Ordination/Consecration by Schismatics is Conditionally Valid, but Acts Emanating From Schismatic Orders Are Null and Void
© Copyright 2009, revised 2012, 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.)
Over the past few years, it has been proven in articles on this site that any sacramental acts attempted by those who received Orders from schismatics and heretics are automatically null and void, since Trad “clergy” who receive them also suffer from infamy of law. Following this disclosure, accusations have been levied that this has never been the practice of the Church throughout the centuries. These same people also are saying that if this was indeed the case, it is equivalent to stating that those ordained and consecrated by heretics and schismatics do not possess valid orders. Traditionalists claim that epikeia excuses them from infamy of law and allows them to exercise the faculties received. We learn 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 is not to be identified with interpretation, dispensation, presumed permission, excusing cause, or popular acceptance of human law…Human invalidating laws sometimes cease to bind; but epikeia may not be applied to human invalidating laws… In regard to matters which touch the essence of the Sacraments, the use of epikeia is always excluded.” And Fr. Riley was properly trained and duly approved, unlike Traditionalists.
While certainly valid and licit Orders and canonical mission jurisdiction must BOTH exist before one can say that any cleric is truly a successor of the Apostles, Orders is entirely separate from and can exist independent of jurisdiction. Yet Orders cannot be exercised licitly without jurisdiction and in the case of Penance it cannot be exercised validly, unless some truly serious reason to presume jurisdiction exists. Traditionalists deny two dogmas of faith (and yes, they are and have been heretics for some time now) that are the cause of their false pretensions to jurisdiction:
- They deny the infallible teaching of the Vatican Council, which states that the Roman Pontiffs enjoy supreme jurisdiction in the Church;
- They deny the infallible teaching of Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi that bishops do not receive the right to exercise their orders directly from Christ, but must receive the jurisdiction necessary to posit at least licit acts directly from the Pope.
Three separate suspensions reserved to the Apostolic See are presumed as routinely incurred by Traditionalist “bishops” and “priests,” one for lack of Apostolic mandate in consecrating bishops (Can. 2370); another for receiving orders from the hands of a notorious heretic, apostate or schismatic, (Can. 2372) and a third for ordaining a non-subject without dimissorial letters, (Can. 2373). This would be more than enough to exclude them as able to provide the Sacraments in any situation. But this is granting Traditionalists way too much credit. In reality, these suspensions affect only those who are actually clerics, and since at best it is not certain that any of these men became clerics, a prerequisite for the priesthood according to Divine Law, all are infamous for their heresies and are irregular and excommunicated for simulating the Sacraments, (Can. 2322 §1). Infamy of law renders the administration of the Sacraments null and void, (Can. 2294). Canon 2295 states that absolution from infamy of law is reserved to the Holy See and Can. 2322 §1 also attaches an excommunication reserved in a special manner to the Holy See to the crime of simulating Mass and Confession.
The irregularity incurred under Can. 985 no. 7 for this crime is a “perpetual impediment…which permanently bars a man from entering the clerical state, or forbids the exercise of the orders already received.” So any talk of a true pope appearing on the scene or being elected by these men is just that — talk. They are irregular and excommunicated laymen who are incapacitated to elect anyone. Even if God sent a pope down from heaven, they would be permanently barred from receiving orders. Those validly ordained who are not guilty of simulation are still guilty of heresy for denying the articles of faith above and incur infamy automatically as an additional penalty. Unless absolved by the Roman Pontiff, the infamous cannot be promoted to Orders of any kind either, and if they have received orders from one who is irregular himself, Can. 2294 §1 nullifies the Orders received. So no matter how you look at this, from whatever possible angle, these men are incapable of validly and licitly administering the Sacraments, whether for excommunication, suspension, doubtful tonsure or lack thereof or all of these. And according to Can. 2208, “a person who repeatedly offends even against different kinds of laws also increases his liability.”
This same misunderstanding concerning the actual status of Traditionalists who have attempted to become clerics is the basis of a total misinterpretation of Can. 2261 §2 and Can. 2284. These canons refer only to clerics who have received certainly valid and licit tonsure then ordination and/or consecration but have been excommunicated for some reason following their ordination/consecration. These clerics must have been properly trained and validly and licitly ordained and/or consecrated using the old rite of ordination by a bishop also validly and licitly ordained in the old rite. Likewise any bishop’s consecrators must also prove valid and licit ordination/consecration. This alone is true apostolic succession. By valid we mean one who has received orders from a bishop who is using the proper matter, form and who possesses the proper intention, meaning he must use the old pre-1968 rite and have the intention to do what the Church does. He must use properly blessed olive oil in episcopal consecrations and must ordain only those possessing no impediments to Holy Orders. All other cases fall under Can. 1258, which deals with communicatio in sacris.
