© Copyright 2009; revised 2022, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes added by the author)
In his The Validity of the Thuc Consecrations, which has been posted on the Internet for over 15 years, the late Anthony Cekada, “ordained” by Marcel Lefebvre, attempts to explain how bishops consecrated without the papal mandate operate without jurisdiction. Cekada wrote: “Where does this leave the fact of the Thuc consecrations? In the same place it leaves my ordination, the Lefebvre consecrations and all sacraments traditional Catholic clergy confer: in a sort of legal limbo. Since no one in the traditional movement possesses ordinary jurisdiction, no one has the power to rule on the legal evidence that a particular sacrament was performed and then establish it as a fact before church law. That’s a function of church officials who have received their authority from a pope” (so this statement by Cekada is a notorious fact). A 1997 article in the Angelus Press, page 54, entitled: “Most Asked Questions about the Society of Saint Pius X,” reads: “Only the Pope, who has universal jurisdiction over the whole Church, can appoint a pastor to a flock and empower him to govern it.’ But Archbishop Lefebvre never presumed to confer anything but the full priestly powers of Orders, and in no way did he grant any jurisdiction (which he himself did not have personally to give).”
So we understand from these statements that Traditionalists do not believe they possess ordinary or even delegated jurisdiction from the men who either consecrated or ordained them. Then how do they claim to validly and licitly administer the Sacraments? Cekada explains this in his 2003 article, Traditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments — Divine Law obliges rather than forbids us to confer Sacraments. http://www.cmri.org/02-tradpriests.html. Cekada starts out by explaining that only those specifically trained in theology have the knowledge and ability to pronounce on such things. He neglects to advise his readers that only those called to the priesthood by valid and licit bishops and trained under the supervision of such bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff are considered by the Catholic Church as valid and licit clerics; only those ordained and/or consecrated by valid and licit bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be viewed as possessing any authority or office (officium) in the Church established by Christ. Catholics are never bound to follow those who are not certainly lawful pastors, as the Church considers only those rightly ordained by certainly valid and licit bishops lawful pastors, (DZ 967). Highly respected theologians duly sanctioned by the Holy See, but most importantly the infallible and continual magisterium itself, tell us that that Our Lord spoke to all of the Apostles yes, but to Peter first and primarily, and that only through Peter would they be able to exercise their Episcopal power.
The Vatican Council: “Bishops…as true shepherds…individually feed and rule in the name of Christ the flocks entrusted to them…But that the episcopacy itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of the faithful through priests closely connected to one another might be preserved in the unity of faith and communion, placing the Blessed Peter over the other Apostles He established in him the perpetual principal and visible foundation of both unities, upon whose strength the eternal temple might be erected, and the sublimity of the Church to be raised to Heaven might rise in the firmness of this faith,” (DZ 1828).
Mortalium Animos, Pope Pius XI: “Not only must the Church still exist today and continue always to exist, but it must ever be exactly the same as it was in the days of the Apostles,” (encyclical issued Jan. 6, 1928).
Mystici Corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII: “Yet while they do this, they are not entirely independent, but are placed under the due authority of the Roman Pontiff, although they enjoy the ordinary power of jurisdiction obtained directly from the same Highest Pontiff.” [Given that this is indeed the case,] “they should be revered by the people as divinely appointed successors of the apostles,” (June 29, 1943; DZ 2287).
Ad Sinarum gentum, Pope Pius XII: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by Divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of St. Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity,” (Oct. 7, 1954).
By page two of his work Traditional Priests and Legitimate Sacraments, Cekada is stating that Our Lord spoke directly to the apostles, their successors and the priests they ordain in commanding them to teach and administer the Sacraments. Despite the teaching of Can. 200: “…He who claims to possess delegated jurisdiction has the burden of proving the delegation,” (Revs. Woywod-Smith), Cekada insists that “homealoners” and others have no right to demand that Traditionalists produce proof that they possess jurisdiction. He also insists that the common good of the faithful, and the Church’s stated mission of the salvation of souls forces Trad priests and bishops to provide the Sacraments. Unfortunately he neglects to present the regulations of the Code on this matter, as presented below from Revs. Woywod-Smith, A Practical Commentary on Canon Law, (Can. 804).
