Canon Law, Doubts of Law and Epikeia

Canon Law, Doubts of Law and Epikeia



Wishing all my readers a blessed Easter and spiritual and physical health in these difficult times. May you be granted all the graces you need to save your souls.


Before beginning this piece, a few reminders are in order. First of all, the minds of the popes have been clearly and forcefully represented in this series of blog posts and, for many years running, in articles on this website. Traditionalists may brandish canon laws on publishing to squelch the theological works of their opponents, but we long ago posted this article at the documents of several popes who encourage Catholics to defend the faith, especially in times such as these. (Please note the comment posted to the Palm Sunday blog on “ignorance” for important exceptions to this obligation). As we have noted in nearly every article posted to this website, the authority of the popes, the Sacred Congregations, the Ecumenical Councils and the unanimous opinions of theologians is superior to anything that can possibly be produced by Traditionalists on their own authority, whether they quote a specific  theologian or point to the canons. They betray their ignorance of the Catholic faith whenever they pretend that these inferior sources could ever provide them with the proofs of validity and liceity they are obligated to produce (Can. 200) to continue their ministrations, ministrations which the Roman Pontiffs have utterly voided.

Canon Law

Catholics are obliged to heed all papal decrees as well as obey the canons, which the Church tells us are negatively infallible (The Catholic Encyclopedia). This means they cannot teach anything contrary to doctrine, nor can these decrees be twisted around to make it appear they are doing so. We are to obey only the popes, Christ’s Vicars, NOT Traditionalists peddling their interpretations of papal decrees and Canon Law; they are not our lawful pastors as previous blogposts and website articles have repeatedly demonstrated. Nor can anyone object to laypersons who point out the teachings of Canon Law according to the very rules laid down for its interpretation (see And while Traditionalists try to make it seem that Canon Law can somehow be used to circumvent papal teaching, they have it backwards. This error is pointed out and circumscribed by Pope Pius IX in Quartus Supra, quoted in our blog piece on the necessity of the papal mandate:

“They call Our attention to the customs and canons of their churches as if We had abandoned the provisions of the sacred canons. We might respond to these men in the same way Our predecessor St. Gelasius did when the Acacian schismatics brought the same false accusation against him: They cite the canons against Us without knowing what they are saying since they show that they are themselves in opposition to the canons by the very fact that they deny obedience to the first See although its advice is sound and correct. For these are the very canons which recognize the full, divine authority of blessed Peter over the whole Church. Indeed, they proclaim that he lives and exercises judgment in his successors to the present time and forever, as the Council of Ephesus affirmed.”

Concerning Canon Law’s constitution, Rev. Francis J. Schaeffer writes in this volume: “The ultimate source of Canon Law is God, whose will is manifested either by the very nature of things (natural Divine law) or by Revelation (positive Divine law) …To attain its sublime end, the Church, endowed by its Founder with legislative power, makes laws in conformity with natural and Divine law. The sources or authors of this positive ecclesiastical law are essentially the episcopate and its head, the pope, the successors of the Apostolic College and its divinely appointed head, St. Peter. They are, properly speaking, the active sources of Canon Law. Their activity is exercised in its most solemn form by the ecumenical councils…(these) councils, especially…Trent, hold an exceptional place in ecclesiastical law… The sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of Canon Law: …From the earliest ages the letters of the Roman Pontiffs constitute, with the canons of the Councils, the principal element of Canon Law; … they are everywhere relied upon and collected, and the ancient canonical compilations contain a large number of these precious decretals.”

The Roman Pontiff has the last say on Canon Law; not vice versa. Owing to his supremacy of jurisdiction. The pope is bound by the laws he enacts, to set an example for the community. But according to Abp. Amleto Cicognani in his Canon Law (1935), he is still able to change those same laws and clarify them if any questions should arise. When it comes to interpretation, the mind of the lawgiver is the only trustworthy guarantee of what the Church teaches regarding any given canon of the 1917 Code, and this brings us to the considerations below.

Doubts of law


In the scheme of things, Can. 6§4 regarding doubts of law must be followed before the other canons (Can. 18 or 20) can even be consulted, but Traditionalists do not even attempt to obey this canon. Revs. Woywod-Smith write in their Canon Law commentary: “The student of Canon Law must keep in mind the rules of Can. 6 throughout the whole course of study of the Code, for these rules are the key to the correct interpretation of all the laws of the Code.” As Abp. Cicognani points out: “Correction of the law is essentially odious,” and Pope Pius XII has infallibly enshrined this statement in his Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis. Canon 6§4 instructs the canonists: “In case of doubt, whether some provision of the Canons differs from the old law, the old law must be followed.” Canon 18 tells readers that when they encounter doubts regarding ecclesiastical law, they must consult the end and circumstances of the law, the mind of the lawgiver and parallel passages of the Code.

So now we jump to Can. 18 to find the provisions of the old law listed under that canon, which number only two. The footnote admonishes canonists: “Our words are interpreted by others according to their intended meaning. The intention ought not to be subservient to the words, but the words to the intention. The first footnote source, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, Cochin, China,1827, explains: “Human law does not oblige, nor does it operate beyond the expressed intention of the legislator.” The second and primary source, Pope Eugenius IV’s letter Fide Digna, (July 8, 1440) teaches: “We say explicitly that it was not the intention of the lawgiver to expose the souls of the faithful to the danger of mortal sin in communicating… For the intention rather than the sound of words is to be carefully considered.” So much for the CMRI claim that Pope Pius XII would not wish his laws to bind because they are injurious to souls. Any rational person reading these words would automatically know that this intention could never countenance the clear lack of confessional jurisdiction Traditionalists falsely claim to possess and the Sacrament of the Eucharist they sacrilegiously administer. This is proven below.

Those wishing to question or term as doubtful any laws regarding the nature, possession or application of jurisdiction will first have to reject the infallible papal election law of Pope Pius XII, written specifically for these times. This law, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (, forbids anyone to usurp anything regarding papal jurisdiction or to change the laws or disregard them during an interregnum. Furthermore, there is Pope Pius XII’s related authentic interpretation of Can. 147 with its ipso facto excommunication especially reserved to the Holy Seefor: “1) those who contrive against legitimate ecclesiastical authorities or attempt in any way to subvert their authority; 2) anyone who without a canonical investiture or provision made according to the sacred canons occupies an ecclesiastical office, benefice or dignity, or allows anyone to be unlawfully intruded into the same, or who retains the same; 3)  those who have any part directly or indirectly in the crimes mentioned in one (1) and  two (2).” Canon 2345 also declares an ipso facto excommunication especially reserved to the Holy See for “usurpation and retention of the goods and rights of the Papacy.”

Canons 15 and 16

Abp. Amleto Cicognani discusses Canon 15, which states: “All laws, including invalidating and inhabilitating laws, lose their binding force in a doubt of law.” And Can. 16 states that no ignorance of invalidating or disqualifying laws excuse from their observance unless the law so states. Can. 15 is the canon most Traditionalists cite to justify dismissing a doubtful law as non-binding, allowing them to proceed to celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments. They ignore Can. 16. Cicognani explains Can.15 as follows: “The present Canon is not concerned with doubts about the divine law or those regarding the matter and form of the Sacraments. These points we leave to Moral Theology, particularly to that part which treats of Probabilism, which teaches that system is tenable though requiring caution in its use…The inscription of this title of the Code is Ecclesiastical Laws and of these alone, therefore, do we speak.” Both Cicognani and Revs. Woywod-Smith, in their Canon Law commentary, (also Revs. McHugh and Callan in their Moral Theology, A Complete Course, #678) list the following exceptions to Can. 15, which are enumerated below by Reverend Dominic Prummer, O.P., (Handbook of Moral Theology):

A doubtful law has no binding force whenever the doubt concerns the lawfulness of an act AND NOT ITS VALIDITY. Whatever may be said about the truth of this principle, which is fiercely attacked by some theologians, all modern theologians are agreed that it cannot be applied in the following cases:

“a) When the doubt concerns the validity of the Sacraments;
“b) When the doubt concerns something which is absolutely necessary for salvation” (for example, the necessity of obedience to the Roman Pontiff) or
“c) When the question involves the established right of a third party” (end of Prummer quote). Canon 682 documents the rights of the laity to receive the spiritual goods and especially the necessary means of salvation from theclergy, (but first PROVE that Traditionalists have received tonsure and are members of the clergy.) And this must be done “according to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline.”

In his The History, Nature, and Use of Epikeia in Moral Theology, Catholic University of America Press, (1948),  Rev. Lawrence Joseph Riley concurs with the above, writing on pages 344 and 347: “Those elements which are necessary to the validity of the Sacraments remain so EVEN IN THE FACE OF EXTREME DIFFICULTY OR IMPOSSIBILITY — much more so in the presence of a situation where the difficulty is not so grave. The Sacraments exist according to the institution of Christ or they don’t 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…In regard to the essence of these Sacraments, what has been explained above of all the Sacraments is applicable to them – viz., that epikeia is never licit.”

Traditionalists claim Rev. Riley’s work grants them the specific capacity to act, but they do not factor in the papal teaching which supersedes Riley’s work, the above teachings by canonists and theologians and the fact that this teaching cannot be merrily gainsaid since it is shown to be the unanimous opinion of the theologians. The higher law always prevails, but Traditionalists know no law. A thorough reading of Riley’s work will prove their allegations are baseless.

These exceptions to Can. 15 are founded on Bd. Pope Innocent XI’s teaching (DZ 1151), which forbids the use of probable opinions in the reception of the Sacraments. Prummer, agreeing with other Catholic canonists and theologians, explains that no one is allowed to perform an act while in a state of positive, practical doubt. When in doubt about whether an action is lawful, one must refrain from acting or remove the doubt. This is done directly by searching for the truth, and when that truth can be proven from the laws and teachings of the Church Herself, then there is no longer any doubt.