The two canons mentioned in the paragraph above have no intention or effect of supplying jurisdiction in these cases, since a) such suppletory jurisdiction comes only from a true pope and we have none; b) These canons apply ONLY to those who have already previously received a certainly valid and licit canonical mission from the proper authorities but have forfeited the right to exercise their faculties by incurring excommunication or suspension, as outlined above. Traditional clerics receive no jurisdiction and therefore are not included. One cannot be allowed to exercise something one once had, but which has been restricted, if one never had it. And not only have Trads never had such jurisdiction, without a true pope they can never expect to have it, either. Some attempt to exempt Lefebvre and Thuc from this group of Traditionalists because they did possess valid ordination and consecration, yet by adhering to the Novus Ordo as bishops and consecrating without papal mandate they both incurred infamy of law, irregularity and excommunication on several counts. One Traditionalist argument runs that because St. Thomas Aquinas holds that an heretical bishop can grant faculties if not formally declared heretical by the Church, but this long ago was declared not to be the case in Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, and more recently in a case decided by the Holy See.
Rev. Benedict Pfaller cites a decision rendered by the Authentic Commission on Code of Canon Law. He observes that, “A religious who ceases to be a Catholic, who bids farewell to the Catholic Church, is rightly considered as legitimately dismissed from the religious institute…A public apostate from the Catholic faith is one who publicly renounces the Catholic Church. Thus the religious would renounce the Catholic faith in passing over to a non-Christian group such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, some well-defined cult of paganism, Judaism, etc.; or in joining a Protestant, heretical, non-Catholic Christian sect or a schismatic church; or in joining any professedly and manifestly anti-Catholic group, such as a league of Freethinkers, or, finally, in openly denying even one article of the Catholic faith…On July 30, 1934, a response of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code…state(d) that the declaration of fact is not necessary in order that a religious be considered as ipso facto legitimately dismissed… The religious must be considered dismissed even before the declaration of the fact takes place,” (Ipso Facto Dismissal of Religious, Catholic University of America Canon Law dissertation, 1948, Volume 34, Number 7, page 743-4, April 1934). Concerning irregularities, Revs. Woywod Smith comment on Can. 986: “Contrary to the former law…the irregularity [for apostasy, heresy or schism] is now incurred [even] though one does not join an heretical sect,” and irregularity prevents the exercise of jurisdiction actually received at one time; it does NOT address the issue of jurisdiction never granted.
It is said that Lefebvre was “tricked” into signing Vatican II documents, and that therefore his heresy is not certain until judged so by the Church, anymore than the heresy of those tricked into signing documents at the Council of Rimini was certain. At Rimini the documents initially signed at least could be taken in an Orthodox way, although this was not true of documents signed by the bishops at a later date. Could anything promoted at Vatican II be taken in an Orthodox way? And even if it could, is it ever permitted to accept lies containing an admixture of truth? If Traditionalists must go back that far in history to justify Lefebvre, then we know that such justification is a smokescreen. All the laws on communication in sacris and the added irregularity of infamy of law take both Thuc and Lefebvre completely out of the picture until a decision of the Holy See can determine their status and the status of those they ordained and consecrated. Until then, no one is allowed to exercise their orders.
Valid and licit
By licit is meant one who has received orders from one in communion with the Holy See with the necessary mandate to consecrate bishops or the necessary permission (jurisdiction) to operate seminaries, train seminarians and ordain them to their respective dioceses. These orders must be valid AND licit, not just valid. Only those possessing valid and licit orders are true successors of the Apostles, (see Apostolic Succession). This is the de fide teaching of the Church on apostolic succession. Without a true pope for the past 50 years and more it is easy to see that these conditions have rarely if ever been met. The Church legislates for what usually occurs, not for the emergency situation. She could not have intended to include schismatic or illicitly ordained and consecrated clerics, since already she forbids the laity to communicate with these individuals under Can. 1258. These included, pre-1959, but were not limited to the Greek and Russian Orthodox, the Old Catholics, the Old Roman Catholics and like sects whose orders, at least in the case of the Orthodox, were believed to have remained valid in previous times, but who today cannot even lay certain claim to validity. This is demonstrated in the work “Illicit Priests and Bishops Cannot Function” in this section.
In this article concerning Anglican and Polish National Catholic Church orders, a doubt concerning the validity of those ordained to the Traditionalist sects by schismatic bishops was established. Of course there are those still alive who yet were validly and licitly ordained and consecrated (prior to Pope Pius XII’s death Oct. 9, 1958), but possess no jurisdiction; these ordinations and consecrations are not being questioned as valid per se, but in nearly all cases those who have participated in NO and Traditionalist ceremonies are forbidden to exercise their orders and if they do attempt to exercise them their acts are invalid, (Can. 984 no. 5; Can 2294 §1). Below find listed the teaching and practice of the Church concerning Her dealings with lapsed Catholics, Liberal Catholics, Old Catholics and other individuals:
1. Nov. 18, 1931: A lapsed Catholic who receives orders from a schismatic bishop can be received back into the Church only on the understanding that such ordinations, even if valid, will be completely disregarded, (Dr. Leslie Rumble, American Ecclesiastical Review: “Are Liberal Catholic Orders Valid,” 1958).
