+St. Robert Bellarmine+
If all those practicing Traditional “Catholicism” had the ability to survey the mountain of printed material that accompanied the emergence of the Traditional movement in the 1970s, they would understand why those who have experienced it and monitored it all these years are so certain of their conclusions regarding its existence today. The various newsletters, pamphlets, books, periodicals, tapes and videos showing the “teachings” issuing from this organization demonstrate one thing: no one was able to agree on anything and doubt was cast on nearly everything and everyone. Was so and so a true bishop, was this or that person a heretic, was the papal see really vacant, were the usurpers true popes, was the new mass valid or invalid, does Canon Law apply to this or that, and the debates continue. All these doubts centered around the means necessary to salvation, but the safer course — to simply stand back and separate oneself from the melee — was viewed as cowardly and unCatholic. Yet this was the course Catholics were obligated to take to avoid mortal sin and save their souls.
Catholics needing any further proofs on this matter should consider the following quote: “And so a doubt or opinion — no matter how probable it seems — cannot make what is not a Sacrament to become a Sacrament, nor transform into medicine what is actually poison. In this case, the certain natural law forbids one to expose himself to a danger of not obtaining the end or of bringing about evil or to apply means which are utterly inadequate or even harmful. To expose oneself to a danger of this kind ‘when in doubt concerning means necessary to salvation’ is gravely illicit. In such matters the safest and surest course must be followed” (Fr. Benedict Merkelbach, O.P., Summa Theologiae Moralis, 1930). What is presented below is yet further proof that Catholics must indeed follow the safer course in pursuing the means necessary to salvation, even when in extreme necessity.
(There has been much confusion on the Canon in the subhead below, so it requires additional clarification and attention. It must be understood, however, that any claim to jurisdiction by Traditionalists cannot even be considered unless and until they can first prove beyond any reasonable doubt they have received valid ordination/consecration. This cannot be determined during an interregnum because only a true pope can decide on the status of their orders. Until this decision is made, they are not allowed to function, so all the canons they cite in their defense can be dismissed, including Canons 209, 882, 2263 and others. Even if they were validly ordained/consecrated, there is no one to supply the jurisdiction they appeal to by invoking these canons, because the Roman Pontiff is the supplying source and we have no pope. More on this topic will be presented towards the end of this article.)
Holy Office decisions nix Traditionalist claims regarding Can. 2261 §2
Rev. Ignatius Szal explains from the beginning of his work, The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics, (Catholic University of America Canon Law dissertation, 1948) that Can. 2261 regarding reception of Sacraments from excommunicates does not apply to a schismatic because such a priest is not just under censure: “He is the minister of an unauthorized sect…” and must be avoided “anytime a spiritual danger is perceived.” He also reminds readers the acts of schismatics are forbidden by divine law (p. 59). Szal then goes on to prove his statement with the decisions of the Holy Office below.
On May 15, 1709, the Holy Office forbade Catholics to hear the confession of schismatics or to confess to them…Under no circumstances, NOT EVEN IN THE CASE OF NECESSITY, according to a response of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on Feb. 17, 1761, ‘was it permissible for a Catholic to confess his sins to a schismatic priest in order to obtain absolution from him…’ In a question presented to the same Congregation in 1839, the following reply was made: “Ethiopian converts were not to receive the sacrament of Penance from an heretical priest.” When the Congregation was asked about whether such a practice could be tolerated in a case of necessity, “the Congregation furnished the ironical if not indignant reply, ‘Nihil esse respondendum.’”
