What is the Mass of St. John?
The Mass of St. John was first promoted by Rev. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a native of Peru, who joined the Congregation of the Sacred Heart straight out of high school. He was a tireless Apostle for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Benedict XV approved his mission and Pope Pius XI sent him to the Far East to sanctify priests there. He spent four years in the United States, offering retreats for the clergy and promoting one of his fondest devotions: enthronement of the Sacred Heart in Catholic homes. Rev. Crawley-Boevey often prayed the Mass of St. John during his travels and offers a brief history and explanation of this important devotion in his work, Jesus, King of Love: “I call this practice ‘the Mass of St. John’ only to give it a title. It is really Jesus’ Mass. What was the Mass offered by Jesus? The Mass offered by Jesus at the Last Supper was the most simple of Masses, the shortest of Masses, lasting but a few minutes. St. John’s Mass, as he offered it for Our Lady, was the same — short, simple… and consisting of the same three elements, the same three prayers: Offertory, Consecration, Communion. That is enough. That is Mass. All the rest is a frame… This is the great prayer, the most wonderful of prayers… You may have your private devotions, certainly. But that all of them may become divine, priceless — the Rosary and the rest — put them as a drop of water in the chalice of your Mass…Place all your miseries and failings as a drop of water into the chalice every morning. ”
Pope Pius XII teaches in his encyclical Mediator Dei, that for the Sacrifice to have its full effect, the faithful must unite their sacrifices to those of the priest in Holy Mass. The people must “offer themselves as victims…This offering is not in fact confined merely to the liturgical Sacrifice. For the Prince of the Apostles wishes us, as living stones built upon Christ the cornerstone, to be able, ‘as a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,’” (I Peter 2:5). St. Paul also tells Christians, Pius says, “’Present your bodies [as] a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.’” In this way, Pope Pius XII explains, Catholics unite themselves to Jesus, High Priest, and through Him they offer themselves as a spiritual sacrifice. This, then, is the rationale for the Mass of St. John.
Examination of Conscience
(Prior to Mass, as one would were the Mass available, all examine their consciences and together say the Act of Contrition. Below is a good examination of conscience for adults.)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. R/ Amen.
I will draw near to Thy altar, O my God, there to gain new strength and vigor to my soul. Separate me from those unbelievers who have no trust in Thee; grant me that grace which conforms me when the remembrance of my sins afflicts and casts me down — that grace which lets me know there is an everlasting refuge in Thy goodness, and that Thou art ready to forgive even our greatest sins upon sincere repentance. O Lord, help me to remember my sins, so that I can be sorry for them, root out their cause and resolve to sin no more. Amen.
Prayer before Confession:
O Lord, grant me light to see myself as Thou dost see me, and the grace to be truly and efficaciously contrite for my sins. O Mary, help me to make a good confession. Amen.
Act of Contrition
(St. Thomas Aquinas tells us to prepare for Spiritual Communion by first making acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, then the Act of Contrition. Those who wish may also say the Fatima prayers given to the children by the Angel of Peace, below).
Perfect Act of Contrition
O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell. But most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen. (Remain kneeling following the recitation of the Act of Contrition by all in common.)
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore thee profoundly and offer the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, [once] present in all the tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of thee the conversion of poor sinners.” The Angel also told the children to make reparation to Our Lord before receiving Him by reciting this prayer three times: “O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope in and I love Thee, and I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope in and do not love Thee.”
Mass of St. John
(Most pray-at-home Catholics use Goffine’s Devout Instructions for Sundays and Holydays. This work is available on the Catacomb Catholics site or download at: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7216121M/Goffine’s_Devout_instructions_on_the_Epistles_and_Gospels_for_the_Sundays_and_holydays. All the prayers below are taken from approved books and prayer books)
As I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the Holy Mysteries, O my God, I transport myself to the foot of Thine altar; I unite with the Church, which, by the hand of Thy faithful ministers, offers Thee Thine adorable Son. I offer myself with Him, by Him and in His name. I adore, I praise and I thank Thee, imploring Thy mercy, invoking Thine assistance, and presenting Thee the homage I owe Thee as my Creator, the love due to Thee as my Savior. Apply to my soul I beseech Thee, O merciful Jesus, Thine infinite merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray. I desire to communicate spiritually that Thy Blood may purify, Thy Flesh strengthen and Thy spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that Thou, my Divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is not Thee that hereafter I may live eternally with Thee. Amen.
Before the Gospel and Epistle (From The Baltimore Book of Prayers)
Incomprehensible Creator, the true fountain of light and the only author of all knowledge, vouchsafe we beseech Thee to enlighten our understandings, and to remove from us all darkness of sin and ignorance. Give us a diligent and obedient spirit, quickness of apprehension, capacity of retaining and the powerful assistance of Thy holy grace; that what we hear or learn we may apply to Thy honor and the eternal salvation of our own souls. (Be seated for the Epistle) At the Epistle’s end, the congregations says: Deo gratias. (After the Gradual is read, please stand for the Gospel) Reader: The beginning of the holy Gospel according to St. ….. Congregation: Gloria tibi Domine At the Gospel’s end, the congregation says: Laus tibi Christi. (Be seated for the sermon. To find an old book of sermons on the Gospel and Epistle search under Goffines on the web.) At the end of the sermon, please stand for the Apostles Creed: ”I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” (At the end of this prayer, please kneel.)
From the Canon of the Mass
Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins and offenses, and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit both me and them as a means of salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.
We offer Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Thy mercy that it may arise before Thy divine Majesty, with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.
Consecration of the Bread — Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands and having raised His eyes to heaven, unto Thee, O God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take ye all and eat of this: For this is My Body (My Lord and My God – ring the bell three times)
Consecration of the Wine — In like manner, when the supper was done, taking also this goodly chalice into His holy and venerable hands, again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take ye all, and drink of this: For this is the Chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal covenant; the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins.
As often as you shall do these things, in memory of Me shall you do them. (Most precious blood of Jesus, have mercy on us – ring the bell three times).
Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollis pecatta mundi (Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world…) Domine non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectem meam, sit tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea. (Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed, three times)
(Now pause so that all can make a private spiritual communion and thanksgiving. The following may be used): My Jesus, I believe that Thou art in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I long for Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou art already come, I embrace Thee and unite myself entirely to Thee; never permit me to be separated from Thee. Oh Jesus, truly present in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar, I love Thee above all things and I long for Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, I beseech Thee to come at least spiritually into my soul and dwell with me forever. I in Thee and Thou in me, in time and in eternity, in Mary, Amen. (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
Prayers of Thanksgiving
- Anima Christi
- Acts of Reparation
- Prayer Before a Crucifix
(A Eucharistic hymn may be sung)
Oh God, who justifiest the ungodly and willest not the death of a sinner: we humbly entreat Thy Majesty to protect Thy servants who trust in Thy mercy, with Thy heavenly assistance, and preserve them by Thy continual protection; that they may constantly serve Thee, and by no temptation be separated from Thee. (Baltimore Book of Prayers)
Prayers for the Conversion of Russia / the Church Suffering
Say three Hail Marys, then: Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V/ Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R/ That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
V/ Let us pray.
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down in mercy on Thy people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St. Joseph her spouse, of Thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the Saints, in mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our holy mother the Church. Through the same Christ our Lord. R/ Amen. V/ Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do Thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. R/ Amen.
V/ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. R/ Have mercy on us. Three times
Spiritual Mass 1
THE METHOD OF HEARING MASS SPIRITUALLY FOR THE ABSENT
(Adapted from The Key of Heaven) If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families. It often happens that Catholics who are at a distance from a church, or because of illness or some other unavoidable impediment, may be unable to hear Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Grave causes may excuse bodily presence, but do not dispense us from uniting ourselves in spirit to those who actually enjoy the happiness of being in God’s holy temple. The Sundays and Feasts were instituted by the Church that we may render unto God that worship that we owe Him every moment of our lives. This worship includes first the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and it is offered for us even when we are not actually present. But to enjoy the benefits that it procures, we must by a spiritual Communion become partakers of the altar from which we are temporarily banished. Excite a desire of visiting the house of God, and let the whole family kneel before a crucifix, a statue of the Blessed Virgin, or a pious picture. Then, transporting themselves in spirit before the altar where Mass is being celebrated, let them endeavour to follow the service there performed.
Form of Making a Good Intention Before Holy Mass
(To be used when, by reasonable cause, one is hindered from going to church.) I believe, Lord Jesus, that in the Last Supper Thou didst offer up a true sacrifice; I believe it because Thou hast made it known to us through the Catholic Church, which from apostolic times has constantly taught the same to us. Since Thou didst command the Apostles and the priests ordained by them to do the same until the end of time, I, therefore, offer to Thee with the priest this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which I believe to be one with that offered on Mount Calvary) to Thy honour and glory, in acknowledgement of my most bounden service, in thanksgiving for the innumerable benefits which Thou hast conferred upon me and upon the whole world, in satisfaction for my sins and the sins of all mankind, and for obtaining the grace of perfect contrition for my sins. I also offer to Thee this Holy Mass for my friends and benefactors, and for those to whom I am bound, and for whom Thou wilt me to pray. I also offer it for my enemies, that they may be converted, for all the faithful departed, particularly for my parents and relatives and for the welfare of all Christendom.
Prayers During the Time of Divine Service
Heartfelt Desire to Participate in the Holy Sacrifice
Most Holy Trinity, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, almighty Source of all things, my best Father, my merciful Redeemer, the Fountain of my sanctification and happiness, I, Thy most unworthy creature, venture to appear before Thee, to show Thee, my true God and Creator, all honour, adoration, and trustful submission; to thank Thee for the innumerable benefits which I have received from Thee, to praise Thee for Thy glory (for I am created for Thy praise); to implore Thy mercies; and to appease Thy justice, because I have so often and so grievously sinned against Thee. All this I cannot do in a worthier and more perfect manner than by hearing, with faith and devotion, Holy Mass. For in that Holy Sacrifice is offered to Thee the most sublime Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the most efficacious sacrifice of supplication and propitiation, the most worthy Sacrifice of salvation for the living and dead.
