For many years, opponents of what is written here have pointed to Can. 1385 as prohibiting anyone from publishing without an imprimatur and nihil obstat. I long ago satisfied my conscience in this regard with the necessary investigation but perhaps the conclusions I reached need to be presented here to answer these objections once and for all.
We know that at present there are no true clergy able to teach or administer the Sacraments. That leaves everything to the laity. I have many times mentioned the quote from Pope Pius XII which states that in the absence of the hierarchy the laity must assume all their responsibilities as long as there is no violation of faith, morals or ecclesiastical discipline (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/3494-2/). Since the time of the Vatican Council in 1869, the popes have urged the laity to engage in Catholic Action. The Church requested the laity’s assistance because there were not enough priests to effectively minister to the faithful. Prior to Pope Pius XII’s death, lay people were to do so under the supervision of the hierarchy, but this is no longer possible. And Pius XII says in the above-mentioned address that an explicit mission to engage in the apostolate is not necessary. This one address and a few others are enough for me, but obviously not for others. So it will be useful to trace this out and demonstrate that there is a desperate need, there are grave obligations and there is no violation of the law involved in publishing Catholic teaching on this site or anywhere else.
Catholics were woefully ignorant of their faith over 100 years ago
Pope St. Pius X taught in Acerbo Nimis: “It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation… Now we must inquire who has the duty to safeguard minds from this pernicious ignorance and impart to them the necessary knowledge. On this point, Venerable Brothers, there can be no doubt this very grave obligation is incumbent on all those who are pastors of souls. They are certainly obliged by the precept of Christ to know and to nourish the sheep confided to them. Now to nourish is first of all to teach. “I will give you,” God promises by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, “pastors according to my own heart and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine.” And so the apostle said: “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel,” indicating that thus the first office of those who are set up in any way for the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in sacred doctrine,” (and this is labeled in the Monks of Solesmes Papal Teaching book as a doctrinal teaching, binding on the faithful). Moreover, it is an interpretation of Holy Scripture and should be recognized as such.
So this is what Traditionalists presenting as priests and bishops SHOULD have been doing, not pretending to ordain and consecrate men to simulate the Sacraments at their various mass centers. There was a longstanding plea from the popes to educate the faithful and to help them establish their own Catholic Action cells and apostolates. Those truly wishing to preserve the faith were obligated to obey these commands to help the faithful understand what happened after Pope Pius XII’s death and why it happened. But they couldn’t afford to do this because eventually it would have become clear that once the jurisdiction of those validly ordained during Pius XII’s reign expired, there was no certainty that it could be supplied given the doubtful pope situation. It is interesting to note that Sedevacantists often cited the “a doubtful law is no law” and “a doubtful pope is no pope” yet never provided the source for this latter teaching. That source would have given far more weight to this statement than they wished, since it was the teaching of St. Robert Bellarmine, so the ridiculous and heretical materialiter/formaliter hypothesis was introduced.
In short, Traditionalists did not want those following them to do any thinking on their own. Rather than offer them any real spiritual sustenance in exploring and explaining the truths of faith, they basically stuck a pacifier in their collective mouths — their contrived mass and sacraments — to shut them up. They had to make it appear that the Church’s mark of apostolicity yet existed in order to justify this, since this is the primary proof of this mark. And yet it is not the only proof.
Apostolicity of doctrine and the marks
Traditionalists could not address this however because to do so would have required them to acknowledge the times in which we live. To follow the clear signs — the apostasy of the bishops at Vatican 2, the abolition of the true Latin Mass, the desolation of the Church — would have indicated that Antichrist, the Man of Sin, had come and the Mass had ceased. The means to determine how it happened and what really needed to be done were already available in Pope Paul IV’s 1559 bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio in the mid-1970s, but this bull was attacked the minute it appeared and was successfully relegated to the rubbish pile of laws no longer in effect, even though it was proven beyond doubt that this law is still very much in effect. Is Antichrist still with us? Yes, he lives on in the usurpers in Rome just as Peter’s successors lived after him, Satan’s crude attempt to replicate the papacy. He is the whore of Babylon in league with all the principalities and powers that be, now ruling the world.