Since what Prummer presents on sacramental validity and eternal salvation is the unanimous opinion of theologians, it binds all Catholics as a truth of faith (see the blog post on religious assent). Pope Pius IX teaches in Tuas Libentur,(1863): “It is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church…It is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some other censure” (DZ 1684). Catholics have no choice but to obey.

Why Traditionalists are not serving the faithful

For a moment it will be useful to return to Pope St. Pius X and Acerbo Nimis, where this saintly pope emphasizes the necessity of teaching over that of administering the Sacraments as a means of salvation. Instead, Traditionalistswithhold necessary teachings of the Church from their followers to retain membership in whatever sect they operate, and essentially intellectually deprive them of the ability to inform their consciences and secure the state of their souls. While the canonists include especially the “necessary sacraments” among those means, these cannot be administered outside “the rules for ecclesiastical discipline,” (see Can. 682), and they certainly cannot be administered when there is any doubt regarding their validity, as demonstrated above. Moreover, only the sacrament of Baptism and Holy Orders are truly Sacraments necessary for salvation, and Holy Orders only when it is conferred in the manner prescribed by the Church. The preceding blogs have amply demonstrated just how far outside the rules of all ecclesiastical discipline Traditionalists operate, and how many different popes declare their actions null, void and invalid.

Very serious reasons sufficient to remove ALL doubt that Traditionalists could possibly be valid have been advanced from the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and office of the Holy See in questioning their validity. The following is only a brief summary of why any right-thinking Catholic should hold the sacraments dispensed by Traditionalists as doubtfully valid, based on those proofs.

  • All those Traditional priests now consecrated as bishops were ordained by Marcel Lefebvre and/or Peter Ngo dinh Thuc, (or one of their “successors”) during an interregnum despite the notorious nature of their affiliation with the Roman usurpers. Recognize and resist, practiced by both men, involves Catholics cooperating in sin with individuals St. Bernard and the ecumenical councils call antichrists.
  • Both Thuc and Lefebvre recognized John 23 and Paul 6 and their successors as true popes, said the Novus Ordo Missae, and signed Vatican 2 documents, incurring communicatio in sacris, schism and infamy of law, (Canons 2314 §3 and 188 no. 4). Infamy of law alone invalidates their ecclesiastical acts, including ordinations and consecrations (Can. 2294 §2). Their creation of any so-called clerics never happened.
  • Such public and external acts detailed above should be more than enough to convince a reasonable person that these men could not have acted with the intention to create truly Catholic priests and bishops loyal to the Roman Pontiff even if they had been able to do so validly.
  • None of the above possessed the required papal mandate before performing their consecrations and were excommunicated ipso facto per Pope Pius XII’s Ad Apostolorum Principis. Furthermore, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis also nullified even their attempted acts because we live during an interregnum.
  • None of these men received valid tonsure, (an act of jurisdiction, not orders), because Lefebvre and Thuc could not validly administer it since they possessed no jurisdiction. Without valid tonsure they are not considered clerics. “Those who have been assigned to the divine ministry at least by the first tonsure are called clerics” (Can. 108), and Cicognani says this canon originates from divine law. “By reception of the first tonsure, a cleric is ascribed to — or incardinated in — the diocese for the service of which he was promoted.” (Can. 111). What diocese?
  • None of those ordained or consecrated by anyone claiming to be a bishop attended papally erected and approved seminaries.
  • Few if any of their teachers were validly ordained before Pope Pius XII’s death, so the validity of their instruction in Catholic theology is gravely in question.
  • And the list goes on, and on…

Just as a doubtful law is no law and a doubtful pope is no pope, likewise doubtful sacraments are no sacraments. This is a universal principal of Canon Law now endorsed unanimously by moral theologians in this instance. It is not just the consecrations that are in question but the ordinations of those consecrated as well. And as both Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius XII teach infallibly, acts performed by those so consecrated outside the Church, and the acts of those they “ordain,” are null and void SIMPLY BECAUSE THE POPES SAY THEY ARE NULL AND VOID. These same popes also teach that we are bound to obey their edicts as a condition of eternal salvation, per (b) above in Rev. Prummer’s quote. This obedience to the laws regarding the sacraments IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION; receiving doubtfully valid Sacraments is a sacrilege, and sacrilege is a mortal sin. Therefore, these laws must be obeyed, if the safer course is to be followed, and indeed it must be followed regardless.

Furthermore, regarding the cessation of law, we read from the moral theologians: “If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be followed is: ‘In doubt, decide for that which has the presumption.In this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it was certainly made, and there is no probability for its non-continuance,” (St. Alphonsus Liguori as quoted by Revs. McHugh and Callan under the rules of conscience in their Moral Theology: A Complete Course). What better “presumption” than the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs that bind us in conscience?! Regarding these laws governing the canonical assessment of doubt, we have amply demonstrated in the preceding blog pieces that the Roman Pontiffs themselves provide the grounds for regarding both the consecration of Traditional bishops as well as the men these “bishops” subsequently “ordain” as null, void and invalid. This is the highest form of proof, for the pope and his successors hold the primacy of jurisdiction and are the supreme legislators in the Church, (The Vatican Council, DZ 1823, 1831).

Canon 1812 tells us that acts issuing from the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Curia during the exercise of their office and entered as proof (in ecclesiastical courts) “prove the facts asserted,” (Can. 1816), and force the judge to pronounce in favor of the party producing the document, (commentary by Revs. Woywod-Smith). “Proof to the contrary is not admitted against Letters of the Roman Pontiff bearing his signature,” (Cicognani, ibid. p. 626, ft. note). Documents entered into the Acta Apostolic Sedis do not need to be submitted in the original or be an authenticated copy, (Can. 1819). “In doubt, facts cannot be presumed, but must be proved. When in doubt one must stand by presumption and presumption must yield to truth. There is no argument against the evidence. No argument or conclusion contrary to the evident facts is valid, (Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S. J., Summary of Scholastic Principles,1956). Therefore, no proof can be offered against these documents. These operating principles of the Roman Curia are one of the rules Canon Law requires those proceeding on the premise of doubt to consult, (see Can. 20).

Epikeia and Canons 16, 18, 20 and 21

  1. Epikeia is also excluded from use in invalidating laws, in the interests of the common good and in reference to Can. 15.

 Epikeia is considered only a moderating influence in the application of the law. Abp. Cicognani tells us under Can. 16, which explains that ignorance cannot be used to excuse oneself from invalidating and disqualifying laws: “EPIKEIA HAS NO PLACE IN INVALIDATING LAWS, for the common good demands certitude concerning the validity of acts” (Canon Law). He makes an exception for those things where the law, sacramental validity and matters involving eternal salvation, also the rights of third parties, are excluded from consideration in doubts of law. This is true because these exceptions concern validity, not lawfulness, as Prummer points out. So now we know that Traditionalists cannot claim they are serving the common good whenever these three principles are in question. The common good “demands certitude” in this regard, as Rev. Riley also states, and we have already seen such certitude cannot and does not exist.

Rev. Riley also states on p. 387 of his work already cited above: “At most, epikeia can excuse the individual from the precept, but it can never confer the capacity to act. Epikeia cannot bestow upon him the power which he does not now possess, nor can epikeia restore the power which the law has withdrawn. For such bestowal or restoration of power a positive act is required.” The Roman Pontiffs who have voided these acts cannot be consulted concerning a decision on the matter, but they have left copious works to us which indicate their intention in no uncertain terms. Rev. Riley rightly states that “The lawful use of epikeia demands on the part of the subject a prudent judgment that the legislator excluded from his law the case in question,” and such a judgment Traditionalists cannot provide.

  1. Canons 18 and 21 won’t save them.

In their rush to justify their actions, Traditionalists appeal to Can. 20, disregarding the method provided by Canon Law to resolve doubts. Since there really is no doubt that can be resolved in their case, considering the Sacraments are excluded from consideration, their appeal is only an exercise in futility. Abp. Cicognani says about Canon 18: “If there is a law covering this case, this rule (Can. 20) is not to be applied according to the meaning of Can. 18.” In a doubt of law, Canon 18 refers readers to parallel passages of the Code, the end and circumstances of the law and the mind of the legislator. As seen above, the supreme legislators, the Roman Pontiffs, have given the faithful abundant indications of their intentions both in their non-infallible and infallible pronouncements — end of story. As Abp. Cicognani and Rev. Charles Augustine both point out, Canon 21 would temper Canon 20 anyway, even though Traditionalists are not allowed to bypass Can. 18 to appeal to that canon.

Canon 21: “Laws made for the purpose of safeguarding the public against a common danger bind, even though in a particular case there is no danger.” Under Can. 19, Can. 21 must be interpreted strictly, because, as Abp. Cicognani stated, “This principle establishes an exception…[to] the cessation of ecclesiastical law… The matter is closely connected with the doctrine on presumption, ‘A probable conjecture about an uncertain affair,’ that is, a deduction… Objectively considered, a presumption is termed…of private, or  personal danger, or of common danger, when the law presumes that in certain  circumstances there exists…for all individuals the danger of sin or fraud, deception or perversion.” But Cicognani has already told us that doubts regarding divine law and the matter and form of the Sacraments cannot be covered under the heading of ecclesiastical law. A probable conjecture (probability) cannot be used in regard to the Sacraments. But because Traditionalists misinterpret the terms of Can. 21 to suit themselves, this canon will be examined below.

What Traditionalists dispute here is the definition of common danger. They present this common danger as the absence of Mass and Sacraments, the ordinary means of grace, because they tell their followers this is the only possible way to save their souls. But the Church provides other channels of grace and substitutes for this loss (Act of Perfect Contrition, Spiritual Communion, St. John’s Mass), means which Traditionalists denigrate and even denounce. What might their motives be? Suffice it to say that money and power are only two possibilities that come to mind. But the REAL common danger, mentioned above by Cicognani, is “the danger of sin or fraud, deception or perversion.” Sin, being the sacrileges Traditionalists commit and induce others to commit in dispensing and receiving the “sacraments,” which cannot fall under the title of ecclesiastical laws.  Fraud and deception meaning the misrepresentation of the true means of grace, the infallible teachings of the Church, the very nature of that infallibility and the true status of the “clergy” — those simulating Mass and Sacraments. Perversion? Well that is a story all in itself, and it is not limited to Novus Ordo clergy by any means.