2. The Australian convert Dr. Leslie Rumble, (ibid. # 1 above) told his readers that even if the Liberal Catholic “bishop” Willoughby who repented before his death had lived, he could never have been admitted even to conditional ordination, far less to Episcopal consecration.
3. Dr. Orchard, a famous congregational minister, was secretly ordained a priest by a bishop allegedly issuing from the Syro-Chaldean rite. Upon his conversion to the Catholic faith, Rome conditionally reordained Orchard in 1935, according to Dr. Rumble.
4. The Old Catholic “bishop” Giebner, upon his conversion to Catholicism, was reordained sub conditione following World War II, (Addenda/Corrigenda, “Bishops at Large,” by Peter Anson).
5. Nov. 9, 18, 1926: When Joseph Thiessen, an Old Catholic bishop, converted to Catholicism, he was warned by the Bishop of Cologne that because he had received ordination from the Old Catholics, he could not even function as a priest. Thiessen eventually returned to his schism, (Ibid., Anson, p. 320).
6. In his “Faiths of the Few,” (1963) William J. Whalen noted the following: “The Catholic Church follows the Augustinian theory that a bishop who is validly consecrated retains the power to transmit valid but irregular orders. In practice, the Church ignores orders received by apostates from schismatic bishops. These men, if reconciled to the Church, need not recite the Divine Office or even observe celibacy.” Whalen noted that it was the opinion of Cardinal Merry del Val, owing to the commercialization of orders by the notorious renegade Old Catholic bishop Vilatte, that none of these orders were valid. Vilatte reconciled with Rome, relapsed once again and was eventually buried as a layman. This, Whalen reported, despite the fact that “a number of Catholic theologians were prepared to admit that his orders were valid.” Already in the early part of the 20th century, then, the tendency to bend the rules on validity was apparent.
7. In his 1956 work “Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention” Rev. Francis Clark, S.J. observes: “To what an extent a visible separation from the true Church of Christ exerts an influence on the external rite itself, that is, whether such a rite does or does not continue the ritual profession of the faith of the Church must be determined by the Church, Herself. It belongs to the true Church to determine whether a rite performed in given circumstances is an ”exteriorization” of Her own faith — that is, whether it is her own act — or whether it is, on the contrary, an act expressing the faith of another separated Church, qua separated,” (qua meaning in what manner or how being defined by the Church). “In this latter case, the rite is not valid,” Dr. Rumble observes. “Thus Pope Leo XIII decreed in the concrete that Anglican ordinations do not remain acts of the true Church; in them ‘ritual contact’ with the faith of Christ’s Church is not maintained,” (ibid., Dr. Rumble).
The “ritual contact” referred to by Rev. Clark can be none other than the intent to do what the Church does — to include the recipient of orders in the “united body of the Church” as a true minister. So let us say that some Old Catholic bishop today wished to convert. First he would need to make the profession of faith and abjure all his heresies and schism in the presence of a validly and licitly ordained bishop. Secondly, he would need to be absolved from his excommunication(s) by a bishop, or a priest with faculties necessary to so absolve. Finally, he must be absolved sacramentally in confession, (“Pastoral Companion,” 1939). But there is no one known to possess jurisdiction who can validly and licitly absolve from sins and excommunication today; only when certainly valid and licit abjuration and absolution is obtained can these men be considered as received back into the Church. But this is only the beginning.
When such a man is finally a Catholic, what does the Church say about his Old Catholic orders? In the case of doubtfully valid orders, at best She tells him that he must be reordained conditionally, sometimes with retraining and sometimes without. But wait — pay attention to the word ordained. No one says that this man may be made a bishop, only a priest. The Church has no obligation to promote such a man and St. Robert Bellarmine states in his “de Romano Pontifice” that heretics and schismatics are incapable of being promoted, according to the unanimous opinion of the Fathers. This also is the teaching today of Canon Law concerning the incurring of irregularities, whether from crime or defect.
Early Church teaching on communication in sacris
St. Cyril of Alexander, 5th century: “It is therefore unlawful and a profanation, and an act the punishment of which is death, to associate with unhallowed heretics and to unite oneself to their communion.”
Pope St. Leo the Great, 5th century: “It is at the peril of his soul for any one of them [heretics] who has fallen away from [the papacy] into a sect of heretics and schismatics…to be received into Catholic communion after coming to his senses without making legitimate and express satisfaction.”