“Apostolicity… is the surest indication of the true Church of Christ, it is most easily examined and it virtually contains the other three marks… Apostolicity of doctrine and mission is necessary. Apostolicity of doctrine requires that the DEPOSIT OF FAITH committed to the Apostles shall remain unchanged. Since the Church is infallible in its teaching, it follows that if the Church of Christ still exists, it must be teaching His doctrine. Hence apostolicity of mission is a guarantee of apostolicity of doctrine… Billot emphasizes the idea that the Church, which is Apostolic, must be presided over by bishops, who derive their ministry and their governing power from the Apostles. Apostolicity, then, is that Apostolic succession by which the Church of today is one with the Church of the Apostles in origin, doctrine, and mission… It is apostolicity of mission which is reckoned as a note of the Church” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912). All this is true, however, ONLY if these bishops and the cardinals remain in communion with the Roman Pontiff. The only time we would not have this note is the time of Antichrist, when “he who withholdeth” is taken out of the way (the pope) and the bishops, beginning with the cardinals, would all apostatize. It is not “our” teaching, but conclusions drawn from the teaching of Henry Cardinal Manning and others.
Rev. Devivier writes in his Christian Apologetics: “In saying that the true Church is necessarily apostolic, we mean that she must profess the doctrine taught by the apostles: this is apostolicity of doctrine; then, that she must be able to trace her descent from the apostles through the succession of her lawful heads: this is apostolicity of ministry or government. Apostolicity of doctrine is the logical and indispensable consequence of the unity required in the true Church. The necessity of this characteristic is rarely disputed, but it is of little service as a note, as a positive means of discerning the true Church. Hence we shall dwell more particularly on the apostolicity of ministry. We have shown above, pp. 303 f., 318 f., that all authority in the Church has been really bestowed upon the apostles. This authority must, as we shall prove, pass to their successors…The Church, moreover, possesses a principle which necessarily sustains unity of belief: she professes as an essential dogma that all must accept every doctrine which she proclaims to be of faith, under pain, if they persist in error, of being ejected from her bosom.” This explains why there is no true unity in the Church today — apostolicity of doctrine as it existed prior to the death of Pope Pius XII is not taught as an integral whole.
Devivier then explains the Church’s end. “The Church of Rome is holy in her final end, which is the sanctification and the salvation of the faithful. She is holy in the means she employs; in her dogmas, which are attacked only because of their sublimity and because many of them transcend, as to their essence, the limit of human reason; in her moral teaching, to which even her adversaries pay homage, which proscribes all vices, inculcates all virtues, and culminates in the perfection of the evangelical counsels; in her sacraments, fruitful sources of grace and holiness; in her worship, the most spiritual which ever existed, the purest and freest from immoral or superstitious practices. She is holy, finally, in the members who faithfully follow her precepts; only those who refuse to conform to her teaching, and thus incur her condemnation, fail to witness to her sanctity.” So unless we have apostolicity of doctrine, holiness in the Church cannot exist.
Rev. E. S. Berry, in his The Church of Christ, emphasizes the importance of apostolicity of doctrine but only if it is taught by legitimate pastors. “Christ has either failed in His promises, or the Church must ever preserve and teach all truths committed to her through the ministry of the Apostles. In other words, the Church must be Apostolic in her doctrine even to the consummation of the world… It is evident that there can be no authority in the Church save that which comes directly or indirectly from her Divine Founder, Jesus Christ. But there is not the slightest intimation in Scripture or tradition that Christ ever promised to confer authority directly upon the ministers of the Church; consequently it can only be obtained by lawful succession from those upon whom Christ personally and directly conferred it, e., from the Apostles. In other words, the Church must be Apostolic in her ministry by means of a legitimate succession reaching back in an unbroken line to the Apostles…
“The very purpose for which the Church was instituted, [is], namely, the GLORY OF GOD and the salvation of souls…. The Church is eminently fitted to give glory to God by its wonderful manifestation of His power, wisdom and goodness in providing such efficacious means of salvation for all men at all times, whatever be their condition or state in life. Christ proclaimed His doctrines, gave His precepts, and instituted the Sacraments to enable all men to participate in the fruits of the Redemption. He then instituted the Apostolic ministry to perpetuate this work in the world. He sent forth the Apostles with authority to teach and govern all men and to administer to them the means of salvation. But, as already shown, Christ instituted His Church by instituting the Apostolic ministry. It follows, then, that the Church was established to perpetuate the work of the Redemption by applying it to the souls of men.
“In a word, the Church was instituted to save all men, or, as St. Paul expresses it: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ until we all meet into the unity of faith and of the knowledge, of the Son of God, unto a perfect man.” … As Christ Himself admonishes: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice.” Since the Church was instituted to save mankind by bringing souls to eternal life, the ultimate end to be attained must be that which Christ enjoined upon all men and which the Apostles demanded of those who entered the Church, i. e., to submit to the authority of the Church, to be instructed by her in all revealed truths, to receive the Sacraments, and to offer true worship to God — in a word, to practice the Christian religion and thus prepare for eternal life.”