“699. A priest who desires to say Holy Mass in a church other than that to which he is attached must show authentic and still valid letters of recommendation (commonly called ‘Celebret’) to the priest in charge of the church. A secular priest must obtain these letters from his Ordinary, a religious priest from his superior, and a priest of an Oriental Rite from the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental Church. A priest who has a proper ‘‘Celebret’’ shall be admitted to say Mass, unless it is known that in the meantime he has done something for reason of which he must be kept from saying Holy Mass…If the priest has no ‘Celebret,’ but the rector of the church knows well that he is a priest in good standing, he may be allowed to say Mass. If, however, he is unknown to the rector, he may nevertheless be permitted to say Mass once or twice,” provided he fulfill certain conditions.
“700. The Council of Chalcedon (451) ruled that no strange cleric or lector should be permitted to minister outside his own town without letters of recommendation from his own bishop. Pope Innocent III issued the same prohibition but said that the priest who did not have his letters of recommendation might be admitted to say Mass if he desired to do so out of devotion: he might not, however, say Mass before the people, but privately. The Council of Trent again made the rule absolute—as the Council of Chalcedon had it—that no priest should be permitted to celebrate Mass and administer the Sacraments without letters of recommendation from his own bishop.”
Since we now have no access to valid and licit bishops and priests, would it not be the obligation of laity requesting the Sacraments of a strange priest or bishop to demand proof of their ability to function validly and licitly? Some say it is not fair to expect the laity to do this in the absence of the clergy, but Rev. Winifred Herbst disagrees. “With justice might one of the faithful who wishes to assist at the Sacrifice ask [the priest]: ‘Tell me, in whose name do you stand there and who has sent you? … Who has given you this commission and this plenitude of power? A serious startling question this, and one of momentous importance; for it depends upon the answer whether the Mass is the most exalted and the most holy of all actions, or whether it must be called the most miserable and sacrilegious of all deceptions,” (Holy Mass, 1932). But Cekada and others have stated they do not have either ordinary or delegated jurisdiction, and could not prove either; they tell their flocks instead that believe that they possess a form of jurisdiction they cannot even proves exists: Divine jurisdiction. But do they posses it?
“Christ grants jurisdiction”
Cekada writes, under the heading Divine Law provides jurisdiction: “The divine law by which Christ grants jurisdiction to those He commands to forgive sins (as distinct from sacramental power to do so) is found in John 20:21: “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (Merkelbach 3:574). Quoting Cardinal Billot, he writes: “the Church’s instrumental jurisdiction is directed at loosing — indeed, at loosing the bonds which depend not upon ecclesiastical law, but upon divine law.” Yes, and since the Church is the Pope, the Pope may supply such jurisdiction. And yet as we have seen, Pope Pius XII has clearly stated that such jurisdiction is not supplied during an interregnum. Define for us the Church, which Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent tells us must always have a visible head to exercise papal jurisdiction, granted first to Peter and then to the others, that we may understand the statement. And explain to us also why those claiming a superior knowledge of theology gained outside the one, true Church resort primarily to the teaching of theologians to prove their case, when these opinions can scarcely rival the teachings of Popes and Councils, not to mention Divine revelation, i.e., Holy Scripture and Tradition. We have Cano’s primary sources of sacred theology (See link); if these men are truly trained in sacred theology, why are they using such inferior sources? And why do they think we would accept these sources in preference to the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs?
