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Pope Pius IX: Without canonical appointment, ecclesiastical acts null and void

Dear Readers,

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.


T. Benns

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  1. Maria

    The trouble is, Traditionalists will say that the popes would never have intended their laws to impede the celebration of Mass, or to prevent the faithful from receiving the Sacraments, if there were no other way for this to occur. Sedevacantists, who would prefer to have a pope, but who insist on bypassing his authority in his absence, do not feel schismatic. They convince themselves that they are good Catholics, because if a true pope lived, they would follow him. They think they are very different from the Old Catholics and others, who rebelled against the popes for the sake of it. With the exception of those who are totally in bad faith, their objective is not to tear down the papacy per se, but to cling to the semblance of Mass and Sacraments. They presume the permission of the popes to operate as they do, convincing themselves that Pius XII and his predecessors would want them to have the Mass and Sacraments at all costs. They don’t hate the papacy, they just love their Mass centers more.

    • T. Stanfill Benns

      Dear Maria,
      The Traditionalists cannot just SAY the popes never intended for their laws to exclude the Mass and Sacraments, they must PROVE it. When there is a site filled up with such proofs, comparable to what is presented here, then we can talk. The Catholic Church chose Scholasticism as the only system of philosophy/theology She accepts. Rock-solid proofs must be presented and certitude based on those proofs formed accordingly. Unless this is the case, they are using another form of philosophy, one NOT approved by the Church, and their arguments are false.

      Sedevacantists can content themselves with not “feeling” schismatic if they choose, but the Catholic faith has never been based on “funny internal feelings.” This is a distinctly Modernist mindset and has been condemned as heresy by Pope St. Pius X in his Syllabus. Their schism is an objective judgment made long ago by the popes as expressed in their consent teachings. If what they are doing walks, acts, squawks and looks like the ducks the Popes describe in those teachings, then Traditionalists are those ducks. Read Pope Pius IX’s stern condemnation in Quartus Supra of schismatics and heretics who think they are Catholic and how they behave.

      We can never presume anything and this has been the problem with Traditionalists all along. Canon Law offers a solution and lay people are allowed to interpret the law, as long as they use the rules provided by the law itself. I have tried to explain this for years. Canon Law is negatively infallible and could never legislate for anything that would injure faith or morals. Most of it is taken from papal teaching and the General Councils. One of the Canons setting out rules for the interpretation of the rest of the code states that: “The ecclesiastical laws are to be interpreted according to the proper meaning of the terms of the law considered in their context. If the meanings of the terms remain doubtful or obscure, one must have recourse to parallel passages of the Code (if there are any), or to the purpose of the law and its circumstances, and the intention of the legislator,” (Can. 18).

      I have consistently tried to do this whenever there is doubt, and Trads have cast doubt on almost everything. In fact to hear them tell it, Canon Law is practically inoperable because the entire Code is in doubt. Traditionalists refuse to follow the rules governing Canon Law because it takes time, study and attention and they cannot spare these precious commodities to learn their faith. Basically they use opinions to justify what they believe, when they may use only formal certitude on which to ground their faith. They may not hate the papacy or intend to commit communicatio in sacris, but the law does not care.

      Can. 2200 PRESUMES they are heretics and schismatics, and demands that they prove themselves to be otherwise. So also does Pope Pius IX require this in his Quartus Supra. We do not judge them; the law judges them. We are only bound to follow the law. Pope Pius XII, in Mystici Corporis, makes obedience to Church law a condition for membership in the Church. Canon 2200 excludes as members even material heretics. This is not a game we are playing and new do not dare presume God’s mercy in such things when study would remedy the problem.

      I hear what you are saying, but have no patience with Traditionalists. I have been saying basically the same things for over 25 years now. As Holy Scripture laments, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”

      • Maria

        I agree with you, but I hear the same refrain over and over: “Those laws are for normal circumstances.” Incredibly, the lack of a pope is cited as justification for overlooking matters, such as the disqualification of priests due to affiliation with heretical sects, which would normally require a papal dispensation.

        I have heard Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis dismissed with claims such as the following: “Pius XII wrote the law to protect the normal functioning of the Church during the interregnum, and celebrating Mass and providing Sacraments in the normal functioning of the Church.” Those making these claims seem to forget that presuming to act without a clear, visible source of jurisdiction is not the “normal functioning of the Church.” They never consider that Pius XII could easily have included exceptions in the law for extreme circumstances. He chose not to do so.

        If Our Lord had wanted the Mass and Sacraments, simply, to take precedence over everything, He could have given every Catholic the ability to celebrate Mass and confect all the Sacraments. Just as anyone can baptize, He could have made everyone a priest. He could also have given every Catholic infallibility, and dispensed with the need for the papacy and hierarchy. He chose not to do so.

        • T. Benns

          Yes, only the first 22 canons of the Code, those applying to the laity directly on marriage and other matters and those laws that concern the divine and natural law, really apply to us today. The rest are of little use to us now. They are inoperative in a sense but even these laws can be used to help us make sense out of what we are dealing with today. They WERE made for normal times, but Traditionalists refuse to see that the law is a living thing that can be adapted to what we are enduring today if they would only study it and follow the rules. They prefer not to do so.

          The rules regarding evidence below is what they refuse to consider or accept. Scholasticism is not an option for Catholics, but a system they must adopt as the only system approved by the Church, with a firm assent. These are only a few of the rules:
          7. Every judgment must be based on proof.
          8. In doubt, facts cannot be presumed, but must be proved.
          9. When in doubt one must stand by presumption and presumption must yield to truth.
          10. There is no argument against the evidence.
          11. No argument or conclusion contrary to the evident facts is valid, ( taken from Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S. J., “Summary of Scholastic Principles,” 1956).

          What would Traditionalists say to this, written by a pope who is a saint? ““All those who are pastors of souls…are certainly obliged by the precept of Christ to know and nourish the sheep confided to them; NOW TO NOURISH IS FIRST OF ALL TO TEACH… And so the Apostle said, ‘Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,’ indicating thus that the first office of those who are set up in any way for the government of the Church isTO INSTRUCT IN SACRED DOCTRINE,’” (Pope St. Pius X, April 15, 1905, “Acerbo nimis”). Mass and Sacraments do not figure into this infallible equation.

          I would like to give Traditionalists a pass and I really do believe that some of the faithful are sincere in their belief and practice; but they still cannot be certain of their salvation. I am having this same conversation with others at present and have prepared a two-part article addressing why we have no choice but to consider them outside the Church, at least until they leave the Traditionalists or can be presented to a canonically elected Roman Pontiff. Even if it offends our brethren, we must obey God and not man.

          Please look for this post soon.

  2. Peter Bizley

    God Bless this site.
    I know a woman that claims that the Church is in a ” Holding Patern”. How absurd to think that the Mystical Body Christ is stalled or in a Coma .She is in the Cmri and I have recommended this site and forwarded on much undeniable proof . I have washed my hands of her and her sedevacantist friends as I will not be charged with imfamy. Some people present such childish arguments . They have ears to hear but are deaf to the sound decrees pointed out on this site. St Paul instructs us to ” Work out our Salvation with fear and trembling “. So many of these so called Traditionals have been tainted by their Novus Ordo upbringing. Thank you.


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