Faculties given to hierarchy behind the Iron Curtain

© Copyright 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. All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)

In 1946 Stalin declared Catholic churches in Russia dissolved, and Catholic clergy and laity went underground to preserve the faith until 1990. That year, underground priests and bishops met with JP2 on June 25-26, their first real contact with the outside world since 1946. Until then they had preserved those lines faithfully, and some still did not, from all appearances, depart from receiving orders strictly from bishops created in the underground, even once the NO sent their church authorities in. It is a well-known fact that during the war years and even before, patriarchal powers were conferred on certain bishops in anticipation of enemy occupation or Communist takeover. This power included the choice of priests to consecrate without prior papal approval. Sometimes these powers were limited to the bishop himself; at other times these bishops were able to pass on these powers to a successor. Accounts from bishops and priests living in the underground in the 1940s seem to indicate that Pope Pius XII granted habitual faculties to bishops in Eastern Europe.

An account of one consecration printed in the magazine Greek Catholic Tradition (February, 2008) explains the ordination/consecration circumstances during the years of persecution. “In those times it was established as follows: after being ordained the priest swore on the Bible not to tell anyone who ordained him, when and where. (Note: Ordination or consecration was secret and there were no documents issued for reasons of safety.) “Special faculties had been given to Czech bishop Stepan Trochta of Litomerice by the Vatican in 1949 to allow the creation of one secret episcopal successor for each diocese in case of the arrest of the bishops. According to the most probable version of events, before his expulsion from Czechoslovakia in 1949 the Vatican’s charge d’affaires in Prague, Msgr. Gennaro Verolino, was actively engaged in passing on these faculties. ‘Naturally it did not escape the secret police’s attention’, Stehle reports, ‘that Monsignor Verolino, a peripatetic Neapolitan, was travelling around the country visiting the bishops and vesting them with those powers to establish a substitute and underground hierarchy,’” (this was relayed to the magazine article’s author by an underground bishop).

“It seems that with their consecration the new secret bishops received personal

episcopal status, which would become effective for diocesan functions only on the arrest of the incumbent bishop. Although solid documentation on this permission is not available, it seems that each bishop could consecrate one secret bishop, and these bishops in turn could ordain priests without notifying the state or the Vatican, although this second generation of bishops was not empowered to consecrate further bishops. Church spokesmen claim that these special faculties, given by Pope Pius XII, expired in the mid-1950s, and definitely by the time of Pius XII’s death in October 1958. Supporters of the later secret consecrations claim that these faculties were never revoked.” (Why would Pope Pius XII grant only temporary faculties to those in a relatively permanent situation? Also, in the Ukraine the situation was much worse than other places, making it almost impossible for the Church to function. But indications that this jurisdiction was not assumed to have ceased later, once bishops emerged from the underground is reflected in a comment made by Felix Corley: In addition, parallel consecrations [by both underground bishops and the NO] at a time when the church was able to exist legally, albeit under strict state control, caused confusion and doubt among believers. In the case of completely illegal churches, such as the Eastern Rite Church in Ukraine and Romania, for example, or the Vatican-loyal church in China, secret ordinations and consecrations were a necessity and continued much later, although ­— from the1970s at least — with closer control from the Vatican.”)

“As a result of these faculties, two bishops were consecrated in Slovakia in 1951,

Pavol Hnilica SJ and Jan Korec SJY. ‘In Bratislava on 24 August 1951, recalled

Korec, ‘I was consecrated as a clandestine bishop. Bishop Hnilica had to leave the country and I took up my duties …The police had known since 1951 that I had been secretly consecrated and that, along with other activities, I was ordaining priests. I had already received the instruction direct from Rome that there should always be two bishops – uno nascosto, uno attivo [one hidden, one active].” (Religion, State and Society Vol. 21, No. 2, 1993, The Secret Clergy in Communist Czechoslovakia by Felix Corley).

What are the laws concerning faculties?