But because I cannot this day be present bodily at Holy Mass, I will, at least in spirit, place myself before the altar where Jesus Christ, in an unbloody manner, offers Himself, O Heavenly Father, to Thee. With this glorious Sacrifice I unite my present prayer; I fervently desire, united with the Son of God, in the strongest manner to praise, love, supplicate Thee, O Heavenly Father, to repair all the wrong and shame that I have wrought, and completely to accomplish all that can be accomplished by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To this end give me Thy divine grace, and grant that I may perform all this with sincere devotion. Amen. Contrition for Sins, with
Faith and Confidence in Jesus Christ and an Offering up of His Precious Merits
Holy Father, I confess with sorrow that I have seldom served Thee with an undivided heart, but rather have often offended Thee, and by my slothfulness and neglect have brought upon myself infinitely great guilt before Thee. I, therefore, take refuge in the merits of Thy Beloved Son, now present upon the altar, Who so freely commends and imparts to us His grace and favour. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus Christ offers to Thee for me the highest veneration and love, the most perfect praise, the most hearty thanksgiving, and the most kind expiation. For the perfect forgiveness of my sins, O Heavenly Father, I offer up to Thee the whole suffering and death of Jesus Christ, which are now, in an unbloody manner, renewed upon the altar. O most benign Father, Thy Son has suffered and died even for me, a poor sinner. With thankful love I bring before Thee, as a precious and pleasing offering, the infinite merits of His suffering and death.
I firmly trust that, on account of this inestimable sacrifice of Thy Son, Thou wilt increase in me Thy graces. Amen. O Father of mercies, and God of all consolation, to Thee I turn for help and grace. Graciously look upon my misery and wretchedness, and let my supplications come before Thee. That I may the more surely be heard by Thee, I appear before the throne of Thy grace, which, for our salvation, is set up in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where the innocent Lamb of God is mysteriously offered up to Thee, Holy Father, Almighty God, for the remission of our sins. Regard, I beseech Thee, the innocence of this holy Sacrifice, and for the sake thereof extend to me Thy mercy.
O my Saviour, how great is that love of Thine for me, which, to make satisfaction for my sins and to gain me the grace of Thy Father, impelled Thee to endure for me such bitter pains, and even death itself! How great is yet that love of Thine for me which causes Thee, in every Holy Mass to renew, in an unbloody manner, Thy death of propitiation, in order to apply and communicate to me Thy merits! With my whole heart I thank Thee for this, Thy great love, and from the depths of my soul, I beseech Thee to make me a partaker of the fruit of it and to strengthen and confirm me by the grace of the Holy Ghost, that I may detest sin and all unholy living, that I may crucify my flesh, with all its passions, deny myself, and follow in Thy footsteps, that all my thoughts and words, all that I do or leave undone, may be a living service of God and a sacrifice well pleasing to Him. As Thou hast offered up to Thy Heavenly Father Thyself, so take me also in the arms of Thy love and mercy, and present me, a poor erring sinner, as an offering to Thy Father, and let me no more be separated from His love. Amen.
Adoration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Under the Appearance of Bread and Wine
O most holy Jesus, before Thee the heavenly choirs kneel and adore; with them I lift up my voice and cry: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O Lord of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy grace and glory. Thou art present, O Jesus, under the appearance of bread and wine. Hear, O hear my prayer! I strike my breast and confess my unworthiness, but with firm confidence I implore Thee, O Jesus, be merciful to me! O most benign Jesus, forgive me my sins! O holy Blood, wash me from my sins!
O precious Blood of Jesus, O Blood of Jesus, rich in grace, cry out to heaven for mercy upon me! Most holy God, receive this precious Blood, together with the love through which it was shed; receive it as an offering of my love and thankfulness, for the forgiveness of my sins; in satisfaction of the punishments that I have deserved; for the washing away of the stains of my guilt, as reparation for all my neglects, and as amendment for all the sins which I have committed through ignorance or frailty; receive it also as a sacrifice for the consolation of the afflicted; for the conversion of sinners; for the recovery of the sick and suffering; for the strengthening of those who draw near to death; for the refreshment, purification, and deliverance of the souls of the departed in Purgatory. Amen.
Unshaken Confidence in Jesus Christ
To Thee, O most benign Jesus, I lift up my eyes and my heart. Oh, turn upon me Thy gracious countenance and Thy true love. Behold, O Lord, my manifest need, and the great danger of my soul. Receive me, O Thou Who art my only true mediator and helper! Be Thou, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, my salvation, and obtain for me the entire remission of my sins. Oh, represent to Thy Father how cruelly Thou wast scourged, crowned, crucified, and put to death for us, and thereby reconcile with the strict justice of God me, a miserable sinner. Amen. Pater Noster. Ave Maria.
He Who Asks in the Name of Jesus Shall Receive
O Lamb of God, Who didst suffer for us, miserable sinners, have mercy upon me, and offer up to the Father Thy Passion for the forgiveness of my sins! O Lamb of God, Who didst die for us, miserable sinners, have mercy upon me, and offer up to God Thy death in satisfaction for my sins! O Lamb of God, Who didst sacrifice Thyself for us, miserable sinners, have mercy upon me, and offer up Thy holy Blood to the Father for the cleansing of my soul! Heavenly Father, I offer up to Thee this precious and most worthy oblation. My sins are more in number than the hairs of my head, but, O just and merciful God, lay this precious offering in the one scale and my sins in the other, and that will far outweigh my guilt. O merciful, O holy God, give me Thy blessing before I end my prayer, and through this blessing let me obtain grace at once to begin to amend my life, and renounce whatever is sinful and displeasing to Thee. Support me in my weakness, strengthen me when temptations assail me, and let me never forget that Thou art near me. O precious day! but perhaps the last of my life! O happy day! if it shall make me better! Holy Mother of God, Mary, holy Angels and friends of God, pray for me and lead me in the way of truth. O God, grant Thy love to the living and Thy peace to the dead. Amen. (Say here the Canon of the Mass and Consecration prayers as provided in Method 1.)
Act of Spiritual Communion in Union With the Sacrifice of the Mass When We Cannot Assist at It
(To the faithful who make an act of spiritual Communion, using any formula they may choose, there is granted an indulgence of three years. A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions when the Act is performed every day of the month. Granted by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, March 7, 1927, and February 25, 1933.)
As I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I transport myself in spirit to the foot of Thine altar; I unite with the Church, which, by the hands of the priest, offers Thee Thine adorable Son; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His Name. I adore, I praise, and I thank Thee, imploring Thy mercy, invoking Thine assistance, and presenting Thee the homage I owe Thee as my Creator, the love due to Thee as my Saviour. Apply to my soul, I beseech Thee, O merciful Jesus, Thine infinite merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray. I desire to communicate spiritually, that Thy Blood may purify, Thy Flesh strengthen, and Thy spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that Thou, my divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is not Thee, that hereafter I may live eternally with Thee. Amen. Another
Act of Spiritual Communion By St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee. Another Act of Spiritual Communion By Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val At Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself, and I offer Thee the repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental Communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.
(see Baptism under the heading: If you are New to this Site)
This Sacrament is a completion of the Sacrament of Baptism. As we read in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, (by Revs. McHugh and Callan), Pope Melchiades describes the difference between the two as follows: “’In Baptism man is enlisted into the service, in Confirmation he is equipped for battle; at the baptismal font the Holy Ghost imparts fullness to accomplish innocence, but in Confirmation He ministers perfection to grace; in Baptism we are generated unto life, after Baptism we are fortified for the combat; in Baptism we are cleansed, after Baptism we are strengthened; regeneration of itself saves those who receive Baptism in time of peace, Confirmation arms and makes ready for conflicts.’ Confirmation has not been instituted as necessary to salvation, but that by virtue thereof we may be found very well armed and prepared when called upon to fight for the faith of Christ; and for this conflict no one assuredly will consider children who as yet lack use of reason to be qualified.”
Those receiving this Sacrament before the opening of the first session of the false Vatican 2 council probably received it validly although perhaps illicitly. If the bishop conferring the Sacrament was consecrated during Pius XII’s reign, they received it validly and licitly. If John 23rd reappointed the bishop to the diocese where the Sacrament was received after Pope Pius XII’s death, they would have possibly received it illicitly. Today there are no bishops to confer this Sacrament. But if even Penance and Holy Eucharist can be received spiritually, it does not seem that Confirmation would be any exception. The usual age for young Catholics to receive Confirmation is anytime after receiving Holy Communion, but normally those around age 11 received this Sacrament. If in a home atmosphere the child was instructed about the meaning and importance of Confirmation then directed to ask our Lord to appoint some heavenly bishop to convey it — using the words of the rite, asking for those graces and adopting a special saint’s name — then the Sacrament may be received by desire in this way. For did not our Lord tell us: “Ask and you shall receive?” It is no coincidence that those calling themselves Catholics today are so weak, for so many of them, regardless of the belief they have received this Sacrament from Traditionalist bishops, remain without it. They are neither prepared nor willing to fight, nor do they possess the weapons necessary to engage in battle.
The Holy Eucharist — Spiritual Communion
The Saints on Spiritual Communion
St. Leonard of Port Maurice — “In order to make a good spiritual Communion, be recollected, make an act of true contrition, and then awaken within you those sentiments of love and confidence which you are accustomed to have at your sacramental Communion. Join to all that a heartfelt longing to receive Jesus Christ, Who is hidden under the sacramental forms and appearances. To heighten still further your devotion, imagine that the Blessed Virgin or your guardian angel is presenting to you the sacred Host. Repeat the words: “Come, my Jesus. Thou love and life of my soul, come into my poor heart; come and quiet my longings, come and sanctify me; yes, come, O sweet Jesus, come and abide with me forever.” Then be silent, and see within yourself your merciful God, the same as if you had actually received Him in the Blessed Sacrament; adore Him, thank Him, awaken within you all those sacred aspirations which you are in the habit of awaking at your regular Communion.