Reverends Cicoganni, Bouscaren-Ellis, Woywod-Smith, Francis Miaskiewicz, Raymond Kearney, Lawrence Joseph Riley, McHugh and Callan — all these canonists and theologians also warn in their works of the great caution that must be used in applying epikeia, and the many dangers of abuse in attempting this application even if limited, as it must be, to ecclesiastical law; but matters concerning the Sacraments and eternal salvation do not fall under ecclesiastical laws (1).  Abp. Cicognani clearly states it is NOT to be applied to invalidating laws (2) and they must adhere to laws governing doubts under Can. 18 that would consult the circumstance of the law and the intention of the lawgiver (3). So that is three strikes you’re out for Traditionalists.

Epikeia cannot be said to overturn the unanimous opinion of theologians, far less papal decrees. These are documented expressions of the mind of the lawgiver binding on the consciences of the faithful and cannot be dismissed. The intention of the lawgiver can never be construed to approve anything that would amount to an abuse of the Sacraments. The lawfulness of Traditionalist acts is not what is being questioned here as Prummer observes. It is the very validity of their acts, and at no time can that validity ever be in doubt when it involves the Sacrament of Orders and jurisdiction necessary for the Sacrament of Penance, the Eucharistic consecration or a question involving eternal salvation. Obedience to the lawgivers, the Roman Pontiffs, alone is the overriding interpreter of Canon Law and they have spoken frequently and eloquently on the nullity and invalidity of Traditionalist acts. The choice is to obey either the Continual Magisterium or Traditionalists, and Catholics who hear the voice of their Shepherd know who they must choose to follow. “He who is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scatters” (Matt. 12:30).




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Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

© Copyright 2013, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author. All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)

“The sacred Canon Law against which the rebellious wills and shallow intellects of men have ever clamoured is the noblest, highest, purest legislation that mankind has ever known. The jurisprudence of the Church is the perfection of wisdom and justice,” (Henry Cardinal Manning, from his work “The Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost.”)


Already on this site the liberal-based interpretive theory of jurisdiction among Traditionalists has been addressed and explained and its inapplicability in the present situation made abundantly clear. Basically the Canons Traditionalists have officially appealed to in the past, 209 and 2261§2 cannot be invoked for the following reasons. To begin with, Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz and others juridically define the supplying principle in Can. 209, “the Church,” as the Pope, and without a true pope no jurisdiction can be supplied. Furthermore, Can. 209 presupposes that the priests considered for such jurisdiction are both validly and licitly ordained and are members of the Church (who have not incurred censures for apostasy, heresy or schism in a notorious manner), but this cannot be proven where Traditionalists are concerned. It also must be pointed out that Can. 2261§2 is an exception to the law and must be interpreted strictly, (Can. 19). This means that it cannot be stretched beyond its ordinary application to include those who are notorious heretics and schismatics (having adhered to the Novus Ordo and any of its services) or those who, having been ordained or consecrated by bishops without the necessary papal mandate and not in communion with a canonically elected pope are now unable to validly exercise their orders. Finally, Canon Law itself provides the rules necessary to resolve a doubt of law or fact and the interpretative theory ignores the obligation to follow this requirement. If any doubt exists concerning the validity of the Sacraments, they can neither be conferred nor received, (DZ 1151).

How is it that those who founded Traditionalism arrived at the conclusion that it was permissible for them to relax these laws and to disobey and disregard them, as they have routinely done since they embraced the various Traditionalist movements? The answer can be found in an article printed in the May 1965 edition of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by one Fr. Robert G. Wesselmann, J.C.L., (“Canon Law: Criticisms and Reactions”). Wesselmann begins by saying: “When Pope John XXIII announced plans for an Ecumenical Council in 1959, he immediately indicated that one goal would be revision of the Code of Canon Law. At first canonists thought of revision merely in terms of tidying up the present Code — eliminating inconsistencies in terminology, incorporating laws enacted since 1917 and changing a few specific laws…in accordance with Conciliar decrees. Now even canonists are having second thoughts about the place of law in the mission of the Church.”

Some, he says, wished to abolish the law altogether; others were firm in insisting that the law must simply be obeyed and respected, not attenuated. Wesselemann comments: “There is need for public opinion that thinks of renewal in Canon Law in terms which lie midway between these two extremes,” and this statement sends up red flags. First, what role could public opinion possibly hope to play in numerous ancient laws that reflect the disciplinary traditions of the Church, including 4,000 citations from papal constitutions, 1,200 from ecumenical councils, 11,200 from the Roman Curia and 800 taken from liturgical books, numbers estimated by Rev. Amleto Cicognani? And secondly, why is it necessary to compromise with such people? The “midway” mark is nothing less than the thinly disguised thesis, antithesis, synthesis methodology of the Communists who having infiltrated the Church, were intent on moving Catholic truth ever closer to their desired ecumenical and humanist standards. Below we will see how already in 1965, this effort was well underway.

Catechetical renewal and Canon Law

The remarks made by Wesselmann under this heading show just how ignorant Catholics were of their faith in the 1960s, even those who had enjoyed a Catholic education, and how some were afflicted by scruples, especially where morals were concerned. It leads Wesselmann to observe that something was basically wrong with the Catholic school system or those teaching in it, and/or the education priests received in the seminary, and we opt for the latter. Wesselmann quotes Andrew Greeley who posed the question: Which is more important, love of neighbor or not eating meat on Friday? Greeley says that 53 percent responded not eating meat. Yet the question is not qualified; loving God is far superior to love of neighbor, and we show our love for God in abstaining from meat on Friday. Clerics had long before forgotten that it was their responsibility to ensure that Catholics understood Church teaching and Canon Law, something they woefully failed to do, as evidenced by the mass acceptance of the false Vatican 2 council. Rather than reform the schools, or the seminaries, vocations declined dramatically and schools routinely closed, which was the secret plan of the usurpers all along.

Canon Law and the Liturgy

“Most of the disdain for Canon Law stems from the liturgical renewal…Much of the criticism is [not] aimed at the Code of Canon Law but at the pharisaical abuse of the law…Yet Canon Law must be partially blamed, at least by defect, for the legalism which the liturgists decry.” Isn’t this the very accusation of legalism Pope Pius XII so roundly condemns in Mystici Corporis, where he wrote: “Not only should we cherish exceedingly the Sacraments with which holy Mother Church sustains our life, the solemn ceremonies which she celebrates for our solace and our joy, the sacred chant and the liturgical rites by which she lifts our minds up to heaven, but also the sacramentals and all those exercises of piety by which she consoles the hearts of the faithful and sweetly imbues them with the Spirit of Christ. As her children, it is our duty, not only to make a return to her for her maternal goodness to us, but also to respect the authority which she has received from Christ in virtue of which she brings into captivity our understanding unto the obedience of Christ. Thus we are commanded to obey her laws and her moral precepts, even if at times they are difficult to our fallen nature…”

Wesselmann then goes on to champion the “’rights of every person in the Church…for whom the liturgy exists’…The Code sins by defect in not promoting the use of a living pastoral theology. Nor does it provide legal structures for dialogue between the various levels of membership in the Church…In the Code, the emphasis is on institutional rights, on the rights of authority, not on the place of God’s people in the Church and their rights.” So we know that the Code, compiled of numerous binding conciliar and papal teachings regarding the liturgy was opposed to the implementation of the Novus Ordo Missae. This was seen as a major obstacle to the goals of the usurpers and their cohorts because the Code mandated the power of authority (the continual magisterium) to uphold these rights. Why else would liturgical renewal advocates, among them Roncalli, Montini and many others find Canon Law so unfriendly to their endeavors? And here the sickening me-syndrome psychology that permeated society in the 20th century also rears its ugly head. Just as parents were instructed to proceed in the psychological manuals of the day, pastors were advised that to demand obedience from their subjects violated the rights and dignity of “the People of God.” They were told, instead, to understand their children, to counsel them rather than discipline them and to love them “unconditionally.” Only now is society beginning to see the frightening results of this dangerous family experiment. And the extension of that experiment into Novus Ordo channels — the use of “dialogue” and the pastoral leniency practiced over the past several decades — has only resulted in an unhealthy familiarity of the clergy with the faithful that undoubtedly has contributed to the sexual abuse problem rampant in the Novus Ordo.

In his 1956 address to students at the Vienna Law School, “Church Life and Church Law,” Pope Pius XII addresses the very legalism Wesselmann protests throughout his article. In this address, Pius XII wrote: “Church law is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Like everything else in the Church, it is at the service of the “salus animarum” (salvation of souls) and is therefore a matter of pastoral care. It should assist in opening and smoothing ways into the hearts of men for the truth and grace of Jesus Christ…Many canons, to be sure are only protective norms, such as those which guard the Faith from decay and keep the dignity of grace and the sacraments from sacrilege. But in addition to these there are canons which are built into the very structure of the Church by Her Divine Founder and which are indeed in direct accordance with her nature. These include such forms of organization of the Mystical Body of Christ as the laws regulating the constitution of the Church and those defining the powers of the Pope and of the Bishops. Christ founded His Church not as a formless spiritual movement but as a strongly organized association.

“Certainly Church law must not stifle the spiritual and supernatural values in whose service it exists. The charge has been made that it does this very thing and people have spoken of the “legalization” of the Church. This charge is quite often leveled at the inflexibility with which the Church holds fast to the indissolubility of a legally contracted and consummated Christian marriage…We do not need to tell jurists that the few laws of Apostolic times would not be sufficient to direct a world Church of over 400 million souls today…The new arrangement of Church laws…coincided with the physical spreading out and inner development of the Church in the 19th century…The Church has not come thereby to any “legalization.” …Church life and Church law belong together. A symbol of this for you would be that of the sainted Pope Pius X…creator of the new Church code of laws by which he opened the sources and sluices of all sacramental life,” (“The Pope Speaks,” 1956-7).