“The unity of faith and of knowledge:” If we fail to present the truths of faith contained in the Deposit as it existed on the death of Pope Pius XII, we are sabotaging our own unity and refusing to glorify God and fulfill the real meaning of “the salvation of souls” which Pope St. Pius X so clearly illustrated in Acerbo Nimis: knowledge of the true faith. Souls cannot be saved by (at best) questionably ordained priests created by bishops who were never given papal approval or permission (jurisdiction) to function as bishops. Christ is the Head of the Mystical Body in these terrible times — His Church has not ceased to exist. We can and must obey all that He commanded through His canonically elected Vicars whose teachings remain available to us; these must be learned and understood if we wish to remain Catholic.
The case of impossibility in observing the law
This is not a case of a doubtful law requiring the invocation of epikeia. This is a matter of both physical and moral impossibility in observing the law, treated under the rules governing Canon Law and moral theology. Traditionalist pseudo-clergy wishing to justify their own operations triumphantly claim that in violating Can.1385 — which requires permission to publish anything treating of theology, the Catholic faith, prayers and religious images — those so doing are appealing to epikeia and so cannot chastise them for doing the same. But this is not true in this case because Traditionalists, who also justify their operations by pointing to Can. 15 and the cessation of a doubtful law, cannot apply it to their situation. The laws that apply to them are invalidating and incapacitating laws, which forbid them from acting unless they possess the necessary jurisdiction. And these are excluded from consideration under Can. 15. Both canonists and moral theologians also unanimously agree that regarding the validity of the Sacraments, they cannot be administered or received whenever doubt exists.
Rev. Dominic Prummer says in his Manual of Moral Theology that if a person finds it completely impossible to observe a law, then absolute impossibility excuses from the observance of the law. Moral impossibility does not excuse from the observance of natural law, but it usually excuses from positive law with the exception of invalidating laws. Moral impossibility makes an act so difficult that the majority of men would never or only rarely perform such an act… [When] the law becomes detrimental to the common good and thus ceases to be law this is embodied in the well-known principle ‘no positive law obliges when there is grave inconvenience’ and applies also to divine positive law” (no. 107, 108). The canonist Rev. P.J. Lyddon, in his Ready Answers in Canon Law (1937) says that when doubtful Church laws (Can. 15) “do not bind, we act as if they did not exist until the legislator explains them.”
But more to the point are the principles laid down in matters governing conscience and the positive law. These are enumerated by Bernard Wuellner, S.J. below in his Summary of Scholastic Principles (1956) where no other author is cited.
- “As in all other concerns of education, so in the training of conscience we must use the several means. As a check on individual caprice, especially in youth, we must consult the best living authorities and the best traditions of the past. At the same time that we are recipient our own active faculties must exert themselves in the pursuit with a keen outlook for the chances of error. Really unavoidable mistakes will not count against us; but many errors are remotely, when not proximately, preventable” (Catholic Encyclopedia under conscience).
- “In order that a man tend to his last end, it is not sufficient that the way be pointed out in a general manner” (McHugh and Callan). “The natural and positive laws “must be applied to each act in particular by the practical reason or conscience, as it passes judgment on the right or wrong of an action in the light of all the circumstances.
- No one may act until a doubt of conscience is resolved
- A doubtful law is not binding, (and Cicognani includes doubts regarding cessation under his commentary on Canon 15).
- In doubt a minimum certain obligation only is to be exacted. (In the matter of Can. 1385 and its obvious cessation, the minimum certain obligation has been fulfilled: Recourse primarily to the teachings and laws of the Church Herself and when helpful for purposes of explanation, recourse also to those authors already approved by the Church.)
- Guilt must be proven.
- Facts must be proven.
- Invalidity must be proven.
- A valid positive law is not binding when there are extreme difficulties in observing it.
- Henry Cardinal Manning writes in his The Vatican Decrees and Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance that according to the laws of morality, “If [the exercise of them] is physically impossible, [they] would be morally impossible [and] repugnant to equity,” (p. 80).
- Positive law is true only when it is physically and morally possible of observance.
- No law can bind the subject to do the impossible or anything morally evil.
- In a conflict of law, the higher law prevails.
