Traditionalist AND Orthodox Sacraments Are Invalid

Traditionalist AND Orthodox Sacraments Are Invalid

© Copyright 2011, 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.)


There are some fine points that needed to be sorted out concerning the reasons that Catholics cannot receive Sacraments from the Orthodox, nor participate in their services, and this applies even when Catholics are in danger of death. After laying a sufficient foundation, several theologians will explain why, even when true popes were alive, the Orthodox could not be approached for the Sacraments. While Traditionalists either believe they operate under the Canons covering common error or act with a title to supplied jurisdiction, this has been proven from Church law and teaching not to be the case, (see the sections covering Canon Law and clerics on this board). Not surprisingly, many believed in the 1940s that common law and supplied jurisdiction also granted Orthodox schismatics the necessary jurisdiction to absolve not only their own subjects, but Catholics requesting the sacraments outside the danger of death, (Can. 2261§3). Rev. E. J. Mahoney takes on this question in his work Questions and Answers: The Sacraments, (Burnes, Oates and Washbourne, 1946), proving that common law and the occasional grant of supplied jurisdiction are not the answers in this case.

Two important points

Before launching into this explanation, it is important to understand two things. First, the fullness of jurisdiction rests only with the Roman Pontiff. Without a reigning Roman Pontiff, any jurisdiction that once was provided by the pope can no longer be supplied. The “Church” in Can. 209 means the Pope, according to Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz’s Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209, (1948; Catholic University of America, pgs. 28, 194). Bancroft and Szal concur on this in their respective dissertations.  And the Vatican Council infallibly declares that the pope “possesses the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church” (DZ 1831). Some have argued that Christ, as the invisible Head of the Church, supplies jurisdiction to bishops directly and subsequently priests in the absence of the Roman Pontiff, but this proposition was authoritatively contradicted by Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi and other encyclicals.

The pope taught that while bishops did indeed receive their jurisdiction from Christ, they cannot exercise it without the permission of the Roman Pontiff. This from Christ’s grant to Peter: “and thou being once confirmed, confirm thy brethren.” This was the conveyance of the primacy; Peter was the head bishop. All must be done through him or not at all. To say that such clerics may freely function and Catholics may receive Sacraments from them and attend their masses is actually a heresy. This can be seen from the following condemnation issued at the Council of Trent: “IF ANYONE SAYS…THAT THOSE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN RIGHTLY ORDAINED NOR SENT BY ECCLESIASTICAL AND CANONICAL AUTHORITY, BUT COME FROM A DIFFERENT SOURCE, ARE LAWFUL MINISTERS OF THE WORD AND OF THE SACRAMENTS, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA,” (DZ 967, 960).

The heresies at issue

Now it is important to break down this condemnation into understandable bytes. Who are those who have not been rightly ordained nor sent (and ordination also can refer to the creation of bishops)? DZ 960 (Sess. XIII, Ch. 4 of Trent) is added to this condemnation for reference purposes in Henry Denzingers “Sources of Catholic Dogma.” It tells us that DZ 967 is actually referring to the “ordination of bishops, priests and other orders.” Traditionalists and others are not rightly ordained and sent because a) we have no pope to grant the use of jurisdiction to the bishops or issue papal mandates and b) those never called by bishops in communion with a true pontiff. Therefore, bishops possessing the proper jurisdiction cannot be said to be chosen and sent by the Church. Validity here really has nothing to do with it; it is licitity or lawfulness that the anathema above zeros in on. Traditionalists claim this licitity by invoking Can. 209 or supplied jurisdiction, but supplied by whom? Or they claim to receive it directly from Christ, but where in Holy Scripture, reflected in Church law and teaching is this even alluded to?