St. Juliana Falconieri — This saint had reached the age of seventy years; virtuous as she had ever been, she was tried by deep afflictions. She was prostrated with an incurable weakness of the stomach. At last she could not retain a particle of food — was totally deprived of the consolation of receiving the ever-blessed body of her Lord, which she could not receive even as Holy viaticum. This privation caused her inexpressible grief, and so great was her mourning and weeping that it seemed as if she must die of sorrow. At last she begged her father-confessor in the most humble terms to bring the Blessed Sacrament near her. He promised to comply with her request. When he appeared carrying the Blessed Sacrament, she prostrated herself in the form of a cross before her Lord, and adored Him. Her countenance became bright like an angel’s. Then she begged for permission to touch the Blessed Sacrament with her lips, but this could not be permitted. Then she begged the priest to lay a veil on her longing, burning breast, and to place the Blessed Sacrament on it, that she might at least receive her Jesus in a spiritual Communion. This wish was complied with, when, lo! hardly had the sacred Host touched her fervent breast than it disappeared suddenly, and could be found no more. A moment afterwards St. Juliana departed this life, with a smile on her features.
St. Alphonsus Liguori — “I advise every one who desires to grow in love for Jesus to communicate in this spiritual manner at least once a day… This devotion is far more salutary than many suppose, while at the same time it is very easy of practice.”(The section above was excerpted from http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Communion.html )
From “The Spiritual Combat” by Fr. Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
“Although a real communion is at the oftenest restrained to once a day, yet you are at liberty, as was said above, to communicate in spirit every hour; and nothing but your own negligence can prevent your receiving this great benefit. And it is worth observing, that a spiritual communion is sometimes of greater advantage to the soul, and more acceptable to God, than many sacramental communions performed with little preparation and affection. When, therefore, you are disposed to receive the Son of God spiritually, be sure he is ready to give Himself thus to you for your food and nourishment. By way of preparation, turn your thoughts toward Jesus, and after a little reflection on the multitude of your sins, declare to him your sincere sorrow for them. Then beg of him with the most profound respect and lively faith, that he will condescend to enter your heart, and replenish it with a new grace, as a remedy against its weakness and the violence of its enemies.
“Every time you mortify any of your passions, or perform some act of virtue, take that opportunity of preparing your heart for the Son of God, who continually demands it of you; then for addressing yourself to him, beg, with great fervour, the blessing of his presence, as the physician of your soul, as a powerful protector to take and keep possession of your heart against all opponents. Call likewise to mind your last sacramental communion; and inflamed with the love of your Saviour, say to him: when shall I receive thee again, O my God? When will the happy day return? But if you desire to communicate, spiritually, with greater devotion, begin to prepare for it every night; and let every mortification and each act of virtue you practice, tend to prepare you for receiving, in spirit, your amiable Redeemer.
“In the morning when you awake, meditate on the great advantages accruing from a holy communion, in which the soul retrieves lost virtues, recovers her former purity, is rendered worthy to partake of the merits of the cross, and performs an action highly pleasing to the eternal Father, who desires that everyone should enjoy this divine sacrament. From hence endeavour to excite in your soul an ardent desire of receiving Him in compliance with His will; and with this disposition say: Lord, since I am not allowed to receive Thee this day sacramentally, let Thy goodness and almighty power so order it, that cleansed from the stain of sin, and healed of all my wounds, I may deserve to receive Thee in spirit, now, each day and hour; to the end that being strengthened with new grace, I may courageously resist my enemies, especially that failing, against which, for the love of thee, I now wage war.”
From The Blessed Eucharist, by Rev. Michael Mueller
Rev. Mueller relates in his work that St. Catherine of Siena at one point in her life was forbidden to communicate. But her desire to receive Communion was so intense that the smallest particle from the Host, being broken at the altar into three pieces by her confessor, St. Raymund Pennafort, flew from the altar to rest on St. Catherine’s tongue. Our Lord assured St. Raymund that this miracle was a reward for her intense desire to receive Him. Rev. Mueller tells us: “[Our Lord] displays a similar love toward anyone who has a true desire to be united to Him. As soon as a soul ardently desires to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, He comes to satisfy her desire, not as he did to St. Catherine, under the Sacramental species, but by the way of Spiritual Communion. This devotion is so full of grace and consolation that everyone should know how to practice it… “Spiritual Communion, according to St. Thomas, consists in an ardent desire to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament. It is performed by making an act of faith…and then an act of love, and an act of contrition for having offended Him. The soul then invites Him to come and unite Himself to her and make her entirely His own; and lastly she thanks Him as if she had really received Him sacramentally,” [and here Mueller gives the common form of Spiritual Communion].
“Our Lord Himself told St. Jane [Joanna] of the Cross that as often as she communicated spiritually, she received a grace similar to that received from her Sacramental Communions. He also appeared to St. Paula Maresca, foundress of the convent of St. Catherine of Siena at Naples, with two vessels, one of silver and one of gold, and told her that in the golden vessel He preserved her Sacramental Communions and in the silver vessel her spiritual Communions. The Fathers of the Church go so far as to say that one who has a very great desire for Communion, accompanied with great reverence and humility, may sometimes receive even more graces than another who, without these dispositions, should actually receive Our Lord in the Sacramental species; for as the Psalmist says: ‘The Lord hears the desire of the poor and fills their heart with good things.’
“The advantages of this mode of Communion are very great. To practice it, you will not need to go to church or make a long preparation or remain fasting; you will not need to ask the permission of your confessor, or to seek a priest to give it to you as in Holy Communion. Hence the venerable Jane of the Cross used to say: ‘O my Lord, what an excellent mode of receiving without being seen or remarked, without giving trouble to my spiritual father, or depending on anyone but Thee, who in solitude dost nourish my soul and speak to my heart.’ “Spiritual Communion you may receive as often as you please. St. Alphonsus advises one who wishes to lead a devout life to make Spiritual Communions at his meditations, at his visits to the Blessed Sacrament and whenever he hears Mass. But especially he should multiply them on the eve of his Communions because, as Fr. Faber of the Society of Jesus remarks, they are the most powerful means necessary to obtain the dispositions necessary for a good Communion. The Saints were much addicted to this devotion.
The Blue Army
The Blue Army has advocated the “Eucharistic Rosary” for many years, a rosary offering a Spiritual Communion with each recitation of the Hail Mary. “A simple desire, no matter how brief, suffices to constitute a Spiritual Communion. Obviously the deeper and more fervent the desire, the more fruitful the Communion. No particular formula is required. Our Lord once said to St. Mechtilde: “Every time you desire Me, you draw me to you.” In every rosary we say, we can make 53 Spiritual Communions. How? By simply making the Holy Name “Jesus” in each Hail Mary a formula for a Spiritual Communion. “Call Me and I will come to thee,” said Our Lord to the Cistercian St. Ida. All this we can do mentally, but if we so desire we can externalize our interior desire by bowing our head, or pressing the beads to our heart each time we pronounce the name Jesus with the intention of drawing Him spiritually into our soul…The Rosary is the great mystical chain binding all hearts to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Rosary is the great SPIRITUAL COMMUNION.”
Penance —The Perfect Act of Contrition
Perfect contrition without the sacrament
Regarding that contrition which has for its motive the love of God, the Council of Trent declares: “The Council further teaches that, though contrition may sometimes be made perfect by charity and may reconcile men to God before the actual reception of this sacrament, still the reconciliation is not to be ascribed to the contrition apart from the desire for the sacrament which it includes.” The following proposition (no. 32) taken from Baius was condemned by Gregory XIII: “That charity which is the fullness of the law is not always conjoined with forgiveness of sins.” Perfect contrition, with the desire of receiving the Sacrament of Penance, restores the sinner to grace at once. This is certainly the teaching of the Scholastic doctors (Peter Lombard in P.L., CXCII, 885; St. Thomas, In Lib. Sent. IV, ibid.; St. Bonaventure, In Lib. Sent. IV, ibid.). This doctrine they derived from Holy Writ. Scripture certainly ascribes to charity and the love of God the power to take away sin: “He that loveth me shall be loved by My Father”; “Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much”. Since the act of perfect contrition implies necessarily this same love of God, theologians have ascribed to perfect contrition what Scripture teaches belongs to charity. Nor is this strange, for in the Old Covenant there was some way of recovering God’s grace once man had sinned. God wills not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33:11). This total turning to God corresponds to our idea of perfect contrition; and if under the Old Law love sufficed for the pardon of the sinner, surely the coming of Christ and the institution of the Sacrament of Penance cannot be supposed to have increased the difficulty of obtaining forgiveness. That the earlier Fathers taught the efficacy of sorrow for the remission of sins is very clear (Clement in P.G., I, 341 sqq.; and Hermas in P.G., II, 894 sqq.; Chrysostom in P.G., XLIX, 285 sqq.) and this is particularly noticeable in all the commentaries on Luke 7:47. The Venerable Bede writes (P.L., XCII, 425): “What is love but fire; what is sin but rust? Hence it is said, many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much, as though to say, she hath burned away entirely the rust of sin, because she is inflamed with the fire of love.”
Theologians have inquired with much learning as to the kind of love that justifies with the Sacrament of Penance. All are agreed that pure, or disinterested, love (amor benevolentiæ, amor amicitiæ) suffices; when there is question of interested, or selfish, love (amor concupiscentia) theologians hold that purely selfish love is not sufficient. When one furthermore asks what must be the formal motive in perfect love, there seems to be no real unanimity among the doctors. Some say that where there is perfect love God is loved for His great goodness alone; other, basing their contention on Scripture, think that the love of gratitude (amor gratitudinis) is quite sufficient, because God’s benevolence and love towards men are intimately united, nay, inseparable from His Divine perfections (Hurter, Theol. Dog., Thesis ccxlv, Scholion iii, no 3; Schieler-Heuser, op. cit., pp. 77 sq.).
Obligation of eliciting the Act of Contrition
In the very nature of things the sinner must repent before he can be reconciled with God (Sess. XIV, ch. iv, de Contritione, Fuit quovis tempore, etc.). Therefore he who has fallen into grievous sin must either make an act of perfect contrition or supplement the imperfect contrition by receiving the Sacrament of Penance; otherwise reconciliation with God is impossible. This obligation urges under pain of sin when there is danger of death. In danger of death, therefore, if a priest be not at hand to administer the sacrament, the sinner must make an effort to elicit an act of perfect contrition. The obligation of perfect contrition is also urgent whensoever one has to exercise some act for which a state of grace is necessary and the Sacrament of Penance is not accessible. Theologians have questions how long a man may remain in the state of sin, without making an effort to elicit an act of perfect contrition. They seem agreed that such neglect must have extended over considerable time, but what constitutes a considerable time they find it hard to determine (Schieler-Hauser, op. cit., pp. 83 sqq.).