Rev. Szal comments: “The answer to the question appeared so manifest that to raise the question at all branded the questioner’s action as foolhardy, and consequently as deserving no reply.” Szal notes that, “It is gravely illicit to request or receive the sacrament of Penance from a schismatic minister outside the danger of death. The ordinary necessity which a person senses when he is in the state of mortal sin is not sufficient to allow him to confess to a schismatic priest and receive absolution. Such a person would be obliged to make a Perfect Act of Contrition as best he could…”
Szal begins with questions answered by the Holy Office concerning the attendance of the Masses of schismatics. On Dec. 5, 1668, the Holy Office ordered a bishop to instruct his people not to go to Mass or other Divine offices in the churches of schismatics, and to warn them that they were not bound by the precept of hearing Mass when there was no celebration of a Catholic Mass. Another reply from the Holy Office on April 10, 1704 concerning active participation in schismatic rites brought the following response from the Holy See: “Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) decreed that it was not licit on the principal feasts of the year for converts, in order to avoid persecution, to go to the churches of schismatics, especially during divine services…”
On August 7, 1704, The Holy Office also stated that “The decree which prohibited Catholics from being present at the Masses and prayers of schismatics applied also in those places where there were no Catholic priests and with reference to such prayers as contained nothing contrary to faith and the Catholic rite.” On two other occasions, May 10, 1753, and April 17, 1758, the Holy See again forbade Catholics to participate in the masses of schismatics. In 1769, certain priests “were called to task for joining in the celebration of Mass with schismatics. The ignorance was inexcusable, and the act was a sacrilege which violated the true faith.” And to this we add the following quote from Rev. W. Wilmers S.J.: “All who support a priest, bishop, or diocesan administrator who has not lawfully received his mission from the pope, and all who hold intercourse with him in spiritual matters, are, like him whom they support, treated by the Church as schismatics, because by such action they separate themselves from the Church’s unity” (Handbook of the Christian Religion, pg. 371).
As early as the 1970s, Rev. Joaquin Arriaga-Saenz and others had already provided proofs that John 23 and Paul 6 were false popes and the fact that the heresy regarding the consecration of the wine in the Novus Ordo Missae was glaringly evident. Even though they objected to the changes in the Mass, Lefebvre, Thuc and their associates participated in this sacrilegious and idolatrous service. They had full access to the documentation regarding the usurpers but ignored it. As bishops, they were obligated to know the facts of the case, to renounce the usurpers and their heretical liturgy and to elect a true pope rather than function on their own as bishops. This was the teaching and practice of the Church (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/do-any-valid-bishops-still-exist/). But they refused to do this and instead created their own church outside the true Church.
As a result of their actions, according to Canon Law, all these men and those they ordained and consecrated committed heresy, schism, communicatio in sacris and incurred ipso facto excommunication and deposition under Can. 188, no. 4, as well as infamy of law (Can. 2314 §1, 1-3). Those incurring infamy of law are barred from VALID ECCLESIASTICAL ACTS (Can. 2294; see Woywod-Smith commentary). IF they indeed are clerics, which remains to be proven (and papal decisions in the past seem to indicate they would be treated only as laymen), they cannot function for this reason. Only the Roman Pontiff can lift this penalty, if indeed he does so choose to lift it (Can. 2295).
SO HERE IS ANSWERED THE OBJECTION THAT ALL EXCOMMUNICATES, HERETICS AND SCHISMATICS INCLUDED, ARE ALLOWED TO ADMINISTER SACRAMENTS WHEN REQUESTED BY THE FAITHFUL, FOR CANONS 2314 AND 2294 PRECLUDE THIS POSSIBILITY. Already, regardless of any other prohibitions and in addition to them, Traditionalists, even if they possessed certainly valid orders, would be unable to administer these sacraments as the consequences of excommunication. Nor can this penalty be lifted, because currently the Holy See is vacant.
All the above proves what was said here regarding Can. 2261 §2 — the individuals covered in that canon cannot and do not include heretics and schismatics, who, as St. Robert Bellarmine points out, are already automatically excommunicated (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/errors-dispelled-for-readers/ under subhead Ad Evitanda). Anyone who would obey a Traditionalist “cleric” and ignore the above decisions of the Holy Office by that very fact becomes a schismatic.
And ignorance no excuse, especially for bishops (Lefebvre, Thuc, et al)
While many are anxious to see these Traditionalist “care providers” as validly ordained, if “guiltless” material heretics, there is no support found for this false assumption in Canon Law or Church teaching. Canon 2200, in fact, assumes those publicly professing heresy or participating in communicatio in sacris to be guilty until proven innocent, and when the excommunication can be lifted only by the pope, this means only a true pope can determine guilt or innocence.
Concerning a plea of ignorance of the heretical nature of the offense or the actual penalty attached to it by a cleric guilty of (occult) heresy, Rev. MacKenzie states that: “If the delinquent making this claim is a cleric, his plea for mitigation must be dismissed, either as untrue or else as indicating ignorance which is affected, or at least crass or supine. His ecclesiastical training in the seminary, with its moral and dogmatic theology, its ecclesiastical history, not to mention its canon law, all insure that the Church’s attitude toward heresy was imparted to him…He had ample opportunity to know about heresy. Hence his present ignorance is unreal; or if real, it can be explained only as deliberately fostered — affected ignorance — or else as the result of a complete failure to do even a minimum of work in regard to fundamental ecclesiastical theory and practice — crass and supine ignorance.” As noted above, those guilty publicly of heresy or schism cannot are presumed guilty under Can. 2200. And if those claiming to be true bishops and priests are really qualified to act and perform as such, having been supposedly educated in Traditional seminaries, then how is it they are ignorant of these things?