Let’s begin by noting that Wesselmann’s statement above, “In the Code, the emphasis is on institutional rights, on the rights of authority, not on the place of God’s people in the Church and their rights,” stands in direct contradiction to the teaching of Pope Pius XII. “Clergy and laity must realize that the Church is fitted and authorized, as are the Bishops for the sake of the faithful entrusted them, in accordance with Canon Law to promote ecclesiastical discipline and see to its observance,” (even in those matters which do not have their immediate origin in natural or divine law). “Clerics and laity may not exempt themselves from this discipline; rather all should be concerned to obey it…” (“The Church and its Powers of Sanctifying and Ruling,” Nov. 2, 1954) The use of epikeia by Traditionalists as a cure all for any and every canon law that is not elastic enough to serve the “people of God” in these “unprecedented times” are a clear concession to these perceived rights, which may never be demanded by any faithful under censure, hence forbidden to receive the Sacraments, nor requested from one who is a notorious heretic or schismatic. And the minute any of those who have even the slightest doubt that these men are not valid or licit yet continue to seek their services, they separate themselves from the Church through communicatio in sacris, or communication with a schismatic minister, even if the Sacraments they receive are neither valid nor licit.

What is paramount here are the rights of the Church. As Pope Leo XII taught in his encyclical letter Tametsi: “About the ‘rights of man,’ as they are called we have heard enough. It is time we should hear about the rights of God !” During an interregnum, no one is to make any determination in any way concerning “the rights of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church, nor attempt in any way to subtract directly or indirectly from the rights of the same on the pretext of a relaxation of attention or by the concealment of actions perpetrated against these same rights even after the death of the Pontiff or in the period of the vacancy. On the contrary, We desire that the College ought to watch over and defend these rights during the contention of all influential forces” (Pope Pius XII, Vacantis Apostolica Sedis,” 1945). And this section, at least, of Pope Pius XII’s constitution was delivered by his “Supreme Authority,” hence is infallible. The Church indisputably enjoys the right to enforce Her laws, and demand obedience to those laws from the faithful, as Pope Pius XII teaches. And as Pope Pius XII also taught, in the absence of the hierarchy the role of defending these laws and rights falls to the faithful.

As this same pope also states above, the law is a matter of pastoral care. It is obvious that in the 1960s, pastors were tired of doing their jobs and wished to branch out into more social aspects of their “ministry,” such as Protestants are wont to do. The law was a shackle they wish to shed. Yet clearly the Pope warns law students and the Church in general that not all laws are “protective norms”; many in fact are woven into the very constitution of the Church. They are necessary to protect the foundation Christ provided for Her survival. It appears that already in the 1950s, the very issues Wesselmann addresses in his article were being tossed around in legal circles, and the pope clearly dismisses these accusations as baseless. But Vatican 2 theologians “knew better;” the new age of their church had already dawned. In a later address to Pastors on “Preaching the Word of God,” (September, 1956) Pope Pius XII warned theologians that: ”Theologians do not carry on their work through divine right but through the delegation of the Church…The decisive factor in knowing the truth is not the opinio theologorum but the ‘sensus Ecclesiae.’ To reverse the matter would be making theologians practically the magistri Magisterii, which is obviously an error,” (“The Pope Speaks,” 1956-7).

Ah, but this is precisely what Traditionalists longed to be. And they took their position from people like Wesselmann who were obligated to obey Pope Pius XII even after his death, but who chose instead to commit themselves to the destruction of the Church.

Theological criticism

Wesselmann informs us through another author that Canon Law is “’a blight on Christian theology and practice’” and supports its separation from moral theology in the seminaries to present it “in the abiding principles of the Gospel without the refinements of legal concepts.’” Wesselmann favors reorienting Canon Law to the laity and eliminating certain canons that impede “changing needs and inspiration of the Spirit.” In other words, he advocates the orientation of Canon Law not to the common good, as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, but to individual needs, which upends the entire purpose of all law. He believes the system should be “left open” for the benefit of the laity, and suggests that not many laws be made or retained about lay people in order to facilitate “transition.” Unfortunately we know only too well what such transition led to and its tragic consequences for the entire Church of Christ on earth. And obviously, given what Pope Pius XII teaches above, this was never the teaching of the true Church.

Canonical equity and multiple dispensations

Here we get to the meat of the matter as concerns Traditionalists, for this addresses the principle of epikeia, imbuing it with precisely those same properties that Traditionalists ascribe to it today. In choosing to favor epikeia as the answer to the problem of “multiple dispensations,” leaving it up to the laity (who he already has admitted are largely ignorant of their religion), Wesselmann effectively dilutes all authority of the hierarchy in the Church, pretending the laity are able and qualified to decide for themselves on moral matters without the strictures of “legalism.” He writes: “To be able to do away with the present system, we would need greater emphasis on equity (justice tempered by fairness, moderation, mercy) in enacting and enforcing laws and more frequent exercise of the virtue of epikeia by the subjects of the law…For the subjects of law, it means willingness to apply the law in concrete circumstances, not according to its letter but according to its spirit…” He wishes to leave the determination of this “equity” to the average layperson, and encourages “the rejection of constant readiness to place any and every perplexity before one’s superiors…The present penal section of the Code…is needlessly complicated and might be virtually abolished,” as it was in effect when the 1983 Code of Canon Law was issued.

Entirely ignored here is how the laity is to determine the “spirit” of these laws. Canonists writing before Wesselmann had laid out the method by which even the laity could determine its spirit. But few lay people ever cracked open anything concerning the law so knew nothing of this method. And obviously canonists were not well versed in it either, or chose to ignore it as “legalistic bunk” with which the faithful should not be “burdened.” As noted in the site article “Who May interpret Canon Law?” the canonist Rev. Matthew Ramstein, S.T. Mag, J.U.D., OFM (“A Manual of Canon Law,” 1947) says that even private individuals may use the rules for proper interpretation provided in Canon Law itself in trying to resolve certain cases not covered in the Code, provided that no authentic interpretation of the law is available. Speaking of Pope Benedict XV’s Motu Proprio promulgating Canon Law, Monsignor Amleto Cicognani writes: “There is no prohibition in the Motu-proprio of private interpretation, which may be doctrinal or usual…It is said to be doctrinal when it is given by those skilled in canon law; customary (also called usual) when it is derived from unwritten practive, that is custom…General rules for the right interpretation of the Code are given in Canons 17 ff, besides those of Canons 5 and 6, (“Canon Law,” 1935, pgs. 434, 598-9).

As Rev. Nicholas Neuberger explains in his dissertation, “Canon 6,” (Catholic University of America, 1927), “Of old, the jurists distinguished between a mere declaration of and the interpretation of the law. The declaration today is called comprehensive interpretation. Its scope is not to change the law but determines the sense of the law comprehended therein from the beginning. Therefore, it adds or subtracts nothing from the original meaning…The comprehensive interpretation adds nothing anew but explains more and more the significance attached to the words… Ordinarily, every private individual may interpret laws according to the rules of jurisprudence, unless a special prohibition has been made…The code, in Canon 6 §2 bids us have recourse to the doctrine of the approved authors. The authentic, however, always remains the guide for the doctrinal.” So the sense or “spirit” of these laws is very well defined for conscientious canonists and lay people who wish to consult them. But it was never the intention of the Novus Ordo crowd to obey anything that went before, although one would think it would be the intention of Traditionalists. And the “spirit” of the law is not to be equated with its sense, according to Wesselmann. For he associates “spirit” with the “liberty” of Christians, redefined by John 23 in his “Religious Liberty” allocution, to do as they see fit, regardless of whether he believes their consciences are properly formed. The entire thrust of employing epikeia in his article is to reduce Canon Law to “directive regulations” and “suggestions of law.” This is all too akin to other efforts to dilute Christianity in general by relegating even the natural law to the status of the “Ten Suggestions.” Therefore the “moral principles…of the Gospel” Wesselmann says are superior to Canon Law were not safe either, for once Canon Law was relaxed, there was no legal framework left to protect them.

Subsidiarity, marriage cases

As noted elsewhere, the idea of subsidiarity as defined by Pope Pius XII and Vatican 2 subsidiarity are two entirely different animals. Pope Pius XII encouraged the participation of the laity in the salvation of souls process by promoting Catholic Action, which promptly disappeared following his death. Wesselmann suggests the Church, contrary to Her own definition of the lay state in the 1917 Code, involve the laity in the actual legislative process of the Church, something the Church has long condemned. Pope Pius XII was very careful to place specific restrictions on this participation, but as we all know today the Novus Ordo church has removed all barriers between laity and clergy in its quest for liberty, equality and fraternity. Here is mentioned collegiality at all levels, in order to pay homage to and accommodate the precious “People of God.” Thus is the entire hierarchical structure of the Church overthrown as anticipated, for without their true shepherd all the sheep scattered.

Marriage is simply an outline of what the Novus Ordo would do and has done over the past several decades, flouting its law of equity in granting countless annulments and dissolutions of marriages for the benefit of “the human person.” Pope Pius XII was well aware of what they were already up to here in his own time.


It is quite interesting to note that Traditional personalities such as Fr. Gommar de Pauw, (Bp.) Robert McKenna and Fr. Lawrence Brey were contributors to the Homiletic and Pastoral Review at least into the mid-1960s, even after the convening of Vatican 2. Sedeprivationist Guerard des Lauriers wrote for other publications as well. Nor do their letters and articles reflect any particular beef with the Vatican 2 church, although by 1964 De Pauw had separated himself from the Novus Ordo and had begun the Catholic Traditionalist Movement. He operated under the displaced Chinese bishop Blaise S. Kurz, a Franciscan. But unfortunately Kurz wrote on de Pauw’s behalf: “The aim of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement is simply the FULL implementation of ALL decisions of the recent Ecumenical Council, including the one providing the people with a choice between the old Latin liturgy and the new vernacularized one,” (“Declaration,” para. 7, Bishop Kurz ordained one priest, Gunther Storck, who later joined the Thucites. Des Lauriers “consecrated” Storck bishop April 30, 1984, ( ). At any rate it appears that all these men, doctors of Canon Law or not, imbibed the pernicious spirit of change in the Church to varying degrees. This accounts for the adoption of their present views on Canon Law in general and jurisdiction, epikeia and other points of law in particular. They then carried these false liberal and ecumenical ideas of Canon Law into the Traditionalist movement and communicated them to their fellow “clerics.” Yet why, then, was their official stance to condemn the Novus Ordo and all it stands for?