In DZ 960 we learn that those “called by the people” as priests and bishops, or those who “by their own temerity take these offices upon themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be regarded as ‘thieves and robbers…’” Traditionalists give their clerics tacit permission to function by simply presenting themselves at Mass and requesting the Sacraments. That, or these clerics assume it for themselves, and convince followers that they have the right to demand Mass and Sacraments and as priests and bishops they must provide these spiritual goods, (although Can. 2259 says these clerics must be rejected as unworthy by the faithful). Either way, if Traditionalists do not leave these unlawful pastors, once they know they are indeed unlawful, they incur the anathema of Trent. Many other proofs cited for these statements can be found on this site, but they do not specifically speak to what happens when we have no true pope. Pope Pius XII foresaw this possibility and infallibly determined what should be done in such a case. This serves as “the final word” for our own situation, and provides the rule by which all other laws and teachings in this regard are to be understood.

In the preamble to his 1945 constitution on papal elections, Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, Pope Pius XII teaches what must be done during interregnums.

“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…“Laws given by the Roman Pontiffs are in no way able to be corrected or changed through the meeting of the cardinals of the Roman Church [the See] being vacant; NOR IS ANYTHING ABLE TO BE TAKEN AWAY OR ADDED, NOR IS THERE ABLE TO BE MADE ANY DISPENSATION IN ANY MANNER CONCERNING THE LAWS THEMSELVES OR SOME PART OF THEM. THIS IS VERY EVIDENT FROM PONTIFICAL CONSTITUTIONS [ON]…THE ELECTION OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF. BUT IF ANYTHING CONTRARY TO THIS PRESCRIPT OCCURS OR IS BY CHANCE ATTEMPTED, WE DECLARE IT BY OUR SUPREME AUTHORITY TO BE NULL AND VOID.” — (Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, paras.1- 3, Ch. 1; Pope Pius XII, 1945; translated from the Latin taken from Revs. Woywod and Smith’s A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Joseph Wagner, 1957). It is a heresy to deny the infallible decrees of the Roman Pontiff and Ecumenical Councils (Trent) as non-binding, yet this is what Traditionalists have done.

If even the cardinals are forbidden to act, certainly bishops cannot act. And certainly they have not received from Christ a jurisdiction He could not possibly grant. For in order for Christ to grant such jurisdiction, He would be required to break his promise to Peter and his successors that whatever they would bind on earth He would bind also in Heaven. Clearly from the above, Pope Pius XII used his Apostolic Authority, the power of his ordinary magisterium, to bind the cardinals and anyone else to his law, even going so far as to declare that should they attempt to violate it, whatever they did would be null and void. Once Pope Pius XII died, there could be no exercise of jurisdiction until the election of a true pope. And here we are 53 years later, and still no pope, hence no jurisdiction. It is a known fact that Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI (some also add here Pope Pius XII) secretly or openly supplied jurisdiction to the Orthodox for the sake of those who followed them. This is probably what Rev. Mahoney has in mind in writing what he did on the situation with the Orthodox as it existed in his day. Yet now that the popes as the supplying principle for the Orthodox schismatics is gone, they have no more claim to jurisdiction than the Traditionalists.

Theologians on Orthodox jurisdiction

Canon Mahoney begins his commentary on this subject by explaining that it is a mistake to assume that the Orthodox are to be judged under Canons in the Western Code, since Can. 1 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law excludes those in the East from observance of our code. However, the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda decided in 1907 that the Orientals, while not bound by Western canon laws, are yet bound by ”laws emanating from the Holy See if: a) they concern matters of faith or morals; b) If they contain matters connected with the divine or natural law…; c) if the laws themselves expressly state that they are meant to bind the Oriental Church,” (Rev. Charles Augustine, A Commentary on Canon Law, 1931). Revs. Woywod-Smith write: “It is evident that in matters of faith and morals all Catholics, without distinction of race, nationality or rite, are bound by the authoritative pronouncements of the Holy See. There can be but one rule in these matters for all who belong to the Catholic Church,” (and this means anything contained in the Acta Apostolica Sedis, as Humani Generis teaches). Cicognani says the same, adding the following:

“All Catholics are subject to the dogmatic canons of Ecumenical Councils and pronouncements of the Holy See. The decrees of the Roman Pontiffs condemning propositions contra fidem et mores, the various instructions of the Holy Office, the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, the Congregation for the Oriental Church, and of the Sacred Penitentiary, the prohibition of books and theories…The Congregation for the Oriental Church declared that the decrees mentioned above affect the faithful of every rite, and all are bound in the same way, since these decrees are more than disciplinary in character and refer directly to matters of doctrine. The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office,” (1885 — when asked about the Constitution Apostolica Sedis of Pope Pius IX replied), “they are subject to censures inflicted by the Apostolic See in matters of dogma …” Cicognani continues: “This legislation remains today; hence the Orientals are subject to those former penal laws now contained in the Code.”