In his dissertation, Ignorance in Relation to the Imputability of Delicts, (Cath. Univ. of America, 1948) Rev. Innocent Swoboda, O.F.M., J.C.L. defines crass and supine ignorance as: “A complete lack of diligence when it is known that the truth could be easily discovered… a complete and total failure to use any effort to fulfill the obligation of knowing the law or the pertinent facts surrounding the law. The failure itself may arise from mere sloth or from a sinful heart or from a sinful habit of acting without due consideration of the results of one’s conduct… Only the ignorance of those things which can be easily learned can be considered crass or supine.” And if at least some of the faithful could recognize that the Vatican 2 church and Traditionalism were false and abandon these counterfeits, then what possible excuse could those far better educated in the faith offer?
And finally, in their commentary on Canon Law, under Can. 2242, Revs. Woywod-Smith observe: “Contumacy of the offender is implied in the deliberate violation of a law to which a censure latae sententiae is attached, and therefore the censure is incurred immediately with the breaking of the law. The violation is considered to be deliberate where disqualifying and invalidating laws are concerned,” such as a lack of jurisdiction which invalidates the Sacrament of Penance. Revs. Woywod-Smith also comment on Can. 731: “All canonists and moralists agree that those who are heretics or schismatics and know they are wrong cannot be given the Sacraments of the Church unless they renounce their errors and are reconciled with the Church. Numerous decrees of the Holy Office put this point beyond controversy.” These bishops were outside the Church, not within it. As bishops it was their bounden duty to defend the Church and especially the papacy. But they lost their offices early in the game, and those they attempted to create as clerics never obtained any position in the Church.
More on Traditionalists’ claim they don’t hold an office
The issue of those denying they possess an office and therefore are not affected by any papal, conciliar or canonical decrees or laws referring to the possession of “an office” has already been addressed at https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/no-papal-mandate-in-episcopal-consecrations-no-apostolicity/. Under the scholastic method all Catholic clergy are bound to follow, Traditionalists are obligated to first define the term before claiming it does not apply to them. And of course it DOESN’T apply to them because in order to validly hold any office in the Church requiring the care of souls, one must first prove he is a cleric with the necessary qualifications, according to those laws currently in force, and deserves to be appointed according to his merits.
If the specified qualifications are lacking, the appointment is null and void (Can. 153). As noted in the articles at https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/the-church/investigation-of-the-character/; also https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/the-church/holiness-of-life/ Traditionalists do not possess these qualifications. Furthermore, Can. 154 declares that no one who has received such an appointment based on these qualifications may assume offices involving the care of souls until they are first (validly and licitly) ordained. If they are not so ordained, then the office is not validly conferred, and they are forbidden to function.
So until the state of Traditionalists’ orders are determined by a canonically elected pope, there is no office to worry about. But we will play their little game and assume such is the case to clarify the following points. By office, according to Can. 145, is meant, “in a broad sense… any employment which is legitimately practiced for a spiritual purpose. In the strict sense, an ecclesiastical office means a stable position created either by the divine or ecclesiastical law, conferred according to the rules of the sacred canons and entailing some participation at least in ecclesiastical power, whether of orders or jurisdiction. In law, the term ecclesiastical office is used in its strict sense…” unless a specific law indicates otherwise.
So if Traditionalists were qualified to assume an office, they would have to call it an office, but they are not qualified to assume anything. Traditionalists occupy positions which correspond most closely to the strict sense of the definition, for they claim to possess a stable position, to operate under the Divine law (“salvation of souls”), and they claim to possess both Orders and jurisdiction. But their position is not conferred according to the sacred canons, and this is where they run into trouble. For Can. 147 states that an ecclesiastical office cannot be validly obtained without canonical appointment, meaning an ecclesiastical office conferred by the competent ecclesiastical authority designated in the canons.