From the Catholic Encyclopedia we read: “Besides the fixed perpetual faculties, bishops also receive from the Holy See habitual temporary indults for a certain period of time or for a limited number of cases. These faculties are granted by fixed ‘formulæ’, in which the Holy See from time to time, or as occasion requires it, makes some slight modifications. (See CANONICAL FACULTIES.) These faculties call for a broad interpretation… When it is stated that faculties are ‘revocable at our will or judgment,’ they expire with the death of the grantor; when given in the name of the HOLY SEE, a diocese, etc., they continue in force after the death of the pope, bishop, etc…All special faculties granted habitually (habitualiter), by the Holy See to bishops and others enjoying ordinary jurisdiction within definite territorial limits, remain in force notwithstanding the loss of jurisdiction through death or other cause of the individual to whom they are granted (Cong. Holy Office, 24 Nov., 1897), but pass on to his successor in the same office… The bishop may forbid the exercise of these powers, but notwithstanding the prohibition, the vicar-general would act validly, were he to use said faculties, provided nothing else were wanting to render his action invalid.”

Canon 66§1 explains: “Habitual faculties which are granted either perpetually or for a definite period of time, or a certain number of cases are considered privileges praeter jus.” And in Can. 66§2:  “Unless they contain a direct statement to the contrary, or were given to the bishop on account of personal qualifications, the habitual faculties granted by the Apostolic See to the ordinaries and to others mentioned in Can. 198 do not lapse with the vacation of the see…but are transmitted to the succeeding ordinary by the ordinary to whom they were given; moreover the faculties granted to the bishop also are granted to the vicar-general.” Canon 66§3 states: “Faculties granted by the Holy See include also such other powers as are necessary for their exercise…” (so that if, for example, some particular candidate was the only candidate for the priesthood or episcopacy and was fit in every other way, special faculties to absolve from certain impediments is presumed). So these special faculties fall under the laws governing privileges. While Can. 67 tells us that the extent of a privilege cannot be extended or abridged and must be judged by its wording, Can. 68 says it can never be interpreted so strictly that no benefit accrues from it at all. And Can. 70 helps solve the problem of how a privilege is to be dealt with in a case of doubt: “A privilege is to be considered perpetual unless the contrary is certain.” The contrary is not certain in this case, and we know the privilege definitely exists; we just don’t know its exact terms. Therefore the underground priests are right: the privilege, granted by the Latin Church according to its own Code, is perpetual and still in place.

Could some circumstance cause the privilege to cease? Canon 77 states that a privilege could cease if circumstances change in such a way that the superior judges it to be injurious or its use is illicit, (but in this case there are no superiors save the underground bishops). An abuse of a privilege could result in its withdrawal, (Can. 78). Because privileges actually are a “relaxation of the law” (Can. 80) in this case, the laws that govern them also apply. Canon 81 relates that (1) no dispensation from the general laws of the Church can occur unless a privilege has been expressly granted to an Ordinary, (Can. 83); (2) recourse to the Holy See is difficult, there is grave harm or danger in delay and the matter would be something from which the Holy See would ordinarily dispense. Basically for this condition to be satisfied, Revs. Woywod-Smith explain, there must exist an actual impossibility to communicate with the Holy See. And this is the dilemma in our situation. “No dispensation from an ecclesiastical law should be granted without a just and reasonable cause which should be in due proportion to the gravity of the law from which dispensation is given,” (Can. 84). Dispensations and faculties to dispense must be strictly interpreted,” (Can. 85). Dispensations cease for the same reasons as privileges, but also with the total cessation of the motive and cause for which it was granted, (Can. 86). And her is a clear answer to epikeia, which so many use as a dispensation from the law itself, when epikeia was never intended to be used as a dispensation at all.