Probably the rule of St. Alphonsus Liguori will aid the solution: “The duty of making an act of contrition is urgent when one is obliged to make an act of love” (Sabetti, Theologia Moralis: de necess. contritionis, no. 731; Ballerine, Opus Morale: de contritione). In his “Heaven Open to Souls,” Rev. Henry Semple, S. J. shows that a perfect Act of Contrition is a common act. Semple quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori, who attributes the opposite belief, that such an act is not common, to the Jansenists. St. Alphonsus teaches that “the opposite teaching…that Contrition with remiss charity does not justify outside the Sacrament [of Penance] is altogether unsupported by any reason, and is false…It is at variance with all theologians and the common sentiments of the Fathers…It most openly contradicts many testimonies of Scripture and Councils and Holy Fathers,” (“Moral Theology,” Book 6, Treatise 4, n. 442 of St. Alphonsus). Rev. Raymond Kearney writes: “The Sacraments are the usual, not the exclusive channels of grace…Penitents frequently make acts of Perfect Contrition…These facts go to show that while the Church does not always supply jurisdiction as lavishly as some writers would desire, she is ever the Pia Mater Ecclesia,” (“Principles of Delegation,” 1929).
In the book Semple references below, Rev. von Den Driesch writes: “… There is no one who, if he sincerely wishes it, cannot, with the grace of God, make an act of Perfect Contrition. Sorrow is in the will, not in the senses or feelings. All that is needed is that we repent because we love God above everything else; that is all. True it is that perfect contrition has its degrees, but it is nonetheless perfect because it does not reach the intensity and the sublimity of the sorrow of St. Peter, of St. Mary Magdalene, or of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Such a degree is desirable, but it is by no means necessary. A lesser degree, but, provided it proceeds from the love of God, and not through fear of His punishments is quite sufficient…Often, very often, without even thinking of it, you have Perfect Contrition for your sins. For example, when you hear Mass devoutly or make the Stations of the Cross properly; when you reflect before your crucifix or an image of the Sacred Heart. What is more, every time you say the ‘Our Father’, in the first three petitions you make three acts of perfect charity, each of which is sufficient to cancel every sin from your soul.”
In the preface to this tiny, invaluable work, Rev. A. Lemkuhl writes: “And hence I desire that this little booklet may be in the hands of all — convinced that by the attentive reading of it, and practicing its maxims, the gates of Heaven will be opened to many, very many for whom otherwise they might have been closed forever; and that many more remaining in God’s grace, will preserve their right to Heaven, and their eternal happiness will grow and be increased immeasurably. All Christians should be solidly instructed concerning the extent of the efficacy of an act of perfect Charity and of perfect Contrition.
It is a matter of incalculable importance for the time of their own death, and that of others at which they may be present. No one should forget this truth while in health; in time of sickness or in danger of death it is all the more important that he nature of perfect contrition should be clearly and deeply impressed on those who may have forgotten it or who only imperfectly understood it. For this reason I wish this little booklet the widest circulation possible, and I doubt not that it will bear fruit of innumerable graces.” This excellent little book is available at: http://www.catholicresearchinstitute.com/crifiles/Catholic_Research_Institute_Books.pdf More of
Rev. Semple’s work is presented above. It easily demonstrates that those Traditionalists who would intimidate their followers with the threat of their sins remaining unforgiven if they are not confessed in confession, those considering the stay-at-home position that is, are contradicting the teachings of the Church, and preaching against the effectiveness of God’s mercy The above selections tell of the excellence of Rev. von Den Driesch’s work and the source of the errors on which the belief that a Perfect Act of Contrition cannot be made are based. These errors are very much still alive today, discouraging those with doubts about the operations of Traditionalists from leaving these sects. Above on page 90, we read something from Rev. Semple that has been the basis for all that we have written on this site over the past several years.
For as Fr. Semple says, the readers should not trust his works to tell them about perfect contrition, for he could be mistaken. Rather they should trust the many excellent works of the approved theologians quoted in his book, and indeed what they present is enough that they can arrive at certitude — a firm assent — and rest easy concerning these teachings. If one points to Church teaching as the basis for their own convictions — and all Catholics are bound to believe even the opinions of the popes in matters not directly pertaining to faith and morals, or ecclesiastical discipline — how can they be discredited for simply being the bearer of these teachings?
Then on page 155 of Rev. Semple’s work above, he explains how those who teach that acts of perfect Contrition are rare are tainted with Calvinism, Lutheranism, Jansenism, semi-Jansenism, Quietism, semi-Quietism, Modernism, agnosticism or pantheism. His lengthy and much-recommended work gives numerous examples of the heresies that oppose this teaching. In his Table of Contents the subheads themselves are indicators of the richness of his work. We read: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola manifest the truths of our proposition that acts of perfect love and perfect contrition are easy and common; that “Acts of love and perfect Contrition are rare” is an error; no special intensity or duration in the Act of Love is required for justification; the Breviary and Missal contain many acts of love. Below we see that before Our Lord came to earth, the only way to save one’s soul was by this very same contrition.
No forgiveness with Perfect Contrition is a Jansenist heresy
Pages 416 and 417 below also explain that we can scarcely deny the fact that before Christ came to earth, the only way the faithful had to save their souls was to go directly to God and beg His forgiveness. When necessity dictates, this method once again comes into play. Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade also notes this same fact regarding spiritual direction in his “Abandonment to Divine Providence.” If we consider this further, it would be an indirect denial of the doctrine concerning Baptism of desire to assert that unless one receives absolution in Confession, their sins cannot be forgiven, for how else could those who sincerely love God and do al in their power to serve him to the best of their lights save their souls otherwise? We must always remember, however, to desire confession when we make a Perfect Act of Contrition.
Here we see that those who warn their devotees that stay-at-home Catholics are endangering their souls by relying on the Perfect Act of Contrition actually engage in yet another variation of the Feeneyite heresy, for they deny forgiveness and the hope of salvation to those who throw themselves upon God’s mercy and truly repent of their sins, those who truly love Him and whom He loves. What a terrible thing it is for those who hold the Jansenist view of perfect contrition to deprive of all hope those who today abstain from availing themselves of confession because of a lack of jurisdiction by the confessor. They care nothing for the misery and destitution endured by those who know they cannot receive the Sacraments without offending our Lord. Let these neo-Jansenists hear the words of that great doctor, St. Francis de Sales who tells us:
“Misery is the throne of God’s mercy. God…looks with love on the worst sinners of the world despite their lack of will to convert themselves…The most miserable beggars and those whose wounds are the most terrible are considered the best and the most suitable to receive charity…The greater our misery the greater the glory it will bring God’s mercy… God has such great regard for true repentance that the least conversion in the world makes him forget all sorts of sins…The greatest saints were great sinners — St. Peter, St. Matthew, Mary Magdalene, [St. Paul] David, etc,. The greatest wrong we can do God…is not to hope to obtain pardon for our sins…,” (How to Profit From One’s Faults, By Rev. Joseph Tissot). This exhaustive work by Rev. Semple is proof positive that regardless of the emphasis placed by some theologians on the unreliability of perfect contrition for sin at the time of the Reformation, this was a semi-Jansenist reaction and is not the true teaching of the Church.
Only recently, certain “faithful Catholics” using these same arguments have attempted to induce those who stay at home to abandon their position because they cannot be certain their sins are forgiven. It is no coincidence that the Jansenists’ primary error was pride and false humility; they were proud to show the world how holy they were and how sinful the rest of mankind by their fierce elitism. But we must remember that nothing can come between a Traditionalist leader and his collection plate, nor can one ever criticize these leaders for their errors. Not only do these men protect the font of their livelihood, they somehow manage to garner the trust of their followers, who are terrified that without them they will be left to their own devices. So wherever such ulterior motives are apparent, we have no reason to believe that these individuals could ever possess a right intention in refusing to examine such a fine theological work.
The Catholic Church teaches that any priest who presents himself for the hearing of confessions must be able to prove that he actually possesses the necessary delegated jurisdiction: “…He who claims to possess delegated jurisdiction has the burden of proving the delegation,” (Can. 200). How must this jurisdiction be granted? In Can. 872 we read: “For the valid absolution of sins, the minister requires, besides the power of Orders, either ordinary or delegated jurisdiction over the penitent.” Additionally, Canon 879 states: “For the valid hearing of confessions it is necessary that jurisdiction shall have been explicitly granted either in writing or orally…” The canonists Revs. Woywod-Smith comment: “Tacit, presumed, interpretative or any other kind of delegation which cannot be called explicit is not considered valid.”
Canon Law clearly forbids the installation of unlawful priests by any but valid and licit ecclesiastical authority. Furthermore, the supplying principle, according to Rev. Miaskiewicz, cannot even be said to exist. “When the Church, or more specifically the Roman Pontiff, is said to supply jurisdiction in any case whatsoever…it is readily understood that the pope acts in virtue of the jurisdictional power Christ entrusted to his person…Naturally it rests within the scope of such broad power to grant, to extend or to restrict the share of others in the exercise of this power in any way whatsoever…”
And as we have seen, Pope Pius XII saw fit to restrict the exercise of any papal jurisdiction during an interregnum, meaning that whatever he had supplied during his lifetime was not to be assumed as extended on his death, but must be left to the discretion of the future Pontiff, canonically elected. This is why Pope Pius XII teaches in “Mystici Corporis Christi” that a living, breathing visible head is absolutely necessary to the Church, for without such a head She cannot accomplish Her mission.
Extreme Unction — Perfect Surrender to God’s Holy Will
Canon 2261 §3
When one informs a Traditionalist that we cannot use their “priests” for Extreme Unction, the first thing out of their mouths is: But what about Can. 2261 §3? Isn’t jurisdiction supplied for these acts as well, whenever it is lacking? No less an authority than St. Robert Bellarmine tells us that apostates, heretics and schismatics (Rev. Ayrinhac and Rev. Tanquerey tell us schism now is always equivalent to heresy) are deprived of all jurisdiction, and this is the unanimous teaching of the fathers and St. Bellarmine: “Finally, the Holy Fathers teach unanimously not only that heretics are outside of the Church, but also that they are ‘ipso facto’ deprived of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dignity.