Still, Mahoney maintains it could be concluded that for very serious reasons, the Church grants jurisdiction for absolution in those cases affecting the common good, but only per each act of jurisdiction where the necessary (stringent) conditions apply. He then goes on to suggest something that at first will sound as though Catholics may have recourse to the Orthodox, (but please remember that supplied jurisdiction cannot exist in the absence of a true pope.) On this head Rev. Mahoney wrote: “May the proposition be defended that that the priests of the schismatic Oriental Churches possess true habitual jurisdiction and that there is, consequently, no need to invoke any fortuitous title of supplied jurisdiction whether in the hour of death or in ‘common error?’ Many theologians and canonists in the past have been adverse to any admission of this kind, but the view which predominates nowadays is in favor of upholding the proposition just as it is stated.”

He goes onto explain that thesis true because these schismatic clerics do not have sufficient knowledge of the Western code to have incurred the censures. Even if they are formally guilty, he maintains that the are not really formally excommunicated for this very reason, since they are not bound by our code. The better way to look at all this, he continues, is to understand that the Church, “for the gravest reason affecting the salvation of souls, has not withdrawn the necessary jurisdiction from them,” referring obliquely to the secret jurisdiction they enjoyed by free grant of the Roman Pontiffs. He proves that Oriental schismatics are not excommunicated by noting that in reconciling non-Catholics, the Church “requires a general confession from the newly reconciled person,” yet no such confession is required from the Orthodox. And he also notes that Confirmation, which Orthodox priests routinely administer in infancy, is rarely repeated should an Orthodox schismatic convert. Mahoney concludes: “If the Church has not withdrawn from schismatical priests their power to confirm, it follows that their power to grant absolution has not been withdraws either; for the latter is more necessary for souls than the former.”

Rev. Charles Journet states, in his The Church of the Word Incarnate that, “The validity of the Confirmation given by dissident priests, a validity that could only result from a concession of the Sovereign Pontiff, was explicitly recognized by the Holy Office (July 3, 1859) for all the Oriental Churches, save those of Bulgaria, Cyprus, South Italy and the islands adjacent from whom this concession has been withdrawn…” Journet quotes the Ami du clerge, 1927, Vol. 44, saying that the validity of absolution from dissident priests can be demonstrated from the principle, “admitted by all, of good faith and colorable title [still insisted on by Rev. Augustine, even after the Code] …As regards the faithful, good faith, since their priests are sent them by their bishops and patriarchs and are taken by all for legitimate pastors. As regards the pastors, colorable title, since the priests are deputed by a bishop and held to be legitimate pastors.” Journet comments: “But it is only a momentary, fugitive jurisdiction, valid for those particular cases that can be established in this way, not one that is durable and continuous.” Like Mahoney he cites the fact that the Church recognizes their Confirmations, and does not conditionally re-Confirm those reconciled to them; also the fact that those reconciled to the Church are not required to make a general Confession.

Journet then goes on to say that he believes that “in the eyes of the Roman Church, the transmission of power of order in the dissident Churches is licit conditionally…on the hypothesis of their good faith and invincible ignorance, an hypothesis which is indeed probable and generally admitted. But we add that this transmission remains illicit in itself and speaking absolutely, so that it would become, not of course invalid, but illegitimate, as soon as it ceased to be effected in good faith. However this may be, the dissident Oriental Churches can possess the spiritual jurisdiction needed for the valid administration of Confirmation and Penance. We will not say that they can possess it illicitly or illegitimately since they have it by a free delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff and so licitly and legitimately [but] in a partial, precarious, borrowed and accidental manner.” Rev. Mahoney concurs, writing, “These schismatical priests accordingly draw their jurisdiction from the Church, through their bishops and patriarchs, exactly as they did before the schism. The Church has not wished to deprive them of jurisdiction for the greater good of souls, and one can discover no act on the part of the Church which can be interpreted as a deprivation of those powers.”

