It is hard to believe that a man presenting as a Traditional priest or bishop would falsify the words of the Council of Trent. Think it couldn’t happen? Well it did, many years ago, on the pretext of proving the meaning of the Council’s words was misrepresented by home-aloners based on a faulty translation. And that article is still circulating today, forwarded to us recently for comment by a reader. This so-called cleric points to the home-aloner in question at that time as ignorant of Latin and therefore unable to present the true context of the quote. (Because the cleric claims there has been “a mistranslation,” this commonly used source he faults will not be considered here.) The Trent text in question refers to the inability of clerics, who are neither rightly ordained nor sent, to function as legitimate priests. The teaching cited can be found in Sess. 23 of Trent, Can. 7.
Below is the Traditional cleric’s rendering of the Trent canon, allegedly taken from the Latin text. He refers to this as a “correct translation,” adding his comments on that canon:
“’If anyone says… that orders conferred by [bishops] without the consent or call of the people or of the secular power are invalid; or, that those who have been neither ordained by ecclesiastical and canonical power with the proper ceremonies nor sent, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments: let him be anathema.’ …The Latin expression rite ordinati does not mean something like ‘rightly ordained canon-law-wise.’
“Another favorite home-aloner phrase in the canon, ‘sent by ecclesiastical and canonical authority,’ is likewise a mistranslation. For starters, the part of the phrase beginning with ‘by’ has been misplaced in the translation. In Latin it modifies ‘ordained,’ not ‘sent.’ ‘Authority,’ moreover, is an incorrect translation here for potestas, which means ‘power.’ The specific kind of power is the Church’s sacramental power, here referred to as ‘ecclesiastical and canonical power’ (ecclesiastica et canonica potestate)… Put simply, Canon 7 in Latin doesn’t say what the home-aloners thought it said. Rather, the canon condemns sacramental ministry without true sacramental ordination.” Well the reception of Traditional orders has been demonstrated as doubtful in this blog series on several different grounds, and unfortunately jurisdiction must also exist in order for any priest or bishop to possess apostolicity. And Mr. Traditionalist here misplaces and pointedly ignores the word ‘sent.’
To compare the rendition of the Traditionalist’s translation above with authentic translations, made from the Latin, during the reign of a true pope and with the proper supervision and approval, the following is presented from the Council of Trent documents themselves.
CANON VII — “If any one saith, that bishops are not superior to priests; or, that they have not the power of confirming and ordaining; or, that the power which they possess is common to them and to priests; or, that orders, conferred by them, without the consent, or vocation of the people, or of the secular power, are invalid; or, that those who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema” (see this text at https://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct23.html).
The above online translation is identical to that found in The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Ecumenical Council of Trent translated by Rev. J. Waterworth, Newark, N.J., in 1848, “…from Le Plat’s copy (1779) of the authentic edition, published at Rome in 1564… a verbatim representation of the words of the Council.” The English translation of this same canon by Rev. H.J. Schroeder, O.P., 1940, (TAN Books), varies little, reading:
“If anyone say that bishops are not superior to priests; or, that they have not the power to confirm and ordain; or, that the power which they have is common to them and to priests; or, that orders, conferred by them, without the consent, or call of the people, or of the secular power, are invalid; or, that those who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical authority, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.” As can be seen from these sources, there is nothing even remotely referencing “with the proper ceremonies” found in these texts. Nor is the order he points to as falsely represented from the Latin reflected in the three translations quoted above, so three translators (and actually four, as will be seen below) disagree with him.
So let us examine the truth of these accusations one by one, beginning with the claim that the power referred to in this canon is not at all related to Canon Law.
“Rite-ly ordained” and Canon Law
To place what has been said above into its proper perspective, readers must note what Abp. Amleto Cicognani writes in his Canon Law: “Pope Pius IV, in the Bull of Confirmation [for Trent], forbade under severest penalties all men, ecclesiastics as well as laymen, ‘to publish in any form, any commentaries, glosses, annotations, scholia, or any kind of interpretation whatsoever of the decrees of the said Council; or to settle anything in regard thereto under any plea whatsoever, even under the pretext of greater corroboration of the decrees or the more perfect execution thereof or under every other color whatsoever.’ He ordered where aught seemed obscure and in need of interpretation and decision that recourse be had to the Apostolic See” (pgs. 303-304). There is no doubt that the Traditional cleric in question here attempts to assign new verbiage to this Trent canon as well as an entirely new meaning. This is not only misinterpretation but falsification of an infallible document, which carries with it a censure for such acts (Can. 2360). On the other hand, “home-aloners,” did not attempt to “interpret” this canon, taking it exactly as it was written.