• St. Cyprian (lib. 2, epist. 6) says: “We affirm that absolutely no heretic or schismatic has any power or right”; and he also teaches (lib. 2, epist. 1) that the heretics who return to the Church must be received as laymen, even though they have been formerly priests or bishops in the Church.
• St. Optatus (lib. 1 cont. Parmen.) teaches that heretics and schismatics cannot have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, nor bind nor loose.
• St. Ambrose (lib. 1 de poenit., ca. 2), St. Augustine (in Enchir., cap 65), St. Jerome (lib. cont. Lucifer.) teach the same. (St. Robert Bellarmine, An extract from St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, lib. II, cap. 30, http://www.cmri.org/02-bellarmine-roman-pontiff.html ; no endorsement of this site is here intended.)
The Church’s practice and teaching, then, does not reflect the fact that She actually is willing to do this. For the sake of souls dying without the Sacraments, could She do this? It seems that She has always made exceptions in this regard, but without a true Pope in office it is not clear who could supply, per Rev. Miaskiewicz’s statement above. The priests and bishops invoking this Canon insist that somehow the Church must supply for the good of souls, but they forget that the Church demands a visible Pope always exist (for the good of souls) and that Pope Pius XII teaches that even the CARDINALS cannot exercise papal jurisdiction, nor attenuate it during an interregnum. If humans do not follow the Church’s laws allowing her to guarantee the salvation of souls, how do they expect Her to fulfill Her mission on earth? So are Catholics better off relying on a Perfect Act of Contrition rather than calling on men who could endanger their faith in the course of absolving?
According to some commentators, quoted by Rev. Szal, the answer is “yes” even when a visible head unquestionably rules the Church. “Although it may be licit in a given case to confess one’s sins to a schismatic and to receive absolution from him, there are authors who recommend that a dying person should rather elicit a Perfect Act of Contrition and thus commit himself to the divine mercy.” While Szal then states that if one is not satisfied in conscience that he can seek a schismatic priest and confess (only) in danger of death, we must remember he does so always believing there will ordinarily be a Roman Pontiff to supply jurisdiction for this act under Can. 209/2261§3. Nor should Catholics fear that they would risk their souls if they do this. Rev. John Bancroft in his Communication in Religious Worship With Non-Catholics (1943) concurs with these authors.
At the Hour of Death
In the absence of Extreme Unction, the Pardon Cross is an indispensable recourse at the hour of death for those in the latter days, and a powerful aid for the souls in Purgatory. The following indulgences were bestowed upon the Pardon Crucifix by Pope St. Pius X in 1905, and approved in the pardon of the living and the souls in Purgatory in 1907. The lengths of the indulgences were repealed in the new Enchiridion, and the indulgences were granted to remit the guilt of the sin committed: Whoever carries on his person the Pardon Crucifix, may thereby gain an indulgence:
- For devoutly kissing the Crucifix, an indulgence is gained.
- Whoever says one of the following invocations before this crucifix may gain each time an indulgence: “Our Father who art in heaven, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “I beg the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray to the Lord our God for me.”
- Whoever, habitually devout to this Crucifix, will fulfill the necessary conditions of Confession and Holy Communion, may gain a Plenary Indulgence on the following feasts: On the feasts of the Five Wounds of our Lord, the Invention of the Holy Cross, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Immaculate Conception, and the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- Whoever, at the moment of death, fortified with the Sacraments of the Church (something that does not apply when they are unavailable), or contrite of heart, in the supposition of being unable to receive them, will kiss this Crucifix and ask pardon of God for his sins, and pardon his neighbor, will gain a Plenary Indulgence.
Another prayer that offers a plenary indulgence at the hour of death for its recitation is the following: “My Lord God, even now, resignedly and willingly, I accept at Thy hands with all its anxieties, pains and sufferings whatever kind of death it shall please the to be mine” (Indulgence of 7 years; Plenary at the hour of death, Raccolta #591). It is one of the most important duties of a Catholic to pray for those on their deathbed and for the recently deceased. Prayers for the dying can be found at http://www.fisheaters.com/dying.html A longer treasury of prayers for the dying can be found in The Baltimore Book of Prayers at http://www.amazon.com/Baltimore-Prayers-Third-Plenary-Council/dp/0912141352
Marriage Law and Faithful Catholics Today
© Copyright 2021, T. Stanfill Benns ( All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)
Of all the issues that dog the remnant Church today, marriage has proven to be the most difficult of subjects and the one most Catholics are the least informed about. Had Traditionalists who rushed to “rescue” the faithful following Vatican 2 spent time researching the true length, depth and breadth of the problem, there would be no confusion today about what those trying their best to marry and raise families should do. Had papal and Holy Office decrees and Canon Law been firmly held and consistently obeyed, no doubt would remain about what can and cannot be done. But this was not the intent of those who set about to make themselves indispensable to Catholics exiting the NO church. No; they needed the appearance of utmost indispensability concerning their function among Traditionalists and the focus needed to be all about their right and their ability to act on their own authority, not on the ultimate authority of the Roman Pontiffs down through the centuries. The very fact that none of these men seemed to know where to go or how to conduct themselves once the Great Apostasy broke should tell us either that they were not learned, humble in spirit or in the least inclined to holy things or that they were sheer opportunists, who perhaps, as certain proofs indicate, were already not in good standing with their superiors long before the false Vatican 2 council ever convened. Below please find the last documents on emergency situations similar to ours, compiled by the Holy Office for Catholics in Communist China.
Matrimonial Impediments and Form of Marriage in China Under Communist Rule…
(Holy Office, 27 Jan., 1949, and 21 Feb., 1949) Private
“A Letter of the Papal Internuncio to China, addressed to all ordinaries of China…proposed the following questions:
- Whether the faithful in the territories of China, which are occupied by the Communists, are bound by the impediments established by the Church, especially nonage and disparity of cult, if they can either not at all or only with the greatest difficulty ask for a dispensation and cannot abstain from contracting marriage nor postpone it.
- Whether they are bound by the impediment of disparity of cult [when the promises cannot be easily obtained, are not given at all or are refused by the non-Catholic party].
- In the circumstances mentioned (meaning while such circumstances last or this state of affairs continues) marriages contracted without the canonical form or with an impediment of ecclesiastical law from which the Church usually dispenses are to be considered as valid. [NOTE: Here canonical form means that either a valid and licit priest possessing true jurisdiction must perform the marriage which is the ordinary form, or if a priest is not available for an extended period of time vows can be exchanged in the presence of two Catholic witnesses — or even non-Catholics if no Catholics are available — which is the extraordinary form. Impediment means something the Church says the party or both parties must receive a dispensation from to be married either validly or licitly.]
- [In] marriages which are subject to the impediment of disparity of cult [where one party is not a baptized Catholic] …the faithful are freed not only from the impediments of nonage and disparity of cult, but from all impediments of ecclesiastical law and from all canonical form, (both ordinary and extraordinary. (Below find notes 1-3 to further explain this decision.)
- The words, “In the circumstances mentioned,” mean “while these circumstances continue,” or while this state of affairs continues.”
- (A footnote concerning the cautiones or promises to raise the children Catholic states that in the case of marriage with a pagan [meaning that the impediment for such marriage is lifted] or a baptized non-Catholic, the marriage can be conducted only if it is morally certain, in each individual case, that the Catholic party’s sincere guarantee they will be baptized and raised Catholic will also have effect.)
- The impediment of sacred order of the priesthood and the impediment of affinity in the direct line when the marriage was consummated are not suspended but remain in full force even under the circumstances mentioned.
All these matters should be brought to the attention of the faithful so that they may provide for the validity of marriages and be freed from anxiety of consciences,” (Canon Law Digest, Vol. III; Can. 1067). This decision was private, meaning that although it definitely applies to the specific case mentioned and was listed as a guide and general norm in the Canon Law Digest, it was not officially promulgated as law. The Holy See was later asked to further explain their instructions and indicate whether the above also applied to other territories and cases. We find the answer to this question in Canon Law Digest Vol. 4, under Can. 1071 as follows: “In regard to both these documents [those of Jan. 27, 1949 and Feb. 21, 1949] diverse and conflicting interpretations were published in various periodicals; whence it is said that some uncertainty has arisen as to their legitimate application to the past and in territories outside of China and especially as to requiring the cautiones [promises to raise the children Catholic] and as to the moral certainty of their future fulfillment. Accordingly, the Supreme Congregation has been asked to remove this uncertainty and ambiguity by an authentic interpretation…”
[The Sacred Congregation provided the following answers to (a) whether the decree can be applied to other territories and cases in the past and in future, also (b) whether the sincere intent of at least one party to baptize all children of the union and raise them Catholic suffices when both parties do not officially sign the actual promises]:
- “The Decree of the Holy Office of 27 Jan., 1949, has the nature of a declarative interpretation and hence can be applied retroactively and in other territories only to the extent that it deals with prescriptions of positive law [the laws of the popes and the laws of God as applied to certain cases], which, in view of extraordinary circumstances in the territory cannot be observed, [this basically means that when such laws can be observed, they must be observed.] As to other matters, it has the character of a positive provision, which is not retroactive nor applicable to territories not mentioned in the Decree.
- As regards the giving of the cautiones, which are mentioned in both the Decree [Jan. 1949] and the Supplement [Feb. 21, 1949], henceforth, as long as the same conditions exist, they are required only for the licitness and not for the validity of a marriage to be contracted with a non-Catholic party; but the grave obligation of the natural and Divine positive law to baptize and educate all the children of both sexes as Catholics always remains firm and unimpaired.”
In an audience granted to “the Most Reverend Assessor of the Holy Office, His Holiness by Divine Providence Pope Pius XII deigned to approve the above Decree,” (Holy Office, 22 Dec., 1949).