Pope St. Pelagius, 6th century: “For there is no crime more hated or despised than to communicate with schismatics…For anyone who does this is a reprobate and ceases to be part of the Church.”
Pope St. Gregory the Great, 6th century: “Rather ought everyone submit to death than to receive the sacrament of communion from the hand of a heretic.”
St. John Damascene, 8th century: “Let us never receive communion from or grant it to heretics…lest we become partakers in their dishonor and condemnation.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Pt. II-II, Q. 39, Art. 3: “Jurisdiction…does not remain in heretics and schismatics; and consequently they neither absolve, nor excommunicate nor grant indulgences, nor do anything of the kind, and if they do it is invalid.”
Pope Paul IV, 16th century: “On no account [may] you go to the churches of heretics, or hear their sermons, or join in their rites lest ye incur the wrath of God.”
Pope Pius VI, 18th century; “Charitas”: “Keep away from all intruders, whether called Archbishops, bishops or parish priests; do not hold communion with them especially in divine worship.”
History of schismatic Orders
Rev. Ignatius Szal in his work, “The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics” (1948), chronicles the history of schismatic bishops ordaining and consecrating irregularly. He tells us that: “In , Pope Urban II decreed that those who in the past had been ordained by schismatic bishops who were once Catholic were to be received misericorditer when they returned to the Church, if their life and learning commended them, but that those who for the future would permit themselves to receive orders at the hands of schismatics were not to be considered worthy of the same concession. The Pope further declared that only inasmuch as the consideration of mercy and the strict demand of necessity had motivated his action, was it to have any application in the future, for he wanted no inroads to be made against the sacred canons, and he desired that they should regain their erstwhile strength and force. Once the emergency was past, then also whatever he had done to meet that emergency would no longer have operative effect. It was the imminent effect of far-reaching harm that had compelled him to mitigate the severity of the law.”
In the following chapter of his work Rev. Szal describes the time period in the late 12th century when the antipope Victor IV and Paschal III reigned. “These schismatics had ordained many of their adherents to the episcopate…The Third Lateran Council took action by declaring that the ordinations performed by these schismatic popes were null and void, as also the ordinations conferred by those who had been consecrated by them…The Canon used the word “irritas” in reference to the ordinations conferred by the schismatics. However the term was to be understood in reference to the execution or the exercise of these orders, rather than to their validity…Clement VIII in his Instruction Sanctissimus Aug. 31, 1595 stated that those who had received ordination at the hand of schismatic bishops who apart from their schismatic status were properly consecrated — the necessary form having been observed — did indeed receive orders but not the right to exercise them…
“Pope Benedict XIV in the Constitution Etsi Pastoralis of May 26, 1742 confirmed this doctrine of Clement VIII. On the question of schismatic ordinations, these two documents present an almost identical wording. Not only was the recognized validity of schismatic orders established, but further points were clarified. Schismatic bishops were not to be admitted for the conferring of orders or for the administration of any of the other Sacraments. Persons ordained by schismatic bishops were, upon a proper rectification and amendment of their status to be reconciled and absolved.” In addition they were required to do penance. If they had embraced any errors they were to abjure them either publicly or secretly; if not they were required to renounce the schism of their ordaining prelate. “Before the ordained persons could exercise their orders, it was necessary for them to receive from the Holy See a dispensation from the irregularity which they had incurred,” and this apparently refers to the infamy of law attached to communicatio in sacris.
“The reception of holy Orders from the hands of schismatic bishops has practically always been forbidden by the Church. Rarely has the Holy See ever considered it necessary to receive orders from a schismatic bishop. The prohibition to receive holy Orders at the hands of a schismatic bishop is contained in the general prohibition against active religious communication as expressed in Can. 1258§1. Canon 2372 also decrees a suspension a divinis reserved to the Apostolic See receiving holy Orders from a notorious schismatic. Even those ordained in good faith by such men forfeit the right to exercise their orders until they are dispensed. Communication in religious rites is forbidden because of accompanying dangers such as perversion of faith and scandal to others. This prohibition of the Church, found in Can. 1258, extends not only to active participation with schismatics in rites that are of their nature non-Catholic, but also excludes communication with them in rites which, though peculiarly Catholic, are exercised under the auspices of a non-Catholic sect.
This adds to any other censure a censure also for communicatio in sacris and for schism, detailed under Can. 2314. So even if such orders were valid, the act involved in receiving them would immediately ipso facto depose any cleric for the commission of schism, as specified under Can. 188 §4. Deposed clerics are considered as laymen under the law and if they possess any jurisdiction are deprived of it. St. Robert Bellarmine cites the unanimous teaching of the Fathers in his work “de Romano Pontifice,” where he states: “Heretics [and current canon law regards schismatics as equal to heretics] who return to the Church must be received as laymen, even though they have been formerly priests or bishops in the Church. St. Optatus (lib. 1 cont. Parmen.).”