Only they can answer such questions. But the fact remains that they have taught the faithful and others tenets of a false religion and have abided by those tenets themselves. Never before in the history of the Church would statements such as those presented above have been tolerated in a purportedly “Catholic” publication by no less than a canon lawyer. Gesselmann was right about one thing: These men failed to receive proper training in the seminaries, and he can include himself in the mix. How often have you heard Traditionalists fling the “legalism” accusation at their opponents who accuse them of violating Canon Law? The teaching of Pope Pius XII is the final word on this, and it proves their accusations are not only contrary to Catholic Faith but also are supportive of the present church in Rome. Since the entire basis for this legalistic claim proceeded from the liturgical renewal movement, how could these self-righteous supporters of the immemorial Latin Mass justify their invocation of epikeia knowing that much of what prompted it was the very type of thinking and believing that destroyed the Mass?! Is it just coincidence that these Novus Ordo traitors were out to get rid of all disciplinary law, especially the various censures that forbid them to function in the first place and which place Traditionalists outside the Church? Is it surprising that this article definitely plays down the role of the hierarchy in favor of individual autonomy?

The fact that des Lauriers, McKenna and Storck all eventually supported the outrageous “material papacy” hoax (see the site article under this title) proves that these men and the organizations responsible for their creation never really abandoned their loyalties to the counterfeit church set up by the usurpers. They simply recognized an opportunity to appear to be ultra-Catholic and function without any juridic constraints or direction. And they seized upon that opportunity to indulge in their own ambitions at the expense of the faithful. For them, all roads really do lead back to Rome, but it is NOT the Rome of the Sovereign Pontiffs beginning with St. Peter and ending in the reign of Pope Pius XII.

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Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

The Origin and Use of Epikeia

The Origin and Use of Epikeia

© Copyright 2009, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.)

For the past 36 years, Traditionalist clergy so-called have operated chapels and Mass centers. They have celebrated the Sacred Mysteries, preached from their pulpits, absolved penitents from their sins, consecrated and ordained priests and bishops and have liberally distributed literature that passes for Catholic teaching. They have done all this despite the absence of the Roman Pontiff, the Head of the Mystical Body on earth, the man to whom alone Christ entrusted the keys of orders and jurisdiction and the universal governance of the Church. To operate without his guidance, Traditionalist have long relied upon two principles they claim allow them to function with a clear conscience in times such as these, when no authority exists to whom to appeal. These principles are known in legal circles as epikeia or equity and ecclesia supplet. Aristotle first proposed the principle of epikeia, which then was applied to Greek and Roman law. It is explained and retained by St. Thomas in his Summa Theologica. This principle was first applied to ecclesiastical law during the time of the Great Schism. Ecclesia supplet, actually a concession granted by the law, is found in Can. 209. This Canon provides jurisdiction in cases of common error or doubt, for the benefit of the faithful, whenever it is lacking. Both principles will be explained below. Of course the lawgiver would not wish us to yield, but rather to flee. This is equity as described by St. Thomas of Aquinas.

St. Thomas teaches in the Summa that epikeia or equity is part of the virtue of justice. He describes the use of epikeia as follows: “It was not possible to lay down rules of law that would apply to every single case. Legislators…attend to what commonly happens, although if the law be applied to certain cases it will frustrate the equality of justice and be injurious to the common good, which the law has in view.”(St Thomas then goes on to give the examples of application in the use of epikeia, such as a madman who has deposited his sword with another and wishes to redeem it to do harm, or fight against his country. In another place, St. Thomas cites the example of citizens fleeing from an enemy. The gates of the city are ordered locked by the authorities, but the use of epikeia demands that they be opened for the welfare of these citizens.) “In these and like cases it is bad to follow the law, and it is good to set aside the letter of the law, and to follow the dictates of justice and the common good This is the object of epikeia which we call equity. Therefore it is evident that epikeia is a virtue.” However, “Epikeia does not set aside that which is just in itself, but that which is just as by law established.” (“Summa Theologica,” Pt. II-II, Q. 120, Art. 1).


So just what is meant by the principle of epikeia? Epikeia or equity “consists of the principles of natural justice so far as they are used to explain or correct a positive human law if this is not in harmony with…positive law in its literal interpretation. The law must be expounded… according to the intent of the lawgiver and the principles of natural justice,” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1 Law, Concept of, V. Cathrein).

Manual of Christian Doctrine: “Q. What is human law? A. Human law is a rule promulgated by either Church or state authority… It comes from God inasmuch as He makes men sharers in His authority…It is divided into civil law and ecclesiastical law…[which] is that which has been established for the spiritual welfare of the faithful,” (A Seminary Professor, published 1926 by John Joseph McVey). Positive human law is that which obliges us to perform an obligatory act, such as yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk. But if the pedestrian is a carjacker with a 357 Magnum, of course such a circumstance would justify violating the law.

In his treatise on human law, St. Thomas Aquinas treats those things which are beside the letter of the law, basically reiterating what was said above with the following qualifications: “Nevertheless, it must be noted, that if observance of the law according to the letter does not involve any sudden risk needing immediate remedy, it is not competent for everyone to expound what is useful and what is not useful…Those alone can do this who are in authority and who, on account of such like cases, have the power to dispense from the laws. If however, the peril be so sudden as not to allow of the delay involved by referring the matter to authority, the mere necessity brings with it a dispensation, since necessity knows no law…[But] if it be a matter of doubt, he must act according to the letter of the law, or consult those in power,” (Ibid, Pt. I-II, Q. 96, Art. 6). The Traditionalist Thuc-line bishop Moises Carmona invoked St. Thomas’ teaching on this necessity, which must accompany epikeia to justify his consecration by Bp. Thuc in 1982, ( And yet there were none in “power” as the Church defines this power to consult.

Rev. Amleto Cicognani quotes ancient Roman law, stating, “In all things but especially in law (human law is meant) equity is to be regarded,” (“Canon Law”).

Revs. McHugh and Callan make it clear that epikeia applies only to human law. “All human law is subject to epikeia…Epikeia is at once lawful and dangerous…It is dangerous, for it rests on the judgment of the individual, which is prone to decide in his own favor to the detriment of common good as well as self. Epikeia by its very nature imposes certain limits on its use. Epikeia is not applicable to the Divine law; for the Divine Lawgiver foresaw all cases that could arise, and so excluded all exceptions…One may not excuse modern forms of cheating, because they were not thought of when the Decalogue was given. One may not omit baptism on the ground that Christ Himself would have excused from it, had He foreseen the circumstances. Epikeia is not applicable to those laws whose universal observance is demanded by the common good,” for example that the Church would not wish the laws governing diriment impediments to oblige, owing to serious inconvenience…” If there is a doubt that the lawgiver would not wish his law to be subject to epikeia, “One should investigate to the best of one’s ability and have recourse, if possible, to the legislator or his representative for a declaration or a dispensation. It is never lawful to use epikeia without reasonable certainty that the legislator would not wish the law to apply here and now…A person should not use epikeia except in necessity, when he is thrown on his own resources and must decide for himself. Even then, he must be sure that he acts from sincerity and disinterestedness,” (“Moral Theology: A Complete Course,” Vol. I, #s 411- 415).

Rev. H. J. Davis, S.J. agrees with McHugh and Callan concerning the use of epikeia: “Natural and Divine law do not admit of the use of epikeia, since the Divine Author of such law has foreseen every contingency,” (“Moral and Pastoral Theology,” Vol. I).

The Jesuits T. Lincoln Bouscaren and Adam Ellis have this to say concerning epikeia: “Epikeia is an interpretation exempting one from the law contrary to the clear words of the law and in accordance with the mind of the legislator. It is evidently a very exceptional thing. It may be used with prudent discretion and is justified only in a particular case where (a) the strict interpretation of the law would work a great hardship; (b) in view of the usual interpretation it may be prudently conjectured that, in this particular case, the legislator would not wish the law to be strictly applied. The general and habitual interpretation of a law contrary to its clear terms is not epikeia, but an evident abuse,” (“Canon Law: A Text and Commentary,” 1946, pgs. 33-34).

Revs. Prummer, Jone and Card. Cicognani all concur that invalidating and incapacitating laws are beyond the scope of epikeia.

Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz, in his Canon Law dissertation “Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209” wrote: “The important point to bear in mind is that jurisdiction…is a juridical factor and that jurisdictional laws are at least equivalently invalidating or incapacitating laws…The required power of jurisdiction is necessary to posit validly a jurisdictional act. Those who have not that power, even should they possess all other qualifications, simply cannot validly act.” Were these men validly and licitly admitted to seminary for training, did they receive valid and licit tonsure and minor Orders, did they receive the requisite training? Are these men validly and licitly ordained? Were the bishops who ordained these men validly and licitly ordained and consecrated? Have they since lost their jurisdiction owing to heresy apostasy or schism under Can. 188 no. 4? Did they obtain a papal mandate? So not only do they not possess jurisdiction licitly, but neither were called, trained, ordained and/or consecrated licitly.

From “The History, Nature, and Use of Epikeia in Moral Theology,” by Father Lawrence Joseph Riley, Copyright 1948, The Catholic University of America Press, INC. Imprimatur: + Richardus Jacobus Cushing. D.D., 7 May, 1948:

• Epikeia may be used only with the greatest discretion; in the internal forum it may be applied to affirmative precepts and to negative precepts (ecclesiastical and civil), but very infrequently with regard to affirmative precepts, because the latter, binding semper but not pro semper, are more susceptible of interpretation than of epikeia.