Mixed Marriage Before Protestant Minister Liict
(If Conditions of Canon 1098 for Marriage Before Witnesses Only Are Verified)
“The following rescript was received by the Bishop of Pinsk in reply to a question concerning mixed marriages. Reply: If all the conditions which are required by Canon 1098 for the validity of marriages before witnesses only are verified, the circumstance that such marriages were blessed in a non- Catholic church is an argument not against validity, but against licitness.” (Private); Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments, 4 March 1925, (Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3, under Can. 1098). Copies of these documents from the Canon Law Digest can be found in Appendix 2 at the end of this book.
Comments on the above matrimonial decrees of the Holy Office
The Church states that any civil marriage by a judge or registrar (not a non-Catholic minister) following the fulfillment of the conditions of Can. 1098, if done only to legalize the marriage in the eyes of the State, does not compromise the validity of the marriage (Can. 1063). Nor does it result in the censure found under Can. 2319 for marrying before a non-Catholic minister. This also is reflected in the decisions of the Sacred Congregation concerning China when even the canonical forms (both ordinary and extraordinary) are dispensed with, meaning that SOME form of marriage is sanctioned here, or a marriage would not exist at all. That form could only be the civil variety demanded at that time by Communist China. (In some states the justice of the peace is not even required. The two parties are allowed to “marry themselves,” and have the witnesses sign the marriage certificate, which is then returned to the County Clerk in which the marriage took place.)
Yet if the intent of even one of the parties was to marry as a Catholic and to do all in their power to raise the children Catholic, then the Church not only says that the marriage is allowed, but that it is considered valid. But the above decision DOES NOT allow those first married according to Can 1098 to then go before a non-Catholic minister for anything but a civil ceremony, (Traditionalists considered “Catholic”). This would be a grave sin on the part of the Catholic; the Church only allows the marriage to be legalized in the eyes of the state by a judge or registrar of the State, for care must be taken that the marriage of Catholics, even in extraordinary circumstances, is licit as well as valid. It can also be witnessed by a non-Catholic minister, but not in the course of a ceremony conducted in the rite of that minister.
The only exceptions to the lifting of the impediments to marriage are for marriage to one who has received ordination or taken religious vows or where the ones being married are related to each other as first or second cousins. These impediments remain and are not included in the general dispensations from impediments in this particular case. Impediments also would remain for Catholics to marry baptized non-Catholics who have certainly been validly married then divorced. (This restriction would fall under “other matters…of a positive provision” above.) But today it cannot be known without investigation by the bishop if such persons have even been validly baptized. Whenever and wherever laws can be observed, they must be observed. It seems wise to consider pre-nuptial agreements concerning the promises to raise the children Catholic, providing that should a separation or divorce occur, the Catholic party is allowed to raise the children Catholic and will have primary custody.
Can the China law be applied to marriages taking place today, now that its existence is known? Only very cautiously and to the extent that is necessary. This is because the reply to the original decree explains that the positive law must be observed whenever it is able to be observed. The need for canonical form and even the witnesses is lifted in rare cases where Communist oppression was at its worst, according to one Spanish canonist, but we can easily use the correct form under Can. 1098 and find witnesses, even if they are non-Catholics. The lifting of the impediments is what mainly applies here, because there is no one to determine when or if they may be lifted and no appeal to Rome is now possible. Can the decree “retroactively” apply to past cases? Only if there is a question of impediments and whether or not they applied at the time of the marriage. This seems to be in harmony with the decree.
Here the distinction must be made between a declaratory decision or decree by the Holy See and an authentic interpretation. On Dec. 21, 1949, the Holy Office explained that the decree on China given in January of that year: “…has the nature of a declarative interpretation and hence can be applied retroactively and in other territories only to the extent that it deals with prescriptions of positive law which in view of extraordinary circumstances in the territory cannot be observed as to other matters it has the character of a positive provision which is not retroactive nor applicable in territories not mentioned in the decree” (Canon Law Digest, Vol. IV, p. 330).
Abp. Amleto Cicognani in his Canon Law explains that: “Interpretation is authoritative if it is given by a superior who possesses public authority. Laws are authoritatively interpreted by the lawmaker and his successor and by those to whom the lawmaker has committed the power to interpret the laws (Can. 17 §1). Cicognani goes on to explain that interpretation is merely declarative when it explains “terms of the law which are in themselves certain; declaratory in the proper sense only when it explains really doubtful and obscure terms of law,” which it does in this case. An authentic interpretation of the Code can be given only by the commission set up by Pope Benedict XV for the authentic interpretation of canon law. Can. 17 §2 reads further: “the authoritative interpretation of the law given in the form of law has the same force as the law itself if it merely declares the meaning of the words of the law that we’re certain in themselves the interpretation need not be promulgated and it has retroactive effect if the interpretation restricts or extends the original law or explains a doubtful law such interpretation does not have retroactive effect and must be promulgated.”
This Dec. 21, 1949 reply was private and appears never to have been officially promulgated, as it is not appended to the Code, nor is it listed as being entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis. Therefore it does not actually have the force of law accorded to the canons. The canons must apply first, whenever they can be obeyed; and only in emergency circumstances, beyond the lifting of impediments, would the China decree be able to be extended to cover marital situations.
In the decree made for China, three impediments to marriage are specifically mentioned which the Church declares She is lifting in China’s case: nonage, canonical form, and disparity of cult. Nonage was probably lifted owing to China’s traditional discriminatory attitude toward females. Canonical form was lifted because of the difficulty or impossibility of contacting a priest, or even of becoming aware of the extraordinary form to use when a priest cannot be contacted. Disparity of cult was lifted because most of the Chinese population were Buddhists and some were Protestants. So conditions in China were far more restrictive than they are in the U.S. and elsewhere at present. In following this law today, we can only presume to exempt ourselves from whatever impediments exist today under the ecclesiastical law from which we cannot be dispensed. That would be the dispensation required for mixed marriage and marriage to infidels, also marriage before the parish priest. In most cases the extraordinary form of marriage could be satisfied.
The common denominator among both the Chinese and our own situation is the total lack of clergy. This is the serious reason which prompted the Church to generally do away with the need for dispensations in China, allowing this permission to be applied to other territories in similar situations. These cases can also be viewed from another angle. Technically speaking, members of the Novus Ordo, also Traditionalists and former Traditionalists raised in these sects who did not renounce them prior to the age of 14 are members of non-Catholic sects or have at least incurred the censure for membership in these sects. As such they can marry Protestants and each other only as (baptized, in some cases) non-Catholics. Under Can. 1062 in Rev. Woywod-Smith’s commentary, the authors state that, “The impediment of mixed marriage means that one party actually is a member of the Catholic Church, and that he or she wants to marry a baptized non- Catholic. The Code supposes that the Catholic party is still a practical Catholic…There is no question here of baptized Catholics who have fallen away from the Church.”
So would this apply even to a material heretic or schismatic who desires to be counted as a true Catholic but is not a juridical member of the Church? According to Can. 1099, even when both parties are members of non-Catholic sects and at least one party is baptized in the Catholic Church, that party is bound to observe the canonical form of marriage whenever possible. This more or less will indicate the sincerity and true faithfulness of the party which professes to be Catholic. In 1949, Pope Pius XII reversed a clause of Pope St. Pius X’s decree “Ne Temere” on this matter, which formerly did not require baptized non-Catholics to marry before an authorized priest or use the extraordinary form. This decree was made before the 1917 Code was issued, and in most cases the Code replaced all previous laws in these matters. So today, whenever possible, Catholics must observe the extraordinary form in Can. 1098 if they are able, and if not the concessions granted to the Chinese apply, given the lack of true priests today. The form to be used for fulfilling Can. 1098 is provided in various ecclesiastical books for the benefit of the faithful.
Why Traditionalists kept this decision from the faithful
The primary purpose in making all the above known is the comment of the Sacred Congregation should be brought to the attention of the faithful so that they may provide for the validity of marriages and be freed from anxiety of consciences.” How many have been told that they cannot marry without a dispensation from a Traditional priest or bishop, or conclavist “pope,” and have agonized over their situation and perhaps even fallen into sin because of it? How many of these smooth operators have come into power and/or remained in power by claiming that only through their ministrations and dispensations could their followers be considered validly married and their children certainly legitimate? All the while the Church’s decree on China remained unknown and uncirculated. Could it have been discovered? Yes, and easily; and those claiming to be able to assist at marriages and grant dispensations were obliged to discover it and make it known. Instead those researching the marriage issue on their own were actually steered away from this decree, whether by pointing to the fact that for validity a priest had to assist, or in the case of the Conclavists, even invalidating Can. 1098 marriages by claiming that the necessary “dispensations” were never obtained.
In reality, those lacking jurisdiction and even those whose ordinations were certainly or doubtfully valid (all modern-day Traditionalists and the Orthodox) have insisted in the past and still insist that they must officiate at marriages and baptisms when their actual assistance excommunicates the parties to those marriages, (per Can. 2319, #1), and at the very least made/make them illicit and sacrilegious. Those (knowingly) offering their children for baptism and education to these ministers incur this same excommunication under 2319 #3 and 4, and in addition commit sacrilege, rendering the sacrament of Baptism illicit. Moreover, Can. 1094 declares that, “Those marriages only are valid which are contracted before a pastor or the local Ordinary or a priest delegated by either and at least two witnesses…save the exceptions mentioned…in Can. 1098 and 1099.”
Those who perversely continue to employ these ministers despite their known defects and the prohibitions of the Church can be compared to those individuals who return again and again to abusive partners, and eventually wind up seriously injured or even dead. As Christ warns in the Gospel, do not fear those who threaten physical death, but those capable of condemning both body and soul to hell. Considering the crisis in the Church today, and especially in light of recent unrest in this country as well as overseas, Catholics should become aware of the Church’s decree for China and avoid all false marriage ceremonies before non-Catholic ministers — and also should consider as worthless and repudiate any so-called subsequent “annulments” — with a clear and serene conscience. In addition, they are obligated to pass the information presented here along to other Catholics, as the Church obliges them to do above.
But what about circumstances that nullify marriage?