Cekada then quotes Merkelbach to the effect that delegated jurisdiction “operates through the pope however as a minister and instrument of divinity, and therefore not by authority proper to the Church, but rather by God exercising His own authority.” He concludes: “Divine law directly delegates jurisdiction in the internal forum to traditional Catholic priests for the absolution they impart.” Both Cekada and Pivarunas presume, in their writings then, that valid jurisdiction is granted Traditionalists by “Divine law or right,” even though Merkelbach has just stated that such jurisdiction operates through the pope. Merkelbach’s manner of stating this obviously convinces Cekada this applies even in the absence of the Pope. This despite the fact that Merkelbach never says that somehow Christ would grant such power outside the framework He Himself established. But Canons 109 and 219 explain to us the true and only source of jurisdiction granted by Divine law: “…In the Supreme Pontificate, the person legitimately elected and feely accepting the election receives jurisdiction by the Divine law itself; in all other degrees, by canonical appointment.” And Can. 219 differs from this only by stating that upon legitimate election and acceptance, the Roman Pontiff “obtains…the full power of supreme jurisdiction by divine right.”
Already in previously discussing the roles played by Canons 11, 15 and 21, it is clear that no dispensation can be granted from those inhabilitating and invalidating laws which proceed from Divine law. Nor can anyone usurp the jurisdictional powers of the pope during an interregnum. Pope Pius XII made it perfectly clear in Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis that not even the highest members of the hierarchy (Cardinals) are able to do this. We have heard from Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi that a living, breathing and visible head is absolutely necessary to the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that “In order that the Church exist, there must be one person at the head of the whole Christian people,” (Summa Contra Gentiles, Vol. IV, 76). And the Council of Trent teaches that: “It is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that this visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church.” This truth of course is based on Holy Scripture, “That all may be one, as the Father in Me and I in thee,” and the Vatican Council tells us that the no one may teach anything contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, (DZ 1788).
And then let us not forget DZ 1800: “The doctrine of faith God revealed…has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of Her sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding…Let it be solely in its own genus, namely on the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding,” (the Vatican Council). No one can therefore claim that the Church can exist without a Pope in anything but an imperfect state. As Rev. Charles Journet writes, “When the Pope dies the Church is widowed, and in respect of the visible universal jurisdiction, She is truly acephelous. But…Christ directs Her from Heaven… There is no one left then on earth who can visibly exercise the supreme spiritual jurisdiction in His name, and in consequence, any new manifestation of the general life of the Church are prevented.”
For those who object to what has just been stated by Rev. Journet, we can only point to Pope Pius XII’s Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis as proof that this is exactly what happens. If we want to know how the Church dealt with this matter of extraordinary mission or extraordinary vocation by Divine law, we need only read St. Francis de Sales, that great Doctor of the Church, who wrote during the last part of the 16th and early part of the 17th century. This was the saint’s view, taken from his The Catholic Controversy, of the Calvinist heretics he addressed in those times:
St. Francis de Sales
“Your party have taken ground elsewhere than in the ordinary mission and have said that they were sent extraordinarily by God because the ordinary mission has been ruined and abolished, with the true Church itself, under the tyranny of Antichrist. This is their most safe refuge, which since it is common to all sorts of heretics…First I say that no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he prove it by miracles…Where should we be if this extraordinary mission was to be accepted without proof? Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries? Arius, Marcion, Montanus, Messalius — could they not be received into this dignity of reformers, by swearing the same oath? Never was anyone extraordinarily sent unless he brought this letter of credit from the divine Majesty. Moses was sent immediately by God to govern the people of Israel…He asked for signs and patents of his commission; God found this request good [and] gave him three sorts of prodigies and marvels…If they then allege extraordinary mission, let them show us some extraordinary works, otherwise we are not obliged to believe them…The mission of St. John the Baptist…was it not authenticated by his conception, his nativity and by that miraculous life of his, to which Our Lord gave such excellent testimony? But as to the Apostles — who does not know the miracles they did and the great number of them?