- “In a conflict of law… the more important law prevails. A precept of the natural law takes precedence over the positive law, a divine precept over a human precept, laws pertain[ing] to justice over those pertaining to charity” (Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Canon Law, 1935)
- The natural law is superior to positive law (“The 10 Commandments follow directly from the most general precepts of the natural law” — McHugh and Callan).
- The law of charity, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, (Summa Theologicae, II-II, q. 44, McHugh and Callan), is implicitly contained in all the commandments of other virtues, for charity is the end of every commandment (1Tim. 1:5)… A good conscience is had by the observance of the affirmative commandments of the natural law. Charity is also a precept of Divine law.
- Charity owed to our neighbor demands that in extreme spiritual necessity one give up even his life to assist him (McHugh and Callan, Prummer, theologians in general). The first, seventh and eighth commandments are violated by Traditionalist pseudo-clergy who cause the faithful to cooperate in non-Catholic services, contribute money to their mass centers, and who rely on the power of deception and withholding of Catholic truth to continue their “ministry.”
- “Obligations of justice have precedence over obligations of charity” (McHugh and Callan). The laws of justice demand that rights be upheld: “Render justice or his rights to each” (Wuellner).
- Catholics have both the obligation under Divine law to learn doctrine and the strict right to every possible means of learning and understanding it. “Persons and societies have the natural right to defend perfect rights against unjust assailants in proportion to both a) the necessity of the measures necessary for effective defense and b) the comparative importance of the right or good attacked. Whoever has a right to an end also has the right to the necessary just means to accomplish that end” (Wuellner).
- Furthermore, Catholics are bound under Can. 1325 to profess their faith whenever “…silence, subterfuge ormanner of acting would otherwise entail an implicit denial of their faith, a contempt of religion, an insult to God or scandal to their neighbor.”
Observance of Can. 1385 contrary to faith
We are fighting for our spiritual lives here, the survival of what is left of the Church and the right to practice our religion without molestation and to defend the Deposit of Faith. Those who insist that Canon Law forbids us to write in these times must necessarily deny the following:
- The necessity of apostolicity of doctrine
- The authority of the popes to define how this doctrine will be perpetuated in the absence of the hierarchy
- The principles of law regarding moral and physical impossibility as explained by the canonists and moral theologians
- The right to the necessary just means to accomplish our salvation and defend against unjust assailants.
- The strict obligation to inform our conscience and follow it according to “the best living authorities and the best traditions” available.
- In order to diligently form a right conscience, one must be able to ascertain facts, prove guilt in a given case and prove invalidity when validity is questioned.
- All the circumstances must be considered in each case.
- One is forbidden to remain silent in the face of a denial of faith, contempt for religion and scandal to the neighbor, particularly when such a wholesale denial is presenting as Catholic and suppresses the knowledge of truth.
- Silence gives consent. “It is a vice, by keeping quiet, to allow someone unworthy or unfit to be chosen for promotions and honors, or permit someone worthy to lose his dignity, goods or honor… The same can be said if, in meetings of the council, you keep quiet out of ignorance or malice and thus withhold the truth from the other advisers. Likewise, during a court hearing, if you see someone make a fraudulent accusation or be unjustly condemned, you will sin. And if you fail to reprehend the detractors in conversations defaming others by neither excusing nor praising the person defamed, you will sin by remaining silent. Likewise, when you perceive that a word to edify, instruct, exhort or correct someone is necessary, you commit a sin if you withhold that wholesome advice. Hence Isaiah exclaimed: ‘Woe is me, because I have held my peace’ (6:5). The same is said in Ecclesiasticus: ‘And refrain not to speak in the time of salvation’ (4:28)” (Vincent of Beauvais,13th century Dominican theologian, Speculum Majus).
- The obligation to aid our neighbor in extreme spiritual necessity.
- The longstanding papal command to supply for the absence of the hierarchy by engaging in Catholic Action and the catechetical apostolate.
- The duty to defend the Church according to one’s talents and abilities.
- The duty to avoid the heresy of quietism, which teaches: “…the desire to do anything actively is offensive to God and hence one must abandon oneself entirely to Godand thereafter remain as a lifeless body” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912).
But what about Can. 21?