There are several things mentioned in marriage manuals that can be considered to nullify a marriage, and many of the problems today where marriage is concerned arise from whether the parties contracting marriage were ever actually married to other partners in the first place. In Traditionalist circles, there have been many cases where in order to marry the intended partner the non-Catholic spouse is encouraged to become a Catholic, i.e., be instructed at the hands of Traditionalists and be baptized. Sometimes it has even become a condition of the marital contract indicating the Catholic wishes only to marry a Catholic spouse. Some of these marriages have ended when the spouse who converted claims the conversion was forced and was not genuine, nor was the intention to be baptized present.
What constitutes invalidity
When is an apparently contracted marriage invalid under the above exemptions granted in emergency conditions by the Church? Normally, there would be questions of validity, the manuals relate, when one or both parties are burdened with a diriment impediment or the marriage ceremony is not performed according to the requirements of the Church. The requirements for a priest to officiate or even for the presence of the two witnesses at the marriage are dispensed above. And all but diriment impediments for Orders and solemn profession, (not really applicable today because in nearly all cases now, not certainly validly received); previous bond, public crime involving murder, age below the use of reason, antecedent and perpetual impotence and consanguinity in the first degree also were removed in emergency conditions in the above decree. These are either forbidden under the Divine or natural law. Also null is a marriage contracted without free and true consent, either for reasons of force/and or fear, defective intention, simulated consent, lack of mental capacity or legal age (Canon Law requires males be 16 and females 14 for the validity of marriage).
Force and fear is often alleged but is difficult to prove. Lack of legal age cases are rare. But cases of defective intention, simulated consent (or the absence of a true knowledge of what consent entails), also lack of mental capacity or mental impairment at the time the ceremony seem to be almost common anymore. Use of drugs and alcohol shortly before or at the time of the marriage do not diminish all capacity, but long-term drug and alcohol use is a different consideration. Many today intend to marry only for as long as the marriage lasts, not until death, which goes to defective intention. Gold diggers marry primarily for money; others marry only to parade around a “trophy” husband or wife, a form of fraud. And many are the cases of simulated consent, where only later does the deceived spouse realize there was never any real intent to convert or raise the children Catholic. Sometimes these cases are attenuated with mental illness, including addiction issues. Very often a man or woman will marry only to later discover the spouse has such an illness not previously detected. Modern day drug and psychiatric treatments for the problem often only exacerbate the situation.
Canon Law provides a remedy
So what does a party who has experienced any of the above do in the present situation? Can they remarry without fear of sinning mortally and incurring excommunication? This question is not easily answered although it seems that the Church’s own reasoning can be used to suggest a method of action. Even though a marriage may be clearly invalid on the face of things given the situation, no one is able to consider it invalid officially until the chancery has had an opportunity to evaluate it and render a decision. Evidence must be presented according to the norms of Canon Law that prove the invalidity, and this is similar to the same sort of legal process used in civil cases today. If force and fear clearly are used and the evidence shows this, then even these cases can be considered. The general rule stands that whenever there is a doubt about the validity of the Sacrament it cannot be received, meaning as long as the doubt has not been removed then one could not proceed to marry again.
Marriage is the one Sacrament presumed to be valid until the contrary is proven, yet even presumption must be overcome by truth, (rule of Canon Law). The reason the Church relaxed Her laws for the Chinese in the first place was that man has a natural right to marry under Divine law. When this right is frustrated, then all obstacles to it capable of being removed were removed to protect this right. As St. Paul tells us, “Better to marry than to burn.” In the declaratory decree above, the Church appears to grant the laity permission to exempt themselves from observing the ecclesiastical law concerning marriage in emergency situations. It does not seem to be stretching the law too far to assume that it applies not only to the originally considered question, validity of marriages to non-Catholics and infidels, dispensations the Church regularly granted in serious cases (and unavailability of ministers is a serious case).
For She clearly states that the decision “can be applied retroactively and in other territories only to the extent that it deals with prescriptions of positive law [the laws of the popes and the laws of God as applied to certain cases], which, in view of extraordinary circumstances in the territory cannot be observed.” Would the Church, having said this and having lifted Her prohibitions, wish that those suffering from the misdeeds of others be unable to marry and very likely be susceptible to sins of the flesh so rampant today? Francis Joseph Sheed, in his work, “Nullity of Marriage” writes: “All this is a reminder that the Church does not take nullity lightly. Where there is certainty, a decree is given. But where there is no certainty, it is not: ‘marriage’ says Canon Law, ‘enjoys the favour of the law; when in doubt, a marriage is to be considered valid until the contrary is proved,’ (Canon 1014). Clearly a social order in which marriages could be lightly broken would be a chaos.
But in his Allocution of October 1941, Pius XII explained that this is to be understood only as requiring that the invalidity be proved with moral certainty — not, in other words, the sort of proof which excludes all imaginable or conceivable doubt. The Pope explained the reason why moral certainty is sufficient: ‘If the parties are not in reality bound by any existing bond of marriage, they are entitled by natural law to contract marriage.’ We have just noted the statement of Pope Pius XII that an ecclesiastical tribunal has no right or power to demand more than moral certainty of the invalidity of a marriage; and we have noted the reason he gives — namely that those whose union is not in fact a marriage are entitled by natural law to marry. But the Church treats one class of people as having laid themselves open to being denied this natural right.
“The party who was the guilty cause of the alleged nullity of a marriage cannot petition for a declaration of its nullity… But this restriction applies only to one who was the guilty cause of the impediment or other ground of nullity; one who did not know he was acting wrongly would not be affected.” Sheed also notes that: “The priest is only a witness and not one of the principals [to the actual marriage]. If it is not possible to have a priest, and the impossibility is likely to continue for a month, or if there is danger of death, then the marriage may be performed without a priest. Otherwise this form is obligatory on Catholics: any Catholic who tries to marry not observing this rule simply is not married.” And below this is precisely what we contend. No one can observe the requirement of a declaratory judgment from the chancery; no one can submit his/her case. But the Church has provided a process for proceeding in a doubt of law as presented elsewhere on this site and it would seem that this process could be followed in these cases.
The canonist Rev. Matthew Ramstein, S.T. Mag, J.U.D., OFM (“A Manual of Canon Law,” 1947) says that even private individuals may use the rules for proper interpretation provided in Canon Law itself in trying to resolve certain cases not covered in the Code. This is allowed whenever no authentic interpretation of the law is available. Now the Church has officially interpreted how her law governing marriage in emergency situations it so be applied, as seen above. But what She has not done is specify how one must now view the requirement for a chancery declaration. Speaking of Pope Benedict XV’s Motu Proprio promulgating Canon Law, Monsignor Amleto Cicognani writes: “There is no prohibition in the Motu-proprio of private interpretation, which may be doctrinal or usual…It is said to be doctrinal when it is given by those skilled in canon law; customary (also called usual) when it is derived from unwritten practice, that is custom…General rules for the right interpretation of the Code are given in Canons 17 ff, besides those of Canons 5 and 6, (“Canon Law,” 1935, pgs. 434, 598-9).
As Rev. Nicholas Neuberger explains in his dissertation, “Canon 6,” (Catholic University of America, 1927), “Of old the jurists distinguished between a mere declaration of and the interpretation of the law. The declaration today is called comprehensive interpretation. Its scope is not to change the law but determines the sense of the law comprehended therein from the beginning. Therefore, it adds or subtracts nothing from the original meaning…The comprehensive interpretation adds nothing anew but explains more and more the significance attached to the words… Ordinarily, every private individual may interpret laws according to the rules of jurisprudence, unless a special prohibition has been made…The code, in Canon 6 §2 bids us have recourse to the doctrine of the approved authors. The authentic, however, always remains the guide for the doctrinal.” In his work, Neuberger provides the actual list of these authors “quoted freely by the Roman Congregations and Tribunals.”
They are all those same authors faithfully quoted by the doctors of Canon Law writing their dissertations, which have been used extensively to document this work and the many others found on this site. The idea behind consulting these canons is to help the faithful and clergy obtain certainty in doubtful matters, for one cannot act in a state of positive practical doubt. This is especially true where the Sacraments are concerned and this is the unanimous opinion of modern theologians, following the teaching of Pope Innocent XI, (DZ 1151). Rev. Gury writes in his “Compendium of Moral Theology” (1950s translation): “One is bound to use diligence in keeping with the truth to be investigated according to the importance of the matter and the condition of person and place.” He explains that unless Catholics seek answers from able and conscientious men and investigate their practice, desiring only to learn the truth, then they expose themselves to “the danger of violating the law by neglect of inquiry and thereby sin.”
As Monsignor Cicognani notes, “the common good demands certitude concerning the validity of acts.” But it appears Traditionalists are oblivious to this serious duty to study and develop such certitude, as will be discussed at length below. Ordinarily we would return to the old law (Can. 6§4) on marriage, but in this case the law is likely no different than the present one; the Chancery must be consulted. Also many of those laws cited under the old law are not available to us today. So if the old law cannot be consulted successfully, the next step is to follow the process given in Can. 18. The requirements of Can. 18 include grammatical interpretation — that is, discerning the true and original meaning of the words of the law in their proper context. If the meaning of the terms remains doubtful, then one must consult parallel passages of the Code, the purpose of the law and its circumstances and the intention of the legislator. This latter seems to be clear from what has been said above. The law requiring the decision of the Church to determine invalidity is found in Can. 1069 §2. It states that: “A person bound by a previous marriage bond, though it be not a consummated marriage, cannot validly contract another marriage…Though the first marriage be for any reason invalid or dissolved, it is not lawful to contract another marriage before there is legal and sure proof of the invalidity or the dissolution of the first marriage.”
The penalty exacted by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore for those attempting marriage after a civil divorce specifies that the penalty only applies to those validly married in the first place. Three things stand out here that have bearing on the case at hand. Let it be perfectly clear, however, that any attempt to work out a marriage situation using the laws above is not to be construed in any way as the author’s ADVICE to do so. This is suggested only as a possible alternative in the event that without following such a plan, mortal sins of impurity would be the result, or in the event some other grave spiritual danger threatens. The individual pursuing such a course would have to realize that if nullity was proven by seemingly sufficient evidence and another marriage was entered into, then should we ever see a true Roman Pontiff in our lifetime it would be up to him or the diocesan bishop to review the case and determine if the marriage is valid. In the event the Church decides the marriage is not valid, the parties would be expected to separate and remain celibate, if the party to the valid marriage is still living. So this alternative does not come without some very potentially sobering consequences. See specifics on this topic in the Appendix on marriage.