Perhaps the faculties granted in 1949 to Msgr. Gennaro Verolino mentioned above differed little from those of Msgr. Michel d’Herbigny, S.J. in 1926, granted by Pope Pius XI and drafted by his Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli, before d’Herbigny was secretly sent into Russia. In d’Herbigny’s case, Pope Pius XI conceded “all the appropriate and necessary powers, for purposes known to us,” (Fr. Paul Lesourd, “Le Jesuite clandestine,” as reported in “Introduction to the Life of Archbishop Thuc”). Lesourd continues: “Orally, the Holy Father first enumerated in detail all the powers which he conferred, including the selection of priests to be ordained and to confer on them the episcopate without the need for them to have pontifical bulls [mandates] nor therefore to give their signatures, inviting them to act accordingly on the strength of the oath.” Lesourd adds that basically this gave Patriarchal or pontifical powers to d’Herbigny, which Pope Pius XII solemnly summed up as follows: “In one word, we grant to you all the pontifical powers of the pope himself which are not of incommunicable divine right.” This of course does not mean that in reality, Verolino did or could communicate these powers to the bishops he created, or even a select few of them, but given the nature of the powers that seemingly were accorded those engaged in this process, it does not say he did not communicate such powers either. If his mission was truly to establish “a substitute and underground hierarchy,” who might not be able to contact Rome, why would he not communicate them to at least a few? And given the times in which we live, and what has happened since the death of Pope Pius XII — something that would appear more sinister by far to those who lived it — why would it be foolish to assume that bishops possessing these faculties passed them on to others who exist in hiding yet today?

Emergency faculties and Traditionalists

So if Popes Pius XI and Pius XII granted certain individuals these faculties, why would it not be the “mind” of these popes — the actual mind of the lawgiver referred to in Canon Law — to grant Traditionalists the same faculties today?

  1. Either their bishops were not created with papal mandate or they lost their offices by recognizing the V2 church or joining a Traditionalist sect or sects. All the bishops behind the Iron Curtain were valid and had not incurred censure.
  2. There was no Traditionalist movement prior to the death of Pius XII. Had true bishops loyal to the papacy separated from the V2 church before signing the false council documents their first move would necessarily have been to elect a true pope, NOT to consecrate bishops without the necessary mandate or ordain priests. Iron Curtain bishops did not presume to set up their own Church outside the authority of a true pope.
  3. Having no knowledge of such a movement and its particulars, the approval for this could not be presumed prior to the event. Those operating behind the Iron Curtain were consecrated by virtue of special papal faculties which constituted a mandate and they then ordained priests accordingly.
  4. Unless such priests possess a canonical mission from the proper bishop, they cannot possess jurisdiction and therefore are not true successors of the apostles. This is the constant teaching of the Church.
  5. In Vacantis Apostolica Sedis concerning papal elections, Pope Pius XII suspends the validity of all actions which presume papal jurisdiction until the election of a true pope. Granting of special faculties including the papal mandate rest entirely on the exercise of papal jurisdiction. All the actions of Traditionalists have been null and void all this time.

Traditionalists cannot assume that they can claim the favors granted to the hierarchy for the Church of Silence when Pope Pius XII or bishops to whom he granted these favors approved them for consecration. The qualifications of so-called Traditionalist bishops were never examined by a true pope to determine if these men were worthy to be consecrated bishops, therefore their worthiness was never confirmed. As Rev. Jean Marie Herve writes in his  Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II; The Sacraments), “In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the public good demands that the unworthy applicant 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.’” He goes on to quote Can. 731 #2 concerning the conferring of the Sacraments on heretics and schismatics: “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.” Furthermore Can. 974 lists due knowledge as one of the requisites for licit ordination, and certainly over the past 45 years, few have possessed a comprehensive knowledge of the Catholic faith not contaminated by modern errors.”

This is precisely why the Roman Pontiff must approve these candidates for the epsicopacy prior to their reception of the order. Who among these bishops was validly abjured and absolved, when no true pope or bishops existed to perform these acts? When and where did they retract their publicly heretical and schismatic statements and where is the proof of their public penance? Most importantly, how can they pretend to be dispensed from the irregularity of infamy of law they incurred per Can. 2314 §3 when only a true and canonically elected pope can dispense them and we have no pope?

Those believing themselves to be Catholic also forget that the Catholic clergy who suffered for so long behind the Iron Curtain were also purified of their sins by these sufferings, and even paid for others to enjoy the privilege of faith with their lives. Who among us in America can possible claim this distinction? And how could anyone in this decadent society dare to compare themselves spiritually to these silent martyrs?

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