewhat kindred point, namely whether it is ever lawful to employ doubtful matter in confecting a sacrament, but this is not the precisely the question which concerns us now. Our interest turns rather to the problem of whether a sacrament can ever be given validly with matter or form that is certainly substantially different from that prescribed… It would be difficult to find any theologian who would ever allow epikeia under such circumstances. As the council of Florence declared, a sacrament is constituted by its matter, its form and ‘by the person of the minister conferring the sacrament with the intention of doing what the Church does; if any of these is lacking, the Sacrament is not fulfilled’ (DZ 695). In the words of Suarez: These are the quasi-foundations of the visible Church of Christ. If they be altered then in that Church there would result a substantial mutation contrary to the manifest intention of its founder.” Those elements which are necessary for the validity of a sacrament remain so even in the face of extreme difficulty or impossibility … The sacraments exist according to the institution of Christ or they do not exist at all. In short, it may be concluded that in regard to matters which touch the essence of the sacraments the use of epikeia is always excluded.”
The papal mandate is required both for the validity of ordinations and episcopal consecrations. To validly ordain, one must have been assigned to a diocese by competent ecclesiastical authority, and this was not the case with either Lefebvre or Thuc. No such mandates were issued to Lefebvre or to Thuc for their consecration of bishops. Without these mandates, Pope Pius XII teaches, the acts of anyone attempting to consecrate are null and void, i.e., they never create priests or bishops. Canon 147 states: “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.” In the case of bishops, this authority is the Roman Pontiff; in the case of priests, bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff, possessing an office assigned to them by the Roman Pontiff.
None of those ordained or consecrated by Lefebvre or Thuc can claim to have received an office from competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons. At one time both Lefebvre and Thuc possessed offices under Pope Pius XII, but they resigned those offices to accept offices under John 23 and Paul 6. So they cannot claim, either, to have received offices from the competent ecclesiastical authority, valid ordination and consecration or not. Canon 147 is not concerned with the validity of orders received, it speaks only of offices, which have to do with jurisdiction, not orders. This is explained in Can. 109, which states that all those degrees of jurisdiction outside those of the Roman Pontiff are received “…by canonical appointment.” This canon’s authentic interpretation by the Holy See, (AAS 42-601), reminds the hierarchy that Can. 147 proceeds from Divine law and the infallible decrees of the Council of Trent (DZ 960, 967), so that none can proceed against Can. 147 with impunity. It furthermore declares an excommunication reserved especially to the Holy See against those who violate this canon, and that includes any among the laity who cooperate in any way in these crimes. Under Can. 147 in the Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3, The Sacred Congregation of the Council declared:
“The Catholic Church is, in virtue of its institution by Christ Himself, a perfect society hierarchically established, whose full and supreme power of government and jurisdiction rests with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter in the primacy. Hence no one can presume to intrude himself or others into ecclesiastical offices or benefices without a legitimate canonical investiture or provision… The Council of Trent declared that, “those who undertake to exercise these offices merely at the behest of and upon the appointment by the people or the secular power and authority, AND THOSE WHO ASSUME THE SAME ON THEIR OWN AUTHORITY, are all to be regarded not as ministers of the Church but as thieves and robbers who have entered not by the door,” (Cap. IV, Session XXIII, de reform). Both orders AND jurisdiction are required for apostolicity as the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
“Apostolicity of mission consists in the power of holy orders and the power of jurisdiction derived by legitimate transmission from the Apostles. Any religious organization whose ministers do not possess these two powers is not accredited to preach the Gospel of Christ. For ‘How can they preach,’ asks the Apostle, ‘unless they be sent?’” (Rom. 10:15). And from Rev. E. S. Berry’s The Church of Christ: “…Jurisdiction in the Church can neither be obtained nor held against the will of her supreme authority; its transmission depends entirely upon legitimate succession. It is not sufficient, therefore, that a church have valid Orders; it must also have a legitimate succession of ministers, reaching back in an unbroken line to the Apostles, upon whom our Lord conferred all authority to rule His Church… There can be no legitimate successor in the Church of Christ who has not received jurisdiction either directly or indirectly from her supreme authority.” And without a true pope there is no one to even indirectly supply such jurisdiction, despite Traditionalist claims to possess supplied jurisdiction.