• Epikeia is not to be identified with interpretation, dispensation, presumed permission, excusing cause, or popular acceptance of human law.

• Epikeia may not be applied to precepts of the natural law, nor to precepts of the divine positive law of the New Testament.

• It seems probable that the use of epikeia was not permissible in reference to precepts of the divine positive law of the Old Testament.

• Human invalidating laws sometimes cease to bind; but epikeia may not be applied to human invalidating laws.

Father Riley informs us on page 344:

“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.”

Father Riley informs us on page 347:

“In regard to the essence of these Sacraments, what has been explained above of all the Sacraments is applicable to them – viz., that epikeia is never licit.”

Father Riley informs us on page 387.

“At most, epikeia can excuse the individual from the precept, but it can never confer the capacity to act. Epikeia cannot bestow upon him the power which he does not now possess, nor can epikeia restore the power which the law has withdrawn. For such bestowal or restoration of power a positive act is required.”

Father Riley informs us on pages 232 and 233:

“Intimately connected with this problem is the question of whether or not epikeia has any standing in the external forum. It would appear to be the rather general consensus of authorities today that it has not. Writing in Apollinaris, D’ Angelo points out that St. Thomas considers epikeia to be a merely moral element, and that modern writers believe it to have reference only to moral, and not to juridic matters…Van Hove contends that, since epikeia is not an act of jurisdiction, it has value only in the internal forum. …Hilling seems almost unwilling to give any standing to epikeia at all. Believing that it practically amounts to self-dispensation, which is in contradiction to law as a binding norm, he concludes at the most that it may be recognized in the internal forum.” Revs. Cicoganni, Bouscaren-Ellis, Woywod-Smith, Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz, Rev. Raymond Kearney — all these canonists warn of the great caution that must be used in applying epikeia, and the many dangers of abuse in attempting this application.

Canon 11: “Those laws only are to be considered invalidating or inhabilitating which explicitly or equivalently state that an action is null and void, or that a person is incapacitated from acting,” (A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Revs. Callistus Smith and Stanislaus Woywod, O.F.M, 1925; the text of all Canon Law quotes is taken from this work.)

Canon 16: “No ignorance of invalidating or inhabilitating laws excuses from their observance, unless the law explicitly admits ignorance as an excuse. As a rule ignorance or error is not presumed when it concerns the law or its penalty…”

Can. 108: “…By divine institution, the sacred hierarchy of orders consists of bishops, priests and ministers; the hierarchy of jurisdiction consists of the Supreme Pontificate and the subordinate episcopate…”

Can. 109: “Persons who are received into the ecclesiastical hierarchy are not accepted by the consent or at the call of the people, or of the secular power, but are constituted in the degrees of the power of orders by sacred ordination. In the Supreme Pontificate, the person legitimately elected and freely accepting the election receives jurisdiction by the divine law itself; in all other degrees of jurisdiction by canonical appointment.”

Can. 196: “The Catholic Church possesses, by divine institution, the power of jurisdiction or government. This power is twofold: that of the external forum, and that of the internal forum, or forum of conscience. Finally the internal forum is subdivided into the sacramental and extra-sacramental forum.”

Can. 203: “The delegate who acts beyond his mandate” (the authorization given to priests by their local ordinary to posit jurisdictional acts) “either as to the matters or the persons over which he received power, acts invalidly…,” (This is an invalidating law.)

In addition, whenever epikeia is invoked (and Traditionalists are not always clear when this occurs), it involves the use of a probable opinion: that the legislator would not want his law to bind in a certain set of circumstances.

So according to what has been said above:

1. Epikeia applies only to positive human law.

2. Its use must involve something posing a sudden risk that needs immediate remedy.

3. Certain limits are imposed upon its use:

a.) In cases of doubt it must not be used. Instead, one must act according to the letter of the law and consult the proper authority.

b.) It cannot be applied to incapacitating and invalidating laws, or irritant laws, whose universal observance is demanded by the common good.

c.) It cannot be applied to laws originating from the Divine law, and the laws governing jurisdiction are demonstrably of Divine origin as shown above.

d.) It should be appealed to only in absolute necessity.

4. It must therefore be used with great prudence.

5. Great care should be taken to avoid acting out of self-interest or against the common good.

6. Habitual and general use of epikeia is an obvious abuse.

Rev. Jean-Marie Herve regarding the true status and import of Can. 879 §1: “The power of jurisdiction is required de fide, on the authority of the documents of the Magisterium (DZ 920)…This is proved from the constant practice of the Church, and it has been consecrated in the code (C. 872, 879). For as we have already seen, even in the early centuries, only those administered the sacrament of Penance who had jurisdiction, namely the Bishops and the priests who were appointed and delegated by them…In virtue of ordination itself, no one receives any diocese or parish to govern. Neither is it delegated, because neither the consecrating Bishop nor the Pope has this intention, but they confer jurisdiction in another manner…” (“Manual of Dogmatic Theology, The Sacraments, Vol. II).

Epikeia and the Western Schism

Walter Ullmann revealed that the principle of epikeia was used during the time of the Western Schsim to arrive at the conclusion that in the present crisis, an ecumenical council should be called to depose the papal claimants and resolve the schism. Speaking of epikeia and the Conciliarists, Ullmann said: “As a glance at Canon Law confirms, all these proposals (based on epikieia) however ingenious they may have been were, from the point of view of Canon Law, illegal,” (Origins of the Western Schism, 1948). Ullmann mentioned that there is a proper way to harmonize equity with the law that is used by theologians, but condemned what he called “this extra-legal, meta- juristic method of explaining canonistic enactments” known as epikeia. And this is the same abuse we are witnessing today. According to Ullmann, epikeia is an entirely Aristotelean concept, first expounded upon to any extent by the layman Marsilius of Padua in his “Defensor Pacis” in 1326. Conrad of Gelnhausen, one of the layman who promoted a move to end the Western Schism, used Marsilius’ reasoning, also that of John of Paris, to formulate his own theories for arriving at a solution to the schism. Unfortunately the church later condemned Marsilius and John of Paris for their heretical teachings.

Ullmann further stated that all the supporters of a General Council called to depose the claimants to the papacy without the authority of any one of these claimants invoked epikeia, “especially Jean Gerson, who made great use of this idea.” This group also was the first to espouse the error that a true pope could become a heretic, although “There was, it is true, great uneasiness about this interpretation,” Ullmann noted. (He goes on to say that several bishops and a patriarch did not advocate deposition except in the case of heresy.) All this, however, occurred long before Pope Paul IV issued Cum ex, meaning that the laity during the 14th and 15th centuries could not be considered as culpable for their errors as those promoting these same errors today.

In discussing “the qualities or dispositions of the perfect ruler,” Marsilius of Padua, even before the Western Schism began, was preparing the way by preaching a false use of epikeia. Marisilius also invoked the Aristotelian concept of “equity” (epikeia) as a means of serving justice when the existing positive laws prove unworkable, owing to their fallibility and deficiency. This is why the principle came to be used as a foundation stone for papal deposition. This concept of limiting the positive law (the non-prohibitive laws “on the books” at a given time) in order to employ “equity” became very important during the Conciliar Movement because it promised to provide the authority over the Pope that would allow the clergy and people to gain the ascendancy. Marsilius’ work also was later “sanitized” by Nicholas of Cusa, who used his writings to promote a primitive democracy. Later Robert Cardinal Bellarmine would expound on these same principles. The works of both writers were eventually adapted by Thomas Jefferson to formulate the democratic process for America.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Marsilius, also Jean of Jandun taught that while God is the source of all power; nevertheless “It [said power] sprang immediately from the people who had in addition the power to legislate. Law was the expression of…the will of the people, who, by the voice of the majority, could enact, interpret, modify, suspend and abrogate it at will. In the Church, according to the Defensor Pacis,” the faithful have these two great powers, the elective and the legislative,” allowing them to nominate bishops and determine who may be ordained. “The Church…has no visible head…The ecclesiastical power comes directly from God and consists essentially in the power to consecrate the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and remit sins, or rather to declare them remitted. All priests are possessed of equal authority and equal jurisdiction…” The author of this Catholic Encyclopedia article comments concerning these heretical doctrines: “Luther would have recognized his theories in these heretical assertions and the Gallicanists of later times would willingly have subscribed to such revolutionary declarations…Marsilius may well be reckoned one of the fathers of the Reformation.”

A bull issued by Pope John XXII on April 3, 1327, reproached the Emperor Louis of Bavaria, already excommunicated for favoring heresy, for cooperating with Marsilius in his errors and condemned Marsilius’ teachings. A commission appointed by the Pope specifically condemned five of the main theses of “Defensor Pacis,” including the ones denying the necessity of jurisdiction and the necessity of a visible head for the Church, (DZ 495-500). In the initial condemnation, Marsilius and Jean of Jandun are repeatedly referred to as “sons of Belial.” At the end of the condemnation, the Pope pronounces them “manifest and notorious archheretics,” (DZ 500).

So clearly the very arguments that precipitated Gallicanism have been revived today, using the very principles of epikeia appealed to by Traditionalists. And this despite the very considerable development of the doctrine on the primacy over the past seven centuries. Yet regardless of their mistaken beliefs, Catholics of the 14th and 15th centuries eventually restored a true pope to the throne despite these obstacles, unlike Catholics today. Ullmann noted that Gelnhausen, misapprehending the (then) less certain doctrines of the Church’s constitution reasoned much as Traditionalists reason now: “That the Church universal is superior to the pope follows from Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam: nulla salus extra ecclesiam. The Church is constituted by the pope and the faithful. The pope is only a secondary head of the Church, Her primary and principal head being Christ, Himself…Christ still reigns over Christianity. The pope may die or be killed and Christianity lives. Even if there were no pope at all, the body and members of the Church would continue to exist,” (Ibid., Ullmann).