Canon 21 reads: “Laws enacted for the purpose of guarding against a common danger bind even though in a particular case there is no danger.” Cicognani states that “…the reason and purpose for which the law was made can change… and it ought to be revoked if it becomes useless, harmful or unreasonable. And if it has not actually been revoked, it is to be reasonably presumed to be revoked.” He then explains when this canon applies to the law. “A law ceases adequately when all its purposes cease, inadequately when only some particular purpose ceases.” Now all the purposes of this law ceased because there is no competent authority to administer the law. Cicognani continues: “The purpose of the law ceases contrariwise when an injurious law becomes either unjust or impossible of observance or negatively when the law becomes useless; universally when the purpose of the law ceases with respect to all subjects… If the purpose of the law ceases adequately and contrariwise for the whole community, the law ceases for the entire community. If it ceases adequately and negatively, in practice we can hold that the law ceases, according to the majority of canonists.” So either way, despite this cautionary canon, the law has ceased.
The right use of reason
As seen above, the right use of reason must be employed even in determining right and wrong when forming a right conscience. This involves arriving at conclusions and making the proper deductions. To claim we are not allowed to do this regarding the presentation of truths of faith is to actually embrace teachings condemned by the Catholic Church. The first of these were proposed by Nicholas of Autrecourt and condemned by Pope Clement VI: “Through natural appearances, no certainty [can] be had regarding things” (DZ 553). And “From evidence from one matter, another matter cannot be inferred or concluded…” Also condemned are the errors of Traditionalism and Fideism, described in the Catholic Encyclopedia as follows: “[Traditionalism is] a philosophical system which makes TRADITION the supreme criterion and rule of certitude.” Fideism is a bit more complicated but is very similar in its tenets. “Fideism (Lat. fides, faith), [is] a philosophical term meaning a system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on certitude, “Many truths, indeed, have to be accepted on authority; but then it has to be made evident that such authority is legitimate, is capable of knowing the truth, and is qualified to teach in the particular department in which it is accepted.” As Rev. A.C. Cotter S.J. teaches in his The ABC of Scholastic Philosophy, (p. 284): “Authority clothed with the necessary conditions is true authority. False authority makes the same claims although it lacks these conditions.” Cotter comments that those following self-styled teachers of any philosophic system have the “duty to investigate for themselves. Authority is not the last criterion of truth or motive of certitude.” This duty is precisely what would be violated were the provisions of Can. 1385 followed. The Church has always taught that instruction be tailored to the times and circumstances and the understanding of the learner. If Catholics have no one to help them in this regard, how are they to fulfill their obligations and obey the Roman Pontiffs?
According to the laws of the Church (which are negatively infallible), in a conflict of law, the higher laws of justice and charity, found in the natural law, prevail. The laws of conscience cannot be violated; we cannot and must not embrace error of any kind and we must follow the rules laid out in the Canons for determining when a law ceases to bind. This is following Pope Pius XII’s admonition in his address on the mission of Catholic women not to violate ecclesiastical law. But the highest law, the salvation of souls which is the very reason for the Church’s existence, is supreme. No one is ever required to do the impossible. It has been proven that no authorities in Rome now exist to grant theimprimatur and review works to guarantee them free from error. Yet the obligation to strive for the salvation of souls, defend the faith and assist the neighbor remain.
And this obligation is not, as some have suggested, limited to our family, friends and acquaintances; everyone is to be considered our neighbor. Particularly in this time period when so many are scattered among the heathen in various lands without even any Catholics nearby, as several of our correspondents have communicated, with no way of accessing reliable Catholic resources, this work is necessary. Of course one must restrict any written presentation to those authors already approved by the Church and to the teachings and laws of the Church Herself, particularly Sacred Scripture, the Roman Pontiffs, the Fathers and the Councils. Where explanation is required, approved authors faithful to the magisterium must be used. This is all we have tried to do here, although we are aware that many take issue with what we present. But we cannot ignore the higher law without answering for it to God, and we are bound to obey our conscience if we wish to save our souls.
We end with this from Saint Alphonsus de Liguori’s sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension:
“Such should be your answer to all those satellites of Satan: you must despise all their maxims and reproaches. And when it is necessary to reprove those who make little of God’s law, you must take courage and correct them publicly. Them that sin, reprove before all (1 Timothy 5:20). And when there is question of the divine honor, we should not be frightened by the dignity of the man who offends God; let us say to him openly: This is sinful; it cannot be done. Let us imitate the Baptist, who reproved King Herod for living with his brother’s wife and say to him: It is not lawful for thee to have her (Matthew 14:4). Men indeed shall regard us as fools and turn us into derision; but on the day of judgment, they shall acknowledge that they have been foolish, and we shall have the glory of being numbered among the saints. They shall say: These are they whom we held sometime in derision. … We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints (Wisdom 5:3).”
© Copyright 2022, 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.)