Who has given these Traditionalists the jurisdiction necessary to apostolicity to minister to the faithful as a lawfulminister, which can only be obtained by possessing a canonically appointed office? As Rev. Berry also points out in his work and Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XII teach: “There is not the slightest intimation in Scripture or tradition that Christ ever promised to confer authority directly upon the ministers of the Church; consequently, it can only be obtained by lawful succession from those upon whom Christ personally and directly conferred it, i. e., from the Apostles.” Whatever the Traditionalist argument is regarding offices, those who do not receive them cannot be considered as lawful ministers of the Church, but only thieves and hirelings. We must follow the laws and teachings of the Church, not claims against these teachings made by Traditionalists. Pope Pius XII’s Constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis leaves no doubt regarding the true status of those usurping papal jurisdiction and acting outside papal laws during an interregnum: all their acts are null and void.
Necessity and impossibility
Necessity is a term often credited to the Decrutum of Gratian but it is not something that in practice was ever used for the type of situation we find ourselves in today. It was mainly cited in marriage cases and sometimes in cases of justifiable homicide. In his Summary of Scholastic Principles, (1956) Rev. Bernard Wuellner says this about necessity: “Necessity knows no law… No law can bind a subject to do the impossible or anything morally evil… No one ever has a right to do a wrong,” (nos. 333, 337, 484). But how does this definition of necessity correspond to what is being done by Traditionalists? Moral evil is committing idolatry or gravely risking its commission by attending the masses and receiving the sacraments from those doubtfully ordained and consecrated. This can definitely be classified as “a wrong.” Traditionalists have no right to do this wrong, either on their own account but especially concerning others. And it is not impossible to keep the faith without resorting to doubtful sacraments. So how they manage to use this principle in any meaningful way is baffling in light of its definition.
Impossibility is discussed as follows by Revs. McHugh and Callan in their work, Moral Theology, A Complete Course:
“317. …though the law itself remains, there are cases in which non-observance of it is excused from guilt. These cases can be reduced to physical and moral impossibility.
(a) In cases of physical impossibility (i.e., when the powers requisite for observance are wanting), one is manifestly excused; for law is reasonable, and it is not reasonable to require impossibilities.
(b) In cases of moral impossibility (i.e., when a law cannot be kept without the infringement of a higher law or the loss of a higher good), one is also excused; for it is unreasonable to prefer the less to the more important.
“489. (b) Impossibility excuses from both obligation and guilt.
“492. Absolute or physical impossibility (i.e., the want of the power or of the means of complying with a law), of course, excuses from its observance; for no one is bound to what is impossible. This applies to divine law, and hence much more to human law. Example: He who is unable to leave the house is not obliged to go to Mass.
“494. Moral impossibility excuses from the observance of a human law in the following cases:
(a) One is excused when a considerable loss in health, reputation, SPIRITUAL ADVANTAGE, property, etc., or a grave inconvenience will result from observing a law which is not a prohibition of nature in the sense of the previous paragraph; for the legislator cannot impose obligations that are needlessly heavy, and hence positive law does not oblige in case of such moral impossibility. Example: OUR LORD REPROVED THE INHUMAN RIGOR OF THE PHARISEES, WHO INSISTED THAT THEIR REGULATIONS MUST BE OBSERVED, WHATEVER THE DIFFICULTY OR COST.
(b) One is excused when a lower or less urgent law is in conflict with a law that is higher or more urgent. In such a case the greater obligation prevails, and the lesser obligation disappears.”
Conclusions from the above
In invoking all the above, Traditionalists have created a prejudice among Catholics regarding the proper use of these principles. It is not wrong to appeal to epikeia in certain cases if one does so only in grave need, with great caution, and on rare occasions. But it was never meant to be used as a long-term solution for an ongoing emergency. And it cannot be used where there is any doubt regarding sacramental validity. Necessity does not apply because it seems to forbid the very things Traditionalists claim it allows them to do. They interpret laws forbidding them to act as an evil against the common good when such laws were made precisely to protect the faithful against the ministrations of hirelings and the sin of idolatry. There were other things that could have been done that would have greatly benefited the faithful but they failed to take the safer course and employ those means. Ironically, necessity could be used to support those choosing to pray at home.