And concerning the Council of Trent’s relation to Canon Law, in the preface to his translation, Rev. Waterworth writes: “The decrees of discipline and reformation published by [Trent] embody the leading principles of Canon Law, by which the government and polity of the Church are, in great measure, now regulated.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, under Canon Law states: “The sources of law later than the Corpus Juris’ [early canons] are: the decisions of councils, especially of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which are so varied and important that by themselves they form a short code, though without much order…” So what is this Traditionalist talking about? Further, Abp. Amleto Cicognani writes in his Canon Law: “The standard and chief norm of framing the Code was obviously the cure and salvation of souls” (emph. his). “Hence the wise diffusion of ecclesiastical power, the increase in the rights and attributes of bishops… the more accurate formation of clerical piety and learning, greater liberty for the Church, …etc.” (p. 427).
Pope Pius XII warns of the dangers of deliberately misinterpreting the canons as follows:
“The good of the Church demands that we take all possible care that the stability of Canon Law be not endangered by the uncertain opinions and conjectures of private parties regarding the true sense of the canons, and that interpretations which rest on subtleties and cavils against the clear will of the legislator do not result in undue indulgence toward violators of the law, a thing which disrupts the nerve of ecclesiastical discipline,” (decision concerning Can. 2319 § 1,1; Pope Pius XII Motu Proprio 1953). And this is what the Traditional cleric providing his false translation all these years has attempted to do.
As has been noted in various articles published to this site for the past 13 years, the authoritative canonical interpretation of Trent’s Sess. 23, Can. 7 is actually contained in Canon Law itself. It can be found under Can. 147 in the Canon Law Digest, Vol. III, T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J., 1942-1953. Canon 17 reminds us that “The authoritative interpretation of the law given in the form of law has the same force as the law itself.” The text of Trent’s Canon 7 in this translation varies only in one word, but that one word destroys the arguments of the Traditionalist cleric.
“If anyone says… that those who are neither duly ordained nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical authority, but who come from elsewhere, are legitimate ministers of the word and of the Sacraments, let him be anathema.” The Canon Law Digest page is provided below.
Here, duly is substituted by the Sacred Congregation of the Council for “rightly” in the other translations, (or “rite-ly” as the Traditionalist alleges). This seems to indicate that the interpretation is to be taken according to the meaning as it is explained in the instruction, which is exactly as it has been understood by this author all along. Under law, (and here we are speaking of legal matters) the Cambridge Dictionary defines duly as: “The way that is correct or expected according to the law or rules.” And in Black’s Law Dictionary: “In due or proper form or manner; according to legal requirements. Regularly; upon a proper foundation, as distinguished from mere form.” Canon 18 instructs those studying the law that ecclesiastical laws are to be “interpreted according to the meaning proper to the text and context.”
As has been documented on this site for nearly two decades, and especially in ordaining priests and consecrating bishops, Traditionalists have repeatedly violated both papal teaching and Canon Law. Matter and form is not enough in ordination; proper intention also is necessary, as Pope Leo XIII affirms in his constitution Apostolica Curae on Anglican orders. There can be no certainty regarding the reception of Traditional orders owing to questionable intention and the inability to receive jurisdiction. This has been covered over and over again on this site from numerous angles, and still Traditionalists assume they can validly exercise any orders they might have received, which they are forbidden to do. They are not legitimate pastors by decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council and Pope Pius XII.
No office, no power
Given the tenor of this authentic interpretation of Can. 147, (which is listed in the A.A.S. and is therefore binding on Catholics) and the fact that Pope Pius XII lists several excommunications incurred for violating this law, it can scarcely be brushed off as inconsequential. In fact, it is the very decision of the Holy See on this matter mentioned by Pope Pius IV in confirming the Council of Trent. From the beginning of the Sacred Council’s instruction, it is clear the Pope is not speaking here of ordination only, but of jurisdiction and the right to fill an office (para. 1). Canonical investiture is the act of putting one in possession of an office, benefice or dignity (Catholic Encyclopedia). This has not only to do with orders, but jurisdiction; for ordination does not confer the office (or dignity) and its accompanying external jurisdiction (the act of the bishop delegating the jurisdiction to exercise that office). The meaning of Can. 147 is clear: “An ecclesiastical office is not validly obtained without canonical appointment. By canonical appointment is understood the conferring of an ecclesiastical OFFICE by the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons.”