Summarizing a passage from “De Ecclesia Christi” by P. Billot, Rome, 1921, Journet also states: “THEOLOGICAL FAITH IS MORE NECESSARY STILL THAN THE SACRAMENTS, SINCE NOTHING CAN REPLACE IT, WHEREAS THOSE WHO POSSESS IT IN CHARITY ALREADY POSSESS THE SACRAMENTS AS BY DESIRE, VOTO. If then the Sacraments can in some sense be had ‘outside’ the Church, to those who receive them in uprightness of heart, it is still more necessary that a sufficient proposal of the faith should be made outside the Church, and that true believers in the true faith should be found even amongst those whose ecclesiastical rulers hold doctrines that are contrary to orthodoxy or erroneous…The way of justification remains open ‘outside’ the Church to men of good will, who are ready at heart to believe all that God has revealed. It can even be opened to them by the message proposed by schismatics and heretics, provided, of course, that this message still contains that minimum of truth without which no adult in any event can be saved — namely the supernatural mystery of the existence and providence of God. So that the sects separated from the legitimate Bride of Christ see, in these circumstances, to become Her servants to aid her to engender new children to grace, not solely by the ministration of the Sacraments but also by proposing a doctrine, tainted with error though it may be.”

But  Billot died during the reign of Pope Pius XI, so this was before the issuance of Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis and Ad apostolorum principis, also Humani generis. Based on his assertions, Journet even grants that the Orthodox possess a ‘partial or mutilated’ apostolicity, given their ‘borrowed’ jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Rev. Mahoney cautions, “There is no real objection to this doctrine in the fact that CATHOLICS ARE FORBIDDEN TO RECEIVE ABSOLUTION FROM SCHISMATICAL PRIESTS; it is forbidden because it is an act of communicatio in sacris with schismatics, NOT BECAUSE THE ABSOLUTION WOULD BE INVALID.

Communicatio in sacris

As Rev. Ignatius Szal explains from the beginning of his work, The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics, such 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. Can. 2316 states that those violating Can. 1258 forbidding communication in sacred rites with heretics incur suspicion of heresy. If a person suspected of heresy for participating in non-Catholic rites does not remove all cause for suspicion or show any signs of amendment over a period of six months, they should be considered as heretics, (Can. 2315). These canons still apply. Pope Pius XII — in his Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, quoted above — states that during an interregnum not even the cardinals may dispense from, change or deviate from these laws in any way. This is why DZ 967 does not deal with validity. The very fact that those who administer Sacraments and celebrate Mass do so without the proper jurisdiction places them outside the Church under these canons, whether their orders are valid or not. This is proof that heretics are not permitted to minister to the faithful under these conditions.

Are Catholics permitted to resort to them in danger of death per Can. 2261§3? This canon states only that the excommunicated may absolve in these cases; it does not state that those excommunicated for heresy and schism are allowed to do so. Where the Church (or, as Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz defines, the Pope) supplies, it is permitted to resort to a schismatic or heretic in danger of death and in other rare cases. These priests should be a last resort, even when the Pope supplies. But when there is no pope, and because Pope Pius XII’s election law states that no one may supply jurisdiction in the absence of a true pope, the Sacraments of Penance cannot be valid. Can. 203 states: “The delegate who acts beyond his mandate…acts invalidly.” Since Pope Pius XII’s death, no papal mandate at all exists. But even if the secret jurisdiction granted the Orthodox by the popes still existed, Rev. Ignatius Szal tells us in his The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics (Catholic University of America, 1948) that we could not have approached them for the Sacraments:

“THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IS THAT IT IS GRAVELY ILLICIT TO REQUEST OR RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTOF PENANCE FROM A SCHISMATIC OUTSIDE THE DANGER OF DEATH… A SCHISMATIC MINISTER CANNOT BE CONSIDERED MERELY AS ONE IN THE STATE OF MORTAL SIN OR AS ONE BOUND BY A CENSURE. HE IS MORE THAN THAT. HE IS THE MINISTER OF AN UNAUTHORIZED SECT…THE ACT OF ASKING OR RECEIVING THE SACRAMENTS FROM A SCHISMATIC MINISTER IS FORBIDDEN IN VIRTUE NOT ONLY OF THE DIVINE LAW, BUT ALSO OF THE LAW ENACTED IN CAN. 1258§1.” And now, even in danger of death, such a priest cannot be used because the pope can no longer supply jurisdiction for such an act. For this and other reasons, Orthodox Sacraments can no longer be considered certainly licit or even valid in the eyes of the Church, given this extended interregnum. Traditionalists try to rationalize their decision to frequent their priests or those of the Orthodox by defiantly asserting that what is said above is proof the Church would not wish them to be without the Sacraments. And yet the Church forbids their reception form these tow sources even while a pope is reigning because resutls in excommunication for heresy and schism (Can. 2314) not to mention infamy of law. So it appears there lis a very good reason indeed.

For those who object that the jurisdiction granted the Orthodox might have continued following Pius XII’s death, it seems that this indeed is possible. “[Jurisdiction] ceases with the delegator’s death, or with his defection from office. It does not cease during a vacancy of the diocesan see or the papal see unless the clause in the rescript [granting jurisdiction] indicates its cessation at the time of the vacancy of the Holy See or the diocese,” (Can. 61). This canon refers us to the canons on privileges, which say pretty much the same thing. The trouble is, it is not known how Pope Pius XII granted the Orthodox jurisdiction or whether he intended it to remain intact after his death. What is known is that the jurisdiction he granted them was not for our benefit or use, but was to be used only for those subject to schismatic priests. In the canons on privileges, we find that the privilege continues except when its use may become injurious or is illicit, (Can. 77). Rev. Ignatius Szal states in his work that “Because of recent developments among the Oriental dissidents and schismatics in general, much doubt has been cast upon the validity of the orders of certain schismatic priests,” requiring that each case be judged on its own merit. And no Catholic can receive doubtfully valid Sacraments, (DZ 1151).

Rev. John R. Bancroft, C.S.S.R., J.C.B., S.T.L.,  in his Communication in Religious Worship with Non-Catholics also relates, “The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, in dealing with this matter of communication with heretics or schismatics of the Orient, mentions that there is scarcely any rite among them which is not tainted with some error in the matter of faith, for in their churches there is either dedication in memory of some schismatic who is venerated as a saint, or fasts are celebrated for those who died in schism, or there is commemoration of living schismatic and heretical Patriarchs and Bishops,  who are commended as preachers of the Catholic faith,” (“Instructio pro Missionariis Orientis,” 1729)” (Catholic University of America dissertation for a degree in Sacred Theology, 1943).

In Rev. Szal’s day, the Oriental schismatics were presumed to have valid orders unless the contrary was proven. But already abuses were creeping in. It is a known fact that the KGB infiltrated the ranks of the Orthodox as surely as Catholic ranks were likewise infiltrated by secret societies; and the ecumenists long ago began successfully seducing Orthodox sects even before the introduction of the Novus Ordo. Those Orthodox sects that managed to escape ecumenism and, like Traditionalists, held more conservative views, are very notably anti-Catholic, owing to what they believe to be the actions of the “popes” in Rome; this hostility is reflected in their official on-line writings. Because there is no possible way either to confirm their validity or to avoid perversion of faith, then, it really doesn’t matter whether they retained their jurisdiction or not.