Intention, irregularity are the real questions
How is it possible to determine intention? In his 1960s articles for the Homiletic and Pastoral review, Joseph Prudzik examines the intention of a minister of the Polish National Church as follows. (Here we orient these observations specifically to Traditionalists.)
- There is evidence of a Protestant attitude toward the Sacraments. (Like the Protestants, Traditionalists believe in extraordinary mission jurisdiction and a church that can function without the papacy!)
- The minister’s words and deeds indicate a lack of Catholic faith. (In denying the necessity of jurisdiction to function, the inapplicability of Canon Law overall, the necessity of obeying papal decrees and in teaching that the four marks can exist without apostolicity and the papacy, Traditionalists deny several articles of faith.)
- After an exhaustive search, there is no existing evidence to indicate the minister accepted sacramental priesthood in the Catholic sense. (In denying the very essence of apostolicity itself, which consists of both orders and jurisdiction; and in ignoring a great body of evidence contrary to their beliefs which repeatedly has been brought to their attention, it is difficult to see how Trads believe that they can create priests in the Catholic sense.)
- The minister had no intention of doing what the Catholic Church does in ordaining and consecrating. (There was never any hope or intention of ordaining men priests and consecrating them bishops to eventually operate in communion with a canonically elected pontiff, receive jurisdiction or be assigned to a diocese. And there was no intention ever, in setting out to create these bishops, of doing so only to re-establish the papacy which they were obligated to do in order to proceed from a truly apostolic standpoint. Pascal Parente notes in his Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology: “Only in dependence on the ministerial power of the Church, indefectibly faithful to the mandate of its Founder do men of all times and places find the guarantee of the continuity of the means of salvation established by the Redeemer…The Church, moreover, is a well organized Body in which every vital movement, linked to an external rite must depend in some way on the visible head. It is necessary therefore that every infusion of new, vital energies, caused by the Sacraments be in some way dependent on the visible head of the Church and on Her hierarchy…”
Even though the Pontificale Romanum was used by Traditionalists and the minister’s consecrators may be presumed to have a Catholic intention, this doubtful validity cannot be overcome. (The intent of Lefebvre and Thuc, unlike the consecrators Prudzik considers, must be questioned. It cannot be ruled out, especially given the Pope St. Pius X Society’s reconciliation with Rome and Thuc’s return to the NO, which in fact proves neither of these men ever left this sect. P. Pourrat, in his “Theology of the Sacraments,” stated that: “The intention of the minister is that of the church he represents.” As titular bishop of Bullae Reggiae, the title granted by Paul 6 with which he signed his declaration, Thuc clearly believed himself a member of that church. They may only have ordained and consecrated Traditionalists with the expectation that those they created would later be reabsorbed into the Conciliar Church. It has always been the practice of the Church to declare null and void the ordinations and consecrations of men in the service of antipopes, and indeed the basis for this is found in Pope Paul IV’s Cum ex Apostolatus Officio. Therefore there is at least serious doubt that Lefebvre and Thuc had any real intention to ordain and consecrate men into the pre-Vatican 2 Church of the ages.)
And finally, as Prudzik noted concerning the Polish National Catholic Church minister and his consecrators: “It is not as safe, however, to concede the valid Orders of Stenhoven’s successors [Stenhoven being the initial breakaway Jansenist bishop in the 1770s] as one might grant the original validity of his own Orders…One can only conclude there is some doubt about validity.” This is true of those in the Anglican church as well, which is why Apostolica Curae held Anglican orders invalid. Prudzik’s observation about Stenhoven also is true of those many second and third-hand ordinations and consecrations from the Lefebvre and Thuc lines. But we also have irregularity and infamy of law to deal with, incurred by both Lefebvre and Thuc for signing V2 documents and participating in V2 rites. This irregularity is attached to Can 2314 no. 3 concerning heresy.
Suspicion of heresy is incurred immediately upon violating Can. 1258. If one ignores all admonitions and remains under this suspicion for more than six months by not exiting the non-Catholic sect, he is considered a heretic. This comes as a necessary consequence of violating Can. 1258 §1. Once those who consider themselves heretics are infamous, they are forbidden to perform ecclesiastical acts of any kind and such acts, if attempted are considered invalid, (Revs. Woywod-Smith commentary on Can. 2294). The Orders, if truly valid remain; but the right to exercise them is canceled and annulled. The Roman Pontiff alone possesses full power of bonding and loosing. Pope Pius XI has declared in his constitution Vacantis Apostolica Sedis that if ANYTHING is attempted during an interregnum that would ordinarily require the exercise of papal jurisdiction (and infamy of law can be absolved only by the true Roman Pontiff) it is null and void, because it presumes the lifting of the irregularity and violates Canon Law.