No Traditionalist can pretend to have received an appointment, dignity or office of any kind from competent authority, for no authority not in communion with the Roman Pontiff and under his supervision and jurisdiction can be considered competent. Concerning the particulars of this canon, which has been the subject of an authentic interpretation approved by Pope Pius XII, see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/canon-law-doubts-of-law-and-epikeia/. What is ironic about the denial by traditionalists that they occupy offices is the fact that they do not hesitate to quote conciliar documents which they believe favor their position, one of these being the Fourth Lateran Council which mentions offices three separate times. If they do not possess an office, then this council they cite in their defense doesn’t apply to them; they can’t have it both ways.
Traditionalists say they are not bound by disciplinary laws
This is an old claim thrown out decades ago to avoid any compliance with Pope Paul IV’s Cum ex Apostolatus Officioregarding papal elections and heresy. It did not wash then and it doesn’t wash now in regards to Ad Apostolorum Principis because a) it is entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis which means it is binding on Catholic consciences per Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis, and b) Cum ex Apostolatus Officio is clearly retained in the footnotes of the 1917 Code of Canon Law as the basis for almost every canon in the code that deals with heresy. I don’t care if Lefebvre said it was dismissed as an old law when the Code went into effect and no longer applies. He was wrong and facts placed into evidence in the 1970s, 1980s and on this site 15 years ago (see the Archives) proves this to be the case. Regarding papal disciplinary laws, the Church has taught:
The Vatican Council: “The pastors and faithful…are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church… If anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church…let him be anathema,” (DZ 1827, 1831).
Pope Pius IX, in Quartus Supra (1873): “But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867, answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is. For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all… Such teaching is not only heretical after the definitions and declarations of the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican on the nature and reasons for the primacy of the Sovereign Pontiff, but it has always been considered to be such and has been abhorred by the Catholic Church.”
And in in Quae in patriarchatu: “In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. HE WHO WOULD DENY THIS IS A HERETIC; HE WHO RECOGNIZES THIS AND OBSTINATELY REFUSES TO OBEY IS WORTHY OF ANATHEMA.” (Pope Pius IX, September 1, 1876, to the clergy and faithful of the Chaldean Rite.)
They also refer to Ad Apostolorum Principis as a “disciplinary law,” and claim that it doesn’t apply to our situation because it was intended for “normal times.” As seen above, these laws pertain even in cases of extreme necessity. Surely the existence of bishops enduring persecution in Communist China could never be considered “normal,” and in fact the Holy Office considered the situation in China an emergency in 1949 as indicated in the removal of nearly all impediments to marry (Canon Law Digest, Vol. 4). Furthermore, disciplinary law or not, Ad Apostolorum Principis is listed in the Acta Apostolica Sedis, meaning it is a document of the ordinary magisterium binding on the faithful as Pope Pius XII teaches in paragraph 20 of his Humani Generis (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/material-formal-hypothesis-condemned-as-heresy/ , Pt. 1). What is stated in Ad Apostolorum Principis is repeated in other binding documents issued by Pope Pius XII, particularly the part about older documents no longer being valid, a statement made earlier in Mediator Dei.
But the blanket of epikeia covers everything
And then of course there is always the old, tired line of defense they trot out as their weapon against all the nasty, legalistic “no jurisdiction” crowd — epikeia. This was thoroughly explained in the link above under the “office” subhead. From this it is clear that their contentions all these years have been false and are held as false by both moral theologians and canonists. Epikeia applies only to ecclesiastical law and conferring the Sacraments is a matter of Divine law. St. Augustine said: “The Church is Jesus Christ continuing to teach the world and to sanctify each of us by His Sacraments.” As such no one who is not under the jurisdiction of Christ’s Vicar can be said to possess the jurisdiction Christ conferred first on St. Peter, which is exercised by the bishops but only under the supervision of the pope. This is the teaching of the Vatican Council and Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi.