But today no canonical appointment is possible because there are no certainly valid (Traditional) bishops or heads of religious communities (competent ecclesiastical authority) in communion with a true pope to make such appointments. And certainly very little Traditionalists do, particularly regarding obedience to the laws on jurisdiction and Holy Orders, is in harmony with the sacred canons. It is the ecclesiastical office which conveys ecclesiastical power, whether of orders or jurisdiction. This Rev. Charles Augustine notes in his A Commentary on Canon Law: “Every ecclesiastical office involves some jurisdiction, though its real and full nature appears only when exercised in foro externo. The term ecclesiastical office is generally to be taken in its proper sense as denoting ecclesiastical power” (see Rev. Augustine, Vol. II under canons 145-146). And if such jurisdiction cannot be conveyed by Holy Orders, since the Council of Chalcedon forbids it, it has to come from somewhere. As has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, it cannot and does not issue directly from Christ.
Thuc, Lefebvre et al resigned their ecclesiastical offices under Pope Pius XII. They then took up offices under a false pope. In other words, they gave away all their power and could not validly convey that power to those they ordained. Bishops in a diocese assign the priests they ordain to specific parishes. Thuc and Lefebvre had no power to assign their “priests” to any given office or parish or delegate any jurisdiction they may have possessed. This is the sending, not the ordaining power. And how can they go, unless they be sent? A future canonically elected pope may decide their ordinations were valid, but this has yet to be determined. Each case would need to be examined by the pope based on its own merits, as has been the Church’s practice in the past. This priest keeps referring to the “sacramental power” Traditionalists received in ordination, but this power is not conveyed without an actual office because the permission of the diocesan bishop to exercise it is never given.
For the record, Traditionalists insist they do not possess offices at all, just “sacramental power,” (which may or may not have been received but is not ACTIVATED without appointment to an office!). Therefore they cannot lay claim to any type of jurisdiction, for this can come only through a bishop in communion with the Roman Pontiff who possesses an actual office himself. This is what the Sacred Congregation of the Council and Pope Pius XII decided in their authentic interpretation of Can. 147. If those claiming to be priests do not possess an office or some dignity as required by the canons and cannot present letters of recommendation from a certainly valid bishop, they cannot even celebrate Mass publicly. This from Revs. Woywod-Smith, A Practical Commentary on Canon Law, (Can. 804):
“700. The Council of Chalcedon (451) ruled that no strange cleric or lector should be permitted to minister outside his own town without letters of recommendation from his own bishop. Pope Innocent III issued the same prohibition but said that the priest who did not have his letters of recommendation might be admitted to say Mass if he desired to do so out of devotion: he might not, however, say Mass before the people, but privately. The Council of Trent again made the rule absolute — as the Council of Chalcedon had it — that no priest should be permitted to celebrate Mass and administer the Sacraments without letters of recommendation from his own bishop.” (This condemns the error of absolute ordination, referred to above — the belief that jurisdiction is received with ordination. Canon 111 also states: “Every cleric must belong to some diocese or some religious organization. No recognition may be extended to vagrant clerics,” and no one can be considered a cleric in such a diocese without valid first tonsure, which Rev. Augustine says is a jurisdictional act.)
Traditionalists do not obey Canon Law — instituted for the cure and salvation of souls — if they have neither an office nor a decision made by a canonically elected pope, authorizing them as validly ordained. The question remains then, who has called them to embark on this valiant crusade to “save souls” if not a duly authorized bishop or the Supreme Pontiff?
The call of the people
So if Traditionalists have no office, and therefore no power to exercise the orders they have purportedly received, from whom do they derive their “power”? In surveying the Internet on these various issues, there is no Traditional site to be found that does not base their raison D’être to operate on the “Divine” law of procuring the “salvation of souls,” something only those validly and licitly ordained are commissioned to do. According to them, this divine call supersedes even the decrees of popes and Canon Law. But this is truly a diabolical artifice disguised as a supreme good, enabling these men to do exactly what the Novus Ordo church does: place the service and interests of the people, not God, first. The popes have the power to bind and loose, and Christ told St. Peter that what he and his successors bind on earth will be bound in Heaven.