St. Robert Bellarmine taught that the mind of the minister must be conformed to the mind of the Church. Rev. Leeming stated that in order for the minister to intend to do what the Church does, he must intend to join those ordained/consecrated to “the united body of the Church,” which means both the body of the hierarchy and the Mystical Body of Christ. Those heretics and schismatics who do not will to do what the Church does, do not intend to join those ordained or consecrated to the “united body.” They cannot, for Traditionalists themselves are not united and they do not recognize the likes of all those who keep the faith at home. Therefore they exclude the effects of the Sacrament as the Church intended it to be administered and so are assumed not to validly confer Orders.
Heretics and schismatics can validly ordain and consecrate, providing their errors do not involve some doctrine necessary to the substance of the Sacrament of Orders. What constitutes this substance of the Sacrament? For ordination, a sacrificing priesthood obedient to the hierarchy, possessing the power to absolve from sin and sanctify the faithful. But Traditionalists cannot absolve from sin for lack of jurisdiction, nor can they sanctify the faithful because their sacrifices are illicit and therefore fruitless, according to St. Thomas. Conferral of episcopal orders presumes inclusion in the united body of bishops, but Traditionalist bishops are not united. It involves the governance of priests and faithful residing in a diocese, but these bishops have no pope so can never be assigned a diocese. And of course it involves obedience to the Roman Pontiff and communion with him, which has never happened in the Traditionalist sect.
All the above adequately describes the Traditionalist situation and as Prudzik noted in his case, this means that, according to the rules of logic and orthodox theology, all the evidence points to the highly probable invalidity of Orders (among Traditionalists). Yet because we have no pope, there can be no decision on this matter. This alone creates doubtful validity, especially when Pope Pius XII’s Constitution on papal election law is taken into consideration. How would you like to be a Traditionalist bishop who has behaved as though the papacy is an option and not necessary to his ministry when a true pope comes along? No thank you. The Church does not take kindly to the minimizing of her dogmas on the papacy, especially since the Vatican Council. Christ made Peter His vicar and spokesperson on earth, and this is a direct insult to His will in this matter and to the Divine Authority.
But are Traditionalists really schismatics?
Traditionalists don’t believe they are heretics or schismatics but believe instead they constitute the true Church, complete with its four marks; they cannot accept the idea that they are in schism, but wait — it’s worse than that. Essentially they hold the Gallicanist heresy which places bishops on an equal level with the pope. But it is not for us to accept or reject any premise unless it is taught or condemned by the Church Herself. This is clearly Church teaching; we are allowed to understand that teaching not as we choose to understand it, but only in that same sense in which the Church Herself has always taught and understood it. So the question is: What does the Church teach concerning those who attend the services of sede vacante and other priests today and those priests who lead them? Are they in schism and do they constitute a non-Catholic sect? Quoting the theologians Schmalzgrueber and Wernz, Rev. Szal defines pure schism as:
1. A direct (express) or indirect (one’s actions) withdrawal from obedience to the Roman Pontiff and separation from ecclesiastical communion with the rest of the faithful, even though one does not join a separate schismatical sect;
2. Such withdrawal must be made with obstinacy and rebellion;
3. The withdrawal must be made in relation to those things by which the unity of the Church is constituted; and
4. Despite this formal disobedience, the schismatic must recognize the Roman Pontiff as the true pastor of the Church and he must profess as an article of faith that obedience is due the Roman Pontiff.
It would seem that by disregarding the election law of Pope Pius XII concerning the preservation of Church law inviolate during an interregnum, it could be said that this constitutes at least an indirect withdrawal from papal obedience, (1). Despite the circulation of articles on jurisdiction beginning in 1984, priests and bishops have obstinately and consistently continued to wrongly invoke Can. 209 and 2261 §2, (2). The pope is the center of all unity, and in order to all be members of the same Mystical Body, we must all believe the same truths of faith, participate in the same Sacraments and worship, under the direction of lawful pastors who in turn are subject to the Roman Pontiff, (St. Robert Bellarmine’s definition of the Church). This is the classic description of the Catholic Church accepted by all theologians. The last two items in this definition of the Church are missing, the second depends on the last two and we are left only barely with the first, (3). And here we must observe that those who provide the Sacraments especially Penance, and their followers who deny the necessity of such jurisdiction to absolve, in contradiction of DZ 920, deny a truth of Divine faith. This consequentially anathematizes both Trad clergy and their followers (4).