Where any doubt of validity concerning their orders exists at all, they cannot be approached. Where any possibility exists that there could be perversion of faith, they must not be approached. Pope Pius XII infallibly declared that no bishops may function during an interregnum without papal examination and approval, and this these bishops and their patriarchs have not received for a very long time. It is ridiculous — and contradicted by Pope Pius XII himself — to believe that those in the Western Church cannot exercise jurisdiction during an interregnum, while those who long ago seceded from the Roman Pontiffs’ jurisdiction could still retain it in his a absence. A Holy Office excommunication issued April 9, 1951, AAS 43-217, listed under Can. 2245 decrees:

“A Bishop OF WHATSOEVER RITE OR DIGNITY who consecrates to the episcopacy anyone who is neither appointed nor expressly confirmed by the Holy See and the person who receives the consecration, even though they were coerced by great fear, Can. 2229 §3, no. 3), incur ipso facto an excommunication most specially reserved to the Holy See” (“Canon Law Digest 3”, T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J.). This is proof that the Eastern rites were included in Pope Pius XII’s intent regarding the approval of bishops, since this decree came after the first news of bishops in China consecrating without the mandate. A second excommunication was issued following the promulgation of Ad apostolorum principis.  And all of this is outside any existence of an interregnum, which necessarily withdraws jurisdiction from everyone until a new pope is elected.

Infamy of law

Traditionalists guilty of establishing their own sects were long ago excommunicated for failure to cease and desist from their activities and thereby incurred infamy of law. Infamy of law is a permanent impediment, able to be absolved only by the pope (see We have no pope, ergo they cannot be absolved. As such, Traditionalists’ sacramental acts and those of the Orthodox are not valid, and Catholics sin mortally in requesting the Sacraments from them. For as was noted above, these schismatics are still bound by Can. 2314. Rev. Szal quotes Clement VIII and Pope Benedict XIV in his work to the effect that when schismatics or those they have ordained are received back into the Church, they cannot “be admitted for the conferring of orders or for the administration of any of the other Sacraments” until they have made the abjuration of their errors and been personally dispensed by the Holy See from their irregularity, (infamy of law). This would also explain why Western rite Catholics are not to approach Orthodox schismatics for the Sacraments. Traditionalists, unlike the Orthodox, never had any claim to supplied jurisdiction in the absence of a true pope. They were members of non-Catholic sects before they entered Traditionalist “seminaries” and therefore were never eligible for ordination in the first place because a) they already had incurred infamy of law by being members of non-Catholic sects and b) they could not be called to the priesthood by schismatic bishops or priests.

Because the acts of these priests, even if posited, are invalid because they are incapable of receiving jurisdiction without dispensation by the pope, they cannot even absolve penitents at the hour of death. The missionary priest Fr. Demaris wrote to his people on this subject during the period in France following the French Revolution when true priests were exiled from this country, and only the unlawful and excommunicated priests installed by the French government were available for the sacraments. Rather than disobey the laws of the Church by resorting to these hirelings in their final moments on this earth, Fr. Demaris told his flock, “BEING DEPRIVED OF EXTREME UNCTION, AND IN THE HANDS OF PERSONS, WHO NOT ONLY DO NOT HELP, BUT INSULT ME, I SHALL BE MUCH HAPPIER THAT MY DEATH SHALL HAVE MORE CONFORMITY WITH THAT OF JESUS WHO WAS A SPECTACLE OF OPPROBRIUM TO ALL THE WORLD…BE PIERCED WITH THIS TRUTH: THAT THE MOST GLORIOUS AND SALUTARY TIME TO DIE IS WHEN VIRTUE IS STRONGEST IN OUR HEART. ” (“They Have Taken Away My Lord,” Father Demaris, Professor of Theology, Missionary of St. Joseph, wrote the following at Lyon in 1801, translated from the French by A. Drover).


It is not by coincidence that Traditionalists used the argument referred to by Rev. Mahoney — that common error and supplied jurisdiction are to be invoked to justify the actions of Traditionalists today — to attract those exiting the Novus Ordo church in the 1970s. It relieved them of further researching the subject, as Mahoney, Billot, Journet and others did, and arriving at the true nature of the suppletory principle — which rests entirely with the Roman Pontiff. Sedevacantists, in declaring the See vacant, satisfied the objections of many that the rulers in Rome following Pope Pius XII were usurpers, but likewise failed to complete the necessary research and reasoning flowing from their conclusions. It is obvious to those who understand the Apostolic nature and constitution of Christ’s Church that nothing can be done in the absence of the Roman Pontiff, but Sedevacantist ministers have consistently dodged that bullet and refused to provide their followers with positive proofs that they function validly and licitly in his absence. These various Traditionalist organizations have good reasons to avoid this issue — it damages their personal credibility and hits them in the pocketbook, where it hurts the most.