The pope alone can supply jurisdiction and suspend its use
To even attempt to claim supplied jurisdiction existed in the cases of those claiming valid ordination under schismatic bishops, the validity of those allegedly ordained and consecrated would first need to be decided by a canonically elected Roman Pontiff. This issue of the supplying of jurisdiction is larger than it seems, for it rests on what Rev. Berry says in his work The Church of Christ. Pope Pius XII’s decision was published June 29, 1943 in Mystici Corporis Christi, teaching that the bishops “enjoy[ing] the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the… Supreme Pontiff.” Berry, who wrote in 1927, taught that should it ever be decided by the Holy See that “…the pope confers jurisdiction [on the bishops], he may validly withdraw it by deposing a bishop at any time, with or without cause” (p. 410). And Pius XII later exercised this type of power by declaring null and void all those who usurped papal jurisdiction or violated papal law during an interregnum in his election constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (1945). In addition, Rev. J. Tixeront also notes that “The Apparatus of Pope Innocent IV, expounds the theory that the pope has the right to place diriment impediments, not only for Matrimony, but also for the conferring of all the Sacraments, Baptism included” (Holy Orders and Ordination, A Study in the History of Dogma,1928, p. 289). This is more closely conformed to what Pius XII forbade in his papal election constitution.
And once Pope Pius XII declared that the bishops receive jurisdiction from the pope, not directly from Christ, he also defined that such jurisdiction is SUPPLIED only by the pope and does not in any way come to the bishops directly from Christ. We are talking here about the two infallible papal documents named above. If true bishops had existed following the death of Pope Pius XII and had taken over for a time and elected a pope, there would have been no problem; but they did not. They had jurisdiction which lasted as long as they lived, even if a false pope had deprived them of their see. Priests had jurisdiction only for the time specified by the bishops under whom they served, unless they had received a special commission of some kind or were missionary priests. Catacomb Catholics have taken the safer course not only because Trad Orders and their sacraments are doubtful, at best, but also because they have read the signs of the times.
Since all the bishops rebelled and went into apostasy, and the Mass subsequently ended, they believe according to their understanding of Holy Scripture Church they live in the times following the reign of Antichrist, a system continued by his “successors.” They await the will of God in these matters, for it is not certain what is to come next. Unless Christ intervenes in some miraculous way, a true pope cannot be elected. Some expect an imminent chastisement, others expect the Last Judgment. These things cannot be known for certain. But one thing, in their minds at least, IScertain: they will avoid all possibility of offending Our Lord and disobeying St. Peter and his successors by refusing to risk even the possibility they might imbibe the poison of sacrilege by following these self-proclaimed bishops and priests, attending their Masses and receiving their sacraments.
If we follow the Apocalypse, it seems that today’s catacomb Catholics are those who live in the desert, taken there on the wings of a great eagle (Apoc. 12: 6, 14). Fr. E. S. Berry says the two wings of this eagle, in the spiritual sense, are faith and prayer, for: “In faith and prayer, and especially in the contemplative life of her religious orders, the Church shall find a refuge of consolation Satan cannot violate” (The Apocalypse of St. John). Rev. Leo Haydock, commenting on Apocalypse 12 verse 6, writes: “The Church, in times of persecution, must be content to serve God in a private manner.” He explains that during times of persecution Christians fled to the desert to escape, which eventually gave rise to the “eremetical life.” Fr. William Heidt, in his Book of the Apocalypse, refers Apoc. 12: 14 to Exodus 19: 4: “I have carried you upon the wings of eagles, and have taken you to myself,” regarding the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. H.M. Feret O.P. says this verse refers to “that desert of Divine preparation where God Himself nourishes her during the period of her trial, (The Apocalypse Explained, p. 154). This he refers to Deut. 32: 11: “As the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them, he spread his wings, and hath taken him and carried him on his shoulders.”
Rev. Bernard Le Frois, S.V.D. says the wilderness/desert: “implies par excellence God’s special divine providence toward Israel and deliverance from her enemy through God’s special intervention… Elias flees to the wilderness for protection and nourishment… a solitary place well suited for communion with God.” He also cites Kittel’s interpretation: “The symbol of the time of probation of faith” (The Woman Clothed With the Sun, 1954 p. 177-79). St. Francis de Sales writes in his Treatise on the Love of God that the early hermits (St. Paul, St. Antony, St. Mary of Egypt), seeking solitude in the desert, were “deprived of hearing Mass, receiving Communion and going to Confession… deprived too of direction and all assistance.” If the Holy Ghost then, that great eagle, carries the Church into the desert in Apoc. 12: 14, He is taking Her to a place devoid of these things. In other words, the Church does not have a choice as the early hermits did; it is by God’s will that She is transported there.
Our God is a jealous God; He wants us to Himself. He is delivering us from the dangers of idolatry and sacrilege if we will just listen to His Vicars. But that was not the intent of the bishops who left the Church to found Traditionalism. And until those who wish to be Catholic obey God, and not men, they cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.