First of all, the law does not say that in the case of a marriage thought to be invalid a second marriage would be invalid; it says such a marriage would be unlawful, (under the usual circumstances, and circumstances today are anything but usual). Secondly, the proofs of the invalidity are stressed as resulting in the dissolution. And thirdly, no one is excommunicated unless the marriage was certainly valid in the first place. Under the laws of the Church and in the absence of the Chancery, it would seem that individual Catholics could invoke Can. 18, gather evidence, cite similar cases, find parallel passages in the Code, and note the intention of the lawgiver and the circumstances to document cases of invalidity. The evidence would need to be of superior weight, either by preponderance or in way of quality and quantity of sources. A case would be better grounded if more than one reason for nullity exists, such as defective intention and mental illness, or simulated consent and undue pressure from a parent to marry, (force and fear); this is especially true if the simulated consent included simulation of baptism or defective intent to convert and the Catholic party made it clear s/he wished only to marry a Catholic, for this invalidates the contract. But here we are talking only of certainly valid Catholic marriages, and nearly all marriages contracted by Traditionalists were invalid.
This compounds the issue and makes nullity more likely. For if at least some of the above was present; and in addition to this, if the ceremony was performed by a Traditionalist cleric, then there is every reason to believe that no marriage ever took place. We say this because when Traditionalist ministers who, (owing to the lack of jurisdiction and questionable validity under which all these men labor), perform a marriage ceremony or pretend to grant the dispensations from any impediments, the ceremony is not valid and the impediments remain. This is true because Traditionalists possess no office of the priesthood; nor do they possess the power to receive converts into the Church, which is given by way of delegated jurisdiction. The later decree by the Holy Office above for emergencies (issued for the Chinese) would not apply because no one even knew of its existence; or if certain Traditional clerics knew, they failed to make it known to their followers. There is no mention of this law or the declaratory interpretation being entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis, which Can. 17 requires for normative, binding documents.
Another question arises concerning valid baptism. It has been explained elsewhere that the ambiguous use of spirit in Novus Ordo baptisms and the failure of their rite to always emphasize the removal of original sin from the soul is enough by itself to call the Sacrament into question. Can we really be certain the intent of Novus Ordo ministers was to baptize children into the Catholic Church of all time or was it into the New World Order church that they baptized them? How can we honestly believe the Novus Ordo church is what it is today and have any doubt that their intention was lacking? When Traditionalists baptize, are they baptizing children into the Old Catholic church or the true Church? Do they perform Solemn Baptism even though this is a ceremony which only a priest with a true office could validly perform? Because solemn Baptism is only a simulation of the Sacrament and cannot convey the indelible mark or the graces attached to this sacrament.
So Catholics who believe they were validly married were not married as Catholics at all; they were at best baptized non-Catholics marrying before non-Catholic ministers. Unless they retract their heresy or schism and are baptized in the true Catholic Church by a Catholic layperson who unquestionably has the right intention, they cannot validly contract marriage. Those who marry before non-Catholic ministers are not considered to have received the Sacrament and the marriage can be declared null under Pope Pius XII’s reversal of the Ne Temere decree. This also applies to Catholics who have married a non-baptized person even if the proper form was observed and a dispensation obtained (Canon D. D. Mahoney, Priest Problems). The Canon Law Digest is filled with cases that were declared null for lack of due form in this regard.
While the laws given to the Chinese for emergencies govern when they are known and intentionally invoked, these laws were never made known to Catholics, who presumed they were bound by the existing law — which they were. The laws made for China applied to China and could also be applied to other territories whose conditions became the same as China’s. It was not a universal law at the time it was made, although today the same conditions exist universally. Also, the authoritative interpretation of a law does have the same force as a law itself under Can. 17. Canon 23 states that more recent laws are to be reconciled as far as possible with former laws, and this the authentic interpretation itself above suggests. By publishing this law to the Internet it does become public and can be invoked, because the Church says it can be invoked. But this does not mean it is thereby officially promulgated.
What about separation and divorce?
The Church always has allowed separation and divorce for sufficiently serious reasons. The State cannot dissolve a valid Catholic marriage. But as we find in Rev. Edwin Healy’s “Marriage Guidance,” (used as a source for the above): “At times [licit divorce] is advisable and at times it is even necessary…One of the parties [may] need a civil divorce in order to protect his interests or the interests of the children.” Either party “may find it prudent to obtain custody of the children that they might be reared fittingly or in order for [the wife] to win a financial settlement for her own purposes. EXAMPLE: Tom Beldon has treated his wife Martha very cruelly. Because of Tom’s brutality, the bishop has accorded Martha permission to separate permanently from him.” None of those today being physically or even mentally abused, or whose spouses are cheaters have any worries that the Church would not permit them to leave these cads. Again, permission to sue for civil divorce in cases of permanent separation (before dissolution, or when the marriage is unquestionably valid) must be sought from the Chancery.
Healy adds however: “This permission, though advisable, is not strictly necessary when one merely defends himself against the divorce suit already begun by the other spouse…A civil divorce should be obtained if church officials have declared the couple’s marriage null and void.” Today it practically impossible to avoid a civil divorce and maintain a separation in the present court system, especially when children are involved. Canon De Smet S.T.L, in his Betrothment and Marriage, (1912, Vol. I, pgs. 258-261) writes on this subject: “The Church teaches that separation or divorce…between married persons is lawful for various causes…in Matthew 19:29 we read: ‘And everyone who hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children…for my name’s sake shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.’ …Causes justifying separation include adultery,” [unless the innocent party accepts the offending party once again into the marriage bed]; … “Heresy and provocation to sin…since the embracing of heresy is looked upon as an act of spiritual fornication; …Danger to the soul, when one of the parties compels the other to sin,” [or is a continuous near occasion of sin, such as the sin of anger, or frequent and vicious quarrels, or constant dissension and disruption of family life, or anything that would amount to a cooperation in sin.]
From reading Rev. De Smet, it is clear that if the Church even allows those who are joined together by a Sacrament to separate from each other and remain so until death, if necessary, to avoid committing sin or being contaminated by heresy, then surely this applies to others who we may be joined to by ties of blood. We have the words of Christ Himself to confirm this from Matt. Ch. 19 above. Far from being any kind of sin whatsoever, doing this is very commendable when it is done to avoid sin, for Christ above says anyone who does such a thing for His sake shall be rewarded “an hundredfold.” And it does not matter either that the one you separate from accuses you of doing it for trumped up reasons or reasons based on a false premise. If YOU believe that what you are doing is right, no one can dictate to you what you should do: this is a matter of conscience. Rev. Martin Harrison O.P. tells us in his Credo: A Practical Guide to the Catholic Faith:
“Too many allow themselves to be influenced by others who have not sufficient knowledge themselves to teach what is right or wrong or to give advice on matters of conscience. They can only guide us on their own conscience and we have no evidence that their own conscience is a true one… Each must follow his own conscience, not another’s; he will be judged by his own conscience. One may have a lax conscience, another a false, or scrupulous conscience; we cannot accept their advice… How can we place any reliance on others who probably know little more than we ourselves know and who are not able to direct themselves properly in many cases? If we cannot settle our own doubts, how can we be sure that another is giving correct advice without any personal prejudices, unless we are satisfied as to his qualifications? We must not play the fool in so delicate a matter on which so much depends in our spiritual life. St. Paul writes: ‘To me it is a small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day; but neither do I judge myself. For I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet I am not hereby justified, but he that judgeth is the Lord,’ (I Cor. 4)…If we act in good faith, then we shall be at peace with God in our own mind. It matters not what others may do or judge. We act by our own conscience, not by another’s.”
Where hardships are not so severe in a marriage and an arrangement agreeable to both parties can be worked out, the Church believes it is always better to remain in a marriage than to abandon the married state. The often invoked ‘For the sake of the children’ is one reason, but it should not be the only reason. If at least a modicum of harmony and workability cannot be expected, the atmosphere will be unbearable for children. On the other hand the dangers that face single mothers, especially today — whether they remain single or remarry — are formidable and can cause almost as many problems as remaining in an abusive marriage. Single fathers also have their own share of problems and obstacles to overcome.
All Catholics can do is follow their consciences as noted above and pray for guidance. But at least there can be some hope of remarriage if evidence can be presented to prove that consent was lacking or could not be given or that the form or minister of the marriage was not in conformity with the laws governing validity. As Rev. Ramstein points out in his Canon Law manual, even though there may be no particular law governing a certain situation, superiors still require that the faithful be able to point to some working norm as the basis for educating their conscience on such serious matters. This is a reference to Can. 20, which provided provides norms to be used to determine a course of action when there is no law that applies to a situation.
Pope Pius XII already had decreed in 1950 that “no one can presume to intrude himself or others into ecclesiastical offices and benefices without a legitimate canonical investiture or provision…made according to the sacred canons,” (Can. 147, Canon Law Digest Vol. III; entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis.). He also refers obliquely to this in his constitution Ad Apostolorum Principis, where he writes concerning the bishops in China: “In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying.” If those who believe they have been the victims of an invalid marriage can collect evidence sufficient to prove the case, in the same manner that they would collect it to defend themselves in a criminal case; if they do so following the rules provided in Canon Law, then they have established a canonical provision. Then should they decide to remarry without a decision of the Chancery, at least they have the evidence to present in their defense when we once again have a true pope.
While no one can advise them to take such action, it appears from what is presented above that it would not be a sin to proceed in this manner. The fact alone that all these marriages were performed according to the previous laws of the Church, which forbade schismatics from marrying Catholics, nullifying such acts for lack of form, seems quite sufficient in itself for nullity. Evidence to this effect would be supplied by obtaining a marriage certificate, statements from witnesses to the marriage and using the evidence on this site to prove that these men were never clerics and could never have validly officiated at such a ceremony. Could the contract itself have sufficed for validity? Not according to what is stated above. For the priest acts as witness to the marriage, and these men never became priests. Heretics and schismatics cannot act as witnesses. The marriage is null “for lack of valid form.”