No one is saying that there is anything contrary to civil law in forming these organizations and collecting funds to support their operation and (unfortunately) provide for the sustenance of its ministers. Americans are free from a civil standpoint to support any religion they choose to support, and they can do this as Americans, but not as true Catholics. Divine law and Canon Law take precedence over civil law, whenever it conflicts with the laws of God and His Church. As seen above, “THE PERSON WHO HAS INCURRED…AN INFAMY OF LAW…CANNOT VALIDLY OBTAIN ECCLESIASTICAL BENEFICES, PENSIONS, OFFICES AND DIGNITIES, NOR CAN HE VALIDLY EXERCISE THE RIGHTS CONNECTED WITH THE SAME.” Under Can. 1258, those who “tithe,” or contribute to or support in any way the efforts of these organizations to perpetuate their unCatholic activities, come under suspicion of heresy if they persist in this behavior for six months. The Council of Trent has condemned as heretical (see DZ 970 above) the doctrine they support and perpetuate concerning the right of Traditional clerics to minster to them. And under Can. 1325, they are judged to be heretics for supporting or defending these heretical ministers and groups.

The will of God for us in these times is obedience to His laws. We are being asked to renew the Passion in His Mystical Body, and many are angrily casting aside the cross of His law because they believe themselves entitled to the spiritual goods God initially gave His Church, then withdrew. Speaking of Antichrist, the prophet Daniel tells us why Mass and Sacraments are no longer available: “Strength was given him against the continual sacrifice because of sins,” (Dan. 8:12). But like all wayward children, Traditionalists rebel against the punishment and defy the law to have their way. That “way” is not the Way of the Cross, which God mercifully has extended to us in these unbelievably evil times as the only way to save our souls. We die to ourselves to live again, just as Christ rose from the dead then ascended to His Father in Heaven. So , then, we shall never give up hope of eternal salvation, but this can be achieved only if we are obedient enough and generous enough to “fill up what is wanting” to the Passion of Christ.

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    Really, “it is a known fact that Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XI(some add Pope Pius XII) secretly or openly supplied jurisdiction to the Orthodox for the sake of those who followed them.” I have never heard of such a “fact”. You cite no source of this “fact” I want to see proof of such a grievous accusation. Please supple this “fact.”

    • T. Stanfill Benns

      I don’t make “grievous” accusations. If it is not found from a reliable source, I do not include it.

      The explanation and sources for this statement are given in the website article at

      I do not have the page number for Rev. Charles Journet’s work, but it is treated in his book, The Church of the Word Incarnate, available from various sources. As Journet says, it is only a fleeting and transitory jurisdiction that does not endure, since we have not had a true pope since 1958. And it is a jurisdiction that the popes doubtlessly supplied only under certain conditions.

      Rev. E. J. Mahoney takes on this question in his work Questions and Answers: The Sacraments, (Burnes, Oates and Washbourne, 1946, p. 225), proving that common law and the occasional grant of supplied jurisdiction are not the answers in this case. I have always found Mahoney to be solid in his teachings.

      Rev. Ignatius Szal also makes reference to this “secret” jurisdiction, referring it to a comment made by the theologian Cappello regarding Pope Pius XI (The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics, Catholic University of America, 1948, p. 58-59; Cappello, De Sacramentis, I, n. 78, pp. 68-70). Pope Pius XI, according to Cappello, “openly declared, and wished it to be expressly known, that the Roman Pontiff supplied jurisdiction if there be need for it, to whatever extent it was required” to facilitate “the salvation of souls” (Szal, p. 58-59).

      Pope Pius XII, in his Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, however, suspends all such suppletory faculties during an interregnum. And Rev. Szal mentions that the reasons for supplying were being called into question, probably because of confusion behind the Iron Curtain.


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