Pope Pius IX: Without canonical appointment, ecclesiastical acts null and void
It seemed truly auspicious that of all things we would find an encyclical written by Pope Pius IX on pseudo-bishops, to coincide with that great bishop St. Athanasius’ feast day, because of course nothing is ever truly a “coincidence” where such things are concerned.
And while so many jeer at the “overly legalistic” tenor of this site and continue, incredibly, to pretend that validity of orders alone justifies Traditionalist operations — despite irrefutable proofs to the contrary — corroborating evidence from the popes just keeps rolling in.
To place what follows in perspective, let’s remember that Canon Law was not officially codified until 1917. And when it was codified, many penalties that had previously required a declaration became ipso facto, or latae sententiae, in order to streamline judicial process. This is true of many of those censures for heresy based on Paul IV’s Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, which makes it clear that for these crimes no declaratory judgment is needed. So what Pope Pius IX announced in 1873 below would later be reflected in Can. 147, a Canon that, not surprisingly, cites both Pope Pius VI’s Charitas and Pius IX’s encyclical as Fontes, or the old laws governing this important canon.
So what does Can. 147 say? It says: “An ecclesiastical office cannot be validly obtained without canonical appointment. By canonical appointment is understood the conferring of an ecclesiastical office by the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons,” (emph. mine). T. Lincoln Bouscaren and Adam Ellis, in their canon law commentary, say that this canon applies even to the papacy. Pope Pius XII, in a decision on Can. 147 entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis (1950), hence binding on the faithful concerning belief, declares such a lack of canonical appointment as a violation of Trent’s DZ 967, i.e., the anathematization of those who exercise their office on their own authority or secular authority. Pius XII issues special automatic excommunications to those who function or exercise their orders without canonical appointment, also any who assist them in this.
So what did Pope Pius IX teach in his 1873 encyclical? In addressing the illegitimate “election” of a “certain notorious apostate” priest by schismatics, he wrote: “Therefore following the custom and example of Our Predecessors and of holy legislation, by the power granted to Us from heaven, We declare the election of the said Joseph Humbert Reinkens, performed against the sanctions of the holy canons to be illicit, null, and void. We furthermore declare his consecration sacrilegious. Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, We excommunicate and hold as anathema Joseph Humbert himself and all those who attempted to choose him, and who aided in his sacrilegious consecration. We additionally excommunicate whoever has adhered to them and belonging to their party has furnished help, favor, aid, or consent. We declare, proclaim, and command that they are separated from the communion of the Church. They are to be considered among those with whom all faithful Christians are forbidden by the Apostle to associate and have social exchange to such an extent that, as he plainly states, they may not even be greeted,” (Etsi Multa, On The Church In Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, Nov. 21, 1873 — allemph. mine; https://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/p9etsimu.htm).
Notice there is no mention here of any lack of valid ordination/consecration; that is entirely irrelevant. The popes do not care about this, because without appointment by competent (Church-sanctioned) authority, these men never receive jurisdiction, supplied or otherwise, and cannot become lawful pastors. It is not their ordination/consecration that is null and void but their appointment; hence any actions issuing from it, since it is judged by the canon as invalid. And notice also that Pope Pius IX makes it quite clear that what he is doing is consistent with the “custom and example of Our predecessors and of holy legislation.” In other words, it is the constant teaching of the Church. So let us hear no more that the Traditionalists base their actions on past laws and practices of the Church in this regard, when Pope Pius IX has just told us that the Church has never approved such practices or recognized such laws!
Traditionalists should carefully note the last paragraph of Pope Pius IX’s quote above, because it censures them as VITANDUS. And since they are in doubt about the law applying to them today, the old law prevails under Can. 6 §4. Yes, by associating with those presenting as Traditionalist clergy, they have become spiritual lepers, to be segregated from the rest of Catholic society. Remember the fate of Core and his followers, who were whisked away without warning into Hell.
St. Athanasius governed his flock during a time where God allowed true bishops to minister to the people; but this is not true of us in these times. God has spoken to us through His vicars and even if it means we have no bishop, no priest, we have Him and He alone is sufficient to us.