If all those following these priests do not agree 100 percent with those of the faithful adhering to each and every doctrine the Church teaches, they cannot qualify as Church members and there can be no unity. Clearly there are problems with fulfilling the specifics necessary for this, the primary problem being a lack of lawful pastors and a true Roman Pontiff. The leaders of these sects complain that the Church always continues to exist during an interregnum and to state that She does not is a denial of indefectibility. But the Church Herself has the right to determine HOW She will exist during an interregnum, and Pope Pius XII did so decide. Unity is injured under #3, and this leads us to #4. No one in these sects denies that usually the Pope is the true and necessary head of the Church. All claim that obedience is owed to him. And yet they obviously believe that obedience does not include obeying all the existing laws Pope Pius XII infallibly decreed must be observed during interregnums. Nor does it include faithfully following the teaching of the ordinary magisterium concerning jurisdiction, unity, episcopal consecration or priestly ordination. If this is not indicative of schism, what is? For all the lip service they pay to the papacy, they clearly do not follow the teachings of the Church either from the distant past or even the last century regarding their actions, from what is presented above as well as what follows here.
Decisions of the Roman Curia
First Rev. Szal begins with questions asked 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.”
In order to participate in such functions, Rev. Szal points out, one would need “an authorization or dispensation from the visible head of the Church.” Continuing his assay of Holy Office pronouncements, Szal lists further decisions concerning Holy Communion. On June 17, 1839, The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith forbade the reception of Holy Communion from an heretical priest. A general prohibition against receiving any sacraments from schismatics was issued by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605). “Benedict XIV (1740-1758) also forbade the use of the services given by schismatics for the conferring of the sacraments. Rev. Szal gives this stunning summary of these decisions as follows: “From the nature of the response which the Holy Office gave to questions concerning the reception of absolution and Extreme Unction from schismatics on the part of persons who are in danger of death, it seems to be the mind of the Church that Viaticum should not be received from schismatics under any conditions.”
In 1631, Rev. Szal reports on the Holy Office’s various decisions concerning the use of faculties and the hearing of confessions. He writes: “The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith stated that priests could seek permission for the use of their faculties from bishops who were regarded to be Catholic, provided that the priests had that degree of certitude regarding the orthodoxy of the bishops which excluded all suspicion of the schism or the error current in that region as attaching to them,” (Ibid). In answer to further doubts that same year, “the same Congregation replied that it was not permissible to seek the permission for the use of even one of the faculties from schismatic bishops. It insisted that the clause which had stated that permission was to be sought must be understood in regard to bishops who were in communion with the Church of Rome. There was asked the further question whether this permission could be obtained from schismatic pastors, but the reply of the Congregation was the same as that in regard to schismatic bishops.
“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…”
Clearly the Holy Office would not today accept “necessity knows no law” or “impossibility excuses” as valid reasons for resorting to the services of schismatics. Impossibility excuses from the OBSERVANCE of the law; as the decision cited by Rev. Szal states above, impossibility excuses the faithful from attending Mass when the only way they could fill this obligation is to attend schismatic services. And while necessity may know no law, certainly this is not a license to grant dispensation from Divine laws and infallible law. As Rev. Raymond Kearney, quoting several other approved theologians observes: “The Church can supply only that power the disposition of which is entrusted to Her; She cannot, therefore, supply what is required by Divine or natural law,” (“The Principles of Delegation,” 1929). Only the Pope may supply. Without the Pope, the supplying factor is entirely lacking, and even absolution in danger of death is not advised. The necessity of first tonsure is a principle of Divine law and without it, the entire fabrication of Traditionalist orders falls to dust at their feet.
When others ask why it is not permissible to receive the Sacraments from Traditional priests or bishops, explain to them first that we have no guarantees that Traditionalists were ever validly tonsured, so therefore they could never become priests or bishops. Also no one is allowed to appoint their own ministers, which essentially is what Traditionalist laity do, and this is the teaching of the Council of Trent, (DZ 960, 967). Since we have doubts concerning their validity as priests, we are forbidden by the Church to receive the Sacraments from them, (DZ 1151). If they refuse to accept this, then explain to them that even if they are by some miracle validly ordained, then the following applies:
• 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 is not to be identified with interpretation, dispensation, presumed permission, excusing cause, or popular acceptance of human law…Human invalidating laws sometimes cease to bind; but epikeia may not be applied to human invalidating laws… In regard to matters which touch the essence of the Sacraments, the use of epikeia is always excluded.” And Fr. Riley was properly trained and duly approved, unlike Traditionalists.
• Only those who have already previously received a certainly valid and licit canonical mission from the proper authorities but have forfeited the right to exercise their faculties by incurring excommunication or suspension, is intended in Canons 2261 and 2284.
• In his 1956 work “Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention,” Rev. Francis Clark, S.J. observes: “To what an extent a visible separation from the true Church of Christ exerts an influence on the external rite itself, that is, whether such a rite does or does not continue the ritual profession of the faith of the Church must be determined by the Church, Herself.”