“Impossibility excuses from both obligation and guilt,” meaning we cannot be blamed for not resorting to a bishop who does not exist. Physical impossibility is clearly at work here when we consider that it is impossible today to find a true priest or bishop to validly convey the Sacraments, far less consult to found a prayer society. And when the ecclesiastical superiors are lacking whom the law tells us we must approach in the usual order of things, then we can do what we need to do to provide for our spiritual needs without consulting them, within limits. This because moral impossibility excuses us from suffering a loss of a spiritual advantage, and not being able to pray together is definitely a disadvantage. Hence moral theology would allow us to pray together as long as we are willing to subject ourselves to a true pope and hierarchy should they ever be restored. McHugh and Callan note it was the Pharisees who insisted on a strict adherence to the law with no exceptions whatsoever. It is hoped this will satisfy those who may have doubts about praying together.
What in the World…
We have been viewing the virtual circus regarding what began as the consecration of Russia and Ukraine, “bishops” invited (not ordered) to join in, Ratzinger tacked on as a backup “pope” for conservative NO’s and some Trads, and now the news that humanity will be consecrated with especial mention of Russia and Ukraine. This amid cries from those watching the show that “this won’t work.” Well of course it won’t work – Francis is no pope. Who knows what comes next, but it is interesting to note that double agent Malachi Martin told one interviewer in 1996 that according to John Paul 2, Russia would move on the Ukraine and attempt to take Kiev. This would occur before 2017, and it would have something to do with Russia’s conversion, the “final solution.” (See the interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sosatXEV9JU. The whole event was preplanned over 25 years ago. Martin should know as one of the conspirators working both sides. Did Trump interrupt their timeline, precipitating his 2020 defeat? Possibly.
A clue to what is really about to happen may be found here: https://www.marysway.net/icon-consecration-of-russia-final-marian-dogma/ On Nov. 27, 2001, Josyp Terelya, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church’s conservative branch, consecrated Russia and its peoples to the Immaculate Heart of Mary along with the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. The image used for the consecration is called the Miraculous Icon, portraying the “final Marian dogma.” The patriarch presented Putin with a large, framed portrait of the Icon. This is interesting only because it provides a backdrop for what will likely evolve from the consecration event March 25. This event is a cleverly staged drama that will begin with the consecration by Francis and B16 which then will appear to halt the war. The culmination of the consecration could consist in the “return” of Russia to Rome as part of some pledge of peace, probably introducing Putin as the head of some new European/Asian alliance based on Russian orthodoxy — making him the “great monarch” and Francis “the great pope.” Francis would then help Putin negotiate peace for all and the two would rule the newly re-ordered world; scary and sobering stuff here. This would mark the realization of the great reset already in progress. And it will be based on what appears to be devotion to Our Lady, but instead is a frightening New Age perversion of that devotion.
Or, something unexpected could happen to throw everything off course. These people only THINK they are in control and can escape the wrath of God indefinitely. But that wrath will come upon them when they least expect it. We can only pray that in the aftermath we remain steadfast and save our own souls. O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Great and informative article, as usual!
“It is hoped this will satisfy those who may have doubts about praying together.” For those who harbor doubts as to whether praying together is licit, no article will be informative and great enough, because something deeper and darker is at the bottom! There is a serious disconnect between the Christian communal mentality and the Catholic who is so legalistically hampered as to believe one must seek ecclesiastic approval before praying the rosary together. I point that out here, not because I want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or sin against charity. On the contrary, it is because we who have studied Church law and held fast to Her teachings often are remiss in seeing the forest for the trees.
Just last week, someone again commented on my blog disapprovingly for writing about matters of Faith. Just as we must apparently seek out approval before talking with God, we must also seek out an imprimatur in order to talk to each other. Please, for the love of the Almighty Babe of Bethlehem, can we please stop with the insanity?
It looks like this has yet to happen, probably soon: “For when they shall say, peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape.” (1st Thessalonians 5:3)
Well said Robert, agree 100%. Much of the confusion perhaps is caused partly because of many years of disorder and discourse of all the sects that are in schism. All explained so well at this website. The “St. Michael prayer” alone can answer much of the confusion ” be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil”…………..may the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary pray for us.