Ullmann commented on these statements as follows: “In short, the congregation of all Christians is superior to the pope. And every dispute must be admitted to a ‘superior’ for jurisdiction. This is in literal agreement with John of Paris…” John of Paris was deprived of his license to teach and preach for promoting his theories on the Eucharist. He died before his appeal could be heard in Rome. In the preface to his translation of John’s work, J.A. Watt noted that “keen interest is shown in him by the theologians and jurists of Gallicanism…John of Paris was pre-eminently one of ‘our forefathers’ from whom the Gallicans claimed to derive the liberties which assured the French Crown of its independence of any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs and the French church a high degree of autonomy of papal spiritual jurisdiction.” As has been mentioned elsewhere, Gallicanism was long ago condemned as a heresy by the Church, although it had not yet been formally condemned in John of Paris’ time.


As it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the end. The beginning of the Protestant Reformation, as the Catholic Encyclopedia author noted above, can be dated from the time Marsilius began circulating his work in 1325. It is even possible it helped promote and prolong the Great Schism, which did not officially begin until 1378. In any event, if it was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it also, then, was the beginning of what would culminate in the Great Apostasy. So Gallicanism seemingly spearheaded it all. Ullmann credited the publicists of the early 14th century with influencing the Cardinals, clergy and people in general by spreading erroneous and heretical ideas concerning the papacy and secular power. He castigated the canonists for accepting the points of view promulgated by the publicists, but noted that the canonists had little influence during this time period.

“The writings of the publicists had gained far greater currency and were therefore far better known to men of letters than the somewhat recondite disquisitions of canonists. The former set forth revolutionary theories in a demagogic form, whilst the latter’s views were known only to a limited circle of savants. The attacks against the papacy by the publicists were, for understandable reasons, answered by the Popes with counter-measures.” Ullmann includes among the publicists of these times William of Ockham, John of Paris, Michael of Cesena, as well as the 13th century writers Thus, Cardinal Hostiensis and Cardinal Johannes Monachus, who “taught that the Pope should be ruled by the College of Cardinals.” On the one hand, the Conclavists took the rights of the people championed by these men to new heights, by insisting laity could elect. But the usurpers elected then swung the pendulum in the opposite direction once they ascended the “throne”. The pope is untouchable, impeccable; the equivalent of a god. Even outright heresies or the specter of schism and harm to the Church cannot, will not remove them. Such was the attitude of the intransigent antipope Benedict XIII, deposed by the Council of Constance.

The same situation prevails today that existed in the time of the Western Schism. We see many of the publicist mentality out to promote themselves and their own strange agendas, which always amount, it seems, to some new way to circumvent the law. Certainly there is enough guilt to go around, since all of us have been guilty of the publicist attitude at one time or another. All the more reason, however, for a return to the Canons and teachings of the Church, that God’s will may be done on earth.

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Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

Does Canon 20 Provide for Traditionalist Operations?

+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 ( 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: and in these links: also

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 .
  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 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, 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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Vatican 2 Theology: The Basis for Traditionalists’ Stance on Canon Law and Epikeia

The series ends, but the debate continues

+St. Rita of Cascia+

The uppermost question at issue in this entire series has been who and what constitutes Christ’s Church on earth, who is to be believed and obeyed, why they must be believed and obeyed and the consequences of not believing and obeying. In stepping back to try and determine what it is that distinguishes the Catholic Church as an institution from all others claiming to likewise possess the truth, we must never forget that the primary factor setting the Church apart is Her establishment by Our Lord on that Rock St. Peter, whose successors safeguarded the Deposit of Faith for nearly 20 centuries. It is the Apostolic College, the bishops in union with their head bishop; the ecumenical councils and the Supreme Pontiff acting on his own that have guided the Church safely over rough waters throughout time.

During the course of this series, mention has been made of fallacies in argument — begging the question, arguing beside the point, ad hominem attacks and so on. These arguments are opposed to the system of logic formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas’ venerable system, Scholasticism, was adopted by the Church to teach her doctors and theologians, so it is key to the right understanding of Her doctrines. The popes have never ceased to laud the benefits of this philosophical system and urge that it be taught to those engaging in theological studies. Whenever there is an error in making use of the principles taught by this system, then those committing these errors are not obeying the Church and their teaching cannot be trusted. Below is a brief outline of scholasticism and its importance to those studying the Catholic faith.


 The Popes on St. Thomas Aquinas:

“The doctrine of this Doctor, beyond all others, has fitness of words, manner of expression, and truth of opinions; so that he who holds it will never swerve from the path of truth; and, on the contrary, he who attacks it must always be suspected” (Pope Innocent V).

Pope St. Pius V called St. Thomas “the most certain rule of Christian doctrine by which he enlightened the Apostolic Church in answering conclusively numberless errors.”

“[Theology professors] should also take particular care that their students develop a deep affection for the Summa … In this way and no other will theology be restored to its pristine dignity, and the proper order and value will be restored to all sacred studies…” (Pope St. Pius X).

The manifold honors paid by the Holy See to St. Thomas Aquinas exclude forever any doubt from the mind of Catholics with regard to his being raised up by God as the Master of Doctrine to be followed by the Church through all ages(Pope Benedict XV, from His Papal Brief Approving the Catechism Of The “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas For the Use of the Faithful, Feb. 5, 1919).

“We believe Thomas should be called not only Angelic but Common or Universal Doctor of the Church. As innumerable documents of every kind attest, the Church has adopted his doctrine for her own…” (Pope Pius XI)

“To follow [St. Thomas’] leadership is praiseworthy: on the contrary, to depart foolishly and rashly from the wisdom of the angelic Doctor is something far from Our mind and fraught with peril … For those who apply themselves to the teaching and study of Theology and Philosophy should consider it their capital duty…” (Pope Pius XII).

The Church has but one system of philosophy uniquely Her own, and all other systems have been condemned over the centuries as erroneous. This is testified to above by the popes.  Numerous condemnations of those who stray from St. Thomas Aquinas’ scholastic method can be found in Denzinger’s The Sources of Catholic Dogma.

St. Thomas’s definition of logic runs as follows: “Logic is the science and art which directs the act of the reason, by which a man in the exercise of his reason is enabled to proceed without error, confusion, or unnecessary difficulty… St. Thomas and his contemporaries looked upon logic as an instrument for the discovery and exposition of natural truth. They considered, moreover, that it is the instrument by which the theologian is enabled to expound, systematize, and defend revealed truth” (Catholic Encyclopedia, under Logic). The articles explain that it was Pope John XXI Who gave the Church the “Catholic” version of Aristotelean logic.

In his work Logic, Joseph Walsh, S.J. writes: “Logic is the science which directs the operations of the intellect in the attainment of truth… Truth as applied to the intellect is the agreement of our knowledge with objective reality. When our thoughts conform to things as they really are, when our judgment agrees with the objective facts, we are said to have true knowledge” (pgs. 7-8). Logic, therefore, is an ancient science adapted for use by the Church and endorsed by St. Thomas Aquinas for the study of theology. And the goal of this site is to provide those sincerely seeking the truth with objective facts.

Sacred Theology and all other related theologies are to be understood as the practice of this science. Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, in his work The Concept of Sacred Theology, relates that the writers of theological textbooks refer to this science as “the science of faith.” Others, among them Tanquerey and Herve, define it as “the science which treats of God, and of creatures insofar as they are referred to God, by way of revelation and of reason.” Theology in general he defines as “a body of knowledge deduced from divinely revealed truth.” All scientific investigation and exposition must be governed by specific rules; the Scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas provides us with these rules.

Safely within the parameters of an unchanging Church, doctrine most certainly can never change, and the rules governing these doctrines likewise will not, cannot change. The key phrase here is within the Church. For there are many false systems of philosophy condemned by the Church and there can be no Church or Catholic society without the pope, as the Council of Trent, Pope Pius IX and St. Thomas Aquinas himself teach. (For further study, read;

Those wishing to bring forth arguments and proofs refuting what has been presented here must follow this system and its rules, dictated for use by the Church, or they cannot hope to successfully present their case. If this is not done, no one is bound to consider what they say, since they violate the laws of the Church in saying it. The following points would need to be disproven from the strongest form of proof available according to Canon Law — documents of the Roman Pontiff (especially those entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis), the Sacred Congregations and authentic interpretations of Canon Law.


The definition of what indeed saves souls needs to be specified before the sweeping claim is made that Traditionalists have the necessary power and jurisdiction to validly administer the Sacraments and offer the Holy Sacrifice. Those attending masses simulated by Traditionalists are exposed to sacrilege and idolatry as has been demonstrated repeatedly in other articles on this site and this will damn — not save — their souls. Before they can present as instruments capable of saving souls, Traditionalists must first prove irrefutably they have been validly and licitly ordained and are able to validly and licitly administer the Sacraments.

As to the claim they must obey the divine law above ecclesiastical law, Pope Leo XIII teaches in Sedes Sapientiae, regarding obedience to the Roman Pontiff: “The guidance of both belief and action by divine right belongs to the… Chief Pontiff. Hence the Pontiff must have the power authoritatively to judge the meaning of Holy Scripture… and what is to be done and what is to be avoided in the work of salvation.” No one but the Roman Pontiff can pretend to interpret and apply a maxim of Holy Scripture, divine law; in doing this, Traditionalists usurp the rights of Christ’s Vicar.

The two Sacraments necessary for salvation are still available to the faithful — Baptism and Marriage. These are the only two Sacraments that validly and licitly ordained priests are obligated to administer under the Canon. In their absence, the Church has made provisions for the laity to baptize and contract marriage validly under the law, (Canons 742 and1098). Special emergency provisions have been made by the Holy Office lifting all impediments save those of consanguinity and the marriage of clerics. Canon 682 explains that the clergy only have the strict obligation to supply those Sacraments necessary for salvation, (Baptism, Matrimony) under the Divine law, all others being governed by ecclesiastical law, (Woywod-Smith).