• Clement VIII in his Instruction Sanctissimus Aug. 31, 1595 stated that those who had received ordination at the hand of schismatic bishops who apart from their schismatic status were properly consecrated — the necessary form having been observed — did indeed receive orders but not the right to exercise them…Pope Benedict XIV in the Constitution Etsi Pastoralis of May 26, 1742 confirmed this doctrine of Clement VIII.
• Pope Benedict XIV also taught that, “Schismatic bishops were not to be admitted for the conferring of orders or for the administration of any of the other Sacraments. Persons ordained by schismatic bishops were, upon a proper rectification and amendment of their status to be reconciled and absolved… Before the ordained persons could exercise their orders, it was necessary for them to receive from the Holy See a dispensation from the irregularity which they had incurred.”
“The reception of holy Orders from the hands of schismatic bishops has practically always been forbidden by the Church. Rarely has the Holy See ever considered it necessary to receive orders from a schismatic bishop. The prohibition to receive holy Orders at the hands of a schismatic bishop is contained in the general prohibition against active religious communication as expressed in Can. 1258§1.”
• St. Robert Bellarmine cites the unanimous teaching of the Fathers in his work “de Romano Pontifice,” where he states: “Heretics [and current canon law regards schismatics as equal to heretics] who return to the Church must be received as laymen, even though they have been formerly priests or bishops in the Church. St. Optatus (lib. 1 cont. Parmen.).”
• P. Pourrat, in his “Theology of the Sacraments,” stated that: “The intention of the minister is that of the church he represents.” Neither Lefebvre nor Thuc were ever formally separated from the Novus Ordo church prior to their consecrations and ordinations. Lefebvre never formally declared the See vacant or rejected the NO antipopes. Thuc declared the See vacant but retained the title of titular bishop of Bulla Reggiae, granted by Paul 6. He did not proceed to consecrate bishops for the sole purpose of electing a pope, as divine law required him to do.
• “It is not as safe, however, to concede the valid Orders of Stenhoven’s successors [Stenhoven being the initial breakaway Jansenist bishop in the 1770s] as one might grant the original validity of his own Orders… One can only conclude there is some doubt about validity.”
• On June 17, 1839, The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith forbade the reception of Holy Communion from an heretical priest.
• The theologian Jean-Marie Herve, points out in his “Sacraments,” (Dogmatic Theology, Vol. I): “In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the public good demands that the unworthy applicant [and heretics, schismatics and those suffering infamy of law are deemed unworthy by the Church], even if he be secret, be repelled even though his offense cannot be juridically proved. In this case the reception of the Sacrament is considered inferior in worth to the worthy exercise of the sacred functions and the public good of the Church. According to Pesch: ‘He who trenches on a public good thereby loses his right to a private good if the public good cannot effectively be defended without injury to the latter.’…It is forbidden to administer the Sacraments of the Church to heretics or schismatics even if they err in good faith…unless they first reject their errors and are reconciled with the Church.”
• Pascal Parente notes in his Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology: “Only in dependence on the ministerial power of the Church, indefectibly faithful to the mandate of its Founder do men of all times and places find the guarantee of the continuity of the means of salvation established by the Redeemer…The Church, moreover, is a well organized Body in which every vital movement, linked to an external rite must depend in some way on the visible head. It is necessary therefore that every infusion of new, vital energies, caused by the Sacraments be in some way dependent on the visible head of the Church and on Her hierarchy…”
As Rev. Clark said above, “To what an extent a visible separation from the true Church of Christ exerts an influence on the external rite itself, that is, whether such a rite does or does not continue the ritual profession of the faith of the Church must be determined by the Church, Herself.” This is precisely what Pope Pius XII said in Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, in explaining what can and cannot be done during an interregnum. “While the Apostolic Seat is vacant, let the Sacred College of Cardinals have no power or jurisdiction at all in those things which pertain to the Pope while he was alive…but let everything be held, reserved for the future Pope. And thus we decree that whatever power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff, while he is alive (unless in as far as it is expressly permitted in this, Our Constitution) the meeting of Cardinals itself may have taken for exercising, is null and void.”
Without a decision on the status of these self-proclaimed clerics by a canonically elected Roman Pontiff, no one can be certain that they even received orders or the episcopacy. As noted above, one is never allowed to proceed in a case of doubt, particularly when such a case concerns the Sacraments. Until they receive papal absolution and make reparation, these men cannot function anyway. This is not some new deduction; some half-baked jurisdiction argument thrown prematurely to opponents. As demonstrated above, this has been the constant teaching of the Church throughout the ages. It is no surprise that intruders and usurpers have set themselves up in the holy places. It is a surprise, however, that so many have allowed themselves to be seduced.