In previous decisions of the Holy Office, as well as in Pope Pius VI’s Charitas, the Church has already implicitly determined what this phrase “salvation of souls” in times of necessity means. Pope Pius XII in his Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis has also infallibly declared that the acts of those violating papal laws during an interregnum are null and void, and thus is speaking with the Divine assistance in so declaring. They cannot pretend to bypass the very head Christ established for His Church on earth to appeal to Him directly when that head alone is infallible. The popes have already indicated their mind in such matters and this is only a specious dissimulation intended to convince their followers they are above the law. In actuality, they are usurping papal power by interpreting Divine law in this situation without the charism of infallibility. Another black mark against them, to join the many others.
Following the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1969, those exiting the church in Rome began searching for priests who could provide them with Mass and Sacraments. Instead of searching for priests, however, they should instead have studied the teachings of the Church regarding similar circumstances. Had they done so, they would soon have realized it wasn’t just a matter of “finding” a priest willing to provide the services they were requesting. Canon 467 tells us that, “The pastor [a man possessing an office lawfully and enjoying certainly valid and licit ordination] must hold the divine services, [and] administer the Sacraments to the faithful whenever they legitimately request it…” Under Can. 682, legitimate pastors are required only to administer the necessary Sacraments when requested, (Baptism and Matrimony), but only “according to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline.” No one in this current situation is allowed to approach pastors who are not legitimate.
Seminary Professor John Joseph McVey, who wrote his Manual of Christian Doctrine in 1926, teaches in Q. 77 of his work, on the power of jurisdiction: “A bishop who did not have his spiritual powers from the Pope, a pastor who did not have his from the lawful bishop, would be an intruder or schismatic” (emph. McVey’s) In Q. 78 in answer to the question: ”Is it lawful to receive the sacraments from an intruded pastor?” McVey responds: “Only in case of mortal illness, when it is impossible to have a worthy minister, is it lawful to receive absolution from an intruded pastor…” (see Canons 882, 2252 and 2261 §3). Of course, McVey assumed such a pastor would possess unquestionably valid orders and that there would be a reigning pontiff to supply the necessary jurisdiction, definitely lacking in a vitandus; but neither of these conditions exist today.
Because no other call to administer these sacraments is discernible in the case of Traditionalists, it must be assumed that the only call their “clergy” are answering is the perceived “need” and assumed right of their followers to receive the Sacraments, regardless of the teachings of the Church and the canons of the code forbidding such administration and reception. But as explained in a previous blog at https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/canon-law-doubts-of-law-and-epikeia/, true doubt has been established regarding both the validity of orders and the non-existence of the supplying power among Traditional clergy. And whenever there is doubt regarding a Sacrament, according to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline (Canon Law), both canonists and all moral theologians agree that the safer course must be taken; the faithful must forego receiving the sacraments and attending their masses.
This was expected of those behind the Iron Curtain who were without priests, of those in France during the French Revolution, and at other times in history. It is reflected in the decisions of the Holy See presented in the last blog, Additional Proofs Traditionalist Clergy Cannot Function. It was expected that those having to make this sacrifice would accept it as God’s will for them and offer it up as a sort of martyrdom of spirit, which many of them did, some of them only until they became martyrs for the faith in actuality.
But no one today is willing to make these sacrifices in union with Our Lord’s death on the Cross during this time, when we are enduring the Passion of Christ’s Church. They wish to be deprived of nothing, (or as little as possible), and suffer nothing for His sake. That was fine for those others asked to make this sacrifice, but not for them; God would never be so cruel. Forget the fact He was “cruel” to others, something they refuse to consider. This attitude disrupts the individual Catholic’s interior life and nullifies the very principles on which the Catholic Church was founded. Duly ordained and sent clergy who truly cared for their salvation would have explained to them they could not satisfy their requests for Mass and Sacraments and would have helped them to cultivate the virtues they needed to accept and resign themselves to the situation, but this did not happen.
How many years have those believing they are true Catholics been deceived by these very men pretending to be their saviors? Have they forgotten that even if these men were legitimate pastors they would only be acting as intermediaries for Christ, who Himself provides their Mass and Sacraments? Have they also forgotten, if they ever knew, that, as Pope Pius XII taught: “The Roman Pontiff… is the head and ruler of the Church, the living Christ on earth”? (address closing the Ignatian Year, July 31, 1956). It is incomprehensible that anyone would stoop to distort a conciliar document confirmed by several different popes, speaking in Christ’s own name, but this is what has occurred. If those who follow these Traditional pretenders and their associates can live with such a deception, they are no longer Catholic.
(Copies of Rev. Waterworth’s Council of Trent documents and any other corroborating evidence are available on request.)