“Never must an extraordinary mission be received when disowned by the ordinary authority which is in the Church of Our Lord. For (1) we are obliged to obey our ordinary pastors under pain of being heathens and publicans, (Matt. 18:17); how then can we place ourselves under other discipline than theirs? Extraordinaries would come in vain, since we should be obliged to refuse to listen to them, in the case that they were, as I have said, disowned by the ordinaries. (2) God is not the author of dissension, but of union and peace, (1Cor. 14:33), principally among His disciples and Church ministers, as Our Lord clearly shows in the holy prayer He made to His Father in the last days of His mortal life, (John 17). How then should he authorize two sorts of pastors, the one extraordinary the other ordinary? …There would then be two different churches, which is contrary to the most pure word of Our Lord, who has but one spouse, one sole dove …Therefore to try and make in the Church this division of ordinary and extraordinary is to ruin and destroy it…An extraordinary vocation is never legitimate where it is disproved of by the ordinary…Where will you every show me a legitimate extraordinary vocation which has not been received by the ordinary authority? …The vocation of pastors and Church rulers must be made visibly.”
Msgr. G. Van Noort
To put this in more modern terms, we turn to Rev. G. Van Noort, whose works Rev. J. C. Fenton lauded as “of prime importance.” In his De ecclesia Christi, Van Noort writes: Since the original Protestants obviously lacked apostolicity of government, they took refuge in an appeal to the theory of an “extraordinary mission.” To put it briefly, they maintained that God could at some time raise up a group of men by an extraordinary vocation and confer on them apostolic functions if current apostolic pastors should become viciously corrupt. This was the case, they asserted, with Luther and the other reformers. It is clear, however, if any such extraordinary mission were ever to be granted by God, it would have to be proven by miracles, or other clearly divine trademarks. The plain truth is, however, that Christ’s own promises completely rule out the possibility of any such extraordinary mission. Understand now, we are talking about a mission by which a man absolutely apart from and utterly independent of apostolic succession would receive from God the power to rule (or reform) * the Church. Christ conferred sacred powers on His apostles and their successors until the end of the world. Further, He promised them His perpetual and unfailing assistance. Consequently Christ would be contradicting Himself were He ever to deprive the legitimate successors of the apostles of their authority.
“Granted that fact, it would be a further contradiction for God to confer the same power or a similar power on other men who were not in union with the ordinary successors. In that hypothesis there would be two separate and independent sources of authority, both demanding, by divine right, obedience from the same subjects. The only thing that could result in such an hypothesis would be confusion and schism in Christ’s Church. And in that event, one would imply that God Himself, who willed His Church to be unified, was Himself sowing the seeds of necessary division. From another point of view, God has no need of extraordinary legates, in the sense claimed above, to preserve His Church from corruption. Apostolicity of membership means that the Church in any given age is and remains numerically the same society as that planted by the apostles. It was stated above that the Church’s government is necessarily apostolic: in brief, the college of bishops who rule it always forms one and the same juridical person with the apostolic college (see no. 119, 2). Here it is asserted that the entire membership of the Church is likewise apostolic.
“…What is required for genuine apostolic succession is that a man enjoy the complete powers (i.e., ordinary powers, not extraordinary) of an apostle. He must, then, in addition to the power of orders, possess also the power of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means the power to teach and govern. This power is conferred only by a legitimate authorization and, even though once received, can be lost again by being revoked. Now two methods suggest themselves for proving that this or that bishop is a legitimate successor of the apostles.
a.) The first method is to demonstrate by historical documents that the man in question is connected with one of the original apostles by a never-interrupted line of predecessors in the same office. One must also prove that in this total line no one of his predecessors either acquired his position illicitly, or even though he may have acquired it legitimately, ever lost it. For a purely physical succession proves nothing at all. To move into the White House by physical force would not make a man president of the United States. It is easy to see how lengthy and extremely complicated such a method of procedure would be. Christianity is nearly 2,000 years old. Indeed, in many cases it would be quite impossible to proceed along these lines because of a lack of documentary evidence.
b.) The second method is quite brief. First one locates the legitimate successor of the man whom Christ Himself established as the head and leader of the entire apostolic college. Once that has been done we can find out whether the particular bishop under scrutiny is united to Peter’s successor and is acknowledged by him as a genuine successor in the apostolic office. It is easy enough to investigate these two points; it is also a perfectly satisfactory method of procedure.”