It is important to note the following as stated in Woywod-Smith’s Canon Law commentary under Can. 742: “A Catholic lay person is to be preferred [in administering Baptism] to a priest who is suspended, personally interdicted or excommunicated when these censures have been imposed by a declaratory or condemnatory sentence, for Can. 2261 desires that the people do not request them to administer the Sacraments if there is anyone else who can do so.” So even if the possessed jurisdiction, Can. 2261 would not cover them just as has been maintained in the series of articles running these past two months. In addition to the provisions for Baptism and Marriage, when it is not possible to receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance or Holy Communion, a perfect Act of Contrition and Spiritual Communion will suffice for forgiveness of sins and the graces received in actual reception of the Sacraments.

This overriding principle used to justify Traditionalist operations once again presupposes the existence of valid and licit orders, when this has not been proven by any means. Moreover, it presumes to interpret the Divine Law, when this privilege belongs solely to the Roman Pontiff.


The real issue here is NOT jurisdiction, but validity. It is highly unlikely that these Traditionalists representing as priests and bishops are validly ordained or consecrated, and we have very serious reasons indeed to believe they are not (see Thuc and Lefebvre were schismatics under Can. 2314, which says if they participated in a non-Catholic religion they also were unable to validly ordain or consecrate anyone, being guilty of communicatio in sacris (false worship, Novus Ordo). The censure levied in Can. 2314 §1, no. 3 results in an additional penalty called infamy of law (Can. 2294) and this penalty can be lifted only by a true pope. There is no doubt about the schism or the penalty. So why is anyone even talking about jurisdiction when there is no way they can even prove their validity?!

In order to even begin to function as clerics, those ordained or consecrated by schismatics — and Lefebvre and Thuc have been proven to be members of the Novus Ordo church, which all Traditionalists consider a non-Catholic church — are required to have their orders scrutinized and regularized, if possible, by the Roman Pontiff and the vindicative penalty lifted. They could function only if they were able to present VERIFIABLE PROOFS they were unquestionably validly and licitly ordained a priest and/or consecrated a bishop by a bishop approved by Pope Pius XII to ordain and consecrate (who has not been ipso facto excommunicated for heresy or schism). In the meantime, they are forbidden to function.


If it could be proven they possessed valid and licit orders, only then could Traditionalists bring up the subject of obtaining supplied jurisdiction. But here there is also a major problem — where are the IRREFUTABLE PROOFS that a canonically elected pope exists or has existed since the death of Pope Pius XII to supply such jurisdiction?  For as Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz writes in his Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209, CUA 1940, “The Supreme Pontiff, from whom all jurisdiction emanates and from whom all common law has its origin, supplies the necessary jurisdiction… When the Church, or more specifically the Roman Pontiff is said to supply jurisdiction in any case whatsoever, be it in common error or in doubt, it is readily understood that the Pope acts in virtue of the plenitude of the jurisdictional power Christ entrusted to his person” (pgs. 28, 194).


The entire situation is summed up in the heading. There is no pope to examine the orders of these men claiming to be clerics, hence no possibility they can function as clerics until such a determination is made. There is no use in even discussing jurisdiction unless it is first proven that certainly valid orders were conveyed by Lefebvre and Thuc, for lay persons cannot celebrate Mass or administer the Sacraments. Any assumption by Traditionalists that such jurisdiction exists in the absence of a true pope is a usurpation of papal jurisdiction. Supplied jurisdiction can begranted only by the Roman Pontiff, who alone possesses the fullness of jurisdiction. Such pretensions to possess it are clearly a usurpation of papal powers and such acts are made null and void by Pope Pius XII’s election constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis governing interregnums.

Series Summary

The conclusions from the series running this past two months are clear:

1) The Church is a Divine Society founded by Christ on St. Peter the Rock (Vatican Council); without St. Peter to direct and guide the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, the Church cannot exist, (Pope Pius XII, Pope Pius IX, St. Thomas Aquinas, others). We are obligated to adhere to even the opinions of the popes as the truth (, not the ruminations of Traditionalists. Only canonically elected popes, not Traditionalists, may determine the definition and application of Divine Law in any given situation.

2) The bishops are subordinate to the Roman Pontiff and receive their jurisdiction from him, NOT directly from Christ (Pope Pius XII). “Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called ‘principal parts of the members of the Lord’ … Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis; see also

3) Only those men granted offices by the competent authority in harmony with the sacred canons are to be considered bishops and priests (DZ 960, 967, Council of Trent; Can. 147 and authentic interpretation endorsed by Pope Pius XII). This canon rules that those who have not received their orders in this manner cannot possess either valid orders or jurisdiction (

4) The Supreme Pontiff holds the primacy of jurisdiction in the Church and he alone can determine who does and does not possess valid orders or episcopal jurisdiction (Vatican Council). In the absence of a true Roman Pontiff, no jurisdiction can be conveyed or supplied, even to those possessing unquestionably valid orders (Pope Pius XII in VAS, ).

5) Epikeia cannot be used to relax the laws governing the administration of the Sacraments even if Traditionalists could prove they are certainly validly ordained/consecrated. The Sacraments were instituted by Divine law and cannot fall under ecclesiastical law, which is all epikeia may be used to regulate (

6) Lefebvre and Thuc were formally members of the Novus Ordo sect at the time they ordained and consecrated Traditionalists and their “successors.” As such, they were not members of the Catholic Church, but schismatics who were infamous and unable to transmit valid orders (Pope Pius XII, Can. 2314, 2294 §2, numerous decisions of the Holy Office; see the heading Holy Office at Instead of refusing to listen to them and repelling them as Canon Law prescribes, Traditionalists welcomed them with open arms and communicated with them, receiving their sacraments and attending their masses. According to decisions of the Holy See, this also involved them in schism and communicatio in sacris.

7) At present, “recognize and resist” Traditionalists implicitly endorse the Roman usurpers because they refuse to renounce and separate from them and the clergy created under their auspices as required by Can. 1325. If they wish to die in the Church bequeathed to us by Pope Pius XII, they must accept all the papal teachings and laws of that Church as they existed at the time of Pope Pius XII’s death. Sedevacantist Traditionalists are no better, contenting themselves with their “bishops” who usurp papal jurisdiction and rule as Gallicanist mini-popes.

8) Canon 1812 tells us that acts issuing from the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Curia during the exercise of their office and entered as proof in ecclesiastical courts “prove the facts asserted,” (Can. 1816), and force the judge to pronounce in favor of the party producing the document, (commentary by Revs. Woywod-Smith). “Proof to the contrary is not admitted against Letters of the Roman Pontiff bearing his signature,” (Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Canon Law, 1935, p. 626, ft. note). Documents entered into the Acta Apostolic Sedis do not need to be submitted in the original or be an authenticated copy, (Can. 1819). If Traditionalists want to prove their case, they must produce the papal documents permitting them to act during an interregnum and declaring orders from a schismatic and irregular bishop to be certainly valid and capable of being exercised.

9) According to the unanimous opinion of theologians and canonists, whenever there is a doubt regarding the validity of the Sacraments or the (ordinary) means necessary to eternal salvation, one must take the safer course and not receive the sacraments as Bd. Innocent XI teaches in DZ 1151 ( When in doubt, the person cannot act before resolving the doubt without committing grave sin. Traditionalists can continue their campaign to shame stay-at-home Catholics into accepting their position, but they are staying at home in order to follow the laws and teachings of the Church, And no amount of shaming will convince them that Traditionalists are right, and the Church is wrong.

10) All the above, representing the proofs provided over the past two months in this blog series, is taken almost exclusively from papal and conciliar documents, Canon Law, and other reliable sources approved before the death of Pope Pius XII. The system of Scholasticism is followed to the best of the author’s ability. The method for following Canon Law is employed. The proofs presented demonstrate the mind of the Church on these matters but is met with silence from Traditionalists.


Disobedience to the Roman Pontiffs, the continual magisterium, typifies the behavior of Traditionalists in general, and St. Thomas Aquinas identifies the root of this sin: “…Disobedience arises from vainglory,” which is a type of pride. “The first sin of our first parents, which sin was transmitted to all men was not disobedience as such but pride, from which the man proceeded to disobey…It is a greater duty to obey a higher than a lower authority, in sign of which the command of a lower authority is set aside if it be contrary to the command of a higher authority…The higher the person who commands, the more grievous it is to disobey him,” (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 105, Art.1 and 2, Rep. Obj. 3).

“Indirectly and accidently…pride makes a man despise the Divine law which hinders him from sinning, (Jeremias 2:20; Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 162, Art.2). “Knowledge of truth is two-fold. One is purely speculative and pride hinders this indirectly by removing its cause. For the proud man subjects not his intellect to God, that he may receive the knowledge of truth from Him, according to Matt. 11:25,” which verse, St. Thomas explains, means that God hides things from the proud and reveals them to the humble. “Furthermore, proud men will listen to nothing from other men as they should, (Ecclus. 6:34).”

St. Thomas continues, “The other knowledge of truth is affective, and this is indirectly hindered by pride, because the proud, through delighting in their own excellence, disdain the excellence of truth. Thus Gregory says, (Moral xxiii, loc cit.) that ‘the proud, although certain hidden truths be conveyed to their understanding, cannot realize their sweetness: and if they know of them they cannot relish them.’ Hence it is written (Prov. 11:2), ‘Where humility is, there also is wisdom,’” (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 162, Art.3). Ingratitude and excusing oneself from any wrongdoing are indicators of pride, according to St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Bernard, all quoted by St. Thomas, (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 162, Art.4). St. Bernard also lists rebelliousness, along with arrogance and presumption, as three of the twelve degrees of pride.

Sadly, this explains why it is so unlikely that those belonging to the various Traditionalists sects will ever admit they have lived in error all these years: pride prevents them from accepting the truth, which, St. Thomas says, is hidden from them. In reading what is presented throughout this site, the reader is asked to keep in mind the following passage from Thomas á Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, Ch. 5: “Let not the authority of the writer offend thee, whether he was of little or great learning, but let the love of pure truth lead thee to read. Inquire not who said this but attend to what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remaineth forever” (Psalm 116).



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