And in this case the procedure cannot identify anyone, be they Traditionalists or conclavists proper, as (certainly) valid and licit successors of the Apostles in communion with the Holy See. Since all that the Church teaches contradicts the possibility that they could have received such jurisdiction extraordinarily — and we know by Traditionalists own admission that they do not possess ordinary or delegated jurisdiction — these men are unlawful pastors, cannot say Mass or administer Sacraments and are not able to function as clerics. This may be a sad and upsetting conclusion for many but it is absolutely de fide Church teaching and as such cannot be contradicted without placing oneself outside the Church, (see DZ 967). Unless they are “rightly ordained” and sent by the proper ecclesiastical authority, they are not lawful, and to say they are lawful and may preach and administer Sacraments contradicts de fide teaching. This is true also of conclavists who claim “popes” elected by laymen or illicit clergy are successors of the Apostles. Only bishops validly and licitly ordained who receive their jurisdiction from the pope may exercise their Divine jurisdiction and delegate it to validly and licitly ordained priests. Only popes legitimately and canonically elected by the proper ecclesiastical authority and accepted by the faithful, the Church teaches, are considered true popes.
In the final analysis, it was never delegated jurisdiction that was the real issue with either traditionalists or conclavists. The issue was the definition of Divine jurisdiction and the manner of its transference. It hinged on Christ’s two-fold promise to the Church: that both the papacy and the hierarchy would last until the consummation, as He constituted them. Trads believe the Church could survive indefinitely without the papacy; Concalvists believe the papacy was sufficient unto itself and that the pope could rule the Church indefinitely without hierarchy. Both the “solution” of Traditionalists — to invoke extraordinary mission demanded by the faithful’s request for the Sacraments minus the papacy, and the Conclavists — who in insisting that the papacy could be restored without the hierarchy — violated Divine law: that the Church, exactly as She was constituted by Christ would last until the consummation.
Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, in his Dogmatic Brevior writes: “For [the Church] was founded by the Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and governed by the Pontiffs, who hold in lawful and unbroken succession the authority bestowed on the Blessed Peter and promised to his successors by Christ…The successors of the Apostles as regards the power of teaching, ruling and sanctifying the faithful are the bishops collectively taken, who have their authority by Divine right. The thesis is historically certain and theologically de fide, being proposed as an object of faith by the ordinary magisterium.” As Pope Pius XII teaches, however both in Mystici Corporis Christi and Ad apostolorum principis, bishops may not exercise their rights unless authorized by the Roman Pontiff, since Peter was made head of the Apostles by Christ. As Rev. J. C. Fenton reminds us, if theologians like Rev. Tanquerery could be wrong, then the Church has failed in Her mission, since Tanquerey’s works were used for decades to train priests worldwide. Revs. Devivier and Sasia join him in reiterating Christ’s own teaching: “Jesus Christ wished and disposed that the powers which He confided to His Apostles should be transmitted by them to their successors until the end of time,” (de fide from the Vatican Council). That an Apostolic succession is essential for the discernment of the true Church the Fathers unanimously teach…Jurisdiction itself dwells at all times in the heads of the Church, and is always transmitted according to the canonical rules in force at the time. Whosoever, therefore, has not received jurisdiction according to those rules…remains without it…”
This succession is sadly lacking among Traditionalists and conclavists alike; none can lay claim to any but doubtfully valid orders and all lack any semblance of canonical or Divine jurisdiction. This according to the constant teaching of the Church in Her ordinary magisterium. Somewhere true bishops and priests exist; We have Christ’s word for it. If remaining priests and bishops following the false V2 council had not been so eager to establish their own little popedoms; if they had followed the guidelines left by Pope Pius XII and other theologians, the crisis in the Church